May 4th, 1970, The Day My Generation Lost Its Innocence

I haven’t posted anything in a while, and this just struck me far too powerfully to not share with the three or four of you who are following me (for reasons I can’t quite figure out…). Please skip if politics isn’t your thing. Thanks.



Submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

I was going to write this last weekend on the actual 44th anniversary of a very sad event.  For some reason, I had a hard time focusing on what I wanted to say, in light of the many emotions that were going through my head.  I don’t want the anniversary to go by without writing about the personal significance that day in May had on my life, and I believe on the lives of many in my generation.  The Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by John Filo, included above from Wikipedia, is one that I have never forgotten.  Nor should anyone forget it.

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Long Time No Blog/Job Search Blues II/WTF JJ Abrams??

Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William S...

Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk from the television program Star Trek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Originally I thought I’d be doing this on a fairly regular basis, but as with so many things in my life, a lack of commitment to anything that takes up time that could be spent playing Lord of the Rings Online simply does not hold my interest.  So today I force myself to put something up, only to let anyone interested know that nothing much has changed.

I’m still unemployed, though I did have what I thought was a very good interview last week with an organization I’d be very happy to work for.  I was told they had other interview to conduct and would move forward with a second round of interviews in a couple weeks.  (So mid August before I’ll know anything.)  To that end, I keep scanning the job postings, submitting resumes and dutifully informing the Virginia Department of Unemployment about those so I can get my UI checks deposited each week.  As that runs out as of November 1, I can’t afford to not be employed for too much longer.  Not that the checks are all that much.  I can’t truly afford to not be employed now!

So outside of my lack of employment and that this, among most other things in my life, remain unchanged, there is one thing I can now add to my list of things done, or more accurately, seen.  I saw the first JJ Abrams “Star Trek” movie this weekend.  I know people who loved it, were not disappointed by it, and truly were disgusted by it.  I need to create a fourth category so that I can add myself to the mix: I liked it, but it wasn’t Star Trek, and I don’t care if Spock WAS in it!

So here’s the thing:  I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was a little kid.  (Not exactly new and different to any sci-fi fan.)  And Spock was always, ALWAYS, my favorite character.  McCoy was second.  I could take or leave Kirk, and not because of William Shatner’s portrayal of the character.  I think Shatner’s an absolute hoot!  I was just never totally into the character, though any different personality behind the captain of the original Starship Enterprise would have been wrong.  But Spock was smart, and tall and alien and not totally understood.  Things that I always felt about myself as a kid, and still do today in many ways.  I identified with his character above all the others.  And while Kirk didn’t register with me at the same level, all of the other characters did in one way or the other.  Not to beat a dead horse, I loved, and love, the show.

When anyone does a reboot or re-imagining of a beloved character or franchise, there is going to be push-back.  So for those people who were totally disgusted by what they say, I have to say I get it.  McCoy was a jerk.  Spock was way too emotional.  Kirk was even MORE reckless than normal (though he did still get to make out with a lovely green woman, so that was in character).  And Uhura and Spock are lovers.  WHAT???  Okay, so that was an ironic and actually really cool/fabulously funny twist.  But it’s not Star Trek.

This Romulan ship shows up, destroys the ship that Kirk’s dad is on (no), leaving poor James T. to grow up without his father and be a reckless brat (n0), who has no idea of his potential.  And this one single difference in the Star Trek universe ends up putting Spock at odds with the Vulcan leaders, Scotty banished to the Ice Planet Hoth, Sulu to be a bumbling, nervous newb of a pilot, and Bones to be some kind of hypochondriac conspiracy theorist that doesn’t understand how drugs interact with each other.  I think the only one JJ got right was Checkov, but that’s only because they didn’t develop the character at all!

Cover of "Star Trek V - The Final Frontie...

Cover via Amazon

Okay, so yes, it’s a reboot.  I’ve seen it so many times in comics that this isn’t exactly new.  I’m wondering when the next Superman reboot is going to be now that this very dark version is out there (though I still haven’t seen it!).  But you have to be careful with how you handle it all.  And making Spock a blithering idiot, and I mean the Leonard Nimoy Spock, is not the way to do it.  Yes, stars go nova.  Yes, they will take out entire solar systems with them when they do.  Our own sun will likely take out everything out to the asteroid belt when it goes in ten billion years or so.  But that’s part of the point.  Even our own scientists today can figure out how fast the fuel at the core of our sun will burn out before the integrity of its own gravitational force will collapse, allowing all of the fire and gas of the outer envelope of the star to be set free and explode, incinerating everything it its path as it goes nova.

And you’re telling me Spock, super-scientist and all-around interstellar genius, wouldn’t have thought to tell the Romulans to evacuate their planet while he does what he can to prevent their sun from destroying it?  Really??  “No, really.  There is only a small chance I will be able to save your world, but that doesn’t mean you should evacuate just to be safe.”  Riiiiight!!!  Where the hell is Data when you need him?  Nimoy allegedly had to come in and do some fancy footwork to help Shatner not totally destroy “The Final Frontier,” and even that didn’t really help.  It was a horrible movie!  But with his insight into the franchise, what it takes to make a good Star Trek movie, how the characters act and react… how did he not start crying bullshit with this??  Nevermind that all of the characters are now lesser agents of themselves (though Sulu does end up being pretty bad-ass, Scotty is still a freaking genius and Checkov remained totally unscathed), and that Paramount has seemingly given JJ Abrams carte blanche to do as he sees fit with it all.  If that’s what they want to do with it, it’s theirs to do such.  But Nimoy has a much greater investment here with an iconic character of science fiction, television and movies.  Didn’t he even have a bit of concern with how this would look?  Has the good ambassador gone totally thick in the head that he can’t figure out that the logical course of action would be to get all of the inhabitants off of the planet in case his plan didn’t work?

So you’re probably now saying “I thought you said you liked the movie!”  I did!  I liked it just fine.  If you changed all of the characters names and made a few small alterations to backgrounds, this would have been a wonderful movie to start a whole new, totally separate franchise from Star Trek.  And it would have been a lot of fun besides.  Dragging iconic, loved and venerated characters into it, though, was not, in my opinion, a good idea.  And that one of my all-time favorite writers/actors/directors/producers somehow, some way, didn’t catch it and allowed it to happen obviously rubs me the wrong way.  But I’m glad I saw it, because I can now have that discussion with all of my friends that have seen it, too.  And I can go in to “Into Darkness,” when it comes out on DVD, understanding that these are not the Star Trek characters from my childhood.  These are the versions of someone else’s mind and imagination, and I don’t think this someone else ever actually watched the original TV show.  At lest, not with any kind of appreciation for the universe as Gene Roddenberry wanted it to be.

Vulcan (Star Trek)

Vulcan (Star Trek) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Life is a sucki…

Life is a sucking, swirling eddy of despair, with brief flashes of false-hope in an ever-blackening universe. True story.

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June 13, 2013 · 5:33 am

Job Search Blues

I begin writing this at 4:13 PM on a Tuesday.  I’ve been officially out of work for three weeks as of today.  I’ve sent in dozens of job applications, all via on-line job sites or email addresses.  I’ve heard back from three.  One of them is a start-up company that has no money but appreciates the small bits of work I’ve done for them.  (And it’s been a great learning experience!)  The other two I’ve had interviews with.  They’ve both assured me they’ll contact me about a second interview.  So far, no contact has been made.  I’m a little concerned.

So you’re likely asking yourself, based on the things I said I’d be blogging about, what anything I’ve written so far has to do with them.  Well… nothing, in some ways.  Everything in others.  I shall explain.  (Because that’s what you do in venues like this.)

My first love when it comes to how I expend my energy, creativity and talent is writing.  The genre that I work in is pure fantasy.  I get enough reality in my daily life.  Escapism is all I want after a long day of facts, numbers, posts, mail and working with vendors and members.  I love it all, don’t get me wrong.  But eight hours a day is enough (most of the time).  It’s nice to get totally disconnected from that every now and then.  And really nice when it is my own imagination, as opposed to someone else’s, that takes me there.  (And I can bring others along with me if and when I choose, which is the best part.)

Most of my interaction with my favorite genre is through computer games that I have enjoyed now for a long time.  I started with Asheron’s Call, then moved on to the now defunct City of Heroes.  From there I started playing (and still do play), Lord of the Rings Online, or LotRO for short.  This is my escapism.  This is where I tend to fight off the reality-inspired blues and exhaustion that gang up on me at the end of each work day.

Now that I’m currently not working, this changes the dynamic within which I get to sit down and veg out for a couple hours each night.  Getting a regular pay check and being able to add to the overall stability of my household gives me a little more room to take time off and dive deeply into an animated, well-constructed and well-thought-out Middle-earth.  Take that piece away, though, and it makes one wonder if I have the “right” to use my time for enjoyment.  Shouldn’t I be searching for a job 24/7?

Well, the answer to that is of course “no.”  Looking for work is often much more challenging and difficult than working an actual job.  Certainly more frustrating in today’s job market.  Washington, DC, is rife with openings, seemingly.  Yet with over 3-dozen applications out there currently, I’ve only heard from three, and two of those found me on LinkedIn.  They weren’t even responses to an application I’ve sent in.  I mean, YAY, that my profile on LI is strong enough to have anyone seek me out.  But 1 for 35 is not exactly great otherwise.

So what is this all leading up to?  Not entirely sure.  I guess I’m just getting out a few frustrations regarding where I am and where I want to be, and how wide the gap is between the two.  I want to write, but I get too tired to write.  I want to game, but I need to balance that out with having a job and a steady paycheck to go with it.  I want to work, but until people start responding to my applications, I sit in limbo.  And how best to wile away the time while in limbo?  LotRO!  (Or insert your game of choice here.)

Pretty vicious circle, and obviously one I’m not oblivious to.  I have responsibilities just like everyone else does.  They are all much more easily met if I’m working.  Even if I have to meet them after a long day at work and a horrible commute home (which I had at my last job, but I’d never have quit that job because of the commute; I loved that job), I’d still much rather be doing the kind of work that garners a paycheck and benefits than exhausting myself with worry and frustration over the not knowing the who/what/where/when/why/how of my next job.  Those are the things that plague all writers though.  Right?


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Wills & Thrills

So today my wife and I finally got our wills notarized and done.  We’ve only been married over 16 years, so it’s not like this is late or anything.  It’s a pretty big ordeal, though, when you have to sit down and actually contemplate, if not calculate, what you want to happen after you are dead. Gone. Deceased. Bought the farm. Pushing up the daisies.  You probably know this schtick.

So we go down to the lawyer’s office, which coincidentally happens to be just around the corner from our internist’s office.  I know it’s only a coincidence because it’s around the corner and on the next block, not the same block as the internist’s office.  Otherwise that would just be freaky.

From the point that my wife contacted this lawyer (whom was recommended to her by a good friend), to today, was nearly 8 months.  As the lawyer said, the birthing process was almost over!

She had to get three people to witness the signing of the documents, so she went around the office to get some folks that had a few minutes to lend to the process.  One of them was one of the three receptionists.  One of them was another lawyer in the office.  The last was a woman who works for the building’s land lord!  All that matters, though, is that they can sign and provide contact information for any possible legal proceedings based on the wills.  So we initialed each page, and signed the final page.  Then each of them initialed each page and signed off in their section.  The whole thing took about 15 minutes, maybe.

Their work completed, they left the room.  Then it was our turn to sign off on our Power of Attorney papers.  I didn’t waver at all:  If the doctor says it’s time to let me go, pull the plug and the feeding tube.  If the doc thinks a morphine drip will help, fine, whatever.  Just don’t try to rescue me from whatever is about to kill me.  Let me fucking go!

My wife, however, did waver just a bit.  She’s had her own run-ins with doctors, care-givers and insurance company people, and most of it over the past few years has been really bad.  She has health issues and as a result, is highly symptomatic and never really comfortable.  Doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with her, meds don’t really help much, and she has been told by several care-givers thus far that they are stumped and maybe she should try a different doctor.  Seriously.  They gave up on trying to help her.  I know the whole “do no harm” thing, but doesn’t that cross over to “don’t abandon your patient?”

So for the Power of Attorney, she was hesitant about allowing a doctor to say that her life was essentially over and that she should be allowed to die off of any machinery and feeding tubes she may be connected to.  If they can’t help her live comfortably, why should they be given that kind of power to let her die?  An understandable reaction.  The lawyer tried to convince her that her emotions were coloring her decision instead of the reality of the situation that may or may not come up.  It took a bit.  In the end, though, she signed off on the same deal that I did.  In the end, it’s what we all go through in one form or another.  Except those who are lucky enough to die, comfortably, in their sleep, in their own bed, without being surrounded by medical equipment, nurses and family members holding hands.  But who gets that anymore?  Medicine knows how to prolong life, but society doesn’t know how to attend to those that live well past the age that our antiquated laws and morals have told us is a normal life span.

As I said, it can be a pretty traumatic thing, staring your own mortality in the face and reducing it down to 7 pages of legalities.

So the papers are signed, everything is done except for getting us our copies.  That’s when the building’s fire alarm goes off.

Oh, boy.  Everyone is told to evacuate the building.  My wife, I mentioned earlier, has medical issues, and she does not walk well.  At all!  And of course when you are evacuating a building because of a possible fire, you don’t take the elevators.  You take the stairs.  Thank goodness we were only up on the third floor.  And that it was only a drill.

We exited the building and waited for our lawyer across the street.  She, you see, didn’t exit the building with the rest of us.  She went to make the copies for us first!  There were two people outside with clipboards and reflective vests making sure people evacuated and went to their “designated meeting spot.”  We’re clients.  We don’t work there.  “Well, you can’t stand in front of the building.  You can just cross the street.”

…to the same block that our internist’s office is on.  The circle closes.

The lawyer comes out and crosses over to us.  She hands us our paperwork and says we are good to go, and tells my wife that she made the right decision.  If we need anything, anything, to give her a call.  We both liked her very much.  It was the first time we had met her in person.  She gave each of us a hug and kiss on the cheek, and she crossed back over… to the other side (of the street), to start filing back into the building with the other couple hundred people returning from their “designated meeting spot.”

The world continues to spin.  I suppose that’s a good sign.

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And… we’re off?

Okay, not entirely sure what I’m doing here.  I started a blog many moons ago with the stated purpose to keep writing and not allow my skills to diminish too much.  I wrote all of one blog.  This may go the same route, but at least I won’t forget which blog I used to start it with this time!  I have no clue where the other one is.  Sad.

I suppose a little about me is in order.  I am currently on the hunt for a new job, my previous employer having eliminated my position and my employment along with it.  I hope to find something involving health care and advocacy for patients’ rights, but I’m not going to quibble too much over the exact nature of my employer, so long as they don’t support the Koch Brothers or any of their ilk.  I’m a progressive sort.

As for my writing, I have written scores of short stories, mostly fantasy and superhero in nature.  I’ve written two full-length novels but have not done anything with them.  (I shopped one around, but it was many years ago and I’m sure it needs way more work than any editor wants to contend with.)  I used to belong to an “amateur press alliance,” or APA, that was all about the Champions role-playing game.  I wrote many of my short stories and novellas for there.  So while yes, I’ve been published, this is the epitome of “self-publishing!”  I wrote it, I copied it, I sent those copies in, and they were collated into one bound edition that then got sent out to others in the alliance to read.  I even won a few awards for my writing from the other members of the APA, which was quite gratifying.  But no one outside those confines ever saw what I wrote.

So here I am, throwing myself out there, hoping I can get some thoughts across about those things that I care most about.  For the time-being, I don’t even mind if no one else sees what I write.  If I can get some vaguely cohesive thoughts put together that have a discernible beginning, middle and end, I’ll be really happy!  Perhaps as time goes on I’ll even start sending out links to what I write to see if anyone takes an interest.

You can follow me on Twitter @joelblevy if you like, though I generally only re-Tweet funny and political stuff.  But I also follow a lot of the gaming/writing/entertainment industry folks that make life fun for the geeks of the world, a cultural sub-set that I most proudly belong to.  Feel free to contact me if you like.  Or just keep checking back now and then to see if I actually put up a second posting.

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