Friday, May 26, 2017

Gold Country (part 1)

You know how ideas sometimes take a long time to develop? Well, my wife and I just had the culmination of one of those ideas. I think the genesis of this idea goes back a few years to when I did a series on abandoned places. It certainly put the idea of ghost towns into my head, at any rate. The idea of ghost towns and mining towns has bounced around in our house since I did those posts, which led to some discussion at some point about mining towns, all of which led to my wife and I taking a camping trip through gold country last week. It was educational, to say the least, because, no matter what you think you know, you never really know until you do the thing.

So what do you know about gold mining? I bet you "know" the same kinds of things I thought I knew. So let's talk about some of those things... But not today. Because our first stop on our trip was Sacramento, and I want to share some of those pictures with you.

First of all, they were throwing a protest when we got there:
That's the State Capitol building in the above picture.

The legend of California as it once was:

And we got a private tour of the old Secretary of State's office, which is kind of a funny store... but for some other time:

Then we hopped over to Fort Sutter:
No, it didn't get shrunk. That's a model.

That's Sutter's room, above.

For those of you who don't know, the gold discovery that kicked off the gold rush happened at Sutter's Mill. We went there, too, but that's a different location, so those pictures will come later. The one thing to know about it is that Sutter tried to keep the find quiet, not because he wanted the gold but because he knew what would happen if the word got out. Which is exactly what happened.

More pictures next week...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Lawless" (Ep. 5.16)

-- Morality separates heroes from villains.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season five, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

Satine is in danger so, of course, Obi-Wan goes to rescue her. Alone. With no backup. Because the Jedi can't get involved because Mandalore is a neutral planet. And, of course, it's a trap, but Obi-Wan actually doesn't know that this time and is caught completely off guard. Probably why Jedi are supposed to control their emotions, I suppose.

In the scheme of things, this is a pivotal episode and one that really shouldn't be missed. At least, it shouldn't be missed if you follow any of the non-movie canon material. Big things happens. Plot threads are tied off. There are deaths. Maybe I should say "more deaths," since we've already seen quite a few in this arc.

One thing I will say -- and it's sort of a spoiler, but it's not a spoiler that's important to the story -- Anakin's ship, the Twilight, gets blown up. I always liked the Twilight (yeah, a part of me rebels (heh) just writing that, but I am talking about Anakin's ship (just to be clear)). It was funky. And cool. And, now, it's gone. Oh, yeah, Darth Maul was responsible for that bit of destruction but, then, if Obi-Wan hadn't taken it without permission... You know, I can't remember if they ever deal with the fact that Obi-Wan got Anakin's ship blown up.

Anyway... Must see episode and all of that, so just go do it.

"It takes strength to resist the Dark Side; only the weak embrace it." -- Obi-Wan Kenobi

Monday, May 22, 2017

LIFE, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness (Part 2)

Okay, so, we're talking about the Declaration of Independence and how it laid the foundations for what came after it. It itself is not a legal document, but we refer to it as a foundational piece of our history, our ideals, and, yes, our government. Last week, we were talking about the pursuit of Happiness, and how we, culturally, have messed that all up, but, really, you should just go back and read last week's post. This week, let's move on a bit and, by doing that, go back to our first principle: Life.

Let's look again at the Declaration:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...
 So... Let's reaffirm the Rights we're talking about. There are only three: Life, Liberty, and the PURSUIT of Happiness. Jefferson is saying here that these three things in particular (there could be more than three, but these three in particular) are innate. They have been created within us and the Right CANNOT be taken away. The thing itself can be taken away, but the Right to have it cannot be. To safeguard these Rights, mankind (humankind) institutes Governments, and those Governments only exist through the consent of the people.

The very first Right he lists is the Right to Life. [Remember from last post, I'm talking about adults. There is nothing Pro-Life in any of this. That's a completely separate matter.] Yes, I'm going to talk about healthcare.

See, we have these Rights, and we institute Governments to make sure that the things themselves that we have a Right to are not taken away from us by someone stronger or more powerful than us. Including that government itself. What that means in this context is that the government, our government, is here to protect our Life and our Right to that Life.

Which is what makes it so insulting when a GOP asshole, a member of our Government who has been mandated by the fact that he is a part of that Government to protect our collective Right to Life, says something inane like, "Nobody dies because they don't have access to healthcare." That was Raul Labrador, by the way, part of the Right-wing Nutjob sector of the government defending the new death warrant the GOP call the "American Health Care Act," a bill which clearly favors the insurers over the insured and the very wealthy (who don't really need the help) over the average citizen. It is, in short, a bill that says, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Way more equal.

The GOP has clearly demonstrated that they have become "destructive of those ends" of securing our Right to Life.

In fact, the GOP has been clearly demonstrating that for, well, decades, what with their destructive environmental policies, their stance against safety net social programs, their support of hazardous industry over the welfare of communities, their support of the NRA and "stand your ground" laws, and their general willingness to assume that if a cop shoots a black man, even an unarmed black man, he must have had good reason. The whole healthcare thing? That's just them spitting in the faces of the people who got them where they are and saying, "No, we don't like you either."

Government to the GOP has become about how to make a profit and no longer has anything to do with securing our "unalienable Rights." Their Form of Government has become destructive of those ends which secure for us our Right to Life; as such, "it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it." We are "the People." "We the People."

Look, the Republicans continue to say that healthcare is not a Right but a privilege. It's that stance which allows someone like Labrador to say things like nobody dies from lack of healthcare, but people die from lack adequate healthcare ALL THE TIME. In fact, it's the lack of access to healthcare that causes people to die from preventable or manageable illnesses. They can't afford to go to the doctor until it's too late. And, no, I don't have the numbers for that, but I don't really think I need to have them.

What I'm saying here is that the GOP is just plain wrong on this. If we're going to refer to the Declaration as one of our Founding Documents (and the GOP loves to claim how they stand by our Founding Documents), then you can't really get around the fact that it proclaims that WE ALL have the Right to Life. That is, after all, why hospitals can't send anyone away. And, at one point in time, that was the best we could do, but it's not anymore.

And here's the thing, we don't have the right to the best healthcare we can afford; that doesn't work with all men being created equal. If the wealthy have access to better healthcare, that means that we are not being treated equally. The Truth is that we have the Right to the best healthcare available. All of us, all the time. The kind of healthcare you get should not be dependent upon your wealth. That is NOT equality in our Right to Life.

Seriously, it's time for us, the People, to alter our Government. We have a Right to equal healthcare and equal Life. If gaining access to that means abolishing the GOP and their stagnant and destructive ways, well, that's what needs to happen. I do not consent to be governed by the assholes currently holding the reins of power, and it's time we took them back.

Friday, May 19, 2017

With or Without U2

There are moments in life that define us, shape us, turn us into people we wouldn't have been if those moments hadn't happened. Sometimes, we're lucky enough to recognize those moments, and appreciate them, as they are happening (as I did when I came out of seeing Star Wars when I was seven years old; I knew I was not the same person coming out as I had been going in), but, usually, it's not until later, if at all, that we realize those moments happened.

I had another of those moments in the spring of 1987. It was soon enough after the release of "With or Without You" that none of my friends knew what the song was or whom it was by. I know, because it came on the radio one Wednesday night after youth group as we were hanging out in the church parking lot. It's not surprising that I didn't know the song or the group, because it came on the local rock station which wasn't the kind of music I listened to at the time. However, the song instantly captivated me, but the DJ didn't name the song when it finished playing, and none of my friends knew what it was or, even, seemed to care much, but it was the beginning of what I can only fairly call an obsession with me. Not with the song, with the group.

U2 was music of a kind I'd never heard before, but I suppose, having been raised on 60's protest music (Dylan; Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon & Garfunkel), that it should have been no surprise I would gravitate so heavily to them. Within a few weeks, I had copies of all of their music, and they had become "my" band.

I have this cousin who's a few years older than me and who lived in Dallas at the time. He was a theater guy and had gotten involved in theater production work after high school, and one of the things he did was help do stage setup for bands coming through Dallas/Fort Worth. He gave me a call on November 20 or 21 letting me know that he was going to be working on the stage for U2 and had backstage tickets; all I had to do was get there.

Backstage passes for The Joshua Tree tour! Can you imagine? So, you know, I asked my mom, because I didn't have my driver's license yet, and I don't think she'd have let me drive to Dallas by myself at the time even I had. Or maybe she would have, I don't know, but it didn't matter since I didn't have it. Her initial response was "yes;" after all, Dallas was less than three hours from Shreveport.

By Sunday, though, she had reconsidered her willingness to drive me to my cousin's house and spent the day laying a heavy guilt trip on me about how I was shirking my responsibility to work on Monday night as I was scheduled to do. And Tuesday night. There were concerts on both Nov. 23 and 24, and I could have gone to either or both. All I had to do was get there. But, you know, I was supposed to work, and, if I went off to do something so frivolous as going to a concert --because it was Thanksgiving week -- I would leave my church with no one to cover for me... other than her.

She spent all of Sunday reminding me of how irresponsible I was being and, by Sunday night, I broke down and called my cousin and told him I couldn't come.
And that was that.
I never really got over it. I mean, here I am, 30 years later, writing about it, right?
That, too, actually, was one of those defining moments, but one that went unrecognized by me for many, many years. You do try to dismiss major disappointments like that as being unimportant, after all.

I never really did the whole concert thing when I was growing up, not mainstream concerts of the type you think of when someone says "concert," at any rate. [I did see lots of Christian bands, but that was a different kind of thing.] After the whole thing over U2, I decided somewhere internally that concerts weren't worthwhile and were a waste of time and money. After all, if I couldn't go see U2 because they were frivolous, what was the point of spending money on some other band?

All of that to say, when my wife saw that U2 was doing a 30th anniversary tour for Joshua Tree, she knew she had to take me to it. Above any objections I might raise. So she made it my birthday present, and it's really hard to say no to that. And I'm glad I didn't, because...

It was amazing!

Here's the view from our original seats:
BUT! These seats had an obstructed view. You might ask of what, because that's what we asked when they came to tell us and offer us new seats...
And now you can see the OTHER stage that we didn't even know was there! And these seats were closer, so it was a win/win. For us!
Mumford & Sons opened.

The only thing that could have made it better is if they had closed with "40." Maybe next time.