Going On the Account: Belaboring May the 4th

Happy May the 4th! I used to have a joke about this line, about someone who’s background made them respond in an odd way:

They say: “May the Force be with you.”

Respondent: “And also with you.”

And then, it gets used in an episode of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, so there that goes…

Elsewhere around the Internet, someone posted a question on a popular site. Which, yes, can be dangerous, but still, it’s an interesting thought experiment:

“What if Anakin never met Padme? Without that attachment, would he have still turned to the dark side?”

So far, some answers have ranged between “he stays a nobody on Tatooine” and “he still becomes Vader (even though now he’s just small fry…)” which seems a pretty reasonable range of possibilities.

There’s another way to look at an undiscovered Anakin alternative timeline, which may be unpopular…

Remember the final scene in The Last Jedi, when we have someone start using the Force without being part of the whole Jedi-Industrial-Complex? Yes, it’s a movie everyone hated, but stay with me here…

So: Anakin never meets Padme, et al., and doesn’t get taken off Tatooine. He’s stuck there like the last two Disney+ shows were, never getting off-world, but with so high a midi-chlorian count that he’s very likely going to go off like a forgotten World War II bomb.

Which comes when he’s an adult and Palpatine tries to January 6th the Galactic Republic. Now, whether having Anakin there makes a difference or not in the planning of the putsch can be argued, but let’s assume that Darth Maul isn’t cut in two and somehow Jar-Jar plays the useful idiot in the Senate (as opposed to being just an idiot elsewise), and we get the Empire established.

So, we have someone with a lot of power who’s grown up a slave, who watches as a bad situation gets worse around him, which builds up his well-established anger…

But this time, all he has as reference is his background, being one of the littlest of the little people. He doesn’t have any experience being a Padawan, able to roll into bars like a state trooper out in the woods like he did in Attack of the Clones. He’s got nothing to frame what’s happening around him other than being a pawn in a bigger game…

Okay, less of a pawn in a bigger game than he was in the films, granted. Maybe not even a checker.

But, he’s got abilities, and he feels he needs to use them. Anakin gets riled, and decides he wants to smash things (again, anger issues), and he leads his own rebellion. One that starts small, maybe just Mos Eisley, where he puts down all the bosses we got introduced to in The Book of Boba Fett and then promptly forgot, and decides that no one will ever be put down and made unimportant again.

And when he wins, the Mos Esiley Collective becomes an inspiration for the rest of the planet. Maybe Anakin takes a direct hand, or he finds good lieutenants to work on his behalf. Hells, he made C-3PO, so maybe he builds a few right-hand representatives to work on behalf of the people.

At which point, he succeeds, and then declares the People’s Republic of Tatooine.

And soon after, the worlds of the galaxy who might have problems with both the Empire (ruthless efficiency at the expense of everyone) and the Republic (not going back to that mess again, thank you) decide that this, the third way to go forward, is worth looking into. We get collectivist candidates rising up as followers of Anakinism, either with the help of advisors from Tatooine or on their own, and soon collectives and syndicates spring up and join together, making the wars to come a three-way battle with a lot of hard choices for who to side with and root for.

Making for a MUCH better story…

Hey, you want to build a Star Wars holiday that close to May Day, especially with the fight for unions being what it is at this moment, what did you expect…?

Going On the Account: If At First…

Memory can be a blessing and a curse. In this instance, maybe both…

For the last few years, my work was ending up more on Facebook than it was here. There were a number of reasons for that, such as ease of use on that platform, not a lot of time for cross-posting in the middle of things, hadn’t been able to give this site the update it needed before now. There were a number of things that got in the way of putting material here that contributed to my laziness my situation.

One of the things about Facebook that you can either love or hate is its “Memories” function, which allows you to see what you were doing on this date in the past. Have pictures taken of you of that party where you hooked up with someone you had to do the walk of shame from afterwards? Yep, there. Said something about a person or piece of work that didn’t age well? Uh-huh, here you go. Pictures with people you loved who are no longer in your life? Sadly, those too.

Thankfully, I don’t have many of those. There’s very little that I posted that I’d die of embarrassment of if it came back up. I’d still get maudlin if pics of those I miss came up, but presumably most people would.

One thing that surprised me, though, was a few opinion pieces I shared on this date, both of which for whatever reason are still relevant issues, even with all that’s gone on before then. Some matters never die, and are so continually active that something from a century ago can still qualify as a hot take.

For example, this statement about “cancel culture” from 2021, which managed to tie in with education practices today…

So, there’s a lot of talk about “cancel culture,” stating the horror that things are being taken away from folks.

Forget the idea that maybe some of these things being taken away have gone well beyond their shelf life, like that container of leftovers in the back of your fridge that you probably should have thrown out months ago; let’s assume that these “cancelled” items still have a place, beyond just being a “good bad idea.”

Notice who some of the folks are who seem especially anxious to claim that it’s an attack on what they believe is their heritage, a heritage they have supported through their champions at the top of the ticket every four years.

Champions such as the last one they had, who put into office a Secretary of Education who removed the protections of students the Obama Administration had implemented, while at the same time backing off on prosecuting fly-by-night “schools” that took student’s money yet left them uneducated.

Champions like George W. Bush, who during his administration championed the No Child Left Behind Act, which tied funding to schools that measured their performance based on basic skills tests, tests that were so important that most schools cut from the curricula everything but test prep.

Champions like Ronald Reagan, who wanted to eliminate the Department of Education and instead focused on such critical education issues as whether prayer was allowed in the classroom.

After about forty years of these “champions” having had a hand in American education policy, we were likely to end up where we are today, with a generation that could not bring nuance to an observation, capable only of binary reaction, such reactions serving the “cancelled” badly as their time on stage counts down to the end.

An outcome that some might appreciate more, had the education policies above not prevented them from learning about the law of unintended consequences…

Or, this piece from 2020, which discussed everyone being scarred of COVID-19, but still works about how we relate to it today, along with other things to be terrified of…

I wasn’t going to go into this, but the way things are going, it’s probably better to share:

Everyone is freaking out about our state of emergency right now. There’s been a lot of stress, a lot of panic, people losing their f’n’ minds over this. It’s making people go to a dark place that makes them say and even do things that would not have happened had there not been this stress. You’ve probably seen this the last time you went to the store, so examples would be superfluous.


I can fully relate. Years ago, as the Cold War entered into its last stages, I was making that trip down the dark spiral myself. If you don’t remember it, it was not a lot of fun: There were too many strategic weapons held on both sides, both of whose leaders were not anyone you’d put at the top of the list to trust with these toys. I kept abreast with the latest information, thinking that at least knowing what was driving me on would be better than being entirely in the dark. To this day, I can still give you throw weights for the SS-20 and Minuteman if asked.


(And keep in mind, this was trying to learn everything that was knowable at the time. If you get a chance, look up “Abel Archer 83” and ask, how comfortable would you be if at the time you’d known more about this…)


One of the side effects of dealing with this sense of dread, unfortunately, was that fear was being supplanted by depression. What was the point, I thought, of a life that either out of stupidity or carelessness would have ended in no more than 90 minutes? And if somehow I wasn’t a casualty of the first strike, what would be the point of fighting with the roaches for food? When Khrushchev’s quote about how in such a time the living would envy the dead kept playing in the background, it didn’t make me good company at what few parties would still invite me to attend.


It took years to get out of that. Well, that and the end of the Cold War itself; had we still had this going on, who knows if I would ever get out. But as I climbed out, I started to regret not having as many good associations with that time of my life as I should have. It took more time after that to make up for it, in terms of getting to a place where I felt I had actually lived.


The point of all this rambling is, yes, these times are scary, and keeping ahead of this by staying informed is recommended. But please, save a little piece of yourself. If too much of your attention and awareness gets overwhelmed, the damage can be crippling, long lasting, and take far too long to correct. Take some time to do something that allows you to relax; a good book, a decent album, a favorite game you can play (even a solo game, maybe especially one such considering the times), anything you can do to avoid burnout and being overwhelmed.

We should all watch for the immediate danger so as to keep ourselves safe, but what’s the damn point if we have nothing left to save afterwards…?

Maybe Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr had it right all along, which is a double-edged sword. We never really get out of or away from these troubles, though with enough exposure we could build up an immunity.

I’m not a big fan of the idea of history being able to repeat itself, but I do agree with whoever came up with it* that it can rhyme, or at least have the same beat. Maybe with that in mind, we can work on our dance to make it easier to do…

++++++++

* Don’t start giving me notes about how it was Mark Twain who said that. Apparently he didn’t, despite what others have said.

Besides, I’d rather go with an attributable source that may have been a bit more hopeful as they used the term…

Going On the Account: I Don’t Like Knowing That I Know Nothing

He that would live in peace & at ease, must not speak all he knows or judge all he sees.

  • Benjamin Franklyn, Poor Richard’s Almanac

I should warn everyone here that there will be spoilers in the article.

Well, not specific spoilers; more spoilers in the aggregate as a general concept…

If you follow any fandoms, there will be times when you’re anticipating what comes next in a franchise. Who’s going to be the next Doctor when the show starts a new series; who is going to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness; there are likely examples beyond these that follow through the following steps:

  1. A project is announced, generally a continuation of a favorite story and/or using beloved characters from the audience’s past
  2. The promotion of the project begins, with all kinds of hints as to what to expect to build up anticipation and desire to see the project
  3. The potential audience starts exchanging rumors and speculations as to what’s going to be in the project
  4. The project premiers and there are indeed surprises
  5. There’s a split in the potential audience between those who want to be surprised and those who need to know what the surprise is before going to see it themselves
  6. Finger-pointing and name-calling ensue between the two groups in 5, above
  7. The surprises become general knowledge in time for the cycle to begin again for the next project in the series, as described in 1, above

The whole “Spoilers” argument is almost as old as the first examples of our modern means of storytelling. There were people who would haunt the wharfs of New York, asking sailors from England if Dora had died yet. Years later, the film The Bat in 1926 asked patrons not to spoil the end of the film:

And these are just the ones we remember today; there were probably plenty of twists in stories forgotten long ago where revealing them had led to hurt feelings, arguments, fist-fights, divorce, manslaughter, international incidents, what-have-you…

And to be frank, there are times when a little foreknowledge can be a good thing.

Now, before I go on: Yes, there are good reasons to live by a version of omerta when it comes to what’s in a work. Mysteries where you know who did it can be hard to enjoy, unless Peter Falk is handling the case. Having something pop up you didn’t expect can be thrilling, if it’s something that doesn’t take you entirely out of it (i.e., the big surprise in Rise of the Planet of the Apes versus the sudden turn in Rat Pfink a Boo Boo).

Playing advocatus diaboli here is a much easier task than you’d assume. There’s of course the traditional argument in favor of keeping your mouth shut, that such works that depend on the surprise need to be funded somehow, which can easily be dispensed with: If it’s such a good piece, it should be able to withstand being revealed ahead of time. Anything that can’t stand on its own without the big surprise is like a jump scare video: If that’s all ya got, don’t bother me with this, because annoying me ain’t the way to win me over to be your audience.

Beyond that, there’s the whole access ecosystem issue: You like something enough to follow it, but you can’t see it for yourself. There’s the expectation that if you want to know what everyone is (refusing to) talk about (without chastisement), you just have to go see it yourself. There’s a whole cliquish division that spreads between fans as an “us” versus “them” delineation gets imposed on the group at large, which at a time when we’re trying to stop such behavior seems at best counter-productive.

Is paying the piper really worth it if in the process the paying audience turns on the rest of the crowd?

Beyond that, there’s also the issue of ability to join. Many of the arguments in favor of going to see the piece for yourself came about during times when whether you could do so was a simple, binary “yes-or-no” option. Does Dora die? Buy a copy at the bookstore, the 19th Century version of Kindle Vella. So what happens in The Bat? It only costs a nickel to see what takes place.

Since then, though, not everything is as accessible as that. The costs of going to a film or buying a first edition book have skyrocketed, comparable to then. With a nickel in 1923 worth eighty-two cents as I write this, compared to the average price of a movie ticket in the US being $9.16 (as of 2019), it’s easy to see how he division between the “seen its” and “want to knows” came about thanks to factors beyond the audience’s control.

The above doesn’t take into account some unexpected additional costs. This observation got prompted by more than a few folk talking about how they wish they didn’t have spoilers revealed ahead of time when they went to see Spider-Man: No Way Home. The spoiler situation was especially divisive between the folks who wanted to know everything without going versus the ones who went to the theaters to see it for themselves.

Right in the middle of the Omicron Variant flare-up.

Is it fair to blame the movie for a spike in infections that threw off efforts to return to (what passes for) normal? Can we blame it for contributing to 100,000 deaths in the US? At the very least, the optics ain’t good here.

Maybe it’s past time we stop using our having gotten to see it before others, as an excuse to claim being better than others. Maybe the person who wants to know without going to see it isn’t trying to ruin it for anyone, but is unable to enjoy it themselves otherwise. Claiming that your enjoyment of something depends on keeping information out of circulation needs to be re-thought, until such a time when we’re all healthier, both physically and economically.

With that in mind, I have a few revelations to share:

  1. He was home the whole time.
  2. They don’t prevent the mountain from blowing up and killing everyone.
  3. He was talking about something from his childhood.
  4. He was just pretending to be crippled.
  5. He slept with the villain responsible for the diabolical plot.
  6. Everyone thought it was the butler, but he proved them all wrong.
  7. The second of the three likely solutions works the best.

As for what these spoilers are for…

Well, okay, I’m holding a few cards close to my chest. Maybe you’re reading this and still haven’t been convinced that you can freely talk about what takes place in a work. Maybe you want these answers, but only for something you specifically want to know about, and don’t need the rest of them right off.

Otherwise, if you read the above revelations and have questions, which as I promised are not specific spoilers…

Well, to an extent, at least, somewhat…

In any event, I encourage you to get out there and look for where these came from. Which is one way to use spoilers for everyone’s benefit: Not as a conversation ender, but a starting point to discuss something that someone may not have seen yet, or maybe hadn’t thought about in while.

So, yes there are spoilers, but from where? Do you know…?

Going On the Account: Getting Played When You Should Just Stay Home

A farce or comedy is best played; a tragedy is best read at home.

  • Attributed to Abraham Lincoln (just because too many people repeat this doesn’t mean it can be accepted as his at face value…)

As I write this, the continuing tragedy Ukraine is suffering unfolds so fast, that anything I write about may be out-of-date moments after I hit the ‘Post’ button.

The tragedy of this armed conflict, rolling tanks into another country for petty reasons, is especially hard to bear when you consider our history with the victims over the last few years, and how much that enabled the current crisis to come about.

You could say quite clearly that we all saw this coming, even though most of the times we say it are after the fact. If we really did have faith in our predictions and acted on them, so much suffering would have been avoided.

Sometimes, though, the déjà vu takes on a form that can be disturbing, especially when tragedy gets an adaptation that gets a wide release…

Case in point: The first full day of the invasion, February 24th, I ended up watching the coverage of the war on CNN. We’d get a detail or three for a few minutes, and then take a commercial break. It was a great lesson in how little tragedy can stand up to the needs of sponsors.

And as it went on, the tagline from this film kept playing in my head: “In a moment World War III… But first a word from our sponsor…”

Wrong Is Right from 1982 was a comedy in name only about a major crisis that as it unfolds brings in a news journalist at an all-news outlet to try and get to the bottom of a complicated but forgettable plot. There’s a lot to dismiss in the film, save for the portrayal of an on-the-scene reporter who gets involved in much of the action. We get these scenes of a journalist who somehow has all of these first-hand encounters that feel unlikely, even if it is Sean Connery playing the character.

At least they did until Matthew Chance’s encounter with Spetsnaz.  Not quite as daring as anything in the film, and nearly comical as every time Chance relates the story after this report was aired, he seemed to imply that he couldn’t tell the difference between Ukrainian and Russian combatants. Still, it’s probably better to have a living idiot than a dead cautionary tale…

It’s probably one of the few funny not that tragic stories to come out of this crisis so far, one of a number of things that keep getting said over and over for the sake of avoiding dead air. Much like multiple references to Vladimir Putin’s having graduated from the KGB in 1975, and how by his behavior he seems to want to go back to those days as he goes on about why he’s doing this.

Which of course has to bring up another movie we wish we’d forgotten…

You can be forgiven for not remembering Boris And Natasha, even envied. The film was a straight-to-video release, despite the big cast and assumed important IP. Believe it or not, once upon a time a film skipping theaters for home screens was considered a bad thing; had this happened in 2020, the producers would have been honored for being considerate. At least, until people saw the film…

(The fact that this film came to mind within hours of reports of Sally Kellerman’s death adds a whole new aspect of tragedy to this.)

This one comes to mind thanks to its plot, where the title characters’ boss, Fearless Leader, sends his assets out to the US to get their hands on a microchip. This special piece of hardware is sought by him for his glorious plan: To bring back the Cold War!

Which… Oh, boy, is that being said a lot about this mess. It even found its way into President Biden’s press briefing on February 24th, yet one more observation that we’re going back to those days.

Which, if we had to choose going back to 1975 as opposed to, say, 1941, well…

What keeps these thoughts going before we get entirely Proustian are images on screen of how the Russians are going in. Perhaps we look at the hardware out of curiosity, or are shown it continuously to give us a sense of how potent the Russians are or want to appear to be:

And sure, you can say they look impressive. In fact, there’s been a lot of discussion about the T-72 tank

Since 1979, when the US Army first assessed its capabilities in detail.

Likewise, the Su-27 has also been discussed, as far back as 1989 when the USAF assessed the plane and its strengths and weaknesses.

We’re talking weapons that were certainly worth talking about when Ronald Reagan was president. Whether they’re still worth talking about now, though, that hasn’t been brought up as much. And such tanks and planes can be upgraded only so much over time, and thirty years is a long time to try and keep them operational, let alone cutting edge.

And sitting there watching the footage and saying, “Hey, that’s a-“ as I watch, is disorienting. There’s a moment of pride that I remembered these from all of those books by Tom Clancy and Larry Bond that I read back when there was a USSR.

Then there’s a moment of hope that somehow, the fact that this invasion is being carried out with hand-me-downs means that the Russians may not have it as together as they and Fox News would like to have you believe.

That no one else seems to be seeing this, though, and may be buying into the aggressor’s narrative, just becomes one more reason to be sad about the affair. Sad, angry, resilient, you name it; it sucks sometimes to remember things.

Let us at least remember the Ukrainians:

Going On the Account: I Only Give You My Situation…

(You can see what’s taken place before this section in this post from my Facebook page)

I was in my home rehearsing for the gig that I and the rest of the band have for tomorrow. We’re actually on the main stage this year, after years of practice under the staircase next to the lobby, showcasing our work. You should come by and hear us.

So, I’m at the keyboard, and suddenly this small yellow… something formed in the air and plopped on the keys, producing a sustained E-major chord. After I stopped being startled, I picked it up, and it started talking to me in my head:

“Hmmm,” I ‘heard’ it say, “you’ll do nicely,” and the next thing I knew, I felt my mind turn off and my body going limp, like I was floating downstream, like driftwood on green seas under a blue sky.

And when I woke up, there was me. Or more precisely, he was me as you see me done up now. I was he as he was he and he was me and I was all together confused.

“Excellent,” he said aloud, lips moving and all, as he looked me over. “You could pass for the original.”

I wanted to say, “But I am the original,” for, reasons.

To find out what happens to our hero, the British Invasion Fan, you should read the story “You Never Give Me Your Money,” which can be found in the book THE FANS ARE BURIED TALES.

Currently being funded on Kickstarter, the anthology will be published by Crazy 8 Press, and is edited by Peter David and Kathleen O’Shea David. In addition to the above story, there’s also works in the book from the likes of Keith DeCandido, Ian Randal Stock, Robert Greenberger, Jo Duffy, John Peel, Martin A. Perez, Michael Jan Friedman, Ben Vincent, Aaron Rosenberg, and Peter himself, amidst a cadre of talent.

Whatever fandom you follow, with your support of the Kickstarter campaign, a splendid time is guaranteed for all…

Going On the Account: If You Ever Want to Hear from Me Again…

So, if you visit this site regularly, then

(a) Thank you, and

(b) You probably wonder why I don’t have anything in the “Other Appearances” tag lately.

Part of that is because one of the anthologies I’m in needs a little help from you.

This is a collection I’ve been accepted in, but long story short, the publisher was unable to launch the book as planned thanks to COVID, and the editor (the talented Peter David) is currently in the hospital. In order for this book to go to press, they went to Kickstarter to get this to the printer.You know Peter David, right? Author of KNIGHT LIFE, ARTFUL, HOWLING MAD, and probably a bunch of other books you like? Surely you must have read some of the comic books he wrote, such as THE INCREDIBLE HULK and SPIDER-MAN, haven’t you?

And if you’re fans of some of the following, they all have a piece in the work that’s worth a read:

Aaron Rosenberg

Robert Greenberger

Michael Jan Friedman

Mary Fan

Jo Duffy

Rigel Ailur

Ian Randal Strock

Patrick Storck

Susan Hillwig

Brenda Huettner

Robert Jeschonek

C.J. Espinoza

Paige Daniels

D.M. Rasch

Eugene Ramos

Steve Nagy

Ian Harac

Rande Goodwin

Martin A. Perez

John Trumbull

Christopher J. Valin and Steve Beaulieu

John J. X. Cihon

“Uncle” Wes Nicholson

Raphael Sutton

Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Susan Stanelow Olesen

R.P. Steeves

Keith R. A. DeCandido

Isaac Sher

Denise Sutton

Andy Allard

Glen Cadigan

John Peel

James Ryan (yeah, me!)

Josh Pritchett

Steven L. Rosenhaus

Bev Vincent

Surely for *their* sake to see this in print (and your own, as hey, more good stuff from them for your bookshelf), you owe it to click and chip in.

Yes, *you* can keep this book from an ignoble fate; this anthology has plenty of good stories in it that is worth your support.

Here is where you can go to the Kickstarter.

And if this gets off the ground and into your hands, there may well be more goodies to add to that page…

Going On the Account: Why You Might Not Do That (Even If You’d Otherwise Do Anything for Love…)

Composite image from individual shots via Getty

This morning, there was a death in the Culture Wars.

Okay, more like a death that got caught up in the Culture Wars: We heard Meat Loaf passed away the day before, which led to a lot of fond recollections about Bat Out of Hell and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Then, we find out Meat Loaf was an anti-vaxxer whose stands on vaccination contributed to his death, which made a lot of folks with fond recollections suddenly do a double-take. He’s quoted as saying about not taking precautions, “If I die, I die, but I’m not going to be controlled.” Which, well, mission accomplished, I guess…

His timing was certainly interesting. There’d been a bit of chatter of late about whether to support an artist you don’t agree with, whether someone who you can’t abide for their opinions or stands should ever be enjoyed by the audience. Just days before, Joss Whedon spoke up to try and get ahead of his own maleficence doing in his legacy, with… limited success, to put it mildly. (It didn’t help that Gita Jackson at Vice puts his career in perspective a few days earlier in a way that will allow the reader to cite other reasons for putting your Buffy and Firefly merch into a corner of the room you don’t go to that often…)

That these two came up in the same week is not really a quick hot take, just more the latest round of an ongoing issue: Art we like from people we can’t. There are way, way too many examples that can be cited, like Harvey Weinstein, Richard Wagner, Marion Zimmer Bradley, J. K. Rowling, et cetera. And the problem is, you start finding more than one radioactive apple in the cellar, suddenly there’s no good fruit left, as the questions as to what’s acceptable when asked will always lead to more such questions like that. Once you ask why this one’s issues make them persona non grata while that one’s don’t, getting into an endless IF-THEN loop, your ability to find something to enjoy is badly compromised.

Case in point: I’d been a fan of the Mamas and the Papas for years. Their harmonies were some of the best that came out of the Sixties scene, not quite the complex arrangements that Brian Wilson gave the Beach Boys, but definitely a few strata above their peers. Doing a deep dive into their catalog was always a pleasure, finding pieces that were a surprise if all you knew where the usual numbers in heavy rotation:

So imagine the hurt upon hearing Mackenzie Phillips’ account. Listening to the music after this, that was difficult. For me, the whole question of “cancelling” came up as far back as 2009. It’s something I’ve lived with it for some time, with each new revelation popping up yet one more step on a long jagged trail.

And after all this time, how to approach the next revelation still requires a moment to take a breath. It’s hard when you’ve been a fan and embraced a creator, and you have to consider their output in a whole new way, and it’s never going to get easier.

And after so long wrestling with the question, the best way forward I can find is to ask yourself a question that gets asked a lot among lawyers in all fields:

Cui bono?

The question in Latin, “Who benefits?” is worth considering as you look at what makes up your personal canon, your list of what you feel worth engaging with going forward. The whole ‘separating the artist from the art’ ideal obviously asks you if you benefit from having that work in your life still, but there’s another component, which is how we share and appreciate modern (boy-do-I-hate-the-term) “intellectual property.”

In such a setting, there’s usually a payment requested for the work. Buying a ticket at the movies or subscribing to an online service, paying a fee to download something, maybe buying a product from that artist’s sponsor as they’re hoping that because you love this work, that you can share some of that love with them. There is an economic component to such works, one where the creator may or may not be able to see some payment for what they do.

In a case like that, one question that may help is, “Will my enjoying this work give the person I don’t like any money for it?” That question tends to clarify a lot of internal conflict.

If you think your engaging with a work will reward someone for actions they shouldn’t be, then don’t spend the money on them. If on the other hand the artist won’t see any money from how you enjoy that work, it makes it a lot simpler to separate creator from creation.

If you’re not sure if your money will find that artist one way or another, I highly recommend getting a sense of the workings of the industry where that person’s work is. I’ve always asked that of anyone who reads or watches or listens, as you will always benefit from a sense of context. (One big caveat here: Don’t use this as an excuse to pirate someone’s work, please.)

And if you don’t like how mercenary it is to consider a price tag when you want art, well, that’s a discussion about a whole different set of bad behaviors that go to the core of this whole mess…

Going On the Account: Do You Feel What I Feel?

Originally, I wanted to go with a dumpster fire, but because this year’s been bad enough, well…

I almost didn’t finish this piece I started last week, but after the most recent developments, this doesn’t feel as whiney as it did a few days ago…

No, I’m not really feeling it this year, sorry.

Especially after a year like this one.

Yeah, sure, it’s better than last year. There are way too many ways it could be worse than last year, if we had just a little bit more fascism, thermonuclear weapons, unfamiliar pathogens, societal collapse, take your pick (but please, only one, we’re not that resilient…).

(Yeah, I wrote that before the current whammy, my bad…)

It could be an accident of geography. A local cable news outlet reported on how New York state is in the least festive mood this year, according to an internet service provider’s list. Which, yeah, has all kinds of issues with methodology, so take of that what you will…

You’d think that with some good news as far as some of my writing has gone, with a few bits of news I can share once the ink’s dry, there’d be a more festive feel around here, but no, not really. When I can better share it, I’ll put up links to the works on the “Other Appearances” page.

It could be from trying to do bigger gatherings than we could last year, under less than ideal conditions now. Picture trying to get back up on a bike for the first time in years after your last ride ended with you breaking an arm and leg; you get rusty at things you haven’t done in a while because of bad associations with the task. With a lot of companies still not having workers on site, I feel sorry for anyone in this environment trying to put together a department holiday party.

That’s where my head’s at as I write this: I want to do something to have a holiday, probably in spite of the headwinds, but John Lennon and the Waitresses ain’t doing it for me, and hearing bells this time of year just won’t have the same meaning considering the other occasion you could be ringing them for

So, this year, we need a playlist with a few favorites that still work, along with some pieces that better embody what this season’s given us:

“Oi to the World,” the Vandals:

“Christmas is Coming,” the Payola$:

“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight,” the Ramones:

“The Little Drummer Boy,” Christopher Lee:

“Santa Dog,” the Residents:

“Don’t Shoot Me Santa,” the Killers:

“Christmas Bop,” T. Rex:

“Father Christmas,” the Kinks:

“Run Rudolph Run,” Chuck Berry:

“I Believe in Father Christmas,” Greg Lake:

And if you still need bells, there’s this mash-up of “Carol of the Bells” and “The Imperial March” from the Star Wars films from Samuel Kim:

Let’s hope next year’s playlist can be a bit cheerier, one that we’re able to listen to when we’re all together in the same indoor space…

Going On the Account: She Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good…

So, this was passed around on social, with Anna Rose getting the credit for bringing this point up:

Which, yeah, when you put it that way, makes The Santa Clause an entirely different movie.

And, as noted when it was passed around, raises questions about the previous Mrs. Clause, and what she does if Santa’s… “recast,” let’s say…

There’s another possibility, though, putting the focus elsewhere:

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The real power is Mrs. Clause, a name we settle on because her original name was lost years ago.

She’s way older than everyone on Earth, maybe older than every living thing on Earth, with more power than a supernova at her fingertips.

As she’s not sure about these humans that are on this world. There are times when we’re only one dark thought crossing her mind away from the end of everything we know.

But, rather than taking out all of humanity, and possibly everything within seven parsecs of Earth, she tests us: She picks a consort, someone who is required to sort the wheat from the chafe, the nice from the naughty. If there are more who are deserving than not, then another year passes, and humanity is safe because her consort showed her that the majority are worth letting them live out their lives, which to her are like mayflies to us. Should there not be enough good people, though, then…

And the consort? On the one hand, she gifts him well with a mere trinket, the smallest of her energies and abilities (around the world instantly, immortality, omniscience) and possibly companionship if she feels she needs something to pass the time. In return, he does her bidding, and otherwise is at her side in a dimension that one needs to find the gate to at the North Pole to enter her realm.

And sometimes, a consort needs to be replaced. Like all parts and tools, wear and tear take their toll, and a replacement must be found from time to time. Sometimes it’s subtle, say a lure placed surreptitiously on the consort in the event an (inevitable) accident occurs, getting the position filled right away. Maybe someone of renown draws her attention, or someone brave/foolish enough to wander through the dimension gate shows up, and the way we’d switch out a bulb because it’s better to do that now rather than sit in the dark or any time, a new consort comes.

And what does the consort think of this? Well, do we ask our tools when they think of their lot…?

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Which, yeah: Why is it when we look at Santa and occasionally bring up his wife, she’s essentially an afterthought? What if we’re looking at the wrong character in this story…?

Going On the Account: Everyone’s Weaving It, Coming On Strong All the Time

So, what happens after you finish creating your work?

I mean, beyond waiting for the check to clear…

So, you got yourself something you created. A story or novel you wrote. A song you composed. A film you finished. A business deal that leaves all parties happy.

(Hey, according to Andy Warhol, that last one counts…)

It’s out there, it’s free, or at least as free as your copyrights and executed agreements can allow it to be. You have something you can point to, something you can show the world to say, “Yes, I was here, and this is something I did.”

And…?

I mean, is that all you can expect, that and for the check to clear…?

Is art just one ego trip? Are we actually giving anyone anything when we finish and display our work?

You’re probably expecting some platitude about how anything we create can inspire others and give them something that can be a part of their lives. You might be expecting something about how a creator’s efforts can inspire other creations, making the world all the better.

And yes, that’s being said here, but with verified observations!

MMRTLNC1959.jpg

In 1959, Robert Sheckley released his first novel, Immortality, Inc. Long story short, it’s a novel about someone from 1958 who gets their brain uploaded into a new body in 2110. Yes, it’s expensive, so yes, there are haves-and-have-nots dynamics to unpack, a subject that’s popped up now and again in genre that’s, well…

The novel became a classic, one that ultimately gets adapted in the UK for the series Out of the Unknown. I can’t speak to how good a job they did, as this was a victim of the Great BBC Tape Purges. We mostly hear about lost episodes of Doctor Who, or early appearances of the Beatles, being lost to time when we review probably the most infamous content retention policy ever devised by any network, so a show with a more limited audience is likely to just disappear without a trace.

Or at least not be recalled again until much later, in a roundabout manner…

In the first episode of Get Back, covering the early days of 1969 and a project that would give us the film Let It Be, we watch George Harrison describe what he watched on the telly the night before, describing bits and pieces of the episode of Out of the Unknown that aired on BBC. He mentions what he was watching to give the background on where his head was when he composed the song he brought in to show the band, a piece called “I Me Mine

So from that, we have a clear path from a novel to a TV show to a song. We may not always have the DNA of pieces so neatly labeled like this, but it shows us what happens when someone creates a work, that it doesn’t just stop there. It can touch the audience and maybe even spark a whole new work, something unexpected and wholly apart from the original that won’t touch off a copyright claim, which is probably better discussed in another piece.

(Yes, there was also Freejack, which was based off the novel, which brings in Mick Jagger to the overall story, but there’s more than enough connections for one blog post here…)

The point is, yes, you have more reasons to share what you create than just because you want to see your name out there.

That, and waiting for the damn check to arrive…

Going On the Account: No, That’s *Not* What That Means!

As of this writing, we now have two weeks to go before Thanksgiving in the US, which means we’re six weeks into advertising for Christmas.

Which, okay, the way things have gone as of late, between supply chain issues and the spike in prices therefrom, maybe we do need a little Christmas now. A little something cheerful, even if we do tend to veer away from the reason we have the day celebrated (with a few notable exceptions).

But this year, we’ve got two egregious examples of drawing the wrong lessons from the story.

Not the one you’re thinking about…

"A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens and illustrated by John Leech.

By now, everyone must have had some contact with A Christmas Carrol by Charles Dickens. A few movie adaptations, at least, including ones with Alastair Sim, or Albert Finney, or George C. Scott, or Patrick Stewart, or the Muppets.

It’s worth reading the original. Copies can be downloaded here, and the whole text is online for ease of reading. At the very least, having a quick summary on hand is an option.

Something the ad folks working on these products should have done before these got shot…

This, for example: Marley is visiting Ebenezer to show him the past, the present, and the future, a future where the electric car is a definite improvement over a horse-drawn hansom or the current gas-powered car.

Which… Wha’? The whole point of Ebenezer seeing the past, present, and future is to encourage him to be a better person, but here our Ebenezer is under no obligation to do better. Are we assuming that our protagonist is someone who doesn’t need to consider their past, and can ignore everything they did in their life because there’s a reward for it?

And considering our habits created a need for an electric car, don’t we need to be mindful of what led us there so that we don’t continue to make more mistakes? If ol’ Ebenezer here gets handed a new car and can’t take into account how the power grid needs to change to allow for plug-ins, then he really didn’t learn anything, did he?

(Please refrain from “electric car net zero” jokes; they weren’t that funny the first few times…)

Speaking of failing to learn, we get the above spot from Peloton, where Scrooge snarls at carolers before someone (with a few bucks and no sense) gifts him their bike. We then watch as he uses the product and finds himself healthier and happier (while the instrumental for Danny Elfman’s “What’s This?” plays in the background, because… Okay, I don’t know either…).

Scrooge may be happier and healthier, but there’s nothing to say he’s a better person. There are too many people, likely at least one of them you know personally, who are fit and together and yet still are f’n’ G-d a-holes; the only happy outcome suggested by the spot is that he stays inside on the bike for the rest of his life and is no longer anyone else’s problem.

(Considering Peloton has had issues with their commercial campaigns before, this is probably an improvement compared to that…)

Yes, the original source material is 179 years old as of this writing, but getting a worse mangling in a bad game of telephone than the other tales the holiday is based on, which have been around for far longer, seems at best really sloppy. That the main point in a story about self-reflection making someone a better person would get hurled to the curb without slowing the car down be lost in so cavalier a fashion is at best a misunderstanding, and at worst appropriation for nefarious commercial purposes.

It may be too late to save the original meaning of Christmas, but can’t we at least try to save the original meaning of A Christmas Carol…?

Going On the Account: No, We Have Not Forgotten…   Yet…

Source: US Navy

There’s a piece in today’s Vice about the state of piracy in 2021.

As the novel Raging Gail came about just as the acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia were making the news, it’s appropriate that new developments be brought up here as they emerge.

If you’re asking, “Why should I know about something that doesn’t affect me?” well, that’s some of what Villalba’s story covers, how the actions pirates undertake tend to be localized. It’s the same way you can read a story about a mugging in Brooklyn from your home in Kansas City, Take-your-Pick, and wonder what it has to do with you.

The big reason why it does, it’s probably pointless to discuss. If by this time your empathy can’t extend that far out, there’s no reason to scream anymore. After the last few years seeing what egotism taken to the nth degree has gotten us, if after that you still can’t find it in you to care, then hell, nothing I’ve got’s going to work anyways.

Maybe the fact that we’re currently dealing with supply chain issues, however, may do the trick.

Consider this: When we romanticize the “Golden Age of Piracy,” we’re looking at a time in the late 17th-early 18th centuries when pirates were on everyone’s minds. What made them loom in our thoughts were how their actions were directly impacting the mercantilist economies of Europe. All the activities written about at the time and thereafter (including in the novel) were causing disruptions to the more developed Western economies of the time, and among the economic disruptions were the viability of colonies established in the New World. You can’t get goods from back home because your product is lost on the high seas, yeah, you pay attention.

Likewise, we’re in a good position to recall piracy now. With manufacturing processes in the post-globalization being rethought and re-thinking how we send and receive cargo (when it’s moving), what better time than now for an ambitious pirate to make a name for themselves? Considering how the Barbary pirates shifted from seizing vessels to using the threat of attacks to collect tribute based on their rep, holding a sea lane of three hostage becomes a golden opportunity for someone with lots of ambition and few morals…

And hey, if that doesn’t make you think about pirates, Our Flag Means Death looks like it might be a lot of fun…