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: There’s a Good Reason to Be Afraid

This morning, we have one of the bigger Hey, wha…??!? moments of the year:

Today, the US Border is opening to travelers who must have proof of vaccination. This applies to everyone coming into the United States.

So, all foreigners visiting the US as of today must be vaccinated, with a few limited exceptions.

Just about all of them, easily in the high ninety percentiles, must be vaccinated.

To come to a country which as of this morning has only fifty-eight percent of its population fully vaccinated. At least two-thirds of us overall have had at least one dose, but that still means your odds are greater of being in the room with vaccinated people if everyone’s not from around here.

You can probably massage the odds if you choose your company based on their politics, but…

Must. Resist. Obvious. Comment.

Still, it’s a big “Time to pause and ask,” moment.

Hopefully, we will take a moment to do that, especially folks in the struggling hospitality industry, before people outside the US do it first and then ask, “Why bother?” before cancelling their trips here…

Going On the Account: Do You Really Want Freedom from Choice…?

Running up into election day this year, there were way too many people going on about resisting anti-COVID mandates. Some of these “acts of resistance” were overblown, as a few unexpected revelations popped up, and a few of the “freedom fighters” are still fighting on as though they feel that have something to prove.

Which is, what exactly…?

Is it that they’re afraid of the vaccine? After all this time and all the information being made available, not to mention how most doctors (including hopefully your own) are suggesting vaccination, you’d think this would have been addressed by now.

As someone who got fully vaccinated a few months ago, if you’re looking for stories about side effects, I got tired and stayed in bed for a day after the shots. It felt like I’d gotten a cold and needed to spend the day in bed, which most people were doing when they got sick before the COVID crisis came about. And despite vaccination, if someone requests I mask up, I do, as it’s much like a request to have a shirt on before you enter a store.

Or is it perhaps some form of statement to do this? After having a few “bad role models” hogging up all the air in the room like a large hole in the side of a spacecraft, is this maybe some form of “lack of virtue signaling” that some folks need to put on?

It seems that the one theme that keeps coming up again and again if someone tries and ask them about this is that this feels like an infringement on their freedom. It’s a grand statement to make, alongside their freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom to carry military-grade hardware into a fast food franchisee.

And if it were simply a case of individual expression, then hey, more power to them. If they want to risk their own lives, being four times as likely to die from COVID than vaccinated patients, well that’s on them.

But there’s an old saying that’s been used in some form or another for 140 years or so, “Your rights end where my nose begins.” Which considering how COVID gets transmitted, is quite apt… As the vaccinated carry less of a potentially infective COVID load, they become less of a spreader, and wearing a mask as well best protects others in case you are. And if you don’t give COVID a place to incubate inside you because you’re vaccinated, we don’t have as many places for COVID to mutate and try to “mix up the act.”

Which brings us back to the question of proclaiming your freedom on this issue. If you stand this way, are you saying you want the freedom to get sicker than you might? The freedom to make other people sick? The freedom to give a disease chance to become more virulent and deadly?

Yes, that old song claims that “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” but why does anyone else have to cover your losses?

Or maybe it’s embracing freedom to not be told what to do, a freedom from responsibility, a freedom from consideration of others, a freedom to be selfish, a freedom to grab everything good for yourself and not listen to the person you elbowed in the eye to grab what you think is yours…

Which can be neatly summarized in one word: Immaturity…

So is being the cause of the Delta variant and the Great Resignation actually worth it? Is you being free worth making everyone else pay for your mistake?

Isn’t it time to grow up…?

Going On the Account: So *This* Is How You Invest in Victory…?

Take a second to read Heather Cox Richardson’s post about how Texas wants to teach history.

Where. To. Even. Begin…

It’s bad enough that want to just stress how your side got to where it was. That’s taken history away from using it to understand the past to simply justifying the present. And we haven’t even gotten to the whole point as to whether “your side” is what you think it is, which could be a whole set of writings in and of itself…

There’s also the question of why you study history, to help you know where you came from and how you got there. Which obviously isn’t a great thing if you’re only justifying your coming into your position.

There’s also the value of learning from your mistakes. And from others, too.

So, we’re doing a prescribed curriculum where we celebrate what made us what we are. And all we are going over is our greatest hits, looking at things that made us who we think we are. There’s no drama, because there’s no doubt that we will get through this, as we have only those items before us we need (or are allowed) to teach from. We learn from our past that everything’s going to turn out our way.

So if end up in something that doesn’t follow the script, how long do we keep doing what we were doing before we realize it doesn’t work? And how do we get out of that, or even avoid it?

People not liking what we’re doing no matter what we give them? Oh, if only we did something before we got to the point where we’d have to put cops on every corner, like say, hearing from them before we got to this sad state. Something the Fifteenth Amendment or the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (both of which are not part of the curriculum). Can’t understand why you’re not getting the supplication you think you’re entitled to when you walk into Applebee’s? Well, you might not be so quick to Karen out on people if you remembered what Caesar Chavez had written or read anything anything by Marin Luther King Jr. on the labor movement that could give you a better perspective on things. Have questions about why no one’s taking a job for less per hour than you spend each morning getting a drink from a barista? If you’d heard about the Triangle factory fire and saw comparisons between what those young women went through to what workers at Amazon fulfilment centers are going through, and made the connection, you might be a bit more sanguine about it.

And if you blunder about without any of these reference points? But according to history, you always win! And assuming that you are the you that’s supposed to come out on top, how could this have happened?

I mean, it’s not like we’d ever lose, right? The PATCO strike just didn’t happen, or at least you never heard of it, so sort of the same thing. There’s nothing to pull from the fall of Saigon, if you’d never heard of it. Pandemic in 1918? Yeah, like that’s going to apply to your life..

Yes, the main headline out of this mess is Texas’ request to teach ‘the other side’ of the Holocaust. But at least there’s an effort to look at it; worse would have been if it had never been brought up at all, if it were treated like, oh… everything else mentioned above…

And that’s the big problem with teaching only about one side when history is filled with struggles: There’s no context to help you from going crazy when you lose…

Going On the Account: An Alternative Approach…

Okay, WHAT IF…? Number 9

For a while, I was offering a few takes on the Marvel series WHAT IF…? airing on Disney+ on Facebook. It made sense, as AltHis is within my wheelhouse, and I’d been doing reviews over at REBEAT until recently.

So, with the site updated, it made sense to bring the observations to this page for the last one, to get things moving again over here. If anything, there should be more content over here soon as things go on.

And if you’re looking for what was said about prior episodes, they should be easy to find in my Facebook feed.

And, as I warned there, there will be spoilers in the post

“I’m a pretty convenient spoiler for a lot of people.”

               -attributed to Kevin Costner

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Karr’s quote is great if you’re trying to deal with a life that goes too fast. If you were rooting for WHAT IF…? before it aired, not so much…

For a start, there’s the episode title, “What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?” This is a major misnomer, as it’s not a hypothetical; during the show, Uatu is actually doing just that. Which is kind of a sell-out if you think too much about it. (You don’t have to, I can do the work for all of us; go on, clock out early, I got you covered…)

There’s also the frustration of the episode being the culmination of what we assumed were going to be a set of self-contained stories in an anthology into essentially a mini-MCU Phase. The idea of giving each character a stand-alone episode so that they can all come together in one major team-up was disappointing. It shows a certain formulaic thinking that’s not a good long term investment to gain anyone’s loyalty.

We get to see characters from prior episodes, both new and re-imagined, gathered by the Watcher to fight the Infinity Stone-enhanced version of Ultron we saw last time, in order to prevent it from wiping out all life in every universe. (At least Thanos wanted to leave a few things alive as part of his plan…) To that end, we see Captain Carter, T’Challa the Star Lord, Thor Bratinson (the version that didn’t have Loki as a kid brother), the Killmonger Panther, the Doctor Strange form Earth-it’s-gone-and-it’s-HIS-fault, and a Gamorah who-

Well, this is sometimes an issue with animated shows: The episode this character was drawn from could not be done in time (COVID-related delays), so we ended up with references that tie in with stories that were written ahead of time that couldn’t be changed that late in the production. Supposedly, her universe will be part of next season’s batch, but we’re kind of at a loss as it stands now.

Supposedly, it might have been a good one, as Lego actually released a playset around that show:
 

And, well…   Ooops…

Anyways, having been assembled and given the team name “the Guardians of the Multiverse,” they are now charged with finding a way to work with the Black Widow from the Infinity Ultron’s universe, the last Avenger left from its plane of existence. (For that matter, the last living things from there as well.)

There are quips, there are daring plans, there is a victory, which considering how WHAT IF…? was getting a rep as a major downer every week is somehow not a surprise, because again, it’s the formula. And there are callbacks, not only to prior episodes (the zombies get used as a good distraction) but to other MCU films, such as seeing Captain Carter in a remake of the beginning of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER doing everything Steve Rodgers did in that film. The more invested you are with the franchise, the better your experience.

And when they got most of the MCU actors to do their animated versions of themselves, we ended up with a cast that threw themselves into their roles, especially Toby Jones, who finally gives us a Zola with a face on his torso like we had in the comic books. The vocal casting overall in the series has been worth it, with some established voice actors doing decent fill-ins in places their cinematic counterparts couldn’t do.

So all said, there are going to be times when you walk into your favorite fast food franchisee and order the same thing off the menu, and you end up at that moment enjoying it a lot. Yes, it’s the same item that you can get at just about any location that has that logo on the front of the building, but for some reason it just works right for that meal.

And while on a structural level there’s a lot to be concerned about, the show itself is enjoyable taken without considering the bigger issues. What made it worth watching was the general overall quality, which alone might have kept people invested for a bit. The call-backs and connections with prior entries will of course make it even better for those invested in the whole Disney-run Marvel works as a body, which is part of the reason you’d show up eating at this franchise in the first place.

Which may have been recognized early on in the production: Before placing the Last Widow in a different universe, the one where Hank Pym killed all the Avengers (again, a call-back), the Watcher replies to Romanov’s criticisms by noting how much he needs to watch every person in every universe, as their stories are everything to him.

Now, this could be a recognition of the hardcore fans who follow along and invest themselves in all the stories, which acknowledges and honors them for their loyalty. It could also be a cynical plea to keep watching, promising you a more rewarding experience if you just keep tuning in, geared towards people who were too young to order a Little Orphan Annie decoder pin back in the day…

So, after you save the multiverse, if you’re still watching, what are they going to do for a promised second season, beyond finally giving us the lost episode? Can that keep from experiencing the Law of Diminishing Returns that further Phases in the main MCU face?

All we can do is sit back and watch…

Going On The Account: ‘Tis The Season? Really…?

About a month ago, this disturbed me…

 

I tried to ignore it, tried to laugh it off, because it’s just commerce run amok.  You can’t blame desperate people acting idiotic if they’re afraid they won’t meet their projections, unless they do something idiotic.

And compared to other acts of idiocy lately, this was pretty benign…

But it’s not just these folks now; I wandered into a Macy’s* the other day and saw that their Christmas display was going on full bore.

While I was wearing short sleeves because it was so warm.  Many miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, too…

And at that point,  snapped.  I babbled, I gurgled, and then I tried to come up with words…

That soon got set to music; in order to deal with the trauma, I turned yet again to the Dark Art of Filking, and came up with this:

(Sung to the tune of “The Carol Of The Bells”)

Oh no not now

Oh really? Wow!

No no not yet

Can we not get

A chance to breathe                       /                              Not…   now…

Go away leave                                  /                              Not…   now…

It’s just too soon                              /                              Not…   now…

Go ‘way you goon                           /                              Not…   now…

 

You say Noel                                      /                              Not…   now…

I say Aw Hell                                       /                              Not…   now…

Till Halloween                                    /                              Not…   now…

I’m not so keen                                                /                              Not…   now…

I’d say no way                                   /                              Not…   now…

‘Till Turkey Day                                  /                              Not…   now…

Just let me be                                    /                              Not…   now…

It’s too early                                       /                              Not…   now…
You put away

That Christmas sleigh

Don’t want to see

Holly- ivy

Let the time race                              /                              Not…   time…

At normal pace                                 /                              Don’t do it now, don’t do it now …

 

I really hate                                        /                              Don’t do it now, don’t do it now …

That you can’t wait                          /                              Don’t do it now …

I really wish                                        /                              Don’t do it now …

That you don’t dis                            /                              Don’t do it now …

I’ll make it clear                                 /                              No-no-no- no-no-not time yet

Not yet this year                              /                              No-no-no- no-no-not time yet

I do not want Christmas now

I do not want Christmas now

 

You make me ill

Won’t you just chill

This is so messed

Give it a rest

You make me ill

Won’t you just chill

This is so messed

Give it a rest

 

 

You say Noel                                      /                              Not…   now…

I say Aw Hell                                       /                              Not…   now…

Till Halloween                                    /                              Not…   now…

I’m not so keen                                                /                              Not…   now…

I’d say no way                                   /                              Not…   now…

‘Till Turkey Day                                  /                              Not…   now…

Just let me be                                    /                              Not…   now…

It’s too early                                       /                              Not…   now…
You put away

That Christmas sleigh

Don’t want to see

Holly- ivy

Let the time race                              /                              Not…   time…

At normal pace                                 /                              Don’t do it now, don’t do it now …

 

I really hate                                        /                              Don’t do it now, don’t do it now …

That you can’t wait                          /                              Don’t do it now …

I really wish                                        /                              Don’t do it now …

That you don’t dis                            /                              Don’t do it now …

I’ll make it clear                                 /                              No-no-no- no-no-not time yet

Not yet this year                              /                              No-no-no- no-no-not time yet

I do not want Christmas now

I do not want Christmas now

 

You make me ill

Won’t you just chill

This is so messed

Give it a rest

 

Not Christmas yet…
No….

 

And for those looking for the tune, I’m offering this:

 

Okay, Irving Berlin it ain’t, but silence wasn’t going to serve anyone either…

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

*The fact that I’m amazed that there’s enough branches of Macy’s out there to just wander into one (thanks a lot, Federated), and no one else I know thinks twice about it, is just hitting me how long I’ve wandered the surface of the earth; thoughts along those lines belong in January, so that’s also being vigorously pushed aside…

Going On The Account: In Memory of Arthur

Earlier today, I mentioned in passing that I was going to a funeral for a good friend.

 

I think he deserves better than just a passing mention.

 

I knew Arthur Galub most of my life; he was a colleague of my dad’s where he worked, at Bronx Community College.  The two of them spent their academic careers there, and retired at about the same time; Arthur taught political science and chaired the Social Sciences department, while my dad taught and chaired the History department, which made them units in the same firm that sometimes competed for resources, probably the best way to explain it to those not in the ivory tower crowd.  Yet despite their points of competition, they were very good friends that shared quite a bit between themselves.

 

Arthur went into teaching after having gotten a law degree at Yale law, so yes, not everyone that goes to law school checks their soul at the door…  He did practice on the side though, which gave me a professional contact with him.

 

No, not what you’re thinking; despite some of the purple prose that comes out from me with authority, I was pretty well behaved.  What Arthur did was help me with some real estate, when I bought and then later sold an apartment in the Bronx.

 

Lots of people you can point to and say, “That person made me a man,” or “That person made me write.”  I could point to Arthur and say, “He made me a member of the bourgeoisie.”  Which I did a number of times, and he laughed every time; he could take a good joke, and considering where I stand on a lot of things it is pretty funny all said…

 

That was one of his great strengths, the ability to see both sides of an issue and understand where someone stood and how they got there.  Because he wanted to know. And if he thought where someone stood was not a great spot, he’d give that person some good, persuasive reasons to move, appealing to reason and having a good argument at hand to move you.

 

What I didn’t know until the funeral was that after retirement, he kept taking classes at Columbia University because he could not stop learning.  Yes, a few courses on business law and history, but the sections on astronomy and contemporary lit were surprises; or maybe they shouldn’t have been, as someone so keen in the dealing of knowledge would not be happy with only so much and no more.

 

And that’s what struck me the most as I spent the day thinking about him:  In a time like ours when people turn up the volume to browbeat you into submission, facts be damned, we lost someone who was a real thinker, who not only had an open mind but shared it, very well, with others.  We lost someone for whom reason was not a lost art, who showed us the value of open and working minds.

 

Arthur, I wish ye well beyond us.

Going on the Account: A Last Appeal for a Choice of Heading

   

There is still time to make a contribution to the campaign by the Comic Creator’s Alliance to end human trafficking.  

You may ask, “Of all the times to hit me up for a contribution, why now?”  Yes, the recent disaster in Haiti has probably taken most of your attention as far as trouble spots to get involved with.  (If you ask this question because of your own personal crisis, then my best thoughts go out to you, and my sympathy as to your situation.)  And that’s a valid point, asking for your help in dealing with a long-term problem when there’s an immediate crisis at hand.

To which the answer, barring any personal factors unbeknownst, may well be that a contribution to one will help the other.

Consider if you will what puts another human being in danger of being a victim of trafficking, usually the young and more often than not female.  Often such victims are vulnerable to being exploited because there is little to protect that person where they live.  For some, it’s the lack of emotional stability, while others it’s economic hardship.  And in a few cases, what makes these people potential victims is general chaos.

All three conditions are a good description of the state of hundreds of thousands of Haitians right now, possible victims of human trafficking thanks to the after effects of the devastating earthquake.

As the two issues are so entwined, the question becomes one of where you feel the most good can be done by your efforts.  If you believe that taking action on the root cause of this misery is the best way to go, then there are plenty of organizations who could use your help.  If you’d rather deal with the specific issue, which will save not just Haitians but people from the world over, then contributing to this cause is how to proceed.

Whatever your choice, please do some good.  Your contributions to both Love 146 and Gracehaven will help alleviate suffering and address wrongs in the world that need your attention.  So too would a contribution to Haitian relief.  As you consider how to go, keep in mind the words of Maimonides:

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision. 

Going on the Account: Shaken to the Core

The home of the original buccaneers is now a living hell.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now the news about the earthquake in Haiti, which is turning quickly from a mere tragedy to an unimaginable disaster of proportions not seen since the 2004 tsunami.  The potential figures are staggering; estimates of fatalities are ranging from 30,000 up to 500,000, though even a portion of the low end would still be unbearable.

Worse, of all the countries to experience a 7.0 magnitude quake, the likes of which were last seen there when France threw their weight behind the American colonies against England, Haiti is probably the least well prepared.  The poverty is oppressive in that land, fostered by poor governance and continuous civil strife.  The earthquake, hitting a poor overcrowded land unable to provide the basics, magnifies the suffering there by a thousand fold.

This is a time to think of fellow human beings, to do what you can for people in very desperate needs.  Some of the better sources you can offer assistance through:

American Red Cross

The Salvation Army

Doctors Without Borders

UNICEF

Catholic Relief Services

American Jewish World Service

Other recommendations for how to help can be found at the collection of links offered by The Huffington Post and THE NEW YORK TIMES.  

And remember that when you open your heart, you should use your head.  The FBI is warning about scammers, which gather around tragedies the way sharks swarm at blood in the water.

 Right now, words fail me…

Going on the Account: Under the Weather

I may have problems getting a new chapter or two up next week due to illness.

 

No, not me, my machine.  I already described my fight with the malware that affected the machine I was working on, and I’ve spent far more time this week focusing on drives and downloads than brigantines and buccaneers.  I’m still working to get the little SOB to behave, and may have to go as far as to wipe the disk and start anew, if it comes to that.

 

Needless to say, the writing’s coming in second, and rather than make you sit through second-tier material (and the next one of you that inserts a crack tied to that line…), I may have to delay uploading the next parts of the story.  I should be able to post on time tonight, but after that it could be touch-and-go.

 

My apologies for the unexpected delay.  My hope is that this will be anywhere between brief and a non-factor, and we can then put this all behind us.

Going on the Account: Careening

Just a reminder that I’m going to be putting the site on hiatus for two weeks beginning tomorrow and picking things up again on the 24th.  During that time, I’m not going to be in a position to moderate posts, respond to queries or (hardest of all to do away with) posting new parts to the story.

Truth to tell, I could use a break.  There are times when, in this over-wired world we live in, we need to take the red pill and wake up from the Matrix, and this is certainly one of them.  I posted pretty regularly for close to a year and a half, and my psyche could use a rest.  Not to mention my poor family, which does not want to be around me as I snarl while crafting new chapters…

So, what’s going to happen while I’m “at sea,” as it were?  I have a few things lined up…

 

* I’m going to catch the well-reviewed Real Pirates traveling exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago.  This is supposed to be one of the best collections of pirate artifacts ever mounted, which is not coming to New York but will be in a city I’m going to.  Kismet, anyone?

*I’m going to be attending the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago, August 14th through 16th.  Yes, I have interests other than pirates…  I’ve been invited to be on the panels covering writing fiction about the Beatles, hosted by the Lovely and Talented Susan, editor of Rooftop Sessions.  Also at the Fest will be Aviva Rothschild, the author of the recently released novel WITH STRINGS ATTACHED and fellow trouble-maker extraordinaire. While the main business will be Beatles-related, well, you know what they say about what happens when you encourage an old salt…

* Afterwards, there’s going to be a side trip to see the Pirates, Privateers and Freeebooters temporary exhibit at the Pointe-A-Calliere Museum in Montreal.  I got word of this through a number of sources (one of which was Ye Pirate Blog) and from the description it might make for an interesting supplemental study with the other exhibit.

 

If you end up in Chicago next week and catch the Fest, I’d love to meet you there.  And if you’re at either museum and spot a man with the jolie rouge of the Raging Gale 

And I promise, when I get back, I’ll post here what I saw at the exhibits and anything that happened that’s worth discussing… be me; stop me and say hi. that’don his t-shirt (you know, the logo on the site),