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Capricon Con Report

I'm here at Capricon watching the snow fly and hoping my plan to eat at the hotel's restaurant works out. I'm also recovering from a sinus infection, and I'm almost dried out, so that's a positive thing. It's wonderful what the right modern medicines can do to fix one up. It's also amazing what being sick can take out of you - I find that last week I had barely enough energy to get wor done.

Herewith, a few thoughts on my panels:

Missing the Boat - this was the panel on what to do if your predicted future doesn't come to pass. Since I don't anticipate being alive when my future comes to be, not much of a personal problem. I did put in a plug for Eric Frank Russell's novel The Wasp, which despite horribly aging technologically is a great book.

Getting Military Speculative Fiction Right - research, young grasshopper, research. That and knowing that militaries reflect the times and their histories.

The Messiah / Hero Complex - in which we agreed that we're all damned tired of some young photogenic white kid from the sticks being the Savior of Us All because reasons.

Rapid Reading - in which I read two pages of The Night Watch.

Pirates of the Asteroids - Who Owns ET Resources? - possession is nine tenths of the law.

Death of the Hero's Journey - a bit of a mishmash, in the hero's journey and the standard five-act structure overlap heavily.

Star Trek Discover vs. The Orville (the panel is tomorrow, you get a preview) - I just wish somebody involved in The Orville had actually spent some time in a military organization.

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Snow!

Chicago got hit with a big snowstorm today. I woke up to 5 inches on the ground and another 3 expected to fall. The bank stayed open, so I had to come in, but when I found the roads to be as slick as greased snot I went to Darien, our hot-site and a bank very near me, instead of Oak Brook. We picked up a couple of guest workers here but very few customers. So far, I've been banging through work, largely because my phone isn't ringing. Wish me luck!

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/688710.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Not Dead, Really

I'm really not dead, just haven't posted.

I've been watching Team Trump hose down the country with a toxic spray of petty venality. Fortunately, the incompetence of Team Trump means they don't get much done. In any event, I find that I have nothing new to say.

I've also been very low energy of late. I am 99% certain (and my doctor is 95% certain) that I suffer from sleep apnea. For those not clicking through, this is an affliction where the victim stops breathing while asleep. Common in those who snore (raises hand) this means that the person is continually partially waking up at night and not getting a full night's sleep.

I'm sure I've had it for years in a mild form, but the past year it's gotten to the point that I'm constantly tired. So now I'm working with my doctor to fix it. I see a CPAP machine in my future.

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Capricon Schedule

Herewith is my schedule for Capricon, to be held in lovely downtown Wheeling IL February 15-18.


Thursday @ 3:30 - Ravinia Ballroom A

Missing the Boat


Description: The problem with writing the future is that eventually it is the future, and oops - you got it wrong! Our panelists discuss examples of now-anachronistic SF.

Thursday @ 5:00 - Birch B

Military Speculative Fiction: How to Get it Right


Description: Military SF is one of spec fiction's most popular sub-genres, yet not everyone "gets it right." What makes it accurate, even given that it is science fiction? How does someone who has never served write military SF that resonates with the readers?

Friday 10:00 AM - Botanic Garden Ballroom B

The Messiah/Hero Complex


Description: Many stories, video games, and legends revolve around the idea of a young "chosen one" who is going to progress through the hero's journey regardless of what they do to get there. How much of that story comes from the Christian dogma embedded in Western storytelling? What storytelling goes beyond this timeless trope?

Friday 1:00 PM - Birch A

Rapid Reading #2


Description: An assortment of authors each give 5-7 minute readings. Come discover someone new!

Panelists' Publication Names (Badge Names)
Kristine Smith (Kristine Smith)
Neal F. Litherland (The Literary Mercenary)
Karen Morris Herkes (KM)
Chris Gerrib (Chris Gerrib)
Dexter Fabi (Dexter Fabi)
Deirdre M. Murphy (Deirdre)

Saturday 10:00 AM - Ravinia Ballroom A

Pirates of the Asteroids: Who Owns ET Resources?


Description: The Outer Space Treaty (now 50 years old) prohibits nations from making territorial claims in space, but is silent on whether objects brought back from space can legitimately be property. Growing interest in asteroid mining has drawn attention to both issues. Nations can't claim territory up there, but can a private company stake a mining claim? And does it own resources it brings back?

Saturday 1:00 PM - Botanic Garden Ballroom B

Death of the Hero's Journey


Description: The Hero's Journey is a template used to examine and analyze the archetypal complexity of a hero, but does this template still hold value in a new era of storytelling? This new era is one where antiheroes, fallen heroes, and characters of dubious origin and ethics are becoming the new staple for science-fiction and fantasy consumers. If all heroic journeys are symbolic of soul transformation and social metaphor, what does this shift say about writers and audiences alike? And what kinds of lessons are now being taught?

Sun 12:00 PM -Birch B

Star Trek: Discovery vs The Orville


Description Some have said that The Orville is more Star Trek-like than the latest installment in the official ST universe. Panelists discuss the newest additions to SFF TV.

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Smoked Sausage Skillet ala Gerrib

Dinner last night was a modification of this Hillshire Farms recipe - Easy Smoked Sausage Skillet. The original recipe called for red peppers which I don't like, and so I substituted a can of diced tomatoes. I also made only half the rice.

Smoked Sausage Skillet ala Gerrib as made:

1 package Smoked Sausage (14oz) chopped into bite sizes
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Small Yellow Onion, sliced thin
1/2 package Frozen Broccoli, thawed
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1 cup Rice
1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Directions:

Heat olive oil in skillet, add onions, garlic and sausage and cook until sausage is brown and onions are soft. While this is cooking, make rice as per package directions.

Once sausage mix is browned, add tomatoes, broccoli and broth. Cook for 10 minutes or until vegetables are done. Add rice and cheese to skillet, stir and serve. Makes 3 hearty servings.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/688033.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Oprah 2020!

I did not see Oprah's speech the other day, and one speech does not a President make. But, she is:

1) really a billionaire (we don't know how rich Trump is).
2) Actually self-made (Trump got a pile of $$ from his dad).
3) Has had significantly fewer bankruptcies then Trump (zero vs. three)
4) Actually managed larger companies (most of Trump's deals are licensing agreements).

So, she is actually more qualified than Trump to be President.

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How Did We Ever Function Before Google?

I wonder how we ever functioned before Google. Last night was a case in point.

I have a garbage disposal on my kitchen sink. Over the weekend, it got into a bind and wouldn't spin or drain water. This concerned me, as I had visions of plumbers in my future. On a whim, I Googled "clogged garbage disposal." One of the top results was a helpful video that explain that modern garbage disposals have a hex wrench socket in the bottom, which can be used to manually reverse the grinding mechanism, thus getting the device out of a bind.

Fortunately, the previous owners had left the hex wrench that came with the disposal in a logical place (under the sink close to the disposal) so I crawled under and went to work. Once I actually got the hex wrench in the socket, the grinder was easy to spin and as soon as I moved it the water drained. I was then able to get a flashlight and a set of kitchen tongs and go at it from the top to fish out the piece of plastic causing the problem. Plumbing crisis averted.

But had it not been for Google, I would have had no idea about the socket.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/687459.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Welcome to 2018!

Thoughts on this frosty new year:

1) I was going to go shopping today. But it's -4 degrees Fahrenheit outside. There's nothing I need that badly, so I'll shop another day. (I need a pair of shoes and I want to try them on, so online is out.)

2) Last night, I watched the movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Highly mediocre. The writers couldn't decide if Cara Delevingne's character was a competent agent or a damsel to be rescued. I also found the romance between the two characters unconvincing at best. Rihanna stole every scene she was in, and that character would make a great movie.

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Amway and the Alt-Right

I am, or rather was, perplexed at various leaders of the alt-right, from Steve Bannon to Wily E. Coyote, Super-Genius At Large. These worthies support a political system in which those who aren't rich will be efficiently exploited by the rich, and in which dissent will not be tolerated. If the alt-right's vision comes to pass, everybody will be "free" to get screwed over. So why do these individuals offer their support?

Then Ed Burmila of Gin and Tacos fame pointed me to a lengthy article about Amway and the people who sign up to be that organization's food soldiers. Although not technically a pyramid scheme, anybody with a minimum of common sense should quickly see that to make anything more than extra money for an occasional beer or pizza requires recruiting a small army of people underneath you to sell sell sell Amway stuff. Yet Amway exists.

Amway exists, according to the article, because a handful of people who've gotten wealthy via the system really run a cult, selling American-style God, patriotism, 19th-century entrepreneurship and related hokum to the grunts at the bottom. And when an individual grunt at the bottom becomes disillusioned and drops out of the program, the top-level people (or some of their middle-level folks) go grab another sucker to feed into the mill.

Bannon, who is personally quite wealthy, would probably end up on top in such an alt-right world. But many of the followers of the alt-right are mere low-level Amway salesmen, destined to be chewed up and spit out.

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Star Wars and a Failure to Communicate

Like all card-carrying geeks, I went to the local eat-drink-and-watch-a-movie place over the weekend and saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi AKA Star Wars: The Quest for Even More Money. It was a suitably entertaining picture, albeit a bit long. Herewith is my largest issue (only mildly spoiler-y): a failure to communicate.

The resistance, being the resistance, have gotten themselves into a pickle where they are being chased by the First Order. The tactical commander, played by a purple-haired Laura Dern, has a plan. But she decides not to communicate this plan to her senior officers, including one somewhat impulsive Commander. Said Commander, not knowing the plan, green-lights an operation that ends up biting the resistance in the ass.

I'm generally very down on plots that hinge on people not telling each other things that they really should know. I'm especially down on that when it involves military organizations. Having said that, the Star Wars universe has a history of people keeping secrets. (See Kenobi, Ben in the entire first movie.)

Again, it was an irritation, not a show-stopper. The movie overall was well worth the hype.

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Roy Moore and Bedrock

I am relieved Roy Moore did not win election to the US Senate. My analysis of the vote suggests that a lack of "enthusiasm" for him by Republican voters coupled with a lot of enthusiasm for Democrats spelled the end for his candidacy. I wish I could say I was surprised at Moore's reluctance to concede, but the problem with people who think they talk to God is that it's very hard to convince them they are wrong.

I'd also like to call attention to this excellent post on Gin and Tacos entitled Bedrock. The post ties the American support for any "anti-Communist" leader (a policy that's still biting us in the ass) with Roy Moore. Essentially, the idea is that "When literally nothing is more important than achieving your goal, you are inevitably going to do some pretty reprehensible things to achieve it."

If literally nothing is more important than a majority in the Senate, you'll support creeps and crackpots like Moore. Ed, the author at Gin and Tacos, hopes that this is a turning point. So do I.

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Thankful

I wasn't feeling well and went home from work early Monday, where I took a 2-hour nap starting at around 3 PM. Apparently I needed it, because I went to bed that evening at my usual time and slept soundly. Yesterday and today I've been fine, so thankfully I've caught up a bit.

In other thankfulness news, I'm thankful that I'm:

1) Healthy
2) My family is healthy
3) My life in general is going well
4) My sister got out of a poor work situation and is doing well
5) We hired a badly-needed additional technician at work
6) I won at "Dancing with the Darien Stars"

In short, things are fairly good. Expect little or no posting until mid-next week.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/686229.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

A Thought and a Question

A Thought

With Star Trek: Discovery in hiatus, there was only one SF show on offer at Casa Gerrib, The Orville. I find that the story is growing on me. Here they use the holodeck (or whatever we're calling it to avoid the Copyright Cops) in a very practical way.

A Question

I had to buy a new winter coat this weekend. Before going out shopping, I remembered that I used to have a reefer coat. So I dug it out of my sea bag. A sea bag that I've lugged through two apartments and two houses. Damn thing didn't even come close to fitting! I could barely get my arms in it, the shoulders felt like vises and as far as buttoning the thing, forget about it!

Which brings up a question - what do you do with old uniforms? I mean, I'm sure pretty much everything in that bag is way too small. But it's all got my name on it in indelible ink. Pitch it, donate it, what?

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/685923.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Thoughts, I Have Them

Random thoughts, presented randomly:

Politics

1) I am gobsmacked to watch grown adults defend Roy Moore's love of "dating" high-school-aged girls. We went round and round about a pedophilia ring run out of the basement of a pizza place built on a slab, but now with actual evidence including being banned from the shopping mall, we get "well he's a good man" or "all his accusers are lying."

2) Given that one of the responses to this sexual allegations is to attack the victims, I am amazed that anybody would ask "why don't women report sexual attacks?" This is especially the case when, as per Roy Moore or Harvey Weinstein, the assaulter has a great deal of power.

Science Fiction

1) On The Orville I found two episodes in a row that I liked. The shipwreck episode of two weeks ago was solid, and this week's episode starring a blue-painted Rob Lowe worked nicely as well. I have to admit they are doing a good job of tying things together from multiple episodes.

2) On the other big SF show, Discovery, very nicely done.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/685778.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Victory!

As readers of my other forums know, I am officially the Champion of the Darien Dancing with the Starz contest. The Darien Chamber of Commerce holds a gala fundraiser in which the entertainment is "celebrities" dancing a la the TV show. I won, dancing a bolero to Heart's "How Do I Get You Alone." As you can see from the linked video, the song is full-on 1980s hair metal with cheese. (So sue me - I grew up back then!)

It was a lot of work, both physical in terms of lessons and practice, as well as fundraising efforts. (This was a fundraiser, so cash was part of the deal.) In any event, I'm quite chuffed at myself.

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The Week That Was

A few random thoughts on The Week That Was:

1) Well, now we've got an actual campaign operative, George Papadopoulos, confessing to actual collusion with Russia on the election. This is of course on top of the meeting that Trump's son took with the "Russian Crown Prosecutor" that we all knew about. Now, despite Trump mentioning Papadopoulos by name at a Washington Post editorial board meeting, we're in the "well Papadopoulos wasn't really that important" phase. Color me unamused.

2) The article entitled What J. D. Vance doesn't get about Appalachia is well worth the read. The gist is that the coal industry created a culture of dependency out of what had been independent small farmers.

3) Borrowed from Twitter:
Manhattan attack: 8 killed, 11 injured
Trumpsters: "Muslims are evil! Let's kick them out now!"

Las Vegas shooting: 58 killed, 546 injured
Trumpsters: "It's too soon to talk about this."

4) Speaking of Trump, we hear that Whitefish Energy, a two-man company, got a massive contract to get the lights back on in Puerto Rico. Needless to say, the lights aren't on. Also as pointed out on Twitter, the crooks and grifters in the Trump Administration are competent in one thing only - enriching themselves.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/685171.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Sunday is SciFi Day

Thanks to the vagaries of my schedule and the technology of DVRs, Sunday is SciFi day at Casa Gerrib Norte. Herewith are my thoughts on the two SF series I'm following:

The Orville

Ye Gods and little fishes! When The Orville decides to get on a soapbox, they really get on the box! This week's offering was set in a clone of 21st Century America, right down to frappes (or whatever they call those damned coffee-flavored milkshakes) in which whether you live or die depends on how many social media votes you get. The point was valid, but delivered with the grace and subtlety of a wrecking ball. What's worse, where here they could have at least skipped the Hollywood ending, we get said ending with a side of scrambled brains a la Red shirt.

Star Trek: discovery

Again, not exactly a subtle episode. We go to the Star Trek standard episode #16, the Time Loop (tm). Here it's done a bit better than usual in that Harcourt "Harry" Fenton Mudd is causing said loop, but otherwise pretty standard stuff. I'll also agree with Camestros Felapton and note that the ending felt very underwhelming given the gravity of what we'd seen before. Still, all in all more watchable than The Orville.

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The US in Africa

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you've heard that 4 American servicemen were killed a few weeks ago in an attack in Niger. Most of the uproar has focused on President Trump's handling of the notifications. Other than to ask what would you expect of a bullshit artist, I don't have anything to say about Trump's actions. I also don't have a lot to say about the attack specifically. I will note that as a general matter, if there's a war going on, occasionally people in or near that war zone will get shot at.

What I would like to discuss, and this article starts to address it, is what the hell were we doing in Niger? Specifically, the troops were there to help train the locals. But why, exactly, is it our business to train the Nigerien Army? What national interests are at stake?

In fairness to Trump, our involvement there predates the Trump administration. Having said that, we seem to be in the country for what's really pseudo-Imperial mission creep. Specifically, the local bad guys have decided to run up the Islamic flag, and so we must go chasing after them. I'm not sure that's such a good idea.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/684735.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Windycon Schedule

Herewith is my somewhat-abbreviated schedule for Windycon:

VillianCon Submissions - Saturday, 11-11-2017 - 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm - Lilac C
What if writers of dystopian stories are really submitting their world domination plans for peer review?
L. Antonelli
S. Burke (M)
C. Gerrib

3pm Readings - Saturday, 11-11-2017 - 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm - Boardroom
3:00pm Chris Gerrib 3:30pm Tina Jens
C. Gerrib
T. Jens

Windycon Writers Workshop – Section 2 - Sunday, 11-12-2017 - 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - ISFiC Suite
Entries: “The Palace Hotel” by Amy Woolard “Dreaming” by Daniel T. Miller “Penance of the Sea Queen” by Jason Evans Critiques from: Elizabeth Anne Hull Richard Garfinkle Chris Gerrib
R. Chwedyk (M)
R. Garfinkle
C. Gerrib
E. Hull

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Shakespeare's Problem Plays

This weekend I attended the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST). They presented The Taming of the Shrew, one of what I call Shakespeare's "problem plays." Shrew is a problem for modern audiences in that the basic plot is "abusing your wife can be fun and profitable." The other problem play is A Merchant of Venice AKA "let's all pick on the Jew" which has obvious issues.

Now, I don't know what Shakespeare's views were on women and Jews. I'm not sure anybody knows. The man didn't keep a journal and he wasn't in his life important enough for somebody to ask him. I also know that as a writer, just because your character says something doesn't mean you agree with it. Having said all of that, there's no particular reason to think Shakespeare was any more enlightened on these matters than the average dude in the cheap seats. We modern audiences may want him to be more enlightened, but wants are not equal to reality.

Despite this problematic play, Shrew has been performed twice by CST in my career attending their plays. Both times they used a "framing device" - a play within a play. This last time, it was a woman's club putting on Shrew during the battle for suffrage, so all the parts were played by women. This allowed the cast to make a statement on the play. Perhaps un-ironically, Shakespeare's version had a framing device, that of a beggar being tricked into thinking he was a noble and the play being performed for his amusement.

In any event, its a case of the frame putting the picture in a different light.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/684173.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Comment Policy

This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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