Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Night Photo Journal: The County Fair

Our local county fair is a very small shindig, but it still provides opportunities to get up close and personal with some livestock. Ah, the good life!

Click below for the photos...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Quick Notes on Fandom, Future Plans, Etc.

This post is going to cover a hodgepodge of topics, so many apologies in advance for its lack of unity.

Liberty Con XXX: A Brief AAR

Despite my limited mobility, I still enjoyed myself at this year's Liberty Con. For the second year in a row, I was able to stay up late enough on Saturday night to attend the annual Mad Scientists Roundtable, where - if I recall correctly - technological enhancements of the human brain and extra-solar Earth-like planets were among the subjects discussed. I also went to the Baen Roadshow (of course); took in a panel in which John Ringo, Tom Kratman, and other presenters regaled us with their funniest military stories (an event which should be both repeated and lengthened in future years); and, on Saturday morning, ate breakfast with the Hoyts on the Chattanooga waterfront. Every time I go to this con, I am reminded once again why I consider it to be one of my two "home cons" despite its being held a nine hour drive away. I dearly hope Brandy can find a new venue for 2018!

Speaking of Home Cons...

I'm returning to Dragon Con this year! While I'm glad I went to MAC II, met Jerry Pournelle, and thus crossed two things off my bucket list, the Science Fiction Literature track at Dragon Con is a place where I feel more welcomed. Sue Phillips runs interesting and entertaining programs every year, and I'm happy to be her lowly minion -- even if, this time around, my health may restrict what I can contribute.

By the way, I understand my blog has been brought up in discussions of the Dragon Awards by folks who apparently don't know anything about this con, so let me underscore that "lowly minion" bit. When it comes to the Dragon Con hierarchy of volunteers, I am an absolute nobody. I don't live in the Atlanta area, have never been to a staff meeting, and was not privy to any of the planning vis-√†-vis said awards. So while I am indeed a Puppy, I had - and have - no influence on how the Dragon Awards are run.

No, there is actually a much simpler and non-nefarious reason why the 2016 awards (and the 2017 ballot) turned out the way they did: the Puppies were and are highly motivated to show up for a process involving no financial or status-related barriers to participation. Period. The end. If other groups show up, the ballots will almost certainly look different; indeed, even this year, we saw movement in that direction. So go ahead and start voting for your favorites; literally nothing is stopping you.

I honestly don't have much patience for certain prominent Pharisees who are loudly proclaiming their distaste for some of the campaigns surrounding the Dragon Awards. Ideally, I do want people to vote for books they have read and genuinely enjoyed and not for "'Murica" or any other irrelevant identity. But like, say, the concept of press neutrality, the notion that there was  or can be any such thing as a wholly "non-political" awards vote is really a utopian bit of fiction. The apparent belief among some that all non-Puppy Hugo voters have honored authors based on sober and objective analyses of their merit that are untainted by elite influence or personal biases - and that all Puppy voters have not - just does not fit the data (to put it mildly). So let's be honest and open for a change, shall we? Let's recognize that some people on both sides have voted and will vote for particular works for reasons outside "quality" - whether to "defeat the fascists" or to "defeat the commies" - and correct for that by increasing overall participation. Dropping out in a snooty huff is not impressive or productive; we know exactly what you're doing, and it's both dishonest and petty.

So What's Coming Up?

This Wednesday night is Ladies Night at the county fair, so I will likely be heading out there to assemble another one of my "Americana" photo albums. This weekend, meanwhile, I'm heading down south so I can catch the solar eclipse in South Carolina on Monday. Then, between the eclipse and Dragon Con, I will be meandering around the Smoky Mountains, Huntsville, and the Atlanta metro for some preplanned sight-seeing. Like I did last year for my big World Con trip, I'll be documenting my wanderings here. Hope you all enjoy!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Did James Damore ACTUALLY Say?

Dr. Peterson basically covers the whole thing in this interview. As you might expect, the memo was as mild as can be. The fact that it's giving the usual suspects the vapors further intensifies my dislike for feminists and other social justice bullies.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I'm Coming Back

I've been focusing my attention on my paying work for what I hope are obvious reasons, but the stupidity is truly piling up to massive levels, and I feel obligated to address it. See the sidebar for my new posting schedule.

Friday, June 23, 2017

RIP, Stephen Furst: To Absent Friends...

Vir's moment in Sleeping in Light still destroys me every time -- thanks to Furst and his quiet yet heartfelt performance.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

RIP, Stephen Furst: A Blast-from-the-Past Analysis of Vir's Character Arc on B5

I originally wrote this analysis of Vir as a character more than a decade ago.

Coming of Age: The Growth of Vir Cotto

Beginnings: Capable of a “Well-Deserved” Humility

In the second season episode There All the Honor Lies, Vir reveals that his family sent him to Babylon 5 to be rid of him, and that previous to his assignment as Londo Mollari’s attach√©, he had held a number of positions that were ultimately personally isolating or disastrous. Vir is, at the start, a failure by noble Centauri standards, fundamentally lacking the ruthlessness and ambition required for advancement in the royal court. Held in contempt by his family and ignored by his countrymen, Vir is also, I believe, a deeply lonely figure desperately seeking some place where he can fit in.

It is true that when Vir first arrives on Babylon 5 a fat, meek, clumsy, stammering young man in a seemingly perpetual terror of Londo, he is not much to look at. Still, even as early as The War Prayer, we see that there may be something more to Vir than his outer childishness- that he’s not beyond quietly holding a subversive notion or two. In a later episode, he is pegged as a radical for his beliefs on romantic love in particular, but the term “radical” is, in my opinion, inaccurate. Vir is too mindful of authority to wear that label.

A Reformer, Not a Radical

No where is Vir’s lack of radicalism more clear than in the second season, when he is faced with the central moral dilemma of his arc. Presented with the choice of rebelling against Londo outright versus seeking a change from within, he chooses the later. At every opportunity, Vir strenuously dissents from Londo’s course of action against the Narn, pleading with his superior to make a different choice. Yet still, while on Babylon 5, he obeys.

Many may understandably find this early caution frustrating. I, however, see it as a correct decision given the circumstance. All through the second season, Vir is negotiating from a position of powerlessness. Frank rebellion would’ve resulted in Vir being turned out into the wilds of obscurity or worse, leaving him subsequently unable to influence future events.

To be sure, there is little evidence to show that Vir is consciously influenced by these political considerations. Hands down, Vir’s principle motivations for staying the course are personal and emotional. Extremely uncertain of his own talents and capabilities, he hangs back. But even more importantly, he loves Londo and cannot bring himself to leave him behind.

(Jump cut for length.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

RIP, Stephen Furst: My Old Vir Fanfiction

Over the weekend, I was deeply saddened to learn that Stephen Furst passed away Friday due to complications from his diabetes.

Now hopefully, everyone who's reading this knows who this guy is. The news has generally referred to him as one of the stars of Animal House, but I will always remember him as Vir Cotto on Babylon 5 (and also as Elliot Axelrod on St. Elsewhere).

As I've mentioned in at least one earlier post, I was (and am) mad for Vir -- and Furst was the perfect actor to bring that character to life. Seriously: Who else would've been able to hold his own opposite Peter freakin' Jurasik, who was nothing if not larger than life?

For the next week, I'm dedicating this blog to Furst's memory. I'm not exacty sure what I'm going to do for each post just yet -- but in the meantime, allow me to share a link to some of the B5 fanfiction I wrote a decade ago that focused on Vir, Londo's stammering conscience:

AO3: The Works of "Hobsonphile"