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January 23rd, 2023

Self Acceptance: It’s Not Just For Sexualty

That R. Crumb comic page nearly everyone knows titled, Keep On Truckin’…which he called “the curse of my life” and “that stupid little cartoon” because it’s been so ripped off and commercialized…that’s actually his riff on a 1936 song by Blind Boy Fuller titled Truckin’ My Blues Away. Each panel in the comic has a line from the song, and a Crumb drawing of various city folks strutting along to the tune. It was a fun little comic and I am truly sorry it caused Crumb so much grief when the rest of the world seemingly just appropriated it. But that happens to artists when some random little thing they do suddenly clicks in the mass conscious. At least he finally did get his copyright back on the artwork.

When I thought to do my own take on Randy Newman’s You Can Leave Your Hat On, I decided to do it in the spirit of the R. Crumb comic, with each panel containing a line from the song and some artwork to go with it, but not an exact rendering of the song, just letting the artwork bop along with it. And I am making Amazing progress on it now. A big part of that is self acceptance of the fact that I’m not a fast worker, I can’t just dash out a drawing, and that I am a hunt and peck draftsman and that is how it will always be. And so I’m finally adjusting my work habits and expectations around all that, instead of trying to be something I am not because I believed I should be that or I wasn’t any good. Also, that I need to walk away from the work periodically and come back to it to see it with fresh eyes, and see what is right and what needs more work.

I find that I am at my best when I let my work habits align with my nature and that I can push myself to get it right if I align my work habits with how my brain tackles a problem. It’s okay to be a hunt and peck draftsman. It’s okay to take my time on a drawing if it’s having a difficult time coming together. It is important to not accept less than the best I can do. I have to look away from my drawing board periodically or I stop seeing the whole for that one part of it I’m struggling with. Once I did a drawing of a seated barefooted figure, and I didn’t notice until I saw the finished strip on the computer screen that I’d drawn them reversed left/right. ACK! See…I drew him with his legs crossed but I put the feet where they would have been if his legs weren’t crossed. I didn’t notice the mistake I was making while I was making it, because I was so focused on getting the feet right. ACK! I fixed it in the computer but it’s still like that on the original artwork. This is what happens if I don’t take short breaks from the drafting table and then come back to it with fresh eyes. If I give it enough time and sweat the thing I want to happen on the drawing board eventually does happen. It’s okay not to hurry it.

The great political cartoonist David Low once said of his workflow that each cartoon took three days to do: two days spent in labor, and one day spent removing the appearance of labor. Herblock did a cartoon every day for the Washington Post for decades and his best was every bit the equal of Low’s. We’re all different in that way. You work what you got.


Posted In: Art Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
January 20th, 2023

Age Sixty-Nine…A Little Late To Stop Being An Artistic Prude.

I’m finally starting to make some kind of progress at the drafting table that I was hoping for when I retired. Apart from A Coming Out Story, I’ve had several other things that I began working on years ago that I’m beginning to make some progress on, and some new stuff too. But alas, some of that is not going to be visible here because it isn’t safe for work. For nearly all my life I’ve had a reticence about certain subjects that you generally don’t see in a graphic artist. At least not in the free world. I’ve lived with it, made excuses for it, and ignored it. But there are some things I want to do now that I’ve retired, things I want to explore, and that reticence is something I have to deal with if I want to make progress. 

Mind, I don’t do pornography. Pornography is obvious and cheap and all it does is push buttons. But I have struggled for nearly three years now with a short graphic story riffing on the song You Can Leave Your Hat On, ever since I first heard it at a gig my classmate Rev Billy did with another band, and it’s been basically about this deeply ingrained reluctance I’ve always had about

about

about

about nudity in my artwork. There. I said it. Specifically about how much to show. If you’ve read the first episode of A Coming Out Story, that gag came about when I realized that I simply could not draw the character representing my libido as a completely naked me, and then realizing that it was right after all because that reticence was a truth about me after all.

“I’m your libido, not Robert Crumb’s libido.”  It was a self truth that became the series running gag. Ha ha. 

The song I was listening to in that bar that night, waiting for my classmate to take the stage again, was about a guy asking what I assumed was his girlfriend to take off her clothes and give him a dance. The line You can leave your hat on, recurs throughout. That first time I was listening to it, it seemed your usual pop heterosexual love and desire song, a little odd for a Randy Newman song, but he has a very wide range and I have loved his movie music, especially for Avalon and Pleasantville. So I was sitting in this bar among a bunch of middle aged and older (like myself) customers observing the crowd and waiting for my classmate to get his turn on stage. Everyone was getting into the song…

Baby, take off your coat… (real slow)
Baby, take off your shoes… (here, I’ll take your shoes)
Baby, take off your dress
Yes, yes, yes
You can leave your hat on
You can leave your hat on
You can leave your hat on

And this was the sort of bar crowd I’m not usually in the middle of and I’m almost zoning out just then because these sort of pop tunes never speak to me. If I really like a song and it’s your usual boy loves girl loves boy song I’ll mentally change the pronouns in it so it can speak to me too. I am barely a post Stonewall gay guy and living in a pop culture that until recently simply refused to even admit that such as I existed, I’ve had to do that all my adult life. But I’m watching the crowd and they’re loving the song and having a good time and I will never begrudge anyone that. This poor angry world would be a lot nicer and a lot more peaceful I’m thinking if everyone could have a fulfilling sex life.

Then I hear this…

Suspicious minds are talking
Trying to tear us apart
They say that my love is wrong
They don’t know what love is
They don’t know what love is
They don’t know what love is
They don’t know what love is
I know what love is

…and suddenly now the song is speaking to me and I’m fully absorbed. Wow.

I’m pretty sure Newman didn’t intend this to be a song about a gay male couple…the dancer was asked to take their dress off after all.  And heterosexuals often get static from their families and communities over their choices in love. But those lyrics…those lyrics. When I heard them I knew I had to do my own take on the song. I listened to it carefully and when I got home that night I bought several copies of it in the iTunes store. And I listened, and the entire thing I wanted to draw, the artwork, all the panels and the layout, came to me.

I knew it had to feature the guy I’d drawn about that same time, after some babbling nitwit online complained that gay guys at Pride were all wearing nothing but short shorts and go-go boots…

 

He was already wearing a hat, which made him perfect for the role of the dancer in the song. Mr Homophobic nitwit hadn’t said anything about a hat, but I added one on an impulse when I drew him because I thought it added to his sexiness.

I had a good idea of what the singer looked like and was wearing too. Another guy, maybe slightly older, suit and tie like he’s just got home from work and he’s had a very tiresome day and his boyfriend comes over and he asks him to give him a dance and the boyfriend is all in for it. Because at that age one of this life’s simple pleasures is making the one you love all hot and bothered.

So I had my story, I had the layouts, I knew Exactly what every panel was going to look like. Sort of. Then I sat down to actually draw it my built-in reticence about nudity kicked right in. I kept trying to draw the dancer in the song tastefully if minimally covered, because deep down I just could not go where the song went.

I had reasons. Perfectly logical reasons. That left/right brain running gag in A Coming Out Story is no joke. I wanted my take on the song to be postable most anywhere. I wanted it to be safe for work. I don’t do pornography. But nudity isn’t necessarily pronographic unless you’re a right wing nutcase, and truth be told, somewhere deep down there were fears that at age sixty-nine I still hadn’t really examined.

Charlie Chaplin writing to his daughter said…

“Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul.”

The artist shows their naked soul in every work they produce. But giving the world the naked bodies of my art subjects just cut too close to the bone…so to speak. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t shame, it was if I’m honest, a deeply ingrained fear of being vulnerable I’ve had since grade school. And of being Scrawny. Weak. Ugly. I was a slight, somewhat girlish kid and I got a lot of bullying from some of the other kids, and a lot of body shaming by adults in my life for being so thin and unmuscular. The mother of one of my classmates asked him outright if I was a heroin addict. Ragweed season always made me look like I was on drugs all the time. My clothes, mostly second hand, never really fit very well. My teeth were crooked. 

There’s a story I like to tell about the day I came to class in sixth grade. Next year I would be in junior high school which I’d learned by then was a whole new world. Instead of sitting in the same classroom day and and day out I would be given a schedule of classes for math, english, science and art and so on, and walk from one to the other. I’d have my own locker to put things in between classes. And every class would be a different teacher, and a different mix of other kids. But there was a very unpleasant surprise in store.

That one day in that sixth grade class I saw that some kids from the previous year had come to class before we got there to visit their old teachers. They’d written about their experiences in junior high on the chalkboard. I started reading. Then I came to this line…

Tell them not to worry about group showers. It’s no big deal.

I wish I had a picture of my face just then. My jaw dropped. I was horrified. What!? WHAT!? WHAT!!!???  Suddenly I was no longer looking forward to high school, junior or otherwise.

So there I am at the drafting table trying to get this little slice of life story out of me and on to paper, make a statement about gay love and desire, and I’m all inhibited and trying to be restrained and temperate and keeping my dancer suitably covered for family audiences…and the song just doesn’t read like that. Well…except for the hat. There’s still a hat.

So no matter how I drew the dancer I was never satisfied with what I was drawing. I’m pretty sure I got the singer/audience right the first time I drew him. But the dancer just would not appear. Worse, most of my tries were crap that made me doubt I was good enough to even try illustrating this song in my own way. It had to be done right or it would be embarrassingly awful. It was making me hate my drawing and I hate it enough as it is. But it wouldn’t let go of me either. I kept coming back to it, there was something there I wanted to say, and I kept having to walk away depressed.

Finally I had to admit my drawing was crap because I wasn’t really being faithful to the song.

I was riffing on this song because I wanted to shine a light on what it said to me about love and joyful playful desire, and that is universal across the Kinsey scale. It was important to me. Gay love and desire is a beautiful, meaningful, fulfilling thing for those who are lucky enough to find it. And nothing that came out of my pencils was working. Finally I had to admit nothing I did would be right unless I was completely faithful to the song. Which meant that I needed to get over some residual reticence about nudity in my art I’ve had since…forever.

So I’m going for it.

And now it’s working. The dancer is there finally on my drawing board. He’s everything I need him to be to make this graphic story work. This is going to be one of my best.

Problem is, it won’t be safe for Facebook. Or any social media.

That’s okay…I have my own website here.

And at age 69 I feel a little more free. One less brick in the wall…


Posted In: Art Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
January 18th, 2023

Dreams You Just Wish Would Go Away

I have several ongoing or recurring dreams. Most are just me wandering around places in Rockville around the time I was growing up there. Those were pretty important times in my life so it’s not unusual to be having dreams about them. Often they get mixed up with places and things happening to me now. I’m my dreams I’ve wandered around apartment complexes containing elements of every place I’ve ever lived. So much so obvious. And those dreams are usually kinda fun. I’m old enough now that when the dreams get unpleasant I just shrug it off when I wake up. But there is one dream I started having a few years ago that I wish would stop.

I had it again this morning. It’s the dream where I’ve sold or traded in the Mercedes for another car. Sometimes it’s a basic economy car like a Corolla, and sometimes it’s a small sports car. Once it was a 70s Ford Mustang. But I always end up becoming unsatisfied with the car I have, and always end up kicking myself all through the dream for giving up the Mercedes, and knowing that I will never be able to afford another one. By dream’s end I am miserable. Why did I do that I keep asking myself. Over and over. Why did I do that. There was no reason for me to do that. Now I’ll never own another one.

Sometimes the dream follows the path I took to Mercedes ownership. First I have the little white C class. Then I trade that in for the E class diesel. But then I give up the E class, trading it for a less expensive car, or some sort of sports car, and the dream goes downhill from there. I wish I knew what this dream was telling me. I am Never getting off my E class diesel. At least not willingly. That car is my dream come true car. It’s the car I want to drive to the end of the road with. 

Last month I spent the holidays in California visiting my brother. I took the train because it was just a visit over the holidays and I didn’t want to be driving through snow and ice if the weather turned bad. I got a good rental car for the duration, a new Hyundai Elantra. It was a fine car, well built, and it had some features I wish my 2012 Mercedes did. But I spent the entire time I was out there missing my E class (I’ve named it Spirit). The instant I got back home I took it for a drive, allegedly to give it a quick run after it sat in front of the house for a month, but more like I just missed it so much.

I am never willingly getting off that car. If the worst happens and it gets wrecked somehow, I’ll go looking for a used (sorry…Previously Owned) Mercedes, count on it. Probably a W204 C class like the first one I bought because they’re actually affordable to someone on retirement income like me. But if I could find a restored or at least rust free 240D with a stick that would be ideal. Those cars are legendary for their rock solid build. So it isn’t like I can’t ever have another one like I’m telling myself in this dream.

I wish I knew why this dream keeps bothering me. It’s not about the car…it’s about something else I’m fussing over deep in my subconscious. But what? I’ve no idea. I wish it would just stop. It wakes me up in a very disturbed state and it takes me the rest of the day to let go of it.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
January 14th, 2023

Loving My Film Cameras…Not Simple Nostalgia

I was out and about with the Hasselblad over at that new rowhouse development nearby that’s been a muse ever since they started building it. I looked outside and checked the sky and it was that good mix of puffy clouds and blue sky that works well with a red filter and my photographic style. I wanted to finish a roll and ended up finishing two. It was more than the creative urge motivating me though. I’d just spent some out of budget money on a previously owned medium format camera of a type I’d own previously and sold perhaps recklessly. And that came about because of a really bad experience with that Canon R mirrorless digital camera I briefly owned that I’m still chewing on all this time later, after I traded it in for a full frame 6D and several good primes. Yes it was that painful.

Supposedly those mirrorless cameras are the latest and greatest but the fact was that camera kept getting in my way. It kept overriding my settings on ISO and shutter speed. I kept having to fumble with every setting on just about every shoot and it kept jolting me out of my zone. One problem was the control set of the R was just different enough from the Canon EOS digitals I own and have had previously that I was constantly getting confused. Always fumbling with the settings when I wanted most to be paying attention to what I was looking at was irritating, but I figured I’d eventually learn how to adjust the settings on the fly. Then, and quickly, something else began happening regularly that made me angry at the camera. That has never happened to me before.

It kept refusing to take the shot when I pressed the button.

I would press the shutter release and nothing happened. So I’d press it harder and still nothing happened. Cursing soon followed.

Many months later, having traded that camera in for one I could work with, I began thinking that part of the problem I was having is these new mirrorless cameras don’t simply meter the light, they analyse the scene and set the exposure accordingly before you even touch the shutter release. Which they can now because they’re not using one or more CDS cells looking at the light coming in from the lens. There is no mirror, so when the camera is turned on the detector is always seeing what you’re pointing the camera at. What you are seeing in the viewfinder is a computer generated image from the signal coming off the detector.

But there have to be many built-in assumptions going on in those real time analysis and those may not always work for every photographer and every scene. Supposedly there are ways of advising the onboard computer as to how to take the shots they way you want them taken, but those I have seen are cumbersome to use while you are working and trying to stay tuned into what you are seeing. Worse, I began to discover that even when going to an entirely manual mode, that is, I set the ISO, aperture and shutter speed, the camera would still insist that it knew better and would randomly refuse to take a shot when I hit the shutter release.

I think some of the problem there is I am almost always shooting into the sun. That’s part of my style. I don’t always do that, but I do it lots. That can be tricky but it often gets me the emotional feel that I am looking for in a scene. This however goes against the grain of most basic photography courses which will tell you to shoot with the sun at your back. And it’s true that you can almost never go wrong that way if the camera has any halfway decent metering system. My hunch is a lot of digital camera scene analysis computers are set up to expect that. Yes you can choose different modes…landscape, portrait, indoors, and so on…but the rule of thumb is the light is shining on the scene, whatever it is, from behind you, and most of the time I am shooting into the light. This may be confusing whatever algorithms are employed by the camera’s software to analyse a scene.

But I have done this since I was a teenager and I know how to work it. What I’ve always loved about my Canon film cameras is that 12 percent gray rectangle in the middle of the viewfinder is actually a beam splitter and a portion of the light hitting it is being deflected to the light meter. It’s precise in a way center weighted metering just isn’t and I need that extra precision when I’m shooting into the sun. I can sweep that 12 percent rectangle across a region and get an average of it, whereas a spot meter makes me take a lot of separate readings which would slow me down. I can find my middle grays and figure the extent of the range of highs to darks and decide where to set my aperture and shutter speed. Typically I always aim for the fastest speed I can since I almost never use a tripod.

The Canon digital SLRs I’ve had tell me what they’re focusing on but what they are metering has always seemed a bit fuzzy to me. The meters are analysing the scene inside the viewfinder, since until the mirror flops up the detector can’t see anything. I don’t actually know what it is they’re judging it by. But those cameras have a meter and hold function I quickly began using. Basically I would decide on a place to focus and meter, point the camera at it and just press lightly on the shutter release. The camera would focus and meter and I could hold that and re-compose the shot. Fine. Whatever. It worked. I was content.

But the R seemed to just throw all that away. Maybe if I’d studied the manual longer I would have got it. But every avenue I could glean from the manual seemed cumbersome…and just plain weird. I was told in one passage to use the touchscreen on the back to specify where to focus and meter, but that meant I’d have to take my eye away from the viewfinder while working which I deeply dislike. But never mind because I ended up having to turn off the touchscreen (there was a setting) because my nose was always hitting it and causing the camera to suddenly do something I didn’t want. There was a joystick like control on the back that supposedly allowed you to set a spot to focus and meter on, but it just seemed awkward and I never tried it.

The camera was a bundle of distractions. I would set the effective ISO to something and discover sometime later the camera had set it elsewhere. There seemed no way to force the camera to use the fastest possible shutter speed in any semi-auto mode other than aperture priority and use the widest aperture possible all the time. But even then the camera would occasionally balk.

And ultimately it was the nothing happening when I pressed the shutter release that really Really ticked me off. I will endure a lot of struggle to learn new things in the name of progress and personal growth, but by god when I press the shutter release all the way you take the damn shot! If I got it wrong I’ll deal with that. But I press the shutter release, you take the damn shot!

As I said, and obviously, I am still chewing on it. I really wanted to like that camera. The new electronic viewfinders are amazing. But if anything, the experience with the R made me so much closer to my old mechanical film cameras. And…so very happy to see film having a renaissance among young and old alike. Even if it means the good equipment is becoming scarce and expensive.

So…this came in the mail today…

I had one of these for years but ended up selling it to KEH when I needed some spare cash and concluded that since I had the Hasselblad I wouldn’t need it. By then I had the metering prism viewfinder for the Hasselblad which made working with it faster. And with it I found working with the Hasselblad much more like working with any of my 35mm film SLRs. The Mamiya has the typical TLR waist level viewfinder which reverses left and right and that made it hard for me to judge a scene. And no through the lens metering. You can get an eye level metering prism viewfinder that corrects right/left but it seems awkward to hold the camera that way. And I have become accustomed to using a handheld with the Leica, and I think I can work with that backwards left/right thing now. 

And having only one good medium format camera in an age when getting them repaired might be hard, was something I decided was not worth the risk. So I bought another C330. I really like these for their solid heavy duty build and that you could swap out lenses. I don’t think there is another twin lens reflex you can do that on. A 55mm wide angle pair came just today and a correct lens hood for the taking lens is coming soon. I still have the red and orange filters for its lenses.

And when I press the shutter release, it takes the shot. The only reason the Hasselblad won’t is if I’m past the last shot on the roll or I still have the dark slide in. That’s completely reasonable.

I’ll take it for a drive when the weather and the sky look good.


Posted In: Life Photography
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by Bruce | Link | React!
December 31st, 2022

The Reason You Travelled Wasn’t To Stay At Home

Around noon today I felt a hankering for a Five Guys burger. I vaguely remembered seeing one here and I checked with Google maps and saw it was not far from me.

Then I thought, I can get a Five Guys burger anytime I want back in Baltimore.

So I went to Sylvester’s.


Posted In: Travel
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Oh…Were You Still Here…?

Ex Pope Ratzinger leaves the stage. If, as Shakespeare writes, the evil that men do lives after them while the good is oft interred with their bones, Ratzinger’s bones are going to have a lot of space to themselves in that grave.

“In 1986 Ratzinger issued a letter to the Catholic Bishops in which he wrote that homosexuality was a ‘tendency’ towards an ‘intrinsic moral evil’. A few years later, in 1992, he rejected the notion of human rights for gays, stressing that their civil liberties could be ‘legitimately limited’. He followed up by remarking that ‘neither the church nor society should be surprised’ if ‘irrational and violent reactions increase’ when gays demand civil rights.” –New Internationalist 327, September 2000.

Death only closes a Man’s Reputation, and determines it as good or bad.” -Joseph Addison.

My cartoon upon his ascension to Peter’s throne…April 19, 2005.


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
December 30th, 2022

It’s Not A Rain Deficit It’s A Blue Sky Overdraft

Another grey drizzly rainy day here in Oceano. Normally I’d complain that I’m not getting my fair allocation of California sunshine and blue sky, but they really Really need the rain out here. So this is good.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
December 27th, 2022

Some Much Needed Rain

Rain, rain, rain here in sunny Oceano California. But nobody is complaining because it is sorely needed here. Today we’re getting a good soaking rain. Forecast is for more later throughout the week.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
December 26th, 2022

Visited By Three Spirits. . .

The Telescope of Christmas Past…

The Telescope of Christmas Present…

The Telescope of Christmas Yet To Come…

 

This coming February will be my first retirement anniversary. It’s been a life. I may not live to see everything James Webb discovers, but I had a small hand in it, so in some sense I will be there too.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
December 24th, 2022

Beautiful Men Being Beautiful

Wonkette writes thusly…

Before The Current War On Drag Queens, There Was ‘To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar’

Republicans would have you believe that drag queens are some new phenomenon, a radical escalation in the culture wars thanks to an overly permissive society. (Thanks, Obama!) This is obviously nonsense, and a social media post reminded me that back in 1995, the camp classic To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar was released with little to no backlash, certainly no bomb threats targeting theaters showing the film.

I still haven’t watched that and I really should because it’s moved into a little slice of gay history. But as I’ve written previously, my interest in drag is limited. The guys I find most convincing at it, are always guys I would rather appreciate out of costume than in it. But the point being made here is a good one and can’t be made too often in this climate of hate mongering. Nobody really cared that much about drag…gay drag especially existed in its own little nitch. Drag has a long history in the movies and on stage. A Twitter feed I just started following is “All-male college musicals” (“Paying tribute to the oh-so-lovely but very manly drag performers in the womanless, gay college musicals of a century ago.”). It’s so far been a treasure trove of drag history from the 1940s…

This was a real thing back in the day…

 

Dig the slogan on the souvenir program, “All our girls are men yet every one’s a lady.” I wouldn’t say the drag performers back then had it going on like some of them do now, but clearly everyone was having fun. Now it’s become a culture war flashpoint, to the degree armed fascist protesters are showing up at drag shows now, sometimes facing armed counter protestors. You fear for what it’s all building up to, and then you realize that blood has already been spilled.

Again, Wonkette…

Unlike Some Like It Hot and the less artistically relevant Sorority Boys and White Chicks, Swayze, Snipes, and Leguizamo’s characters aren’t forced into drag (either to save their lives or solve a crime). It’s the life they’ve chosen, and they are happy to live openly as themselves.

Fox News was in its infancy at the time, so there wasn’t a marathon of content complaining about the overtly pro-drag queen narrative. While temporarily stranded in rural, small town America, the drag queens — Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi — bond with the local women, who are inspired by their sense of style and colorful attitude. The townspeople as a whole defend the ladies from a bigoted cop, and instead of turning them over to him, there’s a Spartacus-inspired scene where every woman claims she’s a drag queen. We need to see more of this whenever busybodies try to inspect the genitals of women playing sports or using a public restroom.

There are times I wish I had more theater in me, especially back when I was younger and cuter. Every kid should be able to believe deep down inside that they are beautiful. And also, every old man too. But at least I can still appreciate a beautiful man, and feel that life is good whenever I see one.

And Happy Holidays to You Robbie (aka Mrs Cuba), wherever you are…

My cameras could have given you a lot of love…but alas…

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
December 23rd, 2022

‘Tis The Season!

My brother put up the Casa del Garrett West Christmas Tree last night and we’ve put each other’s presents under it.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
December 22nd, 2022

Fear Of Dating…Let Us Scare You Even More!

The New Yorker posted a link to one of their humor essays this morning and against my better judgement I clicked on it. I’ve been a happy subscriber to the magazine for a while now, but humor is in the eye of the beholder, and I could see this one coming a mile away…

Come On to My House
By Jenny Allen
August 1, 2022

Calling all cute guys! Guess what? I’m ready to have a new man in my life! I’ve been on my own for a while now, but I feel totally ready for a relationship.

You just know what’s coming next in her list of new man requirements. The essay ends with an ironic slam at the downstairs neighbors for only thinking of themselves. Those of you reading this blog in a happily married or coupled household should go ahead and read this New Yorker piece anyway. Maybe it gives you a little sympathy for the rest of us stragglers. 

When I was a younger man I tried three different gay dating services (this was before smartphones and dating apps), paid them thousands, and got dates like this.

The cosmic joke is I know people who went through ex-gay therapy, left all that and ended up with wonderful fulfilling love lives. These days I joke (halfway) that maybe I should have tried ex-gay therapy instead. I think in retrospect those gay dating services frightened me about dating more than anything Exodus could have done to me.

Anyway…I’m 69 and that part of my life is in the rear view mirror. Such as it was.

It’s over.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
December 21st, 2022

Kinda Small All This Time Weren’t You…?

Digby asks thusly…

What made Elon mad?

Elon Musk used to be a rather typical soft libertarian tech weirdo, eccentric but basically socially liberal. He didn’t seem to be someone strongly attracted to the fascist right although he did whine from time to time about the supposed “illiberal left.” Obviously he’s changed. He’s a full-blown wingnut conspiracy theorist now.

I was doing some research and came across this article from last spring which I’d totally forgotten about that looks to be the turning point for him. It is from last May…

According to Digby it was the 250k settlement for sexually harassing a SpaceX worker…

That context came on Thursday night when Insider published a story reporting that SpaceX, the company founded by Musk in 2002, paid a flight attendant $250,000 in 2018 to settle a sexual-misconduct claim against him. According to reporter Rich McHugh, the attendant, who worked as part of the flight crew for SpaceX’s corporate jet fleet, had accused Musk of “exposing his erect penis to her, rubbing her leg without consent, and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage.”

There was the usual NDA, but a friend of the victim went public with it and that’s how it got into the press. 

I suppose a lot of people lately are wondering what happened to Elon Musk. But a better question would be did anything happen to Elon Musk, or is this who he always was.

A few days ago this tweet came across my Twitter stream and I just had to jump in…

 

Most of the replies involved that rescue of those kids trapped in a cave and Musk throwing a tantrum and calling the rescuers pedophiles when they rejected his brilliant idea of using a mini sub. One of the rescuers died trying to save those kids and I thought Musk’s behavior was disgusting. But it wasn’t the first time I had second thoughts about the man I’d admired for forging a real path for the automobile off fossil fuels, and getting America back into space.

As I mentioned there, for me the knock off the pedestal moment came when I read about him firing his personal secretary after she’d asked for a raise…allegedly so he could see if he really needed one. It was an explanation I found too cute for words and it made me a much more skeptical observer. In the time since that moment it’s all looked to me like the usual story of absolute wealth corrupting absolutely.

So I’m told, actor and comedian Bill Murray once said of fame that when its spotlight first shines on a person it can turn them into an asshole, Then he said, they have two years to work themselves out of it or else it sticks and that’s what they will be from then on. I think (besides that he was probably talking about Chevy Chase) that’s maybe true to some degree, but more that fame, like LSD, does to you what you do to it. If there is an asshole inside, when the brakes come off that’s what comes out.

And if you find yourself wondering how a man who did so much good for the human future could become such an unmitigated knuckle dragging lout…that’s a very good question and you should dig into it.

Look at that. Really look at it. Then keep looking…eyes wide open this time…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Kinda Small All This Time Weren’t You…?
December 17th, 2022

Spending The Holidays In Sunny California. . .

Yes, I packed a sweater. One of my pet peeves listening to people back east talking about my beloved California is they seem to think it’s all either LA or San Francisco. I awoke to 36 degrees this morning in sunny California! Oh…did you think it never gets cold here? It’s Sunny California after all! But yes, and this isn’t even north California in the mountains.

Admittedly it never gets much colder than this here in Oceano. But picture a bunch of houses built here before the first energy crisis. No insulation? Check. Thin single pane glass windows? Check. Exterior walls my mom used to say were chicken wire and paper mache? Check!

I told my brother what my mom said about the homes here once and he reminded me that the houses here have to be built to sometimes take a shake. Which I’m sure mine made of concrete block and brick veneer would probably not. And of course mine back in Charm City isn’t any better insulation wise, being built in 1953, and we dip down into the single digits every now and then. But at least mine has double pane windows now and insulated exterior doors now.

Back home I budget for the utilities first, no kidding. I will not endure a cold house or an overly warm one in the summer. So I’ve asked Bill to let me know how much extra I’m costing him in utilities for these visits and I’ll send it to him, since he’s still a working stiff and usually isn’t home most workdays.

Henry, my brother’s cat, being a Maine Coon, could of course not care less.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Spending The Holidays In Sunny California. . .
December 7th, 2022

Two Different Drag Shows

Are drag shows entertainment? Of course they are. Is drag fun? Yes, if you’re into that sort of thing. Is drag appropriate for children? When has it not been. I can’t count the number of times I saw men dressing up as women on TV shows and goofing around when I was a kid. In the 1950s and 60s TV and Movies could get some cheap laughs out of reversing gender roles, so long as it was understood those roles weren’t being challenged, but simply reversed for laughs. Nobody thought anything about it until gay people and our ways of drag became more visible. And in that are the other reasons for drag besides entertainment.

There are so many line items in the checklist of gay culture I just don’t tick off that I’ve been asked outright how sure I am that I’m gay. One of these is drag. I see it, I logically get that it’s a thing for lots of people (gay and straight), but at some deep personal level I don’t get it. But I respect it as an art form, and even admire the performers who are good at creating the illusions involved. Otherwise it does not interest me much at all, unless sometimes to watch the sort of adult somewhat androgynous slender male I’m often attracted to who is usually pretty good at doing drag. But when I watch a performer like that, I’m usually trying to visualize what they look like out of drag. 

I’m sure it’s because I am so plainly at the far end of the Kinsey scale. I am not much attracted to uber masculinity but the female body does zero for me and so drag just isn’t an interest. I like guys. I like watching guys. Beautiful, sexy longhaired guys. Bluejeans and light shirts that let you know what the body under them is like.  I just can’t look away. Makeup and glamor are other things that really disinterest me. I’m a sixties kid…we rebelled against faking a look in favor of natural hairstyles and skin tones. I have this theory that our libidos key on whatever fashions were in style during the time we are coming of age, and that is what you will always react to as beautiful and sexy. So I’m probably stuck in that mindset and it makes it hard for me to appreciate drag other than as an art form. When I hear people saying drag has this sexual connotation to it, I have to consider that logically, because my libido just doesn’t see it.

But there is a political aspect to it that I can see that pretty clearly; not just logically, but deep down at a gut level. You grow up hearing from every direction that you are some sort of sexual outlaw, a deviant, a pervert, a threat to the social order, for not conforming to your assigned gender role, for being something you cannot help being, and it makes you think about the why of it. You start thinking more carefully about things like gender and sexual roles. You think about them enough and you can’t help but see the wrongness in some of what you are being told has to be. The roles imposed on women. The roles imposed on men. What makes these the natural order? And then you feel a need to challenge it, if only to defend your inner self from being erased. The other thing about being a sixties kid is you almost always have this knee jerk reaction to any kind of imposed social conformity. Yes Mr. Establishment sir I am a young male and no I will not cut my hair. And I will wear my turquoise jewelry. And a ring in my ear if I want to. And so what if I’m gay and I love a man. What’s it to you.

And on top of all that, I am a geek child. Show me the science or STFU.

Why am I being asked to conform? What if I don’t?

What if I can’t?

Drag has not only been an art form in gay circles for generations, it is also a political statement about gender and sexual fluidity. At its most basic, it’s about each of us dealing with our own sexual nature on our own terms in our own ways. And it is that, without a doubt, that is the problem our recent crop of fascists have with it.

The current bellyaching about drag shows has nothing to do with protecting children any more than Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign in the late 1970s did. She went on a rampage against gay people after a law was passed protecting us from job discrimination and it wasn’t Save Our Workplaces it was Save Our Children. It was, and is, a visceral attack of the sort many other hated minorities have experienced throughout history. The blood libel against Jewish people for instance, is they murdered Christian children to use their blood in Jewish rituals. But this campaign against drag shows and gay people serves a more fundamental purpose, which is to reestablish and enforce social and gender roles.

Like this if necessary…

If you think I’m being hyperbolic here, just listen to them talk about gender roles and what they view as the threat liberal democracy poses to men and to masculinity and you’ll see pretty clearly what all this is in fact about. In a lot of instances you can see homophobia as second hand misogyny. Women must submit to men not have sexual power over them because men must always be powerful and in control, but absolutely Not in a sexy and fuckable way. These wannabe men so afraid of losing power, so terrified of the idea of giving themselves to a lover, sharing themselves body and soul with another, have been showing up at drag events in their own sort of drag show, carrying weapons of war wherever that is now being allowed because guns are power, never Never Never a cute butt.

Let me tell you something about drag shows. The following is an excerpt from a post at A Mighty Girl about Ruth Coker Burks, who in 1984 beheld a hospital room door with a big red bag over it, and when she entered, the dying young man inside. For the next ten years Burks helped care for over 1,000 people dying of AIDS and even dug the graves for 40 of them herself in her family’s cemetery, when their own families would have nothing to do with them…

During this time, as the AIDS epidemic was devastating the gay community across the country, she began to get referrals from rural hospitals from across the state. “They just started coming,” she explains. “Word got out that there was this kind of wacko woman in Hot Springs who wasn’t afraid… I was their hospice. Their gay friends were their hospice. Their companions were their hospice.” Time and time again, Burks reached out to their parents but, out of the 1,000 people she cared for, she says that only a handful didn’t reject their dying children. And, although she often saw the worst in people, she says she was also privileged to see people at their best as they cared for their friends and partners with dignity and grace: “I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die… Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion.” Burks also saw how the gay community supported one another and her efforts. “They would twirl up a drag show on Saturday night and here’d come the money. That’s how we’d buy medicine, that’s how we’d pay rent. If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Drag queens. Drag shows. “That’s how we’d buy medicine.” “That’s how we’d pay rent.” “If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.” Look at the armed fascist mobs, in full faux military garb, threatening drag shows and everyone inside, including children, while the local police stand by and watch. Remember and think about the people they’re waving their weapons at.

“I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die… Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion.”

In the bedrock of the need of fascism, and tyranny of any form, to set gender roles and women’s rights in stone, is the one thing it cannot abide. Love and devotion. There’s the ultimate enemy of every form of tyranny that ever was, the enemy everything they do is calculated to extinguish in mankind. So they can rule over us. Love.

 


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Two Different Drag Shows
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