Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Thoughts About the Election - in Verse

2.6 million is the number by which
Hillary Clinton would have won in a stitch
If "one man one vote" were the hard and fast rule
And this nation a democracy were hard and true.
But a republic true is this land where we live,
And rights to the states are a thing we must give.
So regional diferences can be respected,
Their limited sovereignty must be protected.
So our election compromises
People with states of various sizes,
And just a few votes in certain key states
Can seal a popular candidate's fate.

Now we'll have a president who won where he had,
And fans of the other are really quite mad.
"Mandate, my ass," a singer once said
About the election of a man now dead.
But if we respect our constitution's intention,
This quirk of the rules does deserve mention.
The loser has won, and the winner has lost,
We have to accept in this season of frost.
But before off to the White House he goes,
The one going there must look at the no's
And realize that although the message is clear,
There are lots of people who do want him there,
There's others who just wanted his rival out,
or see that regime change would come about.
Yes, far from a landslide was the result.
The USA is not your personal cult.

So give him a chance, but stay on your guard.
Give him an inch, but not the whole yard.
Call out his bluffs so that all will know
That he cannot give us a job that is snow.
But if he should happen to say something smart,
Please do not act like he just laid a fart.
And if he does something that is flat out wrong,
Be sure all will hear you cry out loud and strong.

Now if you wish to respond to this post,
Remember to follow the rule I love most.
You may think it's better, you may think it's worse,
But all of your comments must be in verse.

Two million "illegal votes"? Really, Donald?

Posted to Facebook November 28th, 2016

Really, Donald? Landslide? You got fewer electoral votes than any winning president since the 1970's except G.W. Bush, and do you really, really think that there were as many as two million "illegal" votes? In your heart of hearts? There are fewer than two million transgender people in the US and people living in Detroit combined! Is this how to unite the country?

I was really having hopes that your practicality would lead you to a much more moderate path than some of your supporters were hoping, especially after some of the moderation of some of your campaign promises this past week. But then you go and say (tweet) things like this...


"Professional protestors incited by media"? Really?

I posted this on Facebook on November 11, 2016:

I was really, really hoping that Trump would not do something like this for at least a day.

"Professional protestors"? Really? The last time I heard something like that was from Reagan about the No Nukes rally on June 12, 1982! He said that the nearly one million people who marched from the UN to Central park were working under Moscow's orders.

"Incited by media"? Really? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the only "inciting" that the media had to do was report that Trump won the election. Are you really surprised that the folks who did not want you to be president are acting with a level of passion commensurate with the level of vitriol spewed against Obama and Hillary by Trump and his supporters?

You know, after Trump sued because a voting district in a largely-Latino community allowed people to vote when they had gotten on line before closing, and his daughter-in-law actually said that Hillary was under criminal investigation on CNN ON ELECTION DAY and had to be corrected by the journalist interviewing her, I really wonder if I should be surprised.

Fear and Loathing in 2016 - The Presidential Election

Mostly I sharethings on Facebook these days. But sometimes I post something that I want to have in a more public forum. Though I have far, far fewer followers on Blogspot than on Facebook, search engines are more likely to find things here than there. So with that in mind, I am going to share some things that got their first exposure on FB.

I originally posted this as the election results came in and it looked clear that Donald Trump was going to be the next president of the United States of America:

When I was in high school, it was the height of the Reagan-era Cold War. As a boy growing up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to an adult college-student mom in an aggressively social-engineered elementary school that promoted diversity, understanding, and peace, Reagan was the boogieman. He made threatening comments against the Russians. The Doomsday Clock clicked closer to midnight. And all the advances in social justice and environmental responsibility were doomed to be rolled back by his presence.

I campaigned for Mondale in 1984. I wore Mondale buttons and handed out literature in Grand Central Terminal. I drew a cartoon of Reagan's face on a Ghostbusters button and wore it on my hat. And I truly believed that the missiles would fly if Reagan was re-elected. In Stuyvesant High School, most of my friends shared that feeling.

On the night of the election I was doing my homework when the results came in. Shortly after the election was called, I heard a roar in the sky outside my window. I honestly feared that it was a nuclear ICBM, and checked my clock to see how long before the counter-strike would come.
I have never felt as scared after a presidential election since then. Disappointed, yes. Upset, occasionally, but never scared.

But his year, as CNN tallies up the votes, I am even more scared. the electoral process has disappointed me at every turn, but the worst is how a person that is so divisive, so unsympathetic, so vitriolic in his message of hate, anger, and intolerance, that it took the messiest party convention I have seen to get him nominated, could come so close to winning.

I have been surfing YouTube a lot this year. I have always had a fascination for the history of World War II. It may be a bit of a stretch to call Trump America's Hitler (some of us said the same thing about Reagan back in the day), but things he has said, his pattern of behavior, has opened up a world of negative possibility for the future.

I fear for the safety of our democracy. Up until the end of the 20th century, thus history could be generalized as a "March to Freedom," a history of expanding rights to all people in the US, towards a greater realization of the American dream.

Since then, however there has been a re-fracturing of our society as those who are comfortable with their place in the status quo do whatever they can to keep it, and fear is an easier card to play than hope. So identifying a boogeyman and defining your role in society as a leader against that boogieman is a safe bet, if you are willing to ride it all the way with no holding back.

The trouble with "not holding back" is that it takes you into modes of behavior and the doing of deeds that are beyond the bounds of what we call civility, courtesy, respect, politeness, and all that makes it possible for people to get along despite their differences and prejudices.

In a nation of "E Pluribus Unum" ("of many, one") figuring out how to get along is the path to survival. Being uncompromising is admirable when standing up for that which you believe, but believing in compromise is not sexy, and willingness to get along is seen as a sign of weakness. This is true especially when you have gotten where you are by being uncompromising.

So as the vote counting drags on I have a fear that this may be the last election in this country, and the ideals of this great nation, tested in so many ways over these past 240 years, to the point where they are almost illusory, will become corrupted to the point of being forgotten, and ultimately disappear, never to inspire social progress again. That is what scares me.

Now Trump is making his acceptance speech. So far he is saying all the right things about being president for all of us and uniting people. Whether or not he achieves this remains to be seen. We have four years. Keep the faith.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Report from SCA 50 Year Anniversary - Part 3

(Continued from 2 days ago)
The next day I spent most of the morning repairing armor, but managed to make it to a “boat battle.” This was a rollicking affair in which simulated “boats” carried fighters to an “island” on which “booty” was stashed. The different teams of fighters fought to collect the booty and bring them back to their “docks.”

This was absurd, ridiculous, and fun. My team actually won one of the engagements, collecting the most valuable booty. Here is a video of some of the action. https://youtu.be/3cgEcDRBkRE

After that I attended a lecture on “The Psychology of Fighting” by Duke Talymar. IT was an interesting summation of the progression of a SCA fighter's career and options, how to break through plateaus, and guidance for fighters. After the lecture, the floor was opened to questions. There were some interesting points brought up. Among the most discussion-inspiring ones were how to deal with a student who refuses to learn, and what to do when someone has lost the thrill he used to have and how to help him get it back.

I found this to be an interesting topic. I have had periods in which I felt myself lacking the thrill for the SCA that I used to have. AS a result I wound up gravitating to other things like Brazilian jiu jitsu, pro wrestling, filmmaking, and the Battle of the Nations - Armored Combat League world. I contributed that I have felt the thrill fade, that I didn't fit in to my local fighting group quite as well as I used to. In my case, what I did was simply focus on what it was that I liked about it that was still there. In my case, it was the fact that even though I hate almost everything involved with fighting (pack the gear, carrying it, putting it on, the exertion, carrying the stuff home, being sore and tired), I do it because I love being able to say that I did it.

After a bunch more comments and discussion, one other thing came to my mind, so I shared it: The SCA is a hobby. If you think you will get more satisfaction by saving the whales, or getting involved in local politics, or finishing high school, or starting grad school, or spending time with the wife and kids, do it.

After all that was done, I noticed gnats or fleas flitting around me. I felt hot, sweaty, and itchy, but my armor needed fixing. I took all my armor off and fixed the three rivets that needed fixing before going back to camp for dinner. I showered all the sweat and bugs off, but it turned out it wasn;t me, there were bugs all over the place that day.

(to be continued)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

REport from SCA 50 Year Anniversary - Part 2

(Continued from yesterday's post.)

After the fighting on the first day I sat in on a class on the use of the shield by Duke Stephen. He gave some interesting advice on the various shapes and typos of SCA shields and the different ways in which they can be used.

The next day I spent most of the morning repairing my armor, but I made it to a “known world fighter practice,” at which Duke Visivald showed a couple of principles of polearm. I had replaced the thrusting tip on my polearm, and then proceeded to use it, and the principles Viz had taught, to great effect in practice.

Next came the 5-weapons tourney. At first I had not intended to fight, considering how long it had been since I had fought and that I might not have enough weapons. My lady and I were talking to a friend when {Prince Edmund of the Middle came over to my friend and asked if he would join the tourney to help balance the brackets. “You just need to be an organic pop-up target,” he said. My friend declined, but I figured that since that's pretty much what I had been the previous day, what did I have to lose?

The format of the tourney was double-elimination in which in each match the fighters would have to choose either polearm, two-sword, sword & buckler, two-handed sword, or spear for each round, and each match would be fought best three-of-five. I wound up fighting quite well. I lost the first match in three rounds straight, but won the second three-to-one. The third match was an epic that went the distance. I lost the first two rounds (sword & buckler and two-handed sword) but won the next two (poleaxe and two-sword). We then faced off with 6-foot long spears (a form with which I had never really fought before). Already the other guy was really enjoying the fights. He was a short, active fighters whose ducking had saved him from at least two kills in the sword and buckler fight, but who left enough opportunity open in defense for me to hit in the head in two-sword and in poleaxe.

With the spears, we alternated periods of cautious probing with furious thrusting and parrying. Some grappling ensued that almost resulted in short-range stabbing, but the marshal broke it up. In the end it was a shame that either of us had to lose, but he managed to get a thrust in on my face that I was not quick enough to block, and I was out of the tourney.

It is noteworthy to mention that in my polearm victories I did use the principles that Duke Visivald had taught earlier that day.

(To be continued...)

Report from SCA 50 Year Anniversary - Part 1

So...I just got back from the 50th Year Celebration of the SCA event. It was an amazing event for me, full of fighting and medieval merriment, and also a few observations about things. I will be posting them in bite-sized pieces for easier digesting.

It had been a long time since I had spent a full day in armor, so I was looking forward to the opportunity that this trip presented. There were sure to be fighters of quality from all over the known world. AS it turned out there were about – fighters who were in the fighting arena every day to take part in tourneys and pickups, with a few others who came in once or twice., so we all got to know each other a little bit over the course of the week.

I fought in 6 tournaments and scenarios: A Pas d'Arms, a polearm tourney, a “5-weapons” tourney, a greatsword tourney a “tourney of Love and Honor,” and a “boat battle.”

The pas d'arms was the first fighting I did. It was a casual affair in which fighters were invited to challenge other fighters as the kings and queens of two kingdoms watched and participated. I fought about a half-dozen fighters, 5 rounds each. Most of them were knights. I did surprisingly well, I thought, and got to meet several knights and royals on my first day. One of them was the queen of Aethelmark, who gave me a small token, a ring with a little green stone, to give to my lady.

Later that day was a polearm tourney. I fought hard, but my polearm's thrusting tip was too stiff to use safely, so I was at a disadvantage. Also, a couple of the fighters chose to use daggers as secondary weapons. This also put me at a disadvantage when I was in close. I fought 6 fighters in a round-robin, best 2-out-of-3. It seemed, for a while, that I was in the tourney strictly to make sure that everyone else get at least one victory, but I did actually win one match.

To be continued...

Friday, May 20, 2016

I'm back. Some thoughts.

Forgive me for my slow updates. I have been focusing a lot on my work for the Big Apple Comic Con and the editing of "American Knights," my documentary of the USA team at the world championships of medieval armored combat.

I have noticed that I ahve been missing some opportunities for two reasons:

1) I allow others' poriorities to supercede my own.
2) I am easily distracted.

The first is a balancing act. If you have made a promise or agreement with someone, then their priorities have become your own. The trick to having a good life, then, is to associate yourself with people who share your priorities.

The second is a challenge. The challenge is to prioritize yoru activities to as to focus on getting what you really want, not just what you happen to want at the moment. When the easy pleasure is distracting you from the greater goal, your achievement of the greater goal suffers.

I am going to be working on this now.