Monday, June 9, 2014

Occasionally I find things and I have no idea when I got them, what they mean, or why I kept them. Let's take, for example, bits of paper with people's names and phone numbers on them. Obviously I wanted to keep in tough with the person whose name is on the paper, but if I can;t remember the person, then obviously I did not successfully keep in touch with them.

For years there was a bit of paper knocking around whatever room I was living in with the name "Jennifer Gill" and a phone number. I have no memory of who that person was. I have tried calling the number, searching on the internet, but no luck. The number no longer belonged to her and there are far, far too many Jennifer Gills out there. I even once saw an off-off-B'way performance that had a Jennifer Gill in the cast, but it wasn't her.

Tonight I was cleaning out some boxes and I found two more curious bits of paper. The two names were Cheryl Korn and Branwynne Burns. The annoying thing is that these names do not sound completely unfamiliar to me. I suspect they were from a period of my life between my first and second attempts at college, when I was very active in the SCA, and the social circle I ran with in the SCA crossed over into the Downtown NYC scene in the pre-gentrification Lower East Side.

I did a little quick searching and found a few Cheryl Korns, but none that seemed to be anyone I should have known, and there seems to be a Branwynne Burns in the real estate field, but no pictures of her anywhere.

So there we go, another part of my past, detached and gone. I threw away the bits of paper, wrote this blog post, and moved on.

Great movie shoots today! Samurai, boxers, kung fu, and wrestlers, oh my!

One of the most challenging film shoot days today just ended. We were working on "The Duel," a short film organized through the United Filmmaker's and Actors' Meetup Group.

In the morning we shot a scene on a beach with the two lead characters in homemade samurai armor. then in the evening we were in a boxing gym with the leads, a boxing match, a king fu fight, and a pro wrestling routine.

It was bitchin' cold outside, a big snowstorm on its way. We had to make sure to allow a ballance of the cast to sit in a car to warm up. This was annoying because this was to be a very mannered, stylistic scene, in which stillness and long takes were important.

But we soldiered on...

I started writing the blog post a few years ago and jsut noticed I had not published it. So I just typed up these few words today and hit "publish." Stay tuned, pix and video from the day will be coming soon.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Comic Book Reader's Protection Act

An explanation of health insurance, in terms a comic book fan would understand.
by Zorikh Lequidre

A father and his son are in a comic book shop.

SON: Dad, my doctor says I have to read that comic book on the shelf.

DAD: Son, that is a deluxe hardcover edition of "Watchmen" with extra features and leather slipcover. It costs $125. Do you have $125?

SON: No. But the doctor says I have to read that story.

DAD: Well, here is a trade paperback reprint of the story. It doesn’t have all the extra features, but if your doctor says you can do just as well without them, it may work for you. It's only $24.95. Can you afford that?

SON: Barely. He says I may need to read comics every month for the rest of my life. What will I do?

DAD: Tell you what: If you give me $20 each month, I will buy whatever comics your doctor says you need.

SON: I can't afford $20 every month!

DAD: Then here's another idea. Give me $10 every month and just give me a little bit extra when you need a comic book.

SON: How much extra?

DAD: Well, if it's a regular newsstand comic, you don't have to give me anything. If it's a trade paperback reprint or paperback graphic novel, give me one dollar. If it's a hardcover reprint edition or hardcover graphic novel, give me three dollars, and if it's one of those big deluxe editions, give me one quarter of the cost.

SON: What if I don't need any at all?

DAD: Then I get to keep the money.

SON: That's not fair!

DAD: Consider this: I'm going to be shelling out a bunch of money for these comics when you need them, and you'll be paying close to squat. I'm taking a pretty big risk here; I'm gambling that you won't need another comic book this year. But if you do need one, I am going to have to get the money from somewhere, right?

SON: Well, if I need a lot of comics right away, where do you get the money?

DAD: There's a bunch of other kids in the neighborhood with whom I run this deal. I also make a deal with the comic book store.

SON: Then why don't I just save the money until I need it?

DAD: Sure you can, but what if you need a comic before you have the money saved for it, and by the time you do it'll be too late?

SON: Hmmm...well, why don't I just wait until I need a comic and start paying you then?

DAD: This offer is only good one month a year. If you turn it down, you will have to wait until this month next year for me to make the offer again.

SON: Well, how about if I only pay you on the months that I need comics?

DAD: It doesn’t work that way. If you miss a month, you will have to catch up the months you owe before I will pay for your comics. Basically, when you start paying me, you will owe me for a whole year.

SON: So how do I get out of this if I change my mind?

DAD: Just wait until the 12 months end. Or you can move out of the area.

SON: Then who is going to buy my comics for me if I do move out?

DAD: I have friends all over the country. One of them can offer a similar deal.

SON: OK, let me see if I understand: I and other kids give you money every month and you get deals from the store. You shell out the cash when we need comics, and depending on how much they pay you each month, we may have to pay a little bit as well. What happens if so many kids need so many comics you do run out of money?

DAD: Well, if the total cost of your comics adds up to a certain amount, you will have to pay a bigger share of the cost.

SON: But then I might go bankrupt!

DAD: Don't worry, after what you pay adds up to another, higher amount, I'll cover most of it, you'll wind up paying even less than you did to start.

SON: Wait, is this legal?

DAD: Actually, by law it’s mandatory.

SON: What!?!

DAD: That’s right. In 2005 they passed a law called the “Comic Book Reader’s Protection Act.” It went into effect in 2006.

SON: What does that law mean?

DAD: It means that from the time you become eligible to read comic books you have to join a plan like mine or pay a penalty.

SON: A penalty!?! How does that work?

DAD: It’s real simple. All children become eligible to read comic books when they turn 5, or if they have been able to read for at least two years, whichever comes first. When you first became eligible you had a few months in which to join. If you don't join, the government is going to count up all the months you should have had have coverage but didn’t. They will figure what 1% of the average monthly cost of the plans like mine all over the country is for each month you didn’t have coverage, then add the total to the monthly amount you pay me when you do join.

SON: Wow! That doesn’t sound fair!

DAD: It pays to pay attention, kid. The government doesn’t want you dying for lack of comics, and some people need a stick more than a carrot.

SON: Well, what if I never need any comics? What’s the cheapest plan you got?

DAD: Just give me five bucks a month, but you gotta pay for the first $35 worth of comics yourself, then you gotta pay for additional comics at the rate I told you earlier for the $10-month plan.

SON: What if I decide to shop at a different comic store in the area?

DAD: Sorry, I only work with this comic store here. You’d be on your own if you went to another comic shop in this town.

SON: And what about in other towns?

DAD: You remember those guys in other towns I talked about earlier? If they work with me, you are covered at the shops they work with. If the shops don’t want to work with us, we can’t help you.

SON: But what if the comic I absolutely need is at a shop you don’t cover?

DAD: Tell you what, my friends and I will start a new kind of plan. In this plan we would prefer that you go to a store that works with us, but we will still cover you if you want to go to a different shop. Your contribution when you buy a comic will just have to be a little bigger.

SON: Well, that’s better than nothing, I guess.

DAD: So there you have it. Pay a lot up front and don’t worry about the cost when you need a comic. Pay less on the front end and you pay a little on the back end. Pay a little more if you want to go where you want to go.

SON: Thanks for explaining it all to me. I think I’m going to go get a job so I can afford all this!

DAD: Hmmm…the boy has learned a valuable lesson and has taken his first step into a larger world. I guess my job here is done!

Study questions:
  1. Can you identify the points in the conversation that represented:
    1. Premiums
    2. Annual election period
    3. Co-pays
    4. HMO
    5. Brand-name drugs
    6. Co-insurance
    7. Special election period
    8. PPO
    9. Generic drugs
    10. Coverage gap
    11. In-network and out-of-network
    12. Late enrollment penalty
    13. Tiers
    14. Specialty drugs
    15. Catastrophic coverage
    16. Shared risk
    17. Individual mandate
  2. Which plan would you be best for you?
  3. Which plan would be best for someone who has very little need to read comics?
  4. Which plan would be best for someone who had to read a lot of deluxe-edition comics?
  5. Which plan would be best for someone who expects to read just one or two newsstand comics per month?
  6. Why would someone get a deluxe edition instead of a paperback reprint?
  7. How would someone avoid falling into the “coverage gap?”
  8. Why would the government pass a law making comic book insurance mandatory?
  9. Who would benefit most from having insurance?
  10. Who has the least need for insurance?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What does this dream mean?

I normally don;t put much stock in "dream interpretation" with regards to fortune telling, and personality profiles, but just for fun, I thought I would throw out the question here, because this dream as relatively brief, and realistic, containing an unusual amount of coherent logic.

Dream, morning of 10/3/2013

I found a sort of folder in which there were 6 horizontal slots in the front cover, arranged in vertical rows of three. In five of those slots (the bottom right one being empty) there were small cards from Christmas of the years 1958 – 1962. My mom said this was a thing her brother Carl did, which was to send an update of his family every year, and wondered what year this was from. For some reason it seemed to be connected to when I was born. We were also wondering when he stopped doing this.

On the upper right-hand corner of the cover was a date, 1968. Also, it seemed that somewhere there was a date that indicated the last time he sent one, that was 1998. This seemed to me that he sent them every year until he died. However, upon reflection, in the dream, I recalled that he died before that.

I looked several times at the small cards slotted into the front cover, wondering why they were from only as late as 1962 when the folder was from 1968. My mom kept wondering when it was from and I kept on trying to show her the date in the corner.

What do you think this means?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Uniforms and Patriotism

News item: Mississippi Students Upset After 'Patriotic Day' Apparel Flagged
Mississippi Students Upset After 'Patriotic Day' Apparel Flagged

Apparently a school in Mississippi declared Sept. 11, 2013 "Patriotic Day" and said that students could "either wear a white shirt containing an image of the American flag, or their regular school uniform," according to the Huffington Post.

Two students violated that policy by wearing regular T-shirts that said “America, land of the free, home of the brave” and "U.S. Pride." They were told to change their clothes because he shirts did not follow the school dress code, and now the article reports that the school is considering not having a "Patriotic day" next year.

I seldom get inspired to take time out of my day to comment on news articles and such, and most often other people say what I would have said anyway or a simply idiots. I was feeling inspired,this morning, however. Here is my take on the matter (which I also posted in the "comments" section of the article):

Patriotism is fun and all, but WHY are we patriots? "Guess what everybody? You can wear a DIFFERENT SHIRT than you always have to today, so long as it is THIS PARTICULAR SHIRT that we say you can wear!" I really don't get how that helps me understand why I am supposed to feel patriotic about this country. How is this serving the educational message of the school? If discipline is one of the primary educational missions of this particular school, sure, but I don't see anything empirically or intrinsically worthy of patriotism about being allowed to wear a US flag image on your shirt one day out of the year, and the rest of the year you may only wear your school uniform.

If the point of the uniform is to create an atmosphere of...well...uniformity among the student body, then are we to assume that patriots are allowed to express their individuality once a year now? Are those the only individuals that are allowed to express their individuality? Are those who do not wear the flag not patriots? Is no one else allowed to express their individuality on any other day of the year? Is there something special, better, greater about being a patriot as opposed to not being a patriot? Suppose someone wants to keep their patriotism in their hearts (as many do about their religions, for instance), would they be singled out by the "expressive" patriots for ridicule?

I am going to go out on a limb here and say if you want to maintain uniformity and discipline, you can do it: the same uniform, all year long. If you want to allow free expression, you can do that too: no dress code, all year long. I can even accept a "free expression day" in a uniformed school in which everyone is allowed to wear whatever the heck they want (all right, you can add "within acceptable community standards" if you are afraid of someone showing up with "swear words" on their shirt or in non-gender-appropriate underwear). But "Patriotic Day," in which you are "allowed" to wear one specific alternate uniform, especially one that is as loaded with subtext and meaning as the American flag, and nothing else, strikes me as facetious and against both the spirit of the principles behind school uniforms and the First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom of expression.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Superhero Dream

So I had this dream last night...

I was working in the office of a newspaper, when a paramilitary terrorist (white, about 40 yrs old, hair cut short to minimize the effect of his receding hairline) busted into the office with an assault rifle and took everyone hostage. One of the other workers, one who was new to the office asked what was happening. I told him that this has happened several times before. This guy is trying to make the superhero in the office reveal himself. The thing is, I am the superhero he is trying to expose, but I can't tell anyone, because I have to protect my secret identity.

The fellow office worker takes it upon himself to be the hero. He tries to use a martial arts technique to get the gun away from the terrorist, the terrorist is just too experienced for him, twists his arm backwards and there is a “snap” sound from his arm. “Anyone else?” he says.

There is a Lois Lane-type character in the office, and she asks what he wants. He says he wants to prove that the American press is a corrupt entity that spreads lies, and that he wants to bring down the power of the press.

I explain to him that he wasting his time. The press has no power. Nobody reads the newspapers anymore. Everybody knows there is no journalistic integrity or investigative effort put into reporting anymore. All the papers just print the releases from the Associated Press or Reuters and boom, they're done. If he wanted to get in touch with Superman all he had to do was this...

And then I put my hands around my mouth and yelled “SUPERMAAAAAAAAAAAAN!”

When he turned around to look I ran off, changed into Superman and flew back so fast he didn't notice.

Then I woke up.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Report from the Battle of the Nations 2013 part 1

Report from the Battle of the Nations 2013

Last year we were rock stars. We were superheroes. We were Rocky, the Bad News Bears, the Karate Kid, the Muppets all rolled into one glorious, made-in-America, only-in-America story.

This year we were warriors.

America loves an underdog but at the end of the day, it wants a winner, and we wanted to win. For nineteen of us, this was a return. We had been here before. By “here,” I mean international full-contact medieval armored combat with rebated steel weapons at the Battle of the Nations, although this was a new location, the tiny walled village of Aigues-Mortes on the southern coast of France. For the other twenty-nine it was the first time, but they had the benefit of our experience, our game films, and a training program and battle plan devised by veterans.

We had popped the cherry of Americans being in the sport and had surprised everyone with out toughness, passion, and, to some degree, our good sportsmanship and pleasant natures (not that anyone thought anything bad of us, but everyone remarked how much fun we were). So now here we were, better prepared, with a bigger team, and ready to literally take on the world.

The atmosphere for the event was very different from last year. The city of Aigues-Mortes, and much of France itself, is defined by the words “quaint,” “charming,” and “beautiful.” Just walking down the street put you in the mindset of a medieval town. As a good start to the week we took a tour of Carcassonne, the famous medieval castle. Though it was much more “touristy” than Malbork last year, there is just no avoiding the majesty of looking up at medieval walls and towers, looking out over the landscape from medieval walls and towers, and of course, the stained glass windows and flying buttresses of Gothic cathedrals.

But even before we got there, my lady and I spent a couple of days in Paris. There I met with a cousisn I did not know I had. He invited us over to dinner, at which we had a wonderful home-cooked French meal and met his wife and children. He showed us old family photos and some family documents going back hundreds of years. Some of the most fascinating were a Legion d'Honneur certificate from 1857 that also had a letter from the Sultan, and a scroll from the King of France from 1732!

After Paris we drove down to Carcassonne with Rich Elswick, one of my fellow Team USA knights, stopping off for lunch in Tours, where we checked out another cathedral and an art museum.

It was fascinating to see an At Museum in a small town in France. This was apparently a private collection being shown in a large mansion. Most of the fine art I have ever seen has been in museums in America or art history books. There you get the feeling that what you are seeing are the most important works of at in the world, that the artists did this one or these two or three paintings and that's it, there is no need to see any more. And since these museums cover such a broad spectrum of history and geography, you get the sense that there was only a few pieces of work in any place or period that are worth looking at.

But in the Beaux-Arts Museum in Tours I saw lots and lots of paintings from the same period, all from western Europe, including a Rembrandt. This made me realize that these famous artists did not do just those one or two or three paintings w all know, but lots and lots of paintings over the course of their life. And there were lots of lesser-known artists working also. And people commissioned this art and hung it in their hoses. This was the “pop art” of its period. These were the magazine subscriptions and the TV shows of the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It gave me a new perspective on the history of art and made me wish I had done more art in my lfe. It kind of makes me want tp pick up a pencil right now...

To be continued.