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February 19th, 2024

Repost…Once Upon A Time…

I’m still decompressing a bit from Valentine’s Day, which isn’t helped any by it coming in the dead of winter here in central Maryland. So I thought I’d just repost a little something I’d blogged about many years ago…

This is from an old Polaroid a friend probably snapped of me while I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment in Rockville (now North Bethesda!) mom and I lived in during the 60s/70s/80s. I would have been in my twenties. I would have still had the Pinto and probably was working at the Best Products just on the other side of the fence between them and the apartments.

I can tell a lot about the timeframe that this was taken because it has to be sometime in the mid 70s, before that awful couple years I wrote about yesterday. It’s in my face. I look at this and see someone still comfortable in the life he has, confident that even better times are just around the corner. A boyfriend. A good job that paid well (I was going to be a newspaper photographer). A place of my own. Everything was still possible.

As to why I had it taken…I’m not sure. This would have been before the microcomputer days, let alone the Internet, so it wouldn’t have been to post to an online profile. This is a Polaroid, I had no scanner then, and getting copies off a Polaroid wasn’t simple. So this was a one-off. I think I had it taken just to have a couple of me that I actually liked. There are a few other poses in the set but I liked this one best. Which explains why it’s a Polaroid: I could look over each one and decide if I needed another.

The problem was always that I didn’t have many of myself that I liked. By then I was well aware that I wasn’t very good looking, but every now and then I saw a good photo of me so I wasn’t overly concerned about my looks at that age. My teeth were very crooked though, and I was extremely self conscious about that. In every photo of me from that period I’m always smiling with my mouth closed. You almost can’t see the smile here, but it’s there in the corner of my mouth. That problem wouldn’t get fixed until I was in my thirties when a friend kindly financed some dental work for me and pointed me to a super good dentist.

This image is from a time before the Internet, personal computers, cable TV, and cell phones let alone smartphones. I’m pretty sure this was before 1977 and Anita Bryant’s rampage on gay civil rights in Dade County Florida. I had listen to my shortwave radio to get the result of the vote in Dade County because none of the mainstream network news companies bothered to cover it until much later. News for and about gay Americans was not fit to print in those days. If I wanted that news, and I didn’t want to drive into DC to the Lambda Rising bookstore, I had to go to a seedy adult bookstore in Wheaton and walk past racks of pretty hard core heterosexual pornography to get a copy of the Washington Blade and The Advocate. The subway wouldn’t be built out beyond the beltway in Montgomery County until 1978 when the station at Silver Spring opened. After that I could drive into Silver Spring and hop on the Metro to get to DuPont Circle and Lambda Rising. When the Twinbook Metro station opened in 1984 I could just walk from the apartment to the subway and it was a straight shot down the red line to DuPont Circle and back.

I was so happy not to have to go past those heterosexual porn magazines ever again. I mean…okay…whatever floats your boat. But…jeeze… And yet, in many quarters of American culture, not just the pulpit thumping churches, but also mainstream news media, TV, movies, and magazines, the youngster you see in this photo was regarded as a deviant threat to American society, family values, and civilization itself.

That is the world you are seeing in this image. TVs still had vacuum tubes, telephones had a wire connecting them to the wall, you got your news from the morning or afternoon newspaper, or the nightly network news broadcasts around dinnertime. Am radio played mostly music or sports, music came on vinyl LPs or cassettes, big box department stores were still a thing, and bookstores and newstands were everywhere, but you couldn’t get any gay publications in them because gay people like the kid in this photo were almost universally regarded with contempt and loathing. But the kid you see there was still pretty confident of his future. Bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to meet tomorrow. He never found a boyfriend.

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

A Thread On AIDS In The 80s/90s

I still log onto Twitter/X every now and then and this is why. Despite the gutter Musk has dragged it into there is still the story of the human status to find in there. This was posted by  Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson). I also lived through that period of time. This is how it was.

——

A thread on #AIDS in the 80s/90s

Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson)

 

I was 15 when I first had sex with a man.

I’d snuck off to London’s Heaven nightclub with the express intent of ridding myself of my ‘gay virginity’, a goal I achieved easily with a visiting American photographer.

Later that week, I watched with rising panic the Horizon documentary, Killer in the Village.

It warned of a new disease that was killing gay Americans. A few cases had just been identified in the UK too.

At that time, the disease did not have a name.

We now know it as AIDS.

 

The government’s ’Don’t Die of Ignorance’ HIV advertising campaign, featuring icebergs, a tombstone and a doom-laden voiceover, came out a couple of years later when I was in my first year at university.

At the same time Section 28, inserted into the Local Government Act in an attempt to ban “the promotion of homosexuality”, started making its way through Parliament.

The ‘gay plague’, as the tabloids dubbed it, was all the justification needed for politicians, journalists and religious leaders to condemn our sick and short lives.
AIDS provided a powerful new weapon for those who wished to attack us.

My love life at the time was complicated and messy, often fuelled by alcohol and poor judgement.

I considered myself to be safe – I almost always used condoms but there were slips and breakages and mornings where I woke up with only hazy memories of the night before.

And then my friends started dying.

Death and grief were bound up in my experience of being young and gay.

And it didn’t even feel odd – a community dealing with fear and loss was the only one I knew.

I still picture those I lost: wise, twinkly Mick, a member of the Gay Liberation Front and the first person I knew with HIV; Roy, who denied his illness beyond the time when all of his friends knew; handsome James – and his legendary parties.

I think of David who took his own life rather than face lingering death, and I think of Derek, who loved beauty but lost his sight.

I think of Ian, always the smartest but kindest man in the room, and of Paul with his huge blue eyes and even bigger heart.

Fear, hatred and intolerance of homosexuality, attitudes which were then widely shared across all regions and social classes, combined with a virus to kill people like me and people like my friends.

It was AIDS that killed those men, but it was homophobia that allowed it to happen – and that led to so many men dying alone.

Homophobia killed us then.

Worldwide, it remains the cause of thousands of deaths, through violence and neglect, even today.

An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.

We need to share the good news that treatment will prevent AIDS.

We must challenge fear by ensuring that everyone knows effective treatment means we can’t pass HIV on to our sexual partners.

Just as we fought for greater acceptance of LGBT people, we now must fight to end HIV stigma if we are to end this epidemic.

I can think of no better way of honouring those who died.  #LGBTplusHM #UnderTheScope

 

 

Postscript

In 1996 effective treatment was introduced that prevented HIV from progressing to AIDS.

I was diagnosed with HIV in 1998.

I was 30.

At the time I did not expect to live to 50.

I will be 57 this year. #MakeStigmaHistory


Posted In: Life Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 16th, 2024

…And You Are The Easiest Person To Fool

Some time ago I read an article about safety regulations in some profession, I forget now which. A trainee sat in on a class with an instructor who would go over OSHA law as it applied to them. He began his class by telling the trainees that every regulation he was about to teach them was written in blood.

I spent just over three decades of my life as a software engineer. You could say that my job didn’t involve any hazards to my own health. True enough, I sat at a desk staring into a computer screen trying to mentally picture the algorithms I was creating in program code. Not very dangerous stuff. To me. Unless you count all the alcohol and nicotine I consumed to manage stress (I worked at an IT firm back when I was a youngster as the mailroom clerk, and a programmer there called his inevitable pack of cigarettes his “programmer’s candy”). But what I did was potentially extremely dangerous to others if my program didn’t do what it was supposed to.

One of the contracts I worked on ages ago, before I came to Space Telescope, was for a large medical diagnostic company. I had a piece of their new diagnostic machine’s reporting system. The machine it was hooked up to would identify specimens that had whatever disease they were testing for just then, and the report terminal would keep a database of results and generate reports for individual patients and disease rate of spread in a population for the CDC. The federal government imposed requirements on the software process for medical equipment, including allowable software tools, multiple code reviews, and independent verification of requirements as the software matured. Because lives were at stake.

I wasn’t subjected to that level of oversight at Space Telescope because I was not involved in creating any of the actual flight software. I did business applications mostly, science needs business applications too, although I could also build you a PC if you point me at a source of parts for one. I attended meetings, issued progress reports on my work, discussed requirements with managers. Those I gave my output to, both during development and when it was in production, were able to verify that my software was correct or not from their own experience with their numbers.

I would occasionally get a call from one about something missing from one of their spreadsheets. I was almost always able to trace that to the data not yet being entered in the “problem report” or “discrepancy report” databases. I could re-run the program for them when that was fixed. But now and then I found a bug in my software that I had to fix that was making the numbers wrong. That was unlikely to get anyone killed, but it could have given management a false idea of progress being made. So it was still very important to get it right.

At the major public utility I once contracted for, I worked with an accountant who Knew His Numbers. He could look at my output and go…”ah…you know…I don’t think you’re picking up…” and he would refer to some number bucket, one of many such, that I needed the report to digest. And I would go to my code and look and sure enough I wasn’t doing that. So I’d fix it and run the output by him again. I loved it. He didn’t know software but he knew his numbers, and I didn’t know his numbers but I knew my software and it was a perfect working relationship. He was my independent verification.

I can’t stress enough how important independent verification of your software is. The more mission critical it is, the more thorough that must be. It gets to a point, and I lived this while working on that medical diagnostic machine report, where periodically a group of other programmers get together with you and beat up on your code. It can be brutal. Ask me how I know. But when it’s that important, like with medical diagnostic software, it Must happen. Lives actually are at stake.

But beyond bugs, there’s also making sure both you and your users understand what the software is, and is not doing. Most of the business software I wrote wasn’t about life and death situations, or so you’d think. But that’s not always cut and dried. Like the one at my first big contract at a major public utility where I was tasked with designing and coding a report that would tell management how much revenue each of their field technicians were generating and at what cost. My report uncovered such a massive subsidy of one department by another such that, so I was told later, jaws dropped in the boardroom. Annapolis was Not going to be happy.

Then came the layoffs. I heard later that one of those laid off had a sudden heart attack at his dinner table in front of his wife and kids and died. You could say it was management policies that did that…they knew they were putting money where it did not belong, that they were subsidizing something they weren’t supposed to, but didn’t realize how badly it had become until my report waved it in their faces. So they did what management often does, they just started laying people off to make the money stop going in that direction.

They did that. But…my software did that. Management wasn’t just using my report to tell them where the money was coming from and going to, they were using it to tell them who their best workers were. And I still deeply regret it. I wonder if I couldn’t have done more in meetings to remind them a computer program can’t substitute for human judgment. There was a union that was supposed to be protecting the workers from that sort of thing. You could say none of that was on my plate. But my hands were in it too. He was a nice guy. Always had a friendly smile for me.

I never doubted after that, how dangerous my tools could be.

The procedures and best practices of software development have evolved over the decades from big iron to little silicone for a reason. Maybe they aren’t all written in blood, but they are all at least written in sweat and tears. They say mistakes are human but to really foul things up takes a computer. But no. What it takes, is thinking you can get away with bending the rules. Maybe just this once. Because we have a deadline. Because we have to get it out the door. Because there isn’t enough money for best practices. Just this once. And then the next once. And the next once. And the next. And the next. Take off your engineer’s hat and put on your management hat.

There are reasons for all those practices and procedures. And especially, there are reasons developers do not test their own software before putting it into production. Yes, do your unit testing, but then you hand it off the testers. Testers are your friends. They keep crap from going out the door that worked fine for you but that’s because you were running it on a workstation with all your software tools on it, and the test data you cobbled together that you always use. Out in the wild it will be different.

The physicist Richard Feynman once said (paraphrasing) that science is a way of trying not to fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. I think that’s a good general rule for software testing too. Testing is a way of trying not to fool yourself. And since you are the easiest person to fool, because you wrote it, you hand it off to an independent tester. Or put another way: beware the result you wanted because you had a deadline. It needs looking at by someone with no stake in the outcome, other than honestly reporting did it pass or fail.

There are reasons for the procedures and best practices of software engineering. They need to be respected. Not for the sake of tradition, but for the sake of not screwing things up badly. Because we are human and it takes a human to screw things up badly. But we can be aware of this, and build our guardrails accordingly. We do that, and we are capable of wonderful, marvelous things.

Why am I telling you all this? Just venting. I’m old and cranky is all.

 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 15th, 2024

A Re-Subscription And Memories Of A Lost Love Song Program

…for your post Valentine’s Day pleasure. Hey…it’s not all half price chocolates…

The other day I re-subscribed to Sirius/XM satellite radio because they made me an offer that was hard to refuse, even given how much I am still PO’d over what they did to my music lineup, and especially their gay channel OutQ…now ex-gay I suppose since it’s no longer there.

They offered me the music at three bucks a month for three years, and instead of that automatically renewing at the higher standard rate it simply expires and I have to get a new subscription or the radio goes silent. That’s fine with me, wonderful even. I’ve been piping Pandora through my car stereo via my iPhone for decades now.

For five bucks extra (that’s two bucks more than the music) I got the traffic maps, which show up on my car’s “Command” display. I’ve missed having those since I let that traffic only subscription lapse.

I can get traffic maps and navigation on the iPhone via Google Maps, and I have an iPhone holder that goes into one of the cup holders in the center console. But the Mercedes central Command display is easier to glance at and adjust while driving because it responds to the steering wheel buttons. I buy the smallest iPhones they make because I want the phone to fit into my pocket and I’m not a big guy. But this makes its display difficult to use while driving.

So I have the satellite radio stuff back at the max price I’m willing to pay for it, and it all works now, and there are still some music channels I like listening to on it. But I keep thinking about what there was when the service first started, and how it seemed to systematically remove what I liked most. And especially what they did to OutQ.

See…OutQ‘s afternoon/evening programming was mostly Derick and Romaine which was a raunchy talk format I just couldn’t listen to. But there was Michelangelo Signorile’s news and talk program which I really liked, and for a while Air America. And then there was Pat Marino’s Sunset Cruise.

Sunset Cruise was a really sweet love song call-in dedication show that ran late on Sundays. I loved Sunset Cruise. I would listen to it while I drew my political cartoons for my website and Baltimore OUTLoud on Sunday nights. All the heartfelt love that came through on that show really kept my spirits up while I was drawing cartoons about the latest spew of anti-gay bigotry in that week’s newspapers.

It was sweet, it was heartfelt, and it raised my spirits to face the coming week. If it wasn’t for those two things, Signorile and Sunset Cruise, I wouldn’t have bothered with OutQ at all.

Then they replaced Sunset Cruise with…repeats of the Derick and Romaine show. Because we all know that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex…

Anyway…it’s the day after. How about a repost from the 2013 Valentine’s Day Poster Contest?


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 10th, 2024

That Sense Of Death Tapping You On The Shoulder

A neighbor across my street had to be taken off by the paramedics a couple nights ago. I just found out he’d had a really bad stroke and is still in the hospital, unable to move.

Him and his younger brother (both pretty old men, but 50s, maybe early 60s I’d say) live in one of the four single family detached houses across my street. The oldest brother who inherited the house was who had the stroke. He was into some sort of real estate business and possibly had other side work too. Whenever the weather was warm enough he’d be outside working on the front lawn or the side garden or the huge yard on the east side of the house with a Really Big tree and lots of scrub brush, which I saw him trying to clear out a month ago.

So he was active, if not a regular jogger or walker like me. I never once saw him smoking and he didn’t seem to be a drinker either. But I think his health wasn’t the best to begin with. He walked with some difficulty. Maybe it was the same sort of thing that had put his sister in a wheelchair.

The stroke scares me more than other possible health outcomes. For one thing I like to drive a lot and if it happens while I’m driving I could get other people killed. I’ve thought about that ever since I read the story of that school bus driver who apparently stroked out while driving the bus and crashed into a metrobus killing it’s driver and several passengers, plus himself. He’d apparently had a record of that happening before and should never have been given a school bus to drive. Luckily there were no children on the bus.

If I have the stroke, even one that doesn’t incapacitate me, I would need to give up my driver’s license, voluntarily if that isn’t the law. I won’t have that on me. But losing the ability to drive would feel like the end of my life.

I really don’t want the stroke. Unless it’s a massive one that kills me instantly. I can deal with that.

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 8th, 2024

My Retirement Anniversary Is Too Close To Tax Time!

Second anniversary of being retired. And also time to gather my forms and do my taxes. So naturally I decide to evaluate my retirement funds…and stress out about money.

Yes, Yes…you knew the balance would go down when you withdraw money didn’t you. Didn’t You??.

It’s okay. I’m theoretically good for many many years beyond when the heart unit is depreciated and support is no longer available from the vender. But I have to watch my spending more carefully than I did when I was employed and making six figures. I can do that…I have budgeting spreadsheets I’ve created and some rules about what to spend and when. I have excellent health insurance beyond Medicare parts the A and B. Financially I’m good. Not fabulous, but good. I can pay my bills and generally maintain a lower middle class standard of living. Even take a Disney vacation every now and then. These days that puts me in the Very Very Lucky category. But the ability to stress over Everything is just baked into me I reckon.

At the moment a source of stress is that it’s looking like I can either take the two week Disney Vacation this spring or go to California and stay with family out there this summer…but not both. And those are two things I count on to relieve stress. Ha Ha. But I’m still crunching numbers. I’ll know by the end of this month. That’s plenty of time to either cancel my Disney reservations or tell my brother that a California stay will have to wait for next year.

And the fact is that cross-country road trip is getting very tiring now. I have to stop more often, which means more hotel money for the trip both ways. And the anticipation of driving cross country isn’t as exciting as it used to be. I’ve done just about all the parts of the country I wanted to, and some of it now, like Texas and Oklahoma, feel scary in a way they never did before.

Maybe I just fly out to California now and then for a week or two. Thinking about a road trip doesn’t get me excited, it just makes me feel tired now.

Oh dear…I’m 70 now aren’t I. (Looks at the old man skin on his arms) Yeah. That happened…

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
February 7th, 2024

They’re Not Hypocrites.

Been a while since I posted here…sorry. I’ve been taking a mental health break in Walt Disney World. Basically prepping myself for that bottomless darkness we singles get tossed into every year at this time. They call it Valentine’s Day.

Anyway…I wanted to put this out here because it’s something your LGBT neighbors have seen and known for a long, Long time…

This is from the Lawyers, Guns and Money blog. Go read the entire thing Here

I saw a TV news clip…I wish I could find it again…with Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant standing together at a press conference and Falwell is telling the crowd that “a homosexual will kill you soon as look at you.” It was the kind of venomous hate we lived under for decades. There was no lie too extreme for them to throw at us, and all these years later they have not changed a bit. And it was so staringly obvious back then that the point was to whip each other up into a frenzy of hate. It isn’t an act, they’re not doing it for attention to rally the base, it is them. You don’t have to see that repeated very often, to conclude that the open sewer you are looking at is really what they are inside. 

Love completes you, but hate is never satisfied. So I commend this blog post at LG&M to your attention, and if you can stomach it, the free link to the NY Times article on which it riffs. But here’s the bottom line:

What’s important to recognize here is that reactionary politics, political authoritarianism, white supremacy, and evangelical Christianity are all intimately related to each other in early 21st century America. The “paradox” of Donald Trump becoming the cult-like and even messianic figure at the head of pietistic authoritarian white supremacist reaction in our culture is only a paradox if you ignore how closely all these things are connected to each other.

Your LGBT neighbors have known this for decades. I suppose it was just too horrible for most everyone else to believe, so excuses kept being made. I think we’re finally, Finally at the stage now, where the excuses have become untenable. The ugly truth has been out there all along. There were no deeply held religious beliefs, only hate. There were no good faith objections to racial equality, only hate. There were no principled arguments about sexual equality, only hate. There were no traditional moral values, only hate. There is no culture, only hate. We have seen all this for decade upon decade. And so have you. Now it is time for you to start believing what is right in front of your nose. 

 


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
January 22nd, 2024

Approaching The Acid Test

Or perhaps the Phenidone Test.

Finally…Finally…Finally! I just now received the last raw chemical I need to make up a batch of H&W Control developer from the recipe!

I have all the equipment I need to mix it up. Scale, mixing/heating plate, beakers, weighing trays. I’ve done several trial runs with water in the beakers, calibrating the scale and weighing things on it, getting the water up to temperature on the mixing plate. Everything looks good. I have almost everything I need.

Just waiting now for a little courage.

Seriously…I’ve never done anything like this before, this is allegedly a very weird phenidone based developer that extends the dynamic range of document microfilms which is something you’re not supposed to be able to do, and if I get one little part of it wrong I ruin a roll of film, and probably have to start over with ordering new chemicals. I only ordered enough this time to mix up one batch as a “proof of concept”. I have to end up seeing Something on the film when I take it out of the tank. If it’s off a little I can adjust.

If I see nothing on the film I cry. And stress for days about just being a failure in general.

Ultimately, if it all works, then I attempt to develop that old roll of H&W Control film I never processed back in the 70s. It’s been waiting in various refrigerators ever since, so it should still have something on it. I just have no idea anymore what.


Posted In: Photography
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Yes, It’s Winter In Maryland Isn’t It?

My high tech thermostat was telling me that it’s 13 degrees outside when I got up this morning (it’s taking readings from the AC unit outside where it’s mostly in the shade this time of year). I was hoping for something a bit warmer so I could do my morning walk. But I reckon that’s going to have to wait.

I sure can’t wait for the temperatures to rise into the 50s, like the forecast is saying, later this week. It’ll come with a lot of rain but that’ll help get rid of the snow that’s keeping the car put for now. Of course that’ll mean more flooding.

I’m taking the train to Walt Disney World at the end of the month, as a winter mental health break. Initially I’d wanted to do it right after New Year but there were no roomettes available and this would have to be a train ride because this is the snow time of year and I didn’t want to drive down only to find my streets a foot or more deep in snow and nowhere to park. I’d given some thought to taking a week during Valentine’s day to perk me up, but on reflection that would only have depressed me more. A round trip on the Silver Meteor was available within my budget for the end of January and I took that.

But there were no Disney rooms available in the park other than the top level thousand dollar plus rooms which I can’t afford, and as I write this even those rooms are unavailable. It was frustrating, but on the other hand good to see that DeSantis and Rufo are having zero effect on Walt Disney World’s popularity. I made sure to get my room in Port Orleans Riverside for the May/June two week vacation (can I call them vacations if I’m retired??) now instead of waiting until the annual pass renewal.

I can only wring five nights in a hotel row hotel this trip, but that gives me walking access to Disney Springs which is a must have if I can’t get into any of the park hotels (resorts…whatever…), and the train ride is itself a relaxing part of the vacation. I haven’t done the Silver Meteor in a long time. This time I’m getting off in Kissimmee instead of Orlando. It’s just the next stop down but that gets me a drive into the parks without having to navigate I-5 traffic. I’m renting a car for the stay so I can get around the parks on my own schedule, not the bus schedule, and Florida weather allowing it should be a moment of fun and relaxation. 

Then I get to go back home and trudge through the rest of the winter in Maryland. And spend money on the car. It needs new engine and transmission mounts. So it goes…


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
January 21st, 2024

Survivors’ Tales

I hadn’t used my Netflix account for a long time and needed to reestablish my credentials on the Roku. The idea was to finally watch Pray Away, the Netflix documentary about the rise and fall of ex-gay ministries like Love In Action and Exodus. When I was able to get my account working with a new password, and some updated profile info, I found the documentary and first watched the trailer. Then I became too depressed to actually watch the documentary. But probably will later.

I never went through anything like that, although I’ve often wondered whether mom would have done it to me had I come directly out to her. I’ve written about that elsewhere, and touched on it in A Coming Out Story. So I don’t have those particular scars on my heart. Mine are different. But I lived through those times, and made friends of people who were there, by choice and not. Revisiting it is difficult, even for the likes of me, who never felt any shame, never believed that God hated him. That torrent of abuse you got from every direction got to all of us, worked its way deep inside.

I might not even be the audience for this documentary. I don’t need convincing about how toxic the practice is. But I do now firmly believe that much of the progress we’ve made to that better world where we can all live honest lives, has been because people who’ve been through this have found their voices and have spoken out. If you need any convincing that sexual orientation is biologically innate and cannot be therapied out of, listen to the people who tried really hard, and then listen to the people who ran those outfits and finally had to stop because they could not keep lying to their customers anymore, or to themselves about what they were doing to them.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
January 17th, 2024

The Usual Post Snowfall Routine…(continued)

3:19PM. It’s getting late in the afternoon for this time of year and the shadows are getting longer and the temperatures are going down from the high of cold as hell to colder than hell. And my car is completely clear of ice. I had to do very little wiping it off and no scraping at all. Most of the clearing was done by the sun. It is currently 26 degrees outside.

All that said, I’m retired now and didn’t have to be in the office this morning. I could lounge around the house doing a laundry and some odds and ends and just let the sun do most of the work. But I didn’t hear a lot of scraping this morning either. Work From Home is still apparently a thing for most of the working neighbors here.

Streets are mostly clear of ice and snow but I am not taking the car anywhere for a while because of all the salt on the road. This is the time of year when I have to make double sure I get the undercarriage wash at the car wash. Frequently.


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by Bruce | Link | React!

The Usual Post Snowfall Routine

Finally swept four inches of snow off the car just now. There’s still a thin crust of ice covering most of the body, but here’s the thing: with the sun out now and a clear sky, even though it’s well below freezing that sunlight will melt the rest of it off by mid afternoon.

It was 19 degrees out there as I worked, but on the side of the car where the sun was hitting the car body directly there was liquid water in spots and I was able to just brush off the ice with a gloved hand in those locations.

Probably helps that my car is painted a dark color.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
January 16th, 2024

Diane Arbus And The Darkness Within

I found this on my porch this morning so either the delivery person left it late last night or sometime before 6am today.

Of the great film photographers, there are four whose influence have always been with me, going back to my teen years. David Plowden, Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Frank…and one I tend to mention with some hesitation: Diane Arbus.

Her photography is like an ice pick to the soul, or at least it is to the painfully romantic such as myself. But she was unquestionably one of the grand masters of the art form. She knew what she was about, and she hit her mark with precision.

If I were to choose one image that most represents her to me, it wouldn’t be the boy with the toy hand grenade, or the work she did with asylum patients, the images of midgets, transvestites, old people. It would be the shot of the Hollywood set house on a hill. It’s an unusual one for her in that there are no people in it, its subject is in the distance, and the sky and space around the subject are essential to it. I don’t think there is anything else in her oeuvre quite like it.


Diane Arbus: A house on a hill, Hollywood, Cal. 1963 

This one shot to me is the heart of it. Everything she ever did emerges from what she is saying in that one shot. 

I could not be more distant from her in my own work, and yet it speaks to me and I admit a lot of it resembles her. I admire David Plowden for his straight on composition and for the deeply felt, timeless silence within. I love the drama in the photography of Margaret Bourke-White, and her mastery of the black and white process, which is every bit as good as Ansel Adams’. Robert Frank’s work captures moments that show us the humanity of its subjects in their environment. He is as humane as Diane Arbus is alienated. I don’t think anyone who knew her was surprised by her suicide. Saddened and grief stricken surely, but how can you look at the body of her work and not be surprised at how she ended it.

Her work speaks to me because I am usually wandering down the same dark paths she did. Why I didn’t fall in like she did I have no idea, other than different metals behave differently in the fire. Maybe I’m just too curious to be completely demoralized. Or maybe I just accept the indifference of the universe in a way she never could. There is no despair in my photos, at least I hope that’s not what anyone sees in them. What I do in my art photography is, as best as I can tell from a lifetime of doing it, maybe something akin to brutalism, a sensation of the gods talking past you, conversing among themselves and not even seeing you, timeless, eternal, indifferent. It’s the silence that moves me. I am more like David Plowden than Diane Arbus. There is no silence in her work, just a lot of despair.

She was one of the grand masters. I admire her because she knew what she was about and she hit it with precision every time. That not only takes skill, it takes a lot of self examination to be that good at it. I have one of her photography books, and I bought this because it promises to tell me more about the artist and hopefully I get a better idea of why she fell into the darkness she saw everywhere.


Posted In: Art Photography
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by Bruce | Link | React!

I Suppose The Snow Drought Is Over Now…

Been a while since I’ve had to put my snow boots on.

We got about four inches overnight. City says you have to clear your sidewalks within 3 hours after the snowfall ends, unless it ends between 3 pm and 6 am, in which case snow must be removed by 11 am. But I only have this little 15 foot stretch of rowhouse sidewalk to clear and it just takes a few minutes. I got it done by 7 this morning and with the deicer I put out the sidewalk is completely clear now.

I’m 70 and I’ve had one heart attack already. So I’m doing this one small piece at a time and it’s the light powdery stuff that’s pretty easy to clear. The big job, as always, is the backyard deck, which I Must get clear before the snow begins to melt and refreeze.

The car can just sit for a while. I’m not driving Anywhere in this. The house is fully stocked and I can walk to the grocery store if I need anything. Maybe take a walk to Papi’s later.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
January 14th, 2024

Relaxing In My Summer Clothes Watching It Snow…

…is my favorite winter activity. We just had a band of pretty fierce snow flurries pass through Bawlmer hon. Moderately large flakes being driven horizontally by the wind. Seems to have stopped as I’m typing this. Forecast is for a bit more snow this coming Tuesday.

When it snows I enjoy hanging out at home in just my cutoffs and a t-shirt, drinking hot coffee or tea with the heat turned up a notch. Yes it adds a tad to the heating bill but I keep the heat low most of the rest of the time and I can afford it. Heinlein said to budget for the luxuries first. I budget for the utilities first. I suppose there’s some overlap there.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
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