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19
Nov

Apologies, my drunken friends; this post is not about rum. Feel free to indulge, though; I’m no judging.

On an average day, I wear many different hats; I seem to keep collecting more as new and interesting things come into my life (some of them too premature to talk about right now). Today’s post comes to you courtesy of my amateur historian hat (which, for purposes of imagination, you an picture as a dusty brown bowler with a frayed silk band), which I possess thanks to several years of dedicated undergraduate coursework I’m not otherwise employing, though which has, over the years, filled my head with lots of interesting pieces of knowledge which has occasionally won me fame and fortune*.

One hundred and fifty-one years (and, as I write this, three hours or so) ago, the sixteenth US President delivered one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in the history of our Great American Experiment as part of a dedication ceremony of a battlefield cemetery in south central Pennsylvania. Ten sentences. Fewer than 300 words (give or take, depending on the version of the text you’re considering, and there are several slightly different drafts in circulation); an address most people present at its delivery actually missed thanks to a noisy photographer setting up his equipment; yet nonetheless is considered one of greatest experessions of the forensic arts ever delivered: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

(a note to pedants: this is the “Bliss Copy”, the most commonly reproduced version, and the one inscribed on the Lincoln Memorial)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Elegant in its brevity. Ironic in historical hindsight given the seventh sentence. Perfectly appropriate for the situation, especially coming after mor than two hours of bombastic oratory by Edward Everett on a cold November morning. Solemn and inspiring.

Hard to imagine such a thing today, but one can continue to hope.

______________________________

* – read as occasional trivia contest bragging rights and maybe a few extra credit points or a discounted drink coupon somewhere along the way.

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I’ll have something eventually

17
Nov

I’m busy with life things that require my attention more than posting things here does. Eventually, I’ll get around to semi-regular entries again.

If you’ve been waiting around, sorry. Too much to do in the real world…

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election recap

05
Nov

Yeah, last night wasn’t good for those of us who dress left. Statistically, though, this sort of power swing is what happens at this point in a President’s term (Reagan, both Bushes, etc). I don’t expect there to be much change in actual results; nothing much useful got done before, it’s unlikely much is going to get done now, if we’re completely honest with ourselves. The ACA isn’t going anywhere now that people have actually started taking advantage of it and liking the benefits they get. The backlog of executive appointments isn’t going to go any faster now that McConnell’s got the keys to the Senate. A few crazy folks might start saying the word “impeachment” a bit more, but nobody’s going to actually try anything, because there’s no case to be made for it. Don’t look for any sweeping changes anywhere; the most we’ll see is President Obama’s veto muscles getting exercised a little more often.

There’s not much to celebrate, from my perspective, but I did discover, in wonkette’s coverage of the Pennyslvania Governor’s race (which turned out exactly the way it should have), one of the more interesting linguistic treasures in recent memory: ex-PAt

Think about it. I’m totally adopting it immediately.

Anyway, welcome to the 2016 Presidential election season. The crazy’s just starting.

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vote

04
Nov

Today is election day. Every year, regardless of whether the ballot is full of big national names or relatively anonymous local offices, on this day I tell everyone within reach of this page to get out to your local polling place (find it here!) and cast your ballot, because it’s your duty and privilege as a citizen to do so.

Why do I do it? Because it’s something I believe in very strongly. America likes to call itself the Greatest Country in the World™, and some days, I even believe we might be. However, one thing we’re not terribly good at is citizen participation. It seems everybody in America has an opinion on everything and an overwhelming drive to express it. However, we have pathetic, dismal voter turnout numbers compared to the rest of the world, civilized or otherwise. We talk a big game, but when given an opportunity for our opinion to actually count for something that matters, most of eligible Americans sit it out.

I think that’s a problem. People need to get informed (I’ll not get into what I think “informed” ought to mean here) on issues and candidates, and participate in our participatory democracy (actually, we’re a constitutional republic, but agaiin, let’s not quibble). Literally, the easiest thing someone can do to be a part of our grand social experiment is to register and show up at the polls once a year.

This year, in America, no matter where you are, your district’s seat in the House of Representatives is on the ballot. That person is your most direct representitive in the national legislative discussion. One third of the country is also voting for one of its Senators. 36 states are electing governors. My ballot also has one local office (Clerk of Courts) and a statewide ballot initiative for an amendment to the state constitution. Yours may vary, but it’s all important stuff that affects you (and local elections, while often ignored, are often have the most tangible impact on your day-to-day life). So, it’s important that you have your say in who represents you, and that you know who they are so you can praise them when they do so rightly, or take them to task when they do something you disagree with.

Plus, you know….voting is sexy.

So. Go out and vote today. I don’t really care who you vote for (though if you ask for my opinion, I’ll certainly give it to you), but I do care, very deeply, that you get out there and do it.

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election eve correspondence, briefly the weekend

03
Nov

Wanna know how I know America’s campain apparatus has shifted into Get-Out-The-Vote mode? My inbox (well, my spam folder, anyway) is full of pleas to get out the vote from 1/3rd of the Avengers (Scarlett Johannsen and Mark Ruffalo), rock legend Joan Jett, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, the entire Democratic congressional leadership, The President *and* Vice President,and eleven(!!!) such emails from VA-10 candidate John Foust, all urging me to vote (with the “give money to $organization/candidate” stuffed sort-of unobtrusively at the end).

the most useful one was Mark Warner’s reminder about the last day to vote absentee in person in VA (which I have taken advantage of regularly for the past decade, but don’t need to this year), and the most encouraging was the note from VA-04 candidate Elliott Fausz’s campaign pointing out that the race in my district is amazingly close for once, and my chosen candidate has a decent chance of winning.

Otherwise, it’s just been clutter. But, that’s a politically engaged life in the information age.

We could talk the weekend, but not a whole lot happened. Trick-or-Treating happened, but my neighborhood was kind of dead; not that many little kids around any more. I sat on the porch, handed out candy to the dozen or so packs that approached the house, and played my ukulele for those passing by, by mostly for my own amusement. Otherwise, we kind of hung around the house watching movies, because it was pretty cold, windy, and wet out there.

Teenage child enjoyed the surprisingly well-formed double feature of Can’t Hardly Wait and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and appears to have actually done most of the cleaning I asked her to do, to boot.

Going to be a slightly busy week this week – I’ve got rehearsals for two different musical outings with two different instruments in coming weeks, plus I need to start going over bass parts for a Humdingers gig next month one of these days. The weekend’s also loaded, containing a big irish dance competition and a charity auction. Then there’s next week, which will be challenging for entirely different reasons.

Anyway, enjoy life, folks. I’ll see if I can stop and look around once in a while, lest I miss it.

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according to the all-seeing eye of agamotto

28
Oct

Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange. Again. This week. Maybe. Probably.

Well, maybe not the Eye, but Deadline reported it yesterday, and everyone, including the major news media (like CNN and stuff) have run with it. It’s not bad casting, to be sure – I think he’d do a good job with it. However, I’m going to wait for the official press release from Marvel before I truly believe anything.

Maybe we’ll know this afternoon, as rumor is Marvel has a surprise press event scheduled at 11am Pacific today. And if we don’t, maybe we’ll get confirmation of some of the many other rumors (Captain Marvel -pleasekateesackoffplease-, Black Panther, Spider-Man coming back to Marvel, etc) that have been floating around for months.

Until then, though, the real truth is concealed behind the Mists of Munnopor.

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local mid-term political round-up, plus some non-local color

27
Oct

In about a week, we as Americans will be going to the polls once again to elect our representatives in government. This year, it’s the whole House of Representatives, one-third of the US Senate, a bunch of state governors, and various and sundry local officials, depending on where you are.

In my corner of the world, Virginia’s 4th Congressional district; it’s especially quiet. Just two races to speak of, and both relatively settled. In the Senate, We’ve got Mark Warner cruising easily toward re-election by a double-digit margin, not surprising for a popular former governor who’s made a good showing in the upper house the last few years, and the guy who started the whole ball rolling toward all of Virginia’s statewide offices being held by Democrats, despite the Commonwealth’s conservative reputation.

In the House, the 7th district next door is the much sexier race, after the upset of Eric Cantor during the primaries. In the fourth, we’ve got the latest Democratic sacrifice updstart, Elliott Fausz running against inertial incumbent J. Randy Forbes. It’s pretty much the same story here every two years – Forbes, endlessly ineffectual, but entrenched in his gerrymandered conservative district, largely ignores his opponent (and campaigning altogether, really), and slides into another term, during which he’ll continue to do very little. This year, at least locally feels a little different, with Fausz signs all over the neighborhood (Fausz is local, the son of the publishers of my suburban village’s free weekly). Fausz’s positions look pretty good to me, and will at least be palatable to most of my conservative neighbors. I plan on voting for him, and threw a few bucks into his campaign fund, though I’m pretty sure that while he may top Forbes in the local precincts (itself a huge accomplishment), I have a hard time believing Fausz will end up pulling this one out, as much as I’d like him to.

That’s the local round-up. Now I’m going going start complaining about non-local races. Prepare for bitching to follow:

Because I make a habit of throwing $25 bucks here or there toward candidates I favor, and have volunteered here and there over the years, my name’s gotten on lists. And, honestly, it doesn’t really bother me; if a campaign I’ve supported can make a few bucks selling its mailing list to a like-minded organization, I’m okay with that; those few bucks might make the difference between a win or a loss, close out some campaign debt, or buy a round of donuts and coffee for some phone volunteers. All necessary expenses. Works for me.

Sometimes, though, I find myself regretting I ever got into that world. I don’t know who got my name on the mailing list for John Foust, the Democrat running in Northern Virginia’s 10th district for the open seat there after Congressman Frank Wolf’s retirement. Could’ve been anyone. I have some contacts up there going back to the Dean Presidential campaign in 2004, some of whom are actual elected officials now. Or the DNC/DNCC/DNSC/DPVA or some other organization got it to them. Whatever; it’s normally not a big deal. Normally.

I don’t know much about John Foust; he’s not my representative, nor will he be if he wins. Unless it’s a seriously newsworthy race, I’m normally not that checked in. I looked at his campaign site; he seems to have his priorities aligned more-or-less with mine. If I lived in the 10th, I’d not be opposed to voting for him as a candidate.

What I do know of John Foust is that his campaign sends me so many emails every day asking for money in increasingly frenzied and vexatious ways, I’m glad I’m not an active participant in the race, because my personal feelings about the way his folks do email marketing would seriously stretch my ability to swallow my annoyance and vote in line with my ideology.

Because dammit, it’s annoying. I get emails from the campaign. from the candidate’s wife. from “John’s iphone”. All of them talking not about his opponent Barbara Comstock, but the evil spectre of John Boehner and how he’ll bring down civilization as we know it (which is not actually an exaggeration) if I don’t contribute $5/$10/$25 TODAY! These days, most of them don’t even mention issues or the campaign; they’re increasingly desperate pleas to please answer their call, becaue they haven’t been able to get me to respond, won’t I please respond?!?! When it doesn’t sound like a desperate collections agency, it’s what I imagine emails from a clingy ex-girlfriend would be like right before I file the restraining order.

Look, I understand the way money works in politics, and I expect Northern Virginia is a more expensive than average market. I understand the race is tight. I’m spared a lot of it, not having cable in the house, and not paying that much attention to network television, which, at this point in the cycle, is all ads, all the time, all of them with that doom and gloom narration and clank! sound effect. I understand, though, that political ads are necessary because they reach people. Even if people don’t like them, statistics show they work. Maybe things are worse this year; I don’t know. I do know that Foust’s fundraising stuff is so craven that he’s called “particuarly insistent” in an NPR piece from July on deperate fundraising before filing deadlines, and he’s only gotten more exasperated since then.

My spam folder can’t even contain it anymore. I’m dumping that thing four or five times a day. It stopped being mildly entertaining a while ago. I wish Supervisor Foust the best of luck in his tough congressional race, but I am so, so, very tired of the constant barrage shrill over-the-top emails.

So, you think you could maybe lay off a little bit?

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i quit. i give up.

27
Oct

Hello Monday. I was already done with you and your crap by 8am. Good riddance to you, now leave me alone.

I’m not in the car driving to Ohio today, which is not unwelcome, though the work thing I was supposed to do this week has already been cancelled twice. I really kind of want to get this over with so the project moves forward. Not sure how this work week’s going work out, since I worked like hell to clear the calendar so I could be free to do the cancelled work thing. Also, thanks to the last-minute schedule changes, I’m adjusting things so people can do other things we scheduled based on the old schedule, and the fallout from that is just peachy, thanks…

The weekend was, thankfully, a bit more pleasant, mostly. I had an enjoyable Friday night attending a friend’s housewarming party, which was a nice relaxing evening. Saturday, I woke up feeling not particularly great, so I did laundry in between naps cleverly disguised as “Chuck watching movies in a big comfy chair”, and did little else other than a quick run to the store. Being semi-sick isn’t awful if the world leaves you alone to have your body deal with it.

Sunday involved music with Steve Wyse’s Down Home Dharma, which is a fun thing I get to do now and then with some great friends and talented musicians; We sounded pretty good, all told. After that, the family made our way over to the VCentral Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games. It was an interesting diversion, with lots of entertaining music and interesting vendors’ wares to peruse with some friends, and burly people heaving heavy objects around for fun and profit. It was a little crowded, and kind of hectic, but it continued the tradition of us attending any and all events within spitting distance where one is likely to encounter the certain segments of society who are driven to find opportunities to strap on swords and bracers, or dress up like a WoW elf.

It did, perhaps most importantly, give me a chance to don the kilt; and if I do say so myself, I rocked that thing. Once again, my theory that my body type is much more suited to clothing that was stylish more than a hundred years ago rather than anything modern is proven valid. Marvel as my lovely spouse defends my pasty Irish legs from the agression of tiny pirate types:

Oh, and finally, wish my kitten, Lady Sif good luck; she’s getting fixed and chipped today. Poor thing, she had no idea what she was in for this morning.

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dammit, hydra

23
Oct

The teaser for Avengers: Age of Ultron was supposed to drop with next week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but there was a leak last night (which Marvel blamed on HYDRA), so Marvel just went ahead and officially released it early.

At the moment, I’m kind of embed-challenged, but you can see the trailer by following that link above. According to folks who were there, this is basically the same footage that ran at SDCC a couple of months back, and it’s pretty cool. It comes across as pretty dark, though I don’t expect the movie to be quite so bleak as it appears here. Lots of neat images: Hulkbuster, creepy early-Ultron “puppet” (complete with the creepy, processed Pinocchio song), a little bit of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (official MCU versions), and a rather iconic image of Cap’s shield, shattered…

…And Andy Serkis playing some unidentified character, which along with a couple of other quick images in the trailer, has spawned yet another Doctor Strange casting rumor, unlikely as it might be. I do, however, think this one is my favorite; since I’m sure Mr. Serkis could pull it off with just the right balance of charisma and otherworldly weirdness in a way that all those marquee idol pretty faces being bandied around couldn’t match.

So, now that this leak and early release happened, what does this mean for Agent Coulson and company next week? No matter how good it’s been this year, it could’ve used the ratings boost the trailer reveal would’ve given it…or, given how crafty Marvel seems to be, I wonder if the leak wasn’t planted from the start, leading Marvel to sneak out some other, juicier piece of footage/information on Tuesday night? Maybe sticking some titles to all those unidentified Marvel movie dates out there to match the big DC announcement last week? Hints at Captain Marvel or Black Panther? Something else cool nobody’s even thought of yet?

One can only hope. It’s a cool time to be a comic geek.

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things I did this weekend

20
Oct

Because absolutely nobody cares, including me (not caring that nobody cares):

Saw my friend Steve’s rockin’ band Cha Cha’s Cadillac absolutely tear up an Irish pub. Early in the first set, the manager told them they need to play much quieter. They turned everything *way* up. \m/

Partook of what was likely the world’s blandest Mexican food :-(

Watched my kid’s Irish dance company bring a little bit of culture and international flavor to a quaint, conservative small town festival.

Washed a metric assload* of laundry.

Re-strung my Fender Telecaster because I’ll be needing it this weekend for some Down Home Dharma.

Took some time to clear out both my email inbox and the hard drive on my Playstation 3 (and only accidentally deleted my progress on one game I had hours and hours invested in).

Finished reading the first post-Expanded Universe Star Wars novel, A New Dawn. I wish I could say I was more impressed. It was Star Wars, I guess, and had some neat ideas, but it was honestly kind of a slog by the end; finished more out of obligation and misplaced optimism than enjoyment.

…and so on.

This week’s looking like a lot of proposal reviews at the office with a few musical interludes interspersed throughout, and maybe the spaying of a cat.

________________

*- yes this is a technical term.

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