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Archive for November, 2008

November 30th, 2008

Whew! Pencils And Inks Done! Finally!

I have finally…Finally…finished the pencils and inks for episode 11 of A Coming Out Story!  And it only took me…what…a year and four months?   That obviously wasn’t an actual year and four months worth of work.  For the longest time I simply could not go anywhere near my drafting table, for some reason I still don’t really understand, other then so many stresses in my life just all came together all of a sudden and I just couldn’t even bear to look at my work area down in the art room.

But it’s coming together now.  I still have some work to do in Photoshop…adding the panels and text and touching up this and that.  It’ll be the touching up that takes the most time, because I want to get things as right as I can before I put anything up.  This episode comes to seven and a half pages.  That’s two rows of drawings per page, at about four panels per page.  But some pages had more then that.  I think I did 29 panels in all for this one.

I have it all scanned in.  Now I have to polish it up and put it online.  I’m hoping to get that done by next weekend.  Finally.  Yes…I know…I’ve promised finish dates before that I’ve let slide.  But the heavy sweat work was the pencilling.  That part of it really gives meaning to the phrase 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.  Actually, I’d say it was more like 2 percent verses 98 percent.   But now that’s done, the rest is just a matter of cleaning up.

I actually had to go back and re-do some of it after I’d been away from it for so long.  I wasn’t satisifed with many of the earlier panels and I re-drew a lot of it.  Then I added two more pages to the beginning of it.  But those two pages came out of my pencil pretty fast, compared to the rest of it.

The next episode may run to as many if not more panels, but I think it will go quicker because it tells a story more then this episode does.  The drawing for 12 will be a lot less repetative then 11s was.  You’ll see what I mean when I put 11 up.  Finally.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Whew! Pencils And Inks Done! Finally!

In Theory Practice Is The Same As Theory, And In Practice It’s Different

Matthew Yglesias thinks the titans of finance are ducking responsibility for the mess they’ve made of…well…the entire friggin’ world…

Robert Rubin speaks up for himself:

“Nobody was prepared for this,” Mr. Rubin said in an interview. He cited former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan as another example of someone whose reputation has been unfairly damaged by the crisis.

This seems like a pretty serious dodge here…

Yes, but not the one you think it is.  Rubin, like a lot of the Bush-Reagan big money cronies, drank the deregulation kool-aid some time ago.  He really thinks that unregulated capitalism is self correcting and self sustaining.  He’s Still looking at what happened to the world economies through those ideological rose colored glasses. What’s happening now just wasn’t supposed to happen.  They still can’t believe that it’s happening.  And if the government they’ve been calling part of the problem not part of the solution for so long hadn’t started bailing their asses out, they’d be jumping out of windows now, just like they were during the Great Depression.

For generations now, ever since FDR, the country club class has been dispensing crap about how the Great Depression wasn’t really caused by their greed and excesses, but by the very government regulation that has kept us from having more of those massive boom and bust cycles ever since.  The great middle class created in this country by the New Deal is something they sincerely regard as having been carved out of their hides and they hate it.  They think we’re taking money from their pockets and they don’t see and don’t care that it was making the nation stable and the economy solid and strong for generations…strong enough for them to keep getting all the rich they want to get…just not as much or as fast.  But this idea that taxes are theft, and regulation is socialism, not the cost of having a stable democracy and a stable economy, is like a religion to them. 

So for generations now, the uber rich have been drenching the middle class with this fairy tale that the Great Depression was actually caused by…get this…Too Much government regulation, as opposed to the nearly none that allowed them to create worthless paper wealth on top of worthless paper wealth…just like…oh…what they did during the Bush years.  They told the middle class that if the rich were only allowed to dismantle the New Deal, why, Everyone would prosper.  But that crap was supposed to be just for the rubes to eat, while the rich ate the standard of living and the life savings of the middle class because they’ve thought all along that all that was rightfully theirs to begin with. 

But some of the uber rich actually started believing they could have their middle class and eat it too. Sorta like the way they told us they could take the Social Security trust fund money and put it into the stock market and then there would be money in both the trust fund to pay for current benefits and money in the stock market too!  See how one dollar magically becomes two?  That thinking is how they got us into the current mess, and not coincidentally how they got us into the Great Depression once upon a time.  Back then, the government regulated the banks to prevent that magic money from getting into the finance system again, and the uber rich have been trying to roll back those regulations ever since, because that prevented them from sucking money out of the banks…money that theoretically belonged to working class depositors.  Oh sorry depositor…we loaned your life savings out to somebody…who loaned it out to somebody…who loaned it out to somebody…who bought stocks with it… 

They began thinking they really could suck the money out of the middle class, and still have a middle class left to sell things to and keep the economy running.  But…There is no free lunch.  Really.  There isn’t.  Why…the Free Market will self correct…and the rising tide will lift all boats…  No.  It doesn’t.  It sure didn’t during the Great Depression…that grand daddy of all boom and busts.  And now that they’ve managed to gut most of the New Deal brakes that kept those huge boom and bust cycles from seriously crashing the economy…surprise, surprise….it’s all crashing around their heads again.  And only that evil wicked federal government is standing between them and absolute ruin.  And they’re begging it to step in and save them from…well…themselves.  Schadenfreude.

And they won’t learn.  Trust me…they won’t learn.  At the end of some future day, when things are back to normal, or as near to normal as possible, they’ll still look resentfully out from their rarefied heights down upon the middle class, all the ticky-tacky homes with their ticky-tacky furniture and their ticky-tacky clothes and their ticky-tacky lawn ornaments, believing all that only exists because it was carved out of, and not there to save their sorry hides.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on In Theory Practice Is The Same As Theory, And In Practice It’s Different

Oh Swell

I don’t do MySpace that often anymore.   Or Facebook that much either. which I got lured into because so many of my co-workers are on it.  But of the two I think it’s been Facebook more these days then MySpace.  But I’ll still check into MySpace every now and then. 

MySpace will feed you ads tailored to your profile…meaning I get a definate gay slant to the ads I’m being fed.  That’s okay with me.  Better then okay actually.  In a world that still seems to have trouble admitting that folks like me exist, let alone treat us fairly, it’s kinda nice to be talked to by advertisers, instead of talked past all the time. 

But just now when I logged off, I got fed an ad for "Senior Dating".  Swell.  Just what I needed.  I’m assuming this isn’t ‘Senior’ as in Senior Software Engineer

Great.  Just great.  First thing in the morning and I get called a lonely old fart by MySpace.  Bet I find another goddamned AARP card in the mail again tomorrow too.  I must have thrown out two or three dozen of those damn things already.  I’m not old.  I’m at that awkward age.  You know…somewhere between birth and death.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

November 29th, 2008

Get Your Deeply Held Religious Beliefs Off My Back

Of course, while I was away in a private little world where everyone gets along, the fallout from Proposition H8 continued in full force.  As it should.  A lot of people are claiming they have a duty to strip gay people of their civil rights because their religion tells them to.  But they had another duty, as Americans, to stand up for liberty and justice for all.  We have seen time and again in this KulturKrieg, how religion is used as a wedge, to separate Americans from one another, for the benefit of the haters of the American dream.  Charles De Gaulle once said Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.  That applies to Christian nationalism as well. 

Freedom of religion doesn’t mean you’re free to impose your religious beliefs on others.  Freedom of religion means even the heathens in the church across the street have rights too.  Freedom of religion means that even the people your religion brands as pariahs have rights too.  Freedom of religion means we are all equals in the eyes of the law.  That is how the religious outcasts of Europe once conceived of the American land they fled to, when their own beliefs were being persecuted back in the old countries.  A nation of religious non-conformists, dissidents, and outcasts, cannot hold together when one group demands that its "deeply held religious beliefs" have the force of law over others.  The haters of America are well aware of this.

You can be a Mormon when you pray in a Mormon church.  You can be a Catholic when you pray in a Catholic church. You can be a Baptist when you pray in a Baptist church.  When you walk into a voting booth, you must be an American.  The American prayer is for liberty and justice for All, or America simply cannot be anymore.  If that offends your deeply held religious beliefs, find another country.  Because what you want to live in is a theocracy, not a democracy.  You can be a Christian, or a Mormon, first, before anything else, anywhere and everywhere but in the voting booth.  In the voting booth, you must be an American first.

When Are Your "Privately Held Religious Beliefs" Not So Private Anymore?

Posted by Dan Savage on Wed, Nov 26 at 10:44 AM

When you donate $1500 to a political campaign to strip other people — people who are not your co-religionists — of their civil rights. Richard Raddon is, or was, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. All hell broke loose after it emerged that Raddon, who is Mormon, had donated $1500 to the "Yes on 8" campaign. The LA Times:

After Raddon’s contribution was made public online, Film Independent was swamped with criticism from "No on 8" supporters both inside and outside the organization. Within days, Raddon offered to step down as festival director, but the board, which includes Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker, Lionsgate President Tom Ortenberg and Fox Searchlight President Peter Rice, gave him a unanimous vote of confidence.

Yet, the anti-Raddon bile continued to bubble in the blogosphere, and according to one Film Independent board member, "No on 8" supporters also berated Raddon personally via phone calls and e-mails. The recriminations ultimately proved too much, and when Raddon offered to resign again, this time the board accepted.

Raddon released a statement that said, in part, "I have always held the belief that all people, no matter race, religion or sexual orientation, are entitled to equal rights." Except for when they’re not — and Raddon also believes that the religious should wield a veto over other peoples’ civil rights. He goes on to whine about being a "devout and faithful Mormon," and about how his contribution to "Yes on 8" was a "private matter." Uh… no. A donation to a political campaign is a public matter; and civil marriage rights for same-sex couples did not infringe upon the religious freedom of Mormons, devout or otherwise.

Bill Condon, the gay guy who directed Dreamgirls, attempted to get Raddon’s back: "Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs."

No. No. No. Raddon lost his job due to criticism of his public political actions, not his private religious beliefs, and his public political actions were a part of the public record. If Raddon wanted to go to church and pray his little heart out against same-sex marriage, or proselytize on street corners against gay marriage, or counsel gay men to leave their husbands and marry nice Mormon girls instead, that could be viewed as an expression of his "privately held religious beliefs." Instead he helped fund a political campaign to strip a vulnerable minority group of its civil rights.

"Millions of Californians definitely lost their civil rights," says John Aravosis. "But I’m not hearing a lot of concern about any of those victims, only sympathy for their attacker. When you use the power of the state to rip away my civil rights, and force me to live by your ‘values,’ you are no longer practicing your religion. You’re practicing politics."

In the wake of Prop 8 millions of gays and lesbians all over the country have decided that we’re no longer going to play by the old rules. We’re not going to let people kick our teeth down our throats and then run and hide behind "Nothing personal — just my private religious beliefs!" That game’s over.

That game’s over.  When you advocate for this or that as a matter of law you are not practicing religion…you are practicing politics.  And when you attempt to use the laws all Americans must live by, to bash your neighbor and elevate yourself, you are not a patriot but a nationalist. 

This is the second time I have seen in the news since Proposition H8 passed, a Mormon who while working side by side with other gay people, first in the theater, and now in films, gave serious money to cut their ring fingers off.  One-thousand, five hundred dollars is not pocket change.  You just don’t give that kind of money to something like this, simply because your church tells you to donate.  That’s the kind of money you give, when you really, really want the measure to pass.  This was not simply religious obedience on his part.  He was serious about it.  That money became a knife in the back of every gay person he knows, every gay person he ever worked with, every gay person whose creative talent and energy gave him the means to earn a living. 

What you have to understand about this fight, is that it isn’t about marriage.  It’s about love.  Gay people, must not be allowed to love and be loved in return.  They must not be allowed to have that intimate other in their lives, that companion of the heart to walk through the years with, side-by-side, soul to soul.  To allow us to marry is to aknowledge that homosexuals love, and that cannot be.  But when you take the possibility of love away from someone, what is left?   What is left, to council peace, compassion and sympathy when rage fills the empty space where love once lived?

Do they really think, at long last, that we are not human?  What Raddon got was precisely what he asked for.  A world without love, without compassion, without sympathy, without peace.  Congratulations Richard.  Mission Accomplished.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

November 28th, 2008

Deep Thought Of The Day…

Snowstorms that dump two or three feet of snow overnight, and the Friday after Thanksgiving, are why I stock up on supplies for the Winter.  There are days when you just don’t want to set foot outside, let alone drive anywhere.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Deep Thought Of The Day…

What Was That King Said About Shallow Understanding Again…?

He was talking about race relations of course, but you can see it apply all across the spectrum of human relationships:  "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will…"

No kidding.  I’m fifty-five years old now.  My walk through life has taken me in many different directions, down many paths I would not have expected.  Paths that even today some people who have known me for ages have never heard me talk about. Most of old high school friends know very little about the life I’ve lead lately.  The friends I’ve made in the 80s and 90s mostly know very little about the life I led as a kid.  My co-worker friends know little about my home life.  My gay friends don’t really know my straight friends, and vice versa.  The two main branches of my family tree live on different coasts, and don’t much like each other.  Mom’s side sees less and less of me as their religiosity grows more and more hardened.  My brother and I talk often, but he is not here to actually see the life I lead, or take part in any of it.  It’s not that I live separate lives.  I live only one.  But it is very broadbanded.  My walk has taken me many places.

I appreciate the fact that no one friend has ever been with me throughout the whole of that walk.  It is the central grief of my life, that I have had no partner in love to share much of the walk with.  I am fifty-five years old now, and any lover I manage to gain now, will only be there to walk with me through the last few bits of it.  I’ll never have that one great lifelong love.  It’s too late.  The closest I could get to it now, is if I manage to make a lover out of someone from my past, who happens to come back into my life all of a sudden.  Which I am pretty sure won’t happen. 

So I can appreciate how some folks I see on a semi-regular basis here in Washington-Baltimore won’t know, can’t possibly know, all there is to my story.  But some of it must surely become pretty goddamned obvious after a few years of hanging out with me.  Let alone a couple decades.  But apparently…not.

Understand that central grief of my life, if you understand nothing else about me, and handle it with care if I choose to let you see it.  Because when that happens, Understand This, I am Not looking for a shoulder to cry on.  If I let you see that grief it’s because, only because, I trust you.  It’s a big part of me, that grief.  I don’t want it there…I hate it…it has drained so much of the energy out of me over the decades.  So much that I could have been, and now never will be.  It still drains me a little, every day.  I don’t want it there…I hate it.  But there it is.  We place our hearts in our friend’s hands.  Mine has a great big wound on it that never heals, and never will until the day comes, if it ever does, that I find that intimate other.  If I give you my heart you will see it there…it’s impossible for me to hide.  And I shouldn’t have to hide it from a friend anyway.  Just…handle it with care.  It’s bigger, deeper, and a hell of a lot more painful then it looks.  You poke it, and you won’t like what happens next.

I get it that not everyone in this world wants the soulmate.  Really I do.  I get that the quick easy fuck, and the shacking up with someone you don’t really like all that much, simply because you just don’t want to go home to an empty house every night, isn’t just a phenomena of the urban gay subculture, but all of humanity.  You need to get that I am not that.  For years, seriously, ever since I was a teenager coming off of my first high school crush, I regarded casual sex as cheap and the people that pursued it shallow.  Well…I grew up.  I came to realize that my temperament in love and sex and the whole dating and mating game were not everyone’s.  I came to realize that you can’t judge people by the kind of sex they have, but by how well they treat one another.  Should have been an easy thing for a gay man to grasp, but it took me a while.  But at last I got there.

But some people seem to think growing up means not simply learning to acknowledge and respect other gay folks lifestyles, but living them too, as if my own romantic needs and desires are childish things, fairy tales, that sensible gay adults leave behind.  If that’s the case, then I’m not the one who needs to grow up.  You are.  I learned the world is bigger then the limits of my own understanding, larger then the reach my own desires.  You can learn it too.  And learn this while you’re at it: people who need the lover and do not need and do not want the fuck buddy are a legitimate part of that world.  Your mileage may vary.  Fine.  I am not you.  And that’s okay.  Let’s hear it for diversity.

No, I will not trick.

No, I will not hang out in meat market bars. 

No, I will not "broaden my interests".  There is nothing wrong with my interests.  You’d know that, if you’d ever bothered to understand what my interests really are, instead of assuming what they are by whatever jerks my head around.  I am looking for a lover, not a fuck buddy.  If I was looking for the fuck buddy then maybe what turns my head would be a good indicator.  It’s not.

No, I will not accept being single as my state in life.  The day I finally accept that I have no chance whatsoever in finding that one great love of my life, is the day I put a gun to my head.  Stop asking me to accept it, or stop pretending to like me as a person.  Pick one.

And stop blaming me for my own singleness!  I Have tried to find that intimate other, that companion of my heart.  As I recall, I sent a certain someone who seemed to have a hard time wrapping his head around this, a several page letter detailing how hard I’ve tried ever since I was a teenager.  And what I got back was a Fisked response that basically ignored every fucking thing I said in that letter, and kept right on blaming me for my own singleness.  The fact is, if you’d care to look beyond your own great good fortune, at just our own little crowd, that finding and keeping that one great love is a goddamned hard thing.  Most people are lucky to get even one chance at it.  Let alone two. 

Which is why we all need friends.  Friends who care.  And I don’t mean care in merely a rhetorical or theoretical sense.  Friends who actually care enough to help.  Shouting out to a drowning man from the safety of the shore, directions to a store that sells life preservers, isn’t helping. 

I don’t expect my friends to set me up with dates.  And especially not if they think it’s asking too much to expect to actually have a love that engages you body and soul, heart and mind.  And extra especially if they think I’m not attractive enough to actually have a chance of finding what I am looking for.  And extra-extra especially if they have a completely fucked-up idea of what it is that I am looking for in the first place.  I don’t expect it.  But if something comes along, and you see a chance to do something like that for a friend, then why the hell wouldn’t you?  That’s what I just don’t understand.  Why wouldn’t you?  I’ve actually done that sort of thing in the past for some of my heterosexual friends.  Hell…heterosexuals do that for each other all the fucking time.  If I wanted to get bitter about how indifferent gay culture is I could easily right now.  But I know better then to judge all gay people by the indifference of some.

And when something just fucking drops into your lap, and you just let it float away like a dead leaf in the autumn wind, am I really being a hardass if I see that as a sign that your friendship was a hell of lot shallower then I’d thought it was?  I thought we were friends.  I don’t just say that word to everyone I know.  Friends.  I put my heart into your hands, hopes and dreams and wounds and all, and you let it drop on the floor.  Is it my fault that it broke?  Maybe.  If it was my fault I put my heart there in the first place.  Should I have known better?

I don’t think of myself as a particularly high maintenance friend.  But I have my tender spots and in my defense I practically wear some of them on my sleeve.  You had to know what you were doing to me when you did that.  Or you’ve just been so goddamned lucky in your own love life it’s so completely so utterly blinded you to how hard it is for others, that you thought it wasn’t any big deal.  Or maybe you just decided on your own that it wasn’t right for me.  Would have been nice to have had the chance to decide that for myself. 

A chance.  That’s all I ask of my friends, is when a chance comes along, they let me have it.  Maybe nothing at all comes of it.  Fine.  At least I had another chance, and it’s seeing the occasional chance still coming my way that keeps me going at my age.  A chance.  It fell into your lap.  And instead of letting me have it, you kept it, and let it slowly wither into nothing.  It’s gone now.  Gone.  And I’m left wondering what the fuck you were thinking when you let that happen.  I suppose now you’re sorry you even told me about it to begin with.  Of course the thing to be sorry about is you told me, not that you let it die.

I am not angry.  I’m sad.  But life, and the one great grief in my own, go on.  I’ve been dealing with the big grief for decades now.  I can deal with this.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What Was That King Said About Shallow Understanding Again…?

November 26th, 2008

Figuring Out Germans

For the past several months I have been wading into German history and culture, the better to befriend a certain someone.  Last week it paid off.  Finally.  But it was eye-opening.  If you want to make friends across cultural boundaries, it helps to understand where the other person is coming from, understand their frame of reference, and learn what their expectations are in social situations.  If they’re even a little interested in you, they are probably trying to meet you halfway, and chances are you are trying to do the same.  But you just can’t wing it.  You have to know where the other person is coming from. And all too often Americans don’t even know where they are coming from. 

Anyway…   I meant to post this some time ago.  This is a passage from Germany – Unraveling An Enigma, by Greg Ness.  If you are trying to befriend a German, or trying to do business with one, I strongly recommend this book…

It is no coincidence that the Germans call the Enlightenment the Aufklärung, literally, the "period of clearing up".  With the German’s strong sense of history, they view the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on Wissenschaft (science and scholarship) and Vernunft (rational understanding), as a watershed in human development.

It would be difficult to overstate the German respect for understanding based on rational analysis and scientific knowledge, both of which are seen as ways of creating Klarheit.  This desire for clarity can be seen in their attempt to define their germs precisely when discussing issues as well as their love of creating comprehensive categories and taxonomies.  Because Germans love to converse at length, clear, well-thought-out, rational arguments based on broad knowledge elicit admiration and great respect…

Germans also desire clear, unambiguous knowledge as a way to reduce the general insecurity and anxiety that plague them, since having knowledge is one of the best forms of control.  From the German perspective, you can only control that which you understand, keeping every lurking chaos at bay.

Which leads us to this, regarding German communication patterns…

In Germany, there is a strong emphasis on explicit verbal communication, which emphasizes the content level of communication, and deemphasizes the relationship level.  This is especially so among educated Germans in business and public situations, and is directly correlated with the private/public distinction we examined in the previous chapter.  Americans also place significant emphasis on the content level of a communication but do not deemphasize the relationship level as much as Germans do…

Educated Germans today have, as we learned in chapter 3, idealized analytical knowledge, and their communication style tends to be explicit, fact oriented, and academic.  There is a widespread belief among well-educated Germans that only by remaining rational and constantly following clear principles will humans be able to achieve a better, more civilized society.  Germans believe that to really express something exactly, one needs complicated language…

(like…German?  Um…anyway…)

…This leads to a business German that is more elevated and convoluted as compared with the more pragmatic, popularistic American style.

Corresponding to the strong emphasis on content, the relationship aspects of communication, as mentioned before, are more marginalized.  Conflict is generally avoided, not by emphasizing harmony in personal relationships or by smoothing over differences of opinion, but rather by maintaining formality and social distance.  Direct attacks on the content of a person’s communication are common, but attacks on the person are avoided by keeping the discussion impersonal and objective…

So I’m reading this book…which again I highly recommend, and at that same time I’m seeing this in Der Spiegel about the coming Oktoberfest…

At last year’s Oktoberfest visitors ate 521,873 roast chickens, 58,446 pork knuckles and 104 oxen. They consumed 6.9 million liters of beer which is supplied exclusively by Munich’s six main breweries and is brewed especially for the festival. The list of lost items collected from under the tables is a good indication of how intense the partying can get — last year it included four sets of false teeth, 1,600 pieces of clothing, 600 identity cards and credit cards, and one complete Dirndl dress.

Notice the precision of the statistics there.  Okay…thinks I.  I get it now…I think.  Germans are really Vulcans.  But instead of Pon Farr they have something called Oktoberfest…which is when they get to go crazy…

This year’s Oktoberfest was only a little less raucous apparently

Members of staff found 680 identity cards and passports, 410 wallets, 360 keys, 265 spectacles, 280 mobile phones and 80 cameras, one set of diving goggles, one set of angel’s wings, a superman costume and four wedding rings.

A long-haired Dachshund was also found roaming the festival ground, but was later reclaimed by its owner.

"For the first time, no dentures were found," the Munich city press department said with a mixture of surprise and disappointment. "Is this a sign of demographic change, good dental hygiene or a higher rate of tooth implants?"

I see more identity cards are being lost.  But…Diving goggles?  And…what self respecting native child of the land that produced Nietzsche would be seen in a Superman costume for chrissake?  That’s too ridiculous for words.

Beer.  Enough of it makes even Vulcans let down their hair…and fall on the floor…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Figuring Out Germans

Deep Thought Of The Day

It’s…cold…in Baltimore…in November…   Uck…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Deep Thought Of The Day

The Way Tomorrow Used To Be

I was only five minutes out of Disney World and moving down the Interstate when I decided to tune in OutQ on the car’s Sirius radio, and happened to get the hourly news, and hearing about the ongoing fight over Proposition H8 was all it took to make me angry, livid even, all over again.

You know…there was more to growing up with Walt Disney’s Wonderful World on the TV then the cartoons and the Disney-esq storylines. There was a sense to much of what Disney did, that, yes, it’s a small world after all, that the future was bright with promise, that technological progress was a thing to be embraced and that the study of science was good for us, part of a well balanced education.

I spent most of my time in Epcot, but a little also in Magic Kingdom, in Tomorrowland. There was a cute little Tomorrowland poster at the Main Street U.S.A. entrance to the Magic Kingdom, that read The Future That Never Was Is Finally Here. Tomorrowland is one great big nod to the retro-future of the 1950s and 60s. But at its core is this almost childlike sense of progress, grounded in knowledge, leading to a wonderful tomorrow. It was the sense of the future I grew up with. And I’m here to tell you, after eight years of George Bush and the religious right and their Republican enabler’s cultural war on reason, knowledge and science, it was exhilarating to have it served up to me again, unselfconsciously and unapologetically….like it was just everyday common sense.

I rode the Spaceship Earth exhibit at the entrance to Epcot. You get on a set of moving carts that work pretty much like other Disney “people mover” technologies. The step-on station is a platform that moves along with the carts. The carts never stop, but the access platform moves along with them so it’s a simple matter to get onto one. Once in the cart you sit in front of a touch screen video display which asks you for your language and place of origin, which it uses to tailor the narrative guide specifically to you. Each seat in the carts has its own set of speakers, and you only hear your own guide. The ride chronicles the progress of human communication, and the sharing of knowledge, from the stone age to modern times. The most soul-satisfying moments of my stay at Disney World, where those moments spent seeing the grand arc of the human story laid out before me as a great adventure, without concession to fundamentalist demands for biblical correctness. Time and again I walked through Disney World stunned, absolutely stunned, that here in the United States of America in the 21st century, kids are more likely to see in an amusement park then in their own schools, archeological and scientific facts not only told truthfully, but the pursuit of those truths seen as a great and wonderful adventure. I don’t think it’s just Disney’s gay friendliness that has the fundamentalists pissed off.

Sniff at all the staff (excuse me…Cast Members…) walking around the park in character costumes if you like. But that It’s A Small World After All mentality pervades everything in Disney World and after so many years of relentless scorched earth republican party assaults on tolerance and diversity, it was wonderful to stay for a while in a place where those things were just taken as a given. There was no preaching of diversity, it was just always there in the background, especially in Epcot. But even in Downtown Disney, which is more like a shopping plaza then a park, there was a holiday display that showcased all the different ways different cultures celebrated at this time of year. Yes, there was also “Christmas” everywhere. I went to “Micky’s Christmas Party” in Magic Kingdom Thursday night, a special event with a Santa parade and a spectacular fireworks display over Cinderella’s Castle (see below). But it was more a celebration of the holiday spirit, and believing in your own dreams, then any particular religion. There were in fact, no references to religion at all. Anywhere. Except to acknowledge, respectfully, even cheerfully, that different people have different beliefs. It’s A Small World After All. James Dobson would have hated it. He’d have joined hands with Maleficent onstage to try and tear it all down so that people won’t believe in their dreams anymore.

Walt Disney was a man of his times, and his magic kingdom was born after the second world war and at the beginning of the first American space age, when we were just learning how to launch humans into space and bring them back alive. There was so much we were going to do, and that we still haven’t. So much Walt Disney wanted to do too. Epcot wasn’t originally planned as a theme park. It was Walt’s Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Having finally had my first hand look at what he accomplished with his theme park, I find it tragic he didn’t get a chance to realize his original dream for EPCOT. Cigarettes killed him before he could. But I think he would have done it had he lived.

And…thing of it is…had he accomplished EPCOT…so many many years ahead of its time…it would be a city today, perfectly, absolutely perfectly positioned to withstand the impact of rising energy costs. Here (in three parts) is a film that Walt produced to get investors to buy into his planned city of tomorrow. The quality on this copy is not wonderful, but it gets it across. These days you hear a lot about making cities and communities “walkable” and investing in more and better public transport. In EPCOT as originally planned, the pedestrian was going to be king. Various Disney developed “people mover” technologies were to be employed to get you from one place to another. The only reason you’d need a car in EPCOT, would be if you wanted to go visit someplace else.

“…their schools will welcome new ideas, so that everyone who grows up in EPCOT will have skills in pace with today’s world.”

I haven’t heard anyone seriously talk about schools and ideas and living in today’s world like that since Reagan began putting the knife into the New Deal. I was fortunate to enter school sometime just after Sputnik scared the hell out of the U.S. and suddenly giving kids a good science education was a vital national security thing and to hell with the fundamentalist vote. I grew up in a world where science and rationality and the pursuit of knowledge and understanding had respected and valued places in school and in society and in our dreams of tomorrow. It was either that, or let the Soviets plant their flag on the moon, and in effect, declare their ownership of space. You know…that place where all the missiles fly on their way to our cities.

Maybe it wasn’t all do-able exactly the way it was envisioned back then, but the spirit of the times is what matters more then its vision of what tomorrow would look like. Tomorrow is always different then you imagined it. But once upon a time we were all allowed to dream about making tomorrow better then today. We could envision a better world someday. The fundamentalists hate that dream. They want to take it away from us. All of us…not just gay people. We can’t be allowed to dream that dream. Because their dream is about the world coming to an end.

So I spent a while in Disney World. I saw Cinderella’s Castle and Micky and Donald and the Genie and I rode Spaceship Earth. I saw planet Earth float over the world showcase lagoon while its continents told in pictures the story of life, and the human journey from African savannas to the seas…and then the skys…

We can see a new horizon
built on all that we have done
and our dreams begin another
thousand circles ’round the sun

And I rode The Carousel of Progress…

There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of ev’ryday
There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

…and I was able to remember the old dream once again. Sniff at the Disney-esq sentimentality all you want…I used to…but I swear I won’t anymore. I have lived through decades of this culture war and it is precisely this sentiment that the fundamentalists want to make us all forget, kill in our hearts forever, so they can get back down to the business of bringing a world they have always hated to an end.

I am so glad I went. And not just because I got to see a certain someone I haven’t seen face to face in decades. Got to see him smile too…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Way Tomorrow Used To Be

November 21st, 2008

Disney Fire

A couple shots from the Late Night Christmas Special I went to last night at the Magic Kingdom…

That’s how they had the Castle lit up for the Christmas Special.  Apparently they have to hang those lights every night the hold the special, after the park normall closes (which is early…5PM I think…), and have them ready for the special event reopening at 7PM.

There was a Christmas Parade down Main Street, then at 9:30 there was the most amazaing fireworks display I have ever witnessed around the Castle.  Here’s a wee taste from inside the crowd…

There was a light show, On the Castle walls, which kept changing color.  There was music piped over the crowd by tactfully hidden loudspeakers which must have been everywhere because the music and the narrator’s voice (it was Jiminy Cricket), was never too loud in one place, nor too quiet in another.  The sounds just seemed to come at you out of thin air.  And everything, Everything, was precisely timed to the fireworks display, which was massive, and tightly choreographed.  They literally painted the sky around the Castle with multicolored fire.

I’ve never seen its like.  Fireworks were shooting From various Castle ramparts, and bursting in the sky behind it, while animated images were being projected on various parts of the Castle walls, and the walls themselves were constantly changing color.  Lots of really good booms rang out, timed exactly to the music.  Things were flying up into the sky from all directions.  At one point, an acrobat dressed up as Tinkerbell sailed overhead from the top of the highest Castle turret. Every little thing about the display was perfectly done, which was amazing because there was so much going on.  And you don’t just sling around powerful fireworks like the ones they were using.  Those explosions and bursts of light were Not small.  The uber geek in me was impressed. Actually, it made my jaw drop.

More later.  I’m off now to use the voucher for a free game at the Fantasia Miniature Golf area.



by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

Just A Note…

Turns out, I do have a fridge here in the room.  Like many utility things here in Disney World it was tactfully hidden behind something meant to look like something else.  In this case it was a dresser cabinet.  One of the doors was actually hiding the fridge.  So I can go buy some stuff and bring it back to the hotel room without worrying about it spoiling.

I did so much yesterday, and I have so much on the plate today, tomorrow, and Sunday that I don’t think I’ll be blogging for a while.  The price of the tickets here, and the accessories, makes you want to make the most of every moment. I’ll write more about all that later too.

In the meantime, a certain someone is in for a surprise when he comes in to work one of these days shortly…whether he sees me this trip or not.  Hey guy…your co-workers are a really nice bunch of people.  And they all like you very much. 

Of course I can say that out here because you don’t read my blog.  You’re not reading it now are you?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Just A Note…

November 20th, 2008

So…They Gave Me My Keys To The Kingdom, But The Door Wouldn’t Open…

I’m here in Disneyworld now.  Turns out they do have Internet in all the rooms, but they charge extra for it.  I should have guessed.  They do everything possible here to make sure you have a great time, but nothing is free.  In fact, most of the extras here are pretty expensive.

There is shopping everywhere, and they make it Real Easy to buy stuff.  Your room key is also your part tickets and it can be used to buy anything here.  It all just gets billed to the room.  The advantage I suppose is that makes it real easy to see the what the whole trip cost you.  I’m basically putting everything, and I mean everything, on the Disney Card, so none of it gets mixed up with my day-to-day expenses back home.  But the disadvantage is it’s too easy to spend with a one card does it all thing.

I got in very early.  Check-in time wasn’t supposed to be until 3PM today but I got into Orlando early last night, and stayed at a hotel across the street from one of the entrances.  I’d reserved a room at the Caribbean Beach resort, which is one of the middle-tier resorts here, and instead of waiting until 3 I decided to at least tell them I was here.  So I headed into the park.  The roads here in Disneyworld are really twisty and it’s easy to get yourself mixed up, even though there are signs everywhere.  I wasn’t sure Traveler’s nav system would work in the park so initially I didn’t bother with it.  I might try it later.

The Caribbean Beach resort is gated.  I suppose all the motels inside the enclave are.  There was a lone guard manning the post, and he gave me a friendly greeting and asked for a photo ID and if I was checking in.  My name was on the clipboard in his hands and he gave me a big Disney welcome to the park smile and told me to go up to the "Customs House" to check in.  This is Disney, so I don’t check in at the lobby.  I am in the Disney Caribbean, and I must go to the Customs House.

So I go over to the "Customs House" and park and as soon as I get out of the car it almost hits me that I’m really down in a Caribbean Island town.  Disney let it be said, does it well.  I think part of the saving grace of putting the thing here in central Florida is you can almost make it seem like a lot of other places in the world.  They had the flora and fauna almost pat.  Except for the central Florida forest underneath it all.  But I was impressed. 

I walked up to the registration desk and they had all my information right there…including everything on my park passes and special events and such.  The lady gave me my one card does all Disney card thing and said my room was actually ready, even though it was 9:30am which was almost six hours from the scheduled check-in time. 

They put me up in Barbados (did I mention this is the Caribbean Beach resort?), and gave me a map to locate my room.  The rooms are scattered around in about a dozen or so small two-floor buildings all made to look like Caribbean island architecture…sort of…Disneyfied…  So I drove over to my building and almost lost my way again…the roads inside the enclave are Really, Really twisty, and it was staring to get a little scary.  I never get lost.  Never.  But I was getting all turned around in here.  Eventually I found it.  However, when I got to the room, my one-key-does-everything didn’t do the one thing I needed it to do just then, which was open the door.

So I walked back over to Customs House to get a new one.  The walk was actually shorter then the drive (I told you the roads here are very twisty).  They gave me another key and that one didn’t work either.  So they had to send a serviceman to fix my lock.  Initially they thought the battery in it was gone, but when he got to my room he had to take it all apart and replace the guts of it basically.  So here I am checking into Disneyworld for the first time ever in my life, unpacking my car and hanging up my shirts while a guy is pounding on my door lock to get it fixed.  My first magical experience.

The room is nice though.  Very nice.  No fridge or microwave though, which you’d expect in a room at this price level.  But I have never seen a room at this price level that was so spotless and tidy.  Nothing, not one thing, was out of place.  Matter of fact, that’s the way this entire enclave is.  I have never been anywhere it was so spotless and neat. 

While the repairman was fixing my door, I took a walk around the Caribbean to get some lunch at Port Royale.  I walked over to Aruba and then to Jamaica, and rather then go all the way to Trinidad took a bridge over the Caribbean, hopped a Cay, and landed on Old Port Royale Centertown.  The little Cay was cute, and had dozens of little nooks and crannies with hammocks and beach chairs and sandy play areas where couples or families could duck out of the crowds and have some quiet time alone.  I wondered what it would be like to take a boyfriend with me on a walk through there someday. 

There are lovely little white sand beaches scattered all around the Caribbean, with beach chairs and hammocks laid out invitingly.  But there are signs all over warning you not to swim in the Caribbean.  If you want to get wet in the Disney Caribbean, you have to use one of the swimming pools. 

After lunch I continued walking from Old Port Royale to Martinique and then back to Barbados.  Having thus walked entirely around the Caribbean, and not being too greatly fatigued afterward, I think I’ll take a run to Downtown Disney.  I’m doing Epcot later for dinner, and then going to the Magic Kingdom for the special Christmas party.

More later… 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on So…They Gave Me My Keys To The Kingdom, But The Door Wouldn’t Open…

November 19th, 2008

On The Road…

A few images from South Of The Border, where I spent the night last night.  I love that place.  Besides the fact that all its motel rooms have their own carports, which make it easy to unpack the car for the night and repack it the next morning, it’s delightfully pure tacky roadside Americana…






I seem to get the biggest kick out of photographing amusement parks in their off season.  It’s like…when all the people are gone you can hear the all the fiberglass and wood structures speaking for themselves…

I’m in Orlando now…at the Radisson just outside the entrance to Disneyworld.  My Disneyworld hotel reservations aren’t until tomorrow, and check-in time is 3PM.  Not sure if my Disneyworld hotel will have Internet or not.  If not it may be a while before I post here again.   

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on On The Road…

November 18th, 2008

Heading Out…

I’m hitting the road for Orlando in a little bit, so posting will suddenly become very light, probably until next Wednesday.  I have a bunch of stuff in the queue to put up here, including a really nice photo from the Pasadena Anti-Prop 8 protests sent in by a reader.  But I just want to get away now.  The price of premium gasoline is now hovering around the two dollar mark here in the Baltimore area, and I can see it going lower elsewhere.  So while I have a chance I’m going to take it.  I want to be on the road. 

I’m throwing my cameras and my bags into Traveler and I’m heading out.  I’ll be spending a long weekend in Disneyworld, trying to de-stress and remember what it was like when life seemed limitless and fun.  Hopefully I’ll come back home with a better attitude.  I just want to get away.  I want to be on the road. 

If I post at all in the coming days, it’ll be mostly dispatches from the road if anything.  Maybe with a few pictures.

Talk with you more when I get back…

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

God Hates The Brains…Er…That He Gave Us…

The problem with his world is that too many people are getting an education…

Educated Catholics have sown dissent and confusion in the Church, claims bishop

The Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue, the Bishop of Lancaster, has claimed that graduates are spreading skepticism and sowing dissent. Instead of following the Church’s teaching they are "hedonistic", "selfish" and "egocentric", he said.

Bishop O’Donoghue, who has recently published a report on how to renew Catholicism in Britain, argued that mass education has led to "sickness in the Church and wider society".

"What we have witnessed in Western societies since the end of the Second World War is the development of mass education on a scale unprecedented in human history – resulting in economic growth, scientific and technological advances, and the cultural and social enrichment of billions of people’s lives," he said.

"However, every human endeavor has a dark side, due to original sin and concupiscence. In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical skepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.

"Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him.

"It shouldn’t surprise us that the shadows cast by the distortion of education, and corresponding societal changes, have also touched members of the Church. As Pope Benedict XVI puts it, even in the Church we find hedonism, selfishness and egocentric behavior."

Emphasis mine…so you know he’s not just talking about Catholics there.   The problem is simple.  How do you convince people that you’re better qualified to run their lives then they are, when they have brains enough to see right through you?  You can’t.

Religion doesn’t necessarily have to be an enemy of the human soul.  There is spirituality that seeks to nurture the best within us…that "better angel", and councils us to embrace our human nature, understand both its limitations and its potential, its darkness and its light, and treat them both with care and humility.  There is spirituality that encourages us and reach for the higher ground within, while acknowledging the Pit we are all vulnerable to.  But that is different from spirituality that teaches us to hate ourselves, so that others can rule over us.  Religion isn’t the only thing that can attack our souls in that way, but religions like that are out there and we have to watch out for them because they are poison.  But not all religion is poison. 

Ayn Rand said that all we need, all we should ever look to, is reason.  But we are rational beings, In Addition To everything else we are.  The modern brain is all that which makes us unique from the other animals of planet Earth, and also all that which we share with them, and have for hundreds of millions of years.  We are indivisible beings of intellect and beast, mind and body, present and past.  It is how we were created.  By one legend, risen up from the dust of the earth.  But the dust of the earth was already very old, unimaginably old, when we took our first breath and opened our eyes.  We are that vast unknowable past and the present both.  We are matter and spirit combined.  You can’t divide us down the middle without killing the human within.  We are human, precisely because we are all of these things.  We need spirituality that teaches us to treat ourselves, treat our human nature, with care, understanding, and a little humility.

But some religion, arrogantly, greedily, tries instead to pit one part of ourselves against the others, and in the process it rips our humanity apart.  Take away our minds and we become useful puppets, perhaps.  But take our minds from us and the spirit within withers and dies.  The mind needs the spirit, the spirit needs the mind.  Without one or the other we become ghosts.  Empty, tortured, soulless ghosts.  Just right for tyrants to leach their power dreams from.  Mr. O’Donoghue’s complaint isn’t that people are more selfish, it’s that they are less gullible.  When you earn your living teaching people to hate being human, so they will give you money in exchange for being forgiven for being human, you need a lot of gullible people. 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

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