So, on to Contata proper. (See this earlier article for context.) A filk con is different from a regular con (assuming that my limited experience at Lunacon allows me to generalize about a “regular” con) in that the filk con is explicitly organized around the music. In a lot of ways, it was really just a rolling three-day concert. Unlike Lunacon, there were few panels or discussions per se (though I must admit I simply missed a few, on things such as tone-shaping or guitar-making). Instead, there were scheduled performances and “open filking” — which is basically an otherwise-unoccupied room wherein anyone could drop by and begin singing. And of course, the traditional midnight chocolate tasting.
This put me in an odd position. As anyone who’s suffered through the Hun Talent Shows can tell you, I am every bit not a singer as I am not a songwriter. The only thing musical that I can play is an iPod. Thus I didn’t really have much to offer. (Only later did I come across Ian, who tells stories rather than sings. I thought, maybe I can do that, with enough prep work.) Indeed, the primary talent I brought to these sessions is my ability to clap loudly, honed at many a high school play. I could also join on the chorus — filk songs tend to have very crowd-friendly choruses — if there were enough other people to render my mangling anonymous.
More below the fold.
I spent this weekend at the hotel Hilton Parsippany, attending a sci fi con called “Contata 5“. In a somewhat strange co-branding fashion this was also NEFilk 18 — apparently, NEFilk is sort of an umbrella designation. Filk is an odd branch of music deriving from (originally, literally via type) folk music — it’s folk with a science fiction / fantasy bend. Filking is one of those sundry ways in which being a science fiction fan is not the same as being, say, a New York Mets fan or an opera aficionado. It’s the shared culture and oral history that keeps the community close-knit and vibrant despite being spread over every known continent.
Although I’d heard of the phenomenon, my first exposure to filk was at Lunacon this past March. Filking was a distinct thread woven through Lunacon — a chain of panels and sessions scattered among the calendar of events, at which more or less the same people showed up. I attended one late-night filking session to see what the buzz was about. To be honest, it was a little intimidating. This truly is an organized oral culture with multiple decades of backstory. Everyone knew the words and the anecdotes and the in-jokes — everyone but me, that is. My temptation was to high-tail it out of the room and write it off as a failed exercise.
The story doesn’t end there though — more below the fold.
I suspect I will write more on this, eventually, but for now, here’s what I’ve sent to the Obama campaign regarding the Senator’s disappointing collapse on FISA:
I have contributed over $500 to the Senator’s campaign, more than all my previous contributions in my life. I had intended to donate all the way to the $2300 limit. No more. I am finding it hard to even type the words that express my disappointment and my revulsion at the Senator’s craven position on the amended FISA bill that was just passed by the House. His words are disingenuous and misleading, and indicate either that he does not understand this issue or that — cynically — he assumes ordinary Americans won’t understand it.
As a senator he has taken an oath — the same oath he hopes to take on Inauguration Day — to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic. A law that circumvents the Fourth Amendment, hands the executive unfettered powers of surveillance, and grants immunity to those who have flagrantly broken the law to date — that sort of law is the death knell of a free republic.
The Senator claims to offer change. I had hoped that the change would be Democrats standing up for what is right, stepping up to defend the Constitution. I had hoped the Senator would know to put principle before politics. I am no rosy-eyed daydreamer. I understand that taking the right stand would entail risks and would expose the Senator to the vacuous accusations of unpatriotism that is the forte of the rabid Right. I even concede that, with so many of his colleagues abandoning their own duties, there is a good chance that he would expend political capital only to be defeated.
I don’t care.
There are times to play the cards you’re dealt, and there are times to kick over the table and refuse to play the game. True leaders understand the difference. When fundamental protections that have been hallowed by centuries face erosion and destruction, I think the line is pretty bright. Senator Obama should have known that this is an issue on which there should be no compromise. This is the issue to take to the American people, who are smart enough to understand the threat. This is the issue to take to the wall, to the very edge, because if we tolerate the destruction of our Constitution, there will be no America in which to raise our children.
I am surprised and shocked and saddened that apparently the Senator does not see this. And until I see evidence that he does in fact have both the savvy and the character I thought he did, I will not contribute another penny. I will route that money, instead, to groups like ActBlue and the ACLU, who have their eyes on the ball.
The final irony here is that — literally at the moment I heard the news — I was clicking over to this site to donate another $100 as my show of support for his decision to reject public financing. From what I know of his supporters, he might come to regret that decision… a lot of us will be holding back.
Tomorrow (Jun 20) the House is likely to pass a “compromise” revision to the FISA law so as to, in effect, grant complete immunity to telecommunication companies who knowingly broke the law in supporting the Bush administration’s illegal eavesdropping program. Make no mistake: This isn’t about the telecoms per se — House Democrats offered to “substitute” the federal government in place of the telecoms if they were assessed damages, and the Republicans balked. This is about protecting President Bush and his crony cabal from the process of discovery, because a civil lawsuit stands as a major route of investigating the lawlessness of this junta.
Glen Greenwald has more details and he writes more cogently than I could. Right now, I’m joining his call for any freedom-loving American to contribute whatever you can to ActBlue’s campaign against the perpetrators of this travesty. Clearly the only way to reform the poor behavior of the Congress is to punish those who transgress, and raising money for blistering ads to run against vulnerable members is one way to do that. Please, follow the link and consider donating.
Let America be America … help restore the rule of law.
As much as I hate just pointing to other people’s blog entries, I had to link to something from the Carpetbagger Report: “It’s a delicate dance, and John McCain is ‘liable to break a hip’“. In it, CB lists all the different ways John McCain has flip-flopped since beginning his current run at the Presidency. I suspect I’ll have cause to refer to it (and its inevitable successors) a lot during this campaign.
Let’s be clear: It’s OK for a politician to change his/her mind. People change and situations evolve. But McCain, in particular, has run as the straight-talker, the dead-eye with keen judgment who isn’t moved by political winds. Yet every one of his many many flips have moved him from the “maverick” position towards one that just happens to line up with the special interests of whatever group he happens to be addressing. That’s not straight-shooting. That’s not even political evolution.
It’s pandering, pure and simple, and if a panderer wants to run on the strength of his so-called convictions, well I think he ought to be hoist on his own petard.
OK, so one sign of not writing enough on your blog is having it highjacked and you don’t even notice. Bleh. Somewhere between May 27 and today (Jun 4), some nefarious party registered itself and inserted nasty code into one or more of my pages… possibly through comments. When I tried to visit today, ZoneAlarm piped up and warned me that “wp-stats-php.info” is a suspected phishing site and would be blocked… meaning I couldn’t see The Mongrel Dogs, either.
But the 21st century is amazing. I googled “wp-stats-php.info” and found a ton of pages by users with a similar problem, and indeed, some with solutions. Yay. I am particularly indebted to the following people and pages:
For the curious, my solution was to back up everything (just in case), then nuke the files and restore from an April backup. Having learned my lesson, I also upgraded immediately to the latest version of WordPress (2.5.1) which apparently doesn’t suffer from this vulnerability.
Minor editorial: Although the blame for not updating regularly lies squarely with me, I really think the WordPress crew should come up with a simple, one-touch way to do that. Right now, backing up the database is a scary proposition for someone not a MySQL pilot. There used to be a neat script that did one-touch backups but for reasons that I cannot understand, it’s been deprecated and removed. *sigh*