Donors Choose - Grizzly's Giving Page

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Dangerous Islands by Séamas Cain

It turns out an old friend of mine published a book a while back, which I look forward to reading when I can acquire a copy. 

   The Dangerous Islands by Séamas Cain is an unusual coming-of-age tale.  The novel describes the experiences and emotions of a young man living through the era of Civil War in Northern Ireland from 1965 to 1998.  The hero of this novel, an Irish-American like Cain, undergoes a journey of the mind as well as a journey of the body, in a process of self-realization in another country.  Indeed, Cain based many of the protagonist's activities on his own thoughts, dreams, and experiences in Northern Ireland in that era.
     Says Cain, “In my youth, in Northern Ireland, I was active in the Civil Rights Movement, People's Democracy, and later the Peace Movement.  My experiences from those times were filtered into the composition of The Dangerous Islands.  Indeed, much of the novel was written in Belfast or Limavady and Dungiven — though I am a Minnesota Irishman.”
     The Dangerous Islands is a moral history of the Irish and Irish-American activists of the generation of the 'Sixties.  Or, more accurately, it is a history of their emotions and their enthusiasms.  Thus it is a non-classic coming-of-age tale.  It is a story of self-education and self-development, with convictions and disillusionment.  But it resists all pigeonholing, for it is also a novel of ideas ranging across literature, philosophy and politics. 

Seamas was the director of Blackthorne Repertory Theatre back in the '70s when I was a young actor and playwright of sorts.  He's a talented and imaginative poet and playwright (no "of sorts" about it), and I'm sure this will be a worthwhile read.  Hopefully I can get the Duluth Public Library to grab me a copy; it's a bit out of my financial means at the moment.

Let me know if you read it, maybe I can borrow your copy when you're done.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What you thought you saw

Just heard about this on Science Friday podcast, and went to see it on their website.  You know, you may not be seeing what you think you're seeing...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Family Values

I have watched with interest the primitive and rather perverse convulsions pushing for a Minnesota constitutional amendment to define marriage as between "one man and one woman."

They don't actually say which one man and one woman, but I suppose they have some idea.  Hopefully they don't mean a man and woman who, like so many, will later decide to be divorced from their partner "till death to us part," or find some other one man or one woman to have occasional casual sex with.  Anyway...

I note that those on the Moral High Ground -- over there, across where I'm standing -- say it's all about Family Values.  I am in favor of family values, having grown up in a rather large Family I deeply and profoundly value.  If any of those folks want to say I don't value families, they can explain why, the second or third time they pick their bruised and battered butts up off the ground after attempting to say so.

So, Family Values.  Great stuff.

Alright, I'll buy that.  It's all about Family Values.

I do value Families.  I am also struck by the idea that it is entirely possible that a gay guy (I am profoundly straight) might also value families.  For that matter, a couple of gay guys might also.  Lesbians, or couples of lesbians, might also value families.  For that matter, it becomes rather obvious they do value families -- they want to create a family, with someone who they love and care for deeply.   They know that much of society, especially those steeped in Christian Love and Muslim Peace and other violent and intolerant emotions will abuse them viciously, possibly injure or kill them, and they still want to create a family.  A greater love, and so on.

In fact, after centuries of abuse for not being willing to enter a committed relationship (expected to be Between One Man And One Woman) they are willing, before God and Everyone, to form a committed relationship... and some folks want them forbidden to do so.

These are folks who value families deeply and profoundly.  They are willing to face whatever obstacles, pay any price, bear any burden, support any friend, oppose any foe, to ensure the survival and success of their family -- because they love and are loved, and nothing is more important to them.  That is, the definition of every worthwhile family in the history of humanity.

And I should be against this... because of Family Values.

And don't even start with me about polyamorous families.  Not only do they love each other, not only are they willing to pay, bear, support, oppose, and so on, they have a fundamental advantage over anyone you care to name as to Family Values.  They can, collectively, actually afford to support their children.  They have X number people working together to produce enough income to support their families.  Back in the '50s and '60s, my folks managed to support us 5 kids.  Back in those days, two working adults could support five kids.  Now, I really doubt it.

"It Takes A Village To Raise A Child."  Yeah, what she said.

So, what are we really talking about here?  Legalizing committed relationships?  They already have committed relationships, and no government had to give them permission to have them.  What these constitutionalists are trying to preserve is the special treatment given to those allegedly committed relationships that involve One Man And One Woman.  They want to preserve the few remaining tax benefits to those liable to sexually reproduce by accident.  And they want to preserve the Cash Cow of religious corporations over the past millenia, the idea that they can sell the permission of god to have sex over the long term with one's chosen partner.

But I digress, and tend to growl and foam at the mouth.   Bottom lines:

Committed relationships are committed relationships, and families are families.  They should respected and acknowledged, whatever the details of their internal relationships.  (And what's all this obsession with the sex?  Shouldn't that be private?)

No special privileges should be accorded any particular flavor or flavors of committed relationship or family, as long as that is what they are at their hearts.

Trying to require government endorsement of any particular flavor of committed relationship or family is shameful.  Before you go grab the strawman, there are some sorts of "family" that are exceptionally abhorrent, and should be treated exceptionally -- because they are exceptional.  But those exceptions already are unlawful.

I value families.  If people who love each other and are committed to each other want to form a family, I hope they will.  And I hope my Constitutions, federal or state, won't be perverted to attack these families.  Probably will though.  It's the Government,  and they'll likely screw it up.  Maybe not.  You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Time travellers

Authors say ideas for stories are easy, and I suppose they are.   They're authors, I suppose they'd know.

Had an idea about a direction for a story I will never write, and probably doesn't need to be written.  It's really just a view of other stories from just off to the side a bit.  Whenever they do a story about very long space voyages, they point out the long delays of communications after a certain point.  The space traveler may only be heard months or years later, and might likewise not hear comments for months or years.

My first thought was that, if the traveler recorded interviews on leaving earth, and traveled fast enough for time dilation, sending those recordings back on the stream could be of historical interest.  Then it struck me, an ever more delayed outgoing message, with ever more delayed reactions and comments -- reminds me a lot of my experience of podcasting.

And I wondered... if you did that sort of story, with a focus on the traveler being a podcaster, would there be interesting implications there?  There's that historical-interviews thing from early in the trip, sent out later.  As the distances and times became greater, the audience would be listening to a perspective years or decades different than their own.  Their comments would be "futuristic," I suppose, to the podcaster.  But when they were heard by the audience, they might be from their own youth, commenting on how they felt about the shows back then.  And they would be hearing perspectives, not only from the past, but from a fairly young person from the past.

And I am puzzling over whether I feel that this is related to the current state of podcasting.  Certainly many of us either started older than the 18-30 target demographic, and if we weren't many of us are now.  With few exceptions, comments to podcasts are scarce, and voice comments even more rare.  So when we receive a comment, it can certainly seem to come out of the blue, and often refers to something we said a long while ago.

Can't claim to be that "young person from the past," really.  But inside my own skull I'm still pretty much that 18-year old geek in high school just discovering computers by typing on a Decwriter sending across phonelines to a college's timeshared computer, or posting to CompuServe, or to the BBS networks.  I miss all that, and feel somewhat lost without all that stuff I actually understood.

So that may be a time-and-space-travel story that doesn't need to be written.  Or it might be we're writing that story every day.  Or both.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Something of an honor

Back when Christchurch in New Zealand had their big earthquake, I was quite moved to see the video and think about how frightened and unsafe everyone felt, and left a comment on their website.  Later I got a nice email that they wanted to use my comment in the Actual Paper.  Very cool, I thought.

Being the arrogant, self-absorbed fella I am, I went looking for my comment on their website.  Turns out they've gotten hundreds of comments of support, including 343 of them from the US.  I scanned through all of them.

Mine is 342 of 343.

I also mentioned one of my (many) favorite authors P.J. Ballantine.  But yes, in the end, it's all about me. ;-)

Seriously, it's good to see they're rebuilding and doing better.  And I hear they're getting tourists again.  Sure wish I could be one of them.

Oh, wait, all about me again... 

Ich Bin Ein Cantabrian.


Second Life Partner: I accept!

Hi Grizzly Silversmith,
Congratulations! Your proposal has been accepted by Samantha Silversmith!
Personal Message :
I love you very much and I always will, I would love to marry you.

"You got married?!?!?"  I got that a lot lately.  It was just the other day that Samantha were wed in Second Life (SL).  It isn't a legally-binding marriage out in Real Life (RL), nor is it particularly binding in SL, only by choice. There's no Community Property in SL, and in fact it's rather difficult for more than one person to share ownership of anything.  And you can't really have kids -- kinda, but not really.

But it's important stuff, at least to us.

Samantha has this rather remarkable habit.  She tells me frequently she loves me.  I like this.  I think this is a Good Thing that I haven't gotten so very much.  And I want more of this.  I tell her I love her, too, as often as I can manage, though I'm not that sort of demonstrative fellow.  And I try not to let her down too often. 

I am on the Autistic spectrum, and some things (like actually talking to people) are quite difficult and quite exhausting for me.  My day job is spent talking to people all day, and this wears me out.  So I often get home and basically crash, even when I am supposed to go on Second Life and do something.  I feel bad about that.  And I do my best.  But she has been remarkably tolerant of me.

I consider myself often, having known myself for 52 years now, and I am dumbfounded as to what she sees in me.  I am humbled by that.  As a DJ in Second Life, I'm in a moderately unique position.  In SL, most of what you "hear" from most folks is just text -- clever or not clever, needing to stand on it's own.  I have the sort of voice where people say, "You oughta be on the radio!"  And as a DJ people actually hear my voice, and I suspect that gives me a more personal impact on folks in Second Life.  And yes, I am basically saying "chicks dig DJs."  ;-)
It is obvious in SL if not in RL that what one knows about someone is not necessarily something one Knows.  But we've talked on Skype, so yes, she's definitely female, and I've seen her picture, so yes, she's definitely attractive.  She's also X years younger than me, which at my age, is rather attractive in itself.  And she's seen my picture -- and still loves me.  Baffling.

"You got married?!?!?"   Yeah.  Yeah, it appears I did.  Thank you, dear.  (smooch)


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Just something I read somewhere.

I would comment on this blogpost I found, but Keka the author actually said it about right.  I was unemployed for two years, and now I'm back working, and I think her post explains rather neatly how I've been feeling, even being seven years younger.

Keka's blog, The Animal in Me

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let the kids deal with it later

Okay, so, Japan's nuclear reactor situation is perfectly fine.  I believe personally, after one of the 10 worst earthquakes in recorded history, and a tsunami that has killed tens of thousands of people, the safety systems have worked exactly the way one would hope they would act, and the reactors are actually quite safe.  For now.

Of course, even without the earthquake and the tsunami, the reactors are still producing waste that will be toxic for thousands of years.  And it's in containers designed to hold it for maybe 100 years, at best.  And that's true of every reactor I know of on the entire earth, even the best of them.

So, yeah, we're perfectly safe from Japan's reactors at the moment, and all the other reactors, at the moment.  But our children or grandchildren or -their- children or grandchildren will be faced with dealing with all these 100-year concrete barrels we built to hold our indestructable highly-toxic nuclear waste.

And we have a Governor in Wisconsin who's willing to set back Democracy by a couple centuries because of some (arguably) bad negotiating by his predecessors a couple decades back.


If we're destroying the economy and safety of our children, grandchildren, greats and great-greats, do we still get to call it all "safe?"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Twitter, Revolutions, and Theory of Mind

I have Asperger Syndrome.  I am self-diagnosed; the diagnosis didn't exist when I was a kid in the '60s, and I've seen no reason to seek a formal diagnosis.  But I am reasonably confident of it.

One feature/symptom of Asperger is called "Theory of Mind."  I don't like the term.  It doesn't strike me as communicating what it refers to, but that's what they call it.  In my case, I find that when someone says some thing on the Internet or about anywhere else, especially in a public context, I automatically believe (1) it is true and (2) it is what Everyone believes.

I am not unintelligent, and intellectually I know this is not true.  Once I take the time and make the effort to think it through, I probably understand that just because one person says something doesn't mean Everyone believes it.  But I tend to initially accept that.  We tend to have trouble differentiating between what You believe and know and what That Other Person Over There believes and knows.  It's particularly a problem in cases of bullying.  When I was a kid and was bullied by one guy, I'd assume that everyone felt the same way about me.  It isn't healthy and it isn't practical, but it happens that way.

So.  I was just listening to a podcast review of Evgeny Morozov's book, "The Net Delusion," while reading a couple of blog reviews of the same book.  And I noted in one the comment that the recent Iranian protests, claimed by some to be a democratic uprising driven by Twitter, actually were not and could not be driven by Twitter -- there are only some 20,000 users of Twitter in Iran.  Seems valid.

But there's another side to that.  Many of us in the US and the Western World only heard about the protests via Twitter, with a few TV news reports -- many of those heavily quoting Tweets in real time.  We heard of violence, we heard of the firm resolve of the protesters, and so on, and so on....

From no more than 20,000 people out of the millions of people in Iran, or even the thousands in the protests.  In fact, we mostly heard from a couple of dozen folks, and maybe fewer than that.  And from this we assumed the ideas, intent, motives and commitment of the protesters, and by extension the same of the people of Iran.  We have seen essentially the same thing happen in Egypt.  I don't have a figure for how many Egyptians use Twitter, but even so, we are only hearing from a relative handful of people even out of that segment of the population -- and we are absolutely not hearing from The People of Egypt in any realistic sense.

We assumed by our flawed "theory of mind" that what we were being told was true, and we assumed what we were told was what The Protesters thought and believed, what The People of Egypt thought and believed.  But what we forgot we were hearing was a relative handful of fairly well-off, educated, urban and somewhat tech-savvy people.

And those people could have any motives from a universe of motives for what they told us and what they claimed to feel and believe.  We don't know.  We also don't know what percentage of the Twitter posts came from folks no where near the protests.  We don't know how many (if any) came from political forces within the government of Egypt.  We don't know how many came from the governments of other countries.  We do know that it is not that difficult to obfuscate the source of a comment on Twitter, or essentially any other online source.

So we stand with the positions of The Protesters.  We stand with the democratic hopes of The People of Egypt.  Or do we?

How do we know?  To paraphrase a line from a Harrison Ford movie from years ago.... What's the last thing you read on Twitter that you know is true?

Monday, January 17, 2011

I had the weirdest dream...

Just woke up from one of those dreams.

Started out, I was in this technical school of some sort, not sure what for.  I recall having to put on a white lab coat at one point.  Anyway, at one point I was supposed to be getting dressed for my next class, or possibly heading home from school, and I couldn't find my clothes, and wasn't wearing shoes.  Struggled my way through the crowds trying to find them.  Everyone else appeared to be where they were supposed to be and had what they were supposed to have, and were crabby at me (angry would be too strong a word) for getting in their way when they knew what they were doing and I didn't.

Then I was in a restaurant, possibly the schools cafeteria.  I finished eating, and reached for my wallet, and tried to pay with my credit card.  It was declined, but I was sure I had some cash in my wallet.  Couldn't find any, but my wallet was full -- full of play money from some game.  There sure was a lot of it, and I pulled it out and piled it on the counter, but I knew it wasn't good for paying for lunch, and I kept digging for the real money I thought must still be in there.  Never did find it.

Then, suddenly, I was out of school, and I was in the middle of a big mostly-outdoor industrial plant.  Very dirty environment, I recall.  No idea what I was supposed to be doing, but this was apparently what I'd gone to school for.  Had an idea which direction I was supposed to go, but there was this big hill to climb, it was apparently covered with hazards, sharp metal and dangerous chemicals and heavy equipment, and people running that equipment, all quite upset with this guy wandering barefoot through their plant with no idea what I was doing.  I wasn't happy myself.  About halfway up the hill -- just about to be run over by a small train -- I woke up.

Two things stuck me.  One:  I spent a couple of years working in a more dangerous plant than that, and it shouldn't have bothered me that much, though in the real plant I had some idea what I was supposed to do.

And two: The dream wasn't very symbolic at all.  It was mostly literal.  I went to school.  I spent my time there not quite understanding what everyone else was learning, and not feeling like I was learning anything.  My internship consisted of being a DJ in Second Life.  (Apparently I'm pretty good at that.)  I got a diploma, and I was out.  I know I have a little bit of real money somewhere, but mostly I have play money called Lindens, with which of course I can't buy a cup of coffee.

And I find myself barefoot and unequipped in the middle of an industry where I'm expected to know what to do, where it seems everyone around me already knows, surrounded by hazards I don't understand, and not sure what direction to go, other than vaguely "uphill."  And I'm already supposed to know, or what the hell am I doing in the middle of this big industry?

These days, I don't feel like I know how to do what I've already done for several years.  About the only thing for which I feel qualified is being a DJ in Second Life.  They tell me I'm good at that.  But that gives me a wallet full of play money, sometimes a lot of it, but not enough to buy a cup of coffee.

And this is the part where the ending goes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

So where the hell was I? UPDATED

UPDATE:  So now I find it.  Naturally.  It was a blogpost.  And shockingly... I don't actually read blogs much. 
     .....     .....     .....     .....     .....
Just heard a podcast mentioning that JC Hutchins stopped podcasting.  I hadn't heard, and was a bit bewildered.  I mentioned this on Twitter -- and Hutch seemed a bit hurt that I hadn't heard, and seemed to think I was being cruel in my comments about it.  I think it's more likely an artifact of 140 characters; I'd be tweeting for the next couple days to be understood.

First of all, true, I am sort of disappointed that he isn't podcasting anymore.  I liked several, but not all, of his books -- not crazy about anything resembling horror.  I simply would never have been aware of his books without podcasting.  I haven't actually sat down and read a dead-tree book other than textbooks in several years, and frankly, reading textbooks in school this last year was kind of a freaky experience, as if I didn't really remember how to read a book.  I'm all about the audiobooks now.  This is, in part, because my eyesight isn't what it was. 

I'm all about podcasts, too, maybe too much so.  Last time I counted I was subscribed to over 200 podcasts including audiobooks.  I often fall asleep with my podcasts playing.  This sometimes results in rather disturbing (not -that- kind of disturbing) dreams about podcasts and podcasters, including a dreamed conversation with Mur Lafferty, which turned out to be her reading on Escape Pod.  Funny thing, she looked completely different in the dream, and I knew that wasn't what she looks like, but I still knew it was her.  (Nothing inappropriate, just the kind of friendly conversation I hope we could actually have at a Con someday.)  Then I woke up.  I do hate to unsubscribe from anything, but I can't say I've actually heard all the episodes of all the podcasts to which I'm subscribed. 

Add to that, Mr. Hutchins stopped podcasting way way back, during what was the busiest time of my schooling, when I wasn't listening to many podcasts anyway, and producing only a few of my own, sad to say.  I graduated from school, got a diploma, and remained unemployed, so I'm not sure I wouldn't have been better off skipping school and not skipping the podcast episodes.  (I'm kidding, Mom.)

I don't resent JC Hutchins leaving podcasting; people do stop alla time, after all.  It's still an open question if I have quit myself.  If my tone was at all snappish, I apologize.  It was in response to a rather snide comment suggesting I wasn't a "dedicated fan" because I missed his swan song.  I was and am a fan, but I have that life thing I've also been trying to succeed at.  I wouldn't say I approve, either, because I don't really know his reasons, and I only know he quit because of a passing comment on someone else's podcast.  Went off to his website, tried to figure out how to find where he explained it all and waved bye-bye, and couldn't find it.  So I commented on Twitter. and apparently engendered some bad feelings.  Still haven't found that last podcast, and still hope to.  It's entirely his decision, but I'm curious.  He says things well -- you may have noticed -- and I'd be interested to see how he'd say this.

I certainly wish him all the best, and I strongly suspect that's what he'll get, because he's a very talented guy who's gotten good opportunities to exercise those talents.  I can think of a half-dozen different very good reasons he might leave podcasting.  I was simply wondering about the actual reasons.

Further deponent sayeth not.


Episode Zero -- A Minor Local Celebrity

With "Meditation Impromptu" by Kevin MacLeod Originally posted to Libsyn under my original setup around 02/2007.  When I ran out ...