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May 29th, 2023

A Vacation Among Disney People

The workers here (Cast Members, as they’re called) really get into it…

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
May 18th, 2023

Getting Ready For Gay Days…


This happened in Orlando the other day.

It’s just a couple weeks to Gay Days in WDW and this is one reason why I’m going there with my cameras. Mostly I just want to enjoy the parks, and being able, finally, to go whenever I want now that I’m retired. I think I want a Disney weekend…okay, let’s just go…no need anymore to request vacation time… It’s been something I was looking forward to. The park reservation system and the fact that it’s difficult for single diners to make dining reservations at my favorite places made me question if I was ever going back again. But I think I’ve worked through all that now. I have my annual pass again and selling my DVC points gets me back to making stays in the basic and mid tier park resorts where I can make reservations on the fly whenever I want, which is nearly impossible at a DVC resort. So I’m back in my comfort zone there.

But Gay Days this year is a special case given all the hate mongering going on down in Florida. So to have some Mouseketeer fun with all the other red shirts in the parks isn’t just a good time this year, it’s an act of defiance. Yes, we are Disney people too. And I want to show my support for Disney since they’re taken a lot of static for supporting us. But also, I want to document what is happening down there, in my own way, with my own eyes.

(As a side note, I’m working on getting another photo gallery up here of the stuff I took during the Love In Action and the Love Won Out protests.)

Security is something you almost never even see at WDW, except at the park entrances where screenings and bag checks take place. Once inside the park you might think it isn’t even there at all. But I’ve seen it appear…suddenly out of nowhere…once.

It was in front of La Cava del Tequila inside the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT World Showcase. Someone, probably having had a little too much to drink, got upset at the wait to get in (it’s a pretty small bar with only a few tables), and started causing a loud angry scene, and so I was told later got physical with another guest. He was instantly surrounded and spirited offsite.

And it’s easy for their security to come out of nowhere because there are usually dozens of hidden entrance/exits for the cast members to come and go so they can go about their work. Walt Disney wanted all the mechanics of making the parks work kept out of sight so as not to spoil the illusions he was creating. Magic Kingdom is built on top of a network of tunnels, they call them utilidors. And everywhere in the parks are scattered little out of the way doors and passages marked “Cast Members Only”. And the really interesting part of it is nearly none of them are hidden in a way you might expect. Instead, the scenery is such that your eyes are always directed away from where they are.

And according to a certain someone I used to know who worked there, cameras are everywhere.

So I’m hoping that first weekend in June their security is on their top game. I want everyone to have a good time. I will be very satisfied if the only photos I get are of happy Gay Days Mouseketeers. Because that is a message people still need to see as a counterpoint to all the lies that are surely coming before, during and after the event.

As you can see there, outside the parks it’s probably going to be brutal. I may try to get a few shots of it, but I will have to be very Very careful.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
May 16th, 2023


The last time I felt like pouring my heart out on Facebook, when I was feeling like this, I got told basically to shut up. And back when I vented/brain dumped here on this life blog after my high school crush spit in my face I probably lost a few readers. I know a really nice guy who used to give me pingbacks stopped doing that then. Oh well. I reckon I’ll keep wearing my heart on my blog, if not Facebook, because otherwise I’ll just…well…nobody wants to hear that.

The Royal Farms on The Avenue plays what they assume is music to keep the local drug dealers and their customers from loitering. I object to classical music being used in this way, since it’s a favorite musical form, and I wouldn’t mind having it piped all along The Avenue. But apparently it works. Lately though, they’ve begun playing “easy listening” tunes.

My head is a mess…I probably won’t go to Howard’s memorial after all because I can barely motivate myself to leave the house to get the daily steps in my cardiologist wants. At the moment, I just don’t care. But on the theory that a good walk has always been good for my head, I go out. I try to stay out of my favorite bars when it’s like this because even my fondest cocktails would only drag my body down (it’s getting worse the older I get) and do nothing for my head.

So I walk. And walking past Royal Farms I hear this…

The summer wind came blowin’ in
From across the sea
It lingered there so warm and fair
To walk with me…

…and I knew I had it in my iTunes library because I’d bought when I heard it on Pandora long long ago in a gloom far far away. So I called it up and walked home with it playing.

And I had a memory flash of that really embarrassing gay bar scene in Advise and Consent. Vito Russo described it thusly:

The screen’s first official gay bar, overloaded to create the desired effect of otherworldliness in a previously hidden subculture, is nevertheless quite tame compared to the more flamboyant versions of later films. As Anderson enters the dimly lit bar, he is confronted by three glaring decidedly “arch” men, one of whom holds a cigarette grandly aloft. He walks past the three men, down a narrow hallway and into a room in which colored spotlights punctuate the darkness, revealing scenes of men sitting together ay candlelit tables. The music coming from the juke box, features the voice of Frank Sinatra.

Love alone…
I have sung a loser’s song alone.
Let me hear a voice
A secret voice
A voice that will say
Come to me
And be what I need you to be…

Anderson, visibly shaken, backs away and runs for the door…

Ever since I read The Celluloid Closet and even more later when I worked myself up to watching that movie, I’ve always felt it a cheap ready made Hollywood stereotype that gay bars had to have a lot of “arch” men with cigarettes held grandly aloft listening to Frank Sinatra. I figured “arch cigarette smoker” was a job listing for extras. “Must know how to hold a cigarette like a homosexual.” I had a mental image of studio property managers getting a script that required a gay bar scene, dragging out of the warehouse a juke box with several dozen copies of that same single Sinatra song listed in the menu. The sound men would have a copy in their library next to The Wilhelm scream.

Wait…don’t go…maybe the juke box has some Village People too!

And there I was, at night, in Baltimore, miserable, alone walking home listening to Sinatra. I’m the lonely old gay troll I swore I’d never become. All that was missing was the cigarette. But I was never able to get one of those into my lungs. Maybe all I need is to learn how to hold one. Archly.

And guess who sighs his lullabies
Through nights that never end…

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

The More Things Stay The Same The More They Stay The Same

This came across my Twitter feed today (Yes, I still lurk there…)…

Yeah…it surprised me too considering it’s from the New York Times. That is, the same New York Times that just a few weeks ago was still carrying water for the TERF battle against transgender people, and threatened staff reporters who signed a letter publically protesting their anti-trans coverage with write-ups in their employee files. What has changed? Who knows? Who cares? It’s the New York Times. Not just the gold, but the bitcoin standard of journalism.

Some of us still remember how for decades the New York Times refused to refer to gay and lesbian people with any other word but “homosexual”, long, long after other media began using “gay” and “lesbian”. They have standards to uphold. What are those standards? That’s not news that’s fit to print.

But this…this speaks perfectly to how cut-and-paste the right wing attacks on transgender people map to their attacks on gay and Lesbian Americans decades ago. This is Ex Gay claptrap repurposed and aimed at transgender rights. Back in the day they threw up “I Questioned Homosexuality” billboards…not in the gayborhoods across America where you might think they’d want to spread the Good News but in the swing states where family and friends of gay and lesbian Americans might need an excuse to put a knife into their neighbor’s hearts. They founded PFOX (Parents and Friends Of eXgays) as a counter to PFLAG, and wherever gay people told their stories in the media, PFOX demanded ex gays be equally represented. They created professional psychological shell organizations that invented diagnoses out of thin air, like Same Sex Attraction Disorder. Get it? Get it? We’re not gay, we’re SSAD!

So it goes. Now hear the same old song and dance with a few transgender verses added. Nothing is new in the human gutter, it only has a new coat of paint.

Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 14th, 2023

He Inspires Me!

Saw this in my Twitter feed this morning…

…and I was inspired to reply thusly:

I’m at the point now where ridicule is the best I can get out of me toward thugs like him these days, and it might as well be fun. I kind of modeled it on how NAFO responds to Russian disinformation on the Internet Tubes, but with Disney characters instead of the dog because if anything DeSantis’ temper tantrum at Disney really shows what a weak little bullying prick he is.

Posted In: Art
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 13th, 2023

All The News That’s Fit To Print…Except When It Angers Religious Extremists

[NOTE: And another that languished in my drafts folder…again probably because I was having Trump Overload Fatigue.] 

[ALSO: I’ve added to it because CNN’s new right wing CEO let Trump have another “town hall” and it looks like the media is going to let it happen all over again…]


Via Digby…

The coup lawyer’s extremist past

Here’s a thread about a NY Times profile of John Eastman, the loon who tried to get Mike Pence to overthrow the government on January 6th:

So it appears that @maggieNYT & @nytmike wrote a profile of John Eastman, Trump’s coup lawyer, but didn’t recount his long record of extremist activity.

Since they omitted this crucial information, here’s a short thread of what’s missing in this article

Eastman is anything but a “little-known but respected conservative lawyer.”

He has a decades-long history leading hate groups, especially those against LGBT people. He is the chairman of the “National Organization for Marriage,” a highly funded group opposing marriage equality

Eastman has called homosexuality “barbarism” and said on video that he supported a Ugandan law that made homosexual acts a life-sentence offence.

Eastman’s NOM group is intimately affiliated with the “World Congress of Families,” a radical anti-LGBT group funded by Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

You should go read the whole thing, especially for the links. He’s a read piece of work. But for some reason the Times considered that not fit to print. Alas, they’re not alone in that. It seems there is an entire subculture our commercial news media regards as off limits for any sort of serious examination and reportage:

Eastman’s actions urging Mike Pence to impose Trump dictatorship on the U.S. are part of a huge tradition of Christianist thought which obsesses over dying for Jesus and “spiritual warfare” with liberal Christians, atheists, and Muslims

This tradition has received almost zero coverage in American media because to report on it and to disclose that its adherents are in the very highest echelons of Republican power instantly destroys the “access journalism” that has so corrupted our media.

This is something most voters still do not understand about what the republican party has become since it turned away from its focus on business and “free enterprise” and became the party of culture war (though I argued previously that it was in fact always that…). And that near total ignorance of the danger to our country and to the American dream of liberty and justice for all is entirely on our commercial news media that have decided not to report on it, out of some notion journalism requires staying neutral regardless of what it is you’re reporting on.

That’s something this guy was loath to do, back when journalists weren’t afraid of or in bed with fascists…

There surged around me an evil-smelling stink, men and boys reached out to touch me. They were in rags and the remnants of uniforms. Death already had marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over the mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were ploughing….

[I] asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovaks. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description.

They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book — nothing more — nothing about who had been where, what he had done or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totaled 242 — 242 out of 1200, in one month.

As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children — enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts….

We went to the hospital. It was full. The doctor told me that 200 had died the day before. I asked the cause of death. He shrugged and said: “tuberculosis, starvation, fatigue and there are many who have no desire to live. It is very difficult.” He pulled back the blanket from a man’s feet to show me how swollen they were. The man was dead. Most of the patients could not move.

I asked to see the kitchen. It was clean. The German in charge….showed me the daily ration. One piece of brown bread about as thick as your thumb, on top of it a piece of margarine as big as three sticks of chewing gum. That, and a little stew, was what they received every 24 hours. He had a chart on the wall. Very complicated it was. There were little red tabs scattered through it. He said that was to indicate each 10 men who died. He had to account for the rations and he added: “We’re very efficient here.”

We proceeded to the small courtyard. The wall adjoined what had been a stable or garage. We entered. It was floored with concrete. There were two rows of bodies stacked up like cordwood. They were thin and very white. Some of the bodies were terribly bruised; though there seemed to be little flesh to bruise. Some had been shot through the head, but they bled but little.

I arrived at the conclusion that all that was mortal of more than 500 men and boys lay there in two neat piles. There was a German trailer, which must have contained another 50, but it wasn’t possible to count them. The clothing was piled in a heap against the wall. It appeared that most of the men and boys had died of starvation; they had not been executed.

But the manner of death seemed unimportant. Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died there during the last 12 years. Thursday, I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?

I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it, I have no words. If I have offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I’m not in the least sorry….

This is an excerpt from The Inglorius Padre Steve’s World blog. You should go read the whole post for more context as to why Murrow was there as early on as he was. It was Eisenhower who called for Journalists to visit Buchenwald and document the horrors. Paton saw it and also wrote about what he saw. But it is Murrow’s I Could Not Care Less If My Reporting This Offends You that sticks with me these days.

Can you imagine the New York Times and CNN both-sidesing it? Just a few years ago I could not. Now I can.

And this has been another edition of Why I Cancelled My Subscription To The New York Times And You Should Too… 

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!

Not Happiness But Justice

[NOTE: Another one in the drafts folder I didn’t publish for some reason. Probably because the whole thing back then was making me so heartsick I didn’t want to bother.]

In my free time I’m reading a New Yorker profile of the new talk radio star, Dan Bongino, and there’s a passage quoting him as saying to his radio audience that

The day after Bongino riffed on the Arizona audit, he told podcast listeners that liberals are happy when conservative vaccine skeptics get sick. “These people want you dead” he said, and offered a call to action.

But “happy” isn’t the word for it. More like the hard cold satisfaction you get when a guilty verdict is announced. Justice was served.

Maybe that’s too cold for some and I appreciate that. I would have said the same at the beginning of this plague. It’s always confusion and fright at first when catastrophe strikes. But not now. The facts are in and have been for quite a while. We have the means to save lives we didn’t have back in 1918. But now people are demanding their neighbors not avail themselves of vaccines that can save their lives as a test of tribal loyalty, and that is a level of human depravity I never thought I’d ever witness.

MAGA antivaxxers are actively spreading lies about the vaccines and the science behind them. We see the stories over and over again of people reporting pressure not to get vaccinated from republican family and friends. It’s become politics. Now even Trump can’t convince them to protect themselves. And the hospitals are filling up with unvaccinated patients and that’s making it difficult for hospitals to take care of other people.

We could be mostly out of this by now if not for them. I’m out of sympathy and I’m out of fucks to give. If that’s happiness then why doesn’t it feel like that? I hate every part of this.

It’s times like this I can see my bitter Baptist grandmother in me. The one constant thing I hear said about her on that side of the family is she was a hard woman. As if that excused that stoney cold heart of hers. I can be that sometimes and no I don’t like being that and no I’m not happy. But as the saying goes, you made your bed now lay in it. Maybe that one person you might have convinced not to get protection if this hadn’t happened to you will live now.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!

I Am Actually Pretty Good At This Stuff. . .

[NOTE: For some reason I never published this one and it sat in my drafts folder until now. I might have put it up on my Facebook page, but given the formatting here I don’t think so. Anyway…it’s worth putting out here. I am actually pretty good at this stuff…but I’m a year retired now and I want to move on…]

I’m going through a bunch of old documentation in preparation for retiring in a couple months. My project manager quite reasonably wants me to basically do a brain dump and put it all out where they can access it after I’m gone. It’s bringing back a lot of very happy memories. And also not quite so happy ones. I created a bunch of custom software for them that I am still intensely proud of, that just got trashcanned, in some instances even before I could release it for general use.

That happens in this trade. One of my contract jobs before coming to Space Telescope had me working on an interactive tutorial for Microsoft Office products, that had already been superseded by newer versions. When I came onboard I wondered how long the contract was going to last, given that we were working on a product for teaching users how to use a version of Office that was already obsolete. And sure enough, about a week later the project was cancelled. I felt really bad for the employees of the business that had been working on it for months before I was brought in. All that work…all that time out of their lives…just out the window.

I’ve had several moments of that working at Space Telescope. It happens and I was told not to worry. Some way more experienced developers than I had it happen to them multiple times. The environment changes out from under the work you’re doing and you have to throw a bunch of stuff away and start over. At least in this business you can often reuse some of the old code. But nonetheless, it still makes you doubt yourself. I wasn’t good enough…

As it happens, Facebook this morning showed me the following memory…a post I put up while going through my old DayTimer pages (I used to use DayTimer’s 24 hour pages as a work diary) about something that happened to me from back before I came to the Institute. Out of everything that ever happened to me while plying this trade, this one jobsite holds for me both the best of my times, and the absolute worst. I have never hated working for a company, and its managers, more than I hated everything about working there. Yet it proved to me just how good I am at doing this. I solved a problem that none of them could figure out, and I did it with only paper print outs of the code.

I should have posted this here too, instead of only on Facebook. But I’ll do it now. Because I need to remember this going forward. I am actually pretty good at this stuff…

Condensing the last of my Daytimer pages…I’m glancing over the entries for what was one of the worst contracts I had…the two weeks I spent at a big insurance company not far from where I live. The story I got was they’d just undergone some massive layoffs and the environment there was bitter, resentful and hostile toward contractors. After a week of enduring loud, angry shouting matches among the managers there I was telling my agency to get me the hell out of there.

In the two weeks I was there they never got my network account properly set up. For a few days after clearing it with the manager there, I brought my personal laptop in to get some work done, but then one of their lobby guards tried to confiscate it and I pitched a fit that got one of the directors called down and I was allowed to take my laptop home and from that time on I did my work with paper printouts of the code I was supposed to be debugging. I am proud to this day that I was able to pin down several reasons why their software was blowing up using just those paper printouts.

Here’s some of my Daytimer notes from the battlefield…

– Resolved GPF problem on external program module. Share must be running or program will GPF when initialized.

– When recommended that install be changed + test for presence of share be coded into the program, suggestion by **** that I just wanted to spend their money on useless trivia.

– Hostile toward suggestion that GPF condition be trapped for and handled gracefully. “We could be dealing with millions of little problems like this” was what I was told. (Better I guess to let the program blow up and make the user restart it than put error trapping where your lazy programmers couldn’t be bothered..)

– I can run the system but not in debug mode and I can’t access files I need do my work. When asked about this I was told it was my problem and if I can’t fix it myself then why are they paying me to be here. So I dig a little deeper and find out my network account is USER not DEVELOPER which explains why I don’t have privs on those files. When pointed this out I got an angry stare and was told they would look into it when they have time.

– Told my workstation is user configured and not to be reconfigured because it is against LAN policy to reconfigure user workstations, and I just have to do the best I can. Still using ****’s (this was another developer from the same agency I was working for, who’d been there longer) from workstation as I can’t log in on mine. Cannot log in to developer area on any workstation though, not just mine.

One afternoon during this time I met a neighbor of mine at the apartment complex I lived in then, who worked for a different agency as we were both getting mail from our mailboxes. I asked him what he was working on and he asked the same of me and when I told him first words out of his mouth were, “Ohhh… Rough Place.” Apparently everyone already knew it was a notoriously bad place to be a contractor but me.

And from the comments I replied to, was this from me…  

Yeah. Some of my favorite programming code horror stories come from this place. I was called in to find out why their reporting system kept blue screening their workstations. It was written by some staff programmers who allegedly had their BS in CompSci but the code I saw was so full of problems I don’t think a half-wit would have made that it made me wonder. They weren’t fixing it themselves because they were leaving the company for allegedly better paying jobs elsewhere. At least that was their story. I suspect they were just getting the hell out of Dodge before it dawned on anybody how incompetent they were.

I tracked down the blue screen of death problem to the fact that these idiots used a bunch of global variables (named…I Am Not Kidding, GlobalDummyInteger1, GlobalDummyInteger2, GlobalDummyInteger3…and so on…) and were storing handles to windows in them at the same time they were using them to store things like the result of a button press or a for-next loop counter. But to fix it would have required a lot of rewriting of the code base and they were already saying to my face that I just wanted them to trap for errors whenever they tried to access a share to spend their money.

I have no idea what eventually became of that system but it just needed a complete rewrite to be stable and I suspect they eventually contracted out of house for a new one but who knows…they may still be telling their users to just reboot their machines whenever they blue screen.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 12th, 2023

What The Hated Other Must Never Know

This came in the mail just now, to add to my collection of banned or censored children’s books. I buy them to support the authors, but also to see for myself what the gutter is yapping about now. In this case I discovered this book via the author’s blog post about her very painfully having to decline an offer from Scholastic to include the book in their catalogue because of a Scholastic editor’s request/demand to remove references to racism in it. You can read her blog post here. This is very sad, mostly because of how unsurprising it is these days. One of my favorite days after the beginning of the school year was when we got the Scholastic catalog. I still have a bunch of those books I got as a schoolboy. All the precious moments I had reading them…I expected better of Scholastic.

(And speaking of blogs…since you’re reading mine now right? Do you use a blog reader like Feedly yet? You should. There’s a whole world of information and fun out there that commercial social media would rather you didn’t bother with. I’ve added Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s blog to my Feedly list.)

This book is the first in my collection that isn’t LGBT themed. It’s a simple, lovely children’s picture book, about two people who find each other in the midst of a horrible event in this country’s history. I searched the pages carefully for the mentions of racism that the Scholastic editor was objecting to and they’re only in the author’s note, which is clearly written for parents as a guide to understanding the book’s themes. The objection was clearly, sickeningly, meant to appease school board MAGA racists. But what, really, was the objection?  Teaching about racism? You might think so if you haven’t been in this culture war as long as this gay guy has been, and seen what he has seen.

The central theme of the book is the power of love told in a simple, beautiful, childlike way.

Jacob Bronowski wrote that art does not set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of right and wrong can be seen with frightful clarity. You can shine that light even in a children’s picture book. Perhaps even best in the spare elegant simplicity of a children’s picture book. The racist injustice visited on the main characters in the book is always in the background of the story, it is a critical part of the story, but it is not the primary focus of the story. It is a love story. Love of family. Falling in love with someone. That moment when you realize it. It is a love story.

And that is exactly the problem. Never doubt it. Shakespeare wrote that love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken, and bears it out even to the edge of doom. Lao Tzu wrote that being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. The author’s note regarding the racism that built the camps was for adults, the lesson about the power of love was for the children.

That was the unforgivable sin, something the hated Other must never know. Especially when they are young.
Because love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken. Because love bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Because love can give you strength, and courage. Courage enough to move mountains. And the one thing you never want the scapegoat to know, is they can move mountains. Especially when they are young.


Posted In: Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 10th, 2023

Wish You Were Still With Us Howard…

I got a reminder about the memorial for cartoonist Howard Cruse happening later this month and went ahead and made preparations to go. The first time I heard of this happening I was pretty sure I would be in California by now, but the scheduling of the colonoscopy made me put that off and I realized I could do it after all. It’s not so close to my Disney World/Gay Days trip that I couldn’t get there and back in time, and Massachusetts is a state I’ve never visited. Also the drive takes me up the Hudson River Valley in New York and that’s one I’ve always wanted to do because my favorite American landscape artists (of the Hudson River School) lived and worked there. Maybe I’ll take a slight detour and visit Frederic Church’s house. His paintings are amazing.

I’m retired now, and I can go wherever I want, whenever I want (providing the retirement money is there). And Howard gave me lots of encouragement with my cartoons, and A Coming Out Story. There’s a little nod to him at the end of “Intermission 2” that I pinged him about after I put it up…

…and he replied with thanks and more encouragement to continue on with it. A few days later he was gone. I had no idea he was in the hospital.

I have some of his original artwork, including page one of his magnum opus, Stuck Rubber Baby, about growing up gay in the deep south during “Kennedy Time”. I even commissioned a drawing from him around the time of National Coming Out Day. It is a magnificent piece about the moment a teenage boy comes out to his parents. Howard’s lines are as fluid and meticulously perfect as anything Al Hirschfeld did. He even put a couple easter eggs in it that speak to my interests and work at Space Telescope.

I miss him lots, so do his many fans and fellow cartoonists. So I should be there. His original memorial got put off because of COVID, so this is actually happening years after the fact.

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by Bruce | Link | React!

Narrator: But The Spammers Didn’t Check His Profile…

All these lovely ladies suddenly trying to friend me on Facebook…

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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 2nd, 2023

It Was Never About Free Markets

Here’s something to think about next time you read a news article about DeSantis feuding with Disney, and trying to take its Reedy Creek Improvement District away. You hear a lot from the republican side about how everything would be so much better for all Americans if only the free market could be released from the chains of Big Government. Government is not the solution, government is the problem. The more government intrudes on the marketplace, the worse it makes everything. If only businesses were allowed to managed their own affairs without government interference, the invisible hand of the marketplace would reward the most efficient, the best able to meet customer needs, and everyone would prosper. Actually, Reedy Creek is a good example of how that might actually work.

You notice it right away the moment you drive into the parks. Everything is immaculately maintained. The roads are all in good condition. The lawns are perfectly manicured. There is no litter, trash is picked up and there are handy trash cans everywhere that are seldom full, let alone overflowing. The power grid is stable, as are the water and sewage services. I did a backstage tour once and the guides told us about how trash and sewage were managed and they were visibly proud of the fact that not a single piece of trash or drop of raw sewage ever left the park despite the yearly torrent of visitors. Everything was reused or recycled. Reclaimed water was used in the park wide sprinkler system. Solids were sterilized and remanufactured into fertilizer the company packaged and sold. Recyclables were sorted, packaged, and handed off to local recycling companies (every room in a Disney hotel has separate trash cans for recycling). The rest was burned in clean incinerators to power the electric grid.

The rhetoric coming from DeSantis about Disney not paying its fair share of taxes due to its special district is tactical bullshit. Disney doesn’t pay taxes to the state of Florida to maintain its infrastructure, it pays for its own roads, its own water, sewer and electrical grid, it’s own fire department and EMTs, its own security forces, all of it, via Reedy Creek. The state of Florida pays for none of it, and it gets all the sales tax from that hundreds of thousands of yearly visitors, which amounts to billions in yearly income for the state of Florida. Reedy Creek is a way for Disney to essentially tax itself for all its infrastructure, which it is continually making improvements to. 

Improvements like this…

That’s a solar farm they built a few years ago, nearby to Epcot. Disney does all this through Reedy Creek, which, prior to DeSantis trying to fuck with it, would manage improvements and bill (tax) Disney Corp for the costs. This is Disney basically taxing itself for the infrastructure maintenance, which it could then do with a mostly free hand. That is, without the state of Florida always butting in. And it was Walt Disney’s original plans for Epcot that prompted him ask for, and get from the state of Florida, that special improvement district.

Originally it was supposed to be E.P.C.O.T.: the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow…

This article from How Stuff Works describes it in a nutshell:

Among the remarkable components of Disney’s EPCOT would be a community of 20,000 residents living in neighborhoods that would double as a showcase of industrial and civic ingenuity — a running experiment in planning, building design, management and governance. There would be a 1,000-acre office park for developing new technologies, and when, say, an innovation in refrigerator design would be developed, every household in EPCOT would be the first to receive and test the product before it was released for the rest of the world.

An airport would enable anyone to fly directly to Disney World, while a “vacation land” would provide resort accommodations for visitors. A central arrival complex included a 30-story hotel and convention center, with the downtown featuring a weather-protected zone of themed shops.

EPCOT’s more modest wage-earners would be able to live nearby in a ring of high-rise apartment buildings. And there would be a park belt and recreational zone surrounding this downtown area, separating the low-density, cul-de-sac neighborhoods beyond that would house the majority of residents. There would be no unemployment, and it was not to be a retirement community.

“I don’t believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that’s more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities,” Disney said.

The promotional film Walt Disney made to sell his visionary living experiment in emerging technologies is there at the link above. Go read the whole thing, it places Disney’s experiment in the context of other planned communities then springing up all over the country, but also explains how Disney’s vision was completely different from the others. His E.P.C.O.T. was to be a living thing, always changing to test and prove new technologies for city and suburban living before they were deployed into the wild. The people living in it would be buying into becoming part of a living experiment and proving ground. They wouldn’t own their own property because it would be changing constantly. You might go to work one morning, and come back home to find your kitchen had been completely updated with the latest appliances and technologies. This was not to be a static vision of urban utopia. Walt Disney was an always moving forward kinda guy. E.P.C.O.T. would be a statement against such utopias. There is no utopia there is only progress gained through experiment and test.

And for that, he needed complete control over the maintenance of its infrastructure. That is what Reedy Creek was initially for. Then cigarettes killed him and it passed to his brother Roy to do what he could with what was left of Walt’s vision. He got Magic Kingdom finished and then he passed away. After that, E.P.C.O.T. became Epcot…another theme park, but at least one dedicated to Walt Disney’s vision. One half of Epcot is that perpetual world’s fair that was to be a centerpiece of E.P.C.O.T.. The other, Future World, is theme park rides, and exhibits, most until recently centered around Walt Disney’s vision of what emerging technologies could do to benefit our lives.

Eventually all the land Disney bought there in Florida, much of it Florida swamp, became Walt Disney World. But Reedy Creek remained Disney’s special improvement district. And if it’s not a living experiment in new technologies, it is if you look at it through the lens of American politics, an experiment in letting business manage its own land resources. A pretty successful one actually.

Usually taking the regulations off big business results in a race to the bottom. Everything goes to hell in the pursuit of stock market value. But in this one stunning case, it actually works. Spectacularly. You could argue that this is a special case because Walt Disney World is a tourist destination and of course they want everything working and looking nice or else the tourists won’t come. But that was always what the invisible hand of the marketplace was supposed to do; reward good product, penalize bad product. How often can we really say it’s worked that way?

Here’s what I think: it depends on the character of the people in charge. And really that’s how it goes with every one of us. Do you take pride in your work, your neighborhood, your country, or do you just want the money and to hell with the customer, let alone the neighborhood, let alone the country. Yes, yes, Disney Corp has its dark side too…but just imagine what it would look like if Trump was running it. Or DeSantis. Or any republican you can think of babbling all the time about Freedom and Free Markets and Deregulation.

Why is that? Where’s the disconnect there? Look back up at the top of this blog post, at that sign in the window. There’s the disconnect. There’s the deception. Free Markets and Capitalism are euphemisms, delicate little fig leaves over the prerogative of their hate, like State’s Rights and War Of Yankee Aggression are for old time and modern Confederates alike. Their Peculiar Institution. It’s not about freeing business from onerous government meddling. Onerous government meddling is just dandy with them so long as it’s punishment for treating all their customers equally. They like free markets to the degree that’s about freeing business to discriminate against minorities, keep them out of neighborhoods, deny them jobs and opportunities to grow and prosper.

To the degree that business can and does do that, they’re all for deregulation. The instant companies start acting “woke” it’s another story. Then come the new laws and regulations telling businesses what they can and cannot do, and especially that they cannot do business with the hated Other without even more government regulation. All that free market capitalism rhetoric ever amounted to was a thin veneer over bitter, venomous resentment that everyone they hate was getting their place in the American dream too. Can’t be having that!

And if you think that’s overly dramatic, reflect for a moment how DeSantis and the republicans exploded when Disney merely voiced…voiced mind you…objections to DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay law, and then immediately began doing their best to destroy not only the biggest generator of tax revenue in the state, it’s biggest single employer, it’s biggest draw of tourism, but also one very good example of how letting business mind its own business could actually work. Why would they do that if they really believed in free enterprise? Because they don’t.

Sticking it to the hated Other doesn’t just matter more then economic freedom, it’s the only thing animating them. Don’t believe it? Look at what is happening in Florida. Then take a step back and look at, really look at, the economic damage they’re busy trying to inflict on American to get their way in the culture war. This country is about to default on paying its bills because republicans are using the debt ceiling as a weapon in their political and culture wars. It will cause wholesale economic chaos when the rest of the world realizes that the United States cannot be trusted to pay its bills. And with our default, comes many other defaults, all countries and businesses depending on the United States to pay its bills, so they can in turn pay theirs. Dominos will fall, taking down the entire world economy with it. And the republicans? They think they can just blame it all on democrats, and through that harvest votes for the next election. They Just Don’t Care About The Economy. They don’t care about free markets What do they care about? It’s in the picture at the top of this post. That’s what they care about.

Looking at all this, can you still tell yourself that republicans are the party of big business? What sort of businessman doesn’t pay their bills? 

Well…okay…he’s a crook not a businessman. But he freed the republicans from that loathsome pretense of believing in deregulation. And in a sense, they’re all crooks. They benefit from our labor, our productivity, our creativity and our imagination, and in return they spit in our faces. Free enterprise? Free markets? It was never about any of that. What you’re seeing isn’t hypocrisy. It’s the mask dropping. 


Posted In: Life Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React! (3)
April 30th, 2023

What A Lovely November Day!

…being that it’s the last of April. Drizzly, chilly, miserable. Must be springtime in Maryland. A perfect day for staying inside and catching up on my filing. I have this really bad habit of just dumping mail that isn’t urgent into a box and leaving it there, sometimes for months. It can really pile up because I keep resisting the calls to just “go paperless”.

I practically already have. I have a list of bills I just routinely pay online and that is when I check over the transactions and make sure everything is okay. I have credit monitoring that alerts me instantly if someone tries to open an account in my name. My banks and cards tell me about every transaction made in real time. So the paper bills tend to get put off for filing later. Occasionally I get nagged to just switch to “paperless” billing (we used to call it email back in the day…) but I am old and like my paper bills for some reason I can’t even now explain. Maybe it’s that filing things makes me feel like I’m adulting.

The Social Security and medical statements I look at immediately, and also the retirement account statements. But then they also go into the box for filing later. So do all the other odds and ends including the junk, because I can’t always just toss the junk mail away. Some of it needs shredding.

Which is why my shredder gets a lot of work when I get around to sorting and filing everything in the box. This is when I notice how persistent some junk mailers are. No my house is not for sale, I don’t care how many times you ask. No I am not switching energy providers. No I am not buying a car warranty. No I do not want your Medicare supplemental coverage. No I am not going to your retirement planning seminar and I don’t care how free the food is. It’s impressive how many of these same exact mailers come, one after the other, over and over and over. What…did you think I missed the first one?

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by Bruce | Link | React!
April 29th, 2023

The Experiment That Failed

I come home from my favorite hamburger joint and I find this waiting for me in the news stream…

Authorities search for suspect who fatally shot 5 people in Texas home

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A man went next door with a rifle and began shooting his neighbors, killing an 8-year-old and four others inside a house near Houston, after the family asked him to stop firing rounds in his yard because they were trying to sleep, authorities said Saturday.

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said authorities were still searching for 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza following the shooting…

Meanwhile Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, says he hopes to be able to sign into law soon, a bill to defy any new (or existing?) federal firearms regulations. He says it will make Texas a 2nd Amendment sanctuary.

I’ve heard it said that the 2nd amendment is an experiment that’s failed. I would respectfully submit that the experiment that’s failed is the mad rush to undo just about any and all existing firearms regulations out of a fanatical idolatry of weapons and war making. If Heinlein really meant what he said, that an armed society is a peaceful society, I think we can now say with certainty that he got that one wrong. Maybe he was imagining a world where everyone, including dangerous criminals and madmen, respond to prevailing conditions, to rewards and punishments, rationally and logically. What we’re seeing now more resembles the unleashing of the ID monster in Forbidden Planet.

There need to be rules, regulations, guardrails, just as you would need for any other potentially lethal thing, be it an automobile or toxic chemicals, heavy machinery or medicines. Firearms may be unique in that being deadly is their purpose…they’re weapons, that is what they have to be. But it does not make them all that unique. We deal with dangerous things all the time. And with dangerous people, be they predators or people you just don’t want behind the wheel of a car, let alone holding a gun. We used to have rules and regulations regarding firearms. Maybe some of them needed a little tweaking, but this experiment in deregulation has been a disaster. An armed society is a terrorised society.

Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
April 28th, 2023

My Little Dear

It’s taken me a while to be able to post this one. Last April 16 I checked the cat bed a next door neighbor put out for the Calico and she was there napping. A few hours later I looked again and she was gone. I reckon it was time after all. I’d been hoping she would let it happen either in my house or on my porch so I could give her a decent memorial. But she decided to return to the streets from where she came to me.

I never gave her a human name, though I’m certain she had a name among cats. It would have been scent based probably. I called her Little Dear, or Madam. I would say to her what ‘cha want sweetiewhat ‘cha doin puddin. You want inside? You want some food? How about some better water in that dish? But I never gave her a name out of respect for her independence. She was a street cat. A feral. I always respected that. But my neighbor Jason named her Elenore so both times I had to have her trapped and taken to a vet, that was her name. But to me she was mostly Little Dear.

She started coming around to my bird feeders I’m pretty sure, back in 2005. By then some city animal control someone had already trapped her, taken her to a vet to be spade and given an initial round of shots, then tipped one ear as a signal that she’d already been trapped and would not produce more feral cats. But the city likes having them around as long as they’ve been fixed because they keep the rodent population down. You are not supposed to trap or bother the ear tipped cats.

One day a hurricane came up the bay, and while the wind was howling and the rain pouring buckets I stepped out onto my porch and saw her huddled in my basement window well. I figured I was going to find a dead little kitty next day but she was gone. I had a twinge of sympathy…she was a beautiful little thing…so I got a distinctive looking yellow Fiestaware bowl and put some tuna in it and put it on the window well. I knew I was making a commitment then…I really wasn’t interested in having another pet, but I went ahead with it. A few hours later the tuna was gone but I didn’t see her. Next day I saw her stalking my bird feeders and went back inside and got the same yellow bowl, put some more tuna into it, and walked out where she could see me. Feral cats are very skittish but the moment she saw the bowl she seemed to recognise it. I held it up for her to look at, then put it down on my porch and walked back inside. A few moments later the tuna and the cat were gone.

Later that day I got out my car care kit and began washing my car, which was parked on the street in front of my house. While I worked I noticed the calico walking toward me and I just stood still. She sat down in what I call perfume ad cat pose and gave me a heavy stare for about a couple minutes. She was sizing me up, taking me in, fixing me somewhere in mental storage. Then she just casually walked off. But I figured that somehow, some way, she made me hers in that moment. They say dogs have owners and cats have staff. That day I became staff to a street cat. It lasted 18 more years.

The photo above was taken in November 2010, and while I’m pretty sure the first time I fed her was five years before that I can’t just now find those first few photos I took of her. Ten years ago when I took that she was still keeping her distance but would come to my porch for food and water. She was still hunting the birds around me feeders though, and that step was a favorite spot. She was an amazing hunter and I was always moving the feeders around to keep them safe from her hiding places. Problem was birds are messy eaters and the ones perched on the feeders would scatter seed all over the ground and then the ground feeders would come and those were the ones the cat got regularly.

It wasn’t until about six years later I could get in a few pets, but only with my feet with cotton socks on. This I figured, was because feet can’t grab and she remembered being trapped and taken to the vet where she got her ear tipped. Cats don’t forget things like that. Then a couple years after that I was able to coax her into the house but only briefly. Then it became a thing and it was around that time I was able to pet her with my hands. I put up a couple YouTubes to prove it because it’s very rare anyone gets to touch, let alone pet a feral cat.

But after she started trusting me eventually giving pets became mandatory.

The front of the sofa you see there was the spot. If I didn’t walk right over to the sofa after I let her in, like if I went to the kitchen to make my morning coffee, she’d come into the kitchen and meow…Loudly…and I would have to go sit on the sofa and give pets until she’d had enough. Then it was either she’d nap on the cat bed I’d provided or want to go back outside.

We developed a signal. If she was just watching through the storm door then it stayed shut. But when she put her nose into the bottom left corner of the storm door then it was time for me to open it. Right up to the very end that was the signal and I always complied whether I thought it was a good idea or not. There were times when it was pouring buckets out there and she still wanted out. Yes Ma-‘am…whatever you say…and I’d open the door. I never forgot she was a street cat and I’m certain that was why she trusted me.

She kept her distance from everyone except Bob from Topeka who would occasionally come over and house sit for me while I was away, and Heather and Jason my next door neighbors, and them only provisionally. I seem to have been the only one allowed to give extensive petting. Under the chin, around the face, pretty much everywhere except the belly. I learned her body language and could see the look that said okay I’ve had enough take your hands off me now. Occasionally I would get a swat, but never with claws out. She had her boundaries.

She was getting very old for a cat, let alone a feral cat. I did my best, but now, maybe it’s natural, I wonder if I wasn’t stupid after all. Heather helped trap her so I could take her to the vet for a urinary tract infection. She was having difficulty urinating and then she started bleeding. They gave her antibiotics and for a while it was looking good. She never stopped letting me pet her and I could get her purring, and that little trilling sound she would make now and then. But she never really got well. And I think partly it was the trauma of being captured inside my house. I really wish I hadn’t had to do that but I was afraid the infection would kill her. Now I wonder if it wasn’t something the vet did that shot her aging health to bits. My neighbor and I had to call around to even find a vet that would treat a feral, and while the nurses at the place I took her all fussed over her I’m not so sure the doctor really cared about her like they would have had she been my pet.

She was a feral cat, not mine, just a pretty little wild thing I made friends with. Had she been my cat she’d have been used to being put into the carrier and taken periodically to the vet. But she was feral. When I got her back from the vet she hid down in my basement, but eventually came back upstairs. I let her come and go despite how wobbly she got because outside seemed to perk her up. Or maybe it was knowing she still had her freedom. Every time I let her out she seemed to get a little better. But also freedom to come and go was the bargain. I always kept my side of the bargain.

As she got weaker, thinner and more wobbly I still figured letting her outside would be okay because she wasn’t going further then my or my neighbor’s porches. And freedom to come and go was the bargain, the bases of the trust she’d given me. I considered trapping her again and taking her back to the vet, but I’d become convinced that vet, whatever they did, only made things worse. I didn’t know what to do except wait and hope she got better. But 18 years old is a long time for any cat.

Then abruptly she was gone and she wasn’t in any shape to be going far. So I searched. I searched all her places nearby, and up and down the street. Nobody had seen her for days.

I found out though that lots of folks up and down my street were also feeding her. They loved her. Beauty has its benefits. She was a beautiful little calico. Everyone said so.

Now she’s gone. And I’m just going through my days on autopilot. I wake up in the morning and for an instant I want to open the front door to see if she wants inside. I step outside to check the weather and I glance around to see if she’s coming. She would always come running when she saw me at the door, even if it was just to dart inside for a few nibbles an some water and then go back out. Today it’s cold and rainy outside and the feeling keeps tapping me on the shoulder that I need to go look and see if she wants inside. She would let me dry her off with a terry cloth towel if her fur was wet. She gave me an amazing amount of trust.

From the city streets she came to me, and to the city streets she returned. A piece of my heart went with her.

My little dear…

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