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Archive for the ‘no excuses’ 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.

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!

Times That Bind…

In blogging, no excuses, screenplays, writing on December 3, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Here it is, early in the month of December, and I haven’t written a post since August.
I could dither about, offer lame-sounding excuses, and try to place blame other than where it belongs… squarely with me.
I have not posted. I have not seriously thought about posting. I have been moving from my ancestral domicile to our new (to us) home, and I was entered into a screenwriting contest where I get a genre, location, and object to use, and have 48 hours to produce 5 pages of script. The first two rounds are judged, scored, and the top 5 scores from each group of writers advances to the next round. After that, the top 5 from Round Three groups advance to the finals in Round Four.
Today, the third, is when the scores from Round One come out… and they probably won’t appear for two more hours, Eastern Standard Time.
Oh, my.

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.

A NASFiC For Detroit…

In activity, no excuses on July 30, 2014 at 10:06 pm

The 17th through the 20th of this past month, at the Marriott Renaissance Center Hotel in the Renaissance Center on the Detroit riverfront, Detroit fandom hosted the North American Science Fiction Convention, held when the World Science Fiction Convention is out of the North American region.

This is a big thing for Detroit, since the last time we hosted a Worldcon here was Detention, the 1959 Worldcon.

Detroit had to bid against several other cities to host a NASFiC, with less than the usual two years lead time, since London, England had won the bid to host the 2014 Worldcon two years ago.

In my opinion, the all-volunteer committee (and I can’t emphasize that strongly enough – EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE IS A VOLUNTEER) did a splendid job putting on the con.

Early on, I had volunteered to be on programming, and I was selected to do five panels, based on my responses to questions about my interests and knowledge… I was on a panel discussion about the differences between traditional paper fanzines, APAs (Amateur Press Associations), electronic media (such as LiveJournal) and blogging.  Another panel I was on discussed the problems and opportunities of adapting a book into a movie… and two panels listed as “Iron Costumer: Doll Edition”, where participants, with the help and advice of myself and another costumer, took an 11 ½ inch fashion doll, a pile of materials, paint, and a glue gun, and spent 90 minutes fashioning their own doll dress.

There was also the opportunity to costume up for the four days of the convention, and we did so… we were “The Duke and the Duchess of the D”, we got to be official greeters for the convention, and Megan won a Hall Costume award. She was so pleased…

Megan Bouchard as "Poppy Sunshine"

Megan Bouchard as “Poppy Sunshine”

Megan Bouchard as "The Duchess of the  D"

Megan Bouchard as “The Duchess of the
D”

Alexander Bouchard as "The Duke of the D"

Alexander Bouchard as “The Duke of the D”

Megan wins a Hall Costume award

Megan wins a Hall Costume award

Like most cons Megan and I have been to over the years, things did not go perfectly…  The hotel situation wasn’t the best, since the Marriott (previously the Westin) is something of a labyrinth, and the elevators are split into two banks, the low rise (up to the 40th) and high rise (40th to the 70th), and many people got confused by it.   The elevators had a recorded voice saying that a hotel keycard was needed to stop at any of the room floors, but the key card readers did not all work.  This was a problem all weekend.

The parking situation (the Port Atwater Garage and the Beaubien Place Garage) were slightly inconvenient, moderately expensive, but better than the alternatives (such as parking at the Greektown Casino parking structure and taking the People Mover back).  The convention managed to negotiate a discount for these two garages that reduced the cost by about half of the all-day rate, which helped considerably.

The con suite (a 24-hour hospitality suite, for those who’ve never seen one) was not as convenient as we would have liked, being on the 69th floor.  It was well-stocked the few times I was there, but didn’t have much that I could eat.  (Being allergic to almost everything is definitely a pain.)  On the other hand, being a program participant, I had access to the Green Room, on the main program floor.  The problem they had was that they only had hot drinks… no cold drinks, no snacks.  I’m told that was deliberate, so guests would not “hide out” in the Green Room.

All things considered, I think Detcon 1, the 2014 NASFiC, went off quite well, and proved a credit to Detroit fandom.

Should We Give Thanks… And For What?

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., no excuses on November 28, 2013 at 4:15 pm

  Today, as well as being the last Thursday in the month of November, the beginning of Hanukkah, and the first day this year with snow that stayed on the ground (in the Detroit area), is Thanksgiving.
  In case you weren’t aware, the initial motivation for this day of “celebration” was to share the blessings the local Native Americans gave to the Pilgrims, like a way to provide enough food to survive the winters in Massachusetts Bay Colony that upcoming winter of 1621. The Pilgrims, in turn, gave many things to the indigenous people… an object lesson in the European concept of “property ownership”, a demonstration of what even primitive matchlock muskets could do to the human body, and diseases against which the tribes had less than no natural immunity.
  Being part Odawa, as well as part French Canadian by descent, I don’t have the greatest love and respect for those original colonists. (My wife, on the other hand, is descended from two members of the original company who came on the Mayflower. That’s how it works out, sometimes.) At this remove, there is precious little I can do about the situation, except deplore that it happened, and keep reminding people of the lengths we, as humans, can go to achieve whatever ends we desire, be they for weal or woe.
  Is there a statute of limitations on saying, “I told you so”? Is reminding others of unpleasant truths a duty one must accept, or a choice one can make to carry out or not?
  The older I get, the less certain I am of anything… and the certainties of my younger days are disappearing at a frightening rate. As I learn more and more, I know less and less.
  Given my outlook on things, and the fact that I don’t much care for football (American style), it should not be much of a surprise that we don’t celebrate the holidays much, if at all.
  I haven’t done so for quite a few yearsn. My Uncle George, who was instrumental in the task of raising me and instilling a respect for working people, was the product of a generation that survuved the Great Depression, the Second World War, Korea, and the postwar world that allotted us, the Baby Boomers, the greatest lot of unearned privilege that any generation I can think of ever had. He worked for the Post Office, back when it was still a part of the Department of the Interior, for thirty years, after coming back from the war. Thanksgiving Day was, and still is, the beginning of a period in the Postal Service that bans annual leave time and authorizes forced overtime until after Christmas Day. Basically, from the end of November until the end of December, I only saw him when he came home, ate something, and went to sleep. As soon as he woke up, he would get ready for work, and be gone again, repeating this for the better part of a month. Sundays he would sleep. Our Thanksgiving dinner had to be ready by noon, since he would be going in on the midnight tour the following day.
  This never did give me a celebratory feeling at this time of year… I still don’t have much of one. The other reasons outlined above I learned later; it was this that formed my primary impressions of these end-of-year festivities.
  And don’t get me started on New Year’s Eve, or, as I call it, Amateur Night

“Entertainment” Media…

In activity, It Bugs Me, Just Because..., no excuses on June 6, 2013 at 9:03 pm

From that particular wrinkle in the space-time continuum I like to call home, it’s another blog…
The latest thing on the “entertainment news” shows is following show business pregnancies. Seriously, folks… How many times can I look at Kim Kartrashian’s spawning without becoming physically ill?
{Just so you know: All photos in this entry were obtained through Google searches. I don’t own them, nor do I claim any copyright in them. I only intend their use for illustrative purposes under the “Fair Use” section of the copyright laws.}
Jessica-Simpson-Pregnant-20111

pregnant-kim-kardashian-kanye-west-kisses-in-rio-de-janeiro-22

Michael Douglas (and his publicists) are backpedaling furiously about his recent interview with the uk’s guardian about his throat cancer, and the alleged fact (I, at least, have no proof) that his cancer’s cause was human papilloma virus, or HPV. True enough was the statement that HPV-caused oral cancers are likely a result of oral sex. Whether or not that means that Michael had oral sex, and, if so, with whom, remains shrouded in mystery.

Michael_Douglas_VF_2012_Shankbone

Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, has been splashed all over the media world for allegedly swallowing pills and cutting her wrist. The speculation is running rampant about how she is bullied at school, which already has a reputation for that sort of thing anyway, and how this is a “cry for help”…
Be honest, now, have you ever met a sixteen year old girl who hasn’t thought about killing herself, even if she didn’t have the want-to to try it? Let’s wake up and smell the reality, people… Money doesn’t make your life – or you – perfect. You just have to deal with it as it comes.
Paris Jackson
Look, she lost her father at the age of eleven. That’s a bad age for any girl. Now she’s in court, testifying in a family lawsuit about fixing blame – and allocating money – for that death, which is still being splashed all over the mediaverse. If her name were Paris Bouchard, and her father was nobody famous (like me), this deal wouldn’t be all over every channel, web site, or blog (like mine).
Leave the girl alone. Let her get help. Shut the up!
Meanwhile, the remaining Jackson siblings, Tito, Marlon, Larry, and Curly, recently began a tour in Morocco… where, apparently, people still are willing to pay good money to see an act whose main attraction has been dead for some time.
I was trying to come up with a joke for this, but the event is enough of a joke in itself that I couldn’t top it.
Just goes to show ya…
About the only good thing about not having cable TV is missing all these so-called “reality shows”; after all, who cares which beefcake vacuum-brain this new “bachelorette” picks? Does anyone really care about the “Real Housewives of Pacoima”? Does it matter who survives “Survivor”? And have “American I’m Dull” and “The Voiceless” finally worn out their welcome?
Yes, I’ll even go off on my favorite show, “Dancing With The Stars”… the past couple of seasons, it’s been more like “Dancing With The Supporting Players”. Len Goodman, the chief judge, must be getting plenty as a newlywed, because he’s in a much better mood; Bruno Tonioli is less comprehensible than ever when he gets excited, which is quite often, and Carrie Ann Inaba needs to get a new boyfriend, I think. Tom Bergeron keeps hosting almost everything on television, splitting it with Neil Patrick Harris, and Brooke Burke Charvet still looks damn good, despite thyroid cancer.
len-goodman
bruno-tonioli-2012-arqiva-british-academy-television-awards-01
carrie-ann-inaba-2009-kids-choice-awards-03
Tom-Bergeron6
Brooke-Burke-Collection-by-Chad-Allison_headshot
Did I mention how I miss Maks?
Maksim Chmerkovskiy-SGG-070350
And, while I’m at it, let me just say a few words (as few as possible, actually) about Donald Trump and “The Apprentice”.
Move away from the camera, Mr. Trump. Keep your hairpiece where we can see it. You have the right to remain silent… and we dearly wish you would.
dtrump
By the way… I’m just curious. What exactly is a “Disney Star”? As in, “Disney star Zendaya”, or “Disney Star Raven”… Is there a difference of some sort from being a “Disney star” and being a regular “star”?
Zendaya-3-zendaya-coleman-33189216-500-671
selena2
That’s about all I have to rant about now, I guess. I’m reasonably sure something else will be using a belt sander on my hemorrhoids soon, so stay close!

The (Almost) Food-Free Diet Plan…

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., no excuses on April 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I’d been holding off a little while before I write about this, but it is a part of my life now, and I think it should be discussed.

Recently, at Project Healthy Living, my wife and I got our blood tested for allergies – they offered a few different profiles to choose from. The cereal grains profile showed I was allergic to wheat gluten, rice, barley, rye, and buckwheat. This was not news I was eager to have; but wheat allergies are more common than most people think, and it would explain certain things about my life.

The more irritating part is that I’m actually more allergic to rice than to gluten, so using rice as an alternative to wheat (as is done with most gluten-free products) was not an alternative.
So I find myself eating things like shiatake noodles (made from a type of yam), quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa), sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and other things outside the “normal” realms of food.
Fortunately for me, I don’t have more than a couple of issues with meat, so if it doesn’t have monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrates, or sodium nitrites, I can have it. (There’s uncured bacon that doesn’t have it, so I am not deprived of this marvelous food.) I can also have coffee; I stopped drinking sugar in my coffee years ago, when I found out I was diabetic, so that’s not an issue. I also found I like soy milk and almond milk better, in many cases, than cow’s milk.
So, then, wish me luck… hopefully, this will increase the general tenor (as well as the soprano and baritone) of my health.
Sometime again!

Stringing It Together…

In arts, blogging, Just Because..., no excuses, writing on March 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Words, and the way they fit together to make visible our thoughts, have been a preoccupation of mine for most of my life, even before I knew how to do anything of the sort.

The visions that the proper combination of words can produce verges on the magical; in fact, as I’ve heard it defined, magic itself is produced or controlled by the proper combination of words, placed in the proper order.  Like computer programming and magic, writing is entirely dependent on the correct choice of terms, placed in the correct sequence.

“It was a dark and stormy night.”  How often has that phrase, the first in the novel Paul Clifford by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Baronet, been quoted, misquoted, and misattributed?  But it is remembered.

Words can weave a spell to transport the reader to Middle Earth… or to the cradle of the Foundation… or to the outer reaches of a red giant star… or in a General Products hull in a hyperbolic orbit around a neutron star.  Words can create vistas in your mind that a Super-70 mm Ultra Dolby 7.1 3D Imax extravaganza couldn’t match, even with a budget the size of the Gross Planetary Product.

And yet… Reading is becoming less and less popular, from what I hear.  Twitter limits posts to 140 characters, which I exceeded in my third line, if I’m not mistaken.  Attention spans fall dramatically year by year.

Few there are who would even try Nova or Dhalgren by Chip Delany; and I couldn’t think of anyone who would try reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or Dostoievski’s Crime and Punishment.  Dickens’s Bleak House, one of his more acclaimed works, is a doorstop in paperback, and even more recent works, like William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, approach it in sheer volume.  Reading tomes such as these is hardly considered as entertainment anymore, and even the shorter-form writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway get shorter shrift.

It is a crime and a shame to ignore the writers of the past; the stylistic flourishes of a Dickens give way to the spare prose of Hemingway, which inspired writers of more recent times like Capote, Ken Kesey, Thomas Wolfe, Mailer, Gore Vidal, and some we see in magazines today.  Only by reading the words of others with your own “inner ear” can you find the “voice” that informs your writing.  It’s akin to learning to talk by listening to those around you.

I do not condemn others for their lack of breadth in reading, but invite them to widen it on their own.  Read J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, James Joyce, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sir Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor, Dave Barry, Woodward and Bernstein, Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, or any number of other authors I could name.  Expand your horizons.  Question your thinking patterns.  Question your choices.

It could be an illuminating experience…

 

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