Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Worse and Worse

(Click on the above image for an expanded view if you can't read it.)

When I was a kid, this was the kind of thing that showed up in the comics I was reading.  Yes, there was apparently a need for Superman to remind people to have more empathy for refugees.  But the kids he was lecturing to were appalled at the conditions of the refugee camp.  As anyone would have been, a mere 15-20 years after World War II.

That America is dead.

Despite all the grief Baby Boomers are getting, most of us, I think, are horrified by the very idea of putting people into camps, of ripping children from families at our borders, and of pathetically attempting to justify this behavior with selective quotations from the Bible.

This is not who we were.  It shouldn't be who we are.  We never used to be a nation that reveled in Nazi rallies, or that chanted things like "Build a wall!" and "Lock her up!"

But we are now.  And it's disgusting.  I can only imagine all the people sneering now at a sentiment like, "You can help too, by being friendly...."

Instead we have a president who admires a foreign dictator's ability to make his people sit up at attention.  Who wishes he could make his people do that.  We have citizens who don't care what their demagogue burns down, because it's worth it to them to see how upset it makes "elitist liberals."  Because cutting off your nose to spite your own face is now seen as a good thing.

People -- this is NOT OK.

This is not going to change unless we step up to change it.  We have to throw these monsters out.  For the love of what this country used to be, and could be again, register to vote, NOW, and vote against them in November.  This is no longer about party.  This is about who we are, who we want to be, who we could be again.  The Republican party has shown zero interest or ability to check abuses and stand up for what is right and decent.  They need to go.  Screw "#NotAllRepublicans."  They have had numerous chances to say, "No, you can't do that, not here," and have declined to do so, in the interest of keeping their jobs.  Our politicians have not had much interest in representing us.  Their job is no longer serving people, their job is to get re-elected to their jobs.  Every two years we have the opportunity to send the entire House of Representatives packing, along with a third of the Senate, and we always fail to do so.  That needs to change.

We used to think we were the greatest country in the world.  We are not.  Probably we never were.  But as we turn our backs on former allies, insult our neighbors, start trade wars and close our borders, we diminish ourselves to everyone.  More and more of us are ashamed to be American.  And we are right to feel that way, as long as nothing is done to check the abuses inflicted by our current government.  As long as those abuses continue, America will continue to be nothing more than a blot on the world landscape.


I said it.

Come at me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

NFL and the Anthem

Today the NFL owners, with ZERO input from the players' union, laid down their new policy with regard to taking the knee during the National Anthem at NFL games.  I hope it winds up in the courts real soon, because it sure as hell looks like an infringement on freedom of speech to me.

Basically, the policy states that players must stand for the anthem, or remain in the locker room.  No disrespect for the anthem or the flag will be tolerated, and teams ignore the policy at their peril.  Violators WILL be fined.  I assume this means both teams and individuals.

I should have expected a response this tone-deaf from a bunch of rich white guys, but even in this age of Trump, I keep hoping for the best from people.  And I keep being disappointed by them.

First of all, taking the knee during the national anthem has absolutely nothing to do with the flag.  Let's state this again:  Taking the knee during the national anthem has absolutely nothing to do with disrespecting the American flag.

Players, particularly those of color, began taking the knee during the anthem as a way of pointing out the inequities in American society, especially within the justice system, which inordinately and negatively affect people of color.  Those broad stripes and bright stars are not the same for everybody, and the players got sick of pretending that they are, especially since they the ones essentially providing gladiatorial entertainment for the American masses.

Recent tragic events provide a classic example of what I mean.  The tragedy at the Texas high school this week which resulted in eight dead students and two dead faculty was perpetrated by a white man.  A white man, in a long black trenchcoat, armed.  Yet law enforcement managed to take him alive.  Contrast that with the tragedy of Philando Castile, who did not survive a TRAFFIC STOP, despite being calm and polite and compliant.  Compare that with Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown who was tased and arrested over a parking violation.

No white family I know of has to have "the talk" with their children on how to survive an encounter with police.  Police for white kids are their friends and someone to turn to in time of trouble.  To a kid of color, they are a hazard to be negotiated, or a danger that many do not survive.

I believe that the players have a right to protest their views in any way that seems fit to them.  I believe that their right to free speech and free expression has been grossly infringed upon by this new policy.  I realize that during this age of jingoism and Trump, to force players to either stand or remove themselves has great appeal for the Trump base, who probably also watch a lot of football.  It doesn't make it right.

While I have never been a huge fan of football, for a variety of reasons both personal and political, I will be boycotting the game and its sponsors until this egregious infringement on the right of free speech is rescinded.  This should not be allowed to stand, folks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lies, I Tell You! It's All Lies!

(photo courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists)

I imagine that most of us have seen Facebook's new advertisements, either online or on television, about how things were good and then went wrong, but now they're going to make it all better by getting back to basics and connecting us as friends again.


I manage the Facebook page for one of my local choral groups, Harrisburg's River City Singers.  (Hence the picture of the Susquehanna River above!)  It's part of my duties as secretary for the board of the RCS, and it is the only reason I maintain a FaceBook account.  I have long since deleted my personal information and personal photos from FaceBook.  But I can't be an admin for the RCS page without an account, so until a new board and new officers take over, I'm stuck.

I can, however, tell you that managing this page has been an eye-opening experience.  And then some.

On an almost daily basis, I receive messages and notifications from FaceBook on how I can expand the range of the River City Singers posts for a small fee.  We have a concert coming up this Sunday, and just now FaceBook offered to "boost" my event to 13K accounts for a mere $30.

We rehearse and perform in a small UCC church.  It seats maybe 150 people.  We use the church not because of any religious affiliations or reasons, but because the RENT IS FREE and they let us use the hall for performances FOR NOTHING.  We don't even have to split the take when we pass the hat.  The $30 that FB wants would by sheet music for ten of our members.

In short, we are a small local group, building a nice following through word of mouth, and do not in any way, shape or form need to spam 13,000 fellow FaceBook users.  The fact that FaceBook itself is incessantly asking us to do so reveals the depth of their insincerity.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Big Ol' Thank You!

Thanks to every asshole out there who assumed that we all stood in line for the first showing of "Avengers: Infinity War" and published their thoughts, their plot analyses, and their lists of who did what and who didn't this past week.  I feel like I've already seen the movie, and now, if I choose to go, it'll feel like an old comfortable friend, with no surprises whatsoever.  I'm sure glad I waited for the crowds to die down a little before I go!!


Friday, April 20, 2018

The River City Singers

(Photo courtesy of Kathleen Daugherty.)

That's us, Harrisburg's newest choral group, the River City Singers.  I'm the big mook in the back in the pink shirt.

You might remember me saying that the only reason I am not able to leave Facebook completely is that I manage the choral group FB page.  It's part of my duties as Secretary of the organization, along with minutes of the board meeting, minutes of meetings of the general membership, and thank-you letters to donors.  The photo is from our most recent concert, which raised us $400.00.  That will buy sheet music as well as refill the scholarship fund.  (We are open to all, but if you can pay, we do have dues twice annually, spring and fall seasons, to help cover music and rental costs.  If you can't pay, you still sing with us; your dues come out of that aforementioned scholarship fund.)

It's a good bunch with a good mix of voices.  We actually have five baritones, three basses, six tenors, six altos and eight sopranos, which makes for a nice blend.  Our musical co-directors have decades of experience between them conducting choral groups.  They know their stuff.

Working for this bunch and promoting our agenda of "singing for those who have no voice" makes it worth being stuck in Facebook for a while longer.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Just To Clarify: A Facebook Departure Postscript

OK, a number of people have reacted negatively and strongly to my decision to leave Facebook.  The main reasons are that:  I should have known better; the fine print in the user agreements spelled out the potential data mining; I should have realized that when the product is "free" you are the product; and on and on and on, ad nauseam.


Respectfully, no.

I did read all of those user agreements.  Which is why I never used either the Facebook app or the Messenger app.  Never.  I was never comfortable with giving those apps access to my contacts, to my phone records, or to my Friends List.  When I used Facebook at all, it was on my home computer, which uses a Virtual Private Network, using my Internet browser to access the Facebook website directly, or on the Internet browser on my smartphone, which was set up in similar fashion.  To repeat:  I never used the apps.  Never.

Likewise, I never signed up for, or played, Words With Friends, Farmville, Candy Crush, Mafia Wars, or any of the others.  The one bit of silliness I engaged in was Superpoke in my early Facebook days; and yes, I did throw the occasional sheep at a friend.  That was it.

To clarify, then -- this is why I left:  Despite my personal caution, my data was ripped out of Facebook because not all of my friends exercised the same level of paranoia.  I did not give anybody my permission to take, or to use, this data.  It was stolen, using my friends as a conduit and means of entry.  It was digital burglary.  (Originally, I wanted to use a different crime but then I realized how insensitive and triggering that was.  Nonetheless, the level of violation that I feel is comparable to how you feel when you come home to find your home burglarized.  Or worse.)

There is no way to be compensated for this.  I do not believe that either the apologies or the imminent safeguards promised by Facebook are sufficient.  So I chose to vote, as they say, with my feet.

I left.

I also want to be absolutely clear on something else :  I have absolutely no ill feelings towards any of my family or friends who may have been used to get to my data profile.  It is not their fault, any more than it would be their fault if my home was burglarized while they were holding on to a spare front door key.  The thieves didn't use their loaner key to rob me.  To continue that analogy, what the thieves did was to use a stolen address book to find out where I live.  The only person who bears the guilt and the blame is the burglar.

So I did what I would do in real life:  I have bolstered my security.  I haven't sold my house, but I got an unlisted number.

In other words, I left.

I hope that clears things up some.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

So Long. Good-Bye, Auf Wiedersehn, All-Done-Bye-Bye

I am leaving Facebook.  It is with no small amount of sadness that I say this.  Like most of us, I came to use Facebook as a way to hear from and about those of you that I don’t get to see every day.  Some of you are family.  Some of you are old, dear friends from high school.  Some are the first adult friends I ever made at University.  Many of you are on the other side of the world from me, in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, among other places.  Many of you are the best friends I never met, from the old X-Philes Anonymous message boards from the 1990’s, with whom I was miraculously able to reconnect here.  (As Dorothy said to the Scarecrow, I think I’ll miss you most of all.)
It really did feel like a miracle, to find so many of you fine people here again.  Imagine:  not having to wait for a college reunion or a high school newsletter (or an “X-Files” anniversary!) to hear from you and to see what you all are up to.  It seemed like it was worth all the other nonsense just to see what art was being created or what your grown children were filming, or creating, or achieving.  It was worth all the links to silly memes or to odd videos or to outrageous stories, just to feel like I had a connection, however tenuous, to the lives you were all living, all over the country and the world.   It was worth it just to hear from you again and to know that you were all right, and to share your joys or help bear your sorrows.

But things have come to a tipping point for me.  The recent revelations from Facebook and from Cambridge Analytica are just too much of an invasion of privacy for me.  The lack of moral principle that led to this abuse of personal information is deeply disturbing.  The way that Facebook in particular made it difficult to secure privacy has been bothering me for quite a while — why is it so hard to find and change certain settings?  Why is the user interface so draconian? — so I find myself in the position of feeling compelled to leave.  At the end of the day, all we can do is vote with either our feet or our wallets, and since WE are the product on Facebook, that leaves only walking away.

I will miss hearing from and about all of you.  If anyone cares, I will still maintain my occasional blog here at “Citizen of Oa” (http://www.oancitizen.blogspot.com) and my email at thayes713@gmail.com.  I also occasionally post to my Instagram at @tomglfan and you can reach me there if you choose.  My Facebook page will have to remain active for a while, since part of my duties as secretary of a community chorus require me to update that page from time to time and I must have a Facebook account in order to do so, but I won’t be checking on my personal page, and as soon as we elect a new tech-savvy secretary to take over those duties, I am gone for good.  

So, in no particular order — Dave, you were the best friend a lonely kid could ever have, and I don’t deserve you.  

Cheryl, thank you for sharing all of the beautiful art you create.  

Kathleen, I will miss hearing about Tom and Ben and Ginny, and I will certainly miss your wisdom.

Scarlett, thank you for sharing your amazing costuming creation.  I am so jealous of your skills!  (Also, I will miss Bun.)

Al, thank you for your friendship these many years, and for the mysteries.  

Chris, someday you’ll show me your beach and take me to Hobbiton.  

Andy, Paul and Patricia, maybe we’ll see each other at a UVA drama reunion sometime.  

Anne, maybe I’ll get to surprise you at a stage door someday.  

Jen, I will miss seeing your running triumphs; I still hope one day to actually meet you in person.  

Matt, I am so delighted when we get together in person.  It's like no time has passed at all.  I'll miss seeing you and Cathey's family updates.  A lot.

And on and on; I could say something to each and every one of you and this would go on forever.  Just know that you are all loved, and you will all be hugely missed.