Friday, March 31, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (a movie review post)

What I want to do here is to talk about Disney's scheme of remaking their animated hits as live action movies, because, other than Maleficent, it seems rather pointless. However, when the goal is to make money, they are quite nicely fulfilling their point. Beauty and the Beast has already made over $200 million, and it hasn't, at the time of this writing, even been out a week. However, that discussion has nothing to do with the actual movie and should probably be saved for some other time. Or not had at all. Well, I'm sure plenty of other people are having it, so, probably, I will skip it other than to say that I liked the idea of re-telling the stories, as in Maleficent, from some other point of view.

Of course, the problem with talking about this movie, at least for me, is that it's very difficult to do as a thing all on its own without any kind of comparison or consideration of the 1991 animated feature. Probably, that's impossible. Disney's original Beauty was a landmark film and, really, changed animation forever. It was the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy awards and was the cause of the best animated feature category being created. This movie, the remake, despite beautiful animation, can't be said to be anything more than conventional. In fact, my daughter's response to it (and she's the one who wanted to see it) was, "It was all right."

I think I liked it more than she did. But she hasn't seen the original in so long she barely remembers it, and it was never anything to her more than another movie on video. In post-Pixar days, it's difficult for earlier animated movies to hold up. Maybe that's why they need to be remade...

But part of what I liked about it had to do with nostalgia more than any inherent quality in the movie itself. Which is not to say that it's not a good movie. It is. It's a good movie, possibly very good, with some great performances and great music, which goes without saying since much of the music is from the original.

Also, as you could expect from a Disney movie, the cast is great. Emma Watson is charming. Kevin Kline is... well, he's Kevin Kline, so he was great. Dan Stevens looks princely, which, especially for Disney, is appropriate. Luke Evans is incredible and came close to stealing the whole movie. Not quite but close. Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen are an amazing voice pair. They, also, came close to stealing the show.

Really, though, what it comes down to is this:
If you're a fan of the original because you remember seeing it in the theater when it was first released, you will probably get a big shot of nostalgia from this movie and love it. I'm going to guess that children will really enjoy it, too, but I don't know if it is the kind of movie that will actually compete with animated movies for their attention. For people in between, well, it's probably not going to be anything special. It's good, but it's not going to blow you away or change your life. It's probably worth seeing on the big screen, though.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Three (pictures I like)

I think I posted a picture like this once before but, alas, that was one of the pictures I lost in last year's hard drive crash. Well, not that specific picture since I have it on here, but I lost all of the other pictures that went with it. Fortunately, there are always new pictures to take, and we made a new one that is similar to the old one, even if I think the old one was better.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Clone Wars -- "A Necessary Bond" (Ep. 5.8)

-- Choose your enemies wisely, as they may be your last hope,

[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.]

Ahsoka is still being rescued as the episode opens but, as she says a bit later in, there are complications. Grievous being one of those, as Ahsoka has to go back and rescue Hondo from Grievous so that she and the younglings can get a ship and finish their escape from... Hondo.

Remember way back in... season two? I think it was season two. Okay, fine! I'll go look! Well, no, it looks like it was the episode "Dooku Captured" back in season one. Anyway, remember that episode? The one where Dooku was captured by Hondo and Hondo attempted to ransom him off to the highest bidder? Well, Dooku really knows how to hold onto a grudge, and he's finally coming for Hondo in revenge for being held captive that one time, so Grievous has shown up and overrun Hondo's base and captured him.

While somewhat coincidental (what, as a writer, I would call contrived), it makes for a good episode, and I 'm willing to overlook the part where this whole plan of Hondo's, from a couple of episodes ago, to steal the kaiburr crystals happens to coincide with Grievous' attempt to take over the system Hondo is in, a fact that Hondo is either oblivious to or is intentionally ignoring.

Also, remember how I was recently talking about how you should never forget that Hondo is a pirate? Well, this episode is a reminder of why it's so easy to forget.

"Well, today is a new day, and, lucky for you, today I like children."

Monday, March 27, 2017

"The map is wrong" and Why It's Time To Ignore Trump

Living with an autocrat is never easy, not least of which because they can be erratic and unpredictable. Some of that unpredictableness comes from the fact that they warp reality around their assertions that their view of the world is the one and only correct view of the world. Let me give you an example:

When I was no more than seven or eight, I was having a discussion with my mom about a geography thing I learned at school that day. It was one of those "what did you learn today" moments. As I was telling her, my dad butted in with, "That's wrong."

Now, when I was a kid, I never held that typical belief that my parents were the ultimate authority on things. That was a view I held for teachers. Teachers were infallible. At least, at that point in my life, they were. So, of course, my response to my dad was something along the lines of, "But my teacher said..."

To which he responded, "Your teacher is wrong."

Some of you may have realized that I can be pretty... forceful... about the things I believe, and that has always been true, even when I was a kid, so an argument ensued. An argument which ended with the purchase of a map of the state, upon my insistence, because I was determined to prove that I was correct. We opened the map up, found the landmark, and...

I was right. It was just as I said from what we learned in class.

And my dad said, immediately, "The map is wrong."

I tried to argue. An argument which was cut short by my dad saying, "I'm right because I say I am."

I was, needless to say, flabbergasted. I just could not understand his insistence that he was right when, clearly, reality said otherwise.

It was also the very last time I ever argued anything with my dad. What was the point?
Also, that's a difficult lesson to learn when you're only seven or eight.

My dad also had that infuriating thing that you've probably seen in movies where he would ask me a question then yell at me not to "talk back" to him when I tried to answer. So, yeah, reality warping.

My tactic for dealing with him by the time I was in middle school was to just walk away. Literally. (And I have to say that it was actually quite satisfying, because it would leave him flustered and yelling, spittle flying out of his mouth as he did so. Seriously. (You didn't want to be close to him when he was yelling about something because there was always spittle.)) I refused to engage with him because you could never tell where you stood or what kind of crazy -- I hesitate to call them lies, because he was never "lying." -- untruth was going to come out of him. And you couldn't argue because facts didn't matter. He was right because he said he was. So, yeah, maybe it was disrespectful, but I would walk away, usually to my room but, sometimes, to outside.

And you know what? It would shut him up. I mean, after the "don't walk away from me while I'm talking to you!" part, that was the end of it. He never resumed anything later and there were never any consequences. Well, okay, there was the occasional "you're grounded!" that followed the bit about not walking away, but he never paid enough attention to ever enforce that; it just made him feel good to say it. Like he was actually doing something, I suppose.

Now, here's the punch line:
Trump is just like my dad. Or like my dad would have been if he'd had someone to give him a "small loan of a million dollars" to get him started off in life.

I realize what I'm about to say is more than impractical, but the way we need to be dealing with Trump, as a society, when he starts spouting nonsense is to "walk away." Ignore it. Deal with the actual business at hand and not pay any attention to his untruths. Because I'm pretty sure that Trump, also, isn't "lying." He's just saying stupid shit because
1. He's not very smart. and
2. He's right because he says he is; therefore, to him, anything he says is reality.

So here we are, two weeks later (as I write this and, probably, three weeks later as you read this), and we're still talking about Trump's completely unsupported and demonstrably false statement that he was wiretapped by Obama. Why are we still talking about it? Because we have allowed Trump to warp or reality. Rather than talking about him and his ties to Russia or any number of other things, we are now focused on whether Obama, the least scandalous President ever, had Trump under surveillance. With the British! Because Trump has to continue to warp reality to keep us focused on the wrong things. On non-things.

All of that to say this:
It's time to move the conversation back to where it should be, on Trump and the evil of his cohorts and how they are trying to ruin the world for everyone except the very wealthy. Because, actually, some of Trump's untruths are lies and, certainly, the people around him are lying all the time, just look at Flynn and Sessions for starters.

What we need to learn, as a society, especially the press, is that when Trump offers up something that comes without proof, something like "I was wiretapped," we need to not even acknowledge it. You stay focused on the actual story (in this case, it was the story about Sessions and how he lied under oath, but we haven't heard anymore about that since Trump made his completely fallacious claim) and resist chasing the squirrels that Trump is tossing into the room.

Personally, I think it would be great if we really could just walk away from him, just like I did with my dad. I bet Trump spittles, too, when he yells.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 13

Thursday, February 1, 2018

I wrote a letter to my friend in Australia. On paper. With a pen. I need to know something about what’s happening in the world, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I walked to the post office after school with it – and that’s not close! – and just got a blank stare from the mailman. He looked like he didn’t know what he was supposed to do with it. Finally, I said, “I want to mail this.”

His expression didn’t change. He said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Of course, I’m sure.”

He said, “You know we’re not accepting any mail from outside the country, right?”

I think I probably stared blankly at him because I hadn’t known that. So I asked why not. He just shrugged, then, for a moment, he looked like he wanted to say something, then shrugged again. I said, “What does that mean?” And he answered that it meant that I could mail the letter and it might even get there but I wouldn’t get anything back even if my friend responded. I cussed.

We stared at each other for a while and his expression never changed. He looked bored. I stood there getting angry.

Finally, I took his pen, opened the envelope as carefully as I could, wrote a note at the end of the letter to my friend that he probably couldn’t write me back, asked for some tape and sealed the letter back up, and told the dude I wanted to mail the letter. He told me it would be $7.00.

$7.00! I think I cussed again. I’m not actually sure. I don’t remember what I said, only that I was SO angry. His expression changed, though, to shock. I didn’t have $7.00 with me. Since when did it cost $7.00 to mail a letter? To anywhere? I stormed out and tried to slam the door. I really wanted to slam the door, but it had one of those stupid hydraulic arms, and I couldn’t make it slam. I’m pretty sure I screamed.

Now I have this letter that’s worthless. If I’d had the $7.00 while I was there, I would have mailed it, but there’s hardly a point in making another special trip to mail a letter which might not ever arrive and from which I will get no response.

So I tried to sneak a long distance call, and that was worthless, too. After almost an hour, I got connected to the operator because I was trying to make something that wasn’t a local call and was told that only local calls could be direct dialed anymore; everything else had to go through an operator and approved before it could be made. Which explains why it took me so long to get through, because the operators are backlogged with calls. AND she told me we were going to be billed JUST because I talked to her. $12.00! Twelve fucking dollars so that the operator could tell me that I couldn’t make my call. My mom is going to kill me.

There are a lot of rumors at school. Almost everyone has their own rumor. Almost none of them have to do with China taking over any part of the United States, though some of them are that Russia has invaded New York. And a lot of people are saying that there is fighting in New York. A lot of it. With tanks and missiles and all of that. I don’t know if I believe it or not.

Some people are saying it’s because Russia invaded and the fighting is against the Russians.

But some people are saying that it’s New York fighting against Trump and the United States.

They’re saying it’s a civil war. A new civil war. And that’s why that thing from the Statue of Liberty is showing up everywhere.

It is, too.

There are new flyers on buildings everyday.

Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

It makes me cry sometimes. I feel like I’m yearning to breathe free.

I hate it here.

It even showed up on TV yesterday. When the teacher was turning on the TV for Trump’s daily shitfest, she accidentally changed the channel… and there it was, just on the screen.

Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…
come to California

Oh, God, I want to go to California! Or Washington. Or even Oregon. Anywhere that is out of this hell of a place where I feel like I’m a flower without sun.

No one said anything when it was on the screen. It was like no one breathed. Four seconds… five… I don’t know. Long enough for me not to be the only one with tears in my eyes.

Then the teacher changed it back to the right channel and Trump was talking, and I did cry. Sobbed. I wasn’t even embarrassed because I wasn’t the only one. Shelly ran out of the room with her hands over her face.

That was the first time I realized how many kids are missing from my classes…

Mom is calling. Dinner, probably. Yea. More hamburger meat and baked potatoes. It will be the third day in a row.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Bound for Rescue" (Ep. 5.7)

-- When we rescue others, we rescue ourselves.

[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.]

Ahsoka got captured. My feeling is that this is a thing that has happened frequently, but, then, so have Obi-Wan and Anakin, I suppose. There really is a lot of getting captured and having to escape or be rescued! Mostly, that's not an issue.

Of course, Obi-Wan is going to mount a rescue operation, but he gets interrupted by being attacked by Grievous. It doesn't go well.

Which leaves the younglings on their own to figure out what to do about being left on a ship that has been damaged and with no supervision other than R2-D2. They do what all kids do -- or, at least, all kids in popular fiction -- they take matters into their own hands.
And join a circus.
Yeah, you'll just have to watch it to understand what that means.

Hondo's still around, because he's the one holding Ahsoka, expecting to make a profit of off her. From whom is a bit of a mystery since, when Ahsoka tells him he can't ransom her to the Separatists, he says he knows because, "Don't ask me why, but Dooku holds such a grudge against me since our little I-held-him-hostage affair." It's a great moment in an episode which is a bit anticlimactic after the previous one.

"If you don't let me go, you'll wish you had been born a protocol droid."
"Sometimes, I do anyway."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Education: The One Step To Improvement

If there's one thing everyone agrees with, it's that education in the United States is not what it once was. That, however, is probably not true. The truth is that education in the United States is precisely what it once was, mostly stuck in a 50s era mindset of how education ought to work.

Sure, things have been tried, but the basic model hasn't changed.

And, certainly, Betsy DeVos doesn't want to change that model. In fact, she wants to reinforce it by funneling the "right" kids into the Right kinds of schools so that we can get back to schools full of wealthy white kids to bring back excellence. With her model, that's what will work, too, because it will be select schools which are well funded by affluent white people, and everyone else... Well, everyone else can go to hell because, if you're not white and not rich, you don't deserve an education anyway.

So, while DeVos pushes vouchers and school "choice" (which, by the way, is just a code for affluent whites to get to put all of their kids in schools together in places where minorities can't afford to get their kids to (just in case you didn't get that from the previous paragraph)) and everyone else pays administrators huge salaries and experiments with programs, the education system is still missing the mark on how to fix itself. And so is everyone else. Except, maybe, teachers.

After all, there is only one real problem with education: teacher pay. That and the fact that we don't pay them. Well, pay for them to be teachers.

See, teacher pay is also, really, stuck in the 50s, so what we have now are babysitters. That's what we pay for, so that, on the whole, is what we get. A big, national system, state by state, of babysitters.

Before anyone starts taking umbrage, I don't mean any disrespect toward teachers. This is not a statement about "bad teachers." I've known some really great ones. But, having been involved in teaching, I also know the general state of teachers, which, actually, is most often tired. It is, beyond doubt, the most over worked, under paid "profession" out there. And, yes, the quotation marks are to indicate the lack of being paid to do the job they are hypothetically being paid to do.

I'm not going to try and break all of this down and make it into a numbers game to show just how little teachers are being paid per hour (and don't start yelling "summer" at me, either, because that doesn't balance anything, especially when many teachers have to pick up some kind of summer job to make it through the summer). What I'm going to say is this:
If teachers were paid more, there would be more teachers in the teaching profession. By that I mean that many people, especially men, who would be good teachers (and might have been a teacher at some point) don't teach (or quit teaching) because they can make more money somewhere else for far less headache and less time on the job. More money, fewer hours: Who wouldn't take that, right? Only those extremely highly dedicated to teaching.

I actually hate having to bring up men specifically, because that's part of the problem. Men are more likely to leave teaching because men are paid more than women just in general and men are more likely to find higher level jobs that pay more in and of themselves. All of that while teaching is seen as a woman's job so is inherently less likely to receive wage hikes. All of this is wrong and plays into why teaching suffers.

If teachers were paid competitive salaries, you'd find people, both men and women, competing for teaching positions, which would weed out those people who go into teaching because "anyone can teach." Come on, I know you believe that. That's what everyone thinks. "Well, if I can't get a job doing [X], I can always teach." And that is not what we want from our teachers, people who opted into it because they weren't qualified or smart enough or ambitious enough for anything else. We want people who want to be there even if that desire is spurred by a good salary. People who know they have to do good work because there is someone else waiting at least as qualified as they are will do better work, will be more invested in the job, than someone who knows they're not going to lose their job because there's no one else waiting to take it.

And, seriously, if you have good, motivated teachers, you don't need to focus on programs because one good teacher in a room with nothing more than a chalkboard will motivate even poor students to do well; while, one bad teacher, no matter what kind of programs you have in place, will kill the desire to learn in all but the best students (because they're already doing it on their own, anyway).

Look, I'm not saying anything new here. We've been, as a society, talking about teacher pay for... decades? Since I was in high school, at least. However, instead of just paying teachers more, we've been funneling money into programs and to administrators and, as a result, other countries, countries in which teachers are held in higher esteem, have continued to outpace the US in education. And that gap keeps getting bigger. So, if we're going to be serious about educating the next generation, and if we really want to "make America great" again, it starts with education, and that starts with paying teachers to be more than babysitters.

And all of that means we, as a society, have to start looking at education and being educated as something worthwhile again. We have to start looking at science as something more than just an opinion. It's time to quit with the whole Right wing/Conservative/Republican view of education and science as the enemy. We live in an information age where facts, real facts, are right at our fingertips. It's amazing, actually, and it's time to start making the most of it by grasping what is real and true and dumping disinformation and lies, and all of that starts with education.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Logan (a movie review post)

Relatively speaking, I was an early adopter when it comes to Wolverine. I was already following him as a character when his original limited series came out in 1982, and I would be lying to say that he was not one of my main reasons for following the X-Men through the 80s. Well, Wolverine along with the writing of Chris Claremont, unarguably one of the best comic book writers ever. Ironically, Claremont didn't care for Wolverine as a character and almost dropped him completely from the X-Men lineup in the late 70s. It was John Byrne who saved the character out of a fondness for a fellow Canadian.

That said, it's been 15 years since the last time I read any Wolverine (or any comics at all, really, other than a few here or there that one or more of my kids might have had lying around), that being Origin,

a story I didn't much care for overall. It suffers from many of the same problems as Logan, those being trying to fill in details around a character to achieve a particular goal even when those details don't really fit with the character that has been created.

Mostly, though, what Logan proves is that Fox is no more capable of creating a cohesive continuity for their super hero films than Warner Brothers. It's sort of like having your tea bag break in your cup of tea. If you're careful and drink slowly, you can manage to mostly keep the tea leaves out of your mouth... until you get to that point where you have to throw the last quarter of it out because the leaves are too dense. Until that point, though, the tea is enjoyable as long as you keep it to small doses.

So, yes, Logan is a mostly enjoyable film. It accomplishes the one thing I'm sure all Wolverine fans have been waiting to see: Wolverine really cutting loose with his claws without the need of keeping the bloodshed to a PG-13 rating. And cut loose he does: arms, legs, and heads. That alone is probably worth the movie for the true fans.

The aspect of the movie I found most interesting was the question raised about mutants and their powers when they get old. Of course, the movie only works around the question without ever really addressing it, but we do get to see some of the effects in the aged Charles Xavier as he struggles to maintain control over his mental abilities.

Stephen Merchant as Caliban was a pleasant surprise. I like Merchant, and he was perfect in this role. Dafne Keen was also great. She has a brooding stare which is easily the match of Jackman's.

However, the movie is utterly predictable, wasting a perfect opportunity to do something above and beyond that was afforded it by  the success of Deadpool, probably the only super hero movie Fox has nailed since X-Men 2 in 2003. That said, considering that Jackman is not returning to the claws again after this movie (unless Ryan Reynolds does somehow convince Jackman to do that Deadpool/Wolverine team-up movie), Logan is a good send off. Good enough, at any rate.

But it could it have been better if only Marvel had done it, which is the thought I have after every one of the X-Men movies since the advent of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with Iron Man back in 2008. Sony wised up and went to Marvel to get Spider-Man on the right track; maybe there's hope that Fox will do the same.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Clone Wars -- "A Test of Strength" (Ep. 5.6)

-- The young are often underestimated.

[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.]

It's important to remember that Hondo is a pirate. Of course, he's a pirate in the same vein as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian: a charming rogue. It makes it easy to be taken in by him, characters and viewers alike. But, then, he does something every so often to remind us he really is just a pirate. It doesn't matter how "presidential" he sounds during his not-the-state-of-the-union address, he's still gonna cut your throat for profit if he thinks he's going to make some from doing it. There is no, and there never was, doing the right thing. He just fools you into thinking that when he's making money by being nice to you. But it all comes down to, "We all know how much I like to be rich, don't we?"

In the end, it makes Hondo no better, and possibly worse, than Anakin during and after his fall.

And this is how bad it is:
During the conflict when Hondo is obviously and blatantly trying to kill Ahsoka and those under her charge, Ahsoka says to him, "I don't want to hurt you." And she doesn't. Do you know why? She likes Hondo, just like we do, because why? Because he's a charming rogue, and you can't help yourself. Even while he's trying to slit your throat. Hondo's response? "I know." That's not a direct quote, but it's the spirit of it, and it gives Hondo the edge.

Oh, yeah, Honda is in this episode.

And David Tennant, my second favorite Doctor. Oh, no, not him, just his voice, but that's good, too.

Yes, we're still in the same arc started last episode. Let's just say it doesn't end well. You should probably just watch it.

"The lightsaber is a Jedi's only true ally."

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Freedom of Speech" and Why You Sound Dumb Saying It

One of the hallmarks of the ridiculously stupid and the inanely ignorant is that they will toss around words and phrases without actually knowing what they mean. Of course, they think they're using the words or phrases correctly and, sometimes, the people around them do, too, because they're under a kind of mass delusion of meaning. My favorites, right now, all have to do with the Constitution, and my very favorite are the Conservative jutnobs who keep yelling about their "freedom of speech."

So let's talk a little about "freedom of speech" and the 1st Amendment and what it means and does in regard to that freedom. But just a little, because it's a big topic with lots of small parts that we could talk about for... well, for far longer than I would hold your attention, I'm sure.

The first thing you need to understand is that the "freedom of speech" being granted by the 1st Amendment is a protection being granted to the individual. A protection from the government. See, in many countries, criticizing the government or a religion can get you thrown in jail. Or worse. Having just emerged from the tyranny of a government that had no problem punishing people for things they said, the founding fathers wanted to protect people from thin-skinned assholes who would abuse their power by throwing people into jail for saying bad things about them or just for disagreeing with them in general.

Here's the thing: "Freedom of Speech" does not mean you have the right to say whatever old thing you want to say. That was never the intent, and we have many laws dealing with the kinds of things that are not protected. Of course, the popular one is about how it is illegal to stand up in a crowded theater and yell, "Fire!" Then there's yelling "bomb!" in an airport. Your "freedom of speech" argument isn't going to get you very far in either case.

What the 1st Amendment does allow is that you can go out on any street corner and protest against the government or a religion or, actually, be as racist as you want, and you can't be arrested for it. Well, as long as you're not promoting violence. Because, see, the promotion of violence is not protected.

The problem with all of this is the misconceptions.

First, your right to say whatever it is you want to say does not in any way obligate me to listen to you. Also, it does not in any way validate whatever it is you're saying, meaning your right to an opinion does not make your opinion correct. People (mostly on the Right (though those anti-vaxxers from both sides are pretty bad, too)) seem to be under the misperception that they are having their "freedom of speech" violated if I don't want to listen to them, which is just another asinine assumption those people like to make. Further, if I tell them they are wrong (and from me, generally, that means their opinions are based on no facts whatsoever) and that I am no longer going to engage with them on the (or any) subject, they tend to froth at the mouth and tell me I'm violating their "freedom of speech."

But let's go back to that street corner I mentioned earlier. See, the 1st Amendment does indeed give you the right to stand on that street corner and pontificate as much as you want about "illegals" and "swinging dicks" and your right to own as many guns as you want (which is a topic for another time), but I don't have to stop and listen, nor does anyone else. We are all free to walk right on past you and leave you shouting at the air. Not to mention the fact that that same 1st Amendment right gives me the right to pause and tell you what an asshole you are and how all the things you're saying just prove how ignorant and uneducated you are. You use your freedom of speech the way you want; I'll use mine the way I want, up to and including letting you know just how big of an ignorant asshole you really are.

Second, the 1st Amendment does not give you the right to exercise your word vomit anywhere you want to. Which takes us back to the street corner. The public street corner. Because that's what's protected, public spaces. I'm not going to get into the nuance of how that applies to businesses because that can be very different depending on the type of business, but your freedom of speech does not extend to other people's private property. That means that if you are in my house and you start saying things I don't like, I can tell you to stop and you're pretty much obligated to do so. You are not protected by the 1st Amendment. You either stop or you leave.

And just to make the point: That extends to my blog and to my facebook page. For all intents and purposes, those are "my" spaces. What that means is that if you post something on my FB wall or make a comment on my blog and I don't, for lack of a better term, approve of it, I can remove it, and I have not violated your "freedom of speech." In fact, when you start telling me that I have, that, again, just shows how ignorant and uneducated you are. And, certainly, you should not start citing something that you actually have no clue about, because it proves you're talking out of your ass, and no one wants to see that. If you feel the desperate need to say the things you are trying to say in my space, please feel free to go to your own space and say them all you want. That's what your "freedom of speech" gets for you.

[Just to be clear: "My" space on this blog or on facebook is not actually my space. It is only my space insomuch as google and facebook have allowed me to use them. They own the spaces and could at any time decide that they don't like the things I've said and take them down. That goes for pretty much everyone using those spaces. But, still, as google and FB have granted me the privilege of using their spaces, it is an extension of me, and your "freedom of speech" does not extend into it.]

Not to go all Princess Bride here, but, when you start spouting off at the ass about your "freedom of speech" any time I say I'm not going to discuss a topic with you until you actually get educated about the subject, I want to say, "You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Which is to say, "I know that it doesn't mean what you think it means." Which is to say, "Here's another thing you should really go educate yourself on before you start making statements about it."

Not that education is going to remain something that is accessible to the "common man" if Trump and cohorts get their way.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Day Ten

Monday, January 29, 2018

Why do people say, “Excuse my French,” before they cuss? It doesn’t make any sense. I only thought of that because I almost wrote it, but why do I need to write that; no one is reading this but me, so I don’t need to ask anyone to excuse me.


It was so fucking cold today! Not because it was actually colder than normal, but I had to wear a dress to school because of my stupid stitches. I hate dresses, and today reminded me of why. The air just went right up my legs, and I spent the whole day being cold and uncomfortable. AND everyone saw my stitches because the dress wasn’t long enough to cover them up when I was sitting down.

Not that it mattered because Toby saw me leaving the junkyard with the blood all over me and told everyone about it, so I didn’t even get to make up an excuse for how I got the stitches. It was SO embarrassing. Or it would have been except that no one really seemed to care, and a lot of my friends had the same kinds of stories about having to go out and scavenge. But none of them got stitches from it.

I guess everyone’s desperate for news, and there aren’t a lot of good places to get it. No one really realized how dependent they’d become on the internet for information. I wanted to look up lockjaw just to make sure I couldn’t get it, but there’s no Wikipedia anymore. And we don’t have any encyclopedias or anything like that. I don’t think we even have a dictionary in the house. I had to wait till I got to school today, then I wasn’t ever able to get to the library. The library has become very popular.

But it’s not looking stuff up that has people upset; it’s not knowing what’s going on. Trump is going to be having a daily broadcast so that he can tell us what’s happening – the first one was today, and we HAVE to watch them – but I don’t believe anything he says. Anything. And I hate his stupid voice. And tiny t-rex hands. And flapping lizard throat.

TODAY, he told us that we are at war with China and that China has taken over the whole west coast in a secret attack. He said it was China that was responsible for that message on the Internet from the Statue of Liberty, but that doesn’t make any sense. Why would China say something like that? And he didn’t even talk about New York and those other states that aren’t on the west coast. Didn’t even mention them.

Maybe we’re supposed to think Canada captured them.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Yeah, China didn’t say that, and that’s what he wants us to believe?

I want to know what’s happening, and I don’t know how to find out. No one knows how to find out, but everyone has opinions and wants to talk about them. My friends tell each other what their parents said, but most of them don’t seem to believe any of it, especially if it goes along with anything Trump has said. None of us believe Trump.

My dad does, though. He’s on a rampage about China and how we’re going to kick the asses of those Reds. He keeps saying we need to nuke them. That caused a fight, another fight, with my mom. My mom said that was terrible what he said, but he didn’t seem to care. They had a long fight with a lot of shouting which only ended when the door slammed. He hasn’t come back, yet, and I haven’t asked Mom if he’s going to. I don’t know if I care, right now.

Mom seems to not like Trump anymore. She hasn’t said that, but… Mom really hasn’t been saying much anymore. She’s quiet all the time, now, and I have to say stuff to her three or four times before she even realizes I’m talking to her. She doesn’t even listen to the news on the radio anymore.

I think I’m scared; I just don’t know what I’m scared of.

A Note from the author:
I hope you are enjoying this piece of FREE! serialized fiction. At least so far as it is fiction. For the moment. Who's to say what could be happening a year from now considering where we are at this moment in time.
Speaking of FREE!, because this is FREE!, it would be great, if you are enjoying this story, if you could support the author by purchasing one of his other stories. For a change of pace, try What Time Is the Tea Kettle?, which has been described as "deliciously absurd" and "quirky fun." Besides, it has cats. How can you go wrong with cats? Um... Forget I asked that.

It's always great to feel supported.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Rust in the Cliffs (pictures I like)

Generally speaking, the photos I post here are unedited. Okay, always the photos I post here are unedited except, maybe, I have changed the rotation on one or two. I can't remember. This time, though, because I wanted to rotate the photo some, I played with some filters, which is a thing I do sometimes, just not on any of the photos I've posted. So, above, is the edited photo and, below, is the original. You can probably see why I wanted to rotate it because, although I was level when I took the original, the curve of the horizon makes the photo look oddly tilted. Then I decided to make the colors pop a bit. The photo is from last fall sometime before all the rain started.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Gathering" (Ep. 5.5)

-- He who faces himself, finds himself.

[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.]

Okay, on a complete aside, why does it seem that "everything" has to have an episode (or some equivalency) called "The Gathering"?

There's a decided shift in season five away from Anakin and Obi-Wan to Ahsoka as we begin our second arc of the season focused on Ahsoka and her development apart from Anakin. Which is not to say that there won't be Anakin and Obi-Wan, just that Ahsoka is getting some extra attention as the series nears its ending. But, you know, more on that later.

This episode is both kind of cool/interesting and kind of annoying. On the one hand, it's about how younglings acquire their Kaiburr crystals so that they can construct their first lightsabers and move on to becoming padawans. On the other hand, it has a bit of that video game quality to it where you have to pass a series of challenges to achieve the goal. It's not as overt as it could have been, though, which is why it's only "kind of" annoying.

Really, the episode is centered around the younglings and their individual challenges they have to pass in order to obtain their crystals, but Ahsoka is the one in charge of them, though Yoda is there, too.

It's a decent enough episode even if it's not as meaty as the last arc.

Also, I have to say, the wookie youngling is probably my favorite. I do like the Ithorian, too, though.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Social Media and Politics

The current political climate has made social media kind of tricky. And prickly. In more genial times, social media tends to be a mostly superfluous time waster full of cat videos and people trying to sell you stuff. Which is not to say that it's not still those things but, now, it's also full of political controversy, fake news, and hurt feelings.

Of course, part of the beauty of social media is that it can be used for all of those things or none of those things. It can be a great tool or just a way to keep in contact with people. All of which is also part of the ugliness of social media.

And all of which is a bit beside the point while also still being part of the point.

I've been on social media for a while now -- haven't we all? -- but, more importantly, I've been using social media for the vast majority of that time. Yes, I'm drawing a distinction between merely being on social media and using social media. "Everyone" is on social media, but most people don't use it. Or, at least, they haven't been. However, with the new political awareness that's happening, there is an accompanying call for more people to shift from just being on social media to actually using it for more than just being connected to people and posting memes.

And some people are... trepidatious... about that, about stepping up and putting social media to a use beyond just on. Not to mention the people who aren't even on social media suddenly being asked to develop a presence there.

With that in mind, here's a brief guide to the use of social media in the age of politics (from someone who in no way claims to be an expert at social media):

1. Be aware of the consequences.
Yes, there will be consequences, almost certainly. The least of these will be that people with whom you have been "friends", and even actual friends, possibly for years and years, will unfriend you (or unfollow you or whatever the applicable term is for your platform). This could be because they have philosophical differences with your political position or affiliation, or it could be for the simple reason that they don't want to see political posts because they've decided that they're too negative and would rather bury their heads in the sand and only watch the aforementioned cat videos. However, you could also be harassed by people who don't agree with you or even threatened. This is the kind of thing many people don't stop to think about ahead of time and, then, are surprised when it happens, so it's better to know what you're getting into.
2. Know your message and choose the social media platform that best supports that message.
This part is on you to do your research and to know what it is you want to accomplish. Do you write long-winded essays declaring your views to the world? Twitter probably isn't for you as a primary platform. Do you caption pictures, turning them into funny memes? Maybe you want to look at snapchat. Really, though, choose a platform that supports your message and what you want to accomplish.
3.  Along with that, know your audience and use the platform most likely to reach them.
There's nuance here between #2 and #3 that I'm not going to spend the time to try to explain, right now, but, to put it simply, if you're trying to reach people like me, snapchat is not the platform you want to use. Snapchat might be the platform most suited to your message, but, if I'm your audience, you're not going to reach me. You need to, as much as possible, harmonize your message to your audience and to the platform best suited for both.
4. Join groups.
Find some political action groups on your chosen platform(s) that have similar agenda items and become active in them. They can be a great support system and provide ideas you might not think of.

In no way is this list comprehensive, but it should help point you in the right direction.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Day Eight

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Dad made me go to the junkyard with him today. And then to the dump. It was so gross. The dump, not the junkyard. The junkyard might have been kind of cool except that Dad wouldn’t let me look at any of the old cars and stuff. He just wanted me to crawl around in piles of scrap and look for something to make an antenna out of.

No one has antennas. Trump keeps saying they’re going to make sure that everyone has antennas – it’s on the radio all the time – but the stores don’t have any. The only person I know of with an antenna is that old guy down the street, the one who still gets a newspaper, except everyone is getting newspapers now. Or trying to. We’re on a waiting list, and Dad is mad about that, too.

So Dad made me crawl all around in these piles of scraps looking for… You know, I don’t even know what I was supposed to be looking for. He just kept saying to find something he could make an antenna out of, but he wasn’t satisfied with anything I found, and he was kind of frantic about it because he wasn’t the only one to have the idea to check the junkyard, I think, because there were a lot of other people there, too, clawing through piles of metal scrap and junk. Some of them were making their kids crawl around in the piles of scrap, too.

Then I fell because someone yanked on something at the bottom of the pile I was on and everything shifted, and a rusty piece of I-don’t-know-what sliced open my leg, and my dad, instead of helping me, got into a fight with the man until the owner of the junkyard came over and made us leave. Dad was fuming, and I was bleeding everywhere, but did we go home? No! We drove to the dump!

Dad tried to make me crawl around in the garbage to look for stuff for him, but it stank so bad, and I was still bleeding, so I wouldn’t do it. He made me go back to the car, which is what I wanted to do anyway. He’s such an asshole. We left right after that. I watched him walk over to a pile of garbage, but he just stared at it for a few minutes until he came back to the car, and we drove off and he didn’t say anything else to me at all. Why should I have to crawl around in garbage shit when he won’t even do it? Asshole.

But he got yelled out by mom when we got home and she saw my leg. I wish that had gone on longer, because she didn’t let him get a word in at all and told him she didn’t care about some “damn fucking antenna” if it meant that I was going to get lockjaw because of it. Mom never cursed, so I knew something bad was happening.

It wasn’t until we – Mom and me, because dad stayed home – were on the way to the hospital that I could find out what lockjaw was. That made me scared. I didn’t know if I’d had a tetanus booster. I just know that I sometimes go get shots; I don’t know what kind of shots they are. I think I might decide that I want to know, now, though.

We had to wait a long time in the emergency room, and it was so boring. Mom’s phone wasn’t good for anything since there wasn’t any internet, there was nothing on the TV in the waiting room except static, and I didn’t even have the stupid book I was reading because Mom made me get out to the car so fast. So I just sat there and bled on the floor until some nurse noticed and yelled at me for getting blood on the floor, but they took me to see a doctor.

The doctor said I was probably okay since it hadn’t even been two years since I had a deetap but, since the cut was so deep, they would give me a booster anyway. And another antibiotic, just to be safe. And stitches! I had to have stitches because my stupid father made me crawl around in rusty scrap metal.

Then, before we could leave, Mom had a fight with the lady at the desk because of the bill. I didn’t know they made you pay when you have to go to the emergency room, and I guess Mom didn’t know either. Or she did but didn’t realize how much it was going to be because we lost our insurance when Trump took away Obamacare. Mom did a lot of cussing and kept saying, “What was I supposed to do, let her fucking leg fall off?”

Finally, we just left, but the desk lady kept yelling at us as we were going that they were going to send us a bill. Mom actually flipped her off as we were going out the sliding doors. I’ve NEVER seen my mom act like that before. Or heard her say anything bad about Trump, but she cursed him all the way home.


My leg hurts.

A lot.

A Note from the author:
I hope you are enjoying this piece of FREE! serialized fiction. At least so far as it is fiction. For the moment. Who's to say what could be happening a year from now considering where we are at this moment in time.
Speaking of FREE!, because this is FREE!, it would be great, if are enjoying this story, if you could support the author by purchasing one of his other stories. Like, maybe, "Tiberius," collection One of Shadow Spinner. Or something else; there are links all over the page and many different types of stories available.

It's always great to feel supported.