Changing All Those Changes

 Here They Played, and Still Play, Rock and Roll

At midday on Friday, June 19th, 1987, while en route to a convention in Minnesota, Barb and I stopped in Clear Lake, Iowa. I had just started writing my second novel, Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede, and Clear Lake was a logical place to take some pictures and do a little research. It was the town where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson had played their last concert on February 2, 1959.

At the Clear Lake Public Library, a helpful librarian told me a story about Buddy’s glasses. It seems that someone (the county coroner?) from Mason City (the county seat) had taken the glasses from the site of the plane crash . . . and as far as the librarian knew, they were still locked up in a desk at the courthouse. Buddy’s widow, Maria Elena Holly, had even asked for them – and had been refused. The county, for some odd reason, thought they should hang on to them . . .

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Standing There With a Truncheon To Protect That Which Is Not In Danger

The title may give you an idea on where I stand on California’s Proposition 8.  I’ve previously pointed at a video but now I point at a thoughtful post by Steve Leigh on the topic.

Mad is encouraging everyone to:

Copy this sentence [the title of this post] into your livejournal if you’re in a heterosexual marriage/relationship (or if you think you might be someday), and you don’t want it “protected” by the bigots who think that gay marriage hurts it somehow.

I agree with her.

Let’s be clear.  This is not a “defense of marriage.”  It’s an attack on a specific subset of the population.


Interestingly, the title also applies to an amazing number of “Anti-Terror” initiatives that do nothing to terrorists but adversely effect us non-terrorist citizens every day.

Haiti Needs Help!

Updated below.

The Caribbean island nation of Haiti has been hammered by Fay, Gustav, and Hannah. According to CNN, over two hundred are dead due to storms, and thousands are starving, in need of food and water, even as Hurricane Ike bears down.

Charity Navigator, an independent organization that rates charities, lists several organizations rushing to respond, here. I’ve chosen the American Red Cross for my own donation, but there are many other worthy organizations you can choose from.
Please help if you can. The need is urgent! Don’t delay. Online donation only takes a couple of minutes, and even a five-dollar donation can make a difference.

09 Sep 08 Update: Ike has passed over Haiti and more people have been killed. It’s a tiny, impoverished country, and the people have very little means to rebuild. The Caribbean is just getting hammered, folks. Please, do what you can to help.

The Internet Is For . . . Sociopaths

He's out there.

In my fifty years, I have encountered only one person whom I have deliberately, unequivocally, and publicly cut out of my life.

That person then completely (and blessedly) vanished from my personal radar for eighteen years.

Some of my fellow Brainiacs, and some of our visitors, will recall this individual as well – or will after I describe him. Thought he was gone, didn’t you?

Well, thanks to the Internet, he’s back. So this is the latest and greatest reason why I don’t like the Internet. (Oh, sure, I use it. Here I am using it right now. However, as I’ve noted before: I don’t like cars, but I know how to drive. And I don’t like guns, but I know how to shoot. Life in the modern world often requires unpleasant compromises.)

What was the deal with this guy? And why did you shun him so utterly? many of you are wondering.

I’ll attempt to explain.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (as quoted on Wikipedia – a dubious source, but since it’s on the g***amn Internet, an appropriate reference point), a person must display three out of the following seven criteria to be diagnosed with “antisocial personality disorder” (that is, to be considered what a layman such as myself would call a “sociopath”):

1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;

4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;

5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;

6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

The only one of these characteristics that this guy didn’t clearly display (from my admittedly non-professional vantage point) was Number 4.

But as for the rest – you better believe it. Six out of seven.

Add in a pretty high level of insidious personal charm, and you’ve got Poison.

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Interesting Nice Friendly Jellybrain

I haven’t written here much for quite some time, and feel nauseous guilt about it. I’ve failed in my commitment to my fellow Brainiacs. (Not that they’ve done much better lately. Hah! ….Wait….That wasn’t nice…Or friendly….)

Not Actually Doing It behavior is a constant theme in my life. I often ponder and perfectionize, rather than acting. I go through periods where I just soak up info and rest and am practically inert socially. I’m frequently abstracted and divorced from daily reality. I don’t answer e-mail or return phone calls or seek out companionship. This can go on for months. I call this my Hermit Phase. Until a few weeks ago, I was convinced that this was a serious personality flaw on my part.

But now I know better. I’m not bad, I’m just INFJ. We do those things.

A significant part of the work I did with clients when I was a counselor involved normalizing their behavior. They’d come in feeling damaged and inadequate, blaming themselves and thinking that no one else was like them or had reacted like them to the trials and opportunities that life commonly hands out to us all.

So, you have trouble sustaining long-term intimate relationships? Other people do, too! You hate your job? Everybody hates their job! Methamphetamines? It’s a goddam epidemic!

Once you get past those feelings of having unique and insoluble problems or defects that no one else has experienced, you can start looking at ways other people like you have found to cope, overcome, change, mitigate, or even accept them.

But it’s really, really, really difficult to accept your quirks and perceived failings, after a lifetime of internalizing that there’s something inexplicably wrong with you.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based on Jungian theory, and is extremely popular these days in corporate settings. The idea is to fit people and teams together to match their inner needs and compatibilities. Which, uh, is a bunch of bullshit, as far as I’m concerned.

People love the test and feel that it describes them well. It’s enticing that it’s a no-shame no-blame test. It just tells you in what ways you’re wonderful and that you’re okay. It’s great at helping you to accept yourself and not feel weird.

There are areas that you might want to examine, of course….

The MBTI is a for-cost test, but there are a lot of copycat versions floating around out there on the InterWebs for free. A popular one is at HumanMetrics and another is at Similar Minds.

I get almost identical results from both, and a few others out there. Sometimes I show as having a razor-thin INTJ classification, by about 1%, rather than INFJ. I’m sorta okay about that. INTJs are pretty cool, too, though not as cool as INFJs.

The MBTI correlates, some, with the Big Five test, which supposedly accurately addresses the best, most current psychological theories. But I don’t like the Big Five so much, because it says I’m neurotic. And that the MBTI is flawed. To Hell with them evil Big Five people.

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Who Do You Love?

What Mr. McDaniel Made 

On Tuesday, I had lunch at my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in the world, which happens to be located five minutes from my house. My favorite barbecue joint is maybe another minute beyond that. There’s a terrific pizza-and-burger joint nearby as well. Manchaca, Texas is a near-paradise in this regard. And we just got a deli, so I’ll have to check that out. If it’s any good, I may never leave this ZIP code again.

In the booth next to mine at the Tex-Mex joint, two gentlemen were having an animated conversation in Russian. One of them sounded pissed-off about something, but I could be wrong about that. Anyone speaking Russian always sounds a little pissed-off to me. (Ditto if they’re speaking German.) (Or English.)

I had never heard anyone in Manchaca conversing in Russian before. Our two most common languages around here are Spanish and GoodOlBoy. So as I was leaving, I thought about pausing beside the two gentlemen and welcoming them to Central Texas, since they obviously weren’t from around here. But at the moment when I might have done that, one of them was gesturing with a crushed quesadilla. So I kept walking.

Now, if I had actually stopped and spoken with them, what would I have said after welcoming them to this small chunk of the world?

Well, I might have asked the same question the restaurant host had asked as he’d seated me. He’d seen that I was carrying the new issue of Rolling Stone with B.B. King, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, and a few others on the cover — and he’d asked me:

“You know what happened yesterday, right?”

Oh, yeah. I knew. So he and I commiserated over it for a few minutes.

And later, as I left the restaurant, I found myself profoundly satisfied to live where I live.

It ain’t perfect, and there are too many born-again churches and Bush/Cheney bumper stickers for my personal taste. But on the other hand —

It’s a place with tremendous brisket and chimichangas. It’s a place that now has at least three conversational languages (four, if you count Baptist). It’s a place where the veterinarian knows the names of all your dogs, both living and passed-on, and buys your books to boot. It’s a place where harp legend James Cotton sometimes shows up at the local bar just to jam with whoever’s playing that night. It’s a place where black buzzards stand guard on cell-phone towers, protecting the community from the Evil Dead. It’s a place where the volunteer fire department serves breakfast five days a week.

It’s a place where we’re glad there was a Bo Diddley.

You know what happened Monday, right?

And if you answered “Yes” to that question, here’s another one to answer just for yourself:

“Who Do You Love?”

And, Alas, Boldly Gone

You might say that Alexander Courage was something like the Fifth Beatle of Star Trek. Or at least his theme music for the original Star Trek was. Even when Sarcasm Girl was very very tiny and the first few notes of the theme (glockenspiel, flute and oboe, the Spouse says) would come on (and this was for Next Generation, which would then go off into its own theme music), the kid would bounce up and down and say “Mama, mama! Captain! Space! Final frontier!” The eight note brass fanfare that was used to introduce scenes on the original series has that same effect: immediately you’re there, with the cheesy special effects, the scenery chewing–and also, the hope that mankind could get its shit together and go out into the universe to make friends with strange new civilizations.*

A lot of that had to do with Courage’s theme, which was both swaggering and yearning, very much rooted in that time in our history when Americans had been asked to consider what we could do for our country (or species). Courage, who died last week, had a long career in film and TV, and Star Trek was only a tiny part of it. But it’s the part that will always be, for some of us, the soundtrack of space exploration and mankind boldly trying to use its power for good.

*Or at least check out their women.

A Wild and Crazy Truth

Let's Get Small 

I usually dislike books labeled as “memoir” (though I occasionally read them), because I’ve always known they can’t be trusted.

In fact, when the whole Million-Little-Pieces debacle unfolded a few years ago, I was bemused by the “Shocked! Shocked!” reaction it provoked. Seriously, now: Were daytime-television bookclubbers really surprised to discover that “memoir” is French for “big fat self-serving lie”?

Besides, even if a memoirist endeavors to be as truthful as memory allows, he or she will still get something wrong. I myself, the earthly avatar of Honesty and Cub-Scoutiness, have discovered that I often just flat misremember things. Last year, for example, I wrote an essay for Eat Our Brains in which I described a childhood game that I said had no name, but that I would refer to as “Dizzy Idiots.” Then, a few months ago, my Baby Brother (who could now crush me ‘twixt his thumb and forefinger like an overripe grape) reminded me that the game I had described did have a name. It was called “Tornado.”

[Well, Baby Brother would have a better memory of that game than I would. He was the one who wound up in the Emergency Room because of it.]

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Sometimes You Just Have to Shoot the General Land Office

 BLAMMO!

On the west side of Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, between Sixth and Seventh Streets, stands a statue of a lady in her nightgown . . . firing a cannon.

This statue (which you can see in its full downtown-Austin context via Google StreetView) depicts a real person and event. The lady was Angelina Eberly, and modern-day Austin probably would not be the capital of Texas were it not for her cannon shot – which was the only shot fired during the so-called Archives War of 1842.

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God and Man at Manchaca

Consider it done. 

I do not speak ill of the dead.

Or at least not the newly dead.

Joseph McCarthy, for example, has been gone long enough (he died in 1957, a year before I was born) that I have no qualms about describing him as a foul drunkard who indulged a paranoid, psychotic need to persecute and bully by cloaking it in false patriotism. Nor do I have any qualms about asserting that this description is overly generous.

But William F. Buckley, Jr., who defended McCarthy in 1954’s McCarthy and His Enemies, died only yesterday (February 27, 2008).

So I’ll not speak ill of Mr. Buckley.

Instead, I’ll just describe one of the three instances in which Mr. Buckley’s life almost-but-not-quite-and-not-really intersected with mine – with no purpose other than to illustrate what a strange universe it must be that would allow even the slightest of connections between the right-wing, Ivy-League likes of Mr. Buckley and the labor-union-joining, State-School likes of me.

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