Friday, January 27, 2017

Bad Joke Friday

Well, might as well start THIS up again....

I got fired from my job for stealing kitchen equipment.

It was a whisk I was willing to take.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Something for Thursday

Music by Burton Lane, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. "Come Back to Me" from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why not "The Force Gets Coffee"?

Some geeky stuff!

:: Star Wars Episode VIII has itself a title:

I honestly don't have an opinion of this as a title. Star Wars titles tend to be greeted as events, and then...well, they're titles. OK, The Last Jedi.

It does break a little with previous "middle installment" titles from previous Star Wars trilogies. The opening films generally have three-word titles that suggest a story beginning: A New Hope, The Phantom Menace, The Force Awakens. Then, previously, we're had four-word titles that indicate a middle installment based on action: The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones. But this breaks that "tradition". Is this a problem? Not really. If the movie's terrific, they could call it Jedi Boogaloo for all I care.

::  This has been making the rounds of Facebook the last few days: a poster for Star Wars in which the characters are re-cast as the kids from Stranger Things.

The artist, Michael Maher, has done quite a bit of cool Star Wars art, as well as other things. Check out his work!

::  I have no idea how I missed this show's existence entirely, since I have to think this would have been right up my alley when I was seven or eight years old, but miss it I did. It was an NBC show called Supertrain.

The show is described thusly:

The series was one part sci-fi, one part The Love Boat. It revolved around a nuclear-powered bullet train that could travel from New York to Los Angeles in 36 hours and had amentities like swimming pools and shopping centers.

Just like The Love Boat, the plot focused on the passengers and their connecting storylines. Supertrain could have been a minor a hit, but there was one issue. It cost way too much money.
New York to LA in 36 hours? WOW!!! In an era when planes can do it in six! I assume the show had some explanation for why there were no planes.

Apparently to make the show look good, the producers had to make really large and expensive models. Look at this thing:

Unfortunately, the show's big budget took an even bigger hit when -- well, anybody who ever played with an electric train must know what happened.

My favorite part of that pic is the guy standing in the foreground, wreckage behind him, cigarette in hand as he undoubtedly wonders if he's ever going to work in this business again.

Apparently the ratings were awful, leading to desperate casting stunts like Tony Danza and Zsa Zsa Gabor, making the show another in the 1970s-era super-genre of shows designed to have rotating All-Star Casts every week. Fantasy Island and The Love Boat meet...Silver Streak? I dunno, but this concept for a show seems gonzo enough to have really appealed to me as a post-Star Wars kid.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dear 45 (an Open Letter to the President of the United States)

Dear Mr. President,

Yes, you are my President.

But I do not support you, and I do not expect good things from you. I do not expect good policy choices, nor do I expect good outcomes. My expectations for you are astoundingly, confounding low, because that's where you put them. You did it by appealing, day in and day out, to the very worst instincts in the American psyche, right from your campaign's opening address when you warned us all about the steady stream and rapists and murderers surging into our country from across the Rio Grande.

You did it by lying day in and day out, so much that reporters had trouble figuring out how to report that you were lying. You lied so much that you were eventually lying about having lied in the first place. You ran the most dishonest presidential campaign I have ever seen, and yet somehow you managed to reap the benefit of an opponent whom most people seem to think is also a huge liar, even though she isn't.

You did it by cheering on the expulsion of people from your events of people who don't like you or who say things about you that you don't like.

You did it by several years ago making your first big claim to political fame by pursuing the stupid fiction that Barack Obama was not a natural-born American citizen.

You did it by showing on FOX News repeatedly to scoff at the very idea of global warming and climate change.

You did it with idiotic policy proposals like building a wall between the United States and Mexico, and then compounding this stupidity with the idea that Mexico will somehow be forced to pay for it.

You did it by filling your administration with people who are clearly on the take, people who are clearly going to make out like bandits, people who are obviously going to set to the tasks of destroying the missions of the agencies they are heading, and people who are simply downright ignorant (an Energy Secretary who didn't know what the department even does, or a HUD secretary who believes that the Egyptian pyramids are grain silos).

You lowered my expectations by attacking people left and right on Twitter, by egging on your bizarrely rabid followers, by threatening your opponent with investigations and prosecutions, and by scoffing at one's obligations as a citizen by saying "It makes you smart" that you managed to avoid paying income taxes at one point.

There is literally nothing you have said or done over the last eighteen months that gives me the smallest reason to think that you might be a good President. You have shown no curiosity about issues or insight into them. You have shown zero respect for the work of the job or the norms that surround it. You have demonstrated no foreign policy acumen aside from chest-thumping and Russo-philia. I can think of no issue that stands to improve for your having addressed it, and I can think of no aspect of American life that will be better for your having been President.

And the thing is? You're going to fail. No matter what. You're going to be able to do a lot of damage, and you'll ruin a lot of lives. Hell, if you and your cohorts in Congress repeal the ACA without a "replacement" (and let's be honest, none of you has the slightest idea what kind of "replacement" you'll offer), you might just kill people. But it won't matter. Not in the long-run, it won't. You're not going to reignite American manufacturing so that towns once more have big factories employing ten thousand people. You're not going to be able to push all of the queer people back into their respective closets. You're not going to make the young people like you.

Ultimately, though, I don't even think you care that much, and that may bother me most of all. You seem to expect the Presidency to be this easy thing that you can almost do on a part-time basis, and that your business experience is one hundred percent applicable to the challenges you will confront as President. As to the latter, your business experience isn't the unbroken run of amazing success stories that you often say it is, and that experience is not always applicable. What might be OK in a board room is not OK in a cabinet meeting.

In short, I expect your Presidency to be a time of awful policy making combined with amazing levels of corruption. The last administration that paired deep disengagement in policy and facts with willingness to profit from events did not result in good results. Your judicial appointees will be terrible people, and our Congress will rubber-stamp your stuff and you'll rubber-stamp their stuff. The idea of national government in the hands of you, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell fills me with many emotions, none of them happy and most of them angry.

So thus will I join the millions of Americans who are going to oppose you and resist you and work hard to thwart you and your agenda. And when we finally get rid of you and your Congress?

Well, that's when we'll start making America great again.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dear 44 (an Open Letter to the President of the United States)


Dear Mr. President,

I honestly never thought writing something on the occasion of your impending departure from office would feel so bittersweet, but my God -- I didn't expect a lot of things.

On the night you won the Presidency, there was a surging feeling that America had done one of the truly spectacular things that it has done occasionally in its history. It felt, in some way, like putting a human being on the Moon, or maybe like sending wave upon wave of thousands of soldiers onto those beaches in France to finally start putting an end to World War II. I was born in 1971, so I've known all too few of those amazing moments when the promise of America seems to rise up and make itself known in one single event. That's what your election felt like.

Maybe that was too much to put on you, in addition to, you know, actually being President.

On that night in 2008, I wrote about how much you inspired me and how you represented not just a huge step forward in being this country's first black President, but that you also appealed by virtue of being a curious and studious man who didn't seem to approach each issue with your mind already made up. I think that you did end up being that kind of President, and the country benefited for having a calm and steady hand at the wheel, a hand that was not prone to emotional decision-making or spontaneous policies shaped by a misplaced faith in your own ability to size people up on sight.

I also noted that you were still an imperfect human being, and that you were still going to have to work within the confines of our existing political system, which meant in turn that you would be disappointing to me on occasion. I won't lie: yes, there were times when I wished you would push the gas a little harder, show a little more of your anger, shoot from the hip a little more. I wish you would have recognized earlier the degree to which the Republican Party was unwilling to engage your ideas in any way other than predetermined opposition. I also wish that the drone warfare had ended, and I'm sure that you're frustrated that Guantanamo Bay is still a going concern and that you got absolutely nowhere in addressing America's ongoing love affair with firearms.

But that's the point, isn't it? I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that no President has ever left office having achieved every policy goal they set forth from the time they took office. I'm sure every President who left office under their own power felt the keen pain of missed opportunities and unmet goals, some more than others. But you got a surprising amount of things done: the stimulus package that kept an economic disaster from metastasizing into an economic calamity for the ages. Real policy changes addressing climate change. An end to discrimination against gays in our nation's military. The Affordable Care Act.

I don't know how many of those things will stay in effect. Like many Americans -- if not most Americans -- I look to the future, and to what may be coming from the incoming President and Congress, with a high degree of trepidation and grim resolve to fight against it. I've no doubt whatsoever that you will not be shrinking from the coming battles, as justified as you might be in stepping back and saying "Come on, folks, I did the job for eight years and I've earned a break." The truth is, there is still a lot of ugliness in the heart of this country, which eight years of your Presidency were not enough to end. We are still a country with a great deal of latent and institutionalized racism, sexism, and other bigotries in play. We are still a country that seeks to punish the poor, that undervalues education and those that provide it. We are still a country that praises freedom but erects barriers to voting. We are still a country that resists application of policy ideas that have proven far superior in other countries to our own approaches to issues like health care, energy, and transportation.

It saddens me deeply that a lot of these ugly factors in the American psyche are coming to the fore as you leave office, Mr. President. You worked hard to engage these things and there are times when it's hard to look around and see any progress at all.

But we did elect you, Mr. President. We elected you by huge numbers, and we did it twice. Further, the incoming President, for all his loud bluster, is only the incoming President by virtue of a very odd quirk in our electoral system. And there are millions upon millions of people who are unwilling to see your work and your legacy undone. Jon Stewart said a few months ago that we are still the country that elected Barack Obama. We're going to have to live up to that, but we're still a country where millions elected you and where millions supported you and where millions are ready to stand up and fight for the things that you just finished eight years fighting for. We're not throwing away our shot.

So anyway, I just wanted to say thank you, Mr. President. You did a lot of good for the United States, and I truly believe that we are better for your service. I truly believe that you are the best President of my lifetime (and my sample size starts with Nixon). I hope that you will continue to see, in decades to come, an America that resumes and continues striving for the America that you said we could have. And we still can.

Yes, we can.

Kelly C Sedinger

PS: I've got a bit of a crush on your wife. I hope you don't mind.












Something for Thursday

Something tells me we're all going to need shelter from the storm.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

This is one of the most well-known of all classical works, although I suspect more people recognize it by virtue of its use in cartoons than anything else, and therefore I also suspect that relatively few people can actually name it! It's the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 by Franz Liszt, which was originally written for solo piano but which we now hear in its orchestral version. As a Rhapsody, the work is mainly a collection of folk tunes, which is partly why it's such an infectious piece.

Monday, January 16, 2017

When will we be going back?

Gene Cernan, the last human being to walk on the moon, died today.

Why have we waited so long to go back?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Something for Thursday

Sorry for the radio silence the last few days. The reason? The usual! Writing a novel, editing another one, and trying to do more reading after a depressingly slack 2016 in the reading department.

Here's some Wagner.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Something for Thursday

I heard this on my way to work this morning. It really needs no introduction, so here's the Overture to The Barber of Seville by Rossini.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Richard Thompson and CUL DE SAC

2016 was an awful year for creative people passing away, but one death that I didn’t see a whole lot of comment about was that of cartoonist Richard Thompson of complications from Parkinson’s Disease. Thompson was the brilliant mind behind the wonderful comic strip Cul De Sac, which can still be read online in its entirety, and for which Thompson maintained a blog occasionally delving into his creative thoughts behind each individual strip.

Cul De Sac may be the truest heir on the comics page to the spirit of Calvin and Hobbes, in that Thompson has an effortless understanding of the way children appear to see the world and interact with it. The strip’s star is kindergartener Alice Otterloop, who looks on the world with that wonderfully skewed (and hard to argue against) logic that every four-year-old brings to the table. Alice is pushy and loves being the center of attention, which makes for a lot of hilarity when she doesn’t get her way.

Alice isn’t a female Calvin, though. She is not primarily a loner. She has friends with whom she interacts (or fights), and she has an older brother in addition to her parents. Alice doesn’t get along well with everybody, and there’s one kid that she doesn’t like at all, and Thompson has the genius to show this poor kid as being pretty nice and, well, just a normal kid. This isn’t Calvin getting bullied by Moe. We never get a real reason as to just why Alice so dislikes poor Kevin (whom she always refers to as “bucket-headed Kevin”), and she bosses poor Dill around. Alice isn’t perfect at all. But then, neither was Calvin.

Older brother Petey isn’t a supporting character, though. At times he becomes the star in his own right, in his preference for inaction and his neurotic dislike of everything, including just about all foods. (Petey actually maintains his own “Picky Eater” rating online.) Thompson is adept at showing the differences between the way Alice views the world and the way Petey sees it, and some of his best work has the two worldiews clashing together.

The adults in Cul De Sac are also done quite well. Mrs. Otterloop is apparently the one with the best grip on reality, although she has a wicked sense of humor that she lets fly once in a while, even if nobody gets it. Mr. Otterloop seems slightly clueless – well, maybe clueless isn’t quite the word. He doesn’t seem quite equipped to interact with his children on their terms, though, and he always seems mildly nonplussed by what happens when he gets a glimpse of what they’re up to.

Best of all is Thompson’s art. His style is surprisingly elaborate for the demands and space restrictions of the comics page, and he often does wonderful things to suggest the flow of time and manages to elude the bonds of the panel. Thompson’s best drawing often comes when Alice finds herself interacting in some way with either the world of adults or with larger children, whether it’s the enormous jungle gym and slide that has mythologically entrapped some children for years, or her oddly scary grandmother with the gentle-and-confused-but-still-terrifying giant dog, or her father’s tiny car into which Dad must fold himself in contorted ways.

I discovered Cul De Sac some years ago when Stephan Pastis actually plugged it in an installment of his Pearls Before Swine (an episode I blogged about when it happened, and it was with sadness that I noted Thompson’s reluctant decision to retire from the strip when his Parkinson’s Disease became too much of a hindrance to continued work.

Richard Thompson was a wonderful, wonderful humorist and poet of the comics page, and I’ll treasure Cul De Sac forever.

(She's right -- where the heck is the Pie Fight Button, anyway?!)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Not really a tone poem, but a concert overture, by Dmitri Shostakovich. This is not a long work, but it is a particularly invigorating one. As the weather today in my neck o' the woods is gray and gloomy and rainy, this helps somewhat. Here is the "Festive Overture" by Shostakovich.