The P’s of Politics

There is a famous saying that ‘politics is the art of the possible.’ As far as it goes that is true, but there are additional P’s to couple with politics, Principle and Priorities and it is these secondary P’s that are often in conflict and often denied for their importance.

Principle is not dogma. Dogma is inflexible. Dogma does not admit the half-loaf and demand only total victory. Dogma demands total fealty. Principle is a guidepost, a map, not a straight jacket.

Priority is about what matters more. If we are being mature about our politics and realistic about our expectations, then priority becomes important and presents us with the most difficult decisions.

For example I support gun rights and I support marriage equality, it is quite rare to find an acceptable candidate that holds both of those positions. Therefore when looking at candidates I end up, via my vote, prioritizing one over the other. In practice it tends to be marriage equality, while I support gun rights I must be honest that it is a secondary cause and that the fight there has to wait while a more important battle is waged.

In my experience most people have the conflicting priorities, but they rarely are honest with themselves in their hierarchy. In my positions they would proclaim themselves both for gun right and marriage equality, claiming the honorable mantle of both camps while ignoring the ground facts of their actual support.

 

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30 day experiment

Some years ago I picked a bad habit.

Snacking at work.

I don’t mindlessly eat at home, but at work I cant seem to break this accursed habit of getting junk from a vending machine and eating way too much of it. My small breakfast hasn’t made me this big, it’s not my lunch of a simple salad, and it’s not my sweetie-wifes tasty and calorically sensible dinners. Most of my trouble come from this workday eating, eating when I’m never even hungry.

So here’s my 30 day experiment to break the habit.

No money on me at work.

none. No cash, no coins, no cards. It all stays home. Remove the ability to buy the god damn stuff and I won’t eat it.

I’m going to try this from tomorrow thru May 14th. Then we’ll see what sort of shape the habit is in.

 

 

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Do Not Put Your Faith in Facebook Memes

This will be quick but I have to get it off my chest.

You CAN NOT trust the things you read on partisan internet memes. This was brought to my attention when on my Facebook feed someone shared a meme about Texas Senator Ted Cruz. (I do not like Senator Cruz. In my opinion he is a dangerous disingenuous demagogue.) The member attributed the following quote to his speech announcing his candidacy for president.

“There is no room for Atheists or gays in my America.”

The quote is clearly a fabrication. Had the man been so stupid as to have uttered those words at his Liberty University announcement the new cycle would have exploded. You would not learn about such a thing from a random Facebook posting. (To be sure I went to the text of the speech and indeed he said nothing of the sort.)

It is nearly certain that I would never vote for this man. (See my opinion statement above.) However lies and hyperbole are crappy tools for persuasion. The people passing the image around are only making their own stands less secure for if you need lies to support your arguments how strong can it be?

 

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A quite pleasant day

I throughly enjoyed my lazy, quiet Sunday.

I slept in quite late, not rising until 9:00 am. By mid-morning my sweetie-wife and I were in Balboa Park. The sun shone bright and warm, the air was crisp and clear, musicians filled the air in hopes of generous tips, and we even we buzzed by a red-tailed hawk that played in the thermals above Laurel St bridge. I succeeded in clocking 3 miles of walking before we retired for lunch.

We ate in a lovely open air restaurant, The Station Tavern, with a nice window seat, the breeze keeping us cool and comfortable. The afternoon we passed with games where we each had turns at victory and defeat.

In the evening we caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and then after she retired for the night I discovered an original HBO film, Conspiracy, that held my attention with pure dialogue and performance. (Watch closely and you’ll see Tom Hiddleston in a non-speaking bit part.)

 

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Barry Manilow Concert 04/11/2015

I have been a fan of Manilow’s songs and singing since I was a teenager in the 1970s, however I have never had the opportunity to attend a concert until this evening. He is one his final concert tour, though it looks like he may still play in residence at Las Vegas and I am quite happy that I was able to catch this show in San Diego.

For someone whose career started in the mid 70’s as a pop singer his popularity remains surprisingly high. I saw people as young as ten or twelve in the audience. And from the photo you can see that this attendance was not minimal.IMG_0439

I was very happy to hear that his voice is still in excellent shape. Despite being a man 20 years my senior I have no doubt that his lung power far exceeds mine. He sang the songs with power, control, and emotion. He is a man who either loves performing or is a far better actor than his limited screen appearances would have indicated. He brought the audience to their feet several times with his infection energy and passion for his art. My seat was quite good, though I was unprepared for just how loud it was going to be.

I tried to take a few photos but with my iPhone skills the images are nearly all blurred beyond recognition. Here is the most acceptable of the lot.

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He sang all the hits that I have known so well and that reside on my iPhone to this day. These are songs that still touch me, move me, and speak to me.

I did experience once curious and unexpected emotional reaction to the performance. As I sat there watching a man in his 70s talk about his career, sing about love, loss, and hope, letting us know that he always believes in hope, I thought about the uncertainty I am currently experiencing in my own artistic attempts. Now word yet from the agency, but during the concert I felt no anxiety over it. This was one book, one agency, one point in time. There will be more books. There will be more attempts. In that I found a measure of peace. So I had a very good night, a lot of fun, and a new emotional state. Not bad.

 

 

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Quick Impression Apple TV

I have been a fan of streaming over traditional cable for sometime. (The last time I had cable TV was 2012 for a few weeks.) I prefer the control streaming and discs give me over what and when I watch. This week because my sweetie-wife and I didn’t want to delay in out Game of Thrones fix I picked up an Apple TV and subscribe to HBO Now.

The Verdict?

I heartily approve of the Apple TV. The onyl thing that would improve it would be the addition of Amazon Prime streaming, otherwise I have found no flaws and had no complaints.

It’s easy to set up. Easy to use, and I have a ton of options. This is working out so much better than my previous streaming device – an Xbox 360. Integrating with iMac and other Apple devices is just a bonus, but it’s really nice being able to stream my iTunes content to my living. Watching Doctor Who has just gotten loads easier.

 

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A phrase I nearly always distrust

‘We’ve got to take back …”

“Our Country”

“Our Awards”

“Our Government”

I’ve heard this uttered on the left and on the right. I’ve heard this uttered for deadly serious things like the country as a whole and less serious things like SF’s award The Hugo. Wherever I hear this I tend to cringe. The unspoken – but only just barely unspoken – underlying assumption is one of ownership and possession. The subject of the ‘take back’ it the rightful property of of those proclaiming the mission. An ownership that is exclusionary to a segment or population.

Sorry, that’s just not freaking true. It wasn’t ‘your’ country. It wasn’t ‘your’ award. It wasn’t ‘your’ thingie. Especially with something like our nation or our government it is ours, collective. You know, our government, our nation, our conventions, they are always changing. Not always in ways you like. Not always in ways I like, but it always happens and always will.

Reverse is a suitable gear only for automobiles.

 

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Still waiting

The truth of the matter is that publishing is a game of waiting. However setting aside anxiety attacks and the like, it’s been a fair pleasant couple of week.

I’ve been reading up on he 5 act structure and how that applies to film writing. Naturally I have also been looking to apply it to prose, particularly novels. I think that there is a lot of overlap in story structure between novels and screenplays simply because both are trying t tell a story. The differences come from the nature of the mediums. This past Sunday and Monday nights I watched one of my favorite films — Double Indemnity — but taking notes in how I thought it broke out in five acts.

I have to say that it fit five acts like a well made glove. (Or as Barton Keyes would have said, ‘it fits together like a watch!’) — spoilers ahead —

Act One is set-up: We introduce the characters and their basic problems and nature. For this film act one ends when Neff, our main character understands that what Phyllis is interested in is r and he wants no part of it.

Act Two Thing go into motion: Despite his intention to keep clear of it, Neff is seduced by Phyllis and the act ends with his decision to help her murder her husband, I think it is vital that the final element of the second act is a choice made by the main character versus an external event.

Act Three Crossing the Rubicon: Phyllis and Neff murder her husband, following Neff’s detailed plans for ‘crooking the house’ The act ends with Neff going home but with the silent steps of a dead man.

Act Four Everything spirals out of control: Things go wrong and the situation spins out of Neff’s carefully plotted plans. Keyes has his hunch that the death was murder, the victim’s daughter shows up with alarming evidence, and Phyllis stops being the passive follower and shows she’s unwilling to do as Neff advises. The act ends with Neff learning that Another man is seeing Phyllis.

Act Five Resolution: Act five starts with Neff spying on Keyes to learn that Keyes suspects the other man as the murder. Neff puts into place his plan to set up the other man and remove Phyllis from the picture. Because this is noir and there was the Code to deal with, neff cant get away with his plan. It goes wrong and he pays for his crimes. (interestingly until I read about the behind the scenes on the film I always had assume Neff was dying in the final scene, but originally there was to be a gas chamber scene that was filmed but cut out.)

I have to say that the five act structure worked incredibly well here I plan to experiment with it in my own writing.

 

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Not doing too badly

The last few weeks I have been waiting for word that could signal a major change in my writing trajectory. This has produced days of endless nervous tension and lots and lots of email checking.

While I have been waiting, and a little too nervous to write properly, I have had actually not too bad of a time. I have read two books. (The Martian by Andrew Weir a damn fine novel and Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers a favorite author of mine.)

Last weekend was Condor 2015 a local SF convention. It’s on the small size but I had a terribly good time. So busy that I never too the time for a lunch on any day of the con. I was busy from the time I arrived to the time I left for home. (Because it is very local, just a few miles away we did not stay at the hotel.) I participated in three panels (Vampires and Zombies: Why do we keep writing about them, Emerging Epidemics, and What to do when you feel like quitting. All with great fellow panelists and lots of good interactions)

Tuesday a friend came into town for her book launch. My sweetie-wife and I took a half day off from our jobs and spent the afternoon having a lovely lunch, long discussion, and tasty coffee and tea.

I’m still a ball of nerves waiting for word from professionals back east, but I have to say I have also been quite happy the last few days.

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Sunday Night Movie: Predestination

predestination_ver2The reason I became a reader of science-fiction and eventually a writer of that genre is due to the work of Robert A. Heinlein. A grand master of the form his works influenced the arts and sciences for decades. Despite being a best-selling and ground breaker author very few of his works have been adapted successfully into films. The Puppet Masters became a mediocre film fatally damaged by a third act that abandoned the source material for cheaply ripping off other films. Starship Troopers practically ignored the source material and where it didn’t it engaged in a malicious misreading in favor of the director’s favorite obsessions. Given this background I approached Predestination with a healthy sense of apprehension.

Adapted for the screen and directed by the Spierig brothers a pair of Australian filmmakers Predestination overcomes Heinlein’s troubled history with adaptions to become not only the first film to faithful to the source material but a movie that also works well in its own right.

It’s difficult to discuss the plot of Predestination without an abundance of spoilers. This is a time travel film and one needs to go into the viewing with an open mind towards the crazy world of time paradoxes.

Ethan Hawke, returning to work with the Spierig brother again following their partnerships with the novel vampire film Daybreakers, is an agent with basically a time police agency. Hawke’s character is leaping through time in pursuit to another time traveller who is leaving a trail of nasty explosions in his wake. This entire cop and bomber plot is the invention of the filmmakers, yet they fold it into the narrative from the short story in a seamless and tonal consistent manner.

Sarah Snook plays in effect several parts, principally she plays a man who writes confession stories and drinks away his life nursing a grudge over the person who ruined her life. Hawke and Snook’s writer character form an unusual partnership with staggering implications.

The original story ‘All you Zombies…” was written many decades ago and of course its portrayal of the future has become horribly dated. Following in the footsteps of Zack Snyder and his adaptation of the graphic novel ‘Watchmen’ the Spierig brothers do not attempt to ‘update’ the setting or characters, but rather the entire story takes place in an alternate time-line where history, particularly space-travel, followed a different course. This works very well for me, but I’m not sure how many casual audience members would follow this construction.

A low budget film, Predestination, never got a full theatrical release; this is a shame. I think the brothers have shone again that they are able to realize amazing visions with limited resources. Especially in dealing with a film that jumps over 40 years of period, from 1945 through 1985, they pull it all off with style and realism. This is a film that is going to become part of my collection. I urge you all to view it at least one.

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