Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Progressive Kevin Speaks

I'll warn you right now, dear reader, this is going to be very political in nature. If you want to continue reading, please do. If not, that's fine but I would ask you to reconsider your decision.

At 2 a.m. today, the Senate passed its tax bill by a vote of 51-49. The only Republican to vote against it was Senator Bob Corker. The final draft of the bill was finished just a few hours before the vote was taken; no one had time to read all 479 pages of it.

The bill literally has dozens of hand-written notes on it, some of which are almost impossible to make sense of. The Democrats proposed a delay on the vote, asking for it to take place on Monday, so they could have time to read it. All fifty-two Republicans voted "Nay" on that proposal.

This bill is a dream come true for conservatives. It allows churches to engage in political activism while maintaining their tax-exempt status. It eliminates the deduction for state and local taxes. It's loaded up with so many gifts to the right wing I can't even begin to list them all.

Of course, the tax bill is just one piece of the right wing agenda, an agenda which is being carried out at a sickening pace.

This year of 2017 has seen, I believe, an unprecedented attack on the very core of our democracy. It's an attack that is being carried out quickly and efficiently in fear of the day that the tide turns and we, the people, take our country back. 

The question is, will the tide ever turn? Will we one day finally see a day in which the progressive agenda starts to be put in place, and we start to repair the damage? Or have we reached a point where so much of what makes our democracy work  has been abandoned, perverted or just plain ignored, that we can't ever make things right again?

I hope for the former but deeply fear the latter may be true.

We need to make it so damn uncomfortable for those who abuse power that they find themselves
with a very simple choice. Start a very painful process of undoing the worst of the damage they've so willingly inflicted, or resign their positions and give someone else a chance at making things better.

The passage of the tax bill is yet another reminder that on-line activism has very real limits as to what it can accomplish. It also reminds us, yet again, that we can send as many letters as we like and make so many phone calls that it ties up the entire system, only to find that our will, the will of the people, has been blatantly ignored.

We need to go old-school, people. We need to stage general strikes anywhere and anytime we can. We need to shut the system down and force those in power to do as we demand. We need to march in the streets, on a scale never seen before in America.

Until those who rule over us as dictators are thrown out of office, imprisoned where justified and shamed whenever possible, things will only get worse.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dinner #2

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and here at the Y.M.C.A. there are a lot of guys who have nowhere to go. That includes myself, as there is no B.C. Transit service tomorrow. I have enough money to eat out, but the weather forecast doesn't look good and I dislike walking in bad weather.

I've asked for and received permission to put on a small dinner tomorrow. The turkey is being provided for me, but I'm paying for everything else. I can feed about fifteen to twenty people, and the total bill for all of it is somewhere around $50. For someone on a fixed income, such as myself, that's a fairly large amount of money.

I consider it money well spent, for a few reasons. One being that the housing program here has done a lot for me, and I want to give something back. Another being that it's another thing I can list as an event I've catered when dealing with potential clients as I have started a catering business. And most importantly of all, I'll be feeding some guys for whom it will be their only meal of the day. The program here does have donated food, which any of us can get once a week on Fridays, but that's not a long term solution for anyone.

What I'm doing is not a long term solution either, but it's something that will help a little, at least.

To you dear reader, I offer my best wishes for a good day tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I Can Do This!

Well, quite the development today, a good one, I'm glad to report. Here at the Y.M.C.A. the director of Residential Housing oversees a Thanksgiving meal for the residents. Last Monday, Ashley asked if I wanted to help with the preparation of the meal. I said that yes, I did.

Fast forward to today. Five minutes before the start time and only two of seven people showed up. Namely, myself and a guy named Jeff. Jeff did two batches of instant mashed potatoes and then took off, never to return. So, forty-five minutes into it, I was responsible for feeding something like 70 to 80 people.

Ashley had already put a turkey in the oven, and it came out really well. But from 1:45 until
6:30, I was pretty much on my own. I had to do my second batch of stuffing. I had to open twelve cans of corn and heat it all up. I did dishes. I cleaned as I went along. I followed best practices for sanitation and safety. I heated sweet potatoes that had already been cooked.

I opened and heated eight cans of gravy. I kept an eye on two batches of cooked turkey that needed to be reheated in the oven. I buttered the dinner rolls and heated them. I made sure that gluten free foods had no contact with other foods that do have gluten in them.

When we realized we had one less can of Sterno than we needed to keep the food at serving temperature, I dealt with that by putting the corn and the gravy in two smaller pans. Problem solved.

I am proud to be able to say that dinner was served on time. I did all the dishes. I checked and rechecked what needed to be replenished on the serving line. I checked and rechecked to make sure food was hot enough. I wiped down serving tables. We never had any one have to wait for food.

The only thing we ran out of was stuffing, but only after the very last two people were served.

For eighteen months I have had person after person tell me that this is the sort of thing I'm not capable of pulling off. I'm too old, they say. My skill set isn't good enough. they say. I fold under pressure (which is so not true), they say. My leadership skills are weak, they say.

Wrong on all counts, people.  Today I got the job done, in style. I took charge of the situation but never hesitated once to ask for help when I needed it. I asked for a second opinion several times, just to make sure things went right.  Every time someone did make a recommendation, it was a good one and I went along with it.

From 1 o'clock until 4:45, I took one break that lasted five minutes. From 4:45 to 4:55, I ate. From 4:55 to 5:15, I worked. I then had a full half hour to rest, and starting at 5:45, I spent the last forty-five minutes working. We had a lot of food left over, which was put in the large refrigerator in the lounge. We were still putting food away even as some guys who hadn't had any yet were making up plates for themselves.

I did a good enough job that Alicia (whom I respect a great deal and like a lot) and Ashley (same on both counts) asked me to supervise the Christmas dinner on the 21st of December.

I agreed to do so, of course.

Today's event was a challenge, one I met. I had a great time and had more people than I could keep track of thank me.

I can do this, as a career. That's not an empty claim, people. Today, as I have before, I proved it.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

1977 In Review

I'm sorry it took so long to get this new post up, but I've been sick the last few days. I'm feeling better today, and so, as promised, here is the new post.

"My 1977"

1997 was the year in which I:

1. Learned how to play the French horn.

2. Saw the movie "Star Wars" at the V Drive-In with my mom, dad, and brother. I liked it, but it didn't do anything special for me. My mom, on the other hand, loved it and has seen every film in the series.

3. Was able to see the late Gene Roddenberry on tour with what he called "The World Of Star Trek". This was amazing, as Roddenberry screened the blooper reels from all three seasons of the show along with the rejected first pilot "The Cage".

4. Heard the song "The Things We Do For Love" when it was released as a single. I was in the office of the gas station that was across the road from the trailer park we lived in. The guys that ran the place were always nice enough to let me come into the office to buy a candy bar or to use the pay telephone. This record came on over the radio while I was getting a candy bar from the vending machine.

5. Was admitted to the hospital for the first, and so far, only time in my life. I was eleven years old and absolutely terrified, because at first, no one could determine just what was making me so ill.

6. Was allowed to have a television set in my room. My mom gave me the 12-inch black and white set that she had been using in our kitchen up to that point in time.

7. Kissed a girl for the first time. She was the younger sister of a kid I met whose family was part of a traveling carnival. He was my age and she was nine. We actually kept in touch by mail for several months, but one day, a letter to them came back to me as not able to be delivered.

8. Won $40 by having my dad place bets on horse races for me one night. My mom has no objections to gambling, but was upset, because, after all, I was only eleven years old.

9.  Went roller skating with some friends on my birthday.

10. Got a super ball from a vending machine that was made of clear plastic that had a miniature baseball card in it. The card was one for Nolan Ryan, who was one of my favorite players.

All that was forty years ago, now. Most of it I remember accurately on my own, but my Mom did verify a few things for me.

In other news, my Mom is out of the hospital but her condition is such that she now needs to use a breathing machine at all times. She is trying to quit smoking and any good thoughts or prayers you can generously offer would be nice.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Reason Why I Didn't Post Anything Yesterday

Hello, dear reader. I apologize for the lack of a post yesterday after I had said there would be one. My mother was admitted to the hospital yesterday afternoon, so dealing with that was a priority. I do have a nice post in draft status that I hope to have up later today.

Until then, wishing you well.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I Have Had IT With These People

I'll warn you straight up, folks. This is going to get down and dirty, and if you aren't up for that, come back tomorrow when I'm in a better mood, please.

Earlier today, on the Pajiba website, I posted something that is factual. Namely, that Donald Trump's chief pollster was quoted very recently as saying there's "no question" that Trump would have lost in last year's election had he been running against Bernie Sanders. I also stated that some of us have known that all along, which I believe to be true.

By the end of this afternoon, there were several responses to my post. Every single one of them were rude to me, dismissive of me, or both. If you want to see for yourself, check the article about White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with the words "Morning Briefing" in the title. There are now over 300 comments so, getting to mine requires quite a bit of scrolling down. For the record, no one disputed the fact of what Trump's pollster had said. Instead, some folks chose to just be not very polite.

Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty, as it were.

In supporting Bernie Sanders, I chose to believe in a man who, I feel, cares about us. Cares about the future of our country. Hilary Clinton, while she was highly qualified, is a centrist who comes across as cold and calculating. There are a whole lot of us who believed in Bernie and still do, and we are not going anywhere. We believe in a living wage, we believe in health care being a fundamental human right, and we believe in the future.

Every single person I know who supported Hilary Clinton felt they had good reasons to do so. Some wanted a centrist in the White House. Some wanted to make history by electing a woman. I get it, and I respect them. However, there was all along a notable lack of respect on their part for myself and my fellow Sanders supporters.

They called us "unrealistic". They called us "spoiled children who want everything." And worse, in some cases.

So, let me say a few things.

In my life, I have had times when I went as long as four days with no food. My late wife and I survived an attempt on our lives made by rogue police officers who were protecting a drug dealer in our apartment building. I've been dirt poor at times, and homeless, for a few brief but terrifying hours.

In other words, I've never had it easy.

Now, these are words on a screen and I have no proof to back up what I've said. Nonetheless, every word of it is true.

I know that some people believe things will never change, no matter who we elect or what we do. I disagree with them but I always try to do so politely. I'm just that kind of person.

Sadly, the level of politeness and respect I once considered to be normal in our society is now far too rare a thing.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Thoughts On Fan Films

Hello, again. I've been busy with a few things but I hope to resume posting on a more regular basis soon.

In the meanwhile, I'd like to say a few things about fan films. Most of the ones I've watched are based on some version of Star Trek. Some of these feature original characters while others portray established ones. Perhaps the two best known series are both continuations of the original series.

These are "New Voyages / Phase II" and "Star Trek Continues". Both had good episodes and not so good ones. "New Voyages" disappeared literally overnight as its creator James Cawley closed the web site and pulled all of the episodes. Some may still be available on Youtube, and I highly recommend my favorite "World Enough And Time" to anyone who likes the original series. "Star Trek Continues" put its next to last episode up for viewing earlier this month. I liked it a lot.

Of the other series I've watched the one I like the best is "Hidden Frontier' which is set in the same time frame as "Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine". The first few episodes are a bit rough around the edges but by the end of the series, the people involved in making it were creating some really good material.

Many of the same people have done spin offs that are audio dramas. The show does have an active website but there seems to be none of the episodes of the show available. There was an effort underway to remaster them but it appears that has been put on hold, pending clearance from CBS in accordance with the new official guidelines.

Again, Youtube may be your friend here, or some of the torrents may still be active, though that seems unlikely.

Most of what else I've seen have been shows that produced only a few episodes. Of these, I recommend "Starship Farragut" and "Starship Exeter". Beyond that, the quality of other series is very much hit and miss. 

Now, let me tell you about the single best one I've ever seen. One I watched earlier today. It's on Youtube and if you enjoy the original series, you might really find it worth your time to watch it.

It's titled "The Paradise Makers". This is a 2-part episode with a total running time of 2 hours and twenty-five minutes. I do not wish to give away any of the plot, but I do want to share some general thoughts on it.

First off, the episode is set just a few months into the five year mission. The way the characters behave reflects this quite nicely. There's a short but very nice scene with a character we've seen only seen once before. I don't want to ruin the surprise. I'll just say that it's a nice thing.

The animation is a blend of traditional style and what looks more like computer generated imagery that's pretty realistic looking. I've seen feature films that didn't look this good. As someone with a background in video production, I know that a lot of effort had to be put into this. I also have worked in the field of audio and except for one sequence of about half a minute, the sound mix is quite good to my ears. 

I found the film to be well written for the most part. A few lines could have been rewritten to work better, but, you know,  no script is perfect. The voice acting is good for the most part, though the voice for McCoy took a little getting used to. I got the feeling that the actor in question needed a little time to get it right, and I can live with the minor imperfection. Both Kirk and Spock are pitch perfect to my ears.

If you are a fan of the original series, you might very well really like this. To me, it truly felt like a very good first season episode of the original series. There was a reference in the comments section about it having been deleted and then uploaded again, so if you have the time to spare, you might want to watch this while you can.

Final thoughts: On a scale of 1 to 10, as a film I rate this an 8. As a Star Trek story, also an 8. There are a boatload of bits and pieces of Trek lore, most of which haven't been seen or referred to since their original appearances. The sound effects are classic. The writer got the star dates right. The animators even recreated both the opening and ending credits perfectly. 

I have no idea if the people behind this are unaware of the guidelines CBS has issued for fan films or if they chose to ignore those guidelines. I'm just glad they put such an amazing effort into making it. 

To find this just search for the title on Youtube. I did so and found it with no problem. 

As always, wishing you well, dear reader.