Friday, March 29, 2013

The rant I've been avoiding all week...

It's been a busy week around here. I've had meetings at CVP, and I've been working on my book project, and a couple of other things. And so, I haven't had much time to write anything here.

But, that's not my excuse for being absent from here for most of the week.

No, my excuse is that I've been in a foul mood and everything I've thought about writing to post has been more rant than post. Since it's Spring Break week, at least around here, I didn't really want to subject you to all that. However, we had a discussion in the meeting I was in yesterday that I just have to say a few things about.

As you know if you've read here very much, I'm currently out of paying work and looking for a job. As part of that, I participate at Central Valley Professionals/Experience Unlimited, which provides seminars, workshops. and networking opportunities for professionals who are looking for work. Well, at my committee meeting yesterday, we started talking (again, as usual) how difficult it is to find work if you are not, well, perfect. If you are not young, employers don't want to hire you. If you've ever had any sort of medical problems or conditions, employers don't want to hire you. If you aren't already employed, employers don't want to hire you - some companies have actually started putting in their job announcements that only the employed need apply.

And god forbid if you're like me, and are both over fifty and have an existing medical condition - arthritis, in my case. Add to that being a woman, and the chances of being hired by any corporation are essentially nil. This is true, no matter how qualified for the job you are, how much experience you have (and, in truth, having experience can work against you - one of the members of my committee just got turned down for a job because he has too much experience), and how reliable you are.

It occurred to me, thinking about the conversation we had in the meeting, that the corporations are putting themselves in the position of essentially deciding if people are worthy to have a place in society at all.


If you can't get a job, you can't earn any money, and without money you cannot participate in society. And, heaven forbid you ask the government for help once all your savings run out as you try to keep a roof over your head and food on your table, much less take care of any family you have. If you ask for that help, then you are labeled as a leech who just wants handouts and is too lazy, stupid, and immoral to work. No matter that you lost your job through no fault of your own because the economy crashed and your employer had to eliminate your position. No matter that you are actively looking for work in a region where unemployment is twice the national average and you've already spent all your savings and can't afford to travel or relocate to look for work in other areas, and couldn't afford to move even if you got a job out of your area. It's all your fault, and you don't deserve another chance.

Do I sound bitter?

Well, yes, I suppose I do. And I'm not going to apologize for that. I didn't do anything wrong. My mother got very ill and I had to take care of her. Because of the nature of her illness, she needed someone with her on a 24-hour-per-day basis. This lasted for several years. There was no money to hire someone or put her in a facility, and so I was the one who had to be there for her. I do not regret doing this. I was lucky enough to find a job that allowed me to work from home, and so I was able to work part-time while not being able work outside the home. After my mother had to go into a facility because her illness had reached the point where I could no longer take care of her, and after she died, I kept that job because I couldn't find anything else. But, eventually, the economy got so bad that my position was eliminated.

So, besides the strikes against me that I described above, I had been working essentially on my own - because I was a private contractor, I am considered to have been self-employed even though I was doing all my work for one company. And, it seems, many companies don't want to hire people who have been self-employed. I'm not sure why that is. I thought that getting up every morning at six a.m. in order to meet my daily deadline, and doing this without a boss looking over my shoulder, even though I am not a morning person, day in and day out over a period of years proved that I was reliable, could take the initiative, and was resourceful. Apparently, though, that's a bad thing today in corporate America.

I guess I just don't understand.

I will apologize for venting here. I've been trying so hard this week not to rant. But, you know, it gets really frustrating sometimes when people treat you like you're a leper or something over things that you have no real control over.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Movie Monday: The Short, Late, and Sadly Lacking Edition....

...or, in other words, this was one of those days when the real world reared its head and said, pay attention to me. Sort of like the cat is doing right now.

Yes, it's late. And yes, I should have posted Movie Monday today. Yesterday. Whenever you are reading this.

The thing is, I'm writing a book. I rarely get a chance to work on that all day. I got that chance today, so I took it. And I got a lot done. Well, relatively speaking. This is a big project (bigger than I realized when I began), and it's still going to be a long, hard slog. But, I'm making progress in research and outlining and building a timeline. I'm writing nonfiction, about the Baby Boomers, and the timeline is necessary, not just the sophisticated equivalent of sharpening pencils and cleaning my desk, which is what I'm pretty sure it looks like to the casual observer.

At any rate, all I've got say about movies today is that I watched "South Pacific" (the original version) last night. It had been years since I saw it. I'm always amazed how a movie will change when viewed separate times years apart. And then, after I had done all the work I could do today, I watched parts of an animated film called "Rise of the Guardians" in between doing other things (like making my dinner). I need to go back and watch the middle part that I didn't see. The beginning and the end were very good. This is clearly a film aimed primarily at kids, but what I did see of it kept me engaged. This is an accomplishment for someone who didn't like "kids' movies" when I was a kid.

As I observed at the beginning of this short post, It's late. Even with a short nap early this evening, I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open at this point. Between that and trying to convince the cat that I have things to do besides pet him, I think it's probably time for me to go to bed.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Music Sunday: The "The Cars" Edition

While trying to decide what music I wanted to share today, it came to my attention that yesterday was Cars' frontman Ric Ocascek's birthday. While I'm not enough of a fan of The Cars to know their music well, I've always liked their hits, some of which were made more memorable because of the offbeat videos that were made for them.

For example, there's "You Might Think", which came out in 1984 and was included on the "Heartbeat City" album. The song is catchy, and the video is...well, odd. Surrealistic. And, as far as I'm concerned, hilarious:

The video, but the way, won the Video of the Year award at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards.

I know that some people are adamantly against videos, especially videos like this that put specific and striking visual images to specific songs. They claim that this ruins the ability of the listener (and viewer, more especially) to interpret the song in their own mind by having these specific, vivid images given to them. While this can happen, I don't find this to be true for myself except in a very few circumstances. I do, however, like it better when there is more than one video made for a song (yes, I know, expensive...but worth it, I think), so that more than one visual interpretation is presented and no one version sticks in the listener/viewer's mind. The most vivid example I can think of for this are the three videos U2 made for the song "One" (two of which I've shared here before, and so I probably won't do that today). All three are strikingly different, all are good, and all serve the song - in wildly different ways.

Just to prove that The Cars' songs were not "made" by the videos, here is a performance of "Just What I Needed" from "The Midnight Special" TV series in 1978. This was the band's first hit, from their first, self-titled, album:

My favorite Cars' song is "Drive", which was also on the 1984 album "Heartbeat City". The video for this song is about as far as the video for "You Might Think" as it could possibly be, but it is just as striking in its own way and, I think, enhances rather than detracts from the song:

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Beatles' Anniversary...

It isn't Music Sunday, but I have to take the opportunity, as late in the day as it is, to mark an important day in music history.

Fifty years ago (!) today, on March 22, 1963, the first Beatles' album "Please, Please Me" was released in the UK, on the Parlophone label.

This is a big deal, for a few reasons. First of all, The Beatles. Just that. This release marked the beginning of an era. Also, eight of the fourteen songs on the album were written by Lennon and McCartney, an indication that The Beatles were not going to be like other singers and bands and record songs written by someone else. It took them a couple of albums to get to the point where they were writing some (or all) of their own material, but even with this record they were on their way to that.

The four Beatles also substantially played all the music on the album, something else that wasn't especially common at that time. Other than producer George Martin's turn on the piano on "Misery" and on the celesta on "Baby It's You", and drumming by Andy White on "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You", John, Paul, George, and Ringo played all the instruments and sang all the lead and background vocals.

Additionally, the album - all fourteen songs - were recorded in one day, in a three-part session that lasted a little less than 10 hours, on February 11, 1963. Granted, none of the songs were very long - none were over three minutes - and recording technology was not exactly sophisticated in 1963. Still, that isn't very long to record an entire album.

The song that opened the album was "I Saw Her Standing There" which, I will confess, was my favorite song as a second-grader, at the time The Beatles first came to the United States. I found this live performance of the song from October 30, 1963. This is a rare video in that there is little of the shrieking by the audience that would become so much a part of the band's legacy:

The final song on the album was also the last song recorded in the session, "Twist and Shout". Legend says it was left until last because George Martin was afraid that if John Lennon - who sang lead on the song)- sang it any earlier, his voice would be done for the day, and the rest of the songs could not be recorded. Lennon had a cold and his voice was already showing the effects of the illness. This performance is from an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, early in 1964:

I was talking to a couple of people today about The Beatles and their music, and there was some disagreement about which was the better period, their early work or their later songs. My take is that both are just fine. I like the early stuff, and I like the late stuff, and I like the stuff in between. I do have to admit that my favorite of their albums is one of their latest, "Abbey Road". That doesn't mean that I think their earlier work was any less good, as "Please Please Me" shows.

But really...was it that long ago?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Doing the right thing...

I was going to write about something else today, but I came across this video, and I had to share it. This is Pink, being awesome:

Some of you might have read about this, or maybe you've even already seen the video. But honestly? I think it bears sharing again, and again, and again. She didn't have to stop the concert to make sure that the girl who was crying was okay. She could have just gone on with the song. But she didn't. She did the right thing, which was to defuse the situation. Be a better world if more people would do that rather than just going about their business.

I saw this yesterday when it was making the rounds, and then someone shared it over on Ravelry. The best comment over there was someone wondering if we can send Pink to Congress now, and tell them they're "grown-ass" people and make them behave. If anyone can do it, she would be the one.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Spring. Now, get to work...

Happy first day of Spring, everyone. After a week and a half or so of springlike/verging on summer-like weather here, we've got sprinkles forecast for today.

But that's okay. I'm not going to get to go out today, anyway. I'll be sitting here, doing the same thing I've been doing the past couple of days, which is getting ready for practice interview day at CVP and writing the first draft of a workshop on job interviewing set to be presented early next month. Such fun.

And, well, yes, I am being sarcastic, but only because I'd like to have the time to get out and enjoy the weather - despite the predictions of a bit of rain, it's still nice enough to be out in the fresh air rather than just sitting here working and looking out the window at the building next door while I work.

I actually like putting together workshops. This is the third or fourth one I've participated in for CVP, and I'm finding that I'm half-way good at it. And, I did volunteer to write the draft, since writing is what I do. I'm not as good at interviewing, but in my time so far on the Interview Committee, I've learned quite a bit about the theory of job interviewing, from both sides - as interviewee and as an interviewer. I'm not sure that I completely approve of the psychology involved, but I understand it a lot more now than I did previously.

We will be covering a few aspects of preparing for interviews in this workshop, but the main emphasis is preparing to answer questions during the interview. After all, that is what happens in an interview.

And, I quite like that there is a storytelling aspect to answering certain questions, known as behavioral questions. These are questions that ask an interviewee about things that they have done as a part of their work in the past or asks the interviewee to explain how they would handle a certain scenario at work.

There is even a formula for answering such questions, called the STAR approach: in it, the person being interviewed explains the situation in question, defines the task posed by the situation, the action they took (or would take) in resolving the situation, and the results of the action or actions they took. Which is, when you think about it, a very efficient outline for a story.

Honestly, I don't like interviewing for jobs, but since there is really no way around the interview process in most cases, I figure that the next best thing to avoiding interviews is to get really good at them. Doing projects like this one is one way of getting good at them.

And on that note, I'd better get to it. I've still got a little bit of this draft to write before I can send it off to committee members for comment and revision. And I'm sure there are things that will need revision, if only because we've got a limited time (90 minutes) to present the workshop. The complication is that, because I am a great believer that a workshop should be a workshop - that the people attending the workshop should have to participate in something, rather than just sit there and listen to someone talk for an hour and a half - it's very difficult to plan the timing so that everything that needs to be covered will be covered adequately.

So, that's what I'll be doing today. How are you planning on celebrating the arrival of Spring?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Music Sunday: The St. Patrick's Day Edition

Music Sunday. Yeah, it's supposed to be Music Sunday today.

It's also Saint Patrick's Day. And a beautiful Saint Pat's day it is here in Central California. Alas, the wind is blowing the pollen around and I've got the mother of all allergy headaches, complete with sneezing, and so I'm in much of a mood to do anything.

However, I like me some Irish musicians, and so I'm going to leave a couple of clips of songs from musicians from that part of the world.

Gary Moore left us awhile back, alas, but he left us with some fantastic music. The first of his songs that I ever heard, and still my favorite, is "Over the Hills and Far Away" (not to be confused with a different song by the same name by Led Zeppelin), here from a live performance in Stockholm in 1987, the year the song came out:

One more from Gary Moore, "Still Got the Blues". No other words are necessary, except that this is a great song:

Another song from an Irish musician that I've always loved is "Moondance", by Van Morrison. I'm not crazy about all of his work, but this song just has that something that makes it perfect, at least to my ears. It's hard to believe that this song has been around for 43 years now:

And, of course, Ireland has also given us the World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band.

Yes, I know. Some people criticize U2 for being too political, or for being political at all. But, you know, I'm not sure how one grows up in Ireland without becoming political. And, yes, some of U2's songs are very political. That doesn't make them not good songs. For example, there's "Bullet the Blue Sky", which is very political. And also a kick-ass rock'n'roll song. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get heard enough. Here it is, from a live performance at Slane Castle in Ireland:

I've also heard people criticize U2 because they put religion in their music. And, under other circumstances, I might be uncomfortable with religion in their music. But, I've never heard any dogmatic religion in their music. Like this song, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". This is the religion of the search, not the religion of having all the answers. And that's okay with me:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

In which I prove, apparently, that anything can become political...

It's another busy day today. Not in exactly the way I had planned, but busy nonetheless. I was supposed to go to an SCA Arts and Sciences Day, but my roommate had to go to a work meeting, and so here I am. It's fine, though. I really need to work on the book I'm writing, which I've been doing already.

However, while I was taking a break and bounding randomly around the Internet, it came to my attention that today is actor Alan Tudyk's birthday. This probably doesn't have much to do with anything except to Mr. Tudyk and his family and friends. However, mentioning this gives me the opportunity to celebrate yet another of my geekdoms and share my love for "Firefly", in which he played the role of Wash.

Now, I didn't come to Firefly until long after its short, but long lamented, run on the Fox network. Yay, DVDs. People kept telling my that I really needed to see the show, which can best be described as a space western. And I kept saying, "Yeah, right." And then I did sit down with the DVDs and watched the entire series in a couple of long sessions. It took me about an episode and a half to realize how brilliant the show is. And it is brilliant.

I know people have mixed reactions to the work of Joss Whedon, who created not only "Firefly", but the "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" television series (and wrote the film of the same name) and its spin-off, "Angel", as well as the series "Dollhouse" and the Internet musical "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog". He also wrote and directed the 2012 film, "The Avengers", and has done some other film work. I didn't like "Buffy" much, to be honest, and I didn't get to see enough of "Dollhouse" to really figure it out, which was why I wasn't particularly eager to watch "Firefly".

'm glad I finally did watch it. But I know that I'm not going to convince those of you who aren't Whedon fans, so please don't consider this one of those "you must watch "Firefly", if you watch it enough you'll fall in love with it" attempts. Rather, I'm just here to say that I love it, not that you have to. I've had enough people involved with fandoms that I don't care for do that to me that I'm not about to try to do that to anyone.

However, I ham going to show you this, which is a compilation of quotes from the show put up on YouTube by someone calling themselves jblottingink. Those of us who love the show have a particular fondness for quotes from the show, which do a good job of highlighting the personalities of the characters. I don't love all of the quotes contained in this clip, but most of the ones I do love are incorporated in it:

And then there is this case, which grew out of a quote from "Firefly", and one university police chief's knee-jerk reaction to that quote. Instead of me rehashing the facts of the case, which I remember from when it was going on, just watch this video report about it. I'll tell you up front that it is one-sided and sides with the professor who posted the quote that upset the police chief on his door, but I think that it also makes a good point:

And that point is, at least in my opinion, that knee-jerk reactions about anything, to the right or to the left, in terms of being too politically correct or not being politically-correct enough, are dangerous. In this specific instance, people have to look at the context of what someone says, not just that they said it. I think the video has explained very well what was meant by the quote, and it wasn't that the person who said it was going to kill the person they were talking to, which was how the police chief clearly took it. Mal Reynolds, as played by Nathan Fillion, the character the quote comes from, wasn't telling Dr. Tam, who was concerned about it, that he (Mal) wasn't going to sneak up on the doctor and kill him, but would give him a fair chance in a fair fight if (not when) he found the doctor to be a danger to the captain's ship and crew. If anything, the professor, by posting the quote, was telling his students that he would be fair with them, not that he would ambush them or treat them unfairly in any way. All the police chief saw, apparently, was the word "kill" in the quote and immediately saw a threat.


Maybe that's what's wrong with the world today - well, one of the things. There are too many people who can only see words in isolation and are not able to (or willing to?) analyze their context to find out what is really meant by all the words, in context. The Right does it. The Left does it. Even the Middle, or what's left of it in the United States today, probably does it on occasion. They all need to just stop it and realize that the world is complicated, words carry all kinds of meanings not just individually but in association with other words in the sentences and paragraphs surrounding it.

We have an unfortunate phrase in our culture here in the US. Often, when someone gets upset with someone else, they sort of automatically say, "I'm going to kill you" or "I'm going to kill them" when they don't really mean anything of the kind. Personally, I'm uncomfortable with that usage. I'm not generally a violent person, and as far as I can remember, I have never, ever wanted someone dead. I've never even wanted someone I'm upset with or have disagreed with hurt, physically or emotionally. Really. But my discomfort is bedside the point here. I am a reasonable person, and so know that of the people who use this phrase, rarely or constantly, roughly one in a million of them, if that, actually mean that they want to kill the person they name when they say that. That the police chief in the case outlined in the video I've linked didn't get that kind of worries me, and not just because of the free-speech implications of someone in authority having the ability to dictate what people can and can't post on their office doors. What I worry about more is the state of mind of someone who apparently assumes that anyone who uses the word "kill", or posts the word "kill" in a context that is clearly not threatening, poses the threat that they are ready, willing, and able to actually kill someone.

That's just a ludicrous leap to make, I think.

Well. I didn't mean to get all political here today. But when I found the video about that professor's case and saw how it tied in to "Firefly", I wanted to share it.

However. It's Saturday. Enjoy however much you have left of the day where you are in the world. It's lunch-time here, and I think I'm going to find something to eat.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Music Extra: Summer Songs...

As I wrote here the other day, spring fever has set in around here in a big way. Only, it isn't quite spring yet even though the temperatures we've seen here locally have seemed more like summer. Well, early summer, since in the middle of summer it isn't unusual for this region to see temperatures past 100 degrees F. The last couple of days it has been in the mid-80s F, which can on occasion be the low temperature at the height of summer. But, when it's been in the 50s F for highs as recently as a couple of weeks ago, mid-80s feel like summer. We've even been running the air conditioner.

Now, it would be nice if I could give in to my spring fever, but with volunteer work, looking for a real job, and working on writing a book, I've been more than busy - as my sporadic posting here this week has indicated. So, I've been resisting the lure of sitting outside in the warmth with a good book and a glass of lemonade and getting on with the things I need to do. This hasn't been as difficult as it might seem, though, since the warm weather also means that things are blooming - with a vengeance - and that means the onset of allergy season. Since I'm allergic to multiple things that grow around here, every time I stepped outside yesterday I started either coughing or sneezing or both.

At any rate, I thought that before I have to go back out into the warmth and the allergens later today to go to a meeting at CVP, I would share a few songs that resonate with the apparent season around here.

First of all, here is George Harrison singing "Here Comes the Sun" at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. It seems an appropriate song since even though it hasn't rained as much as it should here locally over the winter, it has been cloudy a lot, and it is nice to see the sun:

This kind of weather is baseball weather, and the season is coming soon. So there's this song, "Swing", by Trace Adkins, which is about baseball, and also about striking out or not in that other spring pastime - love, lust, and romance:

That isn't exactly a traditional baseball song. For that, there's John Fogerty's "Centerfield":

There are a lot of songs about summer. Some of them are just about summer, and some of them are about, well, more. One of these is "The Boys of Summer", by Don Henley. It's too nice a day to engage in serious analysis, however, and so I'll just leave this here for you:

An older summer song, "Summer in the City" (1966), by The Lovin' Spoonful, contrasts summer days and summer nights:

It's possible that where you are reading this from, summer weather hasn't arrived yet, or is just going away if you happen to be in the Southern Hemisphere. But, is there really a bad time for a summer song? As far as I'm concerned, summer is a state of mind as much as it is a season. Then again, I grew up in Southern California, where you can have summer-like weather on any given day of the year, so my perceptions on the subject might be slightly skewed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Now, all we need is for baseball to start...

Just dropping in to say hello, and to apologize for not posting yesterday.

It's just a couple of really busy days for me. I had to go do some volunteer work yesterday at CVP, and I have to go down there again later this morning. In fact I should be going out the door in about half an hour or so. Probably not going to manage that, but I'll be there in time to see the person I need to talk to today, so it's all good.

It isn't helping, either, that Spring has sprung around here, and I've got spring fever in a bad way. Not that I don't want to do anything, but just that I want to be doing it outside in the fresh air. The weather report says it's going to be 85 degrees F here today, and if it's anything like yesterday it's going to be a lovely day. Unfortunately, CVP is inside, and so is the library, where I need to go and do some research after I'm finished at CVP. The library workers take a very dim view of trying to take the reference books outside to work.

But, the work has to be done, because the book I'm working on is not going to write itself. Where's Rumplestilskin when you need him? Or does that just work with spinning straw into gold?

At any rate, here's hoping that it's nice weather where you are, and that you get to spend some time out in it, rather than cooped up inside all day. I should be back with a post of a little more substance tomorrow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Movie Monday: The "Reel Life vs. Real Life" Edition

So, I'm behind.

Yesterday was Music Sunday, and I fully intended to get a post written and up here, but Blogger decided not to cooperate (it was having trouble loading), and so that didn't happen. And now it's Movie Monday. So, I suppose some sort of mash-up is probably the way to go.

I can do that. And I can start of by saying that I watched "Grand Theft Parsons" (2003) over the weekend. Again.

It isn't really a biography of musician Gram Parsons, but a semi-faithful re-creation of the days after Parsons's death, when his road manager, Phil Kaufman, set out to fulfil the promise they had made to each other that, whoever died first, the other would take their body out to Joshua Tree Nation Park in the California desert and cremate it in the place they both loved.

This really happened. I can remember hearing the reports of the incident in 1973. For many years after, the only thing I knew about Gram Parsons was that he died and some wild friend of his had hauled his body out to Joshua Tree and torched it. And so, when I first became aware of the movie and its premise, I was skeptical that it would make any kind of a movie, let alone a watchable one.

And, actually, the critics are split on whether or not it is actually watchable. Some found it "tasteless" and "stale", without "soul or imagination." But others described it as "a delight, a comic tragedy" and said it has "tremendous charm." It is a black comedy. What else could it be, with the subject matter involved?

But, after I learned more about Parsons's music (I've written about Parsons here before), I watched the film. It isn't for everybody. I'll grant you that. But I see in it a sweet core, a story about real friendship and real regret on Kaufman's part (as portrayed by Johnny Knoxville) that he wasn't there when his friend needed him most. Yes, it takes liberties with the facts. Most movies based on real events do.

Here is the trailer. This is one you really need to judge for yourself:

The thing is, though, if you see "Grand Theft Parsons", you should also see "Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel", a 2006 documentary about Parsons that tells the real story of his life. It isn't always a pretty story, but pretty much everyone who knew him gets to contribute their thoughts, good, bad, or indifferent, and I found it to be a pretty complete treatment of his life, his talents and his foibles, and his death.

Here is the trailer for the documentary:

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Just pick one, for goodness sake...

Daylight Savings Time begins at 2 am tomorrow morning, which means that between tonight and tomorrow morning the semi-annual ritual of resetting our clocks will take place. Of course, with computers and cell phones that automatically adjust their clocks, it is much easier to deal with the physical ritual. Still, that doesn't help my internal clock adjust.

Bottom line, what the time change means is that I will spend the next week or two in a foul mood while my body and my mind adjust to the sun coming up and setting an hour later than I'm used to.

I really hate Daylight Savings Time, and not only for that reason. I've always had this silly notion that when it gets to be evening, the sun is supposed to go down, the sky is supposed to darken, and I should be able to see the stars. Yes, in some ways I'm an old-fashioned girl.

Daylight Savings Time has had a varied history in the United States since it was first introduced in 1918, with its first introduction by Congress overturned after World War I ended and too many complained about the change. Congress passed a new law abolishing DST, which President Woodrow Wilson vetoed. Congress promptly overrode the veto. Some states, however, stuck with Daylight Savings Time until it was again mandated, this time by Franklin Roosevelt, in early 1942, after the US entry into World War II. It was called "War Time" and continued in effect until the last Sunday in September, 1945, after the war ended. The next year, many states adopted DST for summer use.

The federal government did not step into the regulation of time again until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966 in order to standardize time across the country. The Act required the observance of DST from the last Sunday in April until the last Sunday in October, although individual states were allowed to opt out as long as the entire state did so. Several states did opt out, but most eventually began to observe summer DST. The last time I checked, Arizona and Hawaii were the only holdouts.

There was another experiment with year-round DST during the OPEC Oil Embargo in the 1970s, when DST was implemented between January 6, 1974 and April 27, 1975 as a way to save energy. This experiment was not much of a success after the act requiring DST year-round was amended so that the country went back to Standard Time from October 1974 through February 1975 after concerns were raised, especially about children having to wait for school buses in the dark on winter mornings.

As much as I grouse about Daylight Savings Time, however, I would be happy if the government would just pick one time and stick with it. As much as I hate the late sunsets during the summer, the difficulty of physically adjusting to the time change twice a year is worse as far as I'm concerned. And, apparently, I'm not the only one. Huffington Post is reporting that there is a petition on the White House's "We the People" site that asks the federal government to either eliminate DST completely or else stick with it all year round. The petition needs a total of 100,000 signatures by the beginning of April for the White House to respond to the request.

I think that when I'm finished writing this, I'll probably go over there and sign it. It couldn't hurt, and it might get the feds to get off their butts and do something constructive.

Goodness knows, they're not making an progress solving the economic crisis.

Friday, March 08, 2013

In which I am homesick...

I'm really feeling homesick today, as I sit here in Fresno and look out at the gray sky and a wet patio and fence. It's probably the same in southern California, the place I'm homesick for, but that doesn't matter. That's home, and every so often I get so homesick for the south part of the state that I can hardly stand it.

It makes no sense, to be honest. I've lived in central California longer than I lived in southern California - about 14 years longer here than there, at this point - but as far as I'm concerned, southern California is home. It probably always will be.

I think this particular bout of homesickness has to do with having watched the Academy Awards ceremony when it was broadcast late last month. At one point, for some reason that I don't remember now, they showed a photo of the Capitol Records building. When I was growing up, we drove by that building on a fairly regular basis, and it has become one of the symbols of my childhood. Now, whenever I see it, it reminds me of home and all the warm, fuzzy stuff that goes with it.

That isn't the only place that has that effect on me. The Hollywood sign does it to a lesser extent. What does it even more than the Capitol Records building is the observatory and planetarium at Griffith Park. And, of course, Disneyland. I grew up going both of those places, and I love them, and seeing photos of them always makes me want to be there rather than here.

When it gets really bad, sometimes I go searching YouTube for videos of all the places I knew and loved growing up. There is quite a variety of them, some of them from places that no longer even exist. There's even some old, silent footage from the California Alligator Farm, which used to sit right across the street from Knott's Berry Farm, in Buena Park:

We used to go to the alligator farm every time we were in that part of the region. My father was a big fan of reptiles in all their forms, and he always liked the alligator farm a lot. Originally, the Alligator Farm was located in Lincoln Heights, a Los Angeles Neighborhood, but it was moved to Buena Park in 1953 and remained their until it closed in 1984, a victim of dropping attendance.

Another place that isn't there anymore is Pacific Ocean Park, which was located in Santa Monica. POP, as it was known, opened in July, 1958 and operated until October, 1967, when it closed due to low attendance and after a new owner couldn't pay his bills. But, it was fun while it lasted, and I remember the one visit my family made there with fondness. Here is a bit about POP from a 1959 documentary, around the same time as my visit there:

One of the things I remember most about that day was that I really, really wanted to go on the diving bell ride that you saw in the video. My mother, however, was frightened of water and refused to let me ride.

Here's an ad for another gone-but-not-forgotten southern California attraction, Movieland Wax Museum. I'm the first to admit that the wax museum was kind of cheesy, but it was a good kind of cheesy, and I was sorry to hear the news when it closed in 2005 after having been open since 1962:

At one time, the wax museum had a second wing, in which the wax figures were not of movie stars, but were set up in re-creations of famous works of art. It was called the Palace of Living Art, and the best part was neither inside the building nor made of wax. This was a Carrara marble replica of Michelangelo's David, with the marble, so legend says, taken from the same quarry where the artist got the marble for his original sculpture. It sat in the courtyard of the museum for a time after the Palace of Living Art closed, and was eventually sold to the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, according to the sources I've seen.

Well, sitting here and being homesick is not a productive use of my time, and so I'll leave this at that. I hope today's homesickness will pass as I get on with the day, since I really have other things to do than sit and ransack YouTube for scenes from my past. That book I'm writing will not ever get finished if I don't get to work. I'm already an hour behind today's self-imposed schedule.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

American Justice?

Six years ago today, on March 6, 2007, Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted of four of five counts relating to the "outing" of CIA operative Valerie Plame. He was convicted of felony counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators in the aftermath of the exposure of Ms. Plame in an article by political columnist Robert Novak. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine, but he ended up not serving even a day in jail because President George W. Bush commuted his sentence. He still had to pay the fine and serve probation, and his felony convictions stood. Also, because he was convicted of a felony, he lost his voting rights.

Well, until late last year. A report that came out last last month had his name on a list of convicted felons whose voting rights had been restored by Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell.

None of this would have probably even been on my radar except that last week I saw the film "Fair Game", about the Plame Affair. I had followed it casually in the news as it was going on, but I really didn't know that much about it until I did some reading about the case and its aftermath after finding the film intriguing. I wanted to know how much of the film was accurate and how much of it was the "Hollywood lite" version. As far as I can tell from the research I've done the film, which stars Naomi Watts as Valerie Plame and Sean Penn as her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, is pretty faithful to the facts of the case.

It all started when Joseph Wilson took exception to part of President George W. Bush's State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, or at least the part of it in which Bush asserted that an agreement had been made between Iraq and the African nation of Niger for Iraq to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger as part of Iraq's bid to acquire nuclear weapons capability. Well, what Bush actually said, and which has come to be known as "the 16 words", was: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." But Joseph Wilson knew exactly what he was talking about.

The reason Wilson knew what Bush was referring to was that he had been asked a year earlier by the CIA to travel to Niger and check out reports that this deal had been made after Vice-President Cheney's office and the Departments of State and Defense had made inquiries to the CIA about such a deal. Wilson went to Niger and investigated, the reported back that as far as he could ascertain, there was no truth to the stories and that no deal had been made. The closest Wilson could find to any dealings between the two countries was a report from the Prime Minister of Niger that a businessman had proposed that he meet with a delegation of Iraqis to discuss widening commercial relations. The Prime Minister however, aware of sanctions against Iraq, did not respond to the request for the meeting.

The 16 words in Bush's speech was part of his efforts to drum up support for his planned war against Iraq, and Wilson took exception to the fact that Bush was, at the very best, vastly exaggerating, and at worst just plain lying, about the state of Iraq's nuclear program in order to get the American people behind him in his drive to war. Eventually, after documents produced that were alleged to document the Iraq-Niger deal, and after those documents were pronounced fakes by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and after the US had gone to war with Iraq, Wilson wrote an op-ed piece, "What I Didn't Find In Africa", which was run in the New York Times on July 6, 2003.

Apparently, the Bush administration didn't like being called out for its exaggerations as it lined up support for the war, and just over a week later, Robert Novak published the information that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative. How he found this out is a long and convoluted story, but eventually the leak was traced to Vice-President Cheney's office. Those implicated in the leak included Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (who eventually admitted that he was the one who actually leaked the information to Novak), Scooter Libby, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Besides Libby, Armitage was also indicted for his role, but was never brought to trial. Vice-President Cheney himself, of course, claimed absolute immunity for any culpability in the leak.

Most importantly, perhaps, George W. Bush stated before any names emerged as being responsible parties for the leak that if he learned who had leaked the information, he would fire them. Ultimately, of course, no one was fired for their involvement in the affair, and as we have seen, while Mr. Bush didn't pardon Libby he did commute his sentence before Libby had served any time. This was very unusual in and of itself, as sentences are almost never commuted until after much of the sentences had been served. As only one example, President Jimmy Carter did not commute Patty Hearst's sentence for her conviction for helping the her Symbionese Liberation Army captors in a bank robbery until she had served nearly two years of a seven-year sentence (which itself had been reduced from an original 35 years.

The consensus is that Ms. Plame's status as a CIA operative was leaked and made public as a way of getting back at her husband for his article contradicting the administration. This despite the fact that such a disclosure was illegal and could have put lives at risk. There are differences of opinion about whether there were any lives put at risk or CIA operations that were damaged by the disclosure of Ms. Plame's employment with the CIA, with claims that the damage was negligible and other claims that the damage was significant and did put people's lives in danger. It is difficult to tell what the truth is because of the culture of secrecy that surrounds CIA operations.

I think the fact that it was even a possibility that operations and, most of all, lives could be put at risk, should have stopped the leak from ever happening, especially since the leak was clearly made as political payback, as an effort to embarrass Ambassador Wilson and to hurt his credibility. Even if no other lives were put at risk, Plame and Wilson and their family did receive a number of threats over the affair. Those who chose to leak the information had to know this would happen, and it should have stopped them from doing what they did. That it did not stop them speaks to the ethics, or rather lack of it, of those involved.

This sort of thing should not be the American way of doing business. And honestly, it kind of pisses me off that Scooter got his voting rights back, and that he is the only one who got into any real trouble over the whole thing, even if he wasn't the one who did the actual leaking.

And why did Richard Armitage, the actual source of the the leak to Novak, never have to answer for that?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Decisions, decisions...

To unfriend, or not to unfriend...that is the question. (All apologies to Shakespeare; it was just too tempting.)

Facebook sometimes presents us with these dilemmas. I've got someone on my FB page who I accepted a friend request from a while back. But this person has taken to posting all this self-help stuff that is just driving me crazy. I know some people are into that sort of thing, but I'm not and never have been. I'm sure he means well (well, I think he means well; he occasionally also posts some pretty objectionable - from my point of view - political and religious stuff, but I've always believed that everyone is entitled to their point of view, even I don't agree with it), but these things are starting to make me twitch.

Just this morning he has posted something about how important it is to write down goals and review them weekly and, just now, something about how we all need to "get out there and create a new you".

To tackle the last one first, I've been hearing this sort of thing for ages, and my first reaction is always, "But I like myself the way I am just fine." For all the fact that I've been having some morale problems recently over the fact that I'm not finding work, I'm generally pretty comfortable in my own skin. I'm fine with improving myself along the lines of learning new things and getting better at the things I already know how to do. But that's a different thing than changing oneself because you think you aren't good enough or that the world will like you better if you conform more to what the culture thinks is cool. Taking the attitude that you need to "create a new you" makes it appear as if you think you aren't good enough.

Maybe it's a function of my upbringing. When I was child, being true to oneself was something that was valued very highly by my parents, and I was encouraged to be me, not what anyone else wanted me to be or thought I should be. And that was a hard row to hoe, considering the fact that I'm pretty much a geek, not something that was accepted at all in a female when I was growing up in the Sixties and early Seventies. But I learned to live with the fact that not everyone is going to like me, and I'm fine with that. Not least of its virtues, accepting that releases me from the obligation to like everyone. Sure, I'd like it if everyone liked me, and it would be great if I liked everyone, but the reality is that this is never going to happen.

The point is, while I value improvement, I'm not interested in a whole new me. Because, you know, that wouldn't be me any more.

The other post, the one about writing down and reviewing goals, might have gotten me into trouble, because I commented there on FB that as far as I'm concerned, taking the time to write down goals and review them all the time really only functions to take away time from actually working on accomplishing those goals. And, understand, I say this as a compulsive list-maker. I love lists. I love making them, and I love reading them. I've probably mentioned here before that I've never met a books of lists that I didn't like.

There have been, in fact, times when I've found lists very helpful. For example, when I was in the process of completing all my papers and projects near the end of my last semester before graduation at university, I found keeping a list of final assignments to be very helpful. As I got each final assignment, I wrote it down on an index card, and I carried that card around with me for about the last month of the semester. As I finished each assignment and turned it in, I got out the list and crossed it off, sort of as a visible sign that I was getting nearer the end of the semester and of school. But, I didn't write it down so that I would know what the assignments were. I knew very well what I had to get done, and when each project or paper had to be finished. I didn't need to pull out the card daily or weekly to contemplate it. Instead, I just worked on getting the projects finished.

But there is also the fact that, mostly, the people I know personally who do what the guy on FB recommends spend a lot more time reviewing their goals than they do working on accomplishing them. It has also been my experience that if you are working on so many goals that you have to write them down to remember them, you're putting too much on your plate. It's like the wisdom of ridding yourself of addictions - don't try to get rid of every addiction you have all at once, because it isn't going to work. Take them one at a time, and you'll likely be much more successful.

As far as I can see, it's the same thing with important life goals - one at a time is more than enough. Trying to do too many things at one time just guarantees that most of them won't get accomplished, and the ones that do get done aren't likely to get done as well as you are capable of doing them. Notice that I'm not saying that goals aren't important. They are. It's just that the journey to the goal is as important as the goal itself, and if you're only focused on the end-product, you're going to miss a lot of the lessons you should be learning along the way.

It's kind of like going on a vacation. Say, you're going to Disneyland. It's a road-trip, and it's going to take you a couple of days' of driving to get there. You haven't been to Disneyland since you were five years old, and you're really excited about going again. But, you know, you're driving through scenic country to get there, and if all you can think about is, "I can't wait to get to Disneyland. I just can't wait!", you're going to miss the mountains, the clear blue sky and that beautiful bird soaring on the wind currents. You're going to miss the Joshua trees in the desert, which really are amazing plants. Or, you'll miss the whales cavorting off the coast that you would have seen if you'd just taken the hour or two to get off the highway and go walk the pier at Pismo, where besides whales, you'd be able to watch the otters floating in the surf, then diving to catch their mid-morning snack. What you miss will depend on the route you take to get there, but whichever route you travel, you'll be missing lots of things.

You'll reach your destination, all right. You'll have great fun at Disneyland. But you'll have missed a lot along the way. It's the same with goals...You'll likely reach your goal, but if you spend all your time thinking of how great life will be once you get there, you'll miss some pretty great things along the way because you won't be paying enough attention to see them and to actually participate in the journey that is life.

All this is a life lesson I'm still learning, by the way. I've still got a lot of work to do to be able to be in the moment rather than always anticipating the next thing up ahead and how great that's going to be. But even though I'm not in a great place right now in my life, with no job and no prospect of one, there are still good things to see and do along the way to getting to a job and a better position in life. Spending time with friends, as I did on Sunday at Scriptorium, is just one example. Yes, the goal there is to produce illuminated awards certificates (they're not to be called promissories any more, as I learned on Sunday), but if we all just gathered and worked single-mindedly on getting the illuminations done, without really interacting, we'd miss out on the conversations we have and the stories we tell each other, and just being with friends.

It's the same with any goal, in my opinion. Arriving at the goal is a good thing, but we ignore the sights and sounds on the way there at our own peril.

I think I've probably come a long way from where I started this post. Tangents 101, we used to call it. But there is nothing wrong with that, and the question still stands: Should I unfriend the person who is posting things I don't find helpful to my journey, just because he's harshing my mellow? Or should I just continue what I've been doing, and hide this individual's posts so that I don't have to look at them?

Really. I'm looking for advice here. I've never unfriended anyone before, not even a passing acquaintance like this person is.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Movie Monday: The John Garfield Edition

It's John Garfield's birthday today, or would have been had he not died of a heart attack at the age of 39 in 1952. The actor, known for roles in movies such as "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946), "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947), and "Destination Tokyo" (1943), had a history of heart trouble that started when he had scarlet fever when he was a child. Being blacklisted in Hollywood after refusing to name names when called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) did not help his condition and may have had a hand in his early death.

Garfield started acting in school as part of therapy for a speech impediment. He made his Broadway debut in 1932. That play, "Lost Boy", only ran for a couple of weeks, but soon found himself in other roles. Eventually, Hollywood began to try to entice him to Hollywood, but Garfield resisted until he was turned down for the starring role in "Golden Boy", a role he had really wanted. A couple of studios offered screen tests, but talks over a contract got hung up when he wanted a clause inserted that would give him time off for future stage work. Finally, Warner Brothers agreed, signed him, and put him in "Four Daughters" (1938), in the role as a troubled young composer who disrupts the lives of the family who runs the boarding house where he rents a room. Garfield was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor in a Supporting Role in the film. Although he lost to Walter Brennan in "Kentucky", I think you can see in this clip from the film exactly why he was nominated:

Garfield was also nominated, this time as Best Actor, for his work in the 1947 film "Body and Soul", in which he plays a boxer who gets mixed up with some crooked promoters:

Again, Garfield lost the award, this time to Ronald Colman in "A Double Life". Also nominated that year were Michael Redgrave (for "Mourning Becomes Electra"), William Powell (for "Life With Father"), and Gregory Peck (for "Gentleman's Agreement"), so he was in good company. Garfield, by the way, was also in "Gentleman's Agreement". A controversial film about antisemitism, "Gentleman's Agreement" ended up winning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Elia Kazan), and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Celeste Holm).

As I mentioned earlier, Garfield also starred in "The Postman Always Rings Twice", which just might have the most enticing first five minutes of a film in the history of Hollywood. See for yourself:

I dare you not to go out and find that and watch the whole film. The only reason that I'm not going to spend the next couple of hours doing just that is that I've got some other things to do first.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Music Sunday: The Jon Bon Jovi Birthday Edition

I've been busy today, so Music Sunday is going to be short and sweet.

Yesterday was Jon Bon Jovi's birthday. I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan, but I do like some of his work, both with his band and his solo work. For instance, "Wanted Dead or Alive", has always been one of those songs that makes me crank the volume up when I'm listening to the radio in the car:

And, aside from his work with his band, Bon Jovi has done some solo work, including "Blaze of Glory", which appeared in the film "Young Guns II".

"Blaze of Glory" is notable this time of year for the fact that it won the Golden Globe Award in 1990 for Best Original Song and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Original Song the same year.

I also like "This Ain't A Love Song". Yeah, I know. But I'm in a mood again today - I think it's the weather - and as a lost love song, it isn't bad:

Saturday, March 02, 2013

In place of the rant I wrote...

I just wrote a middling-long post that I've decided not to post.

You see, I'm feeling very cranky today, and I've felt a little put-upon by some people on Facebook, who seem to think that telling me I'm WRONG is sufficient to make me bow and scrape and admit my wrongs and give up my social and political principles. This has gotten me in a bit of a mood, and the post I just wrote was a bit of a rant.

No. It wasn't a bit of a rant. It was a full screamer. I don't want to impose that on you all.

And so, I'll just say that I hope you had a nice Saturday and that I'll be back tomorrow with Music Sunday, gods willing, the creek don't rise. Which, I suppose, is another sign that I might be getting old (see yesterday's post for more on that) - I'm staring to use those old-fashioned cliches like "gods willing and the creek don't rise."

Anyway. Maybe I'll be in a better mood tomorrow.

I think I'm going to go pet the cat now or something.

Friday, March 01, 2013

You know you might be getting old if...

I tend to think of myself as 50-something going on about 20.

This gets me in trouble sometimes with people who want me to act my age. Whatever that means.

Sometimes it seems like they mean that it's time to go sit in a rocking chair and complain about my aches and pains all the time and be boring. Or turn conservative, or something. And that's just not me. It's kind of like when I was getting ready to turn 30, and all of my mother's friends kept telling me that I had to cut my hair short. They didn't like it much when I kept asking who made that rule.

Over twenty years later, and my hair is still long, so you can see how seriously I took them about that.

But, after last night, I think I might finally be getting old.

I went to bed early last night, but I do that sometimes. This doesn't mean I go to sleep early. I can still read in bed, or write, or watch TV. Like last night. I was doing some research for a writing project, reading and taking notes. When a new TV show I've been watching came on at eight o'clock, I closed up my book and my notebook and got comfortable to watch the show. After the show was over, I planned to get the book and notebook out again and do some more work before going to sleep.

Instead, I was asleep by about 8:30.

I woke up long enough at somewhere between ten and eleven to turn the television off, but was soon back asleep again.

This is not like me at all. I'm a night person, often awake until one or two in the morning, sometimes even when I need to be up early the next morning. I like the quiet between ten or eleven at night and two in the morning or so. I do all my best thinking and writing at that time of night.

So, I really hope this is not part of new trend coming. I don't want to be one of those people who goes to bed at eight and wakes up before the sun. Unless I'm traveling and getting an early start on the road, I don't particularly want to see the sun come up in the morning. As far as I'm concerned 8 am is the butt-crack of dawn.

I come by this honestly. My mother was a night person. She often stayed up all night and then slept the day away after she got me off to school when I was a child. Now, I didn't know this about her until after I was an adult. She would go to bed just before time for me to get up so that I wouldn't know that she had been awake all night, and then she would go back to bed after I left for school and then sleep, sometimes until it was nearly time for me to come home from school. This made for an interesting contrast to my father, who was an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of guy. He thought nothing of getting up at four-thirty or five in the morning, and in fact had to do so to get to work on time most of the time. He really was a farmer at heart.

I suspect that the reason I fell asleep so early last night was a combination of having to sit through a long meeting yesterday afternoon and eating a more red-meat-laden dinner than I'm used to. Food really does have a sedative effect on me. At least, I hope it was that, and not a sign that I'm turning into one of those folks who goes to sleep early every night and misses the best part of the day.

Not that there's anything wrong with sleeping early if that's what you want to do. It's just that I really don't want to.