On Volunteering and Not…

As I’ve mentioned in here once or twice, I’ve been having a longtime battle with insomnia. Like lifelong. In the past, the insomnia goes away after a few weeks or month, and I sleep fairly normally for a while. But this time, I’ve been averaging about 5 hours of sleep for about 18 months. This is further complicated by the fact that I’m in that lovely grey area called “perimenopause” and I’ve been experiencing ridiculous mood swings for 1-2 weeks every month.

After having a lot of problems for a few months, things got worse and I started getting various types of medical help. Sadly, I discovered that while some of these things worked some of the time, nothing worked consistently.

So I was told to do what I could do to reduce stress.

After much soul-searching, I decided the one fairly stressful area I could give up was being the Exhibits division director for Noreascon. This was a very hard decision, but I’m not being as effective in this area as I want to be. Further, when I get home from work, I’m usually too exhausted to do much more than do the dishes.

So, I have resigned my DHship. Deb was able to get an excellent replacement for me, Jim Hudson. I’ll stay on as a member of Jim’s staff. I’m still editing the Tenn essay GoH book.

I don’t know what kind of Worldcon volunteering I’ll be doing in the future. I’ve asked to be a press staff person for Scotland, but haven’t heard anything. Over the next few years, I won’t be as involved in Worldcon planning as I’ve been over the last eight years or so.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Overreaction to the Super Bowl Costume Failure

Only a boob would show her boob on broadcast television. And only a boob would rip the shirt in the first place.

I’m not that much of a prude – I adore Sex in the City, and, of course, was watching that instead of the Super Bowl on Sunday night. But the overreaction to Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s stunt is ridiculous. Obscene behavior on broadcast TV has been going on for a while. Despite what Michael Powell says, it doesn’t need an FCC investigation. This is yet another example of the Bush-led government being completely clueless about priorities.

The FCC ought to send Janet, Justin and most of the rap singers a bill for public obscene behavior and let that be that. I find the badly dressed “singers” scratching themselves in pubic to the sound of gun/drug-drenched lyrics to be much more offensive than a brief glimpse of Janet’s breast.

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Weapons of Mass Destruction Found in Texas!

Cyanide Found in Texas… (“60 pipe bombs, machine guns, silencers and remote-controlled bombs disguised as briefcases, plus pamphlets on how to make chemical weapons, and anti-Semitic, anti-black and anti-government books.

The findings have led to one of the most extensive domestic-terrorism investigations since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

What would the UN inspectors say about this?

What about those “good Americans” chasing after random men of Middle East extraction?

While I would love to take credit for these amusing responses, Jim came up with them (after watching Aliens…)

I’m curious that the people behind this store of stuff were arrested back in April of 2003, yet we’re only hearing about this in January of 2004…

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Finally, Return of the King


We went to see Trilogy Tuesday last week, seeing two extended edition LOTR movies followed by the premiere of ROTK.

Line for Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh, About 10:15 am

Line for Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh

There were already about 200 people in line before we got there, so we wound up on the floor but in the center. While, at first we hated the seats, they turned out to be fortuitous. Before the movie started, we realized the folks sitting in front of us were people we’d known back in college, from the old Western Pennsylvania Science Fiction Association (WPSFA)

Lori and Tom Lane

Lori and Tom Lane

It was neat to catch up with them after all this time.

Back to the movies, the extended editions both looked phenomenal on the big screen.

The Audience Just Before The Return of the King

The Audience Just Before The Return of the King (remember, just about everyone in there had been in the theater for over 10 hours…)

But, after a long day of movie watching, my brain was completely fried by the time ROTK finally started at just after 10. While the movie looked absolutely phenomenal, I was having a terrible time related to the characters. And the movie seemed structurally very off. So I got a little snarky in my online comments on the movie.

However…

I did go see the movie again at a time when I’d had a little more sleep and hadn’t been watching movies all day. That made an enormous difference. Instead of focusing on the problems (which exist but are fairly small by comparison), I got even more caught up by the sheer audaciousness of the undertaking. Minis Tirith is one of the most remarkable combinations of set/bigature/special effect that I have ever seen. The Nazgul attacking Minis Tirith have a huge “gosh wow” factor, reminiscent of the asteroid sequence from The Empire Strikes Back or the scene of the Mother Ship flying over Devil’s Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We have been watching a classic unfold over the last two years.

Despite the spectacle, the human story is rarely overshadowed. The whole cast (except for John Noble as Denethor, but the problems with Denethor weren’t all his fault) give one of the finest ensemble performances ever. Ian McKellan, Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortenson, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood deserve special commendation as “first among equals,” but no one really steals the show. The movies would not have worked had the casting not been as perfect as the special effects.
It’s instructive to go back into the casting archives in TheOneRing.Net and the casting discussions in AintItCoolNews to read some of the jaw-dropping rumors that went around. Keanu Reeves as Aragorn? Uma Thurman as Eowyn? The mind boggles.

There are a few continuity and editing problems in the movie. The whole Pyre of Denethor sequence is just badly handled, and the cuts between Eowyn and the Witch King confrontation and the arrival of Aragorn and company are very distracting. And the endings could have been shortened slightly. Still, the movies are just a phenomenal achievement, and I’m delighted that Peter Jackson et. al. have pulled it off.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Political Compass

This is all Neil Gaiman’s fault. He said he found the politics self-test at the Political Compass site fascinating. I must say, he was right. Here are the results of my test:

Laurie Mann's Political Compas Ranking

It’s fairly close; while I do distrust government (particularly my own these days), I distrust business and other institutions more. I do seem to lean more to the left every time I take one of these tests..

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

I’m Going to the Oscars!….Well, Almost…

Before I became a Hugo or Nebula fan, I was (and am) an Oscar fan. Despite the fact I have wildly mixed feelings about popular awards (don’t get me started on Oscar failures, like Titanic or The Last Emporer), I have been a devoted follower of Oscar politics and the awards for many years. I can’t completely blame my Dad on this, but he bought a copy of a book that had photos from Oscar winners when it was first published in the mid-’60s. I almost memorized that book; whenever I saw that an Oscar-winner was to be on TV, I made a point of watching it.

I thought going to Hollywood at Oscar time would be a way cool thing. But I’m just a movie fan – would it be worth it?

About two years ago, I heard that Lord of the Rings fans threw themselves an Oscar party. In Hollywood. What a way cool idea. So, being an ardent Tolkein and Jackson fan, I started hanging out more frequently on The One Ring.Net, where I adopted the pseudo-Tolkeinish name of “JRandomRohirrim.” Due to being both early and persistent, I got tickets to Trilogy Tuesday (just two days away now!) and to the TORN Oscar Party! The TORN Oscar Party sold out about 15 minutes after the tickets went on sale, so I know how lucky I was to buy tickets for my co-worker Laura and me.

So over the next ten weeks, I’ll get to do two very movie fannish and geeky things with Lord of the Rings fans. I already have a fabulous dress for the Oscar party (I wore it last year to the Nebulas and will probably bring it to Worldcon next year) and plan to take loads of photos while I’m there. Even if Return of the King doesn’t win every Oscar it deserves (it already has a clear lock on Best Special Effects), it’ll be really neat to share Oscar night with 700 psyched LOTR fen. And the site of this Oscar party is about two blocks from the Kodak Theater, where the Oscars will be held – close enough for an early Sunday morning stroll and some more pictures.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even meet Sean Astin and Sala Baker again!

ConJose Hugo Acceptors:  Sala Baker, Jeff Walker and Sean Asint

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

People As Political Props

(Permanent link to this essay)

People frequently use other people as props. This is most common in families – think of the way most parents dress up and show off their kids. This is a fairly innocent use of people as props. It does no harm to the child to dress the cute six month old baby as a Halloween pumpkin, and, meanwhile, the parents get “Oooh isn’t she cute?” from their friends and neighbors. This can become more malevolent over time – did little Jon Benet Ramsey really enjoy being made up, gowned, and paraded at baby beauty pagents? We’ll never know.

Or think of the way some older men acquire younger girlfriends or trophy wives. The way some women live through their husbands and children. There are times when people use other people for their own needs rather than letting others stand on their own.

But, increasingly, people use others as political props. The “props” tend to be people who cannot stand on their own. It tends to be done most often to women who are unable to speak for themselves. Twenty-five years ago, it was Karen Ann Quinlan. And, today, it’s Terri Schiavo.

Terri Schiavo is being used. She became brain dead in 1990. Brain scans show that the portion of her brain that governs consciousness has been nonexistent for years. It is a sick parody to photograph a brain dead person with an autonomic reflex to light and then treat her as if she was conscious. She is being anthropomorphized the way a person talks to a dog and asks “Oh, does Fido want a dog bicuit?” when the dog barks.

When people are so quick to jump up and down and talk about honoring the dignity of the individual, they have robbed Terri Schiavo of any “dignity” she may have had. What happened to Terri Schiavo is extemely sad, but no one can bring her back. She’ll never talk to her family, get out of bed or do anything. She’s being moved around like a puppet, and her family ought to be ashamed of themselves. People are using Terri to reflect their needs. Their need for her to be alive. She may be still breathing, but she isn’t really alive.

People die, and it is fascinating to me that people who say they believe in religious teachings seem the most determined to force physical existence long after the brain had died. Terri died in 1990. It’s a sad view, but a realistic view. All the tube feeding in the world isn’t going to bring her back.

Some day, I don’t want to be a breathing husk in a hospital bed. I signed an organ donor card in 1978 and have discussed living will issues with my husband. Today, even though I’m middled aged and in reasonable health, I am filling out a lengthy living will. I absolutely do not want to exist indefinitely in a kind of “Nazgul” state – neither living nor dead. If I’m seriously injured, sure, use the heroic mesures if I have a chance, but don’t keep the feeding tube going years after all real chances have gone.

I hope that any disabled people who may be reading this essay aren’t reading this essay as an anti-disabled people piece. If you are reading this piece, you are conscious, you are capable of reading and comprehending the world around you. After Christopher Reeve was so tragically injured back in 1995, he was understandably devastated by his condition. But his wife Dana turned to him and said, “You’re still you.” That acceptance made a huge difference to his acceptance of himself after his accident. He understood precisely what happened to him. Terri Shiavo is incapable of understanding what has happened to her.

Terri Shiavo isn’t the person who collapsed in 1990. To make Terri a symbol of all disabled people is just wrong. Simplistic and wrong in every way. To keep Terri breathing does not celebrate or honor life. It means that people cannot comprehend the difference between living and breathing. I don’t want to be in a state where I’m merely breathing. And I would hope all adults would make the same point by thinking about and signing a Living Will and giving a trusted friend or family member a durable power of attorney.

Technical Information on Brain Death

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

A First Time for Everything…

I was at an early evening party in Pittsburgh tonight. It was cold but fairly clear, and a number of us put our coats on and went out on the patio to watch the moon.

I’m 46 years old, and this is the first total lunar eclipse I remember seeing. I’ve seen a few total solar eclipses in Massachusetts, and one partial solar here in Pittsburgh in ’93. But lunar eclipses have often been at 3 in the morning or on cloudy nights, so I always missed them.

A lunar eclipse is subtle. Since they come after dark, the ambient light doesn’t change. But the dark purple shadow swallowing the moon is quite striking.

I’m glad it was clear over Pittsburgh tonight, but I regret not having my camera handy.

I had a second “first time” this evening – I went to my first tailgate party tonight. I work at a college, and college students work in my office. They were planning a tailgate party for today, before the early evening Pitt vs. Virginia Tech game. Having never been to a tailgate party, I asked if I could come along. They said sure. So Jim and I went, donated beer, ate burgers and shrimp shishkebob, and had a good time before going on to yet another party.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Another Wedding!

Another wedding, another driving trip to Massachusetts (some ten hours away):

Trask Family at Terry and Jessica Trask's Wedding, October 18, 2003

From the left, Rachel with her fiance Jeff Trask (brother of the groom), Jeff Cranston (best man), Ruth and Bill Trask (parents of the groom), Jessica and Terry Trask, Leah Bradford (daughter of the bride), Carrie Trask, Laurie Mann (sisters of the groom), Leslie Mann (niece of the groom) and Jim Mann (brother-in-law of the groom).

This wedding also went very well (see entry from early September 2003 on Jim’s brother’s wedding). Jessica is a hospice nurse and Terry is an ECO specialist for Network Engines. They met in a college class back in 1995, when Leah was a baby, so Terry has been her virtual Dad ever since. They got married in the same church Jim and I got married in back in 1977:

Trask and Mann Families at Jim and Laurie Mann's Wedding, May 22, 1977

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Movies…

Around getting caught up with some Noreascon 4 stuff this weekend, we went to the movies twice. We saw Under the Tuscan Sun (a mostly charming movie for adults!) and Secondhand Lions (a mostly fun flick). With Tuscan Sun, we saw a bunch of previews for adult comedies, including Mike Newell’s ensemble piece Love, Actually and the new Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson movie. And, of course, with Secondhand Lions, we saw the trailer for Return of the King

Wow.

I knew what to expect. We’d already bought the first DVD of The Two Towers even though we’ll buy the extended edition the day it comes out. So I’d seen the little “pre-trailer” for ROTK on that last month. I’d downloaded online video people had captured of the trailer on Japanese TV the other day, and even that looked impressive.

But seeing it all on the big screen was just terrific.

I’ve been hanging out some at theonering.net over the last year, the place where LOTR fans hang out. Today, they linked to a brilliant TTT review-parody – the DVD as reviewed by Gollum and Smeagol. Go read it – amazingly enough, it seems to have been written by just your average journalist for a newspaper down in Chattanooga.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog