Babylon 5: Comments on Power

I’ve been re-re-re-watching Babylon 5.  In season 4 (Episode 16, “The Exercise of Vital Powers”), Mr. Garibaldi, former security chief has a conversation on Mars with William Edgars, one of the 4 richest men on Earth/Mars/Colonies. They talk about Power.  I stopped and re-watched the scene, because while written almost 20 years ago, it sounds very eerie today.

A little background: B5 takes place in the not-too-distant future of humans, around the year 2260.  Telepathy is a thing.  Most races have telepaths.  Telepaths can do just what you think: read other people’s minds.  An organization called the Psi Corps exists and all telepaths are members and, when in public, wear a badge and black gloves.  The Corps was a powerful organization before the series, and while it’s not a main plot point, there are hints that a war between telepaths and “mundanes” (non-telepaths) is coming. You also need to know that President Clark had his predecessor (Santiago) killed with the aid of an alien race called The Shadows.  The Shadows have been dealt with by the time this conversation is had (not much of a spoiler). Also, this show aired in the late 90’s, so the dates mentioned after that are future science fiction–who knows what they think the Russians did in 2013 or what the Jihad party is? Last, Nightwatch was a political organization of “patriots” charged by the President with ferreting out sedition.  Merely mentioning that you don’t like the President’s policies counts as “sedition.”

I read/watch this and I think of The Internet as an analog for telepaths and loss of privacy.  The Shadows could be the Russians of today’s headlines.  You can decide for yourself who Clark seems like.

———-

Edgars: Humans have always struggled to find the outer edge of what’s possible. And that’s our strength. But what kind of world would we have, what options for happiness would we have in a society run by telepaths where ordinary humans are considered second-class citizens and privacy is something you don’t even risk dreaming about? Would you like to live in that kind of world, Mr. Garibaldi?

Garibaldi: No. No, I wouldn’t.

E: But you know it’s coming, don’t you? There are a few Psi Cops who think they should run the show but they don’t have the power to do anything like this. Not yet, but that’s changing.

G: Come on. Even if they tried something, they’d be outnumbered 10,000-to-1.

E: You’re thinking in old terms, of force of arms. But times have changed. We’re talking a war of information. A war of secrets. A war of intimidation. Once they take off those badges, can you tell a telepath from a normal? They don’t have to be everywhere to make people believe. They might be next door.  You want your secrets exposed, your most private thoughts broadcast for the world to hear?

G: No, but they can’t…

E: How many people actually belonged to the Nazi party? The Communist party? The Jihad party? A very small number. But there were plenty of other people who were happy to do the work for them and others afraid enough to let it happen.

G: In order for them to take power they’d need an army.

E: You’re still laboring under the notion that people take power. Nobody takes power! They’re given power by the rest of us, because we’re stupid or afraid or both. The Germans in 1939. The Russians in 1917 and 2013. The Iraqis in 2025. The French in 2112. They handed over power to people they thought could settle scores; get the trains running on time; restore their prestige. They did it because it was what they wanted. Afterwards, like children who have eaten too much candy after dinner they denied it was their fault: ”No, it was them.” It’s always ‘them.’

Today, President Clark has the power, and we gave it to him because we’re afraid of the aliens and afraid of ourselves. And now he’s giving it to the telepaths. Clark wants complete and total loyalty. When he was vice president, he instituted loyalty tests. But you can fool a test. You can’t fool a telepath. So he started bringing them into the process. President Santiago objected but he underestimated the opposition.

Clark wanted power. I don’t have a problem with that. No one but a fool ever walked away from real power. But he began taking unacceptable risks. He eliminated Santiago with outside help. I don’t know the full story; only that aliens were involved and they promised him all the power he could want. But he wanted an ace or two up his sleeve. He knew they were interested in the Psi Corps, and if they were interested, then he was interested.

They were his insurance policy against the aliens and his means for gaining more power. He created the Nightwatch started putting his people into important positions with telepaths alongside for security. He gave them unprecedented authority. And if you think they’ll let go of that power once he’s gone you’re gravely mistaken.

———-

A Week At Camp – Day 4

Forgot to post before bed last night!

Not a lot of time spent actually at Camp yesterday.

In 1963 when Dad moved out of the dorms at Clarkson, he realized he didn’t have a comfy chair.  He went downtown Potsdam and bought one–a really nice La-Z-Boy recliner.  He kept it and it was in our living room until the upholstery started to rip. I took it from my parents who didn’t want it anymore.  It is the most comfortable chair in which I ever have sat.  I used it for some years with a fitted cover on it until it mechanically broke.  It occupied the tiny foyer of our home for the better part of the last decade until I finally, about 2 months ago, took it to Fleming’s Fine Furniture in Malone to be repaired.  Al, the guy in charge of the repair shop, was almost giddy when I dropped it off.  I don’t think he had ever seen one that old!  Several weeks later he called to say it was all done and ready for pickup.  Yesterday Dad and I took his truck to Malone to pick up the recliner.  I’m not going to share the amount I was charged for this service, but let’s just say I was VERY happy and very impressed!  If ever I am in the market for new furniture, Fleming’s in Malone will be my first stop!

We took the chair straight to an upholsterer in Ausable Forks.  He probably won’t get to it until October; but I’ve waited this long!  Amanda and I will visit him in a couple of weeks to pick out fabric.  From Ausable Forks it was up to Peru to pick something up for Mom and then back to Camp by way of Ausable Chasm where we stopped to watch the work being done on the hydroelectric dam.

It was late afternoon and we all got ready for dinner–our cousins took us out to dinner at Dana’s Rusty Anchor in Valcour.  Always delicious!  We got back to Camp around 8:00.  I enjoyed a beer and a cigar on the porch and went to bed early.

  1. An appropriate running board for a plumber’s truck!
  2. Dana showing off his new stemware.
  3. Work on the Chasm dam
  4. The new choke “knob” I put on the Sea Doo yesterday #RedneckEngineering

A Week At Camp – Day 3

Woke up around 8:00.

The cousins decided today was the day to see Ausable Chasm.  A good choice, given the weather forecast for the rest of the week.  I gave them a personal tour.  We opted for the riverwalk, as the youngest was not quite tall enough for the Adventure Trail.  I had forgotten about the accompanying adult requirement for the tubes, and so designated myself as such for the kids (9 and 13) who wanted to take the tubes instead of rafting.  Just as well, as I had never done it before.  But I wasn’t dressed for it.  Oh well!  Also, I should have had a heavier breakfast.  I ran out of calories about 2/3 of the way through the hike.  Hooray for fat reserves! (?)

I suggested Clover Mead Café for lunch, but they aren’t open early in the week.  So back to Camp for lunch it was.  After lunch I took a swim/bath. (Ivory: The Soap That Floats!)  Then I went into town to pick up some odds and ends at the hardware store, Red Stripe at Arnold’s Grocery, and gas. The odds and ends included plumbing for a custom toilet paper holder, zip ties to repair the flag pole that hangs our Canadian flag on the boat house at Camp, and a small collar with a set screw to jerry-rig the choke handle on one of the Sea Doos.  (Or, as the guy at the hardware store called it, “Redneck Engineering.”)  It worked!

I played banjo for a bit and then prepped the boat for an after-dinner ride.  I took the kids and their grandpa over to Port Kent.  LCT has been storing the Valcour ferry there this Summer, which is odd.  We looked it over and then I took them out to Ferris Rock and told them the story of how the Valcour ran aground there in 1975. We returned to Camp. I covered the boat because of the rainy forecast.  While we were out, Kelly and Dean came down to visit. (Happy Anniversary!!) I did the dinner dishes, tried new ink cartridges in my portable printer (they “fixed” it), and am heading to bed at 11:30 after publishing this post.

 

A Week at Camp – Day 2

Slept in until 9:30!

Breakfast…waiting for the rain to come.  Watched the lake go by for awhile and eventually picked up my stuff in preparation for a scholarship luncheon my parents hosted today.  As guests started to arrive, I realized rain was also about to arrive and ran down to the dock to cover the boat.  While the luncheon was in progress, I called into a meeting at work.  By the time that was done, most of the guests had left and we had Camp to ourselves again.

I waited for the rain to stop for a bit and put the battery back in the Sea Doo.  Success!  It started right up.  I decided to make sure it was okay and went for a ride around the bay.  🙂

While dinner was cooking, our cousins arrived from Toronto to spend the week.  We ate while they got unpacked and situated, having stopped at Clare & Carl’s on their way in.  Then Family Time on the porch for the rest of the evening!

Sorry…I wasn’t much of a shutterbug today!  But here’s a picture of cousins Jaqueline and Ashton exploring the beach.

A Week At Camp – Day 1

I’m spending a full week at Camp this year.  Let’s see how far I get with journaling it.

I left home around 9am and got to Camp at about 11:30.  Kelly (sister) was there with Mom & Dad.  She and Mom went to prepare beds for our cousins who are visiting later in the week.  Dad and I decided to go check out what was going on at Ausable Chasm.

The water in the river is near its all-time low.  There was some rain today–the first in a long time, but it won’t be enough to bring the water up.  Rafters are not able to traverse the rapids.  Indeed, even a raft with a lone guide had trouble getting through to pick up her passengers who had to walk around the rapids!

Whirlpool Basin is the lowest I have ever seen it.

Dean (brother in-law) and I moved the dock and boat hoist out for the third time so far this year.  The lake level is below 95 feet (above sea level) and falling.  Mission accomplished, Mom, Dad, Kelly, Dean, and I took the boat for a ride down Willsboro Bay and back.  Despite a raininy morning, it was a beautiful day on the lake!

While we were waiting for dinner to cook, we sat on the porch.  Seeing a massive plume of dark smoke on Trembleau Point, I hopped in the boat to investigate.  By the time I got out there there wasn’t much to see.  I suspect someone had started a fire using a serious amount of yard waste–probably a lot of pine needles.  The plume we saw from Camp had settled down to a haze that drifted down the bay and which we could smell back at Camp 45 minutes later.

Me on my way back to Camp:

After dinner, I futzed with the Sea Doos, which never seem to run exactly right for us.  The 3-seater’s battery was dead, but the 2-seater fired right up.  Both needed gas.  I removed the dead battery.  It’s charging overnight.

I put the boat on the hoist and then took to preparing a replacement manifold I had to order for my Dad’s air compressor, having broken it 2 weeks ago while working on his lawnmower.  Fortunately, it’s a standard part and was both cheap and easy to find online.

It’s ready to go.  I’ll install it some time this week, while I still remember where everything goes.

More porch time with Mom while Dad went for a walk.  When he returned he reported seeing a young deer lazing about in the weeds in the ditch next to the road.  He walked past very close and the deer did not flinch.  It was still there on his way back.  It seemed healthy…it just had no interest in being anywhere else.

I went inside to post some pictures on Facebook. Amanda called to say goodnight.  (She stayed home because she has a conference in Boston this week, but doesn’t leave until Tuesday morning.)

That’s it for today.  I’m going to bed (11pm).  Here’s a picture of a fawn I saw on the beach north of Camp shortly after arriving today:

Vegas Vacation 2018 – Day 3

Breakfast at the food court in the casino.  I played cash poker again and set a personal best for profit!  Back to the room for a nap, then over to The Mirage for their 2:00pm tournament.  Didn’t make it to the 2nd break.  I wandered back to the room by way of the Treasure Island hotel where I picked up a piece of memorabilia at the request of a friend;  Then back to the room for another nap.  While I was sleeping, Amanda went in search of pizza.  We stayed in for dinner and watched a movie.  After that, I went for another walk among the Canal Shoppes, stopping for gelato in St. Mark’s Square.  It was nice to just sit there and watch people.  I was at a table for 4 by myself, and was eventually joined by 3 strangers as I finished my gelato.
Back to the room and bed.  I know all of that sounds uneventful, but that’s what we decided we were here for!  As I write this, we are at the airport awaiting our flight to Philadelphia.  (I made another $43 at poker in half an hour before we left!)

Vegas Vacation 2018 – Day 2

We found breakfast at a restaurant in our own resort this morning.  We got their buffet because it had all the foods we wanted and if we added up the costs of any single entree, coffee, and juice, it was more than the buffet!  (The buffet was cheap, for Vegas!)
After breakfast, I played cash poker (and lost the money I won yesterday).  Amanda had better luck with the slots and treated herself to a Spa package (and myself to a neat electronic gizmo I had been ogling yesterday!).  Back to the room for a little rest and then back to The Mirage for their daily 2pm poker tournament.  I made it to the final 9, but then busted out.  On the way back to the room I explored a little bit.  This resort is comprised of three massive towers.  I went to the “Pool Deck” of one of the other towers.  8 stories up, it’s a huge collection of 8 different pools surrounded by lawn chairs, misted private cabanas, and bars.  The opulence and decadence are staggering all on their own, but one has to appreciate the architecture and the engineering that goes into the creation of a place like this.  The gondola “canal” in which we rode yesterday, for example, is hundreds of feet long and 2 stories above the street!  Once minor earthquake—one small crack in almost any place—and the amount of actual splash damage to a place like this will be the stuff of insurance adjuster nightmares.
We found dinner at a joint just up the strip called “Strip Burger.”  Not much in the way of ambience, but the food was delicious!  We walked through the Treasure Island casino on our way back to The Venetian, watched a movie, and went to sleep.
More coughing fits at night.  Not at full energy levels during the day.  Am seriously wondering it I actually have mono.  I’m listening to my body, am not overdoing it, and am drinking lots and lots of water.

Vegas Vacation 2018 – Day 1

This Winter Amanda and I decided that we needed a get-away with no purpose other than “getting away.”  We hadn’t been to Las Vegas since our honeymoon, and so 5 days were booked.  We selected The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino and Amanda booked our flights.  Here we are!
Day One
We arrived late Saturday.  We gambled on a generic shared shuttle service and lost, time-wise.  The price was right, but the driver didn’t know the city very well and neither, apparently, did his navigation system.  It took us almost an hour to get from the airport to our hotel.  There are no “rooms” at The Venetian.  We have a palatial “suite” with a large bathroom, king-size bed, and separate, semi-sinken “living room” overlooking the interior intersection of two towers and the “pool garden” associated with our tower.
Sunday we went across the street fo The Mirage for their breakfast buffet.  Overpriced, but delicious.  We returned to explore The Venetian.  Holy cow, is this place HUGE!  I daresay you could spend at least a week just in this resort without going outside and still not see and experience all it has to offer.  We took the inside Venetian Gondola ride first thing after walking through the shoppes.  The inside is made up to look like Venice, including the ceiling which is painted and lit like a sunny day with white/fluffy clouds against a bright blue sky.  But the lighting isn’t very intense, and so you have the illusion that it is perpetually late afternoon with the sun just having passed beyond the next building—somewhere between actual sunset and twilight.  It’s surreal.
After that lengthy walk (and getting lost—a first for me in a hotel!) we returned to our room for a rest (and a nap for me).  I woke in time to head back across the street for a poker tournament at The Mirage.  I took 4th place ($$$!) out of 30 or so buy-ins.  Not bad!  I returned to our room and joined Amanda as we went in search of dinner.  She had done some more thorough exploring of the casino and other areas we had not covered earlier and discovered a food court where we had a bite to eat.  After that it was another walk around “Venice,” then back to our room and bed.
We have no “plan.”  We are simply be here and away.  It’s an escape.  We might just sit in our room.  We might leave and explore somewhere else.  I might do nothing but play poker.  Who knows?  Who cares!  This is vacation.  The last time we were here we were exhausted when we left.  We did not rest.   It will be different this time.

Winter Driving

I like driving in the snow. There. I said it. I know that makes me a freak by most people’s standards..

At the mere mention of the possibility of more than a dusting of snow, school superintendents furtively consult about if/when to cancel school and/or after-school activities. Since the Ice Storm, even colleges consider the same. Radio stations in urban areas broadcast interviews with highway superintendents talking about how they’ll react to the storm. Folks make sure they’re stocked up on groceries and heating fuel, the assumption being that they’ll be stranded at home for a week or more. And they cancel travel plans.

Good! That means they’re off the road.

And that’s where I like to be. Yesterday I drove from Albany to Potsdam, NY in the thick of a decent winter snow storm. As I left Albany, there was 2-3 inches of fine snow on the interstate—no plows in sight. The traffic was moderate, considering the conditions, but it was moving along faster than I expected; as we maintained 30-40 MPH. That’s not hard to do when there are three lanes at your disposal, even if you can’t see the lines dividing them anymore. The people forced, for whatever reason, to be on the road in these conditions were off to the right, many with their hazard light blinking. Those of us comfortable with the conditions were cruising along in the far left lane, leaving dozens of fellow drivers in our snow dust.

The farther north we got, the thinner the traffic got. Finally, I passed the last tractor trailer in 5 inches of still-unplowed powder. And I was alone. Bliss! There is a post-apocalyptic serenity (if that’s even a thing) about being, for miles and miles at a stretch, practically the only person on the road. And there I was: all alone, comfortably riding along at 50 MPH and not having to worry at all about other drivers. I had, of course, to pay attention to the condition of the road foot-by-foot, and that brings its own special kind of exhaustion after awhile. But for me, that pales beside wondering what everyone else is going to do (or not do). Will they fall asleep? Swerve to avoid wildlife? Text? Simply get distracted? Suffer mechanical failure? Anything could happen at any moment! But not when it’s snowing and you’re all alone. Bliss.

2018 Ice Castle

And then there’s the scenery. It is unfortunate that snow and sunshine are almost always mutually exclusive, but the lack of sun barely takes away from the natural beauty of the Adirondacks during a good snow. I drove up through Keene Valley, Lake Placid, and Saranac Lake, stopping briefly to photograph this year’s ice castle. It was gorgeous! Gobs of snow clinging to every evergreen bough. And it was quiet! The snow deadens almost all of the normal road noise. Several times I put my window down just to listen to…nothing, resisting the urge to pull over and walk a hundred yards into the woods and just stand there.

I know this experience isn’t for everyone. I know there’s an awful lot of white-knuckled drivers on the best of days. There are people who are scared, and there are people who don’t have enough experience to drive well in what they perceive as adverse conditions. I am neither of those! I also have made certain that I have a properly-equipped vehicle which is a must regardless of one’s proficiency. But I love winter driving!

PS: Ice sucks, and I’m not stupid. This was “just snow.” I don’t care if you’re driving a tank—if there’s snow-on-ice or sleet or freezing rain and you think that’s fun, well, then I think you have a warped sense of entertainment!

 

12 Albums

While sorting through digital detritus I came across this, which I must have posted to Facebook in response to someone having tagged me.  It’s something I am normally loath to do, and I certainly did not tag anyone else.  But this was fun to remember and write, and I want to save it.  Here is as good a place as any!


The rules: Copy this and post as your status, but delete my list. List 12 albums IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER that made a lasting impression on you, but only 1 per band/artist. Tag 12 friends to do the same, including me, so I can see what you listed.

———-

In no particular order:

1) The Roaring 20’s – Volume 4; Enoch Light and his Charleston City All-Stars

It’s a good thing my parents had two copies of this.  I’m pretty sure I wore one out!

2) Free To Be You And Me; Marlo Thomas & Friends

There’s a whole lot of Empathy and Golden Rule baked into this gem.  Lots of stories about how we’re all different and should realize and respect those differences.

3) Cocktails For Two; Spike Jones

My first experience with musical humor.

4) That Was The Year That Was; Tom Lehrer

The man is a genius and left the business when he was on top.  I know every song on this album by heart.

5) Pot Luck With Elvis; Elvis Presley

The rhythm of “Kiss Me Quick” was something I just couldn’t get enough of.

6) White Christmas; Bing Crosby

Christmas Morning would not be complete without it!

7) Xanadu Motion Picture Soundtrack; Olivia Newton-John and ELO

My favorite movie of all time, and my favorite soundtrack of all time!

8) Super Trouper; ABBA

I love everything they ever did, but to me this represents the zenith of their career.  If you can only own one ABBA album, own this one.

9) The Little Mermaid; Soundtrack

This movie heralded Disney’s much-overdue return to motion picture animation.  Menken and Ashman outdid themselves.

10) Uptown Girl; Billy Joel

Since I can only pick one per artist, this is the one I pick from Billy.

11) Delirious; Eddie Murphy

This album re-defined “raunch” for kids of a certain age.  Part of the fun and thrill was knowing we probably shouldn’t have been listening to it at our age…

And last, but certainly not least:

12) Allan Sherman’s Mother Presents: My Son The Folk Singer; Allan Sherman

One day while going through my parents’ record collection this cover caught my eye.  I don’t know if it was the pretty lady in the cocktail dress or the fact that she was holding a dead chicken; the fat, bald guy standing on the pedestal playing a guitar or the fact that he was barefoot; or the biggest (what looked like) sausage I had ever seen hanging from a tray being supported by a stone statue of a naked baby.  But I had to know what was on this record!

The album was 1962’s “Allan Sherman’s mother presents: My Son, The Folk Singer”.  The melodies of some of the songs were familiar.  I recognized “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” in “The Ballad of Harry Lewis” and “Greensleeves” in “Sir Greenbaum’s Madrigal,” but the lyrics were different.  Many of them were outright funny to me in my pre-pubescent state.  “My Zelda found her big romance, when I broke the zipper in my pants,” sounded dirty (though I didn’t know why).  Regardless, it made me giggle.  Listening to Sherman say “Oh boy…” over and over in the midst of a comical string of pop culture references recorded almost 30 years before Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” had me in fits.  And listening to the back-and-forth between Sherman and Christine Nelson in “Sarah Jackman” (Frére Jaques) was voyeuristic, like picking up on the party line at our camp and putting your hand over the mouthpiece.  But most of the material was over my head and only “funny” because the audience on the album was laughing.

This was my first taste of Borscht Belt humor, though I obviously didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time.  Not being Jewish, I didn’t understand most of the cultural references; not that I would at that age anyhow.  I have spent my life subconsciously tracking them all down.  My research is not overt, but every so often I will hear one and my brain will say, “Ah!  So THAT’S what ‘B’nai B’rith’ means!” or “THAT’S who David Susskind was!”

Judging by the reaction of the audience on the album, if nothing else, Sherman is hilarious without working blue.  I spent many hours listening, re-listening, and singing along to that record.  There are some references to which I am still not hip.  In this day of Wikipedia it would be trivial for me to track down each and every one about which I have question.  But there’s no romance in that.  My subconscious research continues.  Though I do wish someone would explain why the line “Stein with an ‘e-i’ and Styne with a ‘y'” is funny…