Tuesday, August 30, 2016

No One Cares

Imagine you're watching a primetime television show and see a rape victim handing her rapist the baby conceived when he raped her.  The reason of course, he is the father, and it would be wrong to try to separate a father and son, no matter how much she personally dislikes them.  And at no time in this series, did anyone even use the word rape.

I love speculative fiction.  To me a story without a sci-fi or fantasy element is like panting in shades of gray and beige.  Sure it could be a beautiful painting, but why limit yourself?  Why limit a story to what could happen in reality?  Reality happens to me everyday whether I like it or not.  Lets hear a story.

Following these interests, I run into a lot of what they call, "third wave feminists."  They are very concerned with what they call, "rape culture," that they say is being promoted by popular media.  'A show targeted at straight men has scantily clad women?  Sexist!'  I recently mentioned a feminist friend who was boycotting The Killing Joke because it somehow promoted rape in her view.

Nowhere is this more prevalent in my life than at Convergence, a large sci-fi / fantasy convention in my area.  Instead of hearing about Batman, we have to hear the loonies go on about how pro-consent culture Stephen Universe is, and how Game of Thrones fans just like to see women brutalized.  But why didn't any of these rape culture people even mention Once Upon a Time?

What I described at the beginning of this post happened in Once Upon a Time, but the victim was a he, and the rapist was a she.  One character used magic to trick a man into thinking she was his dead wife, and had sex with him several times.  She eventually became pregnant.  No one ever said rape.  No one ever punished her for that.  They even tried to include her in the baby's life, because you know, she is the mother.

But he's the wrong gender, so no one cares.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Bit of Good News

“You know I’m living on borrowed time.”

My blog partner ( Benjamin ), my ex-colleague ( Mic, who has an inoperable malignant brain tumor) and I have been eating out monthly for some time. After Mic’s diagnosis, his tumor was a topic of conversation
( “You know, it’s on the underside of my brain, away from the skull; thus inoperable.” ), an ever-present reality as we tried to be normal ( The backdrop of our time together is different … we spend our time acutely aware of how precious both time itself and our time together are.), the subject of a raw gallows humor Mic brings to the reality ( “Well, Mic, how are you?” “You know, I’m fxxxed.” ), and the reason for Mic’s bringing a cane to our most recent dinner.

At first, we’d have dinner as though nothing were wrong or even
different … except for that backdrop. A family member would drop Mic off. One small change to our routine was taking him home. We realized it made sense to pick him up as well. Another small change to our routine.

Early on, the food Mic carried back to the table seemed only to be precariously placed on his unstable tray. Ultimately he could not carry the tray and either Benjamin or I did so. The tumor made itself felt.

Last summer, after dinner, the three of us enjoyed both the man-made lake bordering the restaurant and the adjacent miniature golf course. This year we played golf once, and though Mic enjoyed it as much as ever, he had to cajole his weakened left side to participate. As we dropped him off he said that his condition, as he’d given it to us that evening, was BS; “I’m inexorably moving to the end.” The tumor screamed its presence.

In July, as we were paying our entry, I asked Mic how he was feeling. He looked me straight in the eye: “You know I’m living on borrowed time.”

This struck like a stick in the stomach; “Wh…?”

He must’ve seen the look on my face or heard the unintelligible, “Seven months ago they said three to six months; get your life in order. I am beyond that time.”

And, he looked healthier than he’d looked in some time. He walked better; his trailing foot didn’t kick each step walking up stairs. Hope and optimism obscured the tumor.

Albeit with the aid of a cane, at our August dinner Mic walked still better than he had been. He continued to need help with his food tray, but when he and I went together for dessert he didn’t want any help. He beat me back to the table, but without his dessert. It was several tables away. We skipped walking the lake as gathering storm clouds confirmed the heavy rain prediction. Hope and optimism continued to hold sway over the tumor.

We had thought the August dinner was two days after his fourth MRI. Incorrectly. It was actually a week later.

Text from Mic, the following week ( my emphasis ): “MRI test is very encouraging; tumor has decreased size for about 1.5-cm in each dimension. Makes me happy.”

Mic is far from cured, but this is incredibly exciting news, and I am very happy for him, his family, and our dining trio.
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Monday, August 22, 2016

Who would vote for Donald Trump?

Many people I know are very concerned that Donald Trump will be elected president, and very very concerned that we are finding out that we live in a country that would consider electing him president.  They are asking themselves, and others, 'Who would vote for Donald Trump?'  I have a number of thoughts on the subject.

1. Donald comes across as a raciest bigot.  I think that's partially because he is a raciest bigot.  But raciest people are not bad people.  They're just wrong.  They probably came to these conclusions through legitimate experiences that they misinterpreted.  If he was your racist bigoted grandfather, you would learn to accept him for the way he is, but not choose him to speak for you, of course.

2. I grew up as a poor white male.  Not poor as in starving.  Poor as in, never had pizza delivered because we couldn't afford it, and no pizza place delivered to my neighborhood anyways, because it was too dangerous.  Not poor as in, can't afford transportation.  Poor as in having to take the bus, and having to wait for it at a bus stop perpetually littered with safety glass because we couldn't go one week without someone smashing it again.  And it burned as the society around me seemed to agree about my white... male... privilege.  Donald doesn't speak to me, but he certainly seems to be the only candidate to ever speak to people like me, with my background.

3. A lot of people feel confined by our political system,  and confined by political correctness.  Donald is not the candidate the established political powers wanted.  He says whatever thought floats  into his head.  They may not be deep, but they're his, and he doesn't even seem know how to be embarrassed to have said them in front of polite society.

4. 'Hilary did X, Y, and Z, and you're going to come down on Trump for words?  Words?!!'
I've heard it a number of times.  I'm never going to vote for someone who says or does awful things, but keep in mind who is most likely to win this election, who many are trying to vote against.

5. It is clearly a flaw with our political system, but entertainers will be celebrities, and celebrity will get you quite a ways in the polls.  It's sad but true.  Take it from me.  I'm from Minnesota, and watched Ventura and Franken get elected.

6. People who take political polls are often people who have landlines, and always people who answered the phone when an unknown number called.  And they are not the same demographic as the American voter.

Now relax, people.  Get out there and vote for Gov. Johnson.  Don't settle.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Killing Joke

A new Batman movie came out last month staring Mark Hamill, and was only in theaters for one day.  'Crazy!' you say?  But it's true.  It's because it is animated, and it is R rated.  It's just that simple, unfortunately.

I say unfortunately, because I would like to see more features like this.  It should have been the best movie of the summer.  And I did like it, but I didn't love it.
***   Spoiler Alert   ***

I had not read the comic before seeing the movie.  I was well aware of the comic, but I'm not much of a comic fan.  Which is why I was little perplexed when I was told by an acquaintance not to watch it because the comic promotes rape.

Now that I have seen the movie, and skimmed the comic, I can tell you that neither promote rape.  In the story, the Joker does cripple Barbara Gordon.  And he does remove her clothes, and take photos to use to terrorize her father.  That is sexual assault, but he does not rape her.  Even if he had, nowhere does it imply that what the Joker does is okay.

I have two major gripes with the movie.  The first is that Batgirl has sex with Batman.  That was not a part of the comic.  They added some story to the beginning for length.  I get that, and totally support it.  They used that added time to add some humanity to Batgirl before her tragedy.  I support that too.  This was not the time to even hint at sexualizing Batgirl.

The other thing I didn't like is that Batman came across as an insensitive bastard who just didn't care.  Someone he supposedly cares about was paralyzed, and assaulted, and he seems to have the same emotional attachment he would to any other crime.  But here's the twist; that's not what happened in the comic book either.

Batman plays it cool, just like in the comic.  He gives the Joker one last chance, just like in the comic.  Then when he snaps, and kills the Joker... the movie whiffs.

So what's the story?  It turns out the comic was written by a guest author who was given permission to make big changes because it was not meant to actually happen; noncanonical. But it was so popular that they made it canonical.  Except, you can't kill the Joker.  He's one if the most beloved-to-hate characters of our generation.  But it was only implied to have happened off screen; easy to ignore.

In my opinion, I agree, you can't kill the Joker.  But they should have replaced it with him roughing him up... or something, anything!  Showing the laugh, and not the snap, makes Batman a cold indifferent bastard.

All that having been said, the acting alone is enough for me to recommend this movie.  We will almost surely never have Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong together for another.  This is a well done movie that is full of great nostalgia for my generation, with a couple of awful story decisions.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

This Election Year

This year's race for the Presidency of the United States — primaries, nomination outcomes and the soon to get seriously underway general election — have caused me more angst than the usual elections do.  St Joan Chittister, OSB, has written an article on the lack of leadership in this election cycle; you can read it here. I have often prayed her Prayer for Leadership, one of whose stanzas goes like this:

Give us insight enough ourselves
to choose as leaders those who can tell
strength from power,
growth from greed,
leaership from dominance,
and real greatness from the trappings of grandiosity.

If you would like to comment but don't care to use the comment field, send an email to  wrjsojourner@gmail.com.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Road to Roads

Imagine you want to go to a local business; it doesn't matter which one.  And imagine you are getting there by foot.  I think you'll find that the majority of land between here and there will be dedicated to vehicles.  You'll cross streets, and driveways.  You'll pass onramps, and medians.  Then, when you finally arrive, you'll find most of this business's land will be dedicated to parking these vehicles.  No one wants to walk anywhere because we've dramatically increased the distance between things with land dedicated to vehicles.

This is all to say, I need to buy a car again.  With several financial questions out of the way, I bit the bullet and paid that last outstanding debt.  This bill had gone unpaid for years, and it wasn't an accident.  It was a damage deposit kept from me, illegally I believe.  But time has past, and my desire for a car now outweighs my pettiness.

Eight days later, having received no confirmation of my request for a statement showing the debt was paid, I realize my mistake.  This credit agency never did report when I made my first payment; when I paid them all but the damage deposit years ago.  What made me think they would report this one?

So now I play the waiting game.  I think it likely I'll have to wait 90 days, then file a formal complaint with all three bureaus.  And a car will have to wait, while I rely on my super power once again.  I'm a patient, patient man.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Good Fence Makes a Good Neighbor

I am progressive socially and paranoid fiscally. My parents trusted nobody with their money and weren’t particularly generous with it, either; I’ve picked up on both of those traits. Ellie was and continues to be helpful about both.

Please Note: Except for my wife’s and neighbor’s, I’ve changed names to protect the innocent; I am telling a story and promoting neither a company nor its people.

“Tell him that and see what he says.”

It’s winter in Minnesota, we have snow, a strong wind, bone-chilling wind-chill temperatures, and the wooden fence separating our yard from Andy’s is waving, preparing to fall down. It’s Andy’s fence, but board, hammer and a few nails in hand, I go out, raise a section that has actually fallen, and nail it to a section that is still stable. This keeps the section upright, but I know it’s short-term. And the term could be a couple of days; maybe hours. Depends on the wind.

“Something has to be done about that fence,” I say to Andy when the temperatures are more moderate.

“Yes, I know. Do you know whose it is?” he asks.

I’m dumbstruck, “It’s yours.”

“Ahhh … well … hmmm. I’m not prepared to replace it, but I’ll keep it from falling completely down. Would you give me contact information for that handyman you’ve had do some stuff around your place?”

Our handyman put in a better, but still short-term, fix.

Current state of the fence with multiple bungee cords keeping it off the ground.
Several more seasons came and went; the threatening to topple worsened and began infecting my fence. Late last fall we finally spoke about fencing again. “I’d like to do away with wood, eliminating the rotting we’re experiencing,” I said, “and install a plastic fence, though I had not seen many ( if any ) I’d actually liked.”

“Well, hey,” he responded, “that works. I’m sure I’ll like whatever you would choose. I’d share the cost, and replace other of my fence. Would you look into that?”

Share the cost?” “Sure.” Even as I said it, I could feel my financial paranoia seeping in.

Late winter turned to mid-spring and I had done nothing. Finally, I got after it. I asked a friend who had gotten vinyl fencing about her experience.

”FenceCompany,” she told me. “They were great, the product is wonderful, they’d do a good job for you. Www dot FenceCompany dot com.”

FenceCompany said they’d send an estimator.

Don called and came in short order. I was the general contractor, defining what both Andy and Ellie and I wanted, showing him the fence that was going to be replaced and helping him measure. “I’ll have a quote to you early next week. I can email it.”

“That’s great.”

I liked the fence. Both Andy and I thought the estimates reasonable. “There’s just one thing,” he said, “I think the twenty feet in my back, and the gate, should be wood. It would better match my neighbor’s fence on the other side.” Made sense to me.

“Oh, sure, no problem,” Don said, “changes happen all the time. “Better now than halfway through the installation,” he didn’t have to say. “His ordering two different materials will mean two different installation crews, but that’s not an issue.” The new quotes took a few days; I forwarded copies to Andy. We spoke again.

“You know, … ” he began.

Oh oh.”

“You know, I think I want to keep my old gate, to the west of my house. Tell Don and see what he says.”

He’ll say, ‘OK, I’ll requote it ( again - yikes ).’ What else is he going to say? I will feel like a high-maintenance potential customer, but I’ll tell him.” “I’ll tell him,” I said.

Don was great. “No problem,” he declared, “I’ll make that change and have something to you today or tomorrow morning.”

The estimate came that day, I forwarded it, and Andy and I spoke once more.

After agreeing that the cost and all are fine, I told Andy, “I learned something else, pretty important, when I spoke to Don this morning.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, I had always thought I’d be acting as a ‘general contractor,’  … you know, I’d hire and pay them, you’d pay me. But it’s not that way.” I didn’t tell him this addressed the paranoia I felt about the money aspect of this project; that was about me but I was sure it wouldn’t seem that way to him.

“Oh?” he asked.

“Right … they will contract with each of us, you for your fence and me for mine. The common fence has to go on one of our bills,” I continued, “and they’ll put it on mine because I’m the one who called. So you will owe me for only half of the common fence.”

Don recently came to sign all the paperwork for our fence. The project is a go and has given me an opportunity to get to know Andy better; I am grateful for it.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

More Growing Up

Have you ever woken up for work, checked your phone, and found out you don't need to work today?  That's a good day.

Working from home has always been a convenience thing.  My commute is four hours round trip.  It's better than most, I think.  A 30 minute drive is a 30 minute hassle to me, while two hours walking, and play games or reading on the bus is not.  But it does take a chunk of my day.

Today I got a minor schedule change, one that I've been working towards for years, that comes with one day working from home a week.  It's more than convenience to me though.  It's a sign that I'm making it as an adult, even if it is a small one.  My long term goal is to find a job that I can do completely from home, anywhere in the world, by the time I'm 55.  I have twenty years.

To counter act this unexpected spurt of maturity, I was finally able to get my hands on one of these numbers. --->

This is an adult size Gir hoodie from Invader Zim.  I first saw one in children sizes when the show had just finished airing.  I knew I needed one the moment I saw that zipper.  But they never made them in men's sizes.

I've spent the last year or so, checking Ebay once in a while for a large enough women's version, with no success.  I even toyed with the idea of to talking to someone I know about having one made.  Then a couple of weeks about, Ebay came through.  A women's 2XL.

Now that I have it, it's everything I thought it would be.  It's like wearing a toy.