Help Congress Help Us
Since the election, I've written four letters to my congressional representatives. I'm quite sure there will be many more to follow, because the stakes have never been higher for our Republic. My prior letters urged opposition to Trump cabinet nominees and support of investigation of and appropriate action for the Russian attack on our election. This one is about the Affordable Care Act as it faces catastrophic maiming if not outright repeal by the Republican leadership.
I have added a link on the right sidebar (not visible if you're reading this on your phone, maybe if you tilt it over to landscape mode) under "Be Heard" that I invite everyone to take advantage of. It'll take you to to a site that will find your Senators and Representative based on your zip code, then give you a ready-to-go form that will send them email or, for a nominal fee, printed snail-mail letters. They don't have to be long, they don't have to be especially eloquent, they just need to convey your opinion on a particular issue. Take advantage of this tool! Write often! (And check out Indivisble as well for helpful pointers on what to say.)
January 8, 2017
Dear Representative Jayapal:
Dear Senator Cantwell:
Dear Senator Murray:
Firstly, thank you for your advocacy and efforts thus far regarding public health matters in general and the Affordable Care Act in particular. The ACA has been a godsend to the American people, even those who haven't recognized it as such; I myself have returned to the ranks of the insured thanks in large part to the ACA.
The Republican goal of repealing the ACA is astonishing—or rather, it would be if the Republican party bore any resemblance to its former self—and I implore you to continue to oppose them in their efforts to strip us all of this newfound ability to get care.
What Congressional Republicans are trying to do would be criminal under broader context and should be stopped. Consequences of repealing the ACA without substituting any comparable alternative are predictbale, because we've seen them already. For the most fortunate Americans, they will be forced into lesser insurance coverage for more money. For the rest of us, it could mean the choice between financial ruin and death.
Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, and their respective posses are either indifferent to the fact that their agenda will bankrupt and/or kill thousands of Americans, or they are deliberately planning it. That makes them, if they succeed, guilty of negligent homicide or premeditated murder, all so they can enact a kind of atavistic revenge fantasy against a soon-to-be-former President that they detest.
If there is a legitimate reason for the GOP's repeal effort outside of (a) empowering the insurance industry to make greater profits on the backs of Americas who can't afford it and (b) giving a giant middle-finger salute to President Obama, I don't see it. It certainly has no basis in serving the interests of the American people.
Keep up the good work, and please—remind your Republican colleagues that they are supposed to be PUBLIC SERVANTS, not officious-looking hit-men.
Now What? New Year's Goals, Predictions, and Semi-Resolutions
Congratulations. If you're reading this, you've survived the unwelcome boil and ambitious killing spree that was 2016. I know, I know, it wasn't all bad; it only seems like it thanks to the plethora of public-figure and closer-to-home death and the election of a narcissistic marshmallow turd. But there were moments of good here and there sprinkled among the nightmares.
But all that's over now and it's time to engage in that cultural ritual of promising to be better at X, Y, and Z—the "New Year's Resolution"—and to show off our awesome precognitive powers and predict events of the coming Solar orbit, knowing full well that we will most likely not succeed in either resolving or predicting.
I've already blown one semi-resolution, which was to avoid "lost days" in 2017. I know revise the goal to be "keep lost days to less than 5%." A "lost day" is a manifestation of the screwed-up brain chemistry that prompts me to be gloomy and lethargic and generally wallowy (better known as clinical depression and colloquially referred to in these parts as The Black Hole), one that results in literally staying in bed all day rather than get up and engage in some facet of actual life. I've had a number of these lost days in the weeks since the election, both for the macro reasons of the impending Trumpification of America and micro reasons of personal discontent (of course, ascribing reasons to them so casually is a gross oversimplification, but I think one has to be "one of us" to really get that). Once in a while I suppose they can be helpful in riding out a Black Hole episode, but they can also be self-feeding parasites if too frequent.
Other goals for the year may include:
- Put more effort into strengthening/maintaining my social circle. It's taken some pretty big hits over the last several years and I prefer it doesn't take any more; the kind of efforts I'm thinking of wouldn't necessarily have made a lick of difference in those hits, but that's no reason not to try solidifying some other areas.
- Spend more money. I don't mean spend recklessly or frivolously, I just mean override my well-honed instinct for thrift every now and again. It's (somewhat) less necessary than it used to be, and though it still pays to be smart about it, indulge in a dinner out and don't worry about making up for it later...occasionally.
- Enjoy where I live more. I'm in this spectacular city/region and I don't get out in it often enough.(Related to "lost days.")
- Blog more frequently — say, weekly on average. There's certainly enough going on in the world that warrants attention, and I consume tons of pop-culture to opine on. Like, this week I read the first volume of the Brian K. Vaughan/Cliff Chiang comic Paper Girls, which is fantastic. Also the first volume of They're Not Like Us, which I didn't really care for.
- Keep up with the sketching. Fill, let's say, two sketchbooks this year.
- Build the cabinets I spoke of last month. Four modular units of three drawers each, and if those go smoothly and relatively quickly and don't run into unforeseen expense, make two or four more for expansion.
- Assuming the estate issues I've been dealing with for the last 15 months proceed at a reasonable pace and the means thus become available, upgrade my housing security. Market permitting, of course.
- Go somewhere that isn't southern California. For fun. Vancouver, maybe, or DC if the stink of orange marshmallow turd is out of town. (I'd say Tokyo, but I'm not affording that this year.)
As for my powers of prognostication, let's see...
- Fully half of the Trump cabinet will get confirmed even though they're completely unqualified, and before the end of the year Republican congressional leaders will be criticizing them for ineptitude and/or corruption without irony.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming will be terrific. Justice League will suck. Wonder Woman and Star Wars will both be OK.
- The Seattle Mariners will cruise to a division title on the strength of Rookie of the Year Mitch Haniger and slugging 1B Dan Vogelbach.
- OR The Seattle Mariners will wallow in mediocrity for another season thanks to the inexperience and poor showing from their entire outfield.
I'm afraid to make more political prognostications except to say it's gonna be a shitstorm full of lawsuits, corruption charges, and diplomatic damage-control.
How about everyone else? Goals? Predictions?No Comments yet
Let's See if I Remember How to Do This
I used to draw. All the time as a kid, less so as an adult, sporadically in recent years. Not at all in ... well, I'm not sure. Months, anyway, and then just one or two things. For whatever reason, I was inspired to pick up the sketchbook again a few weeks back, and doodled some. And it sucked. Like anything else, drawing is a use-it-or-lose-it kind of thing, and I had nothing. I was hearing the Toby Ziegler line from "Enemies," when he and Sam are choking on a puff assignment, about how his and Sam's talent couldn't have gone far. "Somewhere in this building is our talent."
Anyway, it took a few attempts, but I got to a point that was ... less bad ... and I turned out this:
Not terrible, but not up to standard, either, but I figured, hey, better is better. Don't know what's going on with Superman's left eye. And the likeness on the other ... well, still. Progress.
Couple more mixed-result pages over a week or so, and I started to feel a bit more in the groove, turning out a page of Morena Baccarins. Pretty OK, especially the one on the right.
Keeping with the theme of Pretty Women on TV, I went back to Rosario Dawson. First one on the page (top right — I'm left-handed, so I start on the right) isn't quite right, something in the jaw; it looks more like Jessica Biel or someone else. But the next one — THAT'S MORE LIKE IT. I'M BACK, BABY!
OK, the bottom one was a step back, some issues with the tones. Her eyes are not that baggy. But I still like it.
Next up in the TV Crush lineup is Ming-Na Wen:
The larger one here gave me fits, and I'm not completely pleased with it. Proportions are a bitch sometimes and I still don't think I have the eyeline quite right. But in general, solid.
Now I'm feeling pretty confident, and I go to the old standby: figure drawing with a bit of T&A.
I've always been more partial to the T than the A, but that last one still turned out really well. The one on the bottom I'll finish later.No Comments yet
I started collecting comics when I was around ten years old. I organized them, tried to keep them in shape, and struggled to find a way to pile them on shelves that didn't warp them or leave them vulnerable to fading and discoloring or random cat frenzies knocking them over and denting them. Eventually, I learned about the existence of longboxes and bought one, but that soon was outgrown and I improvised other boxes that became ugly and unwieldy.
A couple years later my mom was having our kitchen remodeled, so there were carpenters and other workmen in the house a lot, and one day Mom asked them if they could build some kind of cabinet for my mass of comics. (She did this without any prompting from me, too, which is the sort of thing I try to remember about her rather than the ugly alcoholic stuff that came much later.) So they did, and it was OK, but not really ideal -- just kind of a deep shelf unit turned on its end -- and after a time I maxed it out anyway, so one day Mom again said, "why don't we have them make a better one," and I sketched out what would be better. And by the time we moved into a new house not too long after that, I had a pair of long wooden drawer cabinet things that doubled as furniture and storage.
Those things are great, and I still have them today. They held most of my collection for years, with only a couple of longboxes supplementing, but as needed I would get another box and tuck it away somewhere.
My overflow now exceeds what fits in the cabinets.
Now, though, things are out of control again. I occasionally put some comics on eBay and try to thin the mass some, but the incoming stuff always outnumbers the outflow of eBay dumps (and really, I should just put a lot of the chaff in some bundles and sell it for pennies if I really want to make space), and my library room is in a constant state of disarray. I've cleaned it up some of late and tried to organize, but the conclusion is that, since I can't seem to muster up the will to sell off half my collection, I need more of what my mom suggested for me during her kitchen remodel.
But I'm a grown-ass man now (allegedly; I mean, this is about thousands of comic books) and I don't need to hire contractors to build things, I can do it myself. So I will.
I used The Google and determined that, as expected, my mom was not the only person to conceive of such things and others have built similar units and documented them. One fellow even recorded some of his construction work at the time as well as the finished product. I'm going to come up with something that is a kind of cross between what my mom had made from my teenage sketches and what this "cougarcomics" fellow has done.
I'm putting this up here mostly as a reminder to myself and as a public declaration of intent so I won't blow it off; I don't know when I'll get to it, in some ways I think I should start right away because I have time and I tend to have less work in the winter than the rest of the year. On the other hand, sometime in the next year or so (?) I intend on moving, and do I want to move even more heavy wood furniture than I already have? Maybe better to wait until I'm in a new place. But, who knows, it might take longer to find a place to move to, and in the meantime the problem continues, and when I do move, I'll have a lot of stuff still in these crappy cardboard boxes that could get dropped or dented or whathaveyou. So ... probably ought to do it sooner.
No Comments yet
The Trumpsterfire nightmare is going to be worse than we imagined, and I don't think our collective imagination was all that restrained. We're just three weeks into the transition period, and in that short span of time, President-Elect VonClownstick has said and done too many outrageous and insulting and downright frightening things to keep track of.
There's a lot of stupid distracting bullshit he's spewed through his Twitter account, but let's look at the real "highlights" of our PEOTUS in these three weeks:
- Settled a lawsuit for fraud, paying $25,000,000 to make the suit go away and prevent a conviction (and walking away with an estimated $150,000,000 in fraudulent gains)
- Either directly or indirectly intimidated his alleged rape victim into dropping her lawsuit against him
- Appointed a white-nationalist propagandist, Stephen Bannon, to the post of chief White House strategist and senior counselor
- Began filling out his cabinet nominations with people who are, to a person, unqualified for their designated departments; horrifying contenders for remaining positions include Joe Arpio for Homeland Security, Myron Ebell for EPA, Harold Hamm for Energy, Jan Brewer or Sarah Palin for Interior, John Bolton for State(!!), Rudy Guliani for State or National Intelligence, the list goes on.
- Declared that the concept of "conflict of interest" does not apply to him, despite the plethora of conflicts he will have, a notable few of which include a financial interest in the Dakota Pipeline project, real estate holdings the world over, and a Washington, DC, hotel that he will not be allowed to lease once he's inaugurated but plans to continue operating anyway
- Discussed policy with world leaders on unsecured communications lines with no preparation or briefing, the exact thing he threatened to jail Hillary Clinton for
- Took credit for "saving" a factory from moving to Mexico even though the factory had never had any intention of doing so
- Objected to recount efforts in states where he won by a thread, claiming that we should respect and accept the result form election night and insulting the parties seeking an audit, then almost immediately thereafter made a baseless claim that "millions of people voted illegally" and accused three states in which he lost of harboring "serious voter fraud"
- Continued to refuse to disclose his tax returns, presumably to continue hiding all of his debt to foreign banks and governments as well as his general avoidance of paying taxes and the true value of his net worth
- Interviewed a candidate for Secretary of State who is serving two years probation for the crime of leaking classified information, precisely what he accused and threatened to jail Hillary Clinton over
The twitter rants insulting the Hamilton cast and declaring flag-burning should be punishable by loss if citizenship and maligning the New York Times and other journalism outlets are windows into this man's psyche, but ultimately distractions form the real problems.
The incoming administration is shaping up to be the most massive collection of incompetence and ignorance to ever occupy the White House, coupled with the most corrupt chief executive in the nation's history.
Be aware. Be vigilant. Be active. The Senate can thwart at least some of his appalling cabinet nominations, so let your senators know you won't support them if they support Jeff Sessions or Tom Price. (Or Ben Carson or Elaine Chao or Betsy DeVos or ...) Support organizations that will be extremely busy in the coming years such as the ACLU, who will undoubtedly be swamped with cases against cabinet secretaries and other officials who don't respect the Bill of Rights. Make your voices heard by local officials as well, support efforts to keep localities relatively safe from official thuggery. Intervene if/when you see unofficial thuggery, as the election of this weasel has emboldened those among us who would oppress and terrorize minorities and disadvantaged persons. Write to newspapers. Hold journalists accountable for their behavior if and when they fail to report or spin any of these atrocities as somehow normal. If you can afford it, support journalism and civil rights causes financially.
Oh, and don't get sick, as efforts to strip you of your healthcare will be aggressive and venomous.
We're in for a rough ride.
Thinking it Through
I seem to have rattled a cage or two the other day with some posts on social media about the election. Not surprising, I guess; it's a pretty charged issue considering the extreme consequences that have already started to unfold. But the cage-rattling came about because I referenced (mostly via link) third-party "protest" votes.
I'm acquainted with several people who were in the "I can't support Hillary no matter what" camp and who intended to vote third-party in protest. I don't know if they actually did or not, but hundreds of thousands of other people did. And I remain unclear on why. Sure, I know the standard answers: "Neither of the major candidates is good enough for me" is what they all boil down to, and if any substance is given to support that conclusion, it generally fails to stand up to even minor scrutiny. "Hillary is just as dishonest as Trump," for example, or "the DNC cheated Bernie out of the nomination and therefore Hillary is illegitimate," or my favorite, "both parties are essentially the same" — all of which are demonstrably false without even expending much effort.
But those details are beside my larger point. What I'm really wondering is, why are so many people essentially abdicating their responsibility to vote by casting a "protest" ballot? In Michigan alone, tens of thousands cast ballots that just left the section on President blank, which is slightly easier for me to understand; I think it's beyond foolish and irresponsible in this particular case, but I understand the logic of "I don't like any of these options so I vote for none." It's the idea that a "protest vote" for someone like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson is any different that throws me.
Let's think it through, shall we? The premise seems to be this: The Republicans are running candidate A, who is unacceptable. The Democrats are running candidate B, who is also objectionable. One of them will win no matter what. But rather than take a hard look and make a decision about whether, on balance, I prefer A to B or B to A, I will instead cast my vote for candidate C, a fringe figure who represents one or two of my views in strong stead while being severely unqualified on the whole and who has zero chance of winning. That either A or B will actually become President, and that the repercussions of that result will be gigantic, is less important to me than voicing my protest over the two major candidates.
(Or, I will instead vote for candidate D of the fringe party because I support the fringe party and want to give it more influence. This is ridiculous — the Green Party, for instance, has so little presence today that adding a vote to its minuscule showing in a presidential election will do nothing to affect its influence. If you want to build up the Green Party, work on it from the bottom up, not the top down; get Greens elected to city and county councils, mayorships, then state legislatures, eventually sending a Green or two to Congress. Then you've got a presence building. It doesn't work starting at the top.)
But what are you protesting? The nomination of someone you object to? How does that protest work? In the case of 2016 and Jill Stein, it's reasonable to assume that protest votes for her were protesting the Democratic nomination of Hillary Clinton, so what constitutes a successful outcome? It seems to me that the only possible goal of protesting Hillary Clinton with a vote for someone else is that someone else win the election. "I object to Hillary's nomination, therefore I will protest with a vote for Jill Stein, showing that the Democrats should have nominated someone more liberal. This will be heard and possibly be influential when Hillary loses." Right? I mean, if she wins, the protest will fall on deaf ears, won't it? So the goal of the protest requires her to lose. (Protest votes for Gary Johnson are harder to break down, they might be in protest of either Clinton or Trump, but the point is the same, it can only work as a protest if the one you're protesting loses.)
Then there's the "safe state" caveat. The "I prefer candidate B to win, but since I live in a state that will surely go to B anyway, I can safely vote for candidate C to voice my objection." How does that work, exactly? Who hears that protest? What becomes of it? Your state might be "safe" for B, but if you narrow the gap between A and B enough you can make it less safe for the next time 'round and give A's party a better shot — C's influence is still nothing, but now B's party, which you ultimately prefer to A's, may be more vulnerable to A's party, which you dislike.
Am I wrong? How can a protest vote be effective otherwise? What's its point if not to help defeat the one being protested?
And I don't want to hear the "this way I can vote my conscience" bullshit argument, either. Your conscience isn't served by casting a ballot for someone that won't get more than a tiny fraction of the vote and doesn't send any kind of message that will be heard. Your conscience is there to tell you not to do something that might make you feel good but will hurt others, and it can distinguish between the two possible winners. Even in cases where it truly is a case of choosing the lesser of two evils, one of them is less evil.
The bottom line is that protest votes mean the voter doesn't care which of the two possible winners wins, that s/he is fine with either result. And in this particular election, I can't see how anyone can view the two candidates as equally good or equally bad. Even those that hate them both hate one of them more. I don't actually believe that third-party voters in 2016 didn't care who won, that if pressed, they wouldn't find they preferred one over the other. Yet, here we are.
Maybe the system is broken. Maybe we'd be better off with a kind of parliamentary setup that gives representation to minor parties, or maybe things would improve under the current system if we had a third major party. But, for now anyway, we have the system we have. And we are in real trouble because of how this election turned out.
Third-party voters are not the sole reason we have President-Elect VonClownstick. There were many causes of this nightmare and I don't want liberals to fight among themselves placing blame on each other for the corruption and criminality to come, especially since the news media, the FBI, the Russians, and plenty of other factors (not to mention actual Trump acolytes) played bigger roles. But I do want us all, liberal and conservative alike, to use our heads and think critically when it comes to elections and not ignore the big picture.No Comments yet
One Week On
So, we've all had a week to process. Our collective wish to wake up and discover it was all a dream has gone unfulfilled. How do things feel now?
Mr. VonClownstick seems to be a bit deer-in-the-headlights about what happens now, which in a way is a consolation, because that's how a lot of the rest of us feel too, just for different reasons. But what is not consoling in the slightest is how he's preparing to take office, which is to say, not preparing much at all in terms of basic things like hiring staff and returning calls form the Pentagon, and who he's surrounding himself with, the horrid details of which I don't want to get into here.
So there's nothing in the way of mitigation to make us feel better, and the surreal nature of the past seven days promises to continue indefinitely. But life does go on, and spending all of our time semi-catatonic, compulsively checking Twitter feeds for some bit of reportage that can make sense of this nightmare, or frantically busying ourselves with anything and everything mundane to just focus on something, ANYTHING else (I've been doing all three) isn't healthy or practical. Everyday life will reassert and we'll begin to function again, sooner than seems reasonable, and we can resume enjoying things again. But with a new feeling of vigilance attached.
I say "new," but it's really only new for some of us, isn't it? I've been neglecting my cartooning endeavors for far too long (and though I do want to resume it at some point, I've no immediate plans to do so), but I have had the basis for a Cloud Five sequence swirling around my head about the new vigilance; for people like me, who have lived entirely in the context of relative privilege and the normative majority demographic, it's new, even shocking, to feel threatened like this by agents of authority, and my C5 alter ego would express this. His best friend and crush would have to explain to him that to her it isn't so much a new feeling as one that had always been there at lower volume, but now it's been cranked up to 11.
Anyway, this post is unfocused and kind of rambling, but worthwhile to get out even as a stream-of-consciousness sort of thing. Part of the process of processing, and all that. Yes, now we have to band together and fight for the forces of civility and inclusion and basic reason, but first we have to come to grips and regain some equilibrium.1 Comment
Ship of Fools
This is not how it was supposed to look.
"Unbelievable" is the word that keeps occurring to me. This election is literally unbelievable. I am still in denial a little bit.
How could so many people — so many women — be suckered so thoroughly, be so fully hoodwinked by this, this overgrown spoiled brat? This obviously incompetent and dangerous man that campaigned on ideas and statements so beyond what had been acceptable discourse for American politics? A man who championed war crimes, tax evasion, and science denial; who defrauded Americans wherever and whenever he could (and who has a court date in a few weeks on fraud charges), who made no secret of his contempt for women and who has another court date upcoming concerning his alleged rape of a child.
This man won a presidential election. In the United States of America. In the twenty-first century.
He had plenty of help, to be sure. All of it unsavory, and none of it terribly concealed. Help from Russia. Help from rogue agents in the FBI. Help from cable news (a whole lot of help from cable news). But in the end, people still voted for him, and despite the abject failure of the Fourth Estate to do its job, a lot of those people should have known better.
Of course, plenty of other people didn't even show up. And that may be the root of the problem. Voter turnout was lower than any time since the last time there was a split between the popular vote and the electoral college. And I dare say a lot of those that didn't bother were also played for fools. Suckered by a bombastic grifter and his henchmen into thinking his opponent was the one guilty of all of the deplorable (yes, that word fits perfectly) behavior that he himself had dispensed in "huge" quantity. A lot of other people voted for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, two horrible candidates in their own right, and those people also, I have to believe, were played for saps (Johnson's totals were greater than the margin between Trump and Clinton in at least five states). I've no doubt that the dirty tricks of voter suppression played a role as well, that the gutting of the Voting Rights Act aided and abetted this nightmare, that the efforts to falsely convince people that they could vote online even prevented some votes from being cast.
Fifty-nine million people voted for this man, this personification of chaos and dishonesty and ignorance. Sure, some of the fifty-nine million are racist misogynist assholes who greedily anticipate the coming downfall of civilization, but most are just dupes. This election has revealed us to be a nation of idiots, at least outside of the Pacific and northern Atlantic coasts.
I am terrified that we will suffer greatly in the next two years. Assuming no electoral shenanigans in the meantime, the midterms should swing Congress heavily back toward the side of sanity, but by then it will be too late for some, and even then Congress can't check everything.
America, we've been had. Conned. Fooled like never before. And we will pay for it in ways we can't even imagine yet.1 Comment
Cubs No More
With their victory in the National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs have died.
For more than half a century, the Chicago Cubs have been synonymous with futility. It's been a cultural touchstone. No matter how much they might tease with moderate success, ultimately, the Cubs will disappoint. Americans with no interest in baseball still have some sense that the Chicago Cubs equate with losing. Along with death and taxes, one thing you can rely on is that the Cubs always fail.
Not any more.
The Chicago Cubs have won the pennant and Americana has lost a quintessential element.
The Cubs are not like the Red Sox. When the Boston Red Sox finally won a World Series championship in 2004, 86 years after their last one, it was an event, sure. But the Sox didn't have Cub stink. Boston had won a number of American League pennants since 1918, had been contenders much of the time; sure, not having won the World Series in all those decades was a sore spot, but "Red Sox" never equated to "hopeless." The Cubs were special in that regard. It pervaded our culture.
Even last week's episode of "The Simpsons" contained the line "A drought of Chicago Cubs proportions." Those references now mean nothing.
I congratulate the long-suffering Cub fans. The introductory video before this evening's World Series Game One between the Cubs and the also-long-suffering Cleveland Indians (last World Series championship: 1948) was fun and gave a little warm fuzzy. I appreciate the feeling of "FINALLY" among loyalists who were devoted to the teams of Kerry Wood, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Rick Sutcliffe, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, and the rest. But I also mourn our loss -- the obsolescence of the Cubs joke in "Back to the Future Part II," the erasure of the acronym CUBS (Completely Useless By September), the quaintness now associated with Steve Goodman's wonderful song.
Goodbye, Cub futility. You will be missed. The Chicago Cubs are dead. Long live the Chicago Cubs.
At the risk of stating the obvious, I've not been good about maintaining this blog. Many topics have been worthy of jotting a few sentences about, and yet... Well, I'm here now. So, some flotsam and jetsam from my head as I wait for my car to be serviced in advance of my next rip to SoCal:
- My mood hasn't been great lately. No particular reason, at least none on top of the stresses and bummerific context of my being a Trustee of my mom's estate. Last month there was an incident that triggered an eruption of buried/suppressed rage that was surprisingly powerful and not especially useful. Even when it seems justified, anger of that degree gets in the way of, you know, addressing the problem. But that was then; more recently I've just been in a foggy sort of stasis, for lack of a better term. I'm no stranger to dour moods, and this isn't a severe example by a long shot, but in some ways this sort is more frustrating. I always want to make sense of things, and when staying focused on anything is an elusive task it's impossible to feel like things make any sense. If that makes sense. Which it probably doesn't. Because I'm all over the place in my head right now.
- So, let's talk about baseball, since that is something I can make sense of. Having the playoffs on during this time of foggy ennui is a good thing, it's helpful, but what isn't helpful is the Toronto Blue Jay offense. I really want to like the Jays. I have a great affinity for Canada, for one thing, and they're the only north-of-the-border team in the bigs; they also have a few individual players I like a lot, from ex-Mariner Michael Suanders to Troy Tulowitzki to J.A. Happ, and I have tended to enjoy the company of Blue Jay fans when they come to Seattle to see the Jays play the M's. Sadly, they are built around a one-dimensional offense dependent on the home run, which is so not my style. Also, not good enough to beat the Cleveland Native American Caricatures. Toronto's down 0-3 to the Clevelanders, and while there is Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor to appreciate I just can't find anything redeeming about Cleveland winning the American League championship. Bleh. Come on, Blue Jays, be the second team ever to rebound from 0-3! Meanwhile, the Cubs/Dodgers clash in the National League Championship Series has been outstanding -- Javier Baez even stole home! -- and I await the inevitable freak occurrence that prevents the Cubs from winning a pennant. They're clearly the better team, but if they are to maintain their essential Cubness, they must not win. With a pennant, they would cease to be the Cubs.
- John Oliver has been the saving grace of this year's presidential campaign, and this week he tackled the problem of otherwise thoughtful people choosing to vote for protest candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. I say problem because the people I've personally encountered that are supporting one of those two maintain that their choice is principled and Stein/Johnson is actually the best person running. I call bullshit on that, and so does John Oliver, who points out in glorious fashion that both Stein and Johnson are totally incompetent.
Playing theatrically for a brief run in select markets and available now online at various sites (for a few bucks)
Some friends and I took in a theatrical showing of Adam Nimoy's new documentary film about is father tonight. "For the Love of Spock" was originally conceived as a partnership project between Adam and Leonard Nimoy before Leonard's death in March 2015; the endeavor naturally changed in tone and scope after that and became a perhaps less-focused but more expansive look at both the character of Spock and the man who portrayed him.
It's a good film; not being a documentary aficionado, I can't speak to its merits compared to other documentaries, but it's enjoyable, informative, touching, and interesting, which I think is as much as one can ask of such a project. Being the nerd that I am, I already knew a lot of what is covered in the film. But having it presented from the perspective of Leonard's son gave it a new twist and revealed some new tidbits and clarified some things that were only hinted at in "the official record," if you will. (It also includes, over the end credits, a cover of David Bowie's "Starman" performed by Leonard's grandson and his band, and it's really good.)
Before the screening, there was a live-via-Skype introduction and Q&A with Adam Nimoy himself, which was kind of neat. He said that when originally conceived the film was to be 100% about the character of Spock, but after his dad's passing it morphed into more of a look at Leonard Nimoy in and out of Star Trek, but really, I think, it became more about fathers and sons, as personified by three generations of Nimoys. A powerful narrative device has Adam reading a letter to him from Leonard written in 1973. He reads the letter in chunks that are interspersed throughout the film to good effect, shedding light on a difficult relationship between the two; I wanted to see something similar from a later point in time to similarly offer insight into a later estrangement they had more recently, as there is a lot of referencing of troubles without much specificity. But I suppose the specifics aren't important for us as the viewing audience. There's only so much we can expect of an internal family drama to be brought out for all to see, and there's still a lot here.
Adam surprising his dad on the set, 1966
The one part of Leonard Nimoy's life covered in the film that I didn't have a decent knowledge of was his alcoholism, and having recently lost my mom to exactly that, I find myself more interested in that aspect of his history than I'd been before. I had gleaned from various writing over the years that Leonard began drinking heavily around the end of Star Trek's production years -- probably helped along by the stressful and unfulfilling third season (there's another documentary in that) -- but I had not realized that he managed to continue to function and keep it in check for as long as he did before it became overtly destructive; I had assumed he'd beaten it back during the '70s, which turns out to not at all be the right timeframe. It makes me wonder if my mom had a similar experience, hiding it successfully and continuing to function for a good long time before it took her over completely.
Leonard eventually did beat it, but not until the late '80s or so, after he began his second marriage, which was stunning to me. There are interview clips in the film that I had somehow not seen before in which he openly discusses it; in the exhaustive world of fandom where nerd tenacity and celebrity heroes intersect, it's hard to keep anything under wraps, but somehow this was never part of his public profile. Perhaps because his version of alcohol abuse didn't result in obvious or public poor behavior, or because throughout it all he still managed to be Leonard Nimoy, brilliant actor/director and font of thought and creativity, at least publicly.
Interestingly, there is little mention of Nimoy's photography, which was his focus after he was mostly done with Hollywood. There's some bits near the end of the film, and some images from his body-image project of about 10 years ago, but it's kind of a footnote to the movie.
I guess that makes sense, though. As Adam Nimoy said in his introduction, there was just so much that had to be cut to keep the film under two hours long, and obviously little or none of the Star Trek stuff was going to be lost. Or, as Luke Thompson put it in his review of the film for Forbes, the movie "feels like it’s barely nerve-pinching the surface. For fans, a Ken Burns-style multi-hour miniseries may be needed when it comes to Star Trek as a whole, or even Nimoy in particular."
I'd watch that. Hell, I'd help make that. Anyone know Ken?1 Comment
Cosmically speaking, it was just a regular ol' 365.25-day circuit. Not so much down on the ground.
Labor Day weekend again. That was fast.
Also, man, what a long year it's been.
Today would have been my grandfather's 95th birthday. It's also two days shy of the first anniversary of my mom's death. Makes for a depressing occasion. I miss both of 'em, in different ways and for different reasons. And the same reasons. It's kind of muddled. But this is the closing hours of the year 1 After Mom, so that's where my head's at. I watched "The Visitor" entry of DS9 last night and found myself bawling my eyes out at the end. Because, hey, it's a touching episode on its own, but it takes on a different significance for me now than it did every other time I've seen it.
The past 12 months have been an education in the ways of bureaucracy, in cultural collisions, in frustration with society, and many other things, but mostly it's been a blur of grief. Both overtly expressed and buried under anger and frustration.
My mom died from completely preventable causes, and that makes me mad. It was her own fault, which makes me madder. At the same time, it kind of wasn't really her fault, which confuses me. And it's taken most of a year to get to a point where I can just feel sad without the rest of it.
"The Visitor" has a different edge to it now
She also left me in charge of things, which I have had mixed feelings about. (My step-father was still around at that point, but he had Alzheimer's, so I got put in charge of him too, at least so far as money and practicalities were concerned; he died eight months later, which if I'm being honest is a mixed bag. It's sad and I'm sorry to not get to see him again, but it spared him living with the end stages of Alzheimer's, which would have been hell.) I had no idea a year ago what it meant to be left in charge, what I would be tasked with in any real way. Nor did I have a clue as to the logistical hurdles society had erected in place for people in my position, or the closer-to-home internecine warring that would occur with extended family. I learned a lot. Not all of it positive, but learning is learning. And it's not done with, either, some of those hurdles are elaborate and arbitrary and exist to make people in my position tear their hair out and scream at functionaries that have no power over the situation while they place more and more creative obstacles in their paths.
Meanwhile, the Earth turned and went about its merry way orbiting the sun, and more happened. I learned that another long-term association wasn't what I thought it was, my cat got sick again, and yet more dental trauma hit my jaw and my wallet, all of which was well in keeping with the mood of the orbit. On the other hand, my dad had heart surgery, which you might not think of as a plus, but the result has been exceptionally positive, so score one for the forces of good. And perhaps as important as anything else, I was able to reconnect with someone whom I'd been close to but had drifted away, and with luck and effort will keep her in my personal orbit better than before. So, not all bad, to be sure.
Still, it's not a year I'd care to repeat. If Al and Ziggy Quantum Leaped me back to September 2015 I would be very displeased. No, I prefer to turn that page. Move on to another turn 'round old Sol, and see what the next orbit brings my way. Hopefully things I'd like to revisit, should I someday find myself by an Atavachron.2 Comments