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November 10th, 2018

Why The Blue Wave Still Evokes Sadness

We did it. Yes, not every election fell our way, but we did it. A Blue Wave happened. Were it not for republican gerrymandering and voter suppression it would have been a tidal wave. But it was enough. And the victories are still coming in as the early votes and mail in ballots are being counted.

But…do you still feel a bit…anxious? Disturbed? Maybe even a little terrified…still? Ed over at Crooks and Liars gets why

You’re also not sad because Beto lost, or Andrew Gillum lost, or any other single candidate who got people excited this year fell short. They’re gonna be fine. They will be back. You haven’t seen the last of any of them. Winning a Senate race in Texas was never more than a long shot. Gillum had a realistic chance, but once again: It’s Florida.

No, you’re sad for the same reason you were so sad Wednesday morning after the 2016 Election. You’re sad because the results confirm that half of the electorate – a group that includes family, neighbors, friends, random fellow citizens – looked at the last two years and declared this is pretty much what they want. You’re sad because any Republican getting more than 1 vote in this election, let alone a majority of votes, forces us to recognize that a lot of this country is A-OK with undisguised white supremacy. You’re sad because once again you have been slapped across the face with the reality that a lot of Americans are, at their core, a lost cause. Willfully ignorant. Unpersuadable. Terrible people. Assholes, even.

Yeah. That. The 2016 election shouldn’t even have been close, let alone a Trump victory. And where was that women’s vote that was supposed to help sweep democrats into power in those deeply red states? This, from The Guardian, might help you with that…

White women’s identity places them in a curious position at the intersection of two vectors of privilege and oppression: they are granted structural power by their race, but excluded from it by their sex. In a political system where racism and sexism are both so deeply ingrained, white women must choose to be loyal to either the more powerful aspect of their identity, their race, or to the less powerful, their sex.

There’s something that democrats, liberals and progressives reliably fail to get about this country: There’s a hell of a lot of racist, sexist, bigoted fascist scum here. And while some of it may simply be opportunistic and persuadable, a lot more of it is the simple rotten to the core being of the voters. They vote for racists because they are racists. Nationalists, in the sense de Gaulle spoke of…

Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism,
when hate for people other than your own comes first

And it takes all of us pushing back against them to keep the American Dream alive. All of us. They win, by suppressing our votes, by any and all means available to them. And a big part of that, is convincing us that we are helpless, that our votes don’t matter, that the democrats are just as bad so why bother.

And as Ed over at Crooks and Liars says, these people are not just one intelligent, reasoned, conversation away from changing their votes. The America of liberty and justice for all was never their country. Many of them grew to adulthood before the civil rights movement made it possible for their black neighbors to drink from their water fountains, before wives could have their own bank accounts, before the gays could live their lives outside the closet. That was the America they feel they were promised. When you hear them speak of wanting their country back, that is the country they mean. They hate us for taking that America away from them. They hate us for taking the Dream of liberty and justice for all to heart, as an obligation of citizenship, not a slogan to paper over white supremacy. They will always hate us. Always. And there are a Lot of them.

So the next time you hear some pundit yap, yap, yapping about bipartisanship and reaching out across the isle…

Remember this feeling. Remember it every time someone tells you that the key to moving forward is to reach across the aisle, show the fine art of decorum in practice, and chat with right-wingers to find out what makes them tick…

And if that’s not enough, remember the damage they’ve done to this country. All the lives lost to their bar stool ignorant prejudices and hate. Jewish worshipers gunned down by a man driven mad by Fox News/Talk Radio hate propaganda. Unarmed black men and teenage boys gunned down in the streets, reporters tear gassed, arrested, jailed, for covering the protests. Remember the children separated from their parents at the border, many of whom will never see their mothers and fathers again. Remember all the broken hearts. Remember how the Trump voters laugh…their chants of Lock Her Up. Look at the faces in the crowds at Trump’s rallies. Happy faces. Exalted faces. Tomorrow belongs to them…

Remember when they speak of reaching out to the other side, as they surely will come January when the new congress is seated. There are times when reaching out isn’t respectful, it is depraved…

 

There’s a scene in the TV mini series The Winds of War, where Pug is with FDR in the president’s private rail car, discussing Pug’s recent trip to Germany. The president tells him he hopes there will be no war, but that the Germans are difficult to understand. And Pug replies “The only thing we need to understand about the Germans is how to beat them.”

That. About our homegrown fascists.

 

 


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
November 9th, 2018

Compatibility Is Not About How Much You Like Each Other

Facebook sometimes torments me with that See Your Memories thing…

That was posted back in 2009, shortly after I’d started visiting Walt Disney World, which is significant and I almost grasped how significant even then. I should apologize to the boyfriend because it turned out not to be him after all. It was my first crush, posting under an alias, trying just then to get me to stay away from crush #3, and then some years later trying to get me to go somewhere else besides WDW on my vacations/road trips because (I’m making a wild guess here…) my presence in his life was causing him some closet angst. And nobody does angst better than Germans.

Hell…they invented the word. 

I figured out who the anonymous commenter here was after he used an odd turn of phrase that he’d also used in comments to my blogposts (there were several) and I pegged him on it and I reckon he got pissed. But by that time we were pretty much pissing each other off. When we weren’t getting all sweetness and light and touchy feely. When there is no middle ground it’s a sign that compatibility may not be within your grasp. Here’s why: 

I’m not an angry kinda guy, and neither is he, but pushing back we tended to amplify each other’s annoyance. Instead of making me take a step back his barbed edged teasing would bring out my inner brat…which would only piss him off more, which would only make my inner brat more bratty. At the end he said I was creeping him out and if I could I’d have laughed right in his face instead of via emails and blog posts and hey are you still using that AOL account and were you this closeted on GeoCities too? It was Boys In The Band level bitchiness. And if he could read this now he’d tell me I was still living in the past and I’d throw back at him that he was still running away from his.

It’s not how two people get along with each other that matters, it’s how they don’t get along. Is the chemistry to retreat to separate corners and cool off or does it hoist the Jolly Roger and get out the knives. Different combinations behave differently in the fire.

Life imitates soap operas sometimes. But I have those comments he posted under an alias in my blog to look at whenever I get to thinking I should have handled it differently. No… I handled it exactly right. If the only way you can speak your mind is behind a mask you are not right for me.

And there is the eternal problem for gay guys of our generation. We couldn’t talk it out with our friends, let alone our families…especially your Bavarian families…

Of course, I couldn’t exactly come out with it to my Baptist folks either…

 

But what all that meant was gay kids back in 1971 couldn’t date. You might be able to manage a secret angst ridden tryst or two, but all that tells you is how compatible your libidos are and a teenager is all hormones and hot blood in an instant anyway. Gay kids need to be able to date just like anyone else, because it’s dating where you find out who is right for you…and who isn’t. Two people can both be good, decent, trustworthy people (the inner damage ex-gay therapy later inflicts on a person notwithstanding…), thoroughly twitterpated, thoroughly hot for each other, and still not be right for each other. And where you really see it isn’t so much in how fondly they gaze into each other’s eyes or how combustible the sex is, but in how combustible their tempers are.  

Wish I’d seen that back in ‘71 what I see now. If gay kids could have dated back then I might have saved myself a lot of…well…angst…


Posted In: Gently Tapping My Pulpit Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
October 26th, 2018

Atheism, Religion And Morality

This article from The New Yorker came across my Facebook news stream the other day.

I’m a subscriber and I need to make some time to sit down and read it. But just seeing this post stirred some thoughts. Specifically, it reminded me of this quote of Penn Jillette’s…

“The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me
from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want.
And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want,
and the amount I want is zero.
 The fact that these people think that if they
didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing,
raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.”

I think there’s probably a little more to it than they don’t act on the every urge of their id because they know God wouldn’t approve. The fact is sometimes God does approve…or they think so anyway…

“You must be eliminated. God doesn’t want you anymore.”
Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, the head of Rwanda’s Seventh-day Adventist Church,
who stood trial for luring Tutsi parishioners to his church and then turning them
over to Hutu militias that slaughtered 2,000 to 6,000 in a single day.

He got ten years for his crime, and upon release from prison had the good decency to die the following month. I don’t think so, I’m an atheist, but it is a bit pleasant to wonder if perhaps God almighty had a word or two with him at the gates of eternity, about who and what He wants. Or even better still, The Ghost of Christmas Present…

“Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant
until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is.
Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die?
It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and
less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.”

There’s someone who knows how to preach. The scenes with The Ghost of Christmas Present have always been for me the highlight of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Because it’s there Scrooge is taken out of his own life and presented with the lives of others, and the way his life has touched theirs. It was not for the better. And now that he has seen it, he has to know it. There is where he begins to walk slowly, tentatively, toward his salvation. Because there was still some small something within him that we all need, lest we fall into the Pit.

Here’s the thing about morality and all of us atheist or not: Whether or not a God Almighty exists, we know our neighbors exist. We know the poor exist. We know the sick and the infirm exit. We know the refugee exists. We know those fleeing from persecution exist. We can see them. We can talk to them. We can listen to their stories. Belief in God stopped making sense to me some decades ago. But I know my neighbors exist. In my entire life I have never once seen faith turn someone away from the Abyss, or melt a heart of solid ice. But I have seen the tiniest little spec of sympathy awaken the better person within, finally, long after I was certain they were done for. I have seen it turn lives around.

It isn’t faith you need, it’s sympathy. Even if it’s just the size of a mustard seed, it will save your soul.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
August 21st, 2018

Responsibility

This came across my Facebook news stream just now…

Let me say first, straight up, I am not setting the religion of my childhood over anyone else’s. For one thing, I’m an atheist now, and for another, even the religion of my childhood would have frowned on that. My bitter Baptist grandmother would say we’re all good for nothing sinners who had better spend every minute of the day repenting and asking for forgiveness…

I was baptized at a pretty young age and I remember mom getting static about it from the other church members. It wasn’t until I got older and learned that one thing setting Baptists apart was we didn’t do that because children aren’t old enough to make those kinds of decisions independently. A kid wants to please parents, family, and teachers. A kid will recite the words without really knowing what they mean, because they’re told to, and they want to please. Yeah we had to go to Sunday School and yeah we took part in communion. But Baptists probably seem weird about all that stuff too. Baptists don’t believe in sacraments. Communion is a remembrance, Baptism a rite of passage, an embrace of the faith. But it has to be wholehearted. Roger Williams, who founded the first Baptist church on American soil once declared that “forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.”

As I said, I’m an atheist now, not because I have any particular grudge against religion, Capital ‘R”, but simply because belief just doesn’t make any sense to me now. Your mileage may vary and that’s fine with me. And given the wave of “Me Too” spreading through evangelical pews these days I’m not even going to try to make Baptists sound any intrinsically better on sexual predators. But I still deeply appreciate how it was a thing, or used to be a thing, how strongly Baptists or at least northern Baptists felt that you can’t compel belief, and you can’t push responsibility onto a child who by nature cannot understand what that responsibility is.

How hard is that for an adult to understand? It just boggles my mind. Perhaps it’s true that predators tend to gravitate to authoritarian religions. Maybe this is something the pews in those faiths need to be especially watchful for. Or perhaps more likely that what Mary Renault once said, that politics and sex are merely reflections of the person within, and that if you’re mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your sex life and it will come out in your politics, when what really matters is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that, is the bigger truth here. The Baptist boy still inside of me can easily understand shrugging off and walking away from a creep like this man, because that boy was taught in the pews that the only authority that matters is the Creator and this man isn’t that. And also, that how others of other faiths can sit still for all this, or not, is up to whatever spirit moves within them.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Responsibility
July 29th, 2018

Loosing Weight Is Less About Food And Mostly About Staying Active

When I initially get my weight down to under 150, and my body shape back to my liking, the effort shifts to not blowing it and blasting back into the 150s again. In the summer that’s usually not a problem because I can walk to work and back, and otherwise stay active. But this summer with all the rain that’s been difficult. The trick is I have to stay active, and not just break completely free of the bland food diet.

This weekend was just gorgeous. Not too hot, bright and sun shiny all day. So I was able to get outside, take my morning and evening walks, and do a bunch of work in between. That allows me to go back to eating food I actually like once a day, and drinking those Godfather margaritas in the evenings again (alcohol calories, like sugar calories, are the worst; they generate fat in an indirect way allowing the body to store the energy in the food you eat instead of using it). Last night I went to Bar Louie’s and had their lovely chicken quesadilla and a godfather margarita. This morning when I got up and weighed myself I’d lost another pound and was down to just over 148. It was the work I’d done on the house.

My ideal set point is between 146 and 148. Any lower then 146 and it becomes the hellish struggle other people talk about when dieting. That’s probably not good for my health. But in my idea set point I have the hourglass and I can get into blue jeans and shirts that look nice on me, hit the water parks and feel good in square cut trunks. I will Not wear those baggy knee length Fred Mertz shorts the kids wear at the beach nowadays.

This morning was so lovely I wanted to take a short road trip somewhere. But the rain has kept me from doing yard maintenance and front and back were overgrown and badly needing attention, and the weather for next week looks like more rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. So today instead of going anywhere I did basically two days of yard work in one, mostly by not taking my usual breaks between stages. Now I’m Beat, but I still have enough energy to take a walk to The Avenue and have a nice end of weekend dinner and drinks and not worry about gaining all the weight I just lost back again.

I’d go out to Bar Louie’s again but the light rail here is broken between Woodberry and Falls Road…something all this rain we’ve been having apparently did to it…and it looks like it’ll be down for a while.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Loosing Weight Is Less About Food And Mostly About Staying Active

The Loneliness Of Older Gay Men

This came across my Facebook news stream yesterday…

Study shows gay men over the age of 45 are more likely to be single

There’s an obvious take on this…that the gay club scene, much like the general pop culture scene, is mostly youth oriented and there are few opportunities for older gay men to have fun and socialize.

But there is a less obvious, until you look at the history of the gay civil rights struggle, reason for this. Probably the biggest reason. Us older gay men lived out most of our young adult lives in a climate of nearly pure unadulterated hate. When our peers could begin taking their own tentative steps into the dating and mating cycle, our hopes and dreams of love were routinely dashed on other people’s fear and loathing. We couldn’t date. Our love lives had to be paced out in the shadows. While the other kids got their proms, we got a few seedy bars and hookup spots. While the other kids got their songs and stories of love and romance and happily ever afters, we got every filthy lie people could think up about homosexuality.

By the time gay liberation made enough difference that a gay kid could ask his first crush to the prom, and dream a realistic dream of going steady, and even marriage, we were middle aged, weighed down and heart weary from all the wounds dug into us when we were young, many of us still too afraid to peek out of the closet for enough time to find a boyfriend. Even those of us who managed to avoid being trapped in a cycle of self loathing and bitterness, still had to find partners from the same peer group that had suffered so much damage.

I could tell you my stories, in fact I have. Most years around Valentine’s Day I repost them here on my blog. Stories of guys I met when I was younger, who made my heart skip a beat.  And they either broke it off with me because they were afraid their families would hate them, or that god would hate them, or hostile heterosexuals would see what was developing between us and sabotaged it because our hopes and dreams had to be their stepping stones to heaven.

So I’m single. I’ve never so much as had a steady boyfriend in my entire life. And I reckon now I’m done with it. I accept it. I will die a solitary gay male. I think I could have been good for somebody, but I will never know. I don’t blame youth culture. I blame the cloud of fear and loathing we all had to live under back then, and which many of my generational peers are still living under.

Below are few links to some of those Valentine’s Day stories I’ve posted here about being a young gay man in the 1970s and 80s looking for love. Read them and don’t wonder why so many older gay males are single.

Do You Believe In Love?

No Rescue For The Rescuers…

The Boy I Met In Church…

 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Loneliness Of Older Gay Men
July 24th, 2018

Magic

I was having a conversation with a fellow guest at Walt Disney World a few years ago. He was a middle aged man there with his wife and kids and we were sitting at the Tune-In Lounge bar. I must have mentioned something about ticket prices, and how I keep renewing my annual pass simply because the cost of Disney without one is even more hugely expensive. He told me a joke that keeps coming to mind.

“They always talk about magic here,” he said. “You want to know how the magic works? It’s like this. You walk into the park with a hundred dollars in your pocket and maybe you walk back out with five. The magic is they make you want to do it again the next day.”

So it is. I just renewed my annual pass, yet again, because pricy as it is, because of the way they structure ticket prices it’s still way less than what only two three day weekends would cost if you bought the tickets alone. I know this because I keep doing the math. Renewing is less than starting fresh. Plus the discount I get for being a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member takes another 200 off. It’s still expensive, but I get another year to wander all around Walt Disney World and not stress over where and when and for how long.

I have a birthday week at Boardwalk coming in September I’m really looking forward to. I’ve enough DVC points I can go and stay in the nice top tier hotels whose rooms have built in kitchens and your own balcony twice a year. I can do Boardwalk in September which gives me walking access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and then I can do Saratoga Springs in March which gives me walking access to Disney Springs. I keep forgetting what a mouseketeer I was way back when, and then I get these little flyers and magazines from both my annual pass and DVC memberships and it all comes back for a little while as I flip through the pages and I start thinking about my next visit.

After I got off the phone with DVC with a confirmation number I felt a bit like a kid again without a care in the world. I’d just spent several hundred bucks. The magic is they’ll make me want to do it again next year.


Posted In: Life Travel
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Magic
July 18th, 2018

Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…
 
I resumed dieting again a couple weeks ago. It’s not the painful thing for me that it is for others. By sticking to a basically bland food intake and no sugary treats I can get back down to a weight and shape I feel good about, and which my body seems to naturally like anyway. Just today managed to get the hourglass is back. It feels nice. Now I need to stick to the plan for at least another couple weeks, but seeing this reappear is a big ego boost and encouragement because I can start feeling good about my appearance again. The age lines in my face notwithstanding. It’s important to me, solitary though I am. Maybe more so precisely because that. 
 
So…from the neck down anyway (people who look like that…) it’s…pretty good again. Gay otter body though it is. I need to stick to the plan for a while longer so it takes for the rest of the summer and autumn. You get to a point where your body is accustomed to a summer intake and then I’m always apologizing to the servers when I go out to eat for all the food I left on the plate, unless I remember to ask for small portions ahead of time. I can maintain a 148-150 weight and the hourglass pretty easily through the summer and fall. It’s when the holidays come around and everyone is waving cupcakes and cookies at me that it all comes unraveled. The past decade or so I’ve been in a cycle of gaining waistline during the winter holidays and shedding it in the spring. This year I just didn’t feel like it…for some reason. But somehow…somehow…I managed to roust myself out of it and decide liking how I look was worthwhile again, even if only to myself. 
 
I’m really not a very big guy and I never needed a lot of calories. What happened was I started making a good income and suddenly I could escape the bland diet of my youth. And then the waistline grew, the hourglass vanished, and appallingly my chin started disappearing along with it. I’ve written before about how I was at 160 heading for 170 and 33 inch bluejeans heading for 34s. I just put it down to middle age…mom was a thin little thing herself until she hit her 40s and I figured that was my fate too. But then I reconnected with my high school crush and he asked for a photo of me, and I started looking at what I was eating and adding up the calories and it shocked me. 
 
Call it empty vanity if you like, but being single and at the end of any possibility of dating at my age, it matters that I can still look in a mirror and like what I see. 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…
July 17th, 2018

Desert Hiking Safety Kit

There’s a joke I heard once on the Johnny Carson show late one night. It was one of those 1960s lounge lizard sort of jokes and Ed McMahon was telling it. So it went: one way to never get lost in the desert is to pack along stuff you’d need to make a good martini. If you find suddenly that you’ve lost your way, just unpack the martini fixing and start making yourself a good martini. Sure enough someone will come along, tap you on the shoulder and tell you no, no, that’s not the way to make a martini.

As I said, a lounge lizard joke. But nine year old Baptist kid me still thought it was funny, and I still do. You can alter the joke in many ways and still get the same punchline. Take your laptop computer with you out into the desert. If you get lost take it out and begin typing out a vigorous defense or brutal criticism of The Last Jedi. Sure enough someone will come along, tap you on the shoulder, and begin arguing with you about it.

Which brings me to the perfect margarita. For me that’s what I first heard was called a Godfather Margarita. I first tasted one years ago at a place in DC called Alero. It was Wonderful! From then on it was my go-to margarita. But all I knew about it from the menu was it had Amaretto in it.

For years off and on I’ve been trying to figure out how to make one at home, and failing miserably each time. Several weeks ago, at Bar Louie’s, on a hunch I asked the barmaid if she could make me a margarita but swap out Cointreau for Amaretto. She did…and that was it! Perfect! Good thing I was taking the light rail that day.

So I went back to work, fiddling with classic margarita recipes, and failing miserably. Nothing I did at home seemed to work. When I tried just swapping out the Cointreau for Amaretto they all tasted horrible.

Long story short, what I finally figured out is most bars don’t make you a classic margarita, which according to the Received Knowledge is just tequila, lime juice and either simple syrup or agave. They’re using sweet and sour mix instead because that’s what they have mixed up for making drinks. So I tried using sweet and sour sauce and it clicked. Finally. My perfect margarita.

Here it is:

2 parts tequila. I use Tres Generaciones blanco, but any good top shelf tequila will do. I am convinced now that the reason tequila has such a bad reputation in this country is Cuervo. No Steely Dan, the Cuervo Gold does not make this night a wonderful thing. Treat your fling a little better and they might come back for more.

1 part Amaretto. Note: Disaronno is NOT Amaretto. They seem to be really good and obtaining shelf space at the liquor store, but they don’t make Amaretto. Amaretto is made with almond infusion. They can’t even call it Amaretto on the label anymore, probably because some Italian rule says unless it’s made with almonds it can’t be called that. I use Lazzaroni, and drink that by itself on the rocks from time to time and it’s Very nice. Try a real Amaretto once and you’ll see the difference immediately. Way more flavorful.

1 1/2 parts sweet and sour sauce.

Ice.

Combine in shaker, shake well. Serve over ice.

Is this a strong drink? Yes it is. So…no driving afterward, please. Have one at home with a nice cheese plate.

And if enough people object that this is not the way to make a good margarita, I will definitely take the fixings with me when I go hiking in the desert.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Desert Hiking Safety Kit

LP To Digital…Not As Hard As It Use To Be

I posted yesterday complaining that so many of my favorite classical music LPs still weren’t available in digital form that I could listen to on my iPod. Yes, I still use my iPod Classic, as well as my iPhone to listen to music. The iPod comes in very handy for when I’m just doing household chores, or I just want to disconnect from the internet tubes for a while and just listen to music, and work down in the art room. It’s been years since I last attempted to make a digital copy of one of my LPs, largely because the software I was using only ran on an older PowerPC Macbook, and had a limited number of exports to MP3  format you could make without buying the premium version, which by the time I’d decided to go ahead with that the software had been orphaned.

So the other day I finally began looking around for another program I could use, and pretty quickly found Audacity…

 

The appeal here is this software runs on Windows, Macs, and Linux, and I was really wanting something that would run on Linux because I had that running on a small laptop that would have been perfect for parking next to the living room stereo and connecting it up to the output jacks on the Dynaco PAS-2. I still have a source for new stylus for the Shure Type III I so I can theoretically get a good signal from any of my LPs that are still in good shape. What’s nice about Audacity is the editor is pretty easy to use and lets you mark each individual track on an LP and export them all at once with the track names as filenames.  So I can just set everything up, hit record and let the LP play, flip it over to side 2 without needing to stop the recording, then when it’s done I can disconnect the laptop, take it back upstairs to the office and edit out the dead spots and identify and tack on the track names, and then export it all to the directory I have on my central store, and later import everything into iTunes.

There are some nice bells and whistles…a level normalizer, noise filters and such. My Kenwood KD-600 turntable is pretty well isolated, and the LP I copied over last night was in good shape, so I didn’t any of the noise filters but the level normalizer worked well. The only hassle was finding the right settings to get Audacity to recognize my USB input device and the headphone jack on the laptop. Hassling with I/O devices is something you just expect with Linux. But at least I didn’t have to recompile anything to get it done.

I have a waiting list of LPs I need to do this with. But I’m happy. I had a surprising amount of music I could just not listen to any other way but on the stereo, or a bunch of old and very worn out cassettes and I don’t have a Walkman anymore, just the iPods for taking music with me. I grew up in a series of apartments mom and I shared, and time was if I wanted to listen to music and not disturb the neighbors I either had to wait for them to leave their apartments or play it on the headphones…I had a nice pair of Koss Pro 4aa headphones once upon a time…and that meant I was always tethered in some way to the stereo, literally at times. When the first Walkman came out I was immediately enchanted, but couldn’t afford one. But they eventually came down in price as other makers piled on and I remember how lovely it was to just be able to stroll around in a comfortable cocoon of music that would travel with me Everywhere. When the first iPods came out I was hooked immediately, and that quickly led to me buying digital copies of new music, where before it would have been an LP, plus all the copies of music I already had that I’d worn out from playing over and over.

In a way I’m kinda glad to see the LP coming back into vogue. LPs, when properly engineered and played back on good equipment sound wonderful. I’ve bought some new pressings and they’re, I’m here to tell you, generally Much better in quality than when I had to buy back in the day. But the LP tethers you to the stereo too, and once you have tasted freedom…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on LP To Digital…Not As Hard As It Use To Be
July 16th, 2018

Remember When The Berlin Wall Fell…And You Thought The Cold War Was Over…?

This, stunning editorial, in today’s New York Times, saying things about the president of  the United States I would never in my darkest nightmares would have expected to see. Not even when Nixon fired Archibald Cox have I been so afraid for my country as I am right now, right this moment…

Trump, Treasonous Traitor

The president fails to protect the country from an ongoing attack.

Words like this are not simply a matter of anger and hyperbole any longer, but acknowledgements of the reality we now face. Whether this man was in any way directly connected to the Russian attack on our elections is effectively moot. The evidence that such attacks did happen is clear, convincing, and overwhelming. Whether this man is now actively engaged in a cover up of that attack is also effectively moot. He is by any salient measure not defending the country from that attacker, he is instead befriending it. And he is the Commander in Chief.

This is an incredible, unprecedented moment. America is being betrayed by its own president. America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it.

And there is evidence coming to light that some in congress, a body with the the best most effective power to halt the course this man has set this nation upon, have also been compromised by this enemy.

We are in dangerous times. Very, very dangerous. One or two more steps into this darkness, and there will be no going back…


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July 15th, 2018

Searching For Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor
Thing about classical music is there is so much of it out there on LPs that never seems to have been migrated to digital and I can’t find it on either Apple or Amazon music. This is particularly true of orchestral transcriptions of piano music. Since that’s a…let’s call it a “cover” like the rock kids do…of some original piece that the composer never intended to be orchestrated, there is no “standard” version of it and everyone does it a little differently.
 
Case in point: There’s a really evocative Chopin piece…his Prelude in E Minor, that I first heard on an album of “covers” of classical film music. This one was a cover of music played in Five Easy Pieces. So…a cover of a cover. I fell in love with it instantly, but then I went to get a copy of the original version and discovered it’s a solo piano piece, and the version I heard was so breathtaking, with the piano and string orchestra basically doing a call and response to each other, I just could not get into the original solo piano version. I still can’t.
 
But the version I heard on that LP, is the only version like it. I just looked around online for it and I can’t find it in any other form but the LP. And the other orchestral versions of it I just reviewed are, IMO horribly over melodramatic. That piece is a very emotionally strong piece, it dives deep into a solitary place inside of you, but it needs its original simplicity to be that. Transcribing it for orchestra is a delicate maneuver. Too many heavy hands have taken it on and ruined it. Though I’ll allow that Stokowski’s full orchestra transcription is very good for a dramatic interpretation. He’s like…the exception to everything in classical music.
 
So…just now I played the version I have on LP, it is still in very good shape, and I’ve been meaning to get updated LP to digital software because I have a Shostakovich symphony I’ve also been meaning to transfer over…so…


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Back On The Diet
It’s late in the year for it, but I’ve been dieting to get my shape back into a form where I can get back into all my summer shirts, and look reasonably well in my swim trunks when I get to Walt Disney World this September, and hit the water parks. For some reason I’ve been disinterested in my appearance lately. But now I want to get the hourglass back, and shed some body mass. It’s not the painful thing for me it is for many, at least not in the being hungry all the time sense. It’s painful in the Very Boring Food sense. Basically three rules:
 
Firstly, no extra sugar. That means no cookies, candy bars, cupcakes. Also cut back on the alcohol. None of this is a problem when I’m also trying to save money for a big vacation anyway. This is probably the single biggest thing that makes a difference, and initially the hardest to get started on. Sugar is intensely addictive, and you don’t notice that until you try to cut back on it. But after about two weeks your body adjusts and isn’t demanding it anymore. So get through those first two weeks and it gets Much easier for the rest of it. I’ve found when the sugar withdrawal gets bad in that first two weeks, just taking a short walk kills it right away.
 
Secondly, and this takes some diligence, just simply don’t eat until I’m actually hungry. A friend once remarked that a lot of eating is out of boredom. It’s also habit. Home from work, time to eat. 12 noon, time to eat. Bedtime, time for a snack. Just don’t eat until you get hungry. The surprising thing, to me at least, is that most of the time I’m used to eating, when I stop to think am I hungry now, I’m not.
 
When I do get hungry, another bit of diligence is to stop eating when I’m not hungry anymore. That takes some paying attention to it, and a lot of unlearning all the scolding I got when I was a kid to eat everything on my plate. Sure, when I’m a growing boy that was probably for the best. But now I’m a 60-something who doesn’t need all those calories.
 
So stop eating when not hungry anymore. But that not only takes thinking about it while I’m eating, but also not eating the kinds of food that make you want more because it’s so delicious. Which brings me to Three..
 
…going back on the bland foods I grew up with. Here’s where pain lives. It’s so damn boring.
 
But it works. Just a week and a half into it now and I’ve lost 4 and a half pound already, and I’m not killing myself over it. Just following the rules above. Another week of it and I’ll be back in my 31s, and getting into the summer shirts that fit nicely. By September I should be able to hit the water parks with my hourglass back and only be squeamish about showing my corpse pale whiteness and gay otter body hair. One year I tried a spray on tan (seriously) to see if that helped me feel better about it. It did somewhat, but it also felt like I was faking it. When it started fading it made me look like I had some sort of skin disease. Now given the hilarious spray tan from the bargain tanning salon in the strip mall behind the county landfill now occupying the White House (I keep waiting for some reporter to shout back at him when he calls them fake news, “Fake? Like your tan?”), I will probably never do that again.

This isn’t just about vanity. There’s a health issue here I need to watch. My body tends not to accumulate fat around the hips and waist, so much as around the upper body. So I’m told, that’s a risk sign for heart disease and stroke. This is why my nicest summer shirts don’t fit now, because of just that slight bit of extra body mass around the upper chest and armpits. I loose that and they fit nicely. But it takes about four to six weeks of this diet to get there, because the body loses it randomly. A little off the top…a little around the waist…it’s like it flips a coin to decide where it comes from.


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July 6th, 2018

A Hug From Beyond The Grave…

Something to understand about the relationship between mom and I, that I need to get out here, before I go into what I just discovered digging through the stuff of hers’ I bought home after the funeral. After she passed away, people in the small western Virginia town she retired to, folks I didn’t know from Adam, would see me walking along, come up to me, and tell me what a ray of sunshine she was, and how sad they were to have her gone. It really helped.

And it was no act. I grew up with it. That was her. And I never doubted that she loved me. She really was a ray of sunshine everywhere she went. So whenever I misbehaved, and she got angry, and the ray of sunshine got all dark and stormy, it was Scary. Because you kept forgetting that was in there.

Mom knew her only child was gay, long before she retired, decades probably, before she passed away. But we never spoke of it. Partly that was reticence on both our parts to discuss anything related to sex. There’s a Monty Python routine that begins “Are you embarrassed easily? I am. But don’t worry, it’s all part of growing up, and being British.” Also part of being an American Yankee Baptist. Easily embarrassed would be an understatement. In my old age I can just let it slide. But in my adolescence, just when a boy needs to talk these things out with the parent unit(s), neither mom nor I could come anywhere near the subject without getting the terminal squeamishes and running the hell away.

But there was also this: she could see it coming. I did an episode of A Coming Out Story about this. With Bruce, it was always about the other boys. You might have thought there were no girls at all in his world. Well of course there were…his friends all had, or were looking for girlfriends. But Bruce was oblivious. Mom would comment later that she knew the names of all my male friends, but I never once mentioned any of the girls unless prompted.

She knew. In my mid thirties mom had to go into the hospital for gallbladder surgery. Back then it was a very invasive procedure, unlike today. A patient had to recover for at least a day, maybe two, after surgery. One afternoon I went to visit mom in her hospital room. She had another women as a roommate, I think they were also there for the same procedure. As I walked in I was greeted by the other woman, and her visiter, a female friend. A few moments of conversation and I could tell both women were friendly, intelligent, and liberal. Mom was getting along well with them both.

Somehow, a conversation about the torrent of political junk mail started. Reagan was running for his second term, and I, a staunch democrat by then, was baffled that I was getting so much mail from the GOP asking for donations. I related one of them…a flyer allegedly from George Shultz saying he and Reagan “need you Bruce” to fight off the democrats.

The two ladies burst into hysterical laughter. I wasn’t getting why the joke was That funny…but yes, it Was a bit hilarious they’d send that to a democrat. Then the roommate managed, between laughs, to get out “…and they sent that to a homosexual…they Need Him…they Need Him…” Uproarious laughter ensued, while mom and I sat next to each other, smiling back at them amicably and pretending we didn’t hear that.

Eventually the ladies noticed we weren’t laughing along with them…gathered themselves together…and decided it was time for them to take a nice refreshing walk. As the roommate passed me on her way out, she put a reassuring hand on my shoulder, as if to say “It’ll be alright kid…”

After they were gone, mom and I immediately changed the subject.

Mom…what sort of conversations have you been having with your roommate about me…that you won’t have with me…? 

Time passes…the universe expands… One day mom retired, and moved to a place in south western Virginia, to be near her cousin and their family, and to live in mountains much like the Pennsylvania ones she grew up in. For reasons I still don’t completely grok, that Pennsylvania side of the family held some kind of grudge against her all her adult life, after she married dad.

By then I was very much the out and proud gay American, but I still couldn’t talk about it with mom. Several times just before she moved away I tried to broach the subject. And the ray of sunshine would get all dark and stormy and I’d back the hell off. So I thought to try a different tack. I subscribed her to the PFLAG newsletter. A thing I’m certain lots of gay kids have done over the decades, as a way of laying the groundwork for officially coming out to a parent. Some months later I went for a visit, and after the usual joyful greetings and catching up on the news, mom pulled out a copy of the PFLAG newsletter, showed it to me, and asked if I knew why she was getting it.

Well…she knew damn well why. But the ray of sunshine was all dark and stormy just then and I wimped out and said I didn’t know. And she very ostentatiously put it in the trash.

Time passess…the universe expands… Here I am in my basement going through things of hers, deciding what to keep and what to discard. It’s one of the tasks I’ve set for myself this stay at home vacation, in an effort to reduce the amount of Stuff I have in the house, preparing myself for old age, when I might have to rent part of my house out, or move to a cheaper part of the country to live, like mom did. But I can’t be moving to somewhere they hate Teh Gay.

I have her diaries now…I know that she knew…I know that she stressed over it considerably. To her dying day she was a deeply religious woman. In the Baptist way she never tried to force me to go back to church, but I always knew she wanted me to and was sad I didn’t believe anymore. I tried in every way I could to make her proud of me, but there were some places I could not go. To church was one of them. Into the arms of a woman was another. Just a few days before she passed away we shared our last phone conversation, and she asked if I was coming for a visit soon. I said I would try, but I didn’t like being on the road by myself much anymore. “I know…” she replied. “I wish you weren’t so lonely. I wish you had someone…” A pause. “It doesn’t have to be a girl…”

And of course we both immediately changed the subject.

And here I am going through her things. Much of it I just simply stuffed into these Rubbermaid storage containers and brought back with me, and I haven’t really gone through any of it in detail, except for what I needed to dig up to settle her affairs.

And I found this.

It’s the issue with the “Mother Talks Back to the Bigots” text that was flying around the Internet in the Spring of 2000 when the election was starting to heat up, and GOP antigay flyers were flooding the mail in the swing states. I’m certain the pulpits were thumping down there in Southwestern Virginia…and the talk radio screamers. Mom didn’t want her boy to be gay, but she loved him very much nonetheless. And this was what she would have read, and didn’t throw in the trash but kept in her files, for me to find all these years later…

“I don’t know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn’t put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse…”

Glad I decided to go through this stuff finally, instead of just putting it off until I was in my grave too, and it fell to someone else to throw it all away.


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I Get My Best Ideas From Homophobes…(continued)

Further refinement of the sketch I posted the other day.  I’m experimenting with Procreate’s charcoal effect brushes. This was mostly done with the Willow charcoal stick. The boots were done with the medium charcoal block. I used the dry ink brush to ink over the technical pencil sketch lines.

I’m actually coming to like this mode of sketching and drawing now. It’s still a little clumsy to me because I’m still having to break concentration every now and then to find a functionality I need right then. And the tactile feel of drawing on glass still seems very weird. I’m never quite sure then I put the stylus down where the mark will appear. But I’m getting more use to it and for a hunt and peck draftsman like myself it’s very nice to be able to draw, erase, draw, erase, draw, erase, and not worry about digging a hole in the paper.

 

…and once again…Thank You Ted, for the Motivation I really needed!


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Get My Best Ideas From Homophobes…(continued)
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