Archive for July, 2016

Baby Steps

Thursday, July 28th, 2016
Baby Steps

Thursday – 28 July 2016
No Bad News Thursday. ‘Nuff said.

Don't nobody bring me...

Don’t nobody bring me…

Last night, for the first time in [REDACTED], I went to the gym. I didn’t go so much to do a lot of work other than some cardio.  Which is my least favorite thing. Which I, also, need to do more often and in longer spans. I did a little bit of lifting, as well. Not a lot. But, I did lift. It’s a start. Baby steps, undoubtedly, but steps nevertheless.

Stray Toasters

  • This article came out last week: Here’s 48 hours. Now make a movie.
    I was part of a 48 Hour Film Project film last year; I wrote about it here. It was a lot of fun… and a lot of work. I would definitely do it again, if the opportunity arose and my schedule permitted.
  • Microsoft is giving away hundreds of eBooks. Check out what’s available here.
  • I have been playing with Raspberry Pis a bit over the past few months. Since the beginning of the year (I think), I’ve bought four of them – A Pi2, A Pi3, and two Pi Zeros. (It’s not a habit, it’s cool, I feel alive…) One of them is a retro arcade box, one is currently pulling duty as an Amazon Echo clone of sorts. The Zeroes have yet to be commissioned, but I have plans for them.
  • Since Disney announced that they were pulling the plug on Disney Infinity, stores have been putting the DI merchandise on sale for crazy – in a good way – prices. I may or may not have picked up about fifteen figures in the past month.
  • We now have our first picture of Supergirl‘s Superman.
  • Reading this article made me nostalgic for Electronic Arts’ PHM Pegasus.

Namaste.

Hell: The Musical

Monday, July 18th, 2016
Hell: The Musical

Monday – 18 July 2016
It’s the day after National Ice Cream Day and, for my sin of gluttony, I think I’m going to Hell.

Okay, that’s not entirely true.

Yes, yesterday was National Ice Cream Day.
Yes, I did eat ice cream.
Yes, I ate “quite a bit” of ice cream.
(And, yes, there’s still a lot of ice cream in our freezer.)

But, those are not the reasons I probably have an eTicket to Hell reserved in my name. Like so many others, my road to Hell was paved with good intentions. And it even started so innocuously. Need proof? Here it is:

Earlier, I received an email with a link to this article: Incredibly Epic Statue of Ancient Chinese Warrior God Unveiled. And they weren’t just whistling Dixie (or any other song, for that matter); this statue is rather epic. Bonus points for truth in advertising. Seriously, check out this statue:

Guan Yu - photo (c) CCTV News China

Guan Yu – photo (c) CCTV News China

So, I’m looking at this statue when, out of the blue, a thought pops into my head:

Battle of the Titans: Guan Yu vs. Big Butter Jesus!

 

It proceeded to go downhill from there. Rapidly.

For the unfamiliar, here’s some information about Big Butter Jesus and here’s a look at His Oleo Holiness:

Big Butter Jesus - photo (c) The Huffington Post

Big Butter Jesus – photo (c) The Huffington Post

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s, quite obviously, a statue of Jesus… and it’s not made of butter.” You’re right. It is and it isn’t, in that order. So, how did it wind up with the sobriquet “Big Butter Jesus?” Because of Heywood Banks and this song:

So, yes, thanks to a couple of giant statues, Heywood Banks, and the way my mind is wired, I’m going to Hell. Handbasket. Gasoline draws. At least I’ll have something to listen to on the way there:

Namaste.

Life in Black, White, and Blue: One Week Later

Friday, July 15th, 2016
Life in Black, White, and Blue: One Week Later

Thursday – 14 July 2016
It’s been one week since I wrote Life in Black, White, and Blue. In that week, I’ve had a number of people read it and thank me for giving a voice to my feelings and casting it out to the world. Some have even asked if they could share it with others; I happily said “yes” to those requests. I was also deeply touched and honored that they thought enough of what I had to say to want to share it with others. Hopefully, something I wrote will help someone else be able to address their own uncertainties.

This week has been better. And I have a few things to say about that. (Surprise!)

In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night… 1
Those are the first two lines of the Green Lantern Corps Oath. (I’m a comic book fan, but there really is a point to this.) The GLC are, basically, space cops. Members of the Corps are chosen for their ability to overcome great fear. Their weapon is willpower.

Let’s explore that for a moment: People chosen not because they don’t fear anything, but because they can overcome their fear.

What could we do if we didn’t fear each other?
What could we do if we had the will to stand up for – and with – other?
What could we do if we chose to not let our differences divide us, but instead found things within each other to lift up?

Do you realize how powerful we’d be?

We would be unstoppable.

We only have to let go of our fear.

You can’t have something for nothing, you can’t have freedom for free… 2
People are protesting. To voice their frustrations and to hopefully have that frustration heard and acted upon. And they have done it despite the very real possibility of being arrested. Why? Because, for them, freedom of the body is a small price to pay for the freedom of their souls. Because it’s worth taking a stand, not only for themselves, but also – possibly, especially – for those who can’t.

We ain’t got no time 4 excuses, the promised land belongs 2 all… 3
There are inequalities in our system and, partly because of that, we’ve become polarized:

  • Black (or just “brown”) vs. White
  • Rich vs. Poor
  • Those with power vs. Those with none and/or no voice

I found a couple of items today that made an impression. One was an article from Henry Rollins in L.A. Weekly, excerpted below:

If white America experienced a fraction of what black America deals with regarding law enforcement, incarceration, the court system, employment and countless other facts of life, they would immediately and collectively lose their minds.

…and…

I’m an educated, Caucasian, heterosexual male. Does this ensure I will have success and live the American Dream? Obviously it doesn’t, but it damn sure drops me on second base with a great opportunity to steal third.

The other was a Facebook post from Molly Suzanna, recounting her experience after being arrested for a traffic stop when she was 19, excerpted below:

This arrest is still on my record. It doesn’t prevent me from anything but I do have to explain felony charges when I get pulled over or apply for a job.

I have never publicly told this story.

I tell it to you, today.

And here’s why:

If I were a black man, I would be dead. Plain and simple. Pretty white girls don’t get shot during wrongful arrests. Not any that I know of, and certainly not me.

You can’t deny white privilege and what it affords you. To deny it is to acknowledge it exists, that you are privy to it. You don’t see it because it exists for you.

Something is very wrong in this country. There is a sickness. Black men (and sometimes women) are dying. They are being gunned down. For no discernible reason, and at an alarming rate, by white officers.

Seeing these two points of view – from people who are not Black and who have realized the advantages a privilege that is a by-product of the fickle finger of fate and genetics have given them – gave me hope: Hope that there are people out there who get it and are willing to put their stories out there. And hope that change can happen.

And the knowledge that they fear is a weapon to be used against them… 4
Knowledge is power.

  • Knowledge of our rights and how to exercise them.
  • Knowledge that we can raise our voices to call out the things we refuse to stand for any longer.
  • Knowledge of that there is a lot of work to be done, but that it’s worth it to build a better world.

Properly applied, knowledge can combat the problems we see on the news and, for some, in our neighborhoods.

Be well.

Namaste.

1Green Lantern Corps Oath, DC Comics
2Something for Nothing, Rush
3 – We March, Prince
4The Weapon, Rush

Life in Black, White, and Blue

Thursday, July 7th, 2016
Life in Black, White, and Blue

Thursday – 07 July 2016
I usually denote Thursdays as being “No Bad News Thursday.” Today is not one of them. The news – and social media – are full of nothing but bad news today.

Quite frankly, it’s been wearying. A heavy, ponderous weight that even Atlas would be hard pressed to bear.

Before I go further, I want to state the following:

  • This may not be pleasant for some to read. I refuse to apologize for that.
  • If you have something you would care to address about something I have written, do so.
  • I have friends and family members – black and white – in law enforcement and military. I respect the job that they do. It is no small undertaking to go to work and not know, with absolute certainty, that it won’t be the last time you come home. The last time you see your family. The last time you kiss your spouse. The last time you hug your kids. The last time… for everything. Yet, they suit up, walk out the door, and put their lives on the line to protect the peace and safety we hold dear. Every day.
  • There are problems with our system. The words “The land of the free and the home of the brave” appear to mean different things for different people. That’s ironic and unfortunate in a country that was founded on the principle that “All men are created equal.” Yes, that was by mid-18th Century standards, but the meaning and the intent were clear… even if it took another 100+ years to (mostly) fulfill that promise/premise.

With those things stated, let’s begin.

I am a man in my mid-40s.
I am a Black man in my mid-40s.
I am a Black man in my mid-40s, with a wife and two children.
I am a Black man in my mid-40s, with a White wife and two biracial children.
I am a Black man in my mid-40s, with a White wife and two biracial children, living in America.

These are truths and the facts of my life.

I woke this morning to learn that another Black male had been killed by a member of their local police department. This occurred less than forty-eight (48) hours after another man, hundreds of miles away, suffered the same fate. There names were: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. To borrow a line from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

“No, they’re not just names. We must remember that.”

These were men. Men with lives and families. Men who were promised, by the founding fathers of this country, the right to “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is a promise that failed them. Lives and liberty cut short. The pursuit of happiness unfulfilled.

I do not live in either location where these tragedies happened and the only “eyewitnesses” I have are the video footage from bystanders of the incidents and the news media. According to what I’ve read and seen, both of these men were minding their respective business – one selling CDs outside a neighborhood store, one on his way home from the grocery store.

As I stated above, I have family and friends who wear the uniforms of peacekeepers. They chose to undertake a job that puts them at risk. The essence of their jobs can be distilled to this: They put themselves in harm’s way – on a daily basis – so that we can feel safe. So that we can be safe.

That’s not my job. Distilled to its essence, my job is to push buttons and see to it that computers work. It could also be extrapolated that my “other job,” that of parent and caregiver, is to ensure that my children have a safe and loving environment in which they can grow and flourish.

As a Black man in America, I am subject to a level of suspicion and scrutiny that my friends who are not “persons of color” are not. Yet for a difference that is, literally, skin deep, that scrutiny can often be taken to the level of “guilty until proven innocent,” a gross perversion of the law. My mother and mother-in-law had a “conversation” on social media earlier today, during which my mother expressed the following sentiment at one point:

Rob is my first born…I love him more than words can express. I continually pray for his safety/well-being.

When I read that, it nearly brought me to tears. My mother worries – genuinely worries – about me and forces beyond our control. Because, she too watches the news and sees the too-often unnecessary deaths of men my age and/or younger. Snuffed out for no apparent reason beyond the abusive use of power.

Any loss of life, especially for senseless reasons, is heinous. Just because I am Black, does that mean that my life, hopes, and dreams are worth less than someone else’s? No. But, looking at the news and social media today, I’d be hard pressed to find proof to bear that out. According to this article and this article, as of July 5th, since the beginning of 2016, at least 532 people have been killed by the police and as of this morning, 136 of those were Black. For the record, July 7th is the 188th day of the year. That means that a Black person has been killed almost daily by police since the year began. The Guardian provides an interactive database of statistics of “People killed by the police in the US” that can be found here.

Going by the Guardian’s count, 261 white people were killed by police — the highest total out of any racial group. But data also shows that black people and Native Americans are being killed at higher rates than any other group. – ThinkProgress

Let me note that I in no way mean to diminish their deaths or the deaths of anyone of any other ethnic background. I sympathize for their families and loved ones. But, theirs isn’t my paradigm.

I spent a portion of this afternoon talking with a friend who works as civilian support staff for a police department. She said that she feels like:

…I’m caught between defending the good cops and defending “offenders” to the not so good cops.

and

I’ve found myself realizing that we haven’t progressed as a society, and these shootings are not isolated incidents. It scares the hell out of me. And I don’t know where to start to fix/help.

What needs to happen? Change. What form should that change take? I don’t know. But, I would love to see the hatred and fear that separate us and seem to be driving us farther apart transformed into something that can strengthen and forge us into something far better than we’ve seen in far too long. And I would like to see accountability levied against those who wield their power as a divine right rather than as civil servants and defenders of the law.

Be well.
Treat yourself – and others – well.
And let’s find a way to come together and show the world that we are better than this.

Namaste.

Independence Day 2016

Monday, July 4th, 2016
Independence Day 2016

Monday – 04 July 2016
Today is Independence Day. I hope that everyone has a safe and fun holiday.

Greetings from Paragon City…

A couple weeks ago, I suggested to Sara! that we find a hotel overlooking a site with a fireworks display. That way, we could let the ladies stay up late and watch fireworks, but also not have to fight crowds trying to exit the venue. Win-Win. After doing some searching, I noted that most places around here are doing fireworks tonight… but we wanted to be able to find something that would allow Team DiVa to see them without creating tiny monsters who refuse to wake up tomorrow for school.

Saturday morning, Sara learned that Rocky Mountain Raceway was having a post-race fireworks show. She also found a hotel about a mile (as the crow flies) from the racetrack. We called, learned that they had vacancies, and booked a room. What we did not do was tell the girls about it. Instead, we went about our previously-scheduled plans, which included spending the afternoon with friends and their kids. As we were leaving, we told the girls about a “special adventure” that we were going to take that evening. This piqued their curiosity. They were quite pleased to find out that we were going out – and that they could stay up late – to watch fireworks. We threw essentials into a bag and headed out.

The hotel is not terribly far from where I work (and even closer to some places I go for lunch). We got there, got checked in, and headed to our room. The view couldn’t have been better: We were on the top floor, facing the direction of the racetrack. As an added surprise, I went out and picked up some popcorn from the nearby movie theatre, as a fireworks-watching snack. Another win. The girls impatiently watched cartoons while waiting for it to get dark enough for the fireworks to begin. I was a little worried that they might not make it, as they’d had a rather long day. My concerns were totally unfounded; they were amped. The display started a couple minutes past 10 PM and lasted for nearly half an hour. The girls “oohed” and “aahed” and commented on how pretty the various explosions were. And, to their credit, after it was all said and done, went to sleep rather quickly. Hallelujah.

The next morning, I asked the girl if it was a fun surprise. They enthusiastically agreed that it was.

Family adventure win.