Made of Awesome

November is upon us (but thankfully, not beating us down with snowstorms … yet). Here’s what the month has contained so far:

~Negotiating the labyrinth of the FedLoan system in order to consolidate my loans and get the payments to a manageable state (the initial letters that I got suggests that I am capable of paying back my loans at a rate of $823 a month, which is not only laughably untrue, but ventures past the improbably–that is about half of what I make each month–into depressingly impossible). The process seems to be moving forward at a reasonable pace, though I won’t know for sure until I receive that letter in the mail that says that the consolidation has officially happened with the new rates that I owe and/ or that my forebearance has been processed. Once I get to the other side of this part of the process, I’m going to post an entry detailing everything that I did so that hopefully it helps future loan payers.
~Election Day!
~We opened another show at my day job. Always an event.
~My parents came in for a visit and to see Skyfall, the newest Bond flick.
~I turned 33.

First: Election Day!

President Obama is my president, once again. I’ve supported this president the whole way and so far I don’t feel like he’s let me (or the country) down. Rachel Maddow said it best:

Ohio really did go for President Obama last night, and he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii. And he really is, legitimately, President of the United State – again.
And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month. And the Congressional Research Center really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy.
And the polls were not skewed to oversample Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making up fake poll numbers about the election to try to make conservatives feel bad; Nate Silver was doing MATH.
And climate change is real. And rape really does cause pregnancy, sometimes. And evolution is a thing. And Benghazi was an attack on us, it was not a scandal BY us.
And nobody’s taking away anyone’s guns. And taxes have not gone up. And the deficit is dropping, actually. And Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.
And the moon landing? Was real. And FEMA is not building concentration camps. And UN election observers are not taking over Texas. And moderate reforms on the regulations on the financial industries and the insurance industries in this country are not the same as communism.
Listen. Last night was a good night for liberals and for Democrats, for very obvious reasons. But it was also possibly a good night for this country as a whole.
But if the conservative movement and the conservative media and the Republican party is stuck in a vacuum-sealed, door-locked, spin cycle of telling what makes them feel good, and denying the actual lived truth of the world, we are all deprived, as a nation, of the very debate between competing, feasible ideas about real problems.
Last night the Republicans got shellacked, and they had NO idea it was coming. And we saw them in real time – in real, humiliating time – not believe it even as it was happening to them. And unless they want to secede, they will need to pop the fictional bubble they have been so happily living inside, if they do not want to get shellacked again.

I’m very happy that President Obama won again (handily) and I’m especially happy that both of the amendments in Minnesota did not pass (both the horrible marriage amendment that would have enshrined discrimination into our state constitution, and the badly worded voter i.d. amendment that would have done more to disenfranchise a large segment of Minnesota voters without doing anything to fix the voter fraud “problem”–which, frankly doesn’t currently exist–not at the polls with voter impersonation, the way this amendment suggests, and if it did it is illegal and would be prosecuted, but there are no cases on the books, anywhere in the state) though I would have been happier if it hadn’t been such a nail-biter. I’m happy that gay people can now legally get married and have their marriage recognized in Washington, Maryland & Maine.

But, as Maddow suggests, the way the Republican Party currently stands, we as a country are being done a disservice. I pulled the quote from the net, but on her program, in her remarks she continues to say that we need a strong conservative voice in this country. They only way our system works is if we actually have competing ideas and we get to vote on those ideas. Right now, both sides are putting up career politicians (this is one reason why I love Obama so much, he wasn’t as ingrained in the system as some of his rivals) who are running as personalities and playing their parts for their respective “teams”. I see some ideas proposed from the left (a lot of them, not so good, but many of them very solid) some of which were previously proffered by Republicans in the past, but these are immediately shot down by a Republican Congress that is disinterested in working with a Democrat President or fellow members of Congress who are Democrat. Nothing is offered in return except fear-mongering and posturing.
That is not the way this system works.
We need engagement.
We need to acknowledge problems and challenges–this is not being unpatriotic or un-American, it’s being responsible stewards of our country and our democracy. We need to not deny science and math, especially not to awkwardly prop up religion. Religion can co-exist with our government (in all of its forms) but none of its forms should be put in control of the government. The quickest way to the “Sharia Law” that evangelicals and far-right Republicans fear is by passing laws that actually make Christianity part of the government. Because of our first amendment, religion is protected from government interference and the government is protected from religious interference, but once we start ruling in favor of Christian government it’s not long before other religions start to get their talons in. We are a country that is stronger by the lack of religion in our government and the abundance of religion expressed within our borders. We are (or should be) a shining example of how all people can truly co-exist and function and prosper as one nation, indivisible.
So, that’s my tiny rant. I’m stepping off of my soapbox now.

Second: Skyfall!

My parents came into town. We had a nice lunch and then we saw, quite possibly, the best Bond movie of them all (I still think that Casino Royale is a strong contender, but this movie quite possibly excelled past the high water mark that Daniel Craig’s first turn as 007 left).
Daniel Craig is definitely the most complete Bond, bringing forth the best traits of all the previous performers and fully embodying the character himself. This story finds Bond at a crossroads in his career. He has been wounded, not only physically but mentally. This is a movie that is as much about dispensing of a monumental threat as it is about getting his game back (and deciding if he wants it back). Finally, we get a Bond film that allows Judi Dench to dig into her character, M, and really becomes a co-star (and the most fully fleshed out Bond-girl ever). This is a movie about the past–dealing with past decisions, past lives, past sins–and about looking forward to the future and what roll we play in that future. After the mistakes and attacks at the beginning of the film, M is being pushed into “voluntary” retirement (“screw graceful, I’ll leave when the job is done.”) and put on trial so that various politicians can dissect her decisions and save face. Meanwhile, a specter from her past, one of her former agents is constructing a perverse revenge upon her. This man may have been Bond before he was a double-0, this man’s past may indicate Bond’s future, this man may very well be Bond, through a glass darkly. Bond has to decide if he is really up to defending M and Queen and Country (and if they also have his back). And best of all, Bond is not a superhero. He’s shaken (pun only slightly unintentional) and is definitely not 100%, so he is fallible. The result is that we get to see Bond at his core and therefore, we get the best Bond, the artifice and the ripples beneath the surface. The swagger and the doubt.
After the movie, we had dinner at my place and then my folks gave me their birthday gifts.

It was a pretty swell trip, all around. We had breakfast the next morning and then they went on their way, a little shopping before making the trek back north.

Third: I turn 33!

So, I’m not one that needs to celebrate (though I have been known to enjoy a good celebration). My plans for my 33rd birthday were subdued to say the least: I didn’t have any. Or more correctly, I didn’t have any social plans. I worked a morning show, was in my office for the rest of the day, and then I intended to go home (maybe grab some Pad Thai and Hot & Sour soup from Big Bowl on the way) and watch NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles on TV. Instead, I ended up seeing The Magnetic Fields play at First Avenue with my friend and colleague, Genoveva.

It went down something like this:
Genoveva posted on Facebook that she had an extra ticket on Monday night. I saw the post 10 or 15 minutes later, after my friend Emilie said that she’d love to go with. I posted that I was sorry to miss out and that if Emilie had to back out, I got next. The next morning, Emilie backed out (she claims a high motivation factor was not needing to be out late once again, what with her already busy work-grad school-life schedule, but part of the motivation may have been my birthday. I assured her that I was fine not going, if she wanted to go, she should). She remained backed out, so Genoveva and I made plans.

Sometimes, the best plans are to not have plans. This was definitely the case. I had a great time at the show with Genoveva. The opening act was Gal Musette, a 14 year old girl (and her accompanist) from California who popped up on my radar via Tumblr. Someone had shown her Soundcloud site to Neil Gaiman, who said “why would I be interested in this, she’s only 14?” and then he listened to it and said “Oh my God, she’s only 14. This is appallingly good!”. He posted it and I listened and then I downloaded all of the tracks she had made available for download. The Magnetic Fields are her favorite band. They have an album, 69 Love Songs, and she decided to do 70 love songs inspired by The Magnetic Fields. She’s somewhere in the mid-thirties now, I believe, with songs ranging from a minute and a half up to three minutes each. And they’re all extremely good. Appallingly good.

Door’s opened at 7, so Genoveva and I hung out and chatted. Right around the time that we were noticing Gal Musette taking the stage (an adorable 14 year old, by the way. Just the kind of girl that Genoveva’s 13 year old will no doubt someday fall in love with, we decided) I was telling Genoveva how I discovered Gal Musette, when Neil Gaiman took the stage to introduce Gal Musette and explained it much better than I could.

Gal Musette was incredibly good, moving from song to song fairly quickly and remembering to pause and say “Thank You” periodically as she won over the crowd.

It was during her set that I leaned over to Genoveva and told her that it was times like this that I remembered why we did what we did and why we chose to live in the Twin Cities. We really are made of awesome. There are few places that can have so many random moments of beauty and amazement and where so much fantastic energy and converge. Just in the last few years that we’ve worked together, we’ve seen so much talent grow and develop on our stages. We’ve worked some amazing events together and met some remarkable people. Just by being where we are. Once you broaden that past our little corner of the Twin Cities, there is just so many wonderful things that just happen here. We’re not a New York or an L.A. where that stuff is expected to happen (and, as magical as those places can be, having an expectation can also lead to a let down) but we get more than our fair share (again I was reminded of this just last night as I was at a party celebrating the next round of Thesis defense at Hamline–so many talented people that I’ve had the privilege to attend classes with). What Genoveva and I were seeing on Tuesday night was a 14 year old girl opening for her favorite band for the first time in front of her biggest crowd ever at one of the oldest and most respected rock clubs in the United States. There is a remarkable convergence right there.

Then The Magnetic Fields came onto stage. I’d never seen them live and I was only passably familiar with their stuff, but I’ve tipped into being a fan now. Live shows can do that, that immediate interaction with the music and the performers gives you an intimate connection with their material.

Stephen Merritt was a little ill–lung infection he said, possibly in jest, in his droll fashion–but still gave an amazingly personal performance. I don’t know the names of the rest of the band, including two enormously talented women who performed as many songs as Merritt did and established the same connection with me and the audience. Gal Musette came back onto stage to participate with one of the songs, speaking the French words that normally the non-French-speaking pianist/ singer normally spoke (yes: 14, has written around 30 songs, plays multiple instruments, lovely, has now performed WITH her favorite band on stage, and she speaks French).

I don’t have any video from the show, I was enjoying it far to much to take more than a few photographs. Here is a video that someone created for The Book of Love, one of my favorite Magnetic Fields’ songs:

The way I celebrated my birthday was unexpected, but spectacular. And in the best possible ways. I’m lucky to have the friends I do and I’m lucky to live where I do and work where I work. I have goals that I’m working towards and a family that cares. I’m lucky. And I live in a place where amazing things happen. We truly are made of awesome.

More later …

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Published by: Thomas Rohde

Artist // Writer // Theatre Professional // Nerd // Night Owl Inspired by a steady and lifelong infusion of pop culture, comic books, and a vast assortment of films and books, our friendly neighborhood blogger has doomed himself to a life of creative pursuits. There's not enough time for everything, but we all do what we can. Artist: of watercolor, ink, comic illustration, horror/ sci-fi/ fantasy art. Writer: of fictions, tweets, captions & blogs. Lover: coffee, whiskey, wine & beer. Instagram and Twitter as @demipho

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