Monday, December 31, 2012

The Final Posting of 2012

Bear with me, please.  It's been a difficult month.  And I just had to work on a Saturday for the fifth or sixth week in a row.  Since I got back from Thanksgiving vacation.  Usually during the week I jot down notes or pick out things from my journal that becomes my theme for the week.  I didn't do that this week and now I'm already a day behind on posting this.  
So...  What I'll do today is give you a spattering of stuff.  A random smorgasbord of things that struck me during this week.  Pick what you want.  By pass the rest.  I hope by the end of this entry you've found something that will at least whet your appetite for more.  
The Need for Speed
This week I heard a news story on the radio.  It was about a guy that used to work in Silicon Valley that has moved to Sweden.  He works in robotics.  He had an idea to build robots that can be controlled by someone, remote accessing, to take care of people in nursing homes and the like.  The term is "telepresence."  He went to Sweden because the regulations on building robots to do something like this is less strict, and he can get people to invest in the project because of that.  
This story irritated me.  
Not because I think it's a bad idea.  I think it's a terrific idea.  I thought so a couple of years ago when I thought of the same idea myself.  I used it as the background of a story I wrote under the working title, "Robot Watch."  I finished a rough draft of the story and started a rewrite, but I never got it into any shape to submit.  There was a problem with the conflict of the story.  It was too weak and unbelievable.  I haven't had a chance to get back to it to see if I could fix it and get it out.  
Not that I've heard about the guy in Sweden, doing in real life what I speculated about a year and a half ago, I feel like I've missed the boat.  Now there will be countless other people, who heard the same story, who'll try to bang out something and get it out there.  Even if I get my story with the same idea out right away, editors who heard that same news item will think I derived it from that.  
I remember something J. Michael Straczynski once said, about his goal being to write faster than people better than him and to write better than the people that wrote faster than him.  I am waiting to be in that same state right now.  
Rocket Man
As I mentioned last entry, I recently finished reading John Scalzi's "Redshirts," which I very much enjoyed.  I started reading "Among Others," which won the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel this year, but I set it aside for another novel that was nominated for the same award, "Leviathan Wakes."  I'm about two chapters into the book and I already know it's going to be my type of science fiction novel.  
The reason I know?  One word: Spaceships.  
Ever since I became a science fiction fan around the age of thirteen, I have had this prejudice: If the universe the world is set in doesn't have at least the possibility of the characters getting on a spaceship and traveling to another world, it wasn't "really" science fiction.  
Faster Than Light (FTL) ships are preferred, but I'm good with just about anything.  Slower Than Light (STL) generation ships.  Getting fired out of cannon to hit the moon.  Just tell me that somewhere in your story, even if its just in the background, someone is flying through space to someplace we need a telescope to see from Earth, and I'll give your story a read. 
And if you actually put me on the spaceship, through the main character's eyes, and make me believe it's real, then I'll enjoy it even more.  The people who have done this over the years, like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, David Brin, C.J. Cherryh's Alliance-Union and Chanur novels, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, David Webber's Honor Harrington series, are among my favorite authors of all time.  
It was the reason I was so excited to see my story, "Shadow Angel," published in Asimov's Science Fiction last year.  Sure, it was being published in Asimov's, which was pretty cool.  But it was the fact that it was a spaceship story of my own that was getting published.  It legitimized my own fictional concept of space travel.  It was exactly the type of story I like to read.
And it's the reason why I started working on a story idea I've had for a while now.  A novel set in the same universe as "Shadow Angel."   A pirate novel.  Why?  Because when I was a little kid my favorite movies were pirate movies.  So why not combine the two things I enjoyed the most growing up?  No reason I can think of.  
The reason I like writing spaceship stories specifically and science fiction stories in general?  That's the topic of another blog posting.  
Things I wish I could tell you
I once had someone tell me that they couldn't trust me because I was a writer.  This person's reasoning was that writers took all the things they hear or see or happen to them and put them in stories or articles that get displayed to the public.  That means something that this person may convey in privacy, in secret, will be "out there," for everyone to know about it.  And then, when this private/embarrassing/secret there is being read by everyone, the writer's "excuse" is, "It's part of my work." 
This person had a point.  Though I argued with them at the time that I'm sharing as much about myself as I do anyone else, but in such a way that most readers, less than 99% of anyone reading my published work, and most of the friends and colleagues that read my stuff before it gets sent out, don't know where my little slices of reality end and fiction begins.  Every one of those "secrets" are encoding into my stories, altered, stretched or flipped around, so that their reality flavors the work, but the specifics are no longer discernible.  
But the argument put to me has started cramping my writing.  Not so much in my fiction, that is being written in the same way as before.  In this blog, however, I find myself writing about things that I see and hear in my life, things I want to "storyfy," working with them like clay so I can both understand and benefit from them, and then deciding to write something else, something safer that doesn't give anything away, or where "the names have been changed to protect the innocent."  
I haven't found a solution to this problem.  Not a completely satisfactory one.  But it's been right in front of my nose for a while in recent weeks.  I don't want my therapy, which my writing is for me in a big way, to give someone else a need for going to therapy themselves.  
That's it.  Except to say, "Happy New Year," and all that.  And thanks for reading.

Monday, December 24, 2012

I, Protagonist

Things have been difficult for me recently.  
It started at the end of November.  It started at work.  Up until then, things had been going along swimmingly.  Since I took over as Production Manager the company had seen eight straight months of meeting the monthly output goal, the first time that had happened.  There had been problems, personnel issues and the like, but overall I was feeling very positive about how things had gone and where they would be going forward.  
Something happened after I returned from my Thanksgiving Vacation to change that perception.  This is work, and real life, so, perforce, I will be vague on the specifics.  Suffice it to say, I was given new parameters to achieve and a certain amount of time in which to do so.  I have been working to make the unit's performance meet those new parameters.  Things have not been going well.  

In the last few days, a couple of things have happened to cause me to reevaluate what I've been doing.  The first one was an epiphany about what clients could perceive of the work being done in my department.  This epiphany lead me realize that the parameters given to me to achieve were not the ones I need to be achieving.  They were not meaningless.  They just didn't have the direct impact on creating the perception in our clients that we want to create.  This epiphany told me EXACTLY what I needed to be working on.  The only problem was that I was making this realization right before a long holiday weekend, and would only have four work days after we returned, and a vacation depleted staff, in which to implement it.  
The other thing that happened was my finishing the novel, Redshirts by John Scalzi.  The novel, as one might guess from the title, is about characters in a universe that resembles one from a famous television and movie science fiction franchise realizing that crew-members that went on away missions with the captain, first officer, chief medical officer or chief engineer died at extremely high rates.  It is about what they find out when they try to discover the reason for the high death rate amongst these crewmen.  
Please note: A bit of a spoiler follows in the next paragraph.  
The crewmen on board the Intrepid, the ship in Redshirts, come to realize that they are characters in a story.  They are real people.  But they owe their existence to, and are influenced by, a television drama being created in the past.  By the conclusion of Redshirts, using this premise, John Scalzi makes some very piquant observations on life, how we live it and give it meaning, and about writing as well.  I highly recommend it, especially to any science fiction fan.  
For me, personally, though, it got me to wonder about my own life's story.  Particularly the most recent part of it.  I found myself asking myself questions like, "What sort of protagonist am I?" and "What type of story am I living in?"  As I thought along this lines, I realized I HAD the framework for a story.  I had an inciting incident, the meeting at the end of November wherein the parameters by which my unit's performance was changed.  I had a goal, changing those parameters within the time frame given to me.  There were obstacles, more than I care to list at the moment.  I could even see a consequence, losing my position, for failing to meet that goal.  
Once I knew I had the different parts of a story, it became clear what I needed to do.  I had to write it.  So, that's what I'm doing here.  Going over the story parts to build the narrative I want to create.  I even had a title for it already.  "The Long December."  Catchy, huh?  
The first place to start is with my main character.  My hero.  My protagonist.  Me.  Or, someone based on someone remarkably like me.  This is fiction, right?  I am trying to gain some distance on the situation to see the truth about it.  To do that, I have to streamline the character, keeping only what is essential.  Maybe even making some stuff up to add them in, lies I wish were true.  From this point on, take everything I put down with as many grains of salt you think are necessary.  
So who is this character I'm writing about?  We'll call him...  Ray.  After my late uncle on my Mom's side.  I'm choosing Ray as the character's name because I've always liked the name (It's one of two middle names I have) and because my uncle Ray had some interesting qualities that I want my protagonist, Ray, to have.  One was that Ray was a very intelligent person.  He could speak several languages fluently, including Latin.  More importantly, Ray had the ability to convince people of things.  In the Korean War, Ray won the Bronze Star by convincing a Chinese patrol that he was one of them and leading them back to the American lines for capture.  Ray was in a mental hospital for one part of his life.  Quite often, despite the hospital's best efforts, Ray would get out of his room and find a spare doctor's white coat, and meet with people coming to see the doctor for the first time.  People would be convinced that he was the doctor, and would find it hard to believe when they were told the truth.  After he was released, my uncle Ray continue to have that way about him, where you sure the things he told you were the truth.    
As for Protagonist Ray, he thinks he has problems communicating sometimes.  He believes he makes himself clear on points, only to have people act surprised at outcomes he told them to expect.  People think he is very organized, when the truth of the matter is that he is thorough, constantly checking and rechecking things to make sure they are right.  
Protagonist Ray doesn't think he's right for the job he has.  He doesn't like managing people.  He doesn't like telling others what to do, no more than he likes being told what to do.  He can handle people individually just fine.  But when they are in groups, weird things happen.  It confuses and irritates him when people don't simply do what they are being paid to do.  It's very simple, he thinks.  It's a job.  You do "X" and the company pays you "Y."  If you want more than "Y" but the company won't pay you that, then go find a job where they will.  Don't cut back on the amount of work you do to what you think "Y" is worth.  That's not what you agreed to do.  Don't be surprised that more is expected of you if the company promotes you or gives you a raise.  That is what they do.  
Protagonist Ray is a "Be-er."  This is a concept borrowed from Dramatica Pro, a story generation program that I use sometimes.  In terms of how a character reacts to their environment, Dramatica Pro classifies characters into two categories; "Be-ers" are characters that adapt to their environment.  Think of Humphrey Bogart's character in Casablanca.  If they ran a business, they would build it by paying attention to their client's needs.  "Do-ers" react to their environment in more external, physical fashion.  Think of any main character in an action movie, such as Bruce Willis in Die Hard.  If a "Do-er" ran a business, they would try to build it by focusing on those "sweat of the brow" things associated with running a business, improving the product, picking the ideal location, getting out sales and advertising, etc.  Protagonist Ray looks at the employees he has and the work flow and says to himself, "How can I make these things fit to get the output I want?"
Protagonist Ray has switches in his head.  Not buttons, as in, "she pushes my buttons." 
"Buttons," to Protagonist Ray's way of thinking, implies something that wasn't on before has suddenly come to life.  Or that something which was going before has been shut off.  
Protagonist Ray things of himself as having switches in his head, because it implies a channeling in his mind.  The emotions are there, whirring along, buzzing along the neurons in his brain the way electrical current is buzzing through the wires embedded in the walls of one's home.  The switch channels that energy from one socket to another, allowing it to bring your computer to life or make your vacuum roar into action.  The energy is always there, though.  
Most of the switches are channeling Protagonist Ray's emotional energy into the desire to "show them."  Show them that he knows what he's doing.  Show them that he can fix this.  Anything that gets in the way, or anyone that creates obstacles in the way of getting this done, is to be pushed aside.  
What is it that will make people feel an affinity toward Ray?  Good question.  I would like to think it will be Protagonist Ray's honest desire to solve problems for others.  Protagonist Ray wants to achieve this goal not just because it feels like a challenge thrown into his face.  He wants to achieve this goal because he knows that achieving it is the right thing to do for the clients and the people in other departments depending on him.  
That's it for now.  Except for one more thing.  Since this is fiction like I said, how it ends up for Protagonist Ray is up to me.  So, I'm picking...
And he lived Happily Ever After.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Rant about Planning & the Efficacy of Anger

This will be a stream of consciousness blog.  I apologize in advance for any misspellings, logical inconsistencies and politically incorrect gaffs I might make in advance.  
I was originally going to write about plans.  The importance we place on them.  How they are essential for doing something like building a high rise apartment complex, but how they don't seem to work so well when people were involved.  
All this week I was jotting down the times I noticed people using the word, "Plan."  "I plan on going back to college...  Eventually."  Someone said that to me in a job interview.  I felt like telling the person, "you don't really have a plan."  The word "eventually" was a tip-off.  If the interviewee had a plan for going back to school, they would have said something like, "I plan on going back to school in the spring.  I've received my acceptance letters.  I am waiting for the schedule to come out to pick my classes.  I'll make sure that the classes are at night."  That last sentence would have been added to appease me and still be a prospect for the job.  
Who was it that said, "No plan survives contact with the enemy"?  I'll do a quick google search after I've written this and post it.  Whoever it was, they might have well said, "No plan geared toward getting someone to do what you want survives their response, because you can't predict what people will do."  
This was my plan, anyway.  But life happened.   Excrement hit the rotating air circulation device.  I was given a new priority that I had to focus on.  And because of that, one more thing happened. 
I got very, very angry.  
I think Anger is a very underrated and under appreciated emotion.  A lot of people spend a lot of effort to keep from becoming angry.  
Anger is associated with being out of control.  Becoming brutish.  With being irrational.  Barbarians are angry.  
I remember the opening scene from the movie, "Gladiator."  Its a battlefield before the fighting as started.  Up on the slope are the Germanic barbarians.  They are shouting.  They are rattling your swords.  They are screaming at the Romans at the bottom of the hill all the things they are going to do to them.  
Facing this angry mob in their neat, precise ranks are the Roman Legionnaires.  They are silent.  They are disciplined.  They wait.  
The image, I think, is supposed to show us the difference between wild, ineffective anger and calm, precise deliberate professionalism.  Barbarism versus Civilization.  But this image misses one important point.  
The Roman Legionnaires...  They were angry, too.  
Anger, like all emotions, come from our primal instincts.  It is born from the flight or fight response.  When something threatens us, a surge of adrenaline rushes through our bodies.  Our minds rapidly calculate the metrics of the situation.  We respond to the threat. 
If that response is to run away, we call the emotion, "Fear."  If, however, if our response is to turn and fight, we call it "Anger."  
The Germanic Warriors WERE angry.  They had made the decision to march from their huts and fight the invaders.  They weren't going to run.  They reshaped the overwhelming urge to do something about the threat into eliminating the threat.  
The Romans were angry, too. But in addition to reshaping that emotion into the decision to fight, they did something more.  They channeled it even more precisely.  Like the gladii by their sides, the short, thick-bladed sword they used which, according to one historian I read, has killed more soldiers in combat than any other weapon in history, they sharpened their anger.  They trained it.  Using their training (a sort plan of action, to tie it back with my original plan), they turned it into something that could be directed.  Targeted.  Brought to bear on a specific target at a specific time to do the maximum damage against that which has come into their lives as a threat.  
And in the movie, just as for hundreds of years in ancient times, the Romans prevailed.  Their well-honed, focused anger overcame the stirred up, wild anger of the barbarians.  And that is when the coin of the emotions flipped for the barbarians, turning to the obverse side of fear.  That's when they started running.  
I am a fearful person.  
I have been for large portions of my life.  Fear of rejection has kept me alone and left me unmarried.  It has also kept me from submitting the stories I enjoy writing so much.  I have even found myself locked in twisted cycles of emotion that I couldn't resolve, such as being afraid of losing a job that I hated.  Hating the effort to avoid the threat that made me afraid.  
This week, I had a reminder of what a potent emotion Anger can be.  I have also realized that I haven't been angry enough.  Angry enough to flip that coin over, discipline myself, and use that emotion to strike against those things that come into my life and threaten my well being.  For the most part, emotionally.  But physically as well.  
If it is an injustice your angry at, if it is the mendacity of others trying to avoid the threats they face and choosing to direct it your way instead of facing up to it, then anger can be a very good thing.  As long as you train it like the Romans did.  As long as you point it toward the threat coming at you, and not scream and fling it about indiscriminately, then it can work for you.  
Another show comes to mind.  The reboot of Battlestar Galactica of a few years ago.  A spoiler alert for anyone that hasn't seen it: I'm going to talk about the final episode of the show.  Though, anyone reading my blog has probably seen it already, so it might not be a big deal.  
In the final episode, Adama decides that, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, is it is because of mankind's misuse of technology that brought them to near extinct, and so the solution is to abandon technology until they can gain the wisdom to use it wisely.  
This was a stupid decision.  
It is akin to saying that the best way to teach someone to drive a car safely is to prevent them from getting behind the wheel until they learn to be safe.  My question is, how can you learn to be safe driving a car unless you DRIVE IT?  
I think people have a similar problem in dealing with anger.  We tell people, "Don't be angry," instead of trying to figure out what is making them angry and learn how to deal with it.  And, if that means figuring out a way to eliminating, then that's what it takes.  
That's it.  I'm done with my rant.  But I'm not done with being angry.  Not until it is a precious, shiny thing, with an edge like a razor, and the threat is laying at my feet bleeding to death.  
That's my plan, anyway. 
PS: The person that the quote, "No plan survives contact with the enemy," is attributed to is Helmuth von Moltke the Elder.  He was a Prussian Field Marshal and strategist and considered one of the great military thinkers of the late 19th Century.  
His original statement was, "no plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength," and was meant to emphasize his belief that strategy was a series of options, and that a strategist had to be ready for all possible outcomes. 
 Something to take to heart for life itself.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Tis the Future Season

It's the "Holiday Season."  We just got done with Thanksgiving.  We have Christmas coming up, as well as Hanukah and relative newcomer on the holiday scene, Kwanzaa.  New Years is after that.  We have holidays to do some very important things.
Drink lots of alcohol. Buy lots of stuff (besides alcohol).  Eat lots of food, hopefully with the alcohol we're drinking.  
Of course I'm being facetious.  Holidays are not just to do those things.  That is what weekends are form, right?  Holidays are meant to remember things.  Important people.  Important events.  Things that we collective believe are important for us to recall and reflect on.  Things we SHOULD keep with us throughout the year, but which we need to be reminded about.  Like the list of resolutions we'll be writing in about a month, and failing at a few weeks latter, they are meant to give us a break to remember someone or something that points to how we want to be.  
For example, how does drinking copious quantities of green beer help us to remember the patron saint of Ireland's mythical achievement of driving the snakes from that island?  Drinking copious amounts of beer of any color doesn't help a person remember anything.  
I think some holidays haven't aged well, though.  Take Armistice Day.  If you don't know that holiday, it's the old name for Memorial Day.  It was originally intended to honor and remember the men that died fighting in "The Great War," which was the original name for World War One, before everyone discovered there were more "great wars" to come.  Over time, though, the people that lived through the time of the Great War passed away.  So they changed the holiday's name and rebooted it to remember all the soldiers that died fighting for this country.  
I think Memorial Day has problems as a holiday.  During times of peace, it's an excuse for a long weekend, that trifecta of drinking, eating and buying.  That's not good.  Recently, we've had reason to remember soldiers that have died.  That's not good, either.  
Thanksgiving has fared better of time.  It was established to remember the "First Thanksgiving" of the pilgrims that symbolize the founding of this country.  Now it has extended the sense of thanksgiving to anything we have for which we can be grateful.  And though it has a semi-religious quality to it, it is very non-denominational.  If you live in this country and have something you're grateful for, then celebrate!  Even an atheist living on the street can thank random chance that he still draws breath.  For as long as we're alive, we have a chance for something better. 
Christmas hasn't fared so well.  I don't see how pushing and shoving your way through crowded department stores, cursing those around you, buying presents mostly out of guilt, does much to recall Baby Jesus' Birthday.  Maybe some theologian can explain it to me.  
And what about holidays of the future?  
9/11 will become our next national holiday, I think.  The process has already started.  Every year we mark the day with speeches and solemn events.  There are moments of silence marking when the planes hit each of the towers and crashed into a Pennsylvania field.  Friends and relatives intone the names of the victims and heros they lost.  We've been doing this for a decade now.  
How will it evolve, though?  Will it go the way of Armistice Day?  Once all the people who knew the people that died have passed away, what will we do then?  And what will we call it?  Remembrance Day?  No.  It sounds too much like Memorial Day and people might confuse it.  Victims Day?  Another bad name.  Defiance Day?  It was this defiance that lead us into two long and costly wars, one of which was unnecessary in my opinion.  
How about Unity Day?  To remind us of the way we came together as a nation in the days after the tragedy.  It was the only time I thought George W. Bush did a good job as president, in his role of "mourner in chief."  The candlelight vigils in neighborhoods and parks all over the place.  People putting American flags on their cars, trucks and motorcycles, having them whip about as they drove down the freeway until they were in tatters.  A day remembering that time would do us good, I think.  From the rhetoric of the last election, I'm afraid most of us have forgotten to think of this a single nation.  
Here's one to think about: First Contact Day - The day we memorialize the first time we met with intelligences from another planet.  The claims of various "ufo-ologists" notwithstanding, I don't think this has happened yet.  But it will be something worth remembering.  It will also have an inherent ability to evolve with time as Thanksgiving has.  At first, it will be a chance to remember who we were.  Sort of like looking at our pictures of elementary school.  Maybe even a chance to mourn that loss of innocence.  As time goes on, it will be a chance to reflect on what we've become, how we've changed or evolved.  Hopefully how we overcame the trauma and destruction that history teaches us happens when a culture with a superior civilization encounters another, and move on to integrate what is inherently human with whatever truths these beings from our future will bring us.  
In my own writing, I've already given this day a date.  "Four-One-Two-Three."  April 1, 2023.  Because of the nature of the aliens in my universe, known as the Tau, and the manner in which they abruptly left humanity, taking over a hundred thousand people with them ("The Chosen"), this day has a quasi-religious significance in my universe.  I think a similar significance will be there when it happens for real. 
There are some things we don't memorialize that I think we should.   
Why don't we have a holiday celebrating any scientist?  How about making March 14th "Albert Einstein Day."  Considering we live in a world that has marvels bordering on the science fictional, I think we should remember the men and women that brought us these discoveries.  And Albert Einstein is far and away the most famous scientist there is.  Conservatives love him for coming up with the theory that gave us the atomic bomb.  Liberals love him for his subsequent opposition to its use.  Politically, it should be a slam dunk.  His name has become synonymous with being smart, or as an epithet to use when someone does something stupid ("That was brilliant, Einstein!").  
If Einstein doesn't work, then how about Thomas Edison Day, February 11th.  Another smart guy who invented a bunch of cool stuff.  Though, personally, if I wanted to choose someone whose work impacted the modern world, I might go with Nikolai Tesla Day (July 10th).  While Edison invented the incandescent lightbulb, Tesla invented the fluorescent bulb, which has lit our offices for years and which is taking over in the homes because of its energy efficiency.  Edison invented direct current power generation, but Tesla invented alternating current power generation, which is how all electrical power is generated today (we can still give a nod to Edison, though, since batteries provide DC current, which keeps our cell phones and laptops working when they're unplugged).  Edison may have invented the phonograph, it was Tesla's work in radio waves, which Marconi, who got credit, may have "borrowed," that leads to our downloadable music experience of today.  
I think Tesla might be a hard sell, though.  Most Americans don't know who he is to begin with, and his name is too "foreigny" for most of us to want to celebrate.  
If we can't pick a scientist, how about science itself.  We'll have "Discovery Day," a moving holiday, celebrated on a different day each year.  One year it could be on September 28th (the discovery of penicillin), the next year on April 1st (the day the discovery of the Double-Helix structure of DNA was first published).  
Or how about a holiday for an important scientific concept.  March 14th is already celebrated informally as "Pi Day," and not for something made with apples or cherries, or for a recent hit movie.  It is the mathematical constant that gives the value of the ratio between a circle's circumference to its diameter, 3.14159, etcetera, etcetera, forever and ever (March 14th?  3/14?  3.14...  Get it?).  
I think science should have its day in the sun.  Religion has a lot of holidays already.  That's the only thing besides political or historical events and people that gets celebrated.  I recall a bumper sticker I saw recently: 
"Science flies you to the Moon.  Religion flies you into buildings."  
While I admit its an gross overstatement, I think saying that science has contributed positively to our lives is an equally gross understatement.  
I have a proposal to make.  To bring holidays back to their intended purpose, to contemplate moments and people that are important to us collectively, let's do two things:  
First, let's put an expiration date on every holiday.  If it celebrates an event or person's birthday, let's stop celebrating it after the last person living that remembers that person or event passes away.  At that point we have to morph it.  Just as Thanksgiving has evolved, and Armistice Day and its reason for being turned into Memorial Day, we will have to find something that is still with us about that person or event.  We have to show the reason we have to keep it our collective memory, why it needs to be treasured and set aside. 
Second, let's pick the holidays we plan to celebrate each year.  Switch them around.  Right now, poor August is the only month that doesn't have a holiday in it.  Is this because nothing of any importance has ever happened in August?  Not at all!  Pakistan  and India got their independence in August (the 14th and 15th respectively), and about half of all the famous battles fought in Ireland happened in that month (is there a traditional time for Irish Whiskey to be uncorked after aging?  I bet there's a connection).  Since it's when most kids go back to school, we can celebrate "Education Day."  Pick a date and remember what our ability to read and write and do numbers has done for us.  
Having holidays expire and picking new ones would give us a fresh new set of days to gather and remember what is important to us, as individuals and as a nation.  
Or, we'll figure out how to have a barbeque and get drunk on some obscure in the middle of the week.  Which is probably what will end up happening anyway.