Defy logic: smack yourself in the face

What better way exists to jump into year 2 than with a continuation of old themes? But maybe with a different twist…

Reading this article, I’m amused that the same-sex marriage debate continues in Massachusetts. I’m not surprised; it’s a contentious issue that will be with us for years. What amuses me is that there are supporters of the same-sex marriage movement who are so stupid as to be damaging to the cause.

Eight non-resident couples filed suit in a Massachusetts state court to block enforcement of a 1913 law that prohibits out-of-state couples from marrying if the marriage would violate their home state’s law. The judge upheld the law. Consider:

In a ruling handed down Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Carol Ball said the law is being applied equally to all nonresidents. For instance, it has been used to stop marriages of couples who didn’t meet their states’ age requirement for marriage.

“Clerks were instructed to do so for all couples and all impediments, not just for same-sex couples,” Ball wrote.

It’s no surprise to anyone that I think this law is ridiculous. Massachusetts wrote the law to prevent mixed-race marriage at the turn of the 20th century. (I believe I remember that correctly from my earlier research.) It’s now being enforced specifically to prevent same-sex marriages, which is abysmal social policy. However, it’s the law, it’s constitutional, and if it’s enforced against every couple affected, whether heterosexual or not, then there is no basis to the argument on a legal basis. More from the article:

Ball said Massachusetts has a rational reason to ensure that marriages it approves have validity in other states. However, she also said she sympathized with the plaintiffs and was “troubled” by the state’s decision to suddenly begin enforcing the 91-year-old law.

Marriage is a state issue and this law serves a legitimate state interest, so this legal challenge is misguided. Since these plaintiffs are ignoring the obvious tactic of allowing Massachusetts to absorb the “impact” of same-sex marriage as a reality, with the associated realization that its society will not crumble, I will do the same for my argument. The correct challenge to this law is to find a case or multiple cases where this law is not applied to heterosexual couples. For instance, if a couple is too young in their home state but Massachusetts marries them, then there is a real argument of discrimination, of unequal enforcement of the law. Even if the example the plaintiffs find is Massachusetts violating an obscure law in another state, it’s a better tactic than what they’re now using.

Or, they could move to Massachusetts.

Celebrating one year of words

That title feels pretentious to me, at first thought, because I don’t wish to imply that I’m celebrating anything more than words. One year ago, I began with a simple paragraph:

This is my first entry. This will be immortalized forever as the first entry in which I say nothing important. Absolutely nothing.

I don’t claim anything more than the words. There were no giant leaps in literature, no spectacular, life-altering speeches. Not even brilliant words, most of them. Just words. But I wrote 83,203 of them in the last 366 days.

What those words have done, though, is more important. They’ve taught me how to write. They haven’t completed my education, as if that’s possible. I can’t foresee a day in which words are effortless, but I can imagine one in which the struggle to string them together is joy. I’ve inched closer to that ideal thanks to the words posted for nothing more than my desire to write.

My biggest surprise over the last year is how those words have also taught me what I believe, as well as helping me to discover new beliefs I didn’t know I possessed. I started to write. I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, but I knew I needed to join the parade of bloggers. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I want to be a professional writer but I caved to fear too many times in my past. I envisioned this blog as writing without a goal that could kick start me towards writing with a goal. I could post random details about my daily life and practice my narrative techniques, but I got bored with this idea before I started doing it regularly. I realized that my daily life isn’t that fascinating. Going to work and reading magazines is poor fodder for most narratives.

What has become is different and more interesting than that. My ranting commentary on random events started in August with Escalators Are Not Hard To Use. I began to enjoy the ranting posts when I wrote my second, I Am Not Dennis Hopper. The words flowed easier because I cared about expressing my opinion. When writing, I’ve learned to chase the joy.

September was a wash because I was delirious from sleeplessness. I worked more than 300 hours that month, so my coherent thoughts declined rapidly until the return of Alias. I did enjoy a hurricane, though.

I only posted twice in October. For the first half of the month, I was using my stored vacation from September. The rest of the month I lacked the inclination because the desire to write hadn’t taken over.

It didn’t take over again in November. I participated in NaNoWriMo 2003, so that captured most of my writing energy. I was also un-staffed in my old job, so motivation to be productive was low. I was burnt out on thinking. And I caught the Tono in Las Vegas.

In December, I posted a few times about whatever was on my mind, from Kurt Vonnegut to the earthquake in Virginia. Then I went to Atlanta. As a lifelong Dale Murphy fan, I had to post about this. Reliving My Dale Murphy Childhood was the turning point of my motivation. I didn’t know if I could write a nostalgic travelogue. Trying was fun.

In January I discovered the beauty of skiing. I wrote what was supposed to be the complete recap, but it became part one of five. I took me more than a month to finish and ended at more than 8,700 words, but it was a great challenge.

February was the beginning of the free speech and marriage equality posts. These themes continued, flowing through March and into April. (They still catch my attention).

In April I began to write about the 2004 Presidential Election. I got trapped in my bathroom again. I also wrote about Lemonade Stories, a film by Mary Mazzio about extraordinary entrepreneurs and their mothers. From that post, I received a copy of Lemonade Stories. After I watched it in May, I wrote my first movie review.

May also saw the beginnings of cicada infestation in the Washington, DC area. I discovered the evils of the cicada in my backyard and my refrigerator. Some of those cicadas may have eaten three commuters’ brains.

June was highlighted by “It’s not anymore the two-ply.” Despite having other posts, June didn’t need others to be complete. Thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger.

In July I had fun with Senator Allen. I also wrote my second movie review., which was considerable fun to write. And lest anyone forget, I celebrated my birthday. Ending July, I prepared for Vegas and my rendezvous with Wil Wheaton. When I returned in August, I wrote about it here, as well as meeting Flash Gordon.

Flash Gordon capped the year at 199 posts. Reminiscing has been fun for me because I’ve been able to see the changes and growth in my writing over the last year. If nothing else, I have a large body of words to remember. 83,203 words are enough to fill a novel.

I was hesitant before starting and didn’t know what to expect when I began writing blog entries. I recently discovered that the act of writing for its own sake can bring unexpected surprises. When I wrote my review of Lemon
ade Stories
, I intended to alert as many people as possible to watch a worthy film. What I received was an outcome I never could’ve dreamed about: I was quoted in the film reviews section of the Lemonade Stories site, ABOVE the viewer feedback. My name doesn’t appear on a movie poster, but I’m quoted with writers from USA Today, NPR, The Boston Globe, and Fast Company.

One year ago, that would’ve seemed illogical, but there it is. And I realized that I like seeing my name in “print”. Not for my ego, because I could satisfy that with a vanity press. I like it in the same way that a carpenter likes his furniture. It’s not for recognition, money, or any other extraneous goal. I’m proud of my execution of the craft. For at least one moment I can call myself a writer and know that it’s true.

I met the savior

On November 24, 1980, I was 7-years-old. To a 7-year-old, the universe is microscopic, but unbeknownst to me, that universe was under attack.

Planet Mongo Emperor Ming the Merciless thought nothing of obliterating Earth if we Earthlings didn’t subjugate ourselves to his power. Lesser mortals would certainly cave to fear, but, to the benefit of all Earthlings, Flash Gordon was no mere mortal. Dr. Hans Zarkov blasted himself, Flash and Dale Arden into outer space to escape the unnatural disasters pounding Earth. Dr. Zarkov knew these were a sign of Earth’s impending doom. Once in space, they sped their way into the path of Mongo and the influence of Emperor Ming.

With the help of Dr. Zarkov, Dale Arden, Ming’s daughter Aura, Prince Barin, and Prince Voltan, Flash Gordon defeated Emperor Ming in a decisive final confrontation. He saved every one of us.

Even though I’ve given you the ending, I won’t ruin the details for you. It’s all told in glorious detail in dramatized film of Flash Gordon’s exploits, appropriately titled Flash Gordon. I recommend it, since the history books have forgotten what every Gen-X adult knows to be reality. I watched Flash Gordon every time it was on HBO when I was a kid. It was awesome every time.

At the Star Trek convention, Danielle and I walked around the dealer auditorium to discover the commercialism behind the adventure. During our lap around the room, we saw the celebrities signing autographs. One of these celebrities, certainly bigger than all the rest, was Sam J. Jones. I had one thought: “Sweet Jesus, it’s Flash Gordon!”

Danielle asked me if I wanted to meet him then. No, no I didn’t. I would be a tad too fan-girlie, so I needed time to compose myself. We would come back after Wil Wheaton’s book reading.

After meeting Wil Wheaton, it was time to meet Flash Gordon, or I’d never have the courage to do it. We walked to his table. Step. And step. And step. The anticipation was sweet agony.

We made it to the table, but he wasn’t there! Oh, shit. I’d missed my chance. But his stuff was still here, he couldn’t be gone. We looked around.

Whew, there he was. We waited. He saw us standing at his table, so he walked over.

“Hi, I’m Sam Jones, nice to meet you.” He stuck out his hand. I grabbed it.

Holy fucking shit, I’m shaking Flash Gordon’s hand!

I introduced myself. When I’m star-struck, I’m a little stupid, so I introduced myself with a full-name introduction.

After a few pleasantries, I asked how much for an autograph. Nothing is free at a convention, but I knew that, which made it not tacky. There were two levels to the pricing structure: picture or poster. The picture was half the price of the poster, but I had to have the Super-Fine-Deluxe poster. It was Flash Gordon.

I handed over my money. He signed the poster, adding a nice touch to his autograph by signing his “real” name above his name. See for yourself.

Then he made me a deal. Since I bought the poster, he would buy the giant sleeve for the poster. In any other situation, this would be bizarre and shameless, but at a Star Trek convention, it was appropriate. He pointed Danielle and me in the direction of the dealer selling the giant sleeves. The dealer tables were placed close together, making it hard to decipher which table he meant. He realized this, so he walked us over there.

Holy fucking shit, Flash Gordon is our tour guide through the auditorium!

He bought me the sleeve and thanked me again. Then he was gone. Too soon, our Flash Gordon adventure was over, but we learned something along the way: Flash Gordon can still motor. What else should I have expected, though? He saved the universe.

Friday the 13th… Oooooooh

As I walked through the metal detector at work, my briefcase rolled through the x-ray machine. As it came through, I noticed a sign I’d never seen before: “Do not touch revolving belt.”

“Why not,” I thought. I picked up my briefcase and touched the revolving belt. Nothing happened.

The Man&#153 can try, but he can’t keep me down.

Get Your Geek On

From the moment Danielle and I landed at McCarran Airport, getting to the Las Vegas Hilton was our sole focus.

&#60begin tedious details here&#62

– We picked up the rental car.
– We navigated through Las Vegas lunch hour traffic.
– We avoided random traffic cones in the street that served no apparent purpose.
– We parked in the free garage at the Hilton.
– We meandered through the Hilton casino looking for the Star Trek convention.
We Danielle asked for guidance from a quaint security guard who pointed us to the convention area.

&#60end tedious details here&#62

At 12:15pm we arrived at the Will Call window table in front of the dealer auditorium. After some brief information gathering, we figured out that we hadn’t missed the Wil Wheaton autograph session. We didn’t yet know when it would be, but we hadn’t missed it. One step at a time.

Looking through the program, we discovered that the schedule included Wil Wheaton’s book reading at 1pm. His improv group, Earnest Borg 9, would perform at 6:40pm, forty minutes after the scheduled end of festivities.

Since we had more than forty minutes before the reading, we circled the dealer auditorium to learn what kind of crap memorabilia was for sale. We saw little of interest, with the limited array of oddball items available. It was just Star Trek figures, t-shirts, videos, and pictures. Our senses were overloaded, so we weren’t scanning closely enough to find the hidden gems.

The multitude of autograph tables with unrecognizable celebrities did catch our attention. Most of these people seemed to be no-name, B-list stars, but in the Star Trek universe, they were Big&#153. Even if Big&#153 is defined as Alien #3 in any random episode, Star Trek actor is never a small role. Strange.

(I was excited to see one particular star, one not named Wil Wheaton. More in my next post…)

Realizing that we wished to get good seats, we left the dealer auditorium to seek out the room for Wil Wheaton’s book reading. We found this quickly, but it was occupied by an appraiser who determines the value of Star Trek memorabilia. Think Star Trek Antiques Roadshow. With thirty minutes to go until 1:00, we picked seats near the front and waited. I don’t wish to give the impression that the appraiser was boring, because he wasn’t, but we were restless. We had no Star Trek memorabilia to sell, so we just wanted some Wheaton.

We got the brilliant idea to seek out the Photo-Op with Wil Wheaton in the dealer auditorium. We had some time to kill and pictures would be cool. We journeyed back. After some head-scratching, misguided navigation, we found the booth and got in line. Within a couple of minutes, a volunteer let us know that only one actor was taking photos at the time. It wasn’t Wil Wheaton.

Twenty minutes to go, so we had to hustle. When we got back to the correct auditorium, more people had filled the seats. Worst of all, the front row was packed. We were bummed that our plan had backfired on both fronts, but we gambled and lost. Vegas, baby, Vegas.

At one o’clock, the moderator thanked the appraiser and led into his Wil Wheaton introduction. He then pointed and asked Wil to come up front. He’d been sitting in the audience all along. Doh!

He bantered, then read from Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot. We laughed. Even though I’d read all the stories, he entertained me. Hearing him read his stories is the same as hearing David Sedaris read his work. The words are great written on the page, but reading them aloud infuses them with their full spectrum of life. I can’t wait for the unabridged audiobook. (Here’s a picture from the reading.)

Brent Spiner’s speech was scheduled to begin at 2:00 in another room and that was fast approaching. A steady stream of people had begun to leave the book reading for that already. I like Brent Spiner’s work, but even if I wasn’t at the convention specifically for Wil Wheaton, the reading was too good to think of leaving. Since many other people were enthralled enough not to leave, we had a surprise guest. From WWdN:

My performance from Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot was awesome! The room was almost full, and I felt like the audience was “with me” the entire time. Near the end of my time, Brent Spiner walked into the room, and told me, in front of everyone, that he’d read Dancing Barefoot “cover to cover,” and that he liked it! Then he told me to wrap it up, so “these people can come over and listen to me talk.” It was really funny, and really cool.

Two pictures I took are here and here.

At the end of the reading, he announced that he’d be in the dealer auditorium to sign autographs, which was our cue to run, don’t walk to his booth.

Ok, so we walked. We were semi-self-respecting adults conforming ourselves to public standards. Besides, we had to look cool since Wil was behind us. He probably didn’t notice us, but he certainly would’ve noticed if we ran to the auditorium like a couple of dumbasses. So we walked.

While he settled into his booth, greeting people he knew along the way and chatting with his wife, we waited. When I meet celebrities, I hate to be anything other than last in line. I get self-conscious and would rather not have the added pressure of people behind me, waiting for my brain to snap back on its hinges. If we didn’t have a tight time window with just enough time to check in at New York, New York and munch at Gonzalez Y Gonzalez, I would’ve snuck my way to the back of the line. Instead, we waited in the middle, in the order that we arrived. This was ideal, I realized, because I had time to “prepare” my comments without over-rehearsing. Who knew?

The moment arrived. We focused on Wil and stepped to the table with autograph tickets in hand. “Do we give these to you,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “What would you like me to sign?”

He had pictures available, which were included in the price of the autograph (I think). He also had books available for sale, so Danielle bought a copy. Having already purchased mine, I handed it to him.

“Did you buy this in a bookstore?”


He looked at me, stood up, and stuck out his hand. “I want to shake you
r hand. Thank you so much for buying my book in a real bookstore. That’s so cool.”

Not being a published author, it struck me as quaint that a person buying your book in a store would be so shocking. When I imagine myself in his situation, as someone “washed up” in his first profession, who has found his next passion, it made sense. I liked him more than I did when we arrived in Vegas.

I began to tell him how I’ve never seen Star Trek and the rest of the story about my original impression of him. I got through my being from Virginia and that I knew an extra on Toy Soldiers. When I mentioned the title of the movie, a pained look comes over his face.

“I was an asshole to your friend, wasn’t I?”

“I believe the word he used was ‘dick’,” I said.

“Tell your friend I’m so sorry.”

Danielle speaks. “How old were you when you made that film?” I know the answer to this, only because Wil is 11&#189 months older than I am. That’s simple math for me.

“I was 18. I was a bit of an asshole to everyone at that age.”

“You were a teenager, that’s what teenagers do,” she said.

“I know, but tell your friend that I’m so sorry.”

“We were really just high school friends,” I said. I followed with the shortened version of the remaining details about how I became a Wil Wheaton reader. Anne Wheaton walked to the table and sat down next to Wil.

“Anne, this is Danielle and Tony. They came all the way from Virginia.”

She looked at us and smiled. She seemed a little timid about his enthusiasm, which we suspect is due to the crazy Star Trek stalker factor. A logical and valid concern.

She wrote a few posts for WWdN that I thought were excellent, so I compliment her on her writing ability.

“Oh, but it takes me 50 times longer to write than Wil,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes. You write well and that’s the key.”

“Thank you.”

Our time was up (which is why I like being in the back of the line… more time to stare at the celebrity), so we thanked Wil one more time and walked away.

As I’d learned from his writing and acting, Wil Wheaton is funny. He’s a great writer and performer. When I meet celebrities with sketchy reputations, I’m always apprehensive because I don’t want to be disappointed. Wil Wheaton did not disappoint. He exceeded my expectations. I’m happy to report that Wil Wheaton is cool.