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February 28th, 2015

Old Enough To Remember When TV Came Over The Airwaves

And perfectly willing to go back to it.

I finally got around to cancelling my DirectTV service today, after years of hemming and hawing about it. My viewing habits have declined a lot since I was younger, and surfing the Internet tubes takes up much more of my time nowadays. Paying to get a signal has been looking less and less attractive as the years have gone by. There’s a line in The Wall by Pink Floyd that goes Got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from. Well I’m here to tell you there’s a lot more to choose from on the cable networks these days, and it’s still mostly crap. Sturgeon was an optimist. And don’t get me started on the satellite radio I have in the car, that I’m paying several hundred dollars a year for. I did a test recently where I wrote down all the times I randomly turned on the TV, usually to The Weather Channel (a friend of mine calls it MTV for old guys) but sometimes to something else, and instead of getting content I got a commercial. It was, I kind you not, about five to one. That is, for every six times I turned on the TV, five of those times the first thing I saw was a commercial. After a while you start wondering Why the hell am I paying 80+ bucks a month mostly just to watch commercials?

When I settled on the house back in 2001 I knew I wanted satellite TV because it was the only alternative to Comcast which was loathsome even then. Everything including HBO and Showtime amounted to about 80 bucks I think. Eventually it got costlier and when it hit over 100 bucks and I dropped the movie channels and that got it back down to 70. But of course it keeps creeping up and up and you can’t just pay for only the channels you want. Sorta like how the music industry pushed albums onto listeners so you’d have to buy a whole bunch of songs you could not have cared less about just to have the ones you liked. This month my DirectTV bill ratcheted up to $90 a month and that jogged me out of my inertia.

I don’t need it. I am so close to my local TV towers I can put a coat hanger on the TV and get a good signal…

tv-hill
Looking east from the street in front of my house

I still own an old Sony 32 inch CRT TV that’s so heavy it would take two people just to move it to the recycling drop off. I got a digital converter for it when they changed the broadcast signals over instead of getting a new HDTV flatscreen. That’s how much I care about TV. Oh…and I still have a VHS recorder, a Betamax and a Laser video disk player attached to it, along with the DVD player I play my collection of favorite old TV shows with. And I have a ton of stuff I can just pop into any of those players and enjoy whenever I want. But mostly these days I just sit in front of the computer and…well…write to my blog like I’m doing now for one thing.

At some point I might get a nice HDTV and a Blu Ray player so I can watch some of the new computer animated movies because you can’t really appreciate how amazingly good computer animation has become unless you see it in high rez. But I dropped a grand on refurbishing a 54 year old Leica M3 this month (I checked the serial number for the date of manufacture…it was made in July 1960) so that’s where my priorities are. 90 bucks a month to watch TV that’s mostly commercials anyway is just too much.

Just for effect, I’m going to try and find me some rabbit’s ears. It’ll be like old times!

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

Road Adventures…Somewhat More Expensive Than I Remember…

My first big cross-country road trip was the one I took in 1971 with mom in her 1968 Plymouth Valiant out to California, to see my dad’s side of the family for the first time since I was two. A few years later I took another road trip in my 1973 Pinto with some friends in their Dodge van, in which we wandered around the southwest for a bit and then I split off from them and went to visit my California family again. Back then most gasoline pumps could only handle prices of less than a dollar a gallon, which gives you an idea of how cheap it was, and everyone thought it would always be.

Taking a cross country road trip used to be a thing you did when you were still young enough to have summer vacation and a newly minted driver’s license in your wallet. It got you out of the familiar world you grew up in and gave you a first hand look at the rest of the country you’d mostly only ever seen in TV shows and you noticed that it was…different than what the TV said it was. Later you might discover that most of your favorite westerns were actually shot just outside of LA. The real west was different…way more expansive and beautiful. And mysterious. Timeless. Travel is broadening like that…I highly recommend it. And back then it was cheap. Because fuel and food was cheap and when you’re young you don’t mind driving for hours into the night and the next day, and sleeping in the car from time to time.

Whenever I get back on the road I feel that same rush of excitement I felt those first road trips. It never fails. But at age 61 I have to keep remembering that it’s not like it was back in the early 70s. For one thing, the Interstate Highway system is complete now. It wasn’t then. I remember parts of it between Arizona and the coast suddenly becoming two lane roads in the middle of nowhere. What are now the “business loops” through a lot of small towns were all you had before the highway around them was completed. I-40 dumped you right into the center of Barstow. Also, fuel isn’t less than 40 cents a gallon anymore and motels cost more than 20 bucks a night.

When I got home from my trip to California and back last December/January I added up my fuel chits and posted the result to my Facebook page. I was particularly interested because the sudden drop in fuel prices would mean my trip had to have cost me less. And it did, by a substantial amount. The total fuel cost was $511.06. Previously I’d spent around eight to nine hundred for fuel, but that was to feed gasoline burners. I own a diesel now and notice right away my fuel costs had dropped.

But there are other expenses to take into account on a road trip, particularly the motel bills which I knew would add a big piece of change to the overall cost. I just now got around to adding up the motel bills, and they amount to $565.86. So there’s about a thousand bucks just for fuel and a place to sleep. Still not so bad. But I’m in a place now where I can afford that too. Were I still the youngster I was back in the 70s my jaw would drop and I’d turn white as a sheet to see that bill. And that wasn’t all of it either.

I know from the credit card I put all my travel expenses on that the total for the entire thing came to around two grand, but a bunch of that was grocery shopping and eating at nice places when I finally got to California. My brother and I took turns picking up the tab so it wasn’t all on me, and I got to stay with him so that saved me renting a place out there. Plus I spent $240 bucks to give Spirit a lovely full detailing and hand wax job.

spirit after detailing

You take care of the car that gives you the open road. This was my second trip to California with Spirit and it is a pure pleasure to drive. I can drive it for hours at a time and not feel fatigued, and being a diesel it has an 800 mile range on a full tank. Best road trip car I’ve ever had, and I’ve not really ever had any bad ones. The Pinto got me further longer than I had any right to expect from economy class Detroit. But Spirit is bigger, nicer, surer footed, way more powerful, takes everything from the desert heat to the winter deep freeze in stride, and its massive amounts of torque (for a passenger car) gives it a magnificent indifference to the steepest of mountain highways, either going up or down. You have to experience engine braking on a ten mile plus downhill grade with a diesel to really appreciate it.

Anyway…as I was saying, vacations aren’t cheap but the surprising thing for me looking at my chits lately is not even road trip vacations are inexpensive anymore, which is surprising when you think about it. It’s obvious a stay at a nice beach vacation spot, or Disney World, is going to be costly. You don’t expect just bopping around the highways and staying at cheap motels every night is going to cost all that much. But it actually does. I have to remember when I start planning these things nowadays that it’s going to cost a lot more than it did back in 1974.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
February 9th, 2015

How About We Both Share The Road

The cyclists got a new law passed here that requires cars to stay at least three feet away from them while passing. It’s a good and necessary safety measure, but this morning I could see the coming spring downside already. In many city streets cars simply can’t pass a cyclist unless they go into the oncoming lane of traffic. And at least one cyclist I saw on the way to work this morning was taking full advantage of that fact to quite deliberately slow traffic to a crawl. Because I guess, cars are evil things and people who own them in the city deserve it.

I know the mindset, it’s why the Washington D.C. suburbs have a horribly inadequate highway infrastructure. If we don’t build the roads we won’t get the cars the thinking went. So they didn’t build the roads…but they kept on building the offices and shopping centers and condominiums and the cars came anyway. Lots of them. And now the joke is someone gets a flat tire in College Park and it backs up traffic in Tyson’s Corner.

I appreciate that continued reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable. I appreciate that bicycles have to be a big part of the solution, along with walkability, especially in the urban and residential zones where speeds are low to begin with. Mass transit is not a magic pill. Unless we’re talking about putting Disney’s “people movers” everywhere in cities like he had planned for E.P.C.O.T., his prototype city of tomorrow, urban mass transit can’t even come close to solving the problem. But having cyclists and automobiles together on the same pavement is a recipe for accidents, not to mention road rage. They need to be kept physically separated and for all the same reasons as automobiles and pedestrians need to be kept apart. It’s the simple physics of it. But at least pedestrians in the city have sidewalks. Many city streets simply aren’t wide enough to support a dedicated bicycle lane. I see those “share the road” signs everywhere now, but someone peddling along at 7 miles per hour in a twenty-five mile per hour zone and nobody can get past isn’t sharing the road, they are appropriating it.

I don’t know the answer. But I know this because I’ve seen it over and over: Americans are never more obnoxious than when we get started on moral crusades. At least consider letting traffic go by if you’ve got a bunch of it backed up behind you and you can’t peddle any faster than 30 percent of the posted speed limit. You’re not making the drivers any more likely to reconsider owning a car by bottling them up behind you. Most of them probably live in the suburbs and can’t do without a car.  You are not making them any more likely to reconsider commuting from the suburbs either.  In the current economy you go wherever the job you were lucky enough to have is. You are not making them any more likely to consider relocating to the city. You want to do that, improve the fucking schools and crime rates. Trust me, I love my city life and I have tried often to talk my co-workers into it.  And always what I hear back is yes, But…schools…crime.

God how I would love for the cities to undergo a big fat urban renaissance.  It’s so lovely…you can walk to your job, and to the grocery store and nice restaurants and bars and if you decide to go out drinking it’s no problem for the highways because you just walk back home and everyone stays safe.  I have just about everything I need within walking distance of Casa del Garrett and I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for the suburban life I grew up in for anything. Every day I am out and about in my neighborhood I find myself thinking, This is the life! I But transforming American commuting habits isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take decades and in the meantime you have to let the cars use the city streets.

Understand this if you understand nothing else: You are not saving the planet by slowing traffic down. You are keeping those fossil fuel burning engines burning those ancient forests for longer periods of time where they are least efficient. Show your concern for planet earth get off your high horse if not your bicycle and let the damn traffic get by you from time to time.

Or not. I don’t care. I normally walk anyway (and get treated like shit by both drivers and cyclists from time to time) and even if I’m driving in to work, because of the weather or I have cargo I need to transport, it’s only a mile away from my house and if you got off the bike and walked in front of my car I would still get there at the speed of walking. But I’m an outlier in the traffic bottleneck behind you. Most of those commuters probably just got off I-83. You are making them furious, and furious people do stupid things and I don’t want to have to see it when it happens.

[Update…]

Yes, as a pedestrian most of the time in my neighborhood, I am well aware drivers can be complete assholes too. I was reminded of that fact just today as I was leaving work, when I saw a co-worker almost get run over by a driver who just blew through a crosswalk like it was a mere suggestion. The road in front of the Space Telescope Science Institute building where I work, San Martin Drive, is within the campus of Johns Hopkins University and there are signs all over the place telling drivers to be aware of the students. Students jog that road all the time…it’s a nice road that borders Wyman Park on the other side. It has several blind curves and you can hit someone if you’re not careful. And there are raised crosswalks periodically along the road to give pedestrians some safety and to slow traffic the f*ck down since it’s a 25mph speed limit there. They have these little signs posted in the middle of the crosswalk telling drivers pedestrians have the right of way and if one is in that crosswalk you have to stop.

This lady apparently thought that was optional. She almost hit my co-worker who was In The Crosswalk (I saw it happen) and if that wasn’t enough, rolled her window down and shouted at him to get off the road. Most drivers in my experience will stop for you, but there are assholes everywhere.

Some days I think instead of telling people to Share The Road what’s needed are signs saying Don’t Be A Dick

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
February 6th, 2015

Outcasts On The Road Less Traveled…

This came across my Facebook stream today, forwarded by a gay friend. It had resonance for both of us…

Elgin Park from Animal on Vimeo.

The man, Michael Paul Smith, is the creator of dozens of magical photographs that seem to be images from another time long in the past. But they aren’t. He’s following in the method of the great special effects artists Howard and Theodore Lydecker, whose work stunned audiences all through the 30s through the 60s. While others also used scale models in their effects, the Lydeckers perfected a technique of forced perspective and filmed in natural sunlight. Smith is masterful at it, and his images have attracted fans all over the world.

It really resonated with me on one level, because the scenes of him working on his models brought the memories back. Modelmaking was a childhood hobby. Throughout most of my grade school years I had shelves in my room full of the models I’d made. Most were from plastic kids when I was younger, but also things I made from scratch. When I was 7 or 8 I watched my first episode of Gerry and Sylvia Andersen’s Supercar when mom took me on a Florida vacation and I was immediately hooked. But no Supercar toy was to be found in the stores so I began making my own from paper and cardboard. After the show was syndicated back home my model became a hit with the other neighborhood kids and I found myself making them for everybody.

Later in my life all the things I’d figured out how to do with models, plus the things I’d learned teaching myself how to paint in oils, led me to a job as an architectural model maker. So the scenes of Smith working…all the tools and tricks you could see him employing…it brought the memories back. But its how he came to be doing it that resonated deeply with me.

In the video he says..

“I was bullied in school, and I was bullied because I was different. (wheew…) I think I’m still…dealing with that, still struggling with what that means and all that. I don’t think about it a lot but it does bubble up.”

I know that feeling. More than I care to. And this one…

“I come into this reality at a slightly different angle”

I found myself thinking as I watched this, Oh gosh that guy is so much me. His experience with being gay and being different…not just different because you’re gay but different on top of that because you come into this reality at a slightly different angle…and the bullying that comes with it. I knew that too. How recognition when you finally get it after going through all that makes you very uncomfortable. It brought the memories back, and all the feelings that come with those memories.

I still have my modelmaking tools but it’s been ages since I’ve used them. I moved on to a different thing. I had to because the modelmaking jobs suddenly dried up when the savings and loan scandal in the 1980s killed off many of the firms I made models for, and I was back to job hunting again. And that’s the other thing about this video that I really related to. He talks about all the jobs he had before, and how his resume looks like “what’s available in the job force.” I could say the same. He goes through and lists all his jobs and and then he says…

“Everything you do you will learn from it and you’ll use it later on in life.”

Yes…so much Yes. Time was I really hated how I kept having to go from one job to another, often when my employer found out he had Teh Gay working for him. Looking back now I have to realize that haphazard pinball ricocheting here and there path through the work force gave me a lot of intellectual tools I can still call on whenever I need them. Sometimes I catch myself doing something…maybe it’s at home maybe it’s in some other context…and I remember where I first picked up that odd bit of knowledge I was using just then and it takes me back for a moment and I find myself thinking…yeah, I guess it was worth it after all. Time was I’d have given anything to have had the comfortable life others did. Now I count my blessings.

The weirdo, the outcast, if they survive the wilderness end up having seen so many things others haven’t, and knowing how to navigate through strange territory others can’t. Because they had no choice. And sometimes because of that they end up doing pretty well. Sometimes.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 29th, 2015

Could Come In Handy

Maybe I’ll ask a certain someone who serves bier to tourists in Florida to buy me one of these, since he says I’m a drama queen…

emergency

Get me one with a travel case I can put next to the Mercedes’ first aid kit, for when I go visit.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 26th, 2015

Cute Little Bird

No…it is not Portuguese for Thomas…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 24th, 2015

Sexy Sketching…

No porn…porn is obvious and I don’t do obvious…just your basic male nude figure study, plus another in our series of beautiful longhaired guys that wear glasses reading books while naked.

I sketch on layout paper because it’s easier to draw and re-draw over and layer other scraps of layout paper over it and strongarm the lines around until I get them where I think they’re good. I have no college level or above formal training..am a self taught, hunt and peck kinda draftsman.  So smudges and foundational pencil lines are all visible. These are just things I’ve been doodling at the drafting table this week…something to keep my mind from gnawing over Valentine’s Day coming soon.  Not sure and don’t particularly care whether I’m assuaging grief or wallowing in it.

Maybe I’ll make one of these into a finished work someday. What I’d like to do is get my oil paints back out and start working in that medium again. But I have very little heart in anything I can do creatively this time of year.  It hurts too much to look inside.  I try to distract myself with simple little sketches but everything keeps coming back to that empty place inside and I have to step away from it.

NSFW below the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 13th, 2015

Second NOx Sensor Replaced…

Got Spirit back from the dealer yesterday evening. In addition to the check engine light work they also did my usual between services oil change (I change the crankcase oil in all my cars at least twice as often as the factory recommends) and adjusted the emergency brake. I noted in the loaner car I got, a 2015 ‘C’ class, that emergency brakes are now electronic push button controlled. What could possibly go wrong?

Again I’m told it was the NOx sensor, but now I’m told there are actually two of them and so this time they replaced the other one. Fine. Let’s have no more of this now, at least for another 70k miles. K?

So now I’m seriously thinking about buying another extended warranty when the current one expires. The next extended warranty on offer would be a 100k plus one and I’m told, the dealership will offer one then. But a 100k plus warranty can’t be anything but expensive. I won’t be needing it until late this year at the earliest, but I’m already thinking I probably need to start a new pot of savings Now just to pay for it. I’ll have to look hard at the cost/benefit. A Mercedes diesel sedan is not supposed to cause trouble if you take care of it and do the maintenance, even after it’s got hundreds of thousands of miles on it. That’s no blue sky exaggeration, that’s the actual history of these vehicles. They make taxi cabs out of them elsewhere in the world. And I’ve met other Mercedes diesel owners who’ve put nearly half a million miles on their cars and were still in love with them.

But the new cars are vastly more complex than those older models too. Case in point, the emissions control system in mine that got all hysterical on me in Oklahoma and Texas while I was in the middle of my Christmas road trip. One factor in the legendary longevity of older Mercedes diesels is very likely how simple they are mechanically. Superbly engineered yes. Built like a bank vault yes. But still simple compared to the same gasoline powered versions, and way more so than the car I have now when you factor in things like the twin turbochargers that give it a surprising (for a diesel) capacity for sudden acceleration, plus all the various computer controlled subsystems. This is what I worry about going forward.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 11th, 2015

You Promised…

I’m spending the weekend here at Casa del Garrett with a loaner car from Valley Motors, a Very Nice new model Mercedes-Benz ‘C’ class, while Spirit is once again having a check engine light issue worked on, that dogged me back and forth across the country last month. That was a road trip I took to the ancestral Garrett lands in Oceano California, to spend the holidays with my empty nest brother.  Check Engine in Spirit, my Mercedes, means there is a problem with the emissions control system.  Thing is, that should have been fixed a couple months ago when my dealer installed a new NOx detector after the last Check Engine light event.

Back home, surfing the web and Facebook, I chanced across the following article…

Why Does Mercedes-Benz Require OEM?

Mercedes-Benz wants to ensure that your car is operating in as close to ideal circumstances as possible, and that means using the parts your car was built with. Mercedes-Benz is famous for its engineering for excellent reason, but that means they have to design custom parts or engineer seemingly-common parts to very specific tolerances, or it will affect the performance of the car.

Even seemingly-generic parts are built to a much, much higher standard than many other brands on the market. Thus, Mercedes-Benz builds their own parts, engineers them to an exacting degree, and carefully inspects them, selling them with a warranty that ensures any certified Mercedes-Benz repair facility can replace the part free of charge if a defect escapes their inspection.

The work currently being done on Spirit is completely covered…which is good considering it would cost me about a thousand bucks total if it wasn’t. Add that to the $950 the last NOx detector work would have cost.  But this is what you are paying for when you get that work done at an authorized factory trained service center. These cars are Not Cheap, not simply because they are luxury cars but because they are engineered to a higher standard, and that costs money.

The article I linked to is mostly about body work, but it really applies to everything about cost of maintenance and repair for a Mercedes-Benz: the parts are expensive, because Daimler specifications are higher, tolerances lower. Even down to the wiper blades and oil and air filters. I’ve seen side-by-side comparisons of Mercedes OEM parts and good quality third party parts and it really leaps out at you. It’s not even close. Everything about these cars is more substantial. Everything. This means maintenance and repairs can seem atrociously expensive.  But it isn’t just throwing money at it for the sake of showing off how much money you have to throw:

The essential idea behind the Mercedes-Benz philosophy is this: if the car is properly cared for, it will work out to be cheaper in the long run. While Mercedes-Benz is rightly associated with luxury, its cars are also built to stay on the road for as long as you care to drive them.

This is what we who love these cars value them for. This is what was true back in 1971 when my uncle drove to visit us in his brand new Mercedes-Benz 220D, and it’s what I’m counting on being true now: that spending money on this car is a long term investment in a vehicle engineered like no other, that is solid and substantial, safe and utterly reliable, that I can drive to and from the grocery store or to and from California whenever I want to and not worry about it falling apart because it was made to fall apart so you’d have to go buy another.  That was Detroit’s model. That is not the Mercedes way.  The Mercedes way is to build a better car first, then add the bells and whistles on top of that. And that is how it feels to drive Spirit.  I read a user on one of the Mercedes-Benz forums I frequent, describe his ‘E’ class diesel as feeling as solid as a locomotive, yet nimble and sure footed on the curves.  That’s it. That’s the experience you get driving one of these cars.

But… They really screwed it up in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I would not own any Mercedes-Benz product made between 1997 and 2007. It’s the worst of both worlds: expensive cars that break down more than they should and require expensive parts to repair. I’ll give them this: it seems every German car maker had the same problems during that time frame.  So every time a problem arises, you wonder if this is just a random event, or the beginning of a downhill slide. And I can’t afford a downhill slide on a car that’s this expensive to repair.

I have two years and 20k left on the warranty. I bought an extended warranty…which I’m grateful for now given the cost of the work that’s suddenly had to be done.  Figure by the end of this year I’ll be over the 100k mark given how many miles I put on a car. So this second Check Engine fail is worrisome enough that I’m considering ditching the car if it needs another 1k+ repair before the warranty runs out, and just go with a cheaper ride.  I’m fast approaching a time in my life when living on retirement funds and social security makes any sort of high dollar spending very problematic.  I don’t mind paying a premium for regular maintenance, so long as that buys me a car I don’t have to worry about between maintenance. But it has to do that or I can’t justify it…

…even to own the car of my dreams, the car I’ve wanted ever since I was a teenager.

In 2008, when the new models designed under then new CEO Dieter Zetsche (one of the few CEOs today who I greatly admire) started hitting the showrooms, Daimler began running a series of ads, admitting to past failures to live up to the standard they’d set for themselves, and promising to do better. The slogan was, “Because we promised you a Mercedes-Benz”. I’m holding them to that promise.  So is the kid I once was, and he does not forget a broken promise.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 10th, 2015

Letting Go Of Pooh Bear

Adorable little Winnie The Pooh plush toy I’ve had in the house ever since I moved here got placed into one of those donation bins for adoption, hopefully to go to some needy kid who will give it a lot of love.

It was something I’d bought as a gift for Keith over a decade ago. Keith was the closest thing I’d ever had to a boyfriend, but that turned out to be more in my mind and heart than in his. He had a fondness for the characters in the A. A. Milne stories and I’d bought him some little Disney statuettes before. There was one of Tigger teaching Eeyore how to smile he liked. Sixteen years ago I saw the stuffed bear in a Disney gift shop at White Marsh and I knew he’d like it. I brought it back home to give to him on his birthday later that year. Several days after I bought him Keith told me he while we were chatting on AOL Messenger that was seeing someone else he’d met on AOL Messenger, and that other guy was moving from New York to Hilton Head so they could live together.

So Pooh stayed on the top of one of my bookcases ever since, moving eventually from the apartment in Cockeysville to Casa del Garrett here in Baltimore, but never really ever doing much except sitting there waiting for someone to give him some love. Every time I looked up at him I thought I needed to let him go to someplace where he would be loved as he was meant to be, but somehow I couldn’t let him go. Until today. It takes me that long. I hope he finds a good home.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 9th, 2015

It Stinks For A Little While, And Then It’s Gone…

This, concerning the reality show My Husband’s Not Gay, came across my Facebook stream just now…

 

doughnuts

I listened to someone compare it to farting once.  In retrospect I’ve wondered if he wasn’t telling me he’d become asexual since we were both teenagers.  Oh well…most Disney characters are after all…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
December 10th, 2014

Staring Into The Pit…

I link to Andrew Sullivan reluctantly, Very reluctantly, but I have to give credit where it’s due too. This livestreaming he did on the torture report is very good, the outrage in it genuine and worth sharing. You should feel that outrage too.

Darkness Visible: Live-Blogging The Torture Report

“The barbarism was the very opposite from a few bad apples at the bottom of the pile, as they tried to persuade us at Abu Ghraib. The bad apples were at the very top of the chain of command, rotting this country’s reputation and honor from the top down. And those begin with Bush and Cheney and Tenet. They are now wanted men. And they will go abroad again – at their legal peril. And so America becomes a legal sanctuary for war criminals. As long as they are our war criminals.”

Like a lot of Americans, I believe in that liberty and justice for all stuff, and government of the people, by the people and for the people, and I want so much to be proud of the way my country embodies those principles. Civilization stands or falls on them. But it is not always so. Just ask the native Americans, just ask the sons and daughters of the slaves, just ask the peaceful protestors of any decade who felt the club and the boot. Mary Renault, at the end of her novel about the poet Simonides, wrote “In all men evil is sleeping; the good man is he who will not awaken it, in himself or in other men.” That sense we often feel among us, of American exceptionalism, ought rightly to impart a sense of obligation, as something every generation is called to live up to, because we are human after all, and with the potential for great good comes the potential for great evil. But too often powerful evil people manage to turn that sense of ourselves and our purpose into cheap bar stool nationalism, an excuse to congratulate ourselves as we look the other way at the evil done in our name, in the name of our country. They need to be held accountable. Or history will hold us accountable, and laugh at all the times we waved our flag as if it stood for anything more than a place on a map.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
December 4th, 2014

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding? Let Me Explain…

This came across my Twitter stream today…

@teamyasumura: “For Real: When first on TV in 1966, ‘Star Trek’ was not shown in many Southern states because it portrayed integration.”

I remember watching a broadcast of the Emmy awards when I was a kid. I Spy had only been on for one season but one of the production crew, not sure who now, won an award for the work he’d done on the show and on the podium after accepting his little statue said he wanted to thank the producer. “Sheldon Leonard”, he said, “has a lot of guts.”

I had no idea what he was talking about and I was 13 years old so I let it slide. It wasn’t until many years later, when I read about how some local TV station owners in some parts of the country would reliably get up in arms whenever a show wasn’t sufficiently respectful to race bigots, that I saw what he was talking about. Basically in 1965, by casting a black man, Bill Cosby, as one of the two series leads, he was thumbing his nose at a lot of TV station owners, who between them represented a lot of potential audience.

My generation thought we’d lived to see the day our country put all that behind us. We were wrong. Horribly, laughably, wrong. All that peace love and understanding stuff we believed in didn’t amount to crap. The bitter rage of the gutter only deepened, and bided its time.

I think some part of me did eventually see it, about a decade or so ago, when I first read about towns that buried their community swimming pools, rather than allow blacks to use them too. I remember being stunned. You buried…the whole goddamned pool?? We failed to understand the power…and the potent venom…of race hatred. We failed to appreciate how hate alone can sustain the hater for decades, for generations all carefully taught. And now it is all coming back. We achieved nothing. We were irrelevant.
 
 
 

whitesonlyswimmingpoolsign

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
December 1st, 2014

A Lifetime Spent Searching…Hoping…Waiting…

This came across my Twitter stream the other day…

Susan Boyle Has Her First Boyfriend at Age 53 (People Magazine)

Well I’m happy for her. There’s little enough love in this world. I’m sixty-one years old myself, and I’m still waiting…
 

 

alone

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
November 30th, 2014

Those Simpler Times When We Were All Digging Fallout Shelters

 

skate
Photo credit: Bill Eppridge

 

My Facebook stream had one of those those Do You Remember When things aimed at boomers like myself and the slightly older. I sat through it, the usual stuff about how things were for us when we were all kids, Do You Remember When Telephones Had Dials…Saturday Mornings Were For Cartoons…You Got Your Schoolwork On Mimeographed Pages… ending with the usual If You Remember This Then You Lived In Simpler Times Consider Yourself Lucky…blah blah blah…

Yeah it was simpler…for us. We were kids. We were simpler back then. Probably not so simple a time for all the grownups leading us in our duck and cover drills though, and sitting through the random tests of the emergency broadcast system on the TV.

cuba-fallout-shelter

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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