January 15th, 2015


Je suis Charlie

Tuesday I had an errand out to Fuller and Michigan to get some adjustments to the new AFO foot brace I got in December. It was a beautiful blue sky sunshiny day. I got off I-196 at Fuller and turned right. Just south of the railroad tracks I saw something I don't recall ever having seen before in Grand Rapids.

A business on the east side of the road had three flagpoles and the three flags were at half mast. This was not unusual -- since 9-11 the state of Michigan has ordered the flags to half mast for all the U.S. military deaths in action. On the left was the U.S. flag and on the right a white Toyota corporate flag.

The center flag was the Frech tricolor, streaming to the left in the stiff wind and backlit with the others by the Sun.


Visually it was striking. I would have had to loop around to photograph it and even then, I had brought the Nikon F3, which right now is loaded with black & white film. I did stop on the way home and pulled into the parking lot, but by then the breeze had died and the flags weren't blown out. Oh well.

Of course the flags were there to honor and and support the dead in the Charlie Hedbo magazine killings in Paris. Idiots go around proclaiming it's a matter of the First Amendment...

The responses to the heavily armed murders in the West have been many and complicated. In general, the feeling is that freedom of the press is paramount, as much as revulsion that any terrorists should kill anyone. The concerns of the Muslim community are, of course, minimized here.

What makes the situation interesting is that most people over here probably don't understand what Charlie Hedbo is about. This isn't political cartoons and comments like The Funny Times. This is full blown French satire. And they don't reserve their targeting to just Muslims. I'm sure the good conservatives of West Michigan would be furious at the Charlie Hedbo cartoons pointed at their religion.

The sudden solidarity to France is quite a shift to the post 9-11 furor over the French government and the era of "surrender monkeys", Freedom Fries and American toast (with syrup and bacon, of course). And we didn't see this level of support with Salman Rushdie or the Danish cartoonists years ago, but then they weren't nearly as shocking and the body count wasn't there.

Mrs. Dr. Phil just said that NPR had reported the other day that some survey has Grand Rapids listed as the 6th "smartest city in the U.S.", based on the level of college and postgraduate degrees. So maybe it's not so strange that someone would think to raise and then lower partway the French flag. Or maybe it's a corporate thing -- I have no idea. I do know that most businesses here would not already have a French flag in their supply closet, so as a public display, this requires some thought and effort.

Over in France itself, several French TV and newspapers pledged to provide personnel to keep Charlie Hedbo running, after losing such a chunk of staff. Yesterday the next issue of Charlie Hedbo hit the newsstands and promptly sold out, despite a print run of three million, versus their usual... what was it, 20,000 or 30,000.

And yes, the new issue featured a cartoon Mohammad on its cover, flaunting in the face of the no-depiction of the Prophet issue that prompted the original massacre.

But a French flag flying at half mast in West Michigan... it was something to behold.

Dr. Phil
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Thirty Hours (Or Less) To Back To The ConFusion

Final Updates!

This weekend.. Back to the ConFusion -- Friday 16 January to Sunday 18 January 2015. The Doubletree Hotel Detroit/Dearborn, 5801 Southfield Road, Detroit, MI 48228, is hosting for the third year.
Back to the ConFusion, the 41st ConFusion by name and 42nd annual January gathering (starting with the AA Realx-I-Con in 1974), is a go! 2015 looks to be an exciting year--it will be the year that Marty McFly really traveled to in Back to the Future II, whatever that Facebook meme says, so look out for those hoverboards, they must be right around the corner. (No, seriously, look out!) We're anticipating another excellent con, with the first-time appearance of author Karen Lord, researcher Dr. Cynthia Chestek, and gaming gurus Monte Cook & Shanna Germain. We'll also welcome back Heather Dale, now performing as our Music Guest of Honor. And then there's Aaron Thul, longtime fan and conrunner, returning after two years away as our Fan Guest of Honor. Please do join us, and we hope to see you there in January!
For some previews, ConFusion has a cool Tumblr.

Plus Detcon1 -- last summer's NASFiC in Detroit -- is holding a party Friday night. See below.

The full Program is now available as a PDF.

Six panels, moderating one -- and a reading! Now with panelists and rooms!

ConFusion Schedule for Dr. Phil Kaldon

Friday 6pm: Dearborn
Every Creature (Real and Fantastical) Poops
You may have read the book Everyone Poops, but it's 
so human-centric. What about mermaids, centaurs, 
and other fantastical creatures? Let's see if we can 
analogize from real species to arrive at a theory of 
fantastical pooping. (Caution: conversation may stray 
into food, sex and gestation.)
Rowena Cherry, Cindy Spencer Pape, Lucy Kennedy, 
Dr. Phil Kaldon

(Friday 7pm: Michigan - Big Top
Opening Ceremonies)

Friday 8pm: Warren
Ghosts of SyFy Past
Come reminisce about the actual science fiction SyFy
used to show, and talk about the network's plans to
get back to its science fiction roots.
Julie Winningham, Philip Kaldon, Aset, Steve Drew'

(Friday 9pm: Erie
Detcon1 Thank You Party)
Life seems so empty now that we're not running a NASFiC 
anymore. So we're going to throw one last party this weekend 
at MI Official ConFusion to say thank you to everyone who 
supported us. We'll have ribbons and shirts and some other 
surprises to give away, food and drink, plus a DJ Scalzi-inspired 
playlist and a slideshow of our favorite pictures from the con. 
Join us in the Erie Room Friday night!

Saturday 10am: Dearborn 
Building a Better Dragon
No two writers imagine the same dragon. How would
yours be different? Flying, fire, temperament,
teeth: what makes a good dragon?
Christian Klaver, Philip Kaldon, Cinda Williams Chima, 
Steve Buchheit

Saturday 11am: Southfield 
Time Travel Devices, Doors, and Deus Ex Machinas
How to travel through time (in literature and media)	
Philip Kaldon, Ferrett Steinmetz, Andrew Zimmerman Jones, 
Laura Resnick
Saturday 4pm: Dearborn 
Time Travel (im)Possibilities
Would 1.21 gigawatts get the job done, or would
the flux capacitor even work? Time for our panelists
and audience to debunk our favorite time travel
devices in literature and popular media.
Bill Higgins, Philip Kaldon, Ron Collins, 
Andrew Zimmerman Jones 

Sunday 10am: Warren 
Tomlinson/Kaldon reading
Patrick S. Tomlinson and Philip Kaldon read from their works.
This will be the first public reading from
the opening chapters of The Lost Kingdom YA project
I am working on.  I had planned to read this at
WindyCon, but alas the weather kept us away from
Chicago in mid-November.  Their loss is your gain.

Sunday 11am: Erie 
Science or Science Fiction?
Science fiction novels continue to impress with
amazing technological advances in so many areas.
What's more impressive, though? That some of them
are reality! Come talk about some of the things
you see on the news today that you first read
about years ago in a book.
Philip Kaldon, Jason Sanford, Andrew Zimmerman Jones, 
Patrick S. Tomlinson, Brent Seth 

Note: Room map is from 2013. (Click on map for larger.)

Anyway, these are all fun panels to be on and I am very excited about my reading.

Dr. Phil
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