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.

No.

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.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I Wish I Still Lived In America

Coming soon to a former America near you....

I'm almost 65.  When I was born, Ike was President and it was "Happy Days" America.  I was seven when we elected JFK, and in the 4th grade when he was assassinated.  I was too young for the protests of the 1960's, but I got my licks in at University in the early 1970's.  Like I once said, I came of age in the magical time between the birth control pill and AIDS.  We protested Nixon and what we thought was an unjust war in Vietnam.  We protested Apartheid in South Africa and got our University to divest itself of investments there until Apartheid ended.  We lived in the richest nation on Earth and felt both proud and a little guilty about that.  I saw the creation of the Peace Corps, the creation of Doctors Without Borders, and other innumerable organizations based on kindness to others and on sharing what we had with those less fortunate than ourselves.  I wasn't always proud of my country, but I was always proud to be American.  I would travel to other parts of the world, and be glad at the end that I was coming home to the USA.

This isn't true any more.  And it truly breaks my heart.

I have mostly absented myself from social media this year.  I can't stand the hate and divisiveness; it's making me physically ill, a thing which I cannot afford to have happen, since I am already chronically ill.  I am sickened by the resurgence of bullying, of white supremacy by my neighbors, by politicians who are supposed to represent and protect my interests but look the other way at profligate criminal behavior.  We have the first President ever who did not make public his tax returns.  Who, more importantly, did not divest himself of his financial interests and holdings prior to taking office.  Who regularly profits off of those holdings and interests as a direct result of his presidency.  (When foreign diplomats and representatives stay at his hotels to curry favor, this is a direct violation of our constitution.  But the representatives in our government do nothing, and show no political will to demonstrate any kind of oversight with regard to these undeniably dubious dealings.)

I've been living with this depressing state of affairs along with the rest of us for months now.  I have seen America's standing on the world stage diminish as we become a mockery of what we used to be.  I've been to Italy and France since the election and total strangers ask me what in heaven's name is going on with America?  And I have given up on thinking that things can't possibly get any worse, because they always do.

First it was "very fine people on both sides" of the white supremacy issue.  Then "shithole" countries. And now the Commander-in-Cheeto wants a parade.

A Soviet-style, North Korea-crazy, we-are-the-champions military parade, down the streets of Washington, DC, complete with missiles and tanks and everything else except (possibly) goose-stepping elite soldiers.

This is not America.  This is not how America does things.  We should only use our military prowess as a final resort, after all else has failed.  We should never flaunt it just because the other guys do.  These kinds of parades are what you see in Moscow on May Day, to remind the former Czechoslovakia what could happen if they don't toe the line.

  How much do you wanna bet that he insists on this too?

America should never have to remind the world to toe the line.  We should lead by example, not follow the questionable examples of others.

To the rest of the world, I say that I, for one, am sorry that through a fluke of our electoral process, probably helped by interference from a hostile nation, we elected an insecure racist sociopath who has such doubts about his own masculinity and leadership that he has to stroke his ego with ... a parade. Why are we wasting all this money on massaging his ego (not to mention what it's going to cost to fix the streets, because he wants TANKS) when that money could be going to caring for our veterans, or better equipment for the troops?  It's being spun as a "thank-you" to our military, but our military doesn't want our thanks.  They want our support, which is an entirely different matter. What freaking country is this, anyway?

It isn't America, that's for sure.  Not the one I grew up in.  I wish I still lived there.  I hope maybe someday I will get to go back there again, but the prospect gets dimmer with each passing day.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Time To Say Good-bye

New year, new ideas.  You will have noticed that things have slowed down considerably here at the Citizen of Oa.  Since Charlottesville, I have been less and less able to cope emotionally with the downturn our nation has taken.  So I am taking my leave of most social media.  I will continue to post here if I have something important that I need to say.  I will have a minimal presence on Facebook.  I will for all intents and purposes be abandoning my personal account there.  Unfortunately, my duties as secretary for our local choral group, the River City Singers, include some maintenance of our Facebook page.  This of course necessitates in turn that I be a member of Facebook.  I will no longer be posting to Instagram for the same reasons.  (Really, does anybody give a damn about my vacation snaps or how my pie turned out?  I barely care myself.)  And I rarely Twittered.  I follow a few people of like mind, and have a blistering total of fewer than 20 followers myself.  Not a big footprint there, and no great loss to the world when I leave.  Again, I must preserve my accounts there until such time as our non-profit community chorus has actual money, and a real board of directors, and a proper secretary/director of public relations who can do a proper job in all of those places in support of our fledgling organization.

Parts of my Facebook experience have been immensely enjoyable.  I daresay I will miss searching for new images of vintage horror movie posters during the month of October.  This may be something I will continue to do here.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the ability to reconnect with so many long-lost friends from University, and from X-Philes Anonymous.  You folks in the XPA especially have no idea how much your friendship means to me, and how many times that friendship has, quite literally, saved my life.  I love all of you more than you know, and more than I deserve.

I simply can't take the toxicity of social media any more.  I can't take the stupidity, and I have come to accept that nothing I say will ever sway anyone from the Other Side to a more reasonable point of view, any more than I could ever be swayed myself to support the Cheeto-in-Chief in anything, ever.  The intensity of emotion and the heretofore unexperienced levels of actual hate that have become part of my life have to go away.  [EDITED 1/3/18:  I am not kidding here.  I had no love for some of the previous Republican administrations, Geroge W. in particular, because I believe in my heart that his victory in the 2000 election was achieved fraudulently; that the Supreme Court made the wrong decision when it ruled in his favor; that Gore caved in too quickly for the so-called good of the country, a crime of which Democrats and Liberals are guilty all too often.  But my emotions for the current administration include a deep and visceral hatred, truly.  It's doing me personal harm, on several levels, and the only way I can see forward to fight intelligently is to remove myself from the triggers.  Which probably means I will miss altogether the Tweet that starts World War III, but there you go.]

Those of you who have a similar frame of mind, continue to resist.  I am giving up on the internet, but not the resistance.  I will not stop fighting and struggling and resisting and giving my time, talent and treasure to the removal of the current monsters who think they are running things.  The winds will shift, and I will see it and help it to come about if I can.  But not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.  From here on out, I'm doing my talking in the real world.

Love you all.  All done.  Bye-bye.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#Charlottesville

Sound familiar?
Yeah, it's a little long, and nobody who really needs to see it will "get" it.
Tough.

I am a graduate of the University of Virginia, class of 1976.  My wife also attended and graduated from U.Va., albeit at a different time (class of 1983.)  We were married in Charlottesville and spent the first years of our marriage there, saving up for her medical school education, she working in a physician's office and me at the U.Va. undergraduate library.  (This is neither here nor there, but it honestly was the best job I've ever had, and I've always regretted the necessity of leaving it.)  

My point is that because of both our undergraduate experiences and our later residency, the University and the city of Charlottesville hold a very special place in our hearts.  The images of the white nationalists rallying there and carrying flaming torches onto the steps of a building designed by Thomas Jefferson truly broke our hearts.

I tried to come up with words to both express my feelings and ease my heart, but was never entirely successful.  Then I stumbled across an extended Twitter feed by someone who goes by the Twitter handle of "Large Adult Goat" and his words served the purposes of both easing my soul a bit and expressing my frustration at the turn of events and at the festering hatred that I, like so many of us, had no idea ran so deeply through the hearts of so many of my so-called fellow Americans.  Because of the 140 character limitation, it can be hard to follow extended Twitter essays, so I am taking the liberty of reproducing it in its entirety here.  I hope @JuliusGoat will forgive me taking the liberty of doing so.  His Twitter follows:

"Imagine if these people [the Charlottesville white supremacists] ever faced ACTUAL oppression. 
"Nobody is trying to legislate away their right to marry. Nobody is trying to make them buy insurance to pay for 'male health care.' 
"The law never enslaved their great-grandparents, robbed their grandparents, imprisoned their parents, or shot them when unarmed. 
"There is no massive effort at the state and local level to disenfranchise them of the vote.
"There is no history of centuries of bad science devoted to 'proving' their intellectual inferiority. 
"There is no travel ban on them because of their religion. There is no danger for them when they carry dangerous weapons publicly.
"Their churches were never burned. Their lawns were never decorated with burning crosses. Their ancestors never hung from trees. 
"Their mothers aren't being torn away by ICE troopers and sent away forever. They won't be forced to leave the only country they ever knew. 
"The President has not set up a hotline to report crime committed at their hands. 
"They are chanting, 'We will not be replaced.' Replaced as...what? I'll tell you:
"Replaced as the only voice in public discussions. Replaced as the only bodies in the public arena. Replaced as the only life that matters.
"THIS is 'white people oppression' -- We used to be the only voice. Now we hold the only microphone.
"THIS is 'white man oppression" -- We face criticism now. We were free from it, because others feared the consequences.
"THIS is 'oppression' of white Christians in this country -- Christmas used to be the only holiday acknowledged. Now it's not.
"I would so love to see these people get all the oppression they insist they receive, just for a year. Just to see. 
"Give them a world where you ACTUALLY can't say 'Christmas.' A world where the name "Geoff" on a resume puts it in the trash. 
"Give them a world where they get a 20% pay cut, and then 70 women every day tell them to smile more. 
"Give them a world where their polo shirt makes people nervous, so they're kicked off the flight from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis. 
"Give them a world where they inherited nothing but a very real understanding of what oppression really fucking is. 
"Give them a world where if they pulled up on a campus with torches lit and started throwing hands, the cops would punch their eyes out.
"Put THAT in your Tiki torches and light it, you sorry Nazi bitches."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Doctor Who?


In a move that was, in my opinion, long overdue, the powers that be who run Doctor Who, the longest-running science fiction programme on television in the world, have decided to cast a woman in the title role.

A brief note for those unfamiliar with the show, but who may wish to know more -- Who fans, feel free to skip ahead:  In 1963 the BBC debuted a program for kids called Doctor Who which featured a crotchety old alien inventor called simply "The Doctor" who lived in a British police telephone box that was, thanks to his alien technology, bigger on the inside than it was on the outside.  The box, called the TARDIS, could not only travel through space, it could also travel through time.  The scriptwriters could literally send the Doctor and his companions anywhere, and anywhen.  The TARDIS had something called a "chameleon circuit" that allowed it to blend in wherever it landed, but the circuit broke while visiting Earth in the 1960's and it was stuck looking like a phone box.  The original Doctor, William Hartnell, suffered from what we know now to be a form of early-onset dementia.  Despite his increasing inability to perform, the show was doing very well and the BBC was reluctant to simply let it go.  So someone on the production staff had this absolutely brilliant idea:  Since The Doctor was an alien, instead of dying from severe injuries, his body would "regenerate."  The regeneration would change his appearance and aspects of his personality, and the end result of all of this was that a new actor could be brought in to be a new Doctor, whenever the current actor became unable to play the role, or no longer wished to be part of the show.

Pure genius, and a concept that has allowed the show to persist for over 50 years through 13 different Doctors.

A special note about regeneration:  Some years ago, in a comedy special for Comic Relief, the British comic actor Rowan Atkinson played the Doctor, who after a mishap, regenerated into actress Joanna Lumley.  While not exactly canon, it did open the door for the idea to be introduced into the show.  There have been female Time Lords (Time Ladies?) before, including such characters as The Rani and both Romanas.  This past season a longtime Doctor Who villain, the Master, had regenerated into the Mistress, or Missy.  In a previous episode, David Tennant's Doctor mentioned that another Time Lord, the Corsair, had been both male and female, and in one of the major Peter Capaldi episodes, the head of Time Lord security regenerates from an old white guy into a young black woman.  Clearly, the precedent is well established.

BEFORE

AFTER

So after three seasons in the role, the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, is retiring.  There is some contention over the circumstances of his retirement.  He may have been asked to do so by the powers at the BBC, or he may have decided to leave since a new showrunner is coming on board for the first time in a decade.  There is often a strong impetus to give a new showrunner a completely clean slate and a new cast whenever possible, and no show makes it more possible to start everything anew than Doctor Who.  The TARDIS can even change its own interior appearance if it "wants" to, so the only thing a new showrunner is absolutely stuck with is the blue police box.  Everything else can be made up from scratch.

In recent years, there has been a tradition of having big things happen during the Doctor Who Christmas Special, and this year will be no exception.  At some point, the current Doctor is going to regenerate into a new Doctor, and that new Doctor will be portrayed by a woman, Jodie Whittaker.


And of course, the Internet has gone absolutely batshit.

Comments and tirades include:  "I'm done with this show," "RIP Doctor Who," "Thank you for crapping all over my childhood," etc. etc., ad nauseam.  It reminds me of all the nonsense that was spewed when Paul Feig had the audacity, the audacity, to re-cast the Ghostbusters as women, for God's sake.  The world is ending as we know it, and let's hound and harass the actresses, especially the black one, right off the Internet if we can.

What a bunch of babies.

Moronic, misogynistic, idiotic babies.

Get over yourselves.

My idol, George Carlin, used to say with regard to oppressive television censorship, that the TV has two knobs:  one turns it off and the other one changes the channel.  You don't like the new Doctor?  Take your ball and go the hell home.  You are neither needed nor welcomed here, nor are your opinions in the least important.

I'm happy to say that about 4 out of 5 comments on the BBC sites have been favorable.  The fifth one, as Monty Python used to say, can go run up an alley and holler "fish."  Screw you guys, and screw anybody who cries foul about casting before the show has even been seen.  Remember all the outcries about "Mr. Mom" being cast as Batman?  Now Michael Keaton ties with Adam West as "Best Batman Ever" in polls.

Give her a chance already.  I'm excited for the change, and I look forward to the next chapter in the great saga that is Doctor Who.