Saturday, January 03, 2009

The End of History?

Well, so much for posting on a more regular basis. The list of things that have happened in the last seven months that failed to prompt me to write has been pretty stunning. Both personal and worldwide events have made me think, "I should write a post about that", only to be followed by, "I'll get around to it later."

Maybe the most significant is also the most obvious: Barack Obama is going to the White House. The event that finally made me to decide to start this blog was the re-election of Bush in 2004. I'd been following the race closely, and was deeply disturbed that so many of my fellow Americans believed this man was the one to guide us through such troubled times, both foreign and domestic. I have not been happy to have been proven correct in my beliefs that Bush was both incompetent and uninterested in his own Presidency, beyond the power it gave him.

We have a fresh start coming in a couple of weeks, and yet the next President will face the most difficult challenges since World War II, at least. It's hard to comprehend how much will have to be done to prevent things from getting any worse, much less improve them, but there are bright spots to be seen. In college, I read a book called The End of History. Can you imagine?

In other news, I'll be getting married this year, and traveling back to Australia for the honeymoon. I'm quite looking forward to it, as is my lovely lady. We've spent the last few months of 2008 remodeling the house after my former roommate and his wife were married and moved out. It turned out great, even as there's more to do (immediately after I finish posting this, and beyond). We hope to show it off to friends by the end of January.

I thought about closing this blog at this point, as I seem to have less to say that I care to share with the world. In the week of Christmas that I was isolated from the internet, I can't say that I missed it much, and I've already given my opinion about enough topics to fill a syllabus. Time is a lot more precious to me these days, and if I'm going to spend it writing, I want it to be writing "work", that is, the type of writing that I went to school for: poetry, stories, screenplays, maybe I'll eventually get to one of those novels in my head.

But I decided not to take the blog down, because who knows what the future holds? I may not want to post once a month, or even once a year, but there will still be things I want to say, and this forum is all mine. Why give it up entirely if I don't have to? I've always been one who prefers to open doors, not close them. That hasn't changed, and I hope it never will. An open door is an invitation.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

For shame

Ron Rosenbaum has an unusual article up at Slate today that touches tangentially on a topic I've been meaning to write about for some time. The article is about "liberal guilt" and questions why there isn't a corresponding conservative guilt over slavery and the attendant racism and discrimination that persists to a lesser extent today.

A few years ago, I was courting a young woman who was a native Texan. She once told me about how her high school had flown a Confederate flag until it was ordered by the government to take it down, and how offended she was. The students and parents of her school were almost totally united, so she said, in their belief that they had the right to fly that flag, if it weren't for the few black folks who complained and took the school to court.

I'm not a native Texan, and my home state of Indiana was a Northern state, and towns near where I grew up were even attacked by Morgan's Raiders during the Civil War. I don't believe that disqualifies me from disagreeing on this point, but if you do, feel free to stop reading.

What she and many other (white) people believe, especially those from Southern states, is that, because it is a part of their heritage, the Confederate flag should be flown above the institutions that serve them, like court houses, schools, and the like. A slogan seen every once in a while in this part of the country is "Heritage, not hate." What they don't admit, probably not even to themselves, is that hate is a part of their heritage, and to those African-Americans whose family history and economic prospects were shaped by slavery that flag is a symbol of hate.

So what?, they might ask. More people want the flag to fly than not, and this is a democracy. The problem with this reasoning is that individuals already have the right to fly the flag on their property as much as they want. But those institutions that are forbidden to fly it are forbidden because it represents the Confederacy, which sought the dissolution of the very country those institutions now serve and are a part of. Our state and federal buildings, including schools, fly the flag of the U.S.A. because it won the war. The Confederacy lost, and its symbols have no place in the governmental representation of the U.S.A., which serves black and white alike.

Some people still argue the Civil War wasn't fought primarily over slavery, largely because to admit the truth is to acknowledge the shame that comes along with it. They are wrong because none of the other factors they cite as causes would, individually or collectively, have led to war, and slavery, with or without those other factors, would inevitably have, if it was allowed to continue.

It is appropriate to feel a measure of guilt when faced with the reality that your lot in life has come in part at the expense of someone else's, whether or not you yourself had a hand in it. Everyone would like to celebrate the culture they come from without reservation, but those that do are turning a blind eye to those events and people who don't deserve to be celebrated. As I've noted before, it is appropriate to be ashamed of people who do shameful things without remorse or apology. Look at Germany, which has spent decades atoning for the sins of the ruling class over a handful of years in the 1930's and 40's. Slavery in America lasted 400 years. Why is anyone surprised that this stain is still present, and in need of work?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Dungeons and Dragons and great writers

Gary Gygax died Tuesday. As the more subsequently involved of the two creators of the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, he's responsible for many an hour of reading and playing with my friends as a teenager and college student. It wasn't always D&D I was playing (Adventure Quest was the local scene at Purdue), but without it so much of the fantasy adventure genre as I knew it simply wouldn't have existed.

My introduction to D&D, as is the case with many of my interests, came by way of my cousin Jim, who owned most of the rule books and quest modules, as well as the novels based on the game. I would borrow them and read them cover to cover, even the parts meant only for the Dungeon Master because I couldn't resist. Some of the books have spawned the most fun and engrossing video games I've ever played, the Baldur's Gate series and Neverwinter Nights. Then there were misfires like the live action movie, the less said about the better, and the animated cartoon (which Gygax had a big hand in). I remember just one scene of one episode of the cartoon, and I probably watched the whole series, which didn't last long.

Of course, with the success of the Lord of the Rings films, fantasy is enjoying a renaissance at the moment, but when I was growing up it was more likely to get you labeled a nerd or draw disapproving looks from the folks. There were stories going around at the time of kids who believed they were the characters they played, and when the character died they killed themselves. This was actually a myth based on a couple incidents where people did kill themselves, but not because they were delusional, rather they lost characters they had spent so much time on, building their experience and abilities, that they were distraught to lose all the "work" they had put into them (and likely depressed, too). Maybe a subtle distinction, but not the same thing. Picture a writer who's only copy of his manuscript gets destroyed before anyone could read it and you'll get the idea. For some players in that age range, the characters they ran in D&D were more like friends, or works of art.

Another of the stereotypes about role-players was the dressing up in costume, which I was surprised to find when I got to college was a real phenomenon, one I engaged in on a couple of Halloween adventures put on by a club I was a member of at Purdue. "Cosplay" is now a big deal at conventions of all kinds.

Wikipedia has a great article on TSR, Inc., the company Gygax helped build and run to get D&D out to the geeks of the world, well worth a read. His success despite adversity is an inspiration to all of us writers who'd like to change the world.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I just finished changing my oil for the first time since last year's fun. I use synthetic, so it only has to be done once a year. This time, there was not a drop spilled (on the floor). As Ralph Wiggum would say, "I'm learn-ding!" I also had to replace a headlight, which took about five minutes. As opposed to the hour it took last time, which was also the first time I'd done that particular bit of maintenance. Feeling pretty proud of myself tonight.

Sunday, February 17, 2008



On Valentine's Day, I proposed to Becky and she accepted, marking a turning point in my life. I couldn't be happier to have her.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday cheer

It's been a while since I posted, lots going on. This is one way of putting off studying, which I'm out of practice for. Went to Colorado with Becky to meet her folks, which was fun but short. I only had a weekend but had a great time. I even played some blackjack in an Indian casino, which was the only hotel in town.

Went camping in November, again, but it was quite a different experience. We shared a campsite with a group of Polish friends singing pop songs all night and drinking loudly. Before and after that was pretty cool, though. Got to play some guitar and find a tick crawling up my leg for the first time in years. The lake was beautiful in the morning sun.

Last weekend, Becky and I drove up to Dallas to see Jim and Lyndon, and I even got to see Tobey for a little bit. We watched Beowulf in digital 3-D, which was cool. It wasn't the best weather for traveling, but we didn't have any real problems. I'm bringing her home to meet the rest of the family for Christmas, which will be at my folks' place this year. I can't wait for vacation.