July 19th, 2013

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So Long, and Thanks for All The Bats

I first met Marty Gear at Philcon in '85. I was a relative newby (I had been going to Boskone in high school and then one or two smaller cons but this was my first non-Boston big regional con). I had done a song I had just written about Vampires. Marty came up to me at an appropriate pause in the circle, thanked me for the song, and gave me one of his little bat pins. It felt like, "Hi, welcome to the club. We're glad you could join us."

For many years, Marty has been a comfortable and familiar presence. As many people have said, he was an institution in Northeast fandom. At the same time, he was one of the nicest and considerate people you could hope to meet. Just genuinely pleasant and fun to hang around.

Some years back, I was having a party and museinred called.  She said Steve wasn't able to attend, could she bring someone else? "Who," I asked. "Marty Gear," she said. Marty was recovering from one of his illnesses and she had been helping him and getting him out again. "Of course," I told her. Marty joined us and fit right in with my peculiar mixture of Orthodox Jewish friends, work friends, and fen. He could get along with anyone, because he started with the presumption that all people were good people worth knowing.

I am going to miss him. Something very comfortable and familiar has gone out of the world.
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Cry, The Beloved Country

Have now watched President Obama's surprise press briefing from today. it makes me cry.

It makes me cry because I am the father of a 15 year old boy, and what I see is another father talking about the challenges for teenage boys who happen to be black.

I cry because despite all that, he is right, our children ARE better than us on this.

I cry because I see a man who is President of the United States, who understands how powerful and powerless that makes him. How his every word will be dissected by the cynical, the partisan, the defensive, the offensive. That no matter what he says, there is no magic "way" to say it. And that most of the people who react to what he says will not even trouble themselves to listen to the whole 17 minute speech. They will here words, and snippets and bits that confirm what they want to hear.

Many will refuse to believe that this was sincere, that it was not done with some political calculation -- as if awareness that an act will have political consequences makes it less sincere.

I cry because, for once, the Man Obama is going to say what he genuinely and sincerely believes, and not give a crap that no one will believe that it is the man Obama speaking. I see it in his face, I hear it in his words. I know enough of politics, and seen enough of Obama, to tell the difference.

It is open, honest, mature, intellectual and emotional. It is deep in thought and rich in pain, yet still refusing to succumb to despair.

But I also know we, as a nation, are not ready. No one ever is. Because when these things need to be said is when the vast majority of people are not ready to hear them. We forget how many people thought civil rights marchers were "too angry" or the Martin Luther King was "too radical." We forget how many people thought the suffragettes may have "had a point" but "antagonized people" by pushing the conversation in an "unladylike" way and being "too confrontational." Because the things that need to be said, openly and honestly, are very painful and require us to peel back layers of defensiveness.

And so many people will not hear what was said today. They will hear only what they imagine is a rebuke. They will focus on trivial details. Addressing not what was said but how it was said or when it was said. They will find one word or phrase that proves . . . PROVES . . . whatever it is they believe it proves and shall build it into an impenetrable fortress.

So I cry for all these things. But mostly for the man, Barak Obama. Because I cannot look upon the pain of a fellow father like this and not have it break my heart.

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About the title of last post

It occurs to me that many people may think I am comparing the U.S. and apartheid South Africa with the title of my last post.

Actually, the key point for me was the story itself, in which two fathers, one white and one black, bond over the pain from the death of their sons.