may all your citrus be as you expect

27
Jun

On my way out the door this morning, I grabbed an orange from the fresh bag I bought the other day with the intention of making it breakfast once I got to the office.

As I peeled it and began consuming it, I realized it was actually a grapefruit.

huh.

Now, I don’t mind grapefruit (I actually quite like it, though too much is supposed to mess with one of the medications I’m on), but I wasn’t expecting it.

Gonna be that kind of Monday. Good thing it’s a short week for me, going into a long weekend. Between now and then, though, I have to get through a big multi-agency meeting up in DC on Wednesday (for which I haven’t yet received some crucial information), and sort through some musical project stuff that’s probably not going to be a huge deal; just not as certain and firmed up as I’d like.

But if I get through it, and my kids do all the stuff I need them to do, we might just check out the Doubleclicks in Norfolk on Thursday night.

So, for the week ahead, may all your citrus be as sweet or as bitter as you expect.

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friday random pandora ten – “dancing while the world burns” edition

24
Jun

It’s been a week (as I always say – one day I’m going to do a statistical analysis of common phrases of this space); I’ve been chronicling it here, mostly, so no real need to go into it now (but you know I’m going to, at least a little bit). the stuff I haven’t talked about mostly has to do with prep for a big multi-agency meeting I have to present some stuff at in DC next week. Otherwise, it’s been regular life stuff. The kids have actually been making progress on the yard clean-up (or were, before the storms started hitting late this week); gotta give them props for that.

The other big news I haven’t mentioned yet is that earlier this week, The Blibbering Humdingers got confirmation that we’ll be returning to Dragon*Con later this year! This involves lots of coordination about logistics and whatnot, but we’ll make it happen. If you’re in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend, come check us out.

Most significant to this business, however, is that after three years of dedicated service on the bottom end, I made the band bio. I have now officially hit the big time.

This weekend is pretty much all dance, all the time. The Heart of Ireland recital is this weekend, so we’ll be booked all day Saturday (and probably recovering all day Sunday). I saw “we”, because I’ll be participating as well; doing whatever odd jobs need done, as well as making my dance debut in the father-daughter exhibition. come see lots of semi-coordinated dads (and brother – my son didn’t get out of this) go through elementary choreography! It’s like watching the three year olds, except “cute” in an entirely different way.

Not much else on the agenda; hope it stays that way. In the meantime, here’s some music to listen to as the Brexit business causes the world economy to collapse around us:

  1. “Waiting on a Memory” – The Badlees
  2. “Dangerous” – Big Data
  3. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen
  4. “Calling All Angels – The Wailin’ Jennys
  5. “Long Island” – that dog
  6. “Karla with a K” – The Hooters
  7. “Dark country” – Tom Smith
  8. “Walking on a Dream” – Empire of the Sun
  9. “Holiday” – Vampire Weekend
  10. “What You Want/What You Got” – The Unloveables

I don’t know #8 other than hearing it here and catching the end of a tune on a radio skim the other day. Not sure how I feel about ’em, but they’ve sure got a kickass album cover.

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a (very long) evening with…

23
Jun

Several months back, I won a pair of tickets to see Chris Cornell’s solo show at the Carpenter via the WNRN VIP Member List, one of the nicely efficient perks of supporting independent music radio in Virginia – every Monday, members get an email with a bunch of potential prizes (mostly concert tickets) they might be interested in; send a response with your choices, you get entered into a drawing, and you get notification later in the week. It’s pretty sweet, and, as an RVA listener (the station’s out in Charlottesville – we get a relatively low-power repeater), the odds are pretty good that if you throw in for a local event, you’re going to get it. I give the station around a hundred bucks a year, and I’ve more than made that back in concert tickets every year I’ve given. Pretty sweet if you ask me.

So, last night, after the usual “are they actually gonna have my tickets at will-call” worries (though they always do), I entered the gorgeous downtown theater and grabbed my seats – and it actually was “seats” here; the rest of my family had conflicts, and I didn’t have any takers when I offered up the other ticket to friends on social media (not surprising, I guess, for a Wednesday night). I wasn’t that concerned; I’d have some room to breathe – these old theater seats (especially where I was up in the mezzanine) can be a little small.

The opening act, Fantasitc Negrito, took the stage promptly at 7:30, and proceeded to burn the place down for 30 solid minutes. Shame most of the audience (more on them later) missed it, standing, as they were, in line for overpriced drinks at the bar. Remember this guy’s name – he’s about to blow up big. He’s got an interesting story (troubled youth, 90s r&b career scuttled by money and the Seagrams Polygram deal like every other “baby band” of the era, personal tragedy that spawned new creative focus), and an amazing sound – I bought his record online about 30 seconds after his set was over, which was mesmerizing (other than the couple of quick shots a the beginning of the set(s), I left my phone in my pocket. He won last year’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert (beating out several of my very talented friends, by the way), and really deserves to grab some attention. I got to see him last night. Win for me.

Shortly after the house lights came back up, the usual milling around continued, as a typical Richmond crowd (again, more on this as I go on) started finally filing in (up until this point, I mostly had my whole section to myself), double-fisting overpriced drinks. The crowd itself was mostly older, though with a few more tattoos peeking out from under sleeves than might be normal in this venue. My hopes kind of crashed when a bunch of popped-collar bros filed in to the row behind me. Oh well.

Cornell, tall and lanky and a little rumpled, came out onto the pretty typical “rock god goes solo to do personal, soulful acoustic material” stage (here’s a clip from the end of Mark Wahlberg’s movie Rock Star; it’s pretty much the same thing all around) – oriental rug, chair, end table (with an old dialer phone on it, for some reason); sparse otherwise; just Cornell on acoustic guitar and multi-instrumentalist Bryan Gibson popping in now and then on cello, mandolin, and organ. He played pretty much everything you could think of – eventually – I left one song into the encore, and he’d been going for three hours at that point – focusing the front of the set on a lot of his solo stuff (which you’ve heard under the credits of all kinds of movies, and probably didn’t realize was the guy from Soundgarden), interspersed with a lot of covers, most of which wouldn’t seem out of place in a stoner’s college dorm room in 1991 – Bob Dylan, Led Zepplin, Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” – most of which went on a little long, but were played and performed well. He also did an interesting, but maybe ill-advised artsy cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”…I say “ill-advised”, because that’s what set the douchebags in the crowd, including the bros behind me, off.

First, it was the drunken singalong (interrupting the near-constant bro-chatter) behind me (to the point where the older guy next to me turned back and gave them some shit), then, after a ton of these covers and Cornell’s occasionally rambling stories between them, there was some surprisingly aggressive shouts of “PLAY YOUR OWN MUSIC!” directed toward the stage. Cornell mostly ignored it or played it off like a pro, though you could tell he was a bit annoyed; and I was annoyed for him, and for everyone else who just wanted to chill and listen to one of the better voices in rock&roll from the last 20 years or so indulge himself a bit.

Except for the guy down in the orchestra section who asked for “Rock Lobster”; he was cool, and the joke kept coming up during the set (even if the song didn’t*).

Eventually, yeah, the set came around to some of the more popular Soundgarden and Audioslave (“I Am The Highway” worked really well in this format), but every time one of the big Soundgarden hits came out, so did the douchebaggery from the audience, who howled along like idiots and pulled up their phones to watch the show through the screens while shooting video they’d never watch. They also got kind of annoyed when he played Cash’s arrangment of “Rusty Cage” rather than his own (although The Man In Black’s was, as Cornell admitted, a better record).

Yeah, Richmond crowds (or at least I didn’t see this until I moved here and started going to shows) are kind of dicks when it comes to concerts. They get shitfaced in “classy” venues, show up late, talk through all kinds of cool stuff happening, bitch until they hear something they know, then they elbow you out of the way so they can shriek because “they know that one” and not actually listen to it. I wish somebody would give this town some remedial concert etiquette.

Anyway, that’s my editorial. it’s not a new one.

Like I said, he went on for over three hours, playing everything. I liked it; the guy’s got a voice on him – like I said, one of the best. He’s got the stage presence of a “jesus christ pose” rock star, which, honestly, doesn’t work quite as well when you’re playing a Dylan song on a Martin D-20 and wearing vintage white high-top sneakers, but the guy can work a crowd; though his skill set points to loud moshy arenas and drop-D electric guitars; when that side of him came out, it was a little awkward. I went in knowing it would be self-indulgent – that’s what these tours are for- and wasn’t surprised; you could tell that he was enjoying a chance to play for his fans in a more “intimate” setting, whatever that means. Some of the arrangements were pretty clever (especially whenever the pizzicato cello came out), and really enjoyable to experience.

For me, the weird, out-of-context highlight came toward the end when he played U2’s “One” with the lyrics to Metallica’s “One”, based on a google search mistake he made – he wanted to do U2’s uplifting tune, because his stuff is “so dreary”, though he accidentally clicked on Metallica’s quad-amputee nightmare’s lyrics. the thing is, they scan, and it actually works.

I kind of want to do it the opposite way now, to, you know, Balance the Force.

_______________________________

*-Scott, Kirsten, and I totally would have played it, whether we knew it or not (though I’m pretty sure Scott does. B-52s and Jethro Tull; those are some influences.

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hard days

20
Jun

Today, the first Monday after the last day of school, always ends up being a little strange. Mechanically, it’s not all that different. Last nigth, I went to bed before everyone else (which, let’s be honest, I do quite a bit), and I was the first one up (except for the kitten); the house was quiet. The difference, of course, is that the house was going to stay quiet for a while; nobody else had to get up. I ventured out into the world to do my thing, while the rest of them stayed in bed. Traffic to the office was lighter – no schoool buses, no activity at the schools I pass at all; traffic flowed; the whole damned world seemed quieter, even surrounded by all the other commuters. Realistically, I know it’s not all that different, really, but it felt that way.

Sure, I left instructions for some overdue child labor to kick off the summer, but I know full well that nobody was stirring before 9am. I do not envy my wife (other than the fact that she gets to sleep in a bit as well) the task of prying them all out of bed to do my bidding for the long-neglected yard/property clean-up. I hope something gets done; I’m well-braced for the fact that progress isn’t going to be to my liking, though I still hope to be surprised.

I’m in a weird sort of melancholy; part of that has to do with the weird stillness this morning, part has to do with Father’s Day yesterday. I did get breakfast delivered to me in bed, and a nice practical-but-kind-of-cool present, which is appreciated, but I have a really hard time with the holiday, because, although I am a father (even if I don’t always feel like I’m actually good at it), I have a hard time making it about me; I miss my dad. I spent most of the day keeping my head down, avoiding a lot of the whole business, because even twenty-odd years later, it’s still a big hole.

Although I mostly avoided the internet this weekend, I saw a piece my friend Chris wrote about how many of us don’t have fathers around anymore (which at this point, has more to do with the age of my peer group than anything else), and how that hole doesn’t go away. I was blubbering like an idiot for ten minutes after reading that. Like my friend, there’s a lot of stuff going on in my life I would love to share with my dad; stuff he’d think was really cool, or proud of. He never got to meet my kids; he barely got to know my wife. I think he’d really dig the neat creative stuff I get to do these days in a way that a lot of other people in my life wouldn’t. There’s a whole bunch of things -questions, thoughts, ideas- I’d love to get his take on. I was still mostly a kid when I lost him; not having his perspective on being an “adult” is a big hole – sure, I’ve found some surrogates over the years, but it’s not the same.

There was, however, a bit of a bright spot – this year, just like I did seventeen years ago, I shared Father’s Day with my daughter’s birthday. Kind of a neat present. And she’s turning out pretty well (no thanks, I’m sure, to me). I think I can work with that.

I also judiciously and responsibly avoided pointing to this all day yesterday. However, yesterday is now over. Pfft.

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it’s okay to just have the experience

17
Jun

The last big rock show I went to was Queensryche last month, and although I enjoyed the show a great deal, so much of the audience spent the whole thing standing in the aisles (and in my way, more often than not) watching not the show itself, but the little four or five inch representation of the show on the screen of their smartphone. Everybody angling for the “best” angle and such interrupted my ability to take it all in, and I’m sure all the amateur cinematographers didn’t enjoy it as much as they probably could have.

I get that camera phones are ubiquitous these days; heck, I shot a couple of photos myself at some recent shows, and I often post photos of my shows that other people are kind enough to post (I know I’m still naive enough to get a kick out of people digging our stuff enough to take photos and share them…). But, I also understand that not all artists, especially big deal folks who want to use a small intimate show to work out new material before release (and don’t want substandard versions to leak out*) might not feel the same way. Bootlegging has gotten a hell of a lot easier since a friend-of-a-friend acquaintance used to sneak a crap recording rig into Philly clubs stuffed into a couple of Altoids tins to get lo-fi recordings for the tape trade. Back in the olden days (i.e. the early-90s), people still used “the internet” for this stuff, but dialup was still a thing and mp3 wasn’t, so people haunted BBS systems and snail-mailed TDKs to each other – relatively low volume and low tech.

Today, stuff is on Youtube before people leave the venue. The entertainment industry is aware, and trying (and usually failing to stay ahead of the game). A few years ago when I was more of a road warrior for work, I’d managed to get myself on a private list to score passes for advance press screenings of upcoming movies. More than once, the organizers would confiscate cell phones from attendees before granting admission to the theater – a popular model was giving everybody a brown paper bag to write a name/number on; stuffing the phone/camera inside, and stashing it in a box under the counter until after the show, where it could be retrieved with ID or a claim ticket. Inelegant, and stuff still got out, but it was an effort.

The industry’s latest response is this, a proximity driven lock pouch, that won’t open inside the performance space. I suppose this’ll work, though people’s complaints about legitimate emergency use are probably valid. It’s another try, but I suspect it probably won’t catch on or be particularly effective, because none of this stuff is.

I’m not begrudging the industry here, in part because they’d rather sell us the best version of their work on their schedule, and also because I’m old enough to remember going to live shows before smartphones (or cell phones at all) were a thing, and we totally survived. Heck, I think we enjoyed ourselves more. Excuse me while I put my old man pants on (white belt and shoes optional), but I kind of miss when people just enjoyed the experience. Sometimes, your memory is good enough -enjoy the spontaneity of the performance play out; take the whole picture in, and don’t worry about framing everything for later consumption (and honestly, how often does anybody really play these poorly shot amateur videos back anyway – most of them are un-viewable, and just take up storage space on the SD card!).

Trust me, you’re probably missing some really cool stuff, not the least of which is the communal experience everyone in the venue – artist and audience alike – could be having with each other. When everyone’s deep into their phones, we’re all there, but we’re not *there*. Also, as a performer, I’m able to give a lot more to an audience when I can see people’s faces and reactions, rather than a bunch of rectangles with lenses on them; live performance, especially the kind of shows I go to and play, really is a collaborative experience; If you’re out there watching through the filter of your phone, you’re not doing your part, and, as a wise performer friend of mine is fond of saying, “this’ll all go a lot more smoothly if you just participate.” You’re also cheating yourself out of the best part of the experience.

Here’s the thing – the only thing we can really ever take with us is our memories and our experiences; don’t miss out on the moment you’re in because you’re trying (in vain) to capture it for later; it doesn’t really work that way, no matter how good your photo or recording might be (and trust me, it’s probably not that good). Any recording of, say, Jonah Knight‘s “last” show at Ravencon this year, when he brought everybody together in a circle in front of the stage and we all sang “King of Nebraska” together is going to pale in the face of the memory of having been there and being an active participant in the experience.

Put the phone away. Heck, if you can manage, leave it in the car or at home. Enjoy life in the round; outside the viewfinder. Be part of the experience.

_____________________________

* – this was the reasoning that musician friends at the time always gave, anyway. I don’t think it’s wrong, necessarily, but it never quite resonated with me; maybe I’m just not the perfectionists they were. Live, spontaneous performance, even with a little tarnish on the shine, works for me the way a lot of professional studio recordings don’t..

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friday random ten: “small favors” edition

17
Jun

It’s Friday morning, and it’s looking like a slow day to wind out the week. I’ll take it.

The week itself has been, well, a week. I woke up ill one day this week, so cashed in one of my roughly three years’ work of unused sick leave (you have to do that now and then). I’m mostly better now. It’s been oppressively humid the last couple of days, and a series of wicked storms rolled through the region last night, which made the temperatures a lot more pleasant this morning, but seems to have caused chaos, damage, and power outages (and in one case, related to the latter, ice cream for breakfast) among my many friends on the north west side of the metro area. For once, my side of city was spared, although there seem to be a few limbs down here and there.

Today is also the last day of school. I would assume the kids are happy, though I didn’t see much of them yesterday. One is done with finals (and thus doesn’t have to go in today) and went to bed early last night, and the others just kinda do what they do. Monday’s going to be the rough one for me, leaving when everyone else stays (though I have plans for them, oh yes, I have plans…**maniacal laugh**), but at least I don’t have to lever the early one out of bed.

I also got some cool music producer stuff done this week, taking some of the vocal tracks I recorded last weekend with my friend Jenny and turning them into something approaching listenable (she likes it anyway – I’m not convinced, and still need to get some fiddle on it). I’ll share some stuff one of these days; I’m not sure it’s ready for public consumption just yet. The band/project/musical collective/whatever the hell you want to call these people I’m making noise with locally lately supposedly has a gig in town in a couple of weeks (a 30 minute set opening for a friend’s improv troupe), though schedules are conspiring to make it tough to rehearse with these people, or nail down two more uptempo crowd-pleasing cover tunes to fill out our alotted time. I know *I* can wing it (because I’m cool like that), but a lot of these folks aren’t as experienced with this sort of thing, so I’m a little nervous about all of it coming together.

But it’s actually a good kind of nervous. Again, I’ll take it. Small favors.

Not sure what’s going on this weekend; we might be gaming with friends; I gotta confirm that. I also suspect that the overtly sneaky stuff going on the last couple of days that I’m not supposed to see indicates that there might be plans made for me on Sunday. We’ll see.

Anyway…some tunes that Pandora spit out. This week’s mix is…eclectic

  1. “Battle Metal” – Turisas
  2. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” – Vampire Weekend
  3. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – Crowded House
  4. “Maps” – Yeah Yeah Yeah
  5. “Say it Ain’t So” – Weezer
  6. “Iron” – Ensiferium
  7. “From Nowhere (Baardsen Remix)” – Dan Croll
  8. “Come Together” – The Beatles
  9. “Ophelia” – The Lumineers
  10. “Theresa’s Soundworld” – Sonic Youth
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another weekend, another tragedy

13
Jun

Hell, it’s been a weekend.

Saturday I spent some time with a musician friend working some demo recordings for a project we’re working on. We got some nice vocal tracks down for one tune (it’s a good one) before life’s problems started to intrude on the creative process. Everything seems to have worked itself out, thankfully, though we didn’t get as much done as we’d like. The recording rig I’ve built over the last year or two seems to travel well and I got some nice pieces I can work with. Seems I’m now a producer.

Rest of the afternoon involved some grocery shopping, some household stuff, some video games, and waiting around to pick up my sixteen year old who can’t drive yet from a friend’s graduation party. I gotta get that kid a license, stat. We also got a bit of a chuckle out of the “unusually small crowd” (like less than 25% capacity at the Colliseum) at Trump’s rally downtown. Sometimes my metro area makes me proud.

Of course, I woke up Sunday morning to the news from Orlando, which, by any definition, is devastating and horrible. Last count I heard was 51 dead, taking this well past the most horrific mass shooting in modern American history.

I found out about it when a friend (who happened to be near Orlando this weekend for a baby shower) mentioned that she was prompted by Facebook to “check in as being safe” because it pinged her location as near the shooting at Pulse. That Facebook implemented code to do such thing is worrying, but also kind of useful (we have things like weather emergencies and whatnot), but the fact that it *was* useful to someone in my circle because of this makes me unhappy, but not as unhappy as the fact that there are 51 one people who were unable to check in because one guy decided to shoot up a dance club early Sunday morning.

Let me talk about statistics and frequency and maybe a little bit of armchair analysis a bit:

The fact that somebody’s tracking the statistic for “most horrible mass shooting incident” in this country is awful. The fact that we have enough data points for this kind of event, horrifying by any objective measure, to establish different data gradients says that something’s wrong with the way we’re doing things.

Leaving aside any discussion of methodology and definition of what a “mass shooting” is (and there’s probably a discussion to be had regarding that), the Gun Violence Archive reports, as of Monday morning, we’ve had 136 “mass shooting” incidents in the US in 2016 so far. I am aghast.

This data leaves aside possible motive (and in the case of the Orlando shooting this weekend, it’s pretty clear that anti-LGBT attitudes were behind it – I’m not sold on the ISIS connection people are trying to draw, other than as a justification/cover on the part of the shooter; I think that’s also what was going on with San Bernadino), which I think is proper when we’re talking about these things. People have all kinds of reasons (valid and otherwise) to get angry about things; hell, the social and political discourse and division in this country, as well as our whole historical “rugged individualist” narrative we pride ourselves on, practically guarantees it.

Of course, other Western/industrialized nations have the same, or equivalent reasons for anger, frustration, and division; I’d argue that some of the others are probably more inflamed (i.e. Western Europe and the current refugee crisis, economic strife in Greece, Spain, etc). However, these nations don’t have the incidence of home-grown (domestic, radicalized or not, whatever…) shootings we do. The most obvious difference is the easy access to guns in this country. And troubled folks with guns (leaving alone the incidences of veterans with untreated PTSD we have, and other folks dealing with depression and anxiety and other mental issues* left untreated because of the state of health care in this country) tend to lead to bad things, with folks either hurting themselves, or, in this case, many, many others.

Now before somebody tears into me for maybe saying that guns aren’t a constantly good and virtuous thing (because that happens – look at your social media feed this morning, it’s there – go ahead, I’ll wait) because of the vibrant and robust gun culture in this country (just ask the open carry idiots who like to stand around outside my local WaWa drinking coffee with Glocks on their hips for some reason that I’m sure isn’t political at all), I’m not against gun ownership, necessarily; I grew up with, and have an appreciation for hunting culture, understand the appeal of shooting as a sport, and all that. I’m not necessarily down with the fetishization of weapons, personally, but I think I get it, especially when I look at my affection for musical istruments.

That said, as solid and heavy as a Gibson Les Paul is, it’s really unlikely there’s going to be a rash of mass killings by people using one as a weapon.

Maybe that’s not the best example – motor vehicles might be a better comparison; though it’s not perfect one. per the IIHS, there’ve been a little over 32,000 deaths due to vehicle crashes so far this year (Per the GVA, we’re looking at about 6000 total gun deaths for all reasons so far this year). Now, automobiles are probably more ubiquitous, necessary, and widespread than firearms are, but are just as dangerous, if not more, when pointed in the wrong direction or used irresponsibly. Nobody seems to have an issue with screening, registration, and required insurance for automobile ownership and operation; I’d posit that a similar system for firearms ownership might make sense, and a lot of the gun laws we have on this country get us part way there. A few more tweaks here and there would probably get us there.

Of course, there’s no Second Amendment for cars, and AAA is nowhere near as single-focused and political as the NRA. Car culture is looked at differently. I’m not sure why. Other than the 25-year import rule or the chicken tax, most reasonable car people are totally cool with automotive law in the US. The gun folks are constantly focused on somebody taking their weapons away and stealing their freedoms or whatever. I suspect it has a lot to do with the general culture of fear that goes on in the right-of-center parts of the United States; everything framed in right-wing narrative about “them” taking something away from “you”; guns, money, religion, “freedom”, whatever. There’s no “us” in the right-wing narrative without a “them” to be in conflict with**; this kind of frame/narrative just feeds the conflict, and I think that’s the biggest impediment to progress.

This is all just me spitballing here; thinking out loud in my little space on the internet, because in a way, that’s what it’s for. There are a lot of problems in this country we need to deal with; I just can’t think of even one that more guns, and unrestricted access to them, makes better or easier to deal with.

____________________________

*- this is the reason why I no longer own any firearms or do anything involving them at all, really. It’s totally personal. If I gun wasn’t nearby, it’s possible (though not assured) that I’d still have someone very important to me in my life; mental disorders like depression suck, even when they’re treated properly (I know); as such, I don’t need those things around, both due to personal distaste, and the potential (if remote) risk involved.

** – I’m kind of curious to see how the right wing frames this one, as the media narrative thus far sets the “radical Islam” and LGBT others against one another. I want to see the mental gymnastics going into how this will fit into their headspace to feed the outrage (because it’s always about feeding the outrage). What I’ve seen thus far is leaving the LGBT out of it for the moment, framing it as an “attack against all of us.”, at least according to the woman arguing with Cokie Roberts this morning on NPR. I’ll have to get the word from Glenn Beck and Brian Fischer later to be sure.

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friday random ten – “bittersweet june” edition

10
Jun

Happy Friday.

Not huge amounts planned for the weekend; usual home stuff (laundry, cooking, etc), farming for some anniverary cakes on Marvel Heroes (I’m not ashamed), staying out of Richmond until the Dumpster fire leaves town, and maybe continue some nostalgic meditation watching old Bob Ross Joy of Painting episodes on Netflix. Also, having some musical adventures on Saturday that I’m almost ready to seriously start talking about (gigs may be involved); right now it’s knocking together a repertoire and recording a few demos.

Kids are wrapping school – finals next week, but everybody’s pretty much already done; you know how it is. Also, I know how it is, watching these kids enjoying their year-end anticpation and knowing I’ll be keeping the same old schedule, still getting up at the ass-end of the morning all summer, only to have to come home to find evidence of three more people (on average – there will be activities that that take some of them out of the loop here and there) living in my house all day and probably not cleaning up after themselves…joy.

Oh well; on the bright side, my little chemistry set tells me that the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite levels in the new fish tank are all bang-on zero, so, at least thus far, the tranfer to the larger box is working better than expected. I’ll keep an eye on it for another little while, but everyone looks happy, the moss has fresh growth, and the whole environment looks pretty bad-ass after dark, if I do say so myself:

Anyway, here’s some tunes. I always forget how great a tune #3 is until I hear it, then I fall in love all over again.

  1. “First Time” – Vance Joy
  2. “It’s the End of the World as we Know It (and I feel fine) – REM
  3. “Alex Chilton” – The Replacements
  4. “Voices Carry” – ‘Til Tuesday
  5. “Heaven When We’re Home” – The Wailin’ Jennys
  6. “Ironic” – Alanis Morrissette
  7. “West End Girls” – Pet Shop Boys
  8. “Such Great Heights” – The Postal Service
  9. “Have A Drink on Me” – AC/DC
  10. “We Belong” – Pat Benetar
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#GirlIGuessI’mWithHer, or “now’s the time for pragmatism”

08
Jun

(title references this article, which I found somewhat relevant)

AP stories being premature or not, it’s reasonable after yesterday’s primaries to state that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee for President come next month’s Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia. All signals indicate Sanders will bow out gracefully (after grabbing whatever concessions to his not-insignificant constituency he can for the party platform to keep his movement going) in the next little while, and it’s all over but the dog and pony arena shows.

Looking to the left, you’ll see that this time around, I was a Sanders fan; not really a “BernieBro” (I’ve been through this rodeo more than a few times), but my positions tended to align more with Senator Sanders than with Secretary Clinton. Socially, I’m a liberal progressive, economically, I’m a Keynsian with a taste for classical European socialism. Sanders’ message of economic equality and democratic socialism appeals to me; I’m always going to be a bit to the left of the average candidate for state or federal office in this country, and the Sanders campaign hit a lot of my sweet spots in that regard.

I also have few issues with Clinton’s policy positions, since, for the most part, she and Sanders agree, even if Sanders wants to move farther and faster on them, and comparatively, Clinton’s a little more hawkish in terms of foreign policy than I’d like. By all rights, she’s been a pretty good public servant the last couple of decades, appears to have the ability to navigate the public sector ably and compromise where it matters, and I expect she’d be completely competent executive, both on her own merits, and the fact that she spent eight years as an active First Lady means that other than an incumbent running for re-election, she’s got the most real-world exposure to what the actual job of “President” actually looks like, and would probably require much less of a learning curve than just about anyone.

That said, although I’m going to vote for her, and she’ll be a perfectly acceptable (and historically significant) candidate and likely eventual President (probably not all that far off from Obama, especially if she continues to take the Sanders message to heart and incorporate it into hers), I’m having a hard time getting excited.

For me, it’s not a woman thing (we’re not going there, Madeline Albright); I’d love for our country to catch up with the rest of the world’s advanced democracies and elect someone without a Y chromosome), it’s a dynasty thing. For the last 28 years (nearly 3/4 of my life now), there’s only been eight years there where the White House wasn’t occupied by a Bush or a Clinton. I’m a little uncomfortable with that.

Also (and this might be a personal flaw on my part), I’m somewhat tepid toward Secretary Clinton personally. I get that it’s a historic event, and policy-wise, she’s just fine. I also understand that she’s not in the same league charismatically that her husband or the current President; and heck, for someone else, she might be. I do my best to put this aside, but I struggle with the stock “Boomer career woman/power grandma” persona she exemplifies, and amplifies when she’s on the stump. Again, I understand and recognize the introvert overcompensation; however, this outward image she’s presenting doesn’t elicit the greatest reaction from me; I’ve been burned a time or two. Like I said, it’s a personal problem for me, one that I’m doing my best to set aside. I don’t relate well to her; personally, I have a hell of a lot more in common with the slightly grumpy but cool grandpa figure.

I guess I kind of get the “candidate I’d rather have a beer with” appeal of W to certain folks. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to vote my head.

It’s time for pragmatism, and Clinton is a perfectly fine candidate to align with my political philosophies (I don’t think a Hillary Clinton presidencey will look dramatically different content-wise than an Obama presidency), and is certainly a better alternative to the Trump Tire Fire. Like I said a couple of times now, the primaries are the time to pick the option you love; the general is where you kind of, by design, have to pick the lesser of two evils. If that lesser evil is someone you can get truly excited about, that’s great, but experience tells us it’s not going to happen all that often.

The best reason I can give for why I’ll vote for Secretary Clinton in the general election is a pragmatic one; that’s what general elections are for. I found myself thinking about this while listening to Tuesday’s edition of NPR’s Fresh Air, which featured an interview with author Jeffrey Rosen talking about his new book about Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (which you should all listen to at the link above; fascinating stuff), and include this bit (quoting Rosen) regarding the importance of the Court when considering one’s vote in November:

It’s impossible to understate the relevance of the Supreme Court in this election. Citizens should vote for the presidential candidate who most coincides with their vision of the Constitution because even the confirmation of a single justice, even just Merrick Garland’s confirmation would transform the law in a series of areas from campaign finance to affirmative action to voting rights and more in a way that will affect the court for decades to come.

So people have been talking about the Court in the election for a longtime. This time, it’s happening. Vote for the candidate whose view of the Constitution coincides with your own.

That’s where we are; the Court is currently a Justice short, with the others basically lining up 4-4. Congress has said repeatedly that they’re not going to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland until after the election. Whether the next appointee ends up being Garland or someone else (Congressional leadership will have its own pragmatic decision to make come the first Wednesday in November), that appointment is likely going to be instrumental in setting which way the court’s going to lean for the next couple of decades.

You know, that’s enough for me.

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latest on the box of water

07
Jun

If you’re new to this space, you know that one of my less-weird hobbies is keeping freshwater tropical fish and live plants. For most of the last decade, I’ve been running basically the same 29 gallon aquarium. It’s served nicely, although it’s gotten a little long in the tooth; I’ve been replacing pieces slowly over the last year – the original light crapped out, so I got a nice Fluval LED rig; the original plastic lid broke, so I got a nice glass one. Last week, one of the cats jumped on top and cracked the inner rim of the top of the frame, almost falling in (hilariously), testing the waterproofing of the lighting rig, and requiring a hasty repair involving “duct tape keeping the roof from falling in.” It was time for a new glass box.

Having a nicely sized wooden stand/cabinet for the aquarium, I didn’t want to give that up, but figured if I was replacing it, I might as well go bigger. I found the biggest 30×12 footprint tank I could, a 37 gallon tall; it would fit the hole, and add the extra volume in height. Not the most common tank, but easily procurable online. I spent the weekend down at the con checking the shipping status, and hoping beyond hope that I wouldn’t end up with a big box full of shards of glass.

Luckily, it arrived Monday night in one piece (with lots of bubble wrap). I’d procured a couple of odds and ends in the meantime – new substrate (a nice coarse sand in black), and some neat, cheap, low-tech decor items; a couple of terra cotta flower pots, and a few two dollar acrylic suction cup soap dishes with drain holes, with an eye toward filling the vertical space with multi-level aquascaping.

After work today, I spent several hours draining, moving, filling, re-arranging, netting, and all that, and you can see the result below:

I like it; it’s cleaner than the old one; I hope it stays that way; I think the added depth to the tank will help diffuse the light a bit, keeping the plants going but avoiding much of the algae. I’m in love with the substrate (sand! so much more natural that gravel), and if the java moss grows the way I hope it does from the little racks, I think it’ll look really cool as time goes on.

For you aquaria purists, I expect it’ll cycle just fine – that driftwood is straight out of the old tank (I just yanked some of the moss off it), as are the river rocks; those flowerpots with the java ferns and aponogetons are full of the old gravel; likewise, all the plants (save those new java ferns) went in without a rinse. Also, I just moved the well-seasoned filter directly over and will run it for a couple of weeks and monitor levels; the population right now is pretty small – a small school (10?) of black neon tetras, two bristle-nose plecostomus (the ones that only get about four inches long), two old black mollies, and a few amano shrimp and nerite snails.

Anyway, gaze upon it’s greatness. I just wanted to show it off.

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