Anachronism

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It doesn’t take Hilary Clinton, the DNC, or any number of companies under investigation to understand that emails hang around a long time, on one server or another, unless extraordinary efforts are made to be rid of them.   Handwritten letters? Tossed in the trash, or tossed in a drawer or a box or somewhere.

Several years ago, when my mom downsized from her house to a retirement apartment, the transition was a rushed affair with my mom focusing on the few belongings she chose to keep while turning a blind eye to the myriad of things donated or thrown out without close examination.  Firm closing dates force that, as well as a lifetime of accumulation. 

There were a few things I pulled aside as I plied through her things, including a letter from my grandmother to my mom.  It looked old, and the first few lines drew my interest to preserve it and read it later.  I recently re-discovered it and read it in full.  My mom would have been 20 years old when she received this:

Thursday Oct. 8, 53

Dear Doris,

I am glad to hear you have work to do.

Sometimes we may wonder why things happen as they do when we did not think it should be that way or was not what we wanted, but there is a reason.

We are born not knowing sorrow nor gladness, labour or love, hardship and prosperity, hate or vanities, war or peace.

Through out our life we experience each of these then we die as we we were born, except that we have shown God how we can accept each of these, how we suffer or rejoice with each one.  That must be our trial as we enter the Gates of Heaven. How can we rejoice if we have not known sorrow.  How can we know love if we have not seen hate.  How can we enjoy the peace to come if we have not known hardship.

“As he came forth out of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he comes and shall take nothing of his labour that he may carry away in his hand.”

“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the Heaven.  A time to be born, a time to die.  A time to plant and a time to pluck up.  A time to weep and a time to mourn.  A time to break down and a time to build up.  A time to get and a time to lose.”

“What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?  I know that there is no good in them but for a man to rejoice and do good with his life which God giveth him for it is his portion.”  Eccl.

So it is Doris.  We must find some enjoyment out of what we do, no matter how much we dislike it.  There is a reason for each of these things, some lesson in it you must learn before you go out.  If you have a smile and a good thought for each one you meet and look for that something good in everything you do, then your days work is done and tomorrow will come in its own way no matter how you will it.  Happiness always comes in the most unexpected ways.  Enjoy what you have to do, Doris.  I believe that is the key  to happiness.  Let God walk beside you and you will never walk alone.

Love,

Mother.

I mailed this back to my mom and asked her what she remembered of it.  She was very pleased to receive it, as it was at least one precious letter that she obviously had kept for many years.  She’ll keep it still.  I gather that this letter was a reminder of much advice received and possibly the best traits of her mom that she remembers.  I could wax poetic about the power of words, but, I don’t need to, right?

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The War on Drugs – Live at the Tabernacle

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Sold out.  Maybe there were more people than that, or else the abundant youthfulness of the crowd drew more to the floor rather than for the balcony seats.  We sat.  Thanks, kids.

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This was my second show by this band, and both times I walked away… liking them?  I do like most of the songs on their last two CDs.  It’s rock, but it’s easy on the ears – not junk food by any means, but not a heavy meal, either.  The songs that succeed best generally start slower or with a relatively muted blend of instruments which build gradually to a moment where the catharsis happens – maybe it’s a strong guitar lead, maybe it’s just the drummer striking his kit rather than tapping them – but at that moment the aggression of rock ‘n roll is due, and it finally breaks through. 

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In concert, it’s similar, except you trade the audio clarity from home speakers or a earbuds for the visuals, the shared experience, the pulsing vibrations from music played loud… and auditory processes that take a while to sort out the sounds in the venue. 

This is actually a strength for seeing this band live.  The drummer isn’t asked to do anything beyond sophomore level metronome classes, the keyboards (up to three at once) are easily heard because they don’t compete for sonic space, and the rhythm guitar is, well, pretty much not heard.  But an aural palate with this in the background leaves ample foreground space – Adam Granduciel’s voice, his lead guitar, and the particularly splendid moments when a baritone sax claims the venue.

Imagine, perhaps, a mid-80’s E-Street band backing playing “The Boys of Summer” with a vocalist who is not seeking attention and whose words, live anyway, are mostly indecipherable.  But that’s okay, his voice is the emotive influence that leads to the aforementioned guitar pyrotechnics or the bari-sax.

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Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good singer with good lyrics, but you need to know the lyrics if it’s important for you to enjoy hearing the songs live – at this venue anyway.  In any case, this show started out hot.  The first three songs (“Holding On,” “Pain,” and “An Ocean Between the Waves”) set a pace that makes one think, “We’re in for a helluva night!”  And, that, of course, is unsustainable.  After the fifth song, “Red Eyes,” the show settled into an enjoyable and listenable evening.  Located elsewhere, you might be listening to those songs while playing cards with friends and tapping your foot.

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“Eyes to the Wind,” the closer for the regular set, picked up the pace and made for a decent sendoff, but it wasn’t until “Under the Pressure” in the encore that the band reclaimed an elevated audience enthusiasm.  The finale, “In Reverse,” is a fine song, but it served as a reminder of the inadequate pacing of the show and, well, gee, it’s a work night.  Time to leave anyway.

Setlist:

  1. Holding On
  2. Pain
  3. An Ocean in Between the Waves
  4. Strangest Thing
  5. Red Eyes
  6. Knocked Down
  7. Lost in the Dream
  8. Buenos Aires Beach
  9. In Chains
  10. Up All Night
  11. Nothing to Find
  12. You Don't Have to Go
  13. Eyes to the Wind

  14. Encore:
  15. Burning
  16. Under the Pressure
  17. In Reverse

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DragonCon 2017 – By the Numbers

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Hello, SurveyMonkey.  When I don’t know what I thought about this year’s Labor Day geek fest known as DragonCon, I now have objective data.  Granted that this may be only a 5% sample of registrants, but… let’s see how this supports my view as the Con unfolded.

This was the 9th DragonCon for my wife and me, a span that has seen the crowd increase from an estimated 30,000 to 80,000+.  As the Con is conducted primarily in host hotels, something has to give.  And it has.  Three host hotels expanded to four, then five, and now also includes the AmericasMart, all within a reasonable walk.   I’m not sure what may have changed this year, but I think more panels filled up (and sooner), and there was a general improvement in movement through hotel lobbies, the chokepoints of the Con.

Well, Survey Monkey, tell us about these 80,000+ people?

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So, a quarter of those are essentially newcomers, over half are regulars, and after 10 Cons, it appears people start to lose interest.   Sadly, there is no demographics included, but I’ll just say that observationally, it’s gotten younger in the last few years, and not just because I’m getting older.

That begs the question, are we prime candidates for the attendance drop off?  Well, not next year, as the early registration price is too appealing, but the idea of skipping the next one did enter our mind, whereas usually we leave somewhat tired but somewhat aggrieved that we have to wait a full year to the next one.

We also changed things a bit this year as we chose to stay in a hotel rather than commuting daily.  Due to the four night minimum stay, we arrived Thursday, the day before the Con kicks off, to find a large, already in costumed regalia, on the streets, in the lobbies and in the bars, party started.  Seeing which day of the week that the Con began for respondents verified this, though I had no idea it would shape this way.

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For one, regardless of how they advertise, DragonCon is a three day convention, Fri-Sun.  Thursday night there are a number of gatherings for like-minded people, but very little programming from a presenter standpoint.  And while Monday morning and early afternoon have a fair number of panels, sorry.  People are packing and getting out of their hotels for the close of the holiday weekend.  A peek into a near empty Battlestar Galactica ballroom confirmed this.  While factually true that the Con touches five days, it’s still a lie.

Also, these stats surprisingly uphold my Saturday observation that while the streets were full, the lines and press of people was not particularly worse than Friday.  One day passes, I think, had limited availability this year, particularly pre-Con, so either more people chose to attend the whole thing or skipped coming at all.  That’s a win.

And then there’s the overall opinion about DragonCon 2017.

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I don’t know that I have an opinion on these statistics, as there are so many things that attendees may seek in the Con that I don’t share.  For me, it was “Good.”  For being a volunteer event that the industry doesn’t really support like, say, Comic-Con, there remains a lot of untapped potential to draw interest, and the SurveyMonkey asked for suggestions. 

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DragonCon – 2017

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Hello, Nathan Fillion.  It’s been a while, 2008, actually, as you skipped the ensuing years filming “Castle.”   Welcome back.

What started off as an “easy” Friday morning decision for a 10:00 a.m. panel became rather interesting.  First, Fillion was only on site Friday, so fans only had a choice of two panels.  Translated: large crowds, especially for the beginning of the Con.  We got in line early, about 8:40 a.m. or so.  It was already lengthy.  As it turned out, some 2,000 people would gather in an another ballroom to watch his session on a screen.  Actually, this isn’t a big deal because even in the larger conference rooms, people can say they’ve “seen” the celebrity, but many in the back watch the screens as well.  In our case, we didn’t settle for the queued seats but found an empty pair of seats closer to the front.

A couple of memorable moments include a question about how he maintains his rugged handsomeness…  In infomercial voice, “My secret is really simple.  Keep your distance. (dramatic pause) My secret to good hair… don’t fight it, man… (dramatic pause) Gentlemen, always smell good.  I don’t mean Axe body spray… If you’re going to wear cologne, two sprays in the air and walk through it.  (dramatic pause).  Be clean man.  April breeze.”  Then he couldn’t keep a straight face any longer.

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Throughout the session, he paid particular attention to each questioner, asking their names and relating them to relax their nerves.  This prevailing kindness was also reflected in his closing comment, “I can’t imagine my life without days like this.  You guys warm my heart. Thank you.”

Maybe it’s not so good to start off a Con at the pinnacle.

Lord British, or Richard Garriott.  Garriott is a regular at DragonCon, and this appearance seemed to slightly push his autobiography, Explore Create.  And he has plenty to tell. Garriott created the online game Ultima, and reaped the financial rewards to enjoy life on his terms.  He continues with game development, and among other subjects, demonstrated the research and thoughtfulness he puts into any subject, such as the development of languages, written or visual, for use in his video games.  He reportedly paid $30M to follow his father, a Skylab astronaut, into space, visiting the  International Space Station, where it seems he interred some of James’ Doohan’s ashes and created a registered geocache.  Garriott has took a deep sea sub to the Titanic, where he recounted the dangers of being too trusting of safety features, as well as a rock climbing descent for which he was unprepared and untethered.  In any case, a very interesting person and well worth a listen.

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Attack of the Celebrity Improv.  After doing other things for the afternoon, we watched this, sort of an amateurish “Whose Line is it Anyway?”  I didn’t know any of the “celebrities,” but it was entertaining, though often stifled by ridiculous audience suggestions for roles and situations.

Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Surprisingly, I hadn’t been to a panel of this cast, who attend periodically in ones and twos.  Like many favorite shows, there is obvious camaraderie and friendship that remained well beyond the show.  All the questions were common and predictable but answered in comedic ways.  The only “new” factoid was that Brent Spiner revealed that a crew member forgot a second Data suit when they filmed in the desert, and the stunt person had already used it, leaving it soaked in sweat.  You can read the full summary here, but it was obvious the other actors were pleased with both the revelation and how he handled it. 

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Starship Troopers.  I liked the movie, which barely resembles the Heinlein book after which it is named (because Heinlein references were adapted to the script after it had been written).  The plot has a relaxed approach to sexuality and nudity, and, twenty years later, it seems the actors were perfectly cast, as in, they haven’t changed much.  In fact, it doesn’t seem like they aged much either. In any case, it was an entertaining hour.

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“Unbelievable” the Movie.  Okay, you tell me it’s a lighthearted “Star Trek” parody featuring 40 Star Trek actors from its various versions over the years.  I’m interested!   Several people take to the front of the room -  equipped with two flat panel TVs for a movie screening (ahem) – I admit I have my doubts.  For one, they don’t strike me as producers.  Or actors.  It’s amateur hour.  But that’s okay.  It’s DragonCon.  It’s a parody.  It’ll be fun.  I mean, it’s got to be, right?  After all, the producers go on and on about how “they” – the movers and shakers at Paramount apparently – don’t want this film to be seen! 

Well, it’s not because of brand damage, that’s for certain.  It shouldn’t be seen because it is a stain on the resume of anyone who participated.  “Unbelievable” is aptly named. It’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, only without an excuse.   Vegetation will kill you folks.  Maybe this would be a better global warming activism movie, where rampant CO2 causes green matter to snuff human lives.  Though, for those of you who find comedy curtailed by political correctness these days, anal sex jokes are abundant here and you can delight in them.  A “Star Trek” parody and they were without show content to find humor?

Okay, here’s the best thing about it.  They had to be very, very careful not to use any licensed or trademarked terms that might offend Paramount, but they managed to feature Kirk.  You know, the womanizing captain from our favorite show, only, he’s not called Captain Kirk.  In full irony, he has the best lines and the best acting chops.  This, even though he’s a string puppet interacting with human actors.  Kirk sitting on a lounger with two bathing beauties beside him… that’s the high point of the movie.

The low point is that they reportedly spent $2 Million on this piece of ____.  (I try to keep this blog family friendly).   And I blame myself.  Knowing there are other things I wouldn’t mind doing at DragonCon in the evening, I suffer through the 20 minute “introduction” – the only audience interaction the producers will ever have – and, perhaps due to a personal tendency to see things to their end (think Iron Fist), I stay.  I was in crisis mode after five minutes, when a guy seated in the front had the “nerve” to walk out, visible to all those gathered.  I suffered through it.  Shame on the actors who gave this any chance of being made, never mind actually previewed. There were other panels we were considering afterwards, but we left drained and ready for bed.

Just go see Galaxy Quest.  Or drink lemonade under the shade of a tree.  Or clean the cat litter box.  There’s better things to do.

Crypto Wars. Call this work-related and generally of interest.  Let’s check the notes.  Netscape Navigator, which I used in the day, was built with weak encryption so that intelligence services could monitor traffic.  WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has encrypted communications.  Many foreign governments hate that, like Brazil, who is demanding back door access.  China requires companies to comply with information requests (I.e. your data), Kazakhstan requires a back door in software used in their country for censorship purposes.  Australia wants back doors for international data to assist law enforcement.  There are a lot of political motivations, and it’s less about actual security issues.

Fiveeyes… yeah, read about that.  Should they agree on a backdoor, that’s the end of any expectation that encryption will ensure privacy.  Any company on the internet will have to build to permit their requirements, or otherwise write specific software for each country in which their software is sold.  Essentially, you don’t know what backdoor access comes with every software upgrade that comes your way.  Then it was on to the Investigatory Powers Act.  No problem, we can’t spy on our own people so much, but we can just get the information from the U.K. who can.  Also, as there is no anti-hacking law, the FBI says they have sufficient authority to do so.  No one really knows what data is being collected.

It’s the kind of panel that leaves you wanting a warm puppy.

Chuck – Zachery Levi.  Remember the TV show, with the Intersect?  Well, Zachery Levi attended his first DragonCon, and while he was much more serious than I imagined, it was obvious that the hopefulness and concern that Chuck had in each episode directly reflects the life and goals for Levi, who is wounded when things don’t work the way they should.  This summary from an earlier panel is similar to what we heard, but like most Chuck fans, I hope he finds continued success (in the context of something I really want to watch) and am disappointed he hasn’t already found it.

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Additional photos of panels and costumes can be viewed HERE.

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