Thursday, December 23, 2010

And in the end...

The year has almost drawn to a close. It's been quite a ride. Some ups, some downs. The last few weeks I managed to let the news really get to me. It was like a train wreck. I knew I shouldn't look but I couldn't stop myself from checking blogs and news sites. So much bad news.

But this week the damn has broken. Shit got done. Amen and hallelujah. It's gonna be brutal next year but for just a little while we can relax and take a deep breath. Try to enjoy the Holidays...

So why am I not enjoying the Holidays? Ah yes, because I'm pissed off.

I've been getting emails from customers wanting to know where their corset orders are. I have nothing to do with that. My partner handles it and its been one fuckup or delay after another this year. And yesterday I actually lost my shit. I'm not talking about reaching the "fuck it" stage. I sailed right past that.

I was just going to leave a voice mail discussing another customer demanding their order or a refund and how we needed to figure out where all their orders were and it just kind of went off the deep end. I can't recall my exact words but "Bullshit" "Fuck you" and "Burn my fucking number" entered into my rant. I honestly cannot recall a time when I lost it like that. In an instant. I decided I would end my 10+ year partnership and friendship. And I meant it.

 Do I still mean it 24 hours later? I don't know. I'm still pissed. The logical part of my brain says I should chill out and act like an adult. But another part of me thinks I've been lied to and shit on. And that part of me will not take this shit any more. Even if it means a MAJOR change in my business. And rather than being able to deal with it NOW I have to wait for Christmas to pass. Such are the joys of owning your own business.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holy...

Well THIS certainly qualifies as the most bad ass thing on the planet after punching bears.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Venice and more...

Went to see The Tourist, which was a fairly pleasant movie with Johny Depp and Angelina Jolie. The things that I loved most about it was that much of it took place in Venice, a city I love dearly. What's better, they didn't feel the need to mess with the city like some films have recently. I know that Hollywood sometimes needs to move things around a little bit. but some movies recently have gone waaaaaay overboard.

 In Transformers 3 the protagonists somehow go from Giza to Petra in a few hours, and can actually SEE Giza from Petra, which is impressive considering they are several hundred miles away from each other. In The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, a show I thought was awesome, a young Indy and  Nanny are 'stranded' near the Pyramids and are forced to camp out. This confused me since they could have walked a quarter of a mile or so to the Mena House, one of the best hotels in Cairo. Stop being lazy Hollywood!

 Venice is stunning in The Tourist. The chases through the canals and over the small bridges and back alleys were exciting while staying accurate to the layout of the city. The film shows the lobby of the Hotel Dannieli, one of the most beautiful spaces I've ever seen. I recommend you see it for the scenery alone.

The other striking thing about the movie was Angelina, who looked lovely as always, but more than that she was elegant. This is something you just don't see much of in movies these days. Female leads are pretty, or sexy or down to earth or tough cop (lawyer, astronaut) but rarely elegant. But she pulls it off very well. The movie is a throwback to a more well dressed time and I think I'd like to see more movies like it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why is this even an issue?

There has been so much wringing of hands about the possible repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".  So much fear. So much crazy. Why, I ask you? Why is this an issue? The younger generation (the ones who, you know actually serve in uniform) no longer fear and hate gays the way many of our parents generation did. They're over it. They already work with gays in the service, and their opinion is as long as they do their job and act professionally, they have no problem with gays serving. But policy lags behind society and we've lost valuable service-members from understaffed positions because some small group of people are, get this... afraid of taking a shower with a gay person.

Really. That seems to be the big fucking stumbling block. If you don't believe me, feel free to read the complete report that was just released on the subject. Yes, it's about 267 pages, but the readable portion is about 131 pages (the rest being the appendices).  Or you can just read the Executive Summary at the beginning. Long story short. The biggest fear is getting hit on by some gay guy in the shower. Which is weird, because, as a straight person, I have no interest in hitting on gay men in the shower. The other fear is that openly gay members will act like prancing fairies.Really? The rest of the report basically says that having gays won't destroy the military. Look, the Military can handle it. They're tough. They are trained to follow orders. Other countries have already done it. It did not destroy unit cohesion nor did it affect retention. There are already rules of conduct in place. Letting gays serve won't turn Camp Lejune into a gay pride parade.

And yet somehow we will manage to make this a HUGE fucking fight. Thanks to the media echo chamber it will seem as if this issue is tearing this country apart. Conservatives will bloviate ad nausium to appease their Bible grasping constituents even though they themselves likely don't give a crap or would rather be snorting cocaine of a 19 year olds steely abs. More theater, more spectacle. We will take what is basically a non-issue and make it an issue.

My fear is that we will somehow royally fuck this up. That in the interest of compromise we'll do something mind numbingly stupid like allowing gays and lesbians into the service, but just not have them serve in active fighting units. Like women.  If the recommendations of this committee could be enacted by executive order I'd say go for it. Yes, people would hate Obama for it. People already hate him for helping them get more affordable health care, enacting mild financial reform and helping keep the country from sliding into a depression. Just add it to the list.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You learn something new every day.

I've known about the Haji, the annual journey to Mecca for many years. But I didn't know that the circling of the Kabbah  was only part of the whole experience. I found this article to very illuminating.

And while doing the whole spiritual thing is all well and good, the godless capitalist wonders if there is money to be made there in the form of food sales, souvenirs and what have you. Or is this frowned upon like at Burning Man?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So you want to see my junk?

My reply? Sure, whatever.

It seems that the blogosphere is getting its collective panties in a bunch about the new "porno scanners" and enhanced pat downs at airports. People are pissed that a flunkie in some room will see a crappy blueish image of their bodies. Including their junk.  This is an outrage!

So far as these scanners are concerned my concerns are a bit more practical. A) Are they safe? B) Do they work?

There have been some studies that indicate these scanners could potentially damage DNA or cause cancer. Unzipping my DNA concerns me. But no one has done any significant studies yet. The x-ray ones seem to be as safe as, well, getting an x-ray. You get a shitload more radiation getting a CAT scan and we seem happy about getting those. At this time I'm not freaked about getting cancer from getting scanned 3-4 times a year. Your mileage may vary.

Do they work? I suppose so. It can see guns and knives. These are, of course, things that wouldn't work in a hijacking anyway. Not these days. Can they detect explosive powders? Evidence suggests they can't. Could they detect an explosive device crammed in your ass? In short - ew. Also, NO, they can't. Well, I'm glad Michael Chertoff is getting paid well for the billions we are spending for deploying these useless machines.

Soooo, not super useful. What about the fact that the machines might store the images? So what? Calling these things porno scanners is a bit over the top. Have you seen the images these things produce? You have to have a pretty specific fetish to ignore the internet and use this to get your rocks off. Would I feel violated or embarrassed by someone seeing my scan? Personally? Not really. I was in theater for years where doing costume changes was common. I know exactly how big my penis is. Others might not share my opinion, we are after all a country founded by a bunch of super conservative crazies (the Puritans) and sometimes that crazy comes out at strange times.

So far as the pat downs are concerned, I haven't had one in the US yet. But I've been hit up by pretty thorough pat downs in Egypt,Turkey, Israel and Poland. No one fondled my junk. It was professional. I'll have to reserve my judgement about our version until after my next trip.  There are reports of TSA agents acting like jackasses. That shit I am ALL over. Acting like an asshat weather you are TSA or you flip burgers should not be tolerated. Period. Let the lawsuits and criminal charges flow.

 But what truly angers me is that America has just now decided that enough is enough. Both the tea party activists and the civil libertarians have both somehow JUST gotten to outraged. Really? And THIS is what you are pissed about? The Iraq war, Guantanimo, criminal banks, warrantless wiretaps, CIA black sites and torture THAT shit was just bad. But now that someone might actually take a blurry picture of your junk or brush against your breasts you are screaming foul?

I know, its the principal of the thing. The erosion of rights. These are things that should be fought for certainly. But a full body scan and a pat down do not a police state make. There are more pressing issues out there.  The methods the TSA are using to try and prevent terrorist attacks are at their very core deeply flawed. We are focusing on all the wrong shit.  I'm having flashbacks to High School. This was during the Reagan years. Iran Contra. Apartheid. Nuclear tensions with the U.S.S.R. Serious shit. But you know what got the student body truly motivated? What make them take up arms against "The Man?" The school banned a kind of Popsicle called the Guido. That turned our placid suburban institution into a hotbed of civil rights activism. Seriously. There were protests, petitions, posters and civil disobedience. It was insane. And I'm starting to feel that way again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Wampler...Fuck you.

Take a moment to read this article. I'll wait here, it won't take long.

Finished? Great. Now allow me to state my rebuttal. Fuck you.

That's the short version. And it sums up my feelings on his article pretty well. I understand that you are employed as a "comedy examiner", whatever the hell that means, but really? This is your attempt at funny? I am dissapoint.

I would have thought that here in the 21st century we'd gotten past the same pathetic stereotypes of people who go to Sci-Fi or Comic conventions. Do you not understand that sci-fi, fantasy and gaming are now the fucking NORM? Have look here. See that list of top grossing films from the last decade? 9 out of 10 of them are Sci-Fi, Fantasy or comic derived. Its 10 out of 10 if you consider The Passion of the Christ a kind of snuff film based on a fictional jewish wizard. That's pretty fucking mainstream pal.

Apparently the game Magic the Gathering is to him, hopelessly nerdy and pathetic, played by pimply teens incapable of interacting with the female sex. Really? I do a lot of cons. You know what I see? People with kids. "How did they get those kids?" you ask. By having sex you moron. Lots of sex. Sometimes with women like these who share their love of Trek or Star Wars or Harry Potter or B5 or D&D or even Magic the Gathering. How are two people playing a fantasy based card game different from a group of people playing poker? Answer: There is no difference.

Of course, he pokes at a fat girl in a costume. Awesome. Do I even need to spend a paragraph describing what kind of a dick does that? I've seen people wear costumes waaaaaaaay not right for their body type. But you know what? I respect each and every goddamn one of them. I admire their creativity. Their bravery.

Speaking of bravery. If you spoke to some people at a con you might be surprised to find out some are active duty or veterans of our armed forces. These guys don't just pretend to be warriors with pen, paper and dice. They actually go to fucking WAR for you, me and our country. When you look around a con I'm sure you'll see some fat ass in a scooter who needs a diet and exercise, you'll also see guys without legs or arms like I did last year. "Nerds" and "Geeks" tend to be idealists. While we play in fantasy worlds we fully understand the problems of the real one. Many cons hold blood drives and auctions for charities or libraries. Many years ago I was honored to present a check to a Cleveland battered womens shelter from the Star Trek fan-club I belonged to. I proudly did it in uniform (Wrath of Khan, not the Next Gen spandex ones, I know what looks good on me).

So, on behalf of myself and and a large portion of the general public may I suggest that you shut your fucking pie hole you unoriginal hack. If this isn't your thing, fine. Don't come to cons and  I won't follow you to a pro sports game and ask you why you are paying an absurd amount of money to watch men hit a ball with a stick, or try to put a ball in a hoop, or move a ball from one side of a field to another. Because honestly? That seems like the stupidest thing on Gods green Earth.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Marital bliss...

"I'm ready to go when you are" my wife exclaimed as we prepared to head out to the movies.

"Let me just turn off my office light" I said, knowing this would please my wife. Leaving my office light on for some reason is viewed as some kind of grievous sin. Leaving my room, even for a short time, means I will return to it dark. There may also me a stern look tossed my way. Sometimes her urge to save the planet is so strong she will turn the light off while I'm still in the room. But never mind. I am good husband guy so I turn off everything.

As I walk into the living room I see my wife turning on the tv.

"What's up?" I ask.

"I'm leaving the tv on for the cats so they'll be entertained."

I blink twice while my wife surfs for the animal planet channel.

"Really? I have to turn off the one compact florescent bulb in my office and you're firing up our vintage 90's tv for the cats?"

I look over at Little One on the couch who is displaying no more interest in the noisy box than she did the minute before.

"You know, if we have five more cats you could officially be a crazy cat lady" I said.

"Oh no, I am already there." she said. "If you do it right, two cats is all you need."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Technology bitches!

I dumped the phone company 2 years ago and replaced it with VOIP service ooma. After a few hiccups it's been working quite well and I'm saving money. One nifty feature is that I can retrieve my messages when I'm on the road. The down side is that I need to use a laptop to access the messages because they are played back using flash, which Apple doesn't support (thanks Apple!). And since getting my iPad I've almost completely stopped using my laptop and net book.

Solution? The sky fire browser on my phone and iPad. This let's you watch flash content ( using magic no doubt) I just tested it and it worked flawlessly. Problem solved!

It'll also be nice to be able to watch embedded video on news sites.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A small slip of paper...

A few years ago I brought a dollar and a piece of paper folded into an envelope to Denny's for my annual get together with old friends. (I haven'r missed this in 26 years). I set out a challenge. Each of us would write down a list of five things we would try to do in the next year simply for the joy of it.  The first person to do all five wins the dollar.

So far none of us have won. We tend to forget the list you see. Ed and Cat came close with three things. Anyways last year Rossana filled out a slip and I got to read it this year in her absence. It said "Be more spontaneous" as her No 1. thing to bring joy to her life. The other four items were arrows pointing to the first item.

I thought that rather odd, since I think of ourselves as somewhat spontaneous. But in fact we aren't. We don't have a boring 9 to 5 existence, but the last few years has involved a lot of responsibilities, planning and fretting. Taking care of her father has been difficult for Rossana in many ways. She's strong, but it takes a lot out of her. I do what I can, but she is doing the lions share of the work and its stressing her. Being truly spontaneous can be kinda hard when you take care of a family member as well as run your own business. You never seem to be truly away from work.

So today I decided to take the advice she wrote down on the slip of paper on her behalf. We drove to the local AAA office and decided then and there to go "somewhere". Going to Europe was something I knew she wanted to do, but getting a flight wasn't easy or in any way cheap. So we opted to go to Florida for a few days. We've been dying to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well as the Animal Kingdom hotel at Disney. So that's what we opted for. Just a short trip to celebrate her birthday and get away from her responsibilities for a little while.

Of course, we'll need to call the pet sitter, send out those pending orders, answer emails about custom orders, rack the stock, find our if we owe any state sales tax, update the website with new stock items, make sure the nursing home knows how to reach us, check the brakes of the Honda, get cat food, pay a few bills and pack.

But after we do all that...yeah...totally spontaneous trip.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The return of the ancient one...

With our season over I found myself with an actual weekend free. And thanks to Facebook I was made aware of a Medieval Feast held by my old friends in Dagorhir.

Dagorhir is a kind of LARP (Live Action Role Playing) but with less magic and more hitting with foam weapons. I joined when I was about 16 and through it met some of my longest held and best friends. At one point I even held the title of King. It was great fun but also taught me a lot of things. Politics, negotiation, how to work the system, tactics and a lot more. It was a huge part of my teenage years.

I don't know when I last attended an event but its been quite a few years. None of my old friends participates any more, what with jobs and kids and life, except for the current "King" of the local group. If I went, at least 1 person would know me. So I rooted around in the garage until I found two weapons, covered in dust and cobwebs. I picked out some garb and grabbed some feast gear and was off to Hinckley. When I arrived I had my weapons inspected by a stout young kid.

"How old are these weapons?" he asked.

"How old are you?" I asked. He eyed me up and down, a living fossil.

"These are ancient swords from the before time, in the long-long ago. They were made by master weapons smiths. They'll pass."

And pass they did. I was told the bulk of the people were in the woods fighting. I am in no shape to be running around in the woods. I was hoping to do some one on one sparring. Show the younglings some veteran moves. No such luck. I heaved my bulk through the woods to the  center of the battle, which had a kind of Halloween monster theme which was waaaaaay too complex for me. I had no idea exactly who I was supposed to kill. Also, these guys had armor and pretty large shields while I had 2 small swords, one of which was grasped in my slightly damaged right arm. I got into it with a Ware-wolf I believe. We killed each other in a flurry of blows. As I went to lie on the ground (where I had to count to 60 in order to be 'resurrected') I felt my right knee twinge.

I fought one or two more short battles before the battle mercifully ended. I actually enjoyed being in the woods again. I was fairly light on my feet when I was 12 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. These days? Not so much. At the cabin where the feast was to take place I relaxed and listened to the young fighters. There were a lot of them. Attendance was good and that made me quite happy. They had there own units and households. Some came from different 'kingdoms' as far away as New York and Indiana. I was disappointed that so few had any kind of persona. There was a lot of talk about the battle, or battles past. But it sounded more like jocks talking about a football game. Did we talk that way back when I was a kid? Probably. Dagorhir is a sport. Those in better shape tend to do well.

I helped out in the Kitchen (it's the Butler in me) helping to get the food out to the serving area, getting the mulled cider ready. The meat portion was from a caterer. I have to problem with that call. I remember some feasts where the food was just awful. After gorging ourselves I got to talking with another veteran and a few young people. I talked about where I'd traveled. Here the ipad came in handy since I sensed my younger audience suspected I was just BS'ing. Someone built a fire outside and when I joined it I was surprised to hear people actually singing. It wasn't great singing, but that didn't matter. These were songs of gypsies and warriors. Battles and lost loves. Good stuff. Less modern talk. We didn't have much singing at fires when I was younger. I decided to introduce myself and tell a few tales. Share some jokes. They went over quite well.  I stayed late into the evening swapping battle stories.  I left at about 1am.

I wasn't sure what I'd find when I went back to the game that played such an important part of my life growing up. It was different, and it was the same. So many new faces, young faces full of energy. So earnest, so dedicated. I talked with a young man who ended up telling me about his life. His girlfriend was pregnant and he was working as an apprentice tattoo artist. Money was so tight. He was trying to give up smoking "for the kid, y'know?" and I remembered all the tragedies and heartbreaks that my friends and I went through when we were his age. All the stupid choices and the grand schemes. You'd think that faced with these real life issues we would have stopped wasting our time with a dumb game. But this game was our whole circle of friends. We helped each other, counseled each other. We learned, we loved and we lost together.It was a game, but it wasn't just an amusement.It was important.

The next day I paid for my frolic in the woods with stiff joints and a weariness I wore like a cloak. I doubt I will get another chance to attend an event for quite a while, but I'm very glad I went. Part of me would be overjoyed to get back into the game. To be Erik the Bard instead of Erik the Salesman. Since its Winter, maybe I can make it out to a Battle or Two. I still have a few moves to teach these young punks.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweet Jeebus I was to own this place.

Apparently it was abandoned in 2008. Sooooo awesome.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not this again...

While never actually stop working we do have a busy season and a not-busy season. We're just about to wrap up the busy part. And it's been pretty good I think. It could have been better, sure. But we're still afloat. We ended in the black. Good. We could use a few more weeks of Ren Fair, but at this point I'm glad we are winding down. Every year we have to deal with some problem or other. Right now its our supplier.

He's basically a one man operation. He has minions but he's the one who is in charge and quite simply he's so busy he's fucking up our orders and the orders of our customers. Earlier this season one of him minions fucked up and didn;t fill in some paperwork and we missed being able to do Pennsic. Admittedly Pennsic would have been slow for sales due to the heat but that isn't the freakin point.

I honestly don't know what to do because we talk and talk and he assures me that he's working to get his shit straightened out. But it doesn't. And now I'm fielding calls and emails from customers who haven't gotten their orders in MONTHS. This is one of the reasons I stopped working for another guy, his inability to deliver what he promised.

I know I'm not his only customer but I am his biggest customer. Maybe it's time to start working on a backup plan.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Chores

The past two weeks I have been engaged in trying to "get shit done". Not the normal, every day run-of-the-mill shit, but  shit that has been neglected or that has been in my head but never started. These tasks have been hampered not by my laziness. No! I am help back by the Laws of fucking Thermodynamics! (i.e. Objects at rest stay at rest).

Getting these things started has been tough. Mostly because they aren't fun projects, or cool. But they need to get done. I finally broke down and hired an old friend of mine, Tony to come help me out. Being around people doing work makes me work to work too. So, thanks to Tony being present I've totally cleaned up the garage, installing new lights as well. Tony painted to barely used shelves and now crap is stored MUCH better. Today we started on painting the barn, which badly needs it.

The shop is also getting some attention. It's still a bit of a mess but it's in use almost constantly for one messy project or another. Hard to keep shit organized when you're using tools and building things.  There are still 2,483 projects that NEED to get done, but I feel like I'm at least trying to make a dent.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Fail

I've been screwing around with a very simple electronics project for about a week now. Literally, its just a switch. But the damn thing has to fit into such a small space its driving me crazy. I need to step back from the project and come at it with fresh eyes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We have become a nation of liars

Remember how Donald Rumsfeld said we would pay victims of Abu Graib? Well, we didn't. Not that we can find at least

I swear that clusterfuck just keeps on giving. Not long ago it was reported that there were some fairly horrific pics of detainee abuse that were so bad, they were just never going to be released. Period. Our government cannot actually be sued for some of this, but we used a crapload of civilian contractors and they CAN be sued if the Supreme Court says so. And thats what it might take to get some movement on this.

Actions have consequences. It's impossible to put a dollar amount on how badly our reputation was damaged by this BS. After all, we're supposed to be the good guys. And in case you thought this shit was over, Bagram airbase in Afghanistan is pretty much the same thing as Abu Graib, only we aren't closing it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Science!

If for some reason, you like to do things the hard way. You can now convert your iPod touch into a fully functional phone. I am not sure why one would do this, but it can be be done, and that's good enough for me!

www.Peel520.net

Monday, September 20, 2010

Someone comes to town, someone leaves town...

On the same day that an acquaintance finally had her baby, another friends father passed away. That right there is life in a nutshell. I don't have any pithy statement to make. It is what it is. The day started with the good news that mother and baby were both fine and on my way back from the Ren Faire I read about the death.

The sad fact is I'm going to be attending more funerals. When I left the corporate world I burned all my ties. I had to buy one for Jack Ellis' funeral because he taught be how to tie a Half Windsor and he sure as hell deserved me wearing a tie. I grabbed a belt out of the closet the other day and saw it hanging there. I stared a moment. I need some other reason to wear a tie. I don't want ties to mean only one thing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tired

Feelin very tired. Might be the weather, might be the fact that Fall is rushing up on us very quickly. It might be that I've been workin in the shop all week on goggles and other leather projects. Muscles are sore and back is killing me.

The property has been ignored. It sucks that I have a great piece of land but I haven't been able to enjoy it much this summer. Mostly it was the heat, but it cooler now, I'm just busy trying to make some stuff to sell. Ah yes, and someone dinged our minivan. Nice.

Things could be worse. We're doing okay sales. Our health is still good. Just tired.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Words of Wisdom


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Ouch

I watched Meghan McCain on the Daily Show a short time ago. For a conservative she is rather likable, if a bit young. They plugged her book Dirty, Sexy Politics. which covers the election from her point of view.

Today I found this review of the book. It's pretty brutal. I think the author dwells on the whole grammar thing. This was written, after all, by a 25 year old blogger and a member of the Twitter generation. Even so, he isn't kind.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Well, this is pretty cool.

I've seen a lot of Storm Trooper crap. Mpst of it involves them wearing Hawiian shirts and thet. THIS is pretty much full of win.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reaching the Fuck It stage.

It occurs to me that I have been doing....whatever it is I have been doing for quite a while now. I won't say I'm just a Rennie, or just a salesman. I am, I guess some kind of strange hybrid. I'm okay with that. More people than you think fall outside the traditional job definition box. The point being I can look back now on a number of years at working at assorted Ren Faires, Sci-Fi conventions, fetish shows, celtic doo-dah's, SCA shindigs and what have you.

I have done the job because its been a pretty fun job as jobs go. I'd never deny that. But with the passage of time comes the inevitable bullshit that comes to pollute whatever it is that one does for fun and/or profit. They aren't huge things. Well sometimes they are. But mostly they are a thousand paper cuts that slowly bleed away your joy and enthusiasm. Maybe two years ago, while unloading the van after some mediocre show or other in the blistering sun I looked at my wife and asked "Have we reached the 'fuck it" stage yet?".


She looked at me for a moment, thinking. Then she looked around at the tubs of stock, the mannequins, the tents, tables, rolls of fabric and dozens of boxed of heavy crap that  is required for us to do what we do and sighed. "No, not yet.".

And thus was born both a quirky ritual and an honest gauge of things. Time is ever fleeting. Someday I know I'll likely give up what I do for one reason or other. There is no set date for this. It might be thirty years from now, or it might be tomorrow.  Until recently, that second possibility had never even entered my mind. But it has. I'm just being realistic here.

But I didn't think I'd reach an actual "fuck it" stage. Not for a while at least. But I did last weekend.  We arrived at Michigan Ren and set up. As always, people come, people go. It's the nature of the business. But right off the bat I could feel things had changed, and not for the better. For instance, the bakery across from out booth was empty.

It turns out the festival, smelling money, jacked up the rent astronomically and demanded a hefty share of their profits. The bakery pulled out, leaving the space empty, until this weekend when the festival brought in a cooler and started selling about 60% of what bakery used to. The festival has a right to do this. It's their show. But really?  These guys had been there forever. They were friendly and they actually baked things there.

I haven't bought anything from the 'new' bakery. No small feat considering my sweet tooth. But the move seemed just dickish.

Fiona's Fineries moved into a shop not far away. They now carry corsets. Of course. I was told for years that I couldn't expand beyond 1 shirt and 1 skirt  design because the show "had too many clothing shops".  Over the past five years four other clothing shops started carrying corsets of varying quality. I complained. I got blown off.

The festival opened a new area in the back of the festival. It's been given several unflattering nicknames. Here, local "artists" bring in modern pop up tents and with 1 or 2 exceptions sell pretty much whatever crap they want. It looks pretty low rent over there.

I wandered around, getting angrier and angrier. I followed the rules. I did what they asked and played fair.  What did I get for that? Nothing. Last year when I showed the craft coordinator our new feather bras (after carefully submitting written updates to our list of approved sellable items) she nodded and said "they look great, of course next year five or six people will be selling 'em here." What the fuck? The reason you HAVE craft directors is to make sure Ren Faires don't turn into crap filled flea markets or have gluts in one thing or another.  I'm not going to drop multiple thousands of dollars of a booth for my product if there are going to be 5 other people selling the same thing.

But this year, the craft coordinator has retired and I realized the festival seems keen only to fill empty booths. And then I felt a kind of snap in the middle of my chest. And suddenly I felt lighter. Free. I realized that I had ACTUALLY reached the "fuck it" stage. Michigan Ren didn't care about the quality of the food being served to their customers, they just wanted all the bakery's action. No one was looking out to make sure crap wasn't flowing in. No one was trying to keep any kind of balance. And if they didn't give a fuck, why should I?

So last weekend I brought more shirts to the show, more skirts. I pulled out the scarves I personally brought back from Istanbul. I pulled out some dresses I only carry at conventions. Hell I brought out my own steampunk goggles.  We're in the middle on the worse economy since the depression and here I am tying my own arm behind my back. Fuck that.

Maybe someone will come in and start getting a grip on all this. I'd be happy with that. Maybe they won't. It doesn't really matter to me anymore. And that feeling is actually quite liberating. Rather than agonizing over things I cannot change I can focus on just doing my job, which is separating you from large sums of money in exchange for things that give you great joy.

The Fuck It stage feel pretty good at the moment.
.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thanks...you dick.

Apparently Levi Johnston is going to run for public office. That's, right, this uneducated jiz dispenser has decided to run for Mayor...of Wasilla Alaska. I'd like to take a moment to say to Mr. Johnston - fuck you.

I  have to confess that I don't know the young man personally. I haven't kept up much on his exploits. Apparently he posed for playgirl, but I don't believe that should restrict you from running for office. Sure, it looks like he sold off the rights to the "big wedding announcement" before it was revealed that he may have fathered a baby with some other chick. But that's pretty much par for the course with this group isn't it?

These shenanigans don't perturb me. What I am upset with is that  this douchenozzle isn't running for mayor for any other reason than it's part of a new reality tv show. Goddammitsomuch....

Look, there are many reasons to run for public office. Selflessness, concern for ones community, aspiration for higher office, even plain old fashioned greed and a lust for power. I can accept all of these. But I will not accept a high school drop out attention-whore who cannot keep it in his pants vying for public office for the sole reason of trying to extend his 15 minuted of undeserved fame with yet more vomit inducing "reality tv". It's not supposed to work that way. It shits of the very fabric of our political system.

But crazy is in this year. Look at the Tea Party. Listen to the frothing crazy that is coming out of their mouths. It wouldn't surprise me if this comes to pass. And thanks to the massive exposure this show would generate, he could very well win. The last mayor won in a run-off election with something like 450 votes. Awesome. We are doing a great job of showing the world the we don't deserve the system of government everyone else dreams of.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why I DON'T want a Mosque near ground zero.

Your read that right. While having an animated discussion at Pennsic I dropped that bombshell and things got quiet pretty fast. The people at the table, who were of differing opinions on the matter were both surprised that I would say such a thing. I am generally known as a free thinker with Liberal tendencies and such a proclamation raised eyebrows. But I said it and I stand by my personal opinion.

Make no mistake. The group involved here has every legal right to build their community center (which happens to have a Gym, an auditorium as well as a mosque). I do not contend that. When the project first came to the attention of our semi-retarded media the initial conservative backlash was immediate. The frothing rhetoric spoke of bans and interceding to stop such a travesty until it was pointed out that forbidding such a building flew in the face of the first amendment. After that the right-wing modified their bleating to state that while they could build the center, they shouldn't. It empowered fundamentalists. The Imam is a radical (a radical Bush himself appointed as a kind of good will ambassador, but whatever) The area is "Hallowed Ground", whatever that means. And  most importantly; It would hurt the feelings of some of the victims. The last one is a strong possibility. It's a sensitive and emotional issue certainly.  But that isn't why I don't support the project.

I am against this project because they are building a Mosque. I do not hate Mosques, or Muslims. I have stood in several beautiful Mosques in several countries. I think the Muezzins call to prayer is a delight to listen to as it echoes over the city. I count several Muslims as friends.

What I am against is the construction of another house of worship. A place where people go to listen to "Holy Men" tell them untruths about the origin of the world and mans place in it. Buildings where the social morays of a bronze age society of violent nomads are held up as unassailable, unquestionable law. A place where poorly translated gibberish is declared historical fact and the infallible word of violent, psychotic gods. A place where bigoted, xenophobic ramblings are declared unshakable moral codes for all to slavishly follow or risk eternal damnation.

It's not that I don't want a Mosque built near ground zero, I don't want ANY "holy" building built there. Not a church, or a synagogue or a Cathedral or a Scientology Center. Do you know what I'd like? A library. A place where anyone came freely enter without restriction or discrimination. A place where the guides help you to find answers without judgement or charging a tithe. A place where all questions are allowed. A place that has many answers but does not claim to have ALL the answers.

 Or a book store. I'd be fine with a book store. How about a gym? Or a small garden? Anything but another place that turns out more groveling believers. According to a quick search there may be as many as 6507 houses of worship in NYC compared with about 860 libraries. Do we really need more churches?

The other boogeyman in the debate is the fear of what all "those people" will be up to "in there". Surely no good! I very much doubt that this mosque will be turning out radical wahhabists. In fact, I suspect that it will be the most well surveiled mosque in the entire US. Everything in that building will come under close scrutiny. Every email, every sermon, every phone call. There won't be a single prayer session where there aren't at least 4 or 5 undercover agents blending in with the group. It would be the single stupidest place in the world to start talking jihad.

Alas, no one is listening to me. Both sides are too busy screaming at each other. In the end, I suspect the community center will be built. And I am okay with that. Even though every Sept 11th I tend to crack at some point in my day. I'll be in the car or maybe at a show and I'll loose it for a short time. I pull over or find someplace quiet and break down for a bit. Some things haunt you. But I pull it together, and I've never let it control me. Never let it close my head or my heart.

This Mosque will likely impart the positive values shared by the majority of Muslims around the world. Just as most other houses or worship do. But it's still pushing religion. The belief in an all powerful invisible sky wizard.

If I have any faith it is that I truly believe we can solve many of our worlds problems ourselves. Without supernatural aid or distraction.That we can let go of the crutch of superstition. My greatest fear is that I and my beliefs are in the minority.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Survey...

If you have a few moments, you might want to check out the Christian Modesty Survey.  I don't think you should fill it out. The entire concept is fairly insane. They aren't telling you what to wear. They're just letting you know what things will most likely get you raped. The people who created this survey seem to see no irony in claiming they "Don't want you to wear a Burqa" (nice jab at Islam there) while the woman on the homepage has a veil over her lower face.

On a practical note. One point says you should "Dress for the Glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31) What the frack is that supposed to mean??? The actual quote they reference is: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."


Got that? 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saying goodbye...

Yesterday I said goodbye to a great man. His name was Jack Ellis. At age 16 my mom was divorced and working very hard. My brother lived with my Dad in Olympia Washington. While I was not what you would call a juvenile delinquent I was failing to meet what school councilors would call "my full potential".

Then I was introduced to Jack and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. In his 60's at the time Jack had already had 5 other little brothers who he had mentored. At that age Jack wasn't like a big brother or even a father figure. Instead he was like the grandfather I never had. It would take 10 pages for me to recount all the things I learned from him both directly and indirectly. If I am a good person today, it is in part because of his guidance.

In his last few months he was eager to go. He didn't want to hang around, dying by inches."I've had a great life, not one complaint!" he said. He got his wish, passing in his sleep.

I was surprised at the turn out at Old Stone Church. People Jack's age have already said goodbye to many friends and family. But the aisles were full of people, old and young. The little brothers were there. But also cousins, friends, neighbors. The pastor knew Jack, even though Jack hadn't been able to come to the church in years. Jack had called him up to welcome him when he got the job 2 years ago. When he decided to visit Jack at his apartment downtown he knocked "C'mon in! It's unlocked!" and it was. It always was.

Gary Klesh gave the eulogy. Gary is now a billionaire. But in his teens he lost his parents and was living out of his car when Jack gave him a big hand. He got Gary a place to stay and helped him pay his tuition and bills so he could stay in college. Gary flew himself and his entire family to Cleveland from Europe. He said of Jack "I have known Presidents, Kings, Princes, Prime Ministers and Oligarchs. I place Jack head and shoulders above them all". I couldn't agree with him more.

I thought I'd be alright, that I could handle the memorial. But by the time the bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" I was a wreck. At first I couldn't figure out why. After all, Jack had a great, full life. I guess it's because the world really needs more guys like Jack.

After the service I got to reconnect with some of the other little brothers as well as some of the people who's lives had been touched by Jack. That helped me pull it together a lot. We swapped stories and laughed.

Eventually I had to get on the road. I had to get back to work. I didn't want to. This season hasn't been exactly awesome. All manner of BS and obstacles have been put in our path this year. But as I left the Church I remembered two things about Jack that stood out. The first is that I never saw him angry. Ever. The second is that he saw every experience, both good and bad, as a learning opportunity. "It's all part of your education" was his mantra.

I'll miss ya Jack. I really will.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Anger...rising...

I just finished watching a trainwreck called "Chasing Mummies". It is supposed to be a full spectrum documentary following Zahi Hawass, three interns and a camera crew as they solve the mysteries of blah blah blah...it doesn't matter what they say its all bullshit.

Look, I'm not going to beat around the bush here. This show was terrible on every level. It angered me. I have a headache from watching this travesty.  The biggest problem is that it isn't a documentary. It's a "reality" show. That should set off some alarms. Egypt is just a set piece and a theme.  The show is about Zahi, the head honcho of the Supreme Council of Antiquities who for some reason is channeling Simon Cowell from American Idol. I've spoken with Egyptologists and archeologists and they politely dance around the fact that he has a rep as a prima donna. and a petty tyrant. This show isn't going to help that image. Zahi yells at everyone. He browbeats the 3 interns (who don't even warrant last names) and everyone else. I'm sure some of this is for the cameras. But it's annoying as hell. This guy is supposed to represent the best of the best. He's the guy in charge of EVERYTHING and he's acting like a dick. A dick that loves Egypt, but a dick.

Where do I start? At two points "Derek" blurts out that the pyramids must have been built by aliens. He is yelled at for this by Zahi, as well he should be. No student of Egyptology would EVER say something so god-damned stupid. Who is this idiot? Why is he being given the chance of a lifetime to visit an area of the pyramid off limits to everyone? Where the fuck did they find these interns? There are real students who would give their left nut to work dig sites in Egypt.

Later, the group explores the upper 5 chambers inside the great  pyramids of Khufu. One of the interns, unable to hold her bladder, wets herself and goes on a crying jag. Ok, it takes several hours to work your way up through these 5 chambers. It's hot, cramped and humid.  I accept than an accident might occur. But if you're going to be trapped in an enclosed space for 8 hours you might want to PEE FIRST. Why didn't she climb down  to the Grand Gallery and find something to pee in there? Think! Have someone pass up a tshirt or a plastic bag. Hell, I would wear depends if there was even a chance of this happening. Was this just a "bit" for the show? I don't know, but it doesn't matter because everyone looked like an idiot for letting it happen.

At one point a cameraman hurts his back For some reason the fat producer/narrator is called into the pyramid. We watch as he hauls his fat, sweaty carcass up through the chambers, only to freak out, fumble back down to the grand gallery and collapse, receiving oxygen as he recounts he harrowing tale. What happened to the cameraman? Who knows, he isn't mentioned.

And why exactly is Zahi going into this area? Supposedly to show the interns crude graffiti that demonstrates that the builders of the pyramids were well organized gangs and not slaves. But this graffiti has already been documented. Here's a quick google search. At one point Zahi, sweating profusely, takes humidity readings. He explains how he closed the pyramid for a year because of high humidity. So why in gods name is he dragging 20 people, along with cameras into this sensitive, enclosed environment??? At this point in the show Rossana and I were actually yelling at the TV. I can imagine archeologists around the world throwing heavy objects at their tv's in anger and frustration.

I pray that this travesty gets shut down quick. It hurts to watch. It is an insult to those who work so hard in the field.  Egypt is interesting enough without the bullshit of "reality tv" crapping all over it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quick Fun

Krakow 2

Our second day in Krakow and the last day of our travels. We visited the Art Museum to see their armor exhibit, which was stunning. Much of the medieval armor focussed understandably on the Hussars but there were examples of later era uniforms, the kind you see in Napoleanic era movies that a fat ass like me would never fit into. All braids and buttons with high collars and high waists.

We then travelled to a nearby salt mine that was in continuous use from the 12th century until only a few years ago. To say it's massive is a gross understatement. We walked for 2 hours and saw approximate 1% of it. Over the centuries miners have carved numerous chapels and statues out of the mostly black salt. The results are impressive. The site has a hotel, spa, restaurants and a ballroom for weddings. The air is clear and the temp a constant 61 degrees.

After a short rest we went out to try and shop. There was shop nearby that made us all drool. Armor, swords, garb...everything you could want, it was of course closed on Sunday. We toured the town square but only found a few items. Amber is in great abundance here and is of the highest quality. But the prices are pretty high. We made a few small purchases but Polands native crafts just didn't blow me away. Well, the Vodka did. And something called Krupnik.

We had our last dinner together. I've only had one good meal in Poland, the rest have been excellent. This had been a fun group to travel with. We walked out onto the square and watched an amazing drumming act. The drumming itself wasn't amazing, it was the fact that they were hooked up to a giant crane like a giant mobile and hoisted above the square. Very cool idea.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Zakopane

After a looooong drive we arrived in lovely Zakopane. This is a big holiday destination for many Poles. The town sits at the foot of the Tatry mountains bordering Slovakia On the Danajec river. This is the Polish highlands. The town is beautiful. There is a basic style of house here but with many decorating flourishes that I could spend days looking at.

We took a rafting trip yesterday. The raft consisted of five narrow, flat bottomed square boats lashed together. It is steered by two pole men. The river is wide and shallow. It winds through tall spires of rock and trees along the border. In fact, there are several times that the river strays into Slovakia. Horay! Bonus country! Our lead boatman had worked the river for 30 years. Eryk, our unofficial American guide, speaks fair Polish and was able to to a rough translation of the highland dialect. Apparently the highlanders have dirty minds.

The river was very gentle with only a few mild rapids. We didn't even wear life jackets. At the end of the journey the boats are unlashed and stacked on trucks to head back up river. We head to Krakow today. Luckily the drive will be a short one. Smaller tour group means smaller bus and I can barely squeeze into the front seat with one leg in the aisle.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Zamosc

Observations and Rezkow

some small herds of cows are kept in the countryside, however there are few fences containing them. Instead they are connected by a long chain to a stake in the ground and thus cannot wander into the road.

As in Italy there is a half width lane on the right and left of many roads. This is to help facilitate slower vehicles and passing and makes a great deal of sense.

Buildings tend to be of brick with stucco in muted colors. On old buildings there are figures or geometric shapes and flourishes cut into the stucco and highlighted with contrasting colors. Marble is not evident and seems to be used very little.


Drove much of the day through light rain. Mid day we arrived at Zamosc, called "the perfect Renaissance town" as it was planned and built from the ground up by Jan Zamoyski, who was quite a clever monkey. Unlike most towns this one is built along a grid with a large central square. There were distinct neighborhoods with houses built to exact specifications. It was meant to attract twealthy traders as well as the intellectual elite. Surrounded by an extensive wall it was never taken by force.

After touring a museum which was once the home of an Armenian trader we had lunch in a basement restaurant nearby. By the weirdest coincidence our waiter (who spoke pretty good English) turns out to have been at the Klushyn reenactment last week!

Drove on to Rezkow for the night and had a small accident. While pulling up to the hotel our driver hit a kind of curb, crunching the bottom of the passengers door. The damage wasn't too bad but he was upset. These guys pride themselves on their driving skills.

I tried Polands version of Pizza and while is was certainly edible it was pretty damn salty. This country loves it's salt. It revels in it. Foods are so salty that we, as Americans, notice it. That says something.

Stopped in a pub and watched Germany loose to Spain in football.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Lublin Day 2

Today we visited an outdoor living history museum. It was amazing. The grounds were beautiful. There are about a dozen buildings on site from the past 400 years or so of Polands history. There was a windmill and a Manor house as well as two churches. We had lunch in a small inn dating from 1688. A small part if the park was closed off for filming a movie.

From there we went to a large Palace filled with precious art and furniture which was quite cold and impersonal, despite the opulant setting. Rossana would have far preferred living in the modest log homes of the museum and I agree with her.

We returned to Lublin to dine and enjoy the ethnic music festival. There was a Latvian, Czeck and Polish group but the highlight was an African group that rocked the old town square. In fact on the last song the polish accordion player came on stage and jammed with the drummers as the various Slavs in assorted ethnic garb did a kind of conga line.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Lublin

We left Warsaw and drove to the scenic town of Kasamirez dolny. The area is known for it's quality honey and mead. I purchased a small bottle in what was the old Jewish quarter. We then continued on to Lublin. We walked the streets of the Old Town until we found a stage with several music groups performing. First was a band from Holland, then a folk group from the Balkans. At one point a group of 20 or so teens left the crowd and started a traditional line dance.

Here I will divert a bit to speak on some details of Poland and its people. In general one cannot tell the difference between the Poles and Western Europeans or Americans. They are quite friendly although there are still strong feelings about the Russians. In the countryside one can see a kind of thatched log cabin which is very pretty. In the old towns the buildings actually lean away from the street or have recessed upper floors, which is quite different from the mediavel buildings of England and Germany. This leads to wider and brighter streets. Churches pervade the cities and small shrines can be found every few miles along the roads as the country is strongly Catholic.

Eryk, the guy who puts the tour together is a good Catholic boy. This has led to a few "moments". I won't say they were awkward or uncomfortable. But Rossana isn't going to convert, okay? It's not gonna happen. Today we stopped in a church and I asked what was inside a glass case in a side chapel. "They might be holy relics,. You know what this is, right?. The Sacristy. You're Cathllic right? I mean, your Polish, right?"

I was taken a little aback. "I'm Syrian too, but that doesn't mean I'm a Muslim".

I'm hoping to avoid conflict but I am not a Christian. I believe in showing respect to a host countries faiths but I won't be attending mass any time soon.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Battle

At long last the Battle of Klushyn! Of course, there were a few details to work out. Saturday we went to the site on the edge of the city. It was a strange affair because the site was open to the public as well as the reenactors. This meant that some of the cool vendors we've seen at market days like bread and ale and hand made swords were next to tacky tchotchkes, modern militaria etc.

We wandered onto the field but the rehearsal was mostly for the horseman and organized field units. The battle is a fairly complex one and these guys weren't going to oversimplify it. After half a day Rossana and I opted to skip a parade to Polands unknown soldier tomb and return to the hotel. I had fulfilled the promise I'd made to my wife and not taken off my Zupan or jacket despite the heat. I returned later for the "sarmatian feast" which no one could find.

Being a hungry lad I foraged for sausages and tasty pierogi on my own. The "feast" turned out to be a kind of stew which my fellow pollacks described as "curious". Things picked up when we learned that a group of visiting Vikings were selling mead in the back of the camp. We stopped by and talked a while and sampled their product which was super tasty. By this time we had picked up some Russians and the drinking began. We settled at a table near the battle field and made many toasts as the sun slowly set. Some kind of folk band played nearby and modern world melted away into the darkness. Upon returning to the hotel Hussar traditions had to be upheld so. It was off to the bar for vodka served on the blade of a cavalry saber. The favorite vodka of Poland is named after a native bison and has several blades of grass in the bottle. It is not for the feint of heart. I wobbled off to bed after midnight but the rest of the troup stayed until 2.

Today we arrived at the battlefield like everyone else, slightly rough. The public was pouring into the park to see the battle. There was a demo of horse archery and then it was. Time to get our battle on. I'd like to state that the situation struck me as a bit of a cock up on our part. We stood under a tree on the "Polish" side of the field and the Hussar began to arrive in real numbers. Maybe 80 in all, decked out in full armor with lances. They were an awesome site. And that was it. No infantry. In the actual battle the Russians and Swiss outnumbered the Poles about 6 to 1 and the infantry was very small in numbers so some Poles had to play Russians, including our group leader. Having no idea what to do we just stayed near the trees and tried not to get trampled. Easier said than done since there were about a hundred muskets and arquebuss on the field in a addition to several cannon. The Hussars made many charges down the field to engage the enemy , sometimes sword to sword. This is something that would NEVER be allowed in the US. Eventually some Polish infantry showed up but they were a well drilled unit so we just stayed put. Make no mistake, we had a very good view of the battle, the only better one would be in the ranks of the Russians. I'm told by the three guys who left our group to play Russians that it was pretty damn scary to stare down a cavalry charge. I just felt like we were in the way. There were only 5 or 6 other reenactors in the area. All of us were taking pictures. I mean it would be a crime NOT to. But I felt like a tourist.

Given the noise and poor condition of the field I'm amazed that there weren't any serious injuries. A few horses got spooked by very loud shots and a few riders were tossed but nothing serious. I'm glad I didn't invest on the lovely, but expensive, saber. I was eyeing. Overall it was a great learning experience. This was a new event and with time I think it could be awesome. The people we met were all very nice, despite the language barrier.

Tomorrow we leave Warsaw and head into the country.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Warsaw

Today was our first full day about the city. The Old Town is quite charming despite it being a recreation. 85% of the city was razed during the was but was painstakingly rebuilt using photos, drawings and paintings by artists like Cannaletto.

We visited one of the palaces used hy the King In the middle of a beautiful park. We then had lunch near the old town square. Amber is very abundant here and is used in all manner of crafts. It's alro reasonably priced. I sence fifty bits. We headed over to the Polish military Museum for the opening of a Hussar display. Lots of guys in costume. Some amazing work. The exhibit was amazing. Some stunning examples of arms and armor. Well displayed.

The upstairs dealt with later periods. The Napoleanic uniforms were just awesome. They really knew how to dress for war back then. Outside the grounds are littered with planes, tanks and other weapons including an ingenious armored car built for the Polish uprising.

Tomorrow opens the battle event with a parade and practice. Since we haven't drilled with these guys before (and I have zero experience) I will likely be assigned to cannon fodder duty. My job will be to die during some volley fire I'm fine with that. I'm just keen to be on the field Sunday with the largest group of winged Hussars in 300 years.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Land of my ancestors

At last we are off to Poland, but to what I cannot say exactly. Unlike prvious trips I really don't have a good grasp on Poland, even though it is the land of some of my forefathers. It's not that I don't like Poland, far from it. But for one reason or another I've been somewhat behind on every project this spring. We've been playing catchup and as a result I never got a lot of time to sit down and learn more about this amazing country. What little I did read was fascinating. I found a very good film called "with Fire and Sword" which was beautiful. It was a little tricky to follow because Poland (like much of the world beck then) had shifting alliances. The Cossacks in particular seem to have a volatile relationship with the Poles.

The tour group we are traveling with is being led by some die hard Hussar reenactors out of Chicago. They've come to participate in the 400th anniversary battle of Kluszyn. We already met one of them at the airport. He's traveling with his armor, helm, swords and wings (do a search for winged Hussars, it's impressive). I'm traveling much lighter. A zupan jacket, hat, trews and my pointed boots from Son of Sandlar. Of yeah, and my new haircut.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Testing email posting

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poland!

Here are some details of the tour we are taking to Poland.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's not the crime that gets you #2



Apparently a documentary is coming out about the death of Pat Tillman. This has somehow angered some conservatives though I am not sure exactly why. The comments after the post seem to paint the issue as one of liberals hating the military, or Bush, or America. There's a lotta hate, all over a trailer. I mean, they haven't seen the film yet.

Of course, its very hard to separate the tragedy of Tillman's death from politics. Tillman was the All American Boy who gave up millions playing football to serve his country. He was killed in Afghanistan by "friendly fire".  And that should have been that. Fratricide is a fact of war. A very tragic fact, but one that impossible to prevent. The best possible course would have been to find out what happened and to work to make sure such a thing doesn't happen again. But America loves a hero. And the  Global War On Terror was an unpopular one. So someone, somewhere made the choice to change the story. This may have been an innocent mistake at first. Someone in PR at the Pentagon sees that Tillman, the poster boy for American Patriotism has been killed in action. He's young, handsome and sacrificed a lucrative career. You want to praise this sacrifice. But the truth was known very shortly after the event, and for some reason no one put their foot down and said "The truth is, it was fratricide." People in the military and civilian administration knew he did not die in a heroic battle, but they told America and his family a lie anyway.

Things snowballed until the President of the United States is speaking at his funeral. As much as I hate to say it I don't believe I can blame Bush for wanting to honor Tillman. I don't think he was personally aware of the cover up. The military is at fault. But there can be no doubt that people in the Bush administration pressured the Military into keeping the details of Tillman's death secret. Evidence was destroyed. People were told their careers were at stake if they spoke out. This is a cover up.

So how is making a documentary about Tillman's family fighting to find out the truth a jab at America, or part of some vast leftist agenda? Can't the search for the truth be a worthwhile cause? Even if the facts paint a story of a tragic set of mistakes? Should the family have just shut up and accepted the fabrication of a heroic death? Are they somehow unpatriotic for wanting to know the truth or being angry at being lied to?

To me, Pat Tillman (and Jesica Lynch) is still a hero. As are all of the thousands of troops who continue to fight a war in a country that no one has ever won a war in. We have an all volunteer military. These aren't conscripts. The son of a friend of mine is redeploying to Afghanistan soon where things are currently on a downturn. Should (god forbid) anything happen to him I have no doubt his parents would demand an accurate explanation of what happened and god help anyone who dares lie to them.

I know that America loves a hero. But it doesn't need to lie about the brave men and women who serve to get them. They should not be showpieces or political props. Tell us the truth. We're adults, we can take it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Calmer now.

Last week was some kind of blur. It seemed like EVERYTHING waited until the last second to fall into place. Supplies, stock, contractors, everything. Somehow it all managed to happen and get done. Not all of it was perfect. But I can live with it.  I had already reached a kind of numb zen state when word came of my fathers accident. I'm very glad he only broke his shoulder. I could handle that. Word also came that Jack Ellis, my Big Brother passes away. I was able to handle that too since he had a great life, wasn't in any pain and went in his sleep. I am SOOO glad of that.

I know worse will eventually come. I suspect I won't handle it well no matter what my age.

The rush starts Thursday. From that point on things get crazy. Lots of travel. Lots of work. Hopefully good sales. Despite all kinds of prep work I feel like I've been behind this entire season. I'm also sure I have forgotten at least one major THING. Something important no doubt.

I'm glad the party went well. It was good to see some friends and good off.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Zeus has been angered

I don't think anything needs to be said about this little incident.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Party!

Next Saturday is the big party. Working like a madman to get stuff done. Hope people shop up and have a good time.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Bundle of joy

"The Lawn, it's laughing at me." I said, looking out the window in a manner I hoped was reminiscent of Macarthur.

"What did you say dear?" my wife asked, not looking up from the sewing machine.

"Can't you hear it? Thousands of squeaky voiced blades of grass. They mock me. I must mow the lawn."

"Of course."

I went to put of work clothes and when I returned Rossana was glues to the window the way our cats are when birds stop at the feeder.

"Come here, quick!" she whispered.

I looked out the windows just in time to see a wobbly baby dear start to settle itself in a patch of low plants near the remains of our deck. In a moment, there was nothing visible but a pair of painted ears that swiveled around occasionally, scanning the area.

"It's adorable!" she searched the yard. "Where's the mama?"

"Off doing mother-dear things no doubt."

Her brow furrowed. "What is the baby wandered off and she can't find him?"

I could see that in the short time it had taken to put on pants two problems had suddenly manifested themselves.

"I can't mow today, can I? It might spook him. Or the mother." The grass was already abnormally high due to neglect.

"Should I call someone?" Rossana asked, looking worried.

Those of you who think that my wife does not possess maternal instincts due to her severe allergic reaction to human babies has never seen her around small furry animals. I could tell that she was ready to go the the store to get baby formula and knit it a sweater in case it was cold.

"We just have to leave it alone. It'll stay hunkered down until mom comes or dark. You can't go over there"

I have lived in Ohio most of my life and know something of the flora and fauna here. But I could tell my works were a kind of buzzing in my wife's ear.

"No touchy!" I said, firmer. She scowled at me.

I managed to mow some of the back 40, coming in for breaks now and then. The dear, whom I began to call 'junior' seemed happy to remain in the weeds. At one point the cats managed to wiggle their way out, causing alarm.  We got one back in quickly but Little One wandered off lite a 2 year old, staying just of of Rossana's reach until she finally grabbed her on top of the house.

When I finished up in the early evening Rossana emerged from her office and proceeded to tell me all about baby does and the associated do's and don'ts. The was consisted of all the things I had told her earlier but I nodded dutifully. Junior hung around until dark and was gone the next morning.

All was well until last week when I used the back door of the garage to get something from the shop. I opened the door and started through in the direct way I am know to walk and was met with the carefully folded bundle of junior right in the doorway. I flailed wildly trying to stop myself from tripping over him, smacking into the door, the frame and shelving units as the tyke also clumsily got up and made a break for the woods.

The second appearance prompted fresh concern from Rossana but I am happy to report that I saw mother and child today and I noted they looked just fine after I narrowly avoided hitting them with the lawnmower.

Monday, May 31, 2010

I'll take what I can get

Last weekend Rossana went off and did the Virginia Renfair solo while Lindsey and I went to Marcon. While Lindsey and I enjoyed an air conditioned hotel Rossana worked through 93 degree days. That is the kind of temperature that can KILL me. I literally stop thinking in that kind of heat. What's more, she kicked our asses on Saturday.  I started to feel like I'd lost my touch.

It's not like we were slacking off. I barely got out of the booth. Lots of interest but no buyers. It struck me that attendance was way down this year. There are several ways of telling. How crowded the bar is and how long you have to wait to get food in the food court are two fairly good indicators of attendance and they weren't good.

Compounding our suck was a lack of wifi in the dealers room. The hotel tried to extort $100 a DAY for it and I steadfastly refused. This meant doing a dance using my iphone to charge credit cards.

When Sunday hit things seemed to turn around for us. The biggest deal was the sale of Rossana's 'Courtesan' dress for $2,000. That sale felt great. In fact I was upbeat the rest of the day until load out (which meant going out into the heat). The sale of the dress helped our numbers. Without it Marcon would have been a fairly miserable show. I still love the con. They treat vendors great, helping with load in and giving us free pop and cookies. They also help with loadout. I just hope they can get attendance back up.

Oh, and I may have bought a death ray...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why science matters.

I don't have kids, but you might. You might care about things like 'facts' and 'science'. If you do I beg you to have a quick look at this series of cartoons that explain the anti-vaccine Dr. Wakefield and why he is is so very wrong about vaccines and how he is quite possibly a criminal.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

There's always a down side.

I took the plunge and bought an iPad. I talked myself into the expense by telling myself it will be able to be a second credit card machine using the cool new square device. But there can be no doubt that I was tempted by the promise of a device I've been dreaming about for a loooong time. Something like 6 years ago there was a neat little tablet device called the eePc. It was WinCE powered. I was able to install and read Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 days" on it. I've kept track of sales at shoes using simelar WinCE devices for years. I knew back then that a tablet PC was a viable product.  Netbooks are good but they still aren't a great surfing device despite the better battery life.

 So now I have the iPad and it is very good. Quick boot or instant on with amazing battery life. Stunning screen. Apps that work to remove the need for a mouse and a virtual keyboard that is actually very easy to use. So what's the down side? It has nothing to do with the device and everything to do with where it comes from. Shenzen China and a company called FoxConn. They make lots of electronics, including my iPad. So it sucks to read about the work conditions at the factory, where there have been 7 suicides this year.

FoxConn has now hired almost 100 Councillors and even brought in Buddhist monks to drive evil spirits out of the machines. Really? Evil spirits? Maybe it has nothing to do with spirits and everything to do with the absurd hours these kids are working. The lack of social contact. The depression of living in a kind of indentured servitude.  The factories are bright and clean. The employees aren't chained to the assembly line. They are free to leave...but to do what?

I don't have any real answers. I like my shiny toy, but I don't want someone to work themselves to death for it. I could wait an extra week or two if it let them slow down. I'd happily pay a little more if it went to the line workers. But the wheels of capitalism must turn and nothing can get in their way.

What happens to disarmed nuclear weapons?

A short but cool article with a killer pic.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Scientific proof

Did you even notice that incompetent people always seem really confident? I have. Hell, look at the 8 years of Bush. That man was certain we was smart and doing all the right things. He and his cronies thought they couldn't possibly be cocking things up.  Well, there actually a term for that. It's called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Here is some science for you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

I love Star Trek

But I fear this monstrocity would go to places in my colon where no sausage has gone before.








Tuesday, April 06, 2010

We're off on the road to....

Are YOU looking for adventure? Do you like to travel to strange foreign lands to meet exotic people and eat sausages? They do I have a deal for you!.

This summer (June 30- July 12) Rossana and I are going to Poland. The tour looks absolutely fantastic. The company that runs it only takes 15 people so it's very personalized. Right now they are looking for 3-4 more people. If you are interested check out their PDF flyer or call Eryk (who runs the tour) at 603-563-8054

Honestly, this thing sounds great. At one point we'll be dressing up to attend a battle re-enactment near Warsaw followed by a Sarmatian feast! What do Sarmatians eat? I have no idea, but I'm keen to find out.


Who is hamad?


That's a good question. After all, he is carving his name into an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi in letters 500 meters long.



No really, he is. Why? Because he is filthy rich and a bit of an eccentric. You can check out his brief wikipedia entry here and a video of his unusual truck:




Saturday, April 03, 2010

I don't think I'm going anywhere

Not long after the earthquake hit Haiti we got an email from Hands On Relief, the group we worked with in Biloxi after Katrina. They were doing scouting and working with NGO's to see how they could best help out.

I just went to their web site to see how things were progressing and they have a hell of a good start. There are doing demolition/debris clearing, helping with temporary shelters and working to increase their volunteer capacity. They've fotten a lot of help from the Canadian Army which is more than I can say for FEMA when we were in the 9th ward.

Part of me wants to go. Even though things are far worse than they were in Biloxi. There is a far greater risk from diseases, medical care is very basic and accommodations are pretty damn spartan. To say nothing of the fluctuating security situation.

But I still wanted to go.

But working outside the past week had let me to an unpleasant realization. I don't think I am in good enough shape to do the work needed there. It's just that simple. I'm 42 and Rossana has a few years on me. Demo work is backbreaking. And I do not do well in hot weather. They need young, strong, healthy people or people with greater technical skills than I posses. I just don't know how helpful I would be even if I did go.

So I guess I'll be donating to Hands On directly, and if you have a few spare bucks, I'd appreciate if you'd consider doing so too. Or you could donate to the Red Cross or the charity of your choice. Let's not forget these people now that the camera's have gone and they are no longer leading the news.

Thanks


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I don't feel good...

The recent events concerning pedophile priests had given me pause. Haven't we been here before? Indeed we have. Hundreds of children abused in the US. A massive scandal. Millions in fines against the Church. And then things died down.

Then came the report about the workhouses in Ireland, more pedophiles come to light, then the Ferns Report, revelations about a secret document used to suppress accusers under threat of excommunication, more child abusers in Germany and now the revelation that the man who was supposed to oversee and handle this kind of thing is none other than former Cardinal Ratzinger aka The Pope.

The accusations are coming fast and hard now and the media smell blood in the water. The church is of course, trying to cover this up. Issuing denials and carefully worded statements and apologies. Fall guys are taking the blame. It's starting to sound very familiar. You might not be old enough to have experienced it first hand, I was only a child, but things are starting to play out like Watergate. And as Nixon observed, "it's not the crime that gets you, it's the cover up"

Ratzinger will have a very hard time squirming out of this because (by papal decree) ALL abuse cases are supposed to be handled by the Vatican and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (a very pretty name for what historically has been called The Inquisition). He was supposed to be the TOP man. I'm sure the office was responsible for many different tasks, but surely child rape and abuse cases were a high priority. Right? Right?

Then I watched this short documentary:





aaaaaaaaand, now I'm pissed. Very pissed. I like to think that I am fairly even handed. I believe firmly that there are almost always two sides to every story. I like to play the (no pun intended) Devils Advocate. Despite my distaste of organized religion I accept and admit that it can have a positive affect of many peoples lives. And when you consider that there may be somewhere around 50 million children worldwide who are being raised as Catholics it may be inevitable that some of the hundreds of thousands of priests would be pedophiles. Any group with these numbers would likely have this problem. But it's how the Church handles the problem that really gets me.

Despite the recent events the Church continues to plod along like it's the 12th century. It is an entity unto itself. Beholden to no one. It ignores secular laws. It pays hush money. And worse, it continues the same behavior of shifting priests around, blocking police inquiries and above all failing to help the victims.

By the way, did you know that when a diocese pays off sexual abuse victims millions of dollars not one cent of it comes from the Vatican? Nope. They're like McDonald's franchises. So the money comes from the diocese and that money comes from parishioners. Tadaa! Members of the flock pay to have their children raped.

I don't want to pick on the Catholic Church, but it's a top-down organization and it's very large and it KNOWS what the fuck is going on. The Pope could change how the church deals with pedophiles tomorrow. It could initiate sweeping change. But it won't.

It will pray for the victims. Sure. Fat lot that will do. But but it won't change. Why? Because at it's very core, at it's very heart it believes that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

The thing that might force change (whether the Church wants it or not) is that there is very little secrecy anymore. For good or ill we are very much a confession culture these days. What used to remain a deep secret is now shared much more easily. People no longer believe that such atrocities are impossible. And now the media and lawyers want a piece of the pie. Good luck keeping them at bay Mr. Ratzinger.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Another dark confession

As a pretty ironclad rule, I do not give a flying fuck about celebrities or gossip. But I cannot help but watch the slow motion train wreck that is the life of Jessie James.

Jesse is a high end chopper builder out in California. Discovery did a few shows on him, kicking off the whole absurd chopper craze. This led to his show "Monster Garage" where teams of fabricators had a week to build some bizarre contraption like a hearse/backhoe or a Delorian hovercraft. I liked the show because it required that people think, design and create under a deadline. Yes, there was some drama, but that was second to the project. Now most shows are all about the drama. They can't get enough of people doing stupid things and screaming at each other like harpies.

Time passes,the show is over and I don't hear much about Jesse until I learn that he married Sandra Bullock. Ok, that seems a little weird. But opposites sometimes attract. And it's not as if she can't know that he's been married before and screwed that up.

Flash forward to the academy awards and Mrs. Bullock gets the Oscar for a film I didn't see. Good for her. I've liked some of her work. She doesn't seem to have gone off the rails like some people in Hollywood do.

Then the big shocker, Jesse had an affair with another woman. A heavily tattooed fetish model. Wow. Well, looking at her she seems to have some common interests with Jesse. Then it turned out that she might be a white supremacist. (The jury is still out on that). Oooooookay. You cheat on your beautiful and supportive wife with a woman who seems to have some issues to put it mildly.

But all is not lost. Many couples have worked through this kind of thing before. Hillary forgave Bill right? Maybe she bangs the pool guy to even things up. Or counselling. Whatever. Then another heavily tattooed stripper arrives on the scene. "I've been sleeping with him for two years!" she proudly crows as soon as the check clears. Dude, this is not helping.

But wait, there's now a THIRD woman who says she's been banging him (although she doesn't seem to have any tattoos so I'm not sure she can be trusted, (except for all the text messages she has as proof).

Okay, at this point I don't think you have much of a chance to fix things Jesse. One might wonder why Sandra didn't notice her husband cheating with enough woman to make up a rugby team. But Hollywood is a strange place where the laws of time and space do not apply. Celebrities are constantly doing interviews, travelling to promote themselves, doing 'deals', taking meetings and occasionally... working. So I'll give her some slack. They are busy people.

The fault here lies with Jesse, and he knows it. He doesn't seem like a bad guy really. He opened an environmentally friendly burger joint (whatever that means) does community work and his employees seem to like him. But he is a fuck up with regards to the institution of marriage. Why on Earth did he ever think it was a good idea to get married again? One of his wives tried to stab him while he was in the hospital. You have to be some special kind of dick to inspire that kind of crazy.
It might be that Sandra didn't want a casual relationship and insisted on marriage. At the exact moment she stated this he should have said "I understand your point of view, but I habitually cheat on women, I bid you good day" and walked out. Thus, denying the gossip magazines of millions of dollars of revenue and preventing me from feeling dirty every time I read some new sordid detail in this Greek tragedy.

Some people are fuckups. This doesn't mean they are totally evil or useless. Jesse makes some cool looking choppers. He likes women. Fine. Stick with your strengths and stay away from the whole marriage thing. The whole monogamy thing doesn't seem like your forte'. That's fine, the world does not think ill of men who have sex with several women. You should have stayed single. It would have saved Mrs. Bullock a lot of heartache and legal fees divorcing your ass.

Okay, I'm done.