I’m feeling slightly guilty about not having huge amounts to say in this space. Suffice it to say that life and otherwise is keeping me occupied largely in meatspace. Running kids around and stepping up to cover for the spouse as she’s currently mired in some pretty intensive responsibilities lately, vehicle maintenance, headaches of electronic commerce, and the occasional snowstorm have all reared their ugly (but not always unwelcome) heads at one point or another. You know, the usual.
There’s been stuff, though. Stuff I guess worth blogging about. Here are some of those things, in bulleted list form:
- Last night, thanks to the magic of Netflix, I wandered down the memory/nostalgia hole and watched The Wraith, a neat little low-budget supernatural revenge flick from 1986 with a *very* 80s pop-metal soundtrack (“available on Scotti Bros. records and tapes!”) starring a pre-Tiger Blood Charlie Sheen and a pre-Twin Peaks Sherylin Fenn (as a just this side of porny blonde, no less). If anyone remembers it at all, it’s because the real star was the Dodge M4S/PPG Turbo Interceptor, the concept car used as a very stylish murder weapon throughout. it’s low budget cheese, but it’s a lot of fun, and I recommend checking it out if you’re into that sort of thing.
- I’ve picked up a couple of new records the last couple of weeks. The first worth mentioning is Devo Spice’s I Am The Doctor, a nerdcore hip-hop tribute to Doctor Who, featuring a tune for each of the current 11 doctors, plus the title track. Devo is a con acquaintence who’s one of the driving forces behind The FUMP (The Funny Music Project), and is always entertaining. This one’s also gotten me on a bit of a hip hop and (especially nerdcore) jag lately, with me spending an inordinate amount of time spinning MC Frontalot and Girl Talk way too loudly while driving.
- The other disc worth talking about is a bit more mainstream – Lorde’s Pure Heroine. As I tend to listen mostly to independent radio, I missed the initial pop radio rampage of “Royals” a couple of months back, but got sucked in enough to purchase when I heard “A World Alone” on WNRN a couple of weeks back, and really dug the whole retro-modern singer/songwriter vibe (the same itch that Lana Del Ray and the last Tegan and Sara record scratch for me). It’s good stuff, and not worth dismissing simply because of the artist’s teenage-ness and initial corporate radio exposure.
- To swing into an entirely other direction: Witness my State Senator, ladies and gentleman, being made a nationwide laughing stock by characterizing women as less than human. The worst thing is that this kind of thing continues to play in this part of the suburbs, despite the ample evidence of a population of which at least half of have, will have, or have had the potential to be one of Mr. Martin’s “hosts” at some point in their lives. And this guy runs unopposed around here every cycle. One of these years, everyone else is going to catch on to my ongoing write-in campaign for my wife.
- Swinging right back, go check out the full trailer for Marvel’s next big comic book extravaganza, Guardians of the Galaxy. come for the machine-gun toting raccoon, stay for the total embrace of the ridiculous and quirky space opera tone. This one’s going to be a bit of a risk for Marvel, as these guys, despite a relatively popular book out there right now, aren’t exactly household names (yet), but I thik they’ll pull it out in the end and have a hit on their hands this summer.
- Speaking of comic books, I’m in the midst of re-jiggering my pull list, thanks to a couple of new interesting books on the horizon. the much talked about new Ms. Marvel, from G. Willow Wilson and Sara Pichelli, had a great first issue, which captivated me with the art and humor, and really appealed to my teenage daughter as well. Also, a new She-Hulk run just kicked off, by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido, which I quite enjoyed. As you may be aware, I’m very fond of Ms. Walters, Esq’s adventures in general, as well as Dan Slott’s run on the title in particular (which are perhaps my favorite comics in the history of forever). This new run seems to carry a lot of the same charm as that one. I like it. These, along with the upcoming Moon Knight from Warren Ellis, are going to knock several books off my monthly list, including the adjectiveless X-Men and DC’s Masters of the Universe, the former of which is just losing me by being too insider X-Men, and the latter, which just isn’t hitting my happy place since Pop Mhan stopped drawing it. I’m also likely going to be dropping Superior Spider-Man Team Up (which lacks the fun of the flagship), as well Fantastic Four, which (along with companion title FF) just wrapped up an excellent run by Matt Fraction, which seemed like a fine place to drop off. I might also drop the aforementioned Guardians, which, while good, is really Bendis-y, and I think I’ll need to make room for Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer, which should probably satisfy my cosmic Marvel itch a bit more.
And finally, I apologize for missing this one when it came around on the calendar. Maybe twelve is too old for this sort of thing, but I kind of have fun taking the time to hunt for the pictures:
So, that’s the bits of life I’m going to talk about. I hope you’re satisfied.
On Friday, a Federal Judge declared Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. This decision has been appealed, of course, and the state is allowing the legal process to play out before issuing marriage licenses to couples, but really, it’s all but over. Sooner, rather than later, Virginia can drop the “but only if you’re straight” asterisk from the Virginia is For Lovers tourism brochures.
You know, I don’t really care how you feel personally about two people of the same gender being married to one another. I don’t care whether your church supports it or not. I don’t really care about your feelings about “tradition”. However, I do care when a government tries to use those sorts of arguments to deny equal protection under the law. No one’s asking you to marry anyone you don’t want to. However, they are keeping numerous friends of mine from marrying who they want to, and I’m glad that the state in which I reside will (hopefully very soon) allow those friends to enjoy the same rights that I do.
Many of the objections to same-sex marriage in Virginia stem from “tradition”, which, if you’ve spent any time here at all, a big deal in the Commonwealth. They made the same sort of arguments against interracial marriage a few decades ago, and it took the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision on Loving v. Virginia to overturn that one. That’s why I’m glad Judge Wright Allen directly called out Loving in the decision (this is the whole 41 page document – I encourage you to read it), leading off with an extensive exerpt from Mildred Loving.
I also feel that given Virginia’s history with this sort of thing, this decision, and what’s to follow in the Commonwealth, is a big victory for those supporting legal same-sex marriage in the United States. Virginia is going to be a turning point, I think; a big victory in a state that is mired in difficult history and tradition, but whose population has trended toward more inclusive ways of thinking, socially and politically, in recent decades. It shows that the balance has really and truly tipped, and that the law will finally start lining up with the will of the people – a majority of Virginians support marriage equity (which was not the case in ’06 when the original state constitutional amendment was passed).
Tradition may indeed be important; however, however, not all traditions are worth holding onto.
I’m personally rather a fan of one particular statement from the decision:
Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve, and celebrate loving, intimate, and lasting relationships. Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices—choices, like the choices made by every citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.
It doesn’t get much clearer than that, does it? It’s a shame that it takes a federal court case to get some people to realize it.
Consider for a moment “We Built This City” by the musical group
Jefferson Airplane Starship.
While I profess no particular animosity toward the song (not the way I do, toward, say Bob Carlisle’s “Butterfly Kisses”, for example), I will admit that is objectively pretty terrible. I do kind of have an innate sense of why both popular polls and statistical analysis consistently rank it as the worst song ever, though I hadn’t particularly considered or understood the reasons why.
In response to an NPR piece on the All Songs Considered blog not exactly defending Starship’s “We Built This City” (but rather, calling on America to stop piling on the easy target), Fark commenter Corn_Fed hits on the nail completely on the head regarding why the tune is particularly reviled above all other challengers:
The song, taken entirely in isolation, is a fun, good-sounding bit of enjoyable cheese (much like all pop music ever).
However, my theory why it repulses so many is that it represents the ultimate sellout of a 60′s counterculture band into slick corporate product. It mirrored the utter fall of 1960′s Baby Boomer folk idealism into 1980′s corporate yuppyism, which continues today in the perverse form of the diabolic Tea Party.
The baby boomers truly went from inspired forces of social progress to the lowest depravities of selfish evil–and this song precisely crystalizes that descent.
The song is so reviled because it is a constant reminder to Generations X and beyond of the worst aspects of the generation that came before us (as if most aspects of American life since the Baby Boomers hit early middle age and decided that “I got mine” was preferable to “free love” isn’t reminder enough). “Feed Your Head” became “Marconi Plays the Mamba”, and the world went to Hell in a synth-draped handbasket.
Doesn’t really get much clearer than that, does it?
This week I had the opportunity to do something kind of cool: I was part of an Eagle Scout Board of Review.
For the uninitiated, the Board of Review is essentially the “final interview” for those who’ve met all the other requirements for Eagle Scout – the candidate sits for a group interview with several adult volunteers and representative(s) from the local council, who ask questions regarding the Scout’s experiences and achievements in order to make a final determination that the candidate has truly met the requirements for the award, the highest in Scouting.
As regular readers of this space are probably aware, as an adult, I have a complicated relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. Overall, I think of it as a worthy and beneficial program, having myself worked through the ranks from Cub Scout to Eagle Scout (’92), and spending many hours volunteering with the program as an adult, taking away from the experience many valuable skills, experiences and memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and I’m proud that my son is involved, and seems to be starting to have some of the same experiences. However, in recent years, the national organization has made a worrying shift to the political right, taking stands on issues, particularly sexual orientation and religion*, that I find troubling, as they seem, at least to me, to contradict so many of Scouting’s professed ideals.
Luckily, in most cases, at the local troop level, this ideological shift matters not one whit to the people involved, especially the kids, who are way more interested in going camping with their friends, trying new things, and helping out in their communities. The kids don’t let the cranks in the national organization to get in the way of their adventure and service to others, and that’s really the way it should be.
It really was a privilege to play a small part in person’s journey toward the Eagle rank. Getting to this point a lot of work, requiring focus, persistence, determination, and initiative. Getting Eagle is a big deal; only about two percent of scouts do – it’s an accomplishment to be proud of, and one you really let go of: “Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle” really is a true statement. It’s always nice to see someone else succeed and join this relatively exclusive fraternity.
The candidate we interviewed, I’m happy to say, was extremely well qualified, well-spoken, and well-prepared. We were all impressed with his achievements, and the way he presented himself to the board. He spoke frankly and honestly (though still with a degree of pride, as is expected) about successfully planning and implementing his community service project (one of the most challenging requirements), and the lessons he learned about management, organization, and leadership. He answered questions about future plans, and how he might apply the lessons he learned as part of the program in a forthright and articulate way, and really seemed to internalize what I feel are the most important lessons one can take from Scouting – respect, honesty, and self-confidence.
Not surprisingly, our vote was unanimous, and this young person is now and Eagle Scout.
It was in interesting for me, being on the other side of the table, after facing my own Board of Review more than 20 years ago. I’d kind of forgotten that part of the process in the intervening decades, but being there brought some of it back: the anxiety, the pride in accomplishment, and feeling like being part of something larger than yourself for a little while.
I also remembered one question I was asked during my board, and, in the interest of tradition, asked it myself:
What was the last book you read that you weren’t assigned? Why’d you choose it, and what did you think of it when you finished?
It seems like a softball, but you can learn a lot about someone from their answer. His? World War Z by Max Brooks.
Sometimes I worry about how the next generation’s going to handle things. At least in this case, I think the planet’s in good hands.
* – I understand that the religious aspect has always been part and parcel to American Scouting, what with “Duty to God” being right there in the Scout Oath, and “A Scout is Reverent” being the final point of the Scout Law. However, the interpretations of those points have narrowed significantly in recent years, and are often applied in ways that contradict the other points of Scout doctrine, such as Courtesy, Kindness, Respect, and Service. Last year’s shift to allow openly gay Scouts to enroll in the program is a good start, but the organization still has a long way to go, in my opinion, before its actions truly mirror it’s ideals. I’m not alone in this feeling; Scouts for Equality is a good place to learn more.
As I’ve done before, prior to purging my blog comment spam folder, I grabbed a handful of interesting phrases from the lot before clicking the delete button. In the interest of recycling, I took those snippets and re-arranged them into what I hesitantly call poetry.
The individual lines are largely intact as I found them. I’ve added the occasional line break or bit of punctuation, but otherwise, these compositions are pretty much individual ransom notes clipped from the newspapers and magazines of link-happy marketing bots, which, I’ve discovered, can be surprisingly profound.
I’ve not titled these short works; merely attempted to draw context from what I found in the arranging.
A meditation on post-war politics?
I communicate in abundance using the Holocaust
The politics of war is the focus of this:
A few shots of heavy banner waving;
Wild, scattered moisture children
in the treasures of Dragon King’s palace.
A reflection on violence?
Other gun dogs, Aussie aircraft jet pilots
Let each warrior all sweaty.
Rumsfeld Tamiflu, it’s extent is 120mm enthusiasm
What Are The Benefits Of Low Testosterone?
A cry for help from the depths of creativity?
That’s every song I’ve ever written. Yeah. That’s all of them.
flying porcupine territory. Alerted porcupine.
Listening To Prozac, two bottles of wine fling chagrin
they loudly cheered the buckskinned little figure
Despair! (or try to find yourself a sugar Daddi)
The eternal search for truth and meaning?
When you go to church next time,
open your ears and listen to the message
instead of passing judgment on everyone around you.
As mentioned into the future, potential answer
to exactly what Bigfoot may be.
An examination of our symbiotic relationship with cats?
Kitten Benadryl. Swimming Allergy.
How Hates It Work?
Sound kneeling over there…
You will take a have fun.
Observations on “trophy for participation” culture?
Man, I used to slam down the dunks out there…
You are so awesome!
This child will not be affected.
Musings on eastern philosophy and western blue laws?
That bamboo trap into the lower part?
Crucial in solar skin debris.
Let hibiscus smile, a stiff beer or soda can,
But the tea house cannot sell liquor.
A commentary on the increasing explicitness of modern marketing?
Can you dare attraction of red high heels and soles?
Shoe fetishists (like myself) will find themselves salivating.
well-designed, funky T-shirts: Safe For Pregnant Women.
The boss also surprised… Sex Sells?
(Unfortunately We Offer Jeans)
An image of a new nude woman concealed on cuff links.
He chips at the rock with his pocket tool.
Thank you for your indulgence. Perhaps you enjoyed the results of my little excercise, perhaps not. It amused me, and that’s what this space is for, really. One must set free one’s muse when schedule permits. And it seems I’m not the only person who does this; I am in good company.
Today is the anniversary of my lovely wife’s birth. If you see her around today, physically or virtually, please wish her a happy birthday. She truly deserves a happy day, as she’s a wonderful and beautiful person, and works very hard on very important things to make sure that all sorts of systems work smoothly (especially the last couple of weeks).
As today is one of those *busy* days, we took a bit of time on Saturday to acknowledge this significant occasion, with some cake, candles and a few close friends. It was nice and low key, and, I hope, appreciated, even if she doesn’t enjoy being the center of attention; which I totally understand.
In any case, Happy Birthday, my Love. I hope you have a good one, and I’ll do my best to make it so.
As I do most years around this time, I shall present the following quote from the U.S. Constitution:
He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
-Article II, section 3
Tonight is this year’s State of the Union Address, during which the President addresses Congress, discussing priorities, accomplishments, and recommendations for the coming year in government. It’s varied a bit in timing and venue over the couse of history (though Washington gave a short speech, Jefferson sent a note, which was the practice until Wilson revived the address in ’31), but for the last half-century or so, it’s been fairly consistent as a speech given to a joint session of Congress on an evening in late January.
Especially since the advent of national media, it’s also been directed toward the American people as well, and involves quite a bit of political theater and pomp. It’s one of those times where the President gets to be particularly “Presidential”, and an opportunity for direct national communication few have…um…wasted.
As I also do most years, I present my favorite set of rules for The State of the Union Drinking Game. In part, I do this because in my short time as a public school Social Studies teacher, this sort of prurient and slightly scandalous angle on American government caught the attention of students in a way few other things did. The State of the Union also works well for this sort of thing because there are so many traditional hallmarks that one can easily make a game of it (which for public school teachers is usually, for propriety’s sake,”BINGO”, but unofficially, everyone knows better), which has the pleasant benefit of making people pay attention, and maybe actually learn something.
Because I’m all about education, after all…<hic>
So, enjoy responsibly, and maybe learn a little something as you take part in this long-standing American tradition.
As is my family’s habit on a particular weekend in mid-January, we packed up and hauled ourselves to Williamsburg VA for Marscon, perhaps the premiere fan convention in the general Mid-Atlantic region, and rapidly becoming my favorite con that I get to each year.
It’s a great chance to share an experience with like-minded people, meet artists and authors, play games, and make and meet friends, and it’s something that, even being the introvert I am (see my friend Liz’s take on this – she totally gets it), I look forward to. For the mundane among you, I imagine it’s something like taking your vacation the same weekend every year at the same timeshare in generic beach town USA, and seeing the same people each time because they all do the same thing you do. Except, instead of sitting around on the beach and eating dinner at the same overpriced seafood restaurant every year, you always end up finding something new, thanks to the ever-changing mix of interesting things on display in the form of guests, programming, gaming, film, craft, etc. There’s almost always something new to discover. If you have the means, I highly recommend finding one near you and trying one out.
Now, admittedly, I didn’t really delve into the “new” this year so much as go deeper into stuff I’d already waded into, but all the same, I ventured out of my comfort zone a bit, and didn’t fail or die. While I didn’t come home with a stack of new books to read and swag to devour, I came out of this year with a certain sense of accomplishment, having taken some baby steps into the realm of contributor rather than just consumer.
Put me in your mouth! I’m refeshing and delicious! – Mikey Mason
Friday night at the con is generally a lot about catching up with folks you haven’t seen in a while, perusing programming options and wishing you had some sort of time travel or cloning device in order to be able to be several places at once (for example – I’m a big fan of Jim C. Hines this year’s author Guest of Honor, but I totally missed all his events due to other commitments, managing only to trip over him briefly in the hallway), and easing into the experience. I did a lot of that (interrupted occasionally by children wandering off by themselves – thankfully, so many people at this event know my kids, so that if they get misplaced, they are easily returned), spending most of the early evening hanging out in the “big room”, enjoying the Friday night opening entertainment, mostly in the form of short sets by the entertainment guests. This year was laid out like a bit of a variety show, with tables scattered about and a cash bar in the corner. Much entertainment value was derived from one particular guest finding he had a drink named after him on the special convention menu, which I didn’t partake of, mostly because a friendly convention attendee kept putting free homebrewed Rye IPA in my hand (thanks, Marcus!).
The Corn Palace is bullshit. – Jonah Knight
The other big Friday night event (at least for me) at Marscon is “Filk and Cookies”, combining the filk circle concept with a cookie baking competition. Essentially, everybody sits around for several hours loading up on delicious snacks while some of us play music to entertain each other and the assembled throng. After a couple of years largely just observing and playing a long a little bit, this year I jumped in and took the virtual mic, so to speak, having come up with some material to share (after being gently yet publicly encouraged on a certain Pegasus Award nominated podcast last year), which I thought went over well. I sang a little bit. In public. About Pacific Rim. I didn’t die. There may be video, somewhere, but I haven’t seen it. And, since I didn’t have room to haul ALL THE INSTRUMENTS (more on that in a bit) along, I had the privilege to borrow and play Jonah’s beautiful and haunted 1947 Gibson guitar a little bit when the uke just wouldn’t cut it, and it was awesome. We stayed late into the night, singing and playing geeky songs, 80s hair metal, and making up quarter-hour long songs about a certain maize-based building in Mitchell, South Dakota until the hotel finally kicked us out at some point after 2am.
♫ Rock out, with me and CHUCK!♫ – Scott Vaughn
Saturday started out relatively early, as we roused ourselves from our hotel room slumber, hit the Best Con Suite in the universe for breakfast, and prepared for the day. The big event of the morning for me came during the 11am hour, when I had the privilege of being an honorary Blibbering Humdinger for a couple of tunes. Scott and Kirsten have been con friends for a number of years now, and a couple of months back, we hatched something of a plan at a house concert. A few months and emails later, and BOOM! I’m kicking off 2014 playing bass in wizard rock band. I think we all had a good time doing it (I know I did), and those in attendance seemed to appreciate it. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime. I hope so.
Your will is not your own. Roll “pistol” skill – The Pope of France
While my wizard rock debut was the big event of the day, Once I got that out of the way, I managed to do some other things as well, including sitting in on an excellent musical performance from the always entertaining Danny Birt (who is Catherine’s favorite, even if she was a little shy about joining Danny for a duet like she did last year). The rest of the day was taken up largely with kid watching duty, punctuated by a couple of very enteraining gaming sessions. In the first, we were FBI agents on a missing persons case, which soon evolved into a confrontation with alien invaders and some of us possibly earning real-world NSA flags for looking up the street value of 450 pounds of marajuana on our smartphones, leading to our being mind-controlled, forced to murder some of our own, and assimilated. The second session was a Traveller adventure, where I played an ex-space cop working on a free trader vessel, ferrying a semi-sentient carnivorous plant to an interstellar flower show, and fighting off space ninjas. We survived that one, after which we spent a while just hanging out in the hotel lobby with friends, chatting amiably until we all decided we were too tired.
Sunday, as expected, was kind of mellow – everyone’s kind of worn out from the weekend, and dealing with the imending return to polite society. We slept in a little later, packed up our gear, and handled breakfast and checkout. Then, we wandered the dealer’s room, picking up a couple of game accoutrements, a couple of hand-made trinkets, and some neat stuff from Darkfire Design, who I was happy to see present after getting some of their decals at the VA comicon back in November. Otherwise, I sat in on a panel featuring a live recording of the Pros and Cons podcast, spent some time hanging out with a very mellow Savannah Monitor lizard wearing dragon wings, and settled into the con-ending concert, featuring a round-robin performance from all the musical performers mentioned above. Lots of fun, with everyone playing along on everyone else’s stuff, cracking wise, and generally being entertaining. Twas a nice way to wind down the convention before heading home.
As you can see, it was a good time. The con staff does a great job keeping this one going – I can’t wait for next year. I would also be remiss without mentioning all the great friends who make the experience so much fun – KT, Kevin, Ora, Liz, Bert, James, Dan, Jamie, Ozma, Mikey, Jonah, Scott and Kirsten, Danny, and all those other people whose names I can’t remember (because I’m terrible like that). See you all at the next one!