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Archive for March, 2009

March 30th, 2009

Lite To No Posting This Week…(Updated)

I’m in Orlando, visiting Disney World, and the damn Comfort Inn here charges for Internet which I refuse to pay (I’m posting this on my iPhone right now). So, expect very little posting here until I get back.

I’m already having a great time here in the park…but some journies are worth the trip, just to see someone smile.

[Update…] My bad…   There seems to be no charge for the Internet after all.  At any rate…I’m using the Motel wireless now and I didn’t have to plug in a credit card number like you usually do for Internet access when they’re charging.  Just for kicks and grins I plugged in to see what the charge was, and instead of being taken to a buy it now page I got my Internet right away.  Nice.

But posting will still be infrequent, because I am on vacation and I am trying to tune out the world for a while.  Also, Motel Internet is seldom reliable.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

March 28th, 2009

Off To Tomorrowland And Beyond…

It’s raining here in Charm City and I’m packing my car and heading for what would have been the Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow had Walt Disney not been a cigarette smoker.  But what’s there now is still very nice, and so is the rest of it.  Disney World is Huge, and the first time I went there last November I spent most of my time just gawking at the immensity of it.  Now I have a better idea of what I want to do, and more time to do it.  I also want to wave ‘hi’ to a certain someone, and maybe see him smile one more time.

I’m spending a week, but not in the park this time, which will make it harder to just tune out the entire world like I did last time.  But the hotels inside the park are way too expensive…even the so-called "value" hotels.  There are so many other nice hotels and motels crowding around the entrances to the park that it’s not hard to find something even nicer then the mid priced Disney hotels at, I kind you not, about a third of the cost.  But then you are not in the park the entire time, and being wrapped completely inside that park almost makes it worthwhile.  You really can just leave the world behind for a while, and live in a place where it really is a small world after all, and there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day, and find yourself believing that dreams really do come true.

Once upon a time I viewed all that as nothing more then cheap escapism.  But the world, and my life, just stresses me out too much now.  I’m single, I’m desperately lonely, and I’m living in a world that never seems to let any chance go by to tell me it hates my guts.  And there is still that sense in the land of Walt, of all those things I thought the world was, and the future would be.  You can see it slowly fading as Disney’s handiwork is overlaid with newer things, some of which I doubt he would have liked, and some which just don’t hit the mark he would have.  But even as it fades, it lifts the spirit.  At least in someone of my generation.

You have to experience the parks to realize, again if you’re my age and remember watching him on television, how wide Walt Disney’s imagination ranged.  People think of Disneyland and they think of the part of the park called Fantasyland.  But there was Tomorrowland and Frontierland and Adventureland.  There was the little Main Street where everyone entered the park.  There was the hall of presidents, and the river boat and the monorail and the people movers.  There was the ground breaking animation, but also tons of live action film, and nature series and documentaries. Look a little deeper, beyond all the eye candy and the rides and the exhibits, and you see, astonished, a park infrastructure that is still held in awe by architects.  This operation is Huge and yet it runs smoothly.  And Disney World in Orlando is several orders of magnitude bigger, and it Still runs smoothly.  Chuck Jones once told Disney he wanted his job (Disney told him that position was already filled), and Jones was himself an fantastically creative animator.  But there was no city of tomorrow in Chuck Jones, let alone a World.

Last time I walked through the parks down in Disney World, it all came back to me…that it’s a small world after all…that the search for knowledge is a great adventure…that tomorrow was something to look forward to with a smile.  People told me after I came back home last November, how much better I looked, how more at ease I seemed.  One person insisted I must have gotten laid.  I hadn’t of course…but it was almost like that in terms of how good life seemed again.  For a little while…

So now I’m packing the Mercedes for another trip south.  Before I leave I briefly scan the web.  I see Andrew Sullivan reporting the Rod Dreher has replied to Damon Linker, who has in turn replied back.  Linker, you may recall, asked Dreher if he had something, anything, besides The Bible Says So to justify his obsession with the Homosexual Menace.  Dreher gives the expected answer back…

If homosexuality is legitimized — as distinct from being tolerated, which I generally support — then it represents the culmination of the sexual revolution, the goal of which was to make individual desire the sole legitimate arbiter in defining sexual truth. It is to lock in, and, on a legal front, to codify, a purely contractual, nihilistic view of human sexuality. I believe this would be a profound distortion of what it means to be fully human. And I fully expect to lose this argument in the main, because even most conservatives today don’t fully grasp how the logic of what we’ve already conceded as a result of being modern leads to this end.

Note the hyperbole.  The horror of individual desire being seen as more legitimate then his cheapshit barstool prejudices.  The knee jerk slandering of that desire as essentially nihilistic.  But what Dreher is afraid of here isn’t that the human heart is nothing, but that he is.  In the end, the Homosexual Monster, like the Dangerous Black Man and The Greedy Jew represents nothing more then the abyss he stares into every morning in the bathroom mirror.

This is why I am going back to Disney World.  I want to spend some more time in a place where I can have that vision of the world and tomorrow I had as a kid back again.  Where it’s a small world after all.  Where I can return a stranger’s smile and not wonder if they want to cut my ring finger off and stick a knife in my heart, so they can go to heaven.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Off To Tomorrowland And Beyond…

March 27th, 2009

Gay People: Not Just Your Stepping Stones To Heaven…They’re Your Get Out Of Jail Free Card Too!

Via Pam’s House Blend…  The Gay Panic Defense raises it’s head once again

First it appeared that this young man, Scott A. Libby of Raymond, ME, died as the result of a horrific  accident:

February 20, 2009 9:14 AM

BETHEL, Maine (AP) – Officials are investigating a fatal accident in western Maine in which a freight train crashed into a car that was parked on the tracks.

Ed Foley of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad said the westbound train came upon a car that was parked on the tracks at least 200 feet away from the nearest road in Bethel at about 2:35 a.m. Friday.

Bethel Police Chief Alan Carr identified the victim as 25-year-old Scott Libby of Raymond. He said Libby apparently turned onto the tracks and then turned off his lights.

Carr said the train was traveling the posted speed of 25 mph and hit the car with all its force from behind.

But little by little, more details have been emerging. What’s now being revealed shows a far too familiar story of robbery after alledgedly sexual advancements were made, but with a few twists.

In a nutshell: Libby had told his parents that he was going to see a man to get paid back for a loan he’d given in exchange for some of the man’s property as security.  The man, Agostino Sampson, was living in a hostel near the tracks where Libby’s car was hit.  As police medical examiners determined that Libby had been killed before the car was hit, they questioned Sampson and his story began to fall apart.  Now it appears he beat Libby over the head with a cast iron pan handle, and as that seems not to have been enough, strangled him with a belt.

Surprise, surprise…Sampson is claiming Libby made a sexual advance…

A man found dead in his car on railroad tracks in Bethel last month may have been beaten with a cast-iron pan and strangled with a belt before a train hit his vehicle, according to a police affidavit.

Police believe Scott A. Libby, 25, of Raymond was beaten and strangled to death after making sexual advances to a former employee.

Libby’s body was found sprawled across the front seat of his 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt after it was hit by a slow-moving train on Feb. 20, police said.

The car was covered with blood inside and out and the bloodstained handle of a cast-iron pan was found in it, police said.

Libby and Samson had known each other for about seven years, and Samson had worked last summer for Libby, who had a landscaping business in Raymond.

Libby met Samson at the Bethel Hostel late on Feb. 19 to collect $400 he had loaned Samson more than a year ago and to return a watch and silver bracelet held as collateral, Maine State Police Detective Herbert Leighton wrote in an affidavit filed in Oxford County Superior Court.

Although Samson initially told police that the transfer of money and jewelry had been completed without incident, he later said Libby "made sexual advances toward him, placing his hand onto/in the area of his groin," Leighton wrote.

"Agostino said he punched Libby in the face two times, causing Libby’s nose to bleed," but Libby still persisted in his sexual advances and offered to pay him money."

The detective noted that the autopsy showed no injuries to Libby’s nose.

Dr. Marguerite Dewitt, deputy chief medical examiner for the state, said Libby died of "asphyxia due to strangulation and blunt-force trauma to the head."

The blood on the pan handle matched Libby’s, according to the detective, and the handle was consistent with two pans that were recently missing from the hostel, the affidavit said.

A woven leather belt that appeared to be damaged was seized from Samson’s room at the hostel, Leighton said. Red-brown stained business cards belonging to Libby and "several apparent bloodstain patterns" were found about a quarter-mile south of the hostel on Westwood Road, a private way that abuts the hostel.

Leighton also noted that when Libby’s body was found, his pants pockets were turned inside out and there was no money on him.

Police photographed contusions on Samson’s hands, which Samson said he received after a box fell on his hand at work; he later said the injuries were a result of punching a refrigerator at work.

Emphasis in the Pam’s House Blend article.  You know what else I think is non-existent here?  The sexual advance.  The only word we have for that, is the word of Libby’s killer.

That’s the way it often is with the Gay Panic Defense.  The only evidence that a sexual advance was made is the testimony of the murderer, which police seem eager to accept at face value, whenever the victim is gay.  But in this particular case there is no evidence of that…at least not in the news stories.  Sampson however, seems well aware of the effect of telling the police that he, and not the man he beat with a cast iron pan and then strangled with a belt, was the victim.  He grabbed my dick and kept on trying to grab my dick even after I punched in twice in the nose…

Here’s what I think happened, based on the newspaper accounts:  Libby went to collect the $400 he was owed by Sampson, a man living in a hostel near the railroad tracks…a man clearly without a lot of money to his name.  Libby arrived at the meeting with Sampson’s jewelry, but Sampson either did not have Libby’s money, or was determined to get it back from him after Libby gave him his property back.  Sampson arranged for them to meet outside the hostel in Libby’s car.  Perhaps he told Libby that if his neighbors in the hostel saw them holding $400 and his jewelry they might rob them.

He armed himself with a cast iron pan handle that he’d somehow managed to cut off one of the hostel pans.  There are two pans missing and my hunch is he botched it the first time.  On the second try he managed to make himself a nice little cast iron blackjack he could stuff into his pocket and Libby wouldn’t see until it was too late.  When Libby gave him back his property Sampson beat him unconscious with his makeshift blackjack, and then he strangled Libby with his belt just to make sure.  Then he drives Libby’s car onto the railroad tracks with him still in it and walks away, figuring the next train to come along will take care of the evidence of murder and make it seem like an accident.  Now he has the money, and his jewelry, and probably whatever else Libby had on him.  Libby was found later, with his pants pockets turned inside out.

Then the police came knocking at his hostel door.  First he tells them nothing happened.  Then he tells them there was an argument, and yes he may have hit Libby a couple times over the head, but there might have been another guy in Libby’s car and maybe he did something to Libby afterwards. 

The police aren’t buying it.  But then Sampson reaches for his trump card.  The trump card the lawyers for Matthew Shepard’s killers, and ABC News, gave him.  The trump card the lawyer for Lawrence King’s killer, and Lawrence’s own father, gave him.  The trump card the lawyer for Timothy Bailey-Woodson gave him.  The trump card lawyers for murderer Raymond Carlisle, Amber Ladner and Cynthia Umstead, gave him.  The trump card every judge, every lawyer, every jury who ever excused bloodshed on account of the victim’s sexual orientation gave him.  He claimed Libby made a sexual advance. 

If that’s not a get out of jail free card, it’s almost certain to be a reduced sentence card.  Whatever crime he might have been convicted of had he not claimed to have been sexually assaulted, he will now almost certainly avoid, provided he sticks to it.  In Spain recently, a nation with legal same-sex marriage, a jury excused the brutal slaying of a gay couple by a man who stabbed them multiple times, robbed them, then tried to burn their house down to hide the evidence, on the killer’s sole testimony that they had propositioned him.  They let him go.

This is what decades of pulpit thumping about the homosexual threat has brought us.  In the 1975 film version of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, a corrupt policeman tells detective Philip Marlow that his client need not worry too much about being prosecuted for killing a man "…as long as he wasn’t white."  But you can claim anyone is gay if you need an excuse for killing them.

by Bruce | Link | React! (3)

Well Your Tune Has Certainly Changed…

Vis Slashdot…  Google has been busy lately taking down all music related content from YouTube’s UK viewers.  This is in response to the content organization, PRS For Music’s royalty demands.  Google won’t pay the rates they’ve set for online music, and is simply taking down any music contant that PRS has rights to.  So PRS is happy, right?


pregnantfridge writes "In the ongoing conflict between PRS for Music and YouTube over the takedown of all music related content in the UK, PRS for Music have created a new site,, exposing the views of the music writers impacted by the YouTube decision. I am not certain if these views have been editorially compromised, but by reading a few pages, it’s clear to me that Music writers represented by PRS for Music are largely clueless about what the Internet and YouTube means to the music industry. Kind of explains why the music industry is in such a decline — and also why so much litigation takes place on the music writers’ behalf."

Here’s what PRS has to say about the tiff between it and Google, from it’s website…

Fair Play for Creators is an online forum set up by PRS for Music so that creators everywhere can publicly demonstrate their concern over the way their work is treated by online businesses.

Fair Play for Creators was established after Internet-giant, Google, made the decision to remove some music content from YouTube.

Google’s decision was made because it didn’t want to pay the going rate for music, to the creators of that music, when it’s used on YouTube.

Music creators rely on receiving royalties whenever and wherever their work is used. Royalties are vital in nurturing creative music talent. They make sure music creators are rewarded for their creativity in the same way any other person would be in their work.

Fair Play for Creators believes that fans should have access to the music they love, and that the work of music creators should be paid for by the online businesses who benefit from its use.

So…I guess they see some value in their music being played on YouTube after all.  That wouldn’t happen to be because sites like YouTube bring more new music to the attention of listeners these days…particularly Young listeners…then all the radio stations in the world combined would it…?

Never mind that some musicians actively despise PRS…I’ll get to that in a minute.  There was a nugget of insight in the Slashdot comments that illuminated something I’d been puzzled by, ever since the music industrial complex went on the warpath against the Internet.  Why the hell are they so bent on killing Internet Radio…???

I put it down to their fear of piracy.  I put it down to greed.  But there’s another aspect to this here that proves Heinlein was right when he said never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.  See it here, in Pete Waterman’s pathetic whining that he isn’t being paid every time one of his magnificent works is played on YouTube…

YouTube is not alone in the online hall of shame where the worthy notion of greater consumer choice is used as a cloak to disguise the fact that copyright infringement happens on a grand scale.

I co-wrote ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, which Rick Astley performed in the eighties, and which must have been played more than 100 million times on YouTube – owner Google. My PRS for Music income in the year ended September 2008 was £11.

Music videos and music generally is at the very heart of User Generated Content sites. It is the hard work and creative endeavour of songwriters and musicians everywhere that has been the bedrock upon which many of these websites have been built, creating along the way huge value for their owners. As well as arguing with them over royalty rates, we should be fighting them to get proper recognition for the part we’ve played in building their businesses.

Pete Waterman, songwriter – 24 March 2009

Now, never mind that a lot of people think they’re owed compensation for having to listen to this song every time they’re Rick-Rolled.  Look at it.  Just look at it.  Waterman really thinks that a single play on YouTube is the same as a single play on radio, for which he gets a PRS royalty.  One Slashdot commenter put’s it in perspective…

Just to put this in perspective, if the song had been played 100m times on UK National Radio, he’d have been paid GBP2-5bn instead of GBP11. *That’s* how much Google are underpaying compared to market rate.

If he doesn’t want Google playing his music without paying him, then that’s fine: he’s got what he wants. Google are not playing his music. What’s his beef?

The going rate is whatever rate can be negotiated between the producer and the consumer. Google, as the consumer, has said ‘if that’s the rate, fine, we don’t need the product.’ Astley (and people like him) have to decide whether they want their music to reach an internet audience or not. If they don’t, that’s fine – Google not playing it works for them. But what they can’t reasonably do is complain that Google refuse to buy their product. If the supermarket in your high street tries to sell you chocolates at more than what you think they’re worth, you don’t buy them – no-one needs chocolate. If the PRS tries to sell Google music at more than Google thinks it’s worth, Google doesn’t buy it. So – where’s the beef?

Furthermore, your computation is wrong. When a tune is played in BBC Radio 1 or Radio 2, it’s heard by about 6 million people. When a tune is played on YouTube, it’s typically heard by one person. So 100 million plays on YouTube is not equivalent to 100 million plays on Radio 2, it’s equivalent to seventeen plays on Radio 2. Not seventeen million, seventeen.

So the equivalent payment is not £2-5Bn, it’s £340. Which is a lot more than £11, I’d agree – but is that because Google are offering too little, or because radio is paying too much?

Emphasis mine.  Here is why the corporate music industry is trying to squeeze the life out of Internet radio…they really believe that YouTube serving a song to a single user is the same as a radio station playing it once and they want the same kind of compensation the radio station gives them, Every Time an Internet site sends a song down a connection.  No…wait…Even More money then the radio station would have to pay .

(Best Syndication News) One of the coolest ideas in the radio business may die soon, not because of lack of listeners, but because fees charged by the music industry. The problem is that Internet Radio stations may soon charged more per song than their satellite or conventional radio counterparts.

A decision back in March 2007 by the by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board and SoundExchange (the money collector for the RIAA) that doubled the rates for music played on the Internet could kill the industry., one of the market leaders, may shut down soon if the payment structure is not changed. Their royalty fees are expected to hit $17 million this year alone, and as we all know, internet advertising is in its infancy.

The decision to charge Internet radio more could backfire on the music industry. To battle music pirates, some have advised the same price structure or rates less than their traditional media counterparts.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Pandora founder Tim Westergren, laid out his case. The is a potential "last stand for webcasting" before royalty fee increases begin to take hold, Westergren said.

The prices are expected to go from 8/100 of a cent per song per listener to 19/100 of a cent per song per listener by 2010, according to the Post report. Like the early days of Amazon, Pandora is losing money right now hoping to hold on to a market spot when the industry matures.

Emphasis mine. Thankfully they came to a deal before Pandora had to pull the plug.  But this made a lot of listeners absolutely livid when this story broke, and their ire wasn’t at Pandora for not paying the musicians enough.  Everyone could see this for the absolutely mind bogglingly self destructive greed that it was.  I have personally bought more new music off Pandora (which makes it really easy to buy the tunes you are listening to via Amazon or iTunes) in one month then I bought in the previous five years.  And that’s largely because the music industrial complex has utterly destroyed broadcast radio.  I just don’t listen to it anymore.  And if I’m not listening, I’m not buying.

Let me tell you about YouTube.  I watched a charming little video someone had put together…a train cab ride through the English countryside, time sped and slowed, set to the perfect background music.  Whatever music this user had set their video to, it was lovely and when I was finished watching I fired off a message asking them what it was.  It was a piece from Moby called "Inside".  I looked it up on Amazon and there it was.  It’s on my iPod and I’m listening to it as I type this.  Are you reading this PRS…I bought a fucking copy of something I heard on YouTube the other day.  And that’s not the first time either.  I have maybe a dozen or so songs on my iPod now that I first heard on YouTube.


The short sighted greed here is staggering, but the complete ignorance of how the Internet works isn’t.  These are mostly folks of my own generation, and older, running these corporate junk music operations now, and we are a generation that grew up listening to music on static-y car radios, pocket transistor radios, and scratchy vinyl records.  Most of my generational peers, according to a recent Pew Institute study, have very little to do with personal computers in their private lives. Individuals like me…technology nerds (I built my first radio when I was 9), are the exception not the rule.  To most of my generational peers, the Internet is a bunch of tubes.  They don’t get it.  They never will. 

They really think that one play over the radio has the same value as one play on YouTube.  Well…and they’re greedy bastards.  One thing you need to know is that for all their posturing, they don’t really give a rat’s ass about musicians.  This from another Slashdot commenter…

As a musician myself, I was compelled to comment there. They won’t put it up though.

I take the opposite view. I have one album up for sale on iTunes and Amazon and another being uploaded right now – [] I don’t actually want to be represented by the PRS, but I have no choice. There is no opt out. You will collect royalties on my behalf whether or not I want you to. If I wish my music to be available free for streaming on Internet radio, you will not let me. So who’s worse, Google for throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or the PRS for extortion?

This was followed up by…

You can opt out of collecting your royalties from the PRS. You can’t stop the PRS collecting from the broadcaster.

Say I want to perform a set of my music in a pub, no covers, just stuff I wrote. The pub has to have a PRS performance license and has to pay the PRS for my performance even if I’m not registered with them.

It’s extortion, and as usual it’s the artists who get screwed – the number of places to play is dropping for the small local artist as landlords stop paying the PRS tax.

So if one of these days you find yourself wondering what happened to all the live music you used to hear…thank the record industry.

by Bruce | Link | React! (3)

March 25th, 2009

The Cluelessness Of Bigots, And The People Who Wonder What Makes Them Tick

Andrew Sullivan and Damon Linker wonder what makes Rod Dreher so fixated on gays…

Damon Linker challenges Dreher’s fixation with gays:

Why, given the myriad ways that our society and culture diverge from the long list of archaic norms, practices, and beliefs upheld in the Bible, does homosexuality inspire such anxiety, even panic? What are you afraid of?

It’s a good question.

Well here’s a simple answer: he’s a bigot.  I know…I know…saying someone is a bigot is supposed to be nothing more then ad hominim name calling designed to shut down debate.  Kinda like the way calling someone a Nazi invokes Goodwin’s Law and the argument is over.  But the problem with Goodwin’s law is that it makes it impossible to identify facisim when its staring you in the face, and the same goes for this notion that ‘bigot’ is merely the equivalent of a grade school taunt.  It isn’t.  It’s a good old fashioned English word and it has a real meaning.  People like Dreher fall into that meaning exactly.  Why?  Because his mindset when it comes to gay people springs from a deeply rooted animus that will not suffer examination or question.  He cannot see the people for the homosexuals. 

That animus will reliably outrank any higher consciousness the man has, assuming he still has any left.  Case in point: his recent brouhaha about that family in East Texas who were killed in a violent home invasion.  Dreher, you may recall, was shocked, shocked, not at the deaths, but at one offhanded statement by the grieving father, that bisexuality was ‘hip’ in his little East Texas town

UPDATE: To clarify: I’m not saying that the teenage culture of bisexuality is worse morally than murder, for heaven’s sake. Obviously murder — and murder of one’s own family — is about the worst thing imaginable.. I’m simply saying that I was more shocked by this tidbit about the decadent teenage culture in a tiny Texas town than I was by the foul crime itself. Big difference.

He really believes there is a "big difference" there.   He just doesn’t notice, is not capable of noticing, the wildly disproportionate response to the vicious murder of an entire family, verses one offhanded statement by a father probably crazy with grief that bisexuality is cool among the teenagers in his town.  Dreher sees nothing unusual in his own shocked response to the idea of bisexuality in an East Texas town, verses his offhanded notice of the killings.  Yes, yes…they were all killed…but OhMyGod bisexuality is becoming cool in East Texas!!!

He doesn’t see the problem here.  He can’t.  He’s a bigot.  The homosexual will always loom larger in his consciousness, then any brutal crime of violence, because his animus sees nothing other then The Homosexual.  The Homosexual is the burr under his saddle.  The Homosexual is the devil in the darkness.  The Homosexual is the monster knocking on the door.  Never mind the man’s family was butchered, just look at what kids are saying about bisexuality in East Texas!  This is how bigots think.

Linker, like a lot of people, simply cannot believe that is all there is to it…

I find this especially perplexing in Rod’s case because he denies so strenuously that his views flow from anti-gay animus. As he puts it in a recent post, 

Gay-rights supporters typically believe people like me hold to our opposition to gay marriage and so forth because of some animosity towards gays. I know that it’s true for a lot of conservatives, but in my case — and in the case of most people I know who share my views — it’s not an emotional matter. We have gay friends, are comfortable around gay people, and simply don’t share that visceral reaction that used to be commonplace in American life, and (regrettably) still is in many quarters.

Yet the visceral reaction was there for all to see when he posted about the murders in East Texas…er…sorry…the Bisexuality in East Texas.  And we know, and acknowledge in the law, that murder can be hot blooded or cold blooded.  Yet cold blooded bigotry seems to completely baffle people.  Why, some of my best friends are… after all.  I quit one job I held years ago, when I overheard the owner state flatly that he’d hire a black man, but only if he shinned his shoes and called him Massah.  And it wasn’t with any rage or passion he said it.  He was simply stating a fact.  Like the weather, or the time of day.  If Dreher has any gay friends, it’s because they shine his shoes and call him Massah.

Linker asks Dreher a few questions in a desperate attempt to find something, anything, rational at the bottom of Dreher’s little corner of the human gutter…

Why, given the myriad ways that our society and culture diverge from the long list of archaic norms, practices, and beliefs upheld in the Bible, does homosexuality inspire such anxiety, even panic? What are you afraid of? Is it that you fear that if orthodox religious communities stop denouncing gay marriage (to the faces of married gays, which seems to be what you’d like them to do) the human race will stop reproducing itself?  Or is it that you worry that if your children aren’t taught in church that homosexuality is an abomination they’ll shack up with same-sex partners when they grow up? But isn’t the decision to do something like that far more a product of nature than culture? I don’t know about you, but no amount of pro-gay propaganda could tempt me to sleep with a man — because I’m by nature sexually attracted to women. Some of what you write about homosexuality leads me to believe you worry that naturally straight men and women will be seduced into being gay by watching too many episodes of Project Runway. But you can’t seriously believe that. Can you?

Here’s the problem.  For Dreher, and bigots like him, this isn’t about what they believe.  It’s a knee that jerks first and justifies itself later.  Any excuse will do, even if it is transparently self serving and utterly unconvincing.  He doesn’t have to convince you of anything Linker, he just has to dig in his heels and not be moved.  If you can’t make him admit that his prejudices are irrational he wins the argument.  It really is that simple.

And not only can you not make a bigot admit their prejudices are irrational, you can’t make them take responsibility for them either.  It’s not his fault that he has to go on the warpath against gay people…it’s the gay’s fault.  They’re Making him do it, every time they Flaunt themselves in his face thereby provoking him to act.  If we stop denouncing homosexuality then the entire human race will cease reproducing and become extinct.  Yes, it’s a staggeringly irrational argument.  But understand this if you understand nothing else about it: the point isn’t that it’s a good argument, the point is that it puts the blame on gay people for his hostile behavior toward them.  Homosexuality is a threat to our very survival…I Have to do this to them…I am Forced to confront the Homosexual Menace…

Homosexuals molest children.  Homosexuals spread disease.  Homosexuals have caused the fall of every great civilization…  The Homosexual is a threat we must confront…  Homosexuals are tortured souls…sexually addicted…unable to function normally in society…desperate to be freed from the bondage of their homosexuality…We Must Help Them…We Must Save Them From Themselves…  The Homosexual needs our salvation…  These aren’t arguments that withstand the slightest critical glance.  But they don’t have to be.  They’re not offered as reasons…they’re excuses.  Excuses to blame gay people, for the bigot’s hostile behavior toward them.

And if Dreher can’t blame gay people for his cheapshit bar stool prejudices, he has one other trump card he can play: he can blame God…

I suspect that Rod’s first instinct will be to respond that the issue isn’t really homosexuality at all. It’s "authority." Rod, after all, believes

that you simply can’t discard a teaching on which the Bible — in both testaments — and (for Catholics and Orthodox) authoritative church tradition could not be more clear, simply because it doesn’t suit contemporary mores. 

And that’s all well and good until Linker comes to the obvious point that Dreher, like every other bigot making this argument, picks and chooses his religious beliefs to suit himself.  God is not the reason.  God is the excuse.

Does Rod have any non-question-begging answer to this question? An answer that doesn’t just amount to saying, "because the church says so"? 

Yes.  I hate them.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

March 24th, 2009

The Butcher’s Bill…(continued)

More line items, in the war on gay people…

Spring break off to violent start after gay men are beaten in Seaside

Two 22-year-old men who left a campfire to walk along the beach in Seaside were beaten unconscious in what appears to have been a hate crime, according to police.


Another Gay Bashing

The man disembarked the bus moments later, followed by Idris and an associate. Police say Idris again approached him, telling the man that homosexuality violates his religion. 


Protesters Decry Cinncinnati Gay Bashing

Kafagolis and Kirkwood reportedly inveighed against the victim, screaming anti-gay epithets as they punched and kicked him, knocking him to the ground.


Gay couple claims attack in Newark was bias related

…they were returning to their car parked near Raymond Boulevard and Broad Street from the Prudential Center at approximately 11 p.m. when a group of 15 to 20 teenage girls and boys approached them from the opposite direction and then punched and kicked them as they yelled an anti-gay slur.


Judge Throws Out Confession In Transgender Slaying

Andrade allegedly told his girlfriend that he "snapped" and that "gay things need to die."


UC Police Report Possible Anti-Gay Attack

Police say one of the victims knew one of the suspects, who attacked both of them when he found out one of them is gay.

Via Towleroad…Samson Deal, 22, and Kevin Petterson, 22,
beaten while taking a walk on the beach

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Butcher’s Bill…(continued)

March 23rd, 2009

Will My iPhone Kill My Blog?

Probably not.   But I haven’t been blogging as often as I have previously and it’s because I’m not sitting in front of a computer nearly as much.  As I said previously, I’m finding I get a lot more done around the house when I’m not sitting down at my computer.  But something else is happening.  Something I was sort-of hoping would happen, though I hadn’t taken into account what it might mean for my blogging patterns.  Slowly, but inevitably, my iPhone is becoming my all purpose communication – entertainment – information widget. 

When it first hit the streets, the iPhone was lacking a couple of really important items in my personal information management toolkit: a sync-able notepad and ToDo tracker.  But I have really great third party iPhone apps now that fill those slots.  And as I get more comfortable with using them, I use Mowgli, my main household computer, less and less. 

Last weekend, I had Mowgli off almost the entire time.  I ran Bagheera, the art room Mac, to finish a couple of photography projects that I’d left on my plate for far too long.  But Mowgli is slowly being relegated to finances and work related projects.  I am keeping in touch with the world, and with my daily life, more and more with just the iPhone now.   

And…there is this:  My little patch of the good earth is on the cusp of spring, and I don’t want to be angry all the time.  I read the news, in particular the continuing culture war on gay people, and I get angry.  So I am avoiding the news.

This Saturday, I’m going to Disney World again, for a week.  Mostly to just spend some more time in a place where it’s a small world after all, there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day, and dreams really do come true.  Better there, then driving across the mid-west and listening to hate radio the whole way.  My brother said they still have their YES ON 8 campaign signs planted in their front yards of houses all over Oceano, Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Will My iPhone Kill My Blog?

You Can’t Punish A Group Because You Don’t Like Them. Unless I Don’t Like Them Either. Then It’s Okay…

Via Box Turtle Bulletin .  Congressman Daniel Lungren complains that congress, in its outrage over bonuses paid to the AIG group that wreaked the company, and oh by the way, the entire world economy, is ignoring the constitution…

Lungren Addresses AIG Bonuses 

Here are the facts: in the stimulus package an amendment was adopted that the Majority put in stating that provisions in the TARP and stimulus bills that limited compensation payments would not apply to ‘any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before February 11, 2009.’  It was written specifically to protect the very bonuses that we’re talking about here today.  And so now we’re asking how do we undo what we did?  And the Majority has brought to us a bill that doesn’t recognize the truth of the Constitution.  There is something called a bill of attainder.  You can’t punish a group because you don’t like them.  You can’t have them treated more onerously than somebody else without a trial. 

Now, that’s an unfortunate truth that we have to deal with.  How can we deal with it?  Yesterday in the Judiciary Committee we had an alternative using bankruptcy principles, but that hasn’t been brought to the floor because it’s arguably constitutional.  This is to get headlines to show we are outraged.  Let me tell you if we overturn the Constitution to show our outrage, no single American is safe.  Because in the future what we will do is say, we have a precedent that when we have an unpopular group, when we have a group that deserves some punishment, we won’t go through the real laws.

Emphasis mine.  You can’t punish a group because you don’t like them.  If we overturn the Constitution to show our outrage, no single American is safe.  Ya think? 

Lungren voted for Proposition 8.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

March 18th, 2009

When Your Marriage Becomes Someone Else’s Political Battleground

If you are still thinking that the fight for freedom to marry is something that only affects gay couples, you’d better start thinking again…

Are they married? It depends . .

In 2004, Michelle, a project manager for a financial services company, and Marc, a draftsman, planned to marry in Philadelphia and get their license in Bucks County – a decision influenced only by the office’s proximity to their home in Hatboro.

They were acting within the law, of course. Couples can buy their marriage licenses in any one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and hold their ceremonies in any other.

So how, the Toths now wonder, is their marriage considered legal in Montgomery County, but possibly null and void in Bucks?

The short answer is that the people responsible for issuing marriage licenses – the 67 elected clerks of Orphans Court – are at odds with one another. And the growing ranks of couples using a nontraditional officiant or no officiant at all are getting caught in the conflict.

On one side are clerks, such as those in Bucks and Delaware counties, who want the state marriage-license law tightened. They say the institution of marriage is being sullied, if not undermined, by nontraditional ministers and those who they believe are irreligious, liberal couples seeking to stretch the law.

On the other side are clerks, including those in Philadelphia, Chester, and Montgomery counties, who say the law is clear as long as it is read without bias. Their position has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union. (This issue does not exist in New Jersey.)

Once, getting the license was not among the wedding minutiae that might drive a sane person to "go bridal." But now the process has become complicated and, some would say, needlessly politicized.

Pennsylvania has two types of marriage license:  One that involves some registered official, either a clergyman or a judge.  The other is a "self-uniting" license, which is used by couples who wish to take their vows in the presence of witnesses, but without a the clergy or judge.  Quakers, being the most frequent self-uniters in the state, this license has come to be known as the "Quaker" license.  But note, it isn’t just for Quakers.

The clerks are trying to get rid of the self-uniting license, or severely restrict it to Quakers or other approved religious groups only…they claim to protect the interests of the married couples.  They’re telling couples they can’t use the self-uniting license unless they’re Quakers, and warning couples who have already been married using that license to come in with a real minister for a re-marriage. 

The ACLU is fighting the clerks over this and so far they’ve won every court case.  But the clerks are apparently ignoring the courts and doing what they damn well please.

In an Allegheny County case, a federal judge ruled that self-uniting licenses were not just for Quakers – and that clerks were barred from asking religious questions.

In Philadelphia, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties, judges issued rulings that conflicted with York County’s. Clergy from the Universal Life Church were indeed authorized to solemnize marriages, Bucks County Court Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr. ruled in December 2008.

Still, Bucks and Delaware Counties are ignoring the rulings in the ACLU lawsuits.

Reilly says she is protecting engaged couples from future problems. Hugh Donaghue of Delaware County goes a step further. He requires marriage-license applicants to supply Social Security numbers (not required under federal law) because he suspects that some foreign nationals see the marriage license as a valid form of identification.

"Getting a marriage license allows you to establish identification for other purposes and change your status in the country," Donaghue says.

And, speaking of identification, Donaghue’s office requires a photo ID, and he is suspicious when individuals (mostly followers of Islam) don’t have them.

"They say their religious beliefs do not allow them to have their photos taken," Donaghue says.

Like Reilly, Donaghue says his interest is in protecting well-meaning individuals.

Pull the other one.  They don’t give a rat’s ass about the welfare of couples in love.  They care about this:

They say the institution of marriage is being sullied, if not undermined, by nontraditional ministers and those who they believe are irreligious, liberal couples seeking to stretch the law.

That’s the problem here.  That’s the only problem here.  

What you need to understand about the fight over same-sex marriage is that it isn’t a fight over same-sex marriage.  It’s a fight over the freedom to marry.  My freedom and yours.  If you have been sitting back watching the religious right take a torch to the marriages of same-sex couples because you didn’t figure it had anything to do with you, I have two words for you: You’re next.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

My Morning…

Wake-up.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired. Email From You.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile. 

Amazingly…life can still be good at times.  Very good.  For a while.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on My Morning…

March 17th, 2009

The Butcher’s Bill For Today

Perhaps you hadn’t heard, but anti-gay violence is on the rise.  Here’s what the Mormons brought to California’s gay citizens…

Surge in anti-gay hate crime cases

Hate crime cases involving anti-gay sentiment shot up in Santa Clara County last year, a striking increase that a leading prosecutor attributes to controversy over Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

Anti-gay incidents accounted for more than half of hate-crime cases last year — 56 percent — a big jump from only 15 percent in 2007. There were 14 anti-gay cases out of 25 hate-crime cases in 2008, compared with only 3 out of 20 in 2007.

"My belief from having done this work for many years is that surges in types of hate incidents are linked to the headlines and controversies of the day,” said Deputy District Attorney Jay Boyarsky, who is assigned to monitor hate crimes. "Marriage equality and Proposition 8 have been in the news, and we have seen an increase in gay-bashing.”

I’ve been sitting at my computer, seeing one report of anti-gay violence after another glide across my screen, week after week since Proposition 8 and the election of President Obama.  Numb, and unsurprised.  You hear crackpots calling down God’s wrath on gay folk all the time.  You hear them comparing us to murderers and terrorists.  You hear them citing the passages in Leviticus that call for homosexuals to be put to death.  It’s when you hear all that coming from the statehouses that it makes you wonder if a threshold has been crossed in the culture war…


Last night, Utah’s local ABC station received leaked portions of an interview with state senator Chris Buttars (R), which will be highlighted in an upcoming documentary on Proposition 8. Buttars is an outspoken opponent of gay rights; in the latest interview, he compares gays to alcoholics and Muslim terrorists, and warns that gay people are “probably the greatest threat to America.”


…If it passes, SB 88 would extend state employee health benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.

Renfroe said he was voting against the bill because it would sanction sin and be an abomination to God.

“The Lord God said it is not good for man to be alone — and so he made a helper suitable for him — and that was woman,” said Renfroe, quoting a Bible verse from Genesis. “God blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply.

“Leviticus 18:22 says, ‘You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a female, it is an abomination.’

“Leviticus 20:13 says, ‘If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act and they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them.’


State Representative Tony Shipley was quoted on OpenPen on March 13 in a blog that had jaws dropping throughout the GLBT community. Shipley today told O&AN and Jenny Ford, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), that the quotations were taken out of context.

A lobbyist writing under the name Desoto quoted Shipley as saying, ”They can do whatever they want out in California, with gays passing babies around, and violating God’s law, but when God drops California off into the sea, they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions.”

In the blog, Desoto also reported that Shipley said, ”That [gays adopting] ain’t gonna fly-I’m sorry, I’m a Southern Baptist, I’m a Christian," and "If they [the "secular progressives"] keep pushing and pushing and pushing-they’re pushing us too far, and something will happen-just like we did in 1860." Tennessee

…and in one statehouse after another where they are still fighting over same-sex marriage, adoption, hate crime laws, and anti discrimination laws.  They can’t seem to hate us enough.  I was sitting in the office one of my project managers and told him offhandedly about my decision to not take my usual cross-country drive this year because I was disturbed by all the anti-gay rhetoric I was seeing coming out of the heartland statehouses, and the resulting violence.  He was genuinely shocked to hear about it.  But to see it happening, you have to read the gay news blogs.  As far as the mainstream news media is concerned, violence against homosexuals is still an unremarkable thing.  Something like dog bites man.  Not worth wasting their reader’s time over.

I read a Baltimore crime blog almost daily now, to get a feel for what’s happening at street level in my city because mainstream local news coverage is so crappy.  It’s basically an aggregator, just posting links from other sources to crime stories, with maybe a little commentary between them.  There needs to be something like that for the gay community.  Some place were we, and everyone else, can see how dangerous things are.  Because there is still a lot of denial that so many violent words flung at gay people, can possibly be turning into violent acts.

I don’t want my little life blog to be that place.  But I am sick of seeing one act of violence after another flashing across my screen and it’s too much to comment on all of it.  So from now on, instead of just letting it go, I’m going to compile them into a running series of posts.

"During the wars with Napoleon, when Admiral Nelson asked for the numbers of men killed and wounded in a week of action, he said ‘Let me have the butcher’s bill for the week’". Dritz sighed to a reporter one day.  "As I make out these reports with the new numbers of AIDS cases each week, and as I check them off when they die, I feel like I am writing the butcher’s bill of this epidemic."

-Randy Shilts, And The Band Played On

Here’s a few line items in the culture war on gay people…

Attack in pub seen as gay-bashing

"I asked the guy why he had done it, and he said, ‘Because he’s a faggot. I’m not a fag. The faggot touched me. He deserved it.’

"He just kept saying those same words over and over again."


Brooklyn Gay Murder Victim’s Cousin Describes Fatal Attack

"I had him in my arms, and as I had him in my arms I was calling the paramedics," Brown said. Duncanson, who had been stabbed four times in the back, was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he died roughly one hour later.


Gay Man Assaulted Outside Midtown Atlanta Bar

‘He assumed the two guys were men he had met and they said ‘hi’ and called him over. He went over and said hi. They asked him if he was gay and when he said yes, they knocked him down and kicked him in the face,’


Spanish ‘Gay Panic’ Acquittal Inspires Protest

They lived together in the Spanish province of Vigo and were planning to get married. Both were stabbed to death by Jacobo Piñeiro Rial in their apartment in the early morning of January 13th, 2006. The bodies showed a total of 57 stab wounds, according to forensics. After killing them, Piñeiro took a shower and cleaned himself up. He filled a suitcase with some of their belongings to make it look like a robbery and then spilled clothing all over the place. He poured alcohol over everything, including his victims’ bodies, turned on the gas spigot on the stove, and set everything on fire.

The jury bought the killer’s ‘gay panic’ defense…


Dallas Jury Finds Man Guilty for Robbery in Anti-Gay Attack

"Dean told jurors that Gunter punched him in the nose and that the next thing he remembered was seeing two men beat him. Gunter kicked him in the back and Singleton kicked him in the face before he lost consciousness again, he said. A witness testified hearing Gunter and Singleton make anti-gay remarks during the attack. As a result of the attack, Dean suffered a fractured back and dislocated jaw, and his chin was broken in half. He testified that he has vision problems, lost his sense of smell and is still missing teeth."

According to the paper, defense attorneys argued that Singleton was responsible for the beating.


And so it goes…

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

March 16th, 2009

Still Not Getting It

Andrew Sullivan notes the Get The Government Out Of Marriage Altogether argument.  In California a couple of noble idiots are trying a lawsuit to do just that.  Douglas Kmiec approves…

Give gay and straight couples alike the same license — a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a "civil union" — anything, really, other than "marriage." For those for whom the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they could want. The Church itself would lose nothing of its role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that it finds in keeping with its tenets. And for non-believers or those for whom the word marriage is less important, the civil union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states, and in federal law, for "married" couples.

This is a wonderful solution to some problem somewhere in a galaxy far, far away perhaps, but not to the problem of same-sex marriage here on Planet Earth.  Once more: how many of these state amendments bulldozed through by the religious right also ban civil unions outright?  How many of them are written to ban any and all rights and benefits associated with marriage, never mind civil unions?  How many times do the bigots have to complain that anything that gives same sex couples any sort of recognition at all is unacceptable before you begin to listen to them?  How many of the Common Ground initiative laws proposed in Utah, after the Mormon Church averred that they weren’t really against giving same sex couples Any rights, did the Mormon church actually allow to pass?  What…not even hospital visitation? 

At long last, do you still not get the depth of the hatred here?  The word they’re choking on isn’t ‘marriage’, it’s ‘homosexual’.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Still Not Getting It

Those Odd Little Thoughts That Go Floating Through Your Head, Whilst Sitting Alone In Complete Darkness…

[Geek Alert…]

When I’m working with my hands, and trying to completely focus my mind on what my fingers are doing, I’ll close my eyes, so as to tune out the visual, in favor of the tactile. This is something I’ve done ever since I was a kid working on a new model car or a slot car or a Heathkit assembly.  It’s a reflex, something akin I think to how I sometimes stare off into nowhere when I’m concentrating on something someone is saying to me.

So I’m in the darkroom trying to load some film into the tank.  I had a roll of sprocket damaged film I was trying to get onto a developing reel and because it was damaged it was fighting me.  I kept trying to wind it, and felt it kinking and knew that it had jumped the track, rewound and started over.  It was getting frustrating.  I realized in the middle of all this that I’m closing my eyes to concentrate on the feel of the film going into the reel.  Yet I was doing this in complete darkness anyway.  There couldn’t have been anything more superfluous just then, then closing my eyes.  Yet I kept on doing it.  Even when I realized I was doing it, and thought to stop myself.  I couldn’t concentrate on not closing my eyes, and getting the film wound correctly at the same time.  So I stopped fighting my eyelids and focused my attention on getting the film wound. 

I don’t think that’s a habit I got into.  It’s some sort of brain reflex.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Those Odd Little Thoughts That Go Floating Through Your Head, Whilst Sitting Alone In Complete Darkness…

Undeveloped Film As Archeology

Holy Crap!  Remember those old rolls of film I mentioned in the previous post?  The ones I’d mistakenly put into the color film reserve in the fridge?  Two of them were almost thirty years old.  No kidding…I have new found images of my life from 1979 to look at.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Undeveloped Film As Archeology

Hectic Weekends With The Absent Minded Photographer

[A longish post about developing film and the wages of procrastination…]

I have a little staging area in my basement bathroom/darkroom, where I sit the odd roll of exposed film to be developed at a later date.   If it’s something immediate, I do it then and there.  But if the roll gets put into the staging area who knows when I’ll develop it.  I’ll get to it later, I tell myself.  Later being anywhere from tomorrow to the heat death of the universe.

Point of fact, as of Saturday morning I had about twenty-five rolls of exposed 35mm black and white film from various periods in the past decade that I hadn’t yet processed.  Some of it was stored in the fridge, and some in the darkroom staging area, and none of it was labeled.  This became important when I decided this weekend that I absolutely positively had to develop the last roll of black and white I took at the class reunion.  Over a year ago.  Okay…now which one was that…??

I’d turned in the digital images from the reunion, and tons of shots I’d taken back in high school, long ago.  But that last solitary roll of Tri-X I’d exposed mostly just for old times sake, just to see myself snapping some Tri-X with my classmates as I had once upon a time back when we were all kids, just hung out there waiting.  And waiting.  This weekend, I was determined to get to it.  I reckoned I’d just develop what I had in the staging area until I got to the roll I was looking for.  Ha.  Setting up to develop film isn’t as simple as copying your digital image files from the flash card to the computer.  It’s a tad messy and you have to be careful. This is probably why I’m getting so lackadaisical with my roll film backlog.  The digital camera is spoiling me.

I needed to make fresh chemicals and for that I needed to go to the store and buy distilled water.  A gallon for Kodak Rapid Fix, Indicator Stop Bath, Perma-Wash and Photo-Flo, then enough to make a half-gallon of HC-110 stock solution.  From the stock solution I make a working solution of one ounce stock to fifteen water.  I have a Kindermann stainless steel tank that can hold two reels of 120 roll film and four 35mm.  The tank needs a quart (32 ounces) to cover four reels of 35mm, so that’s two ounces of HC-110 stock solution to 30 ounces of water to make 32 ounces of developer.  That’s a one-shot solution…that is, you use it once and toss it.  The advantage to a one-shot solution is you always start with your developer at a consistent strength.  But I was going to need 30 ounces of distilled water for every batch of film I ran through the tank.  So I went to the grocery store and bought six gallons of distilled water.  I swear one of these days someone is going to look at me going through the checkout line with all those bottles of distilled water and think I’m running a meth lab or something and call the cops.

So I get my plastic jugs of distilled water home and start cooking up a batch of fresh chemicals.  I have a large assortment of measuring flasks, and a bucket I’ve marked off with half-gallon and gallon tick marks (my European readers are just going to have to endure my constant references here to U.S. measurements…sorry.).  I pour the old chemicals out of their storage bottles and rinse them thoroughly.  One thing this process isn’t is very green.  I use tons of water and all sorts of chemicals are going right down the drain.  Whether the chemicals needed to create the circuit boards and memory sticks of the digital realm are any greener when all is said and done is something I wonder about.  But from a household point of view, film is a messy business.

I have the basement bathroom light sealed.  All I need a darkroom for these days is loading film into the tank.  That needs absolute darkness.  I have a routine.  I set down my film cassettes and lay out all my tools…the stainless steel film reels and developing tank, its lid, a pair of scissors and a tool for popping open 35mm film cassettes.  I need these things to be where my hands expect them to be, because once the lights are out the darkroom is, must be, so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  You have to know the room by touch.  You have to do everything by touch.

A 35mm film cassette is a metal case with a length of film inside, wound around a plastic spool.  When I have the lights out, I feel for one, get my fingers around it, and then find the opening tool and pop the case open.  Then I ease out the roll of film inside.  There better be not even the faintest breath of light in here now or else the film has just been ruined.  I carefully put the opener tool back Exactly where it was, then get my fingers around the scissors.  The start of a roll of film is shaped into a little tab that goes into the camera’s take-up spool.  I have to cut that off to make the end square.  When that’s done and the scissors put back, I feel around for one of the stainless steel reels and carefully try to get film started on it. 

The reel holds the film in the tank and allows the processing chemistry to circulate around it.  Some folks use a loader device but I use my fingers.  In the darkroom it’s all about touch.  So long as your hands are clean you can safely touch the back of the film and the edges and you’re fine.  Just never touch the emulsion side.  You need to feel around the edges of the reel to know which way it’s oriented so you don’t try to load the film on backwards.  Then thread the film into the center of the reel and start working it around the track.  Once you get it started correctly it’s not hard to wind film onto a reel.  If it jumps the track you can feel it start to kink and you just backup until it’s going on right again and continue.  You must do all this by touch.  The saving grace of it is that the natural film curl helps you out in this.  It just wants to slide nicely into the reel.  If it’s fighting you then you know it’s jumped the track somewhere and you need to backup and do it over.  When I reach the end of the film I need the scissors again to cut it off the spool.  I let the pieces…the metal case and the spool, just fall onto the floor in the darkness.

When I’ve wound a roll of film into a reel it goes into the tank.  Rinse, repeat…  I do this four times for four rolls of film and I’m done.  I put the lid tightly down on the tank and now I can turn the lights back on.   My floor is littered with film cassette cases, spools and film tabs, which I clean up then and there.  It’s Real Easy throughout this process to let everything turn into a big mess and you can’t let that happen or you’ll get sloppy and make a mistake and ruin your film.  You have to concentrate.  I am not a naturally tidy person, but I will keep my work areas clean and well organized because that helps me keep my focus on what I’m doing.

I take my film tank around to the art room The rest of this can happen in normal light.  Thanks to the scanner and the computer I don’t need a paper darkroom anymore.  Processing film is nothing compared to the work and mess of making paper enlargements.  Nowadays I can make bigger prints of far, far better quality with Bagheera, my art room Macintosh, and my nice Epson wide bed printer, then I ever could with my old enlarger setup.  And it’s a lot less of a mess.  But processing black and white film is mess enough.

The art room is the finished front half of my basement, which the previous homeowner made into a clubroom.  It’s got the usual knotty pine walls and thick carpet.  He’d put a bar in the back of it.  I set up there.  On the bar I lay down a work rag because no matter how careful I am there is always some spillage.  I put out three one quart measuring flasks.  Into one I carefully measure and pour two ounces of HC-110 into 30 ounces of distilled water.  Then I pour a quart of stop bath and fixer into each of the others.  I have a precision Weston dial thermometer I dip into the flask of developer.  It responds quickly and I get a fix on the solution temperature.  From that I calculate my development time using the Kodak charts.  I am using a non-standard dilution of HC-110…the photo hacker children call it "dilution ‘H’".  But it’s simply a double of the standard times for dilution ‘B’.  I also take the temperature of the other two solutions.  This is important.  If they’re not close enough to the temperature of the developer I have to take steps to equalize them.  Tri-X is a fast, but grainy film.  If you keep everything the same temperature during the process the grain you end up with will be nice and uniform and not bother the eye really.   But if the temperature of your solutions diverge very much the grain will tend to clump together and it will look horrible.

When I have all my chemistry ready I hang an old fashion stop watch around my neck and click on and pour developer into the tank and I’m off.  For the next fifteen minutes I can’t be disturbed or distracted by anything.  While you have solution in the tank you have to watch the clock and agitate every so often.  That’s because the solution against the more highly exposed parts of the film gets exhausted quicker then what’s against the less exposed parts, and so development slows down there sooner then elsewhere.  Agitation brings fresh chemical up against the parts of the film that are exhausting it quicker.  If you don’t agitate those areas of the film don’t get as well developed and overall contrast suffers.  But on the other hand if you agitate too much the effect is to over develop parts of the film.  This effect is something a film photographer knows how to manipulate depending on shooting conditions.  This, and adjusting the development time, is how we used to finesse contrast in the negative before Photoshop.

So I’m sloshing chemicals in and out of the tank.  11 minutes development time at 65 degrees f.  10 minutes at 68, which is the more ideal temperature.  My basement nicely oscillates between the two in the winter months.  In the summer I have to let my chemicals cool down in a bath of cold water before I can begin.  Pour out the developer and then pour in, and right back out, the stop bath.  This is just a very weak acid solution.  The developer is a base (remember your chemistry class?) and when the stop bath hits what’s left of the developer sticking to the film it kills it.  It’s like an instant off switch for the developer stage.  Then in comes the fixer.  Fixer is acidic too, and so some photographers don’t bother with a stop bath for film.  I do it on the ground that at least it protects the fixer from becoming exhausted too quickly.  But it isn’t critical.  The developer changes the silver salts in the film that were hit by light to metallic silver.  The fixer dissolves the silver salts that were not developed, leaving the negative image on the film.  4 minutes to fix.

Then I have to wash it.  I take the tank over to the sink, take the film reels out of the tank and drop them into a film washer that holds the same size and number of film reels as the tank.  It connects to the sink faucet and two holes at the base draw in air and create a vortex that swirls around the film, getting the last of the fixer off it.  That’s very important.  If any fixer is left behind on the film it will begin to slowly stain it and then your negatives are ruined.  Again, I have to monitor the temperature of the wash carefully.  It needs to be the same as the chemicals I used for developing. 

Now I can relax a bit.  The critical part is done.  I will usually take a quick glance at the film now, to reassure myself that everything is okay.  I can let my mind wander a bit…maybe go grab a snack from the kitchen.  But I still keep the stopwatch around my neck.  After about fifteen minutes of washing I pour a solution of Perma-Wash into the tank and dip the film in it for a minute.  This is supposed to neutralize the last of the fixer.  Then wash for a few minutes more, then I pour a solution of Photo-Flo into the tank and bathe the film in that for a minute.  Photo-Flo is a simple wetting agent that prevents spotting on the film as it dries.

Slosh, slosh, slosh.  By now I have little spills everywhere.  I’m not exceptionally clumsy, but you have to get these solutions in and out of the tank pretty quickly and I won’t fret if a little spills now and then.  Your kitchen isn’t going to remain spotless while you’re busy cooking in it either.

Then I take the film back to the bathroom and hang it up to dry.  It must dry in as dust-free an environment as I can manage.  At this stage the film emulsion is soft, and if dust gets on it now as it is drying and hardening it’s there forever.

Once the film is up on hangers to dry, I begin cleaning my workspace.  Even if I am going to do another batch right away, I clean everything up.  Especially then.  The used developer goes down the sink.  The stop bath and fixer back into their storage jugs.  The tank and reels and empty measuring flasks into a wash bin I carry upstairs to the kitchen sink.  I mop up every spill until the workspace is clean and dry again.  I rinse out the tank and reels and flasks and set them out to dry, or hand dry them if I need to use them again right now.

Take a breath.  Pause.  Think about what you are doing…go over your mental checklists…  Wash…rinse…repeat…

I did this all weekend long, looking for that damn roll of film from the reunion.  And I didn’t find it.  Twenty-five rolls I processed, and none of them were the one I was looking for. 

There was one roll left in the staging area…a roll I wasn’t sure was Tri-X.  It was in a Fuji color film cassette, but I’d often re-used those for bulk reloading back in the day.  I usually make sure to put a piece of tape over it to identify it as Tri-X though.  This one didn’t have that, but it was one of the older Fuji cassettes I usually used for that.  So I turned off the darkroom lights, popped the case, cut off the tab, put the film back in the case, turned the lights back on and looked at it.  Even before I’d turned the lights back on though, I knew it was one of my bulk reloads because of how I’d shaped the tab.

I had a batch of film from the big tank in the wash.  I had some smaller tanks though that held only one and two reels, and a spare reel.  So I ran that roll through the process while the others were washing.  That wasn’t the roll I was looking for either.

I was beginning to get desperate.  I dug around and uncovered three more unprocessed rolls of Tri-X in a part of the fridge I’d reserved for color.  They’d gotten mixed in, but this was old stuff and I doubted the film I was looking for was one of those.  I dug through my camera bags looking for anything I might have missed.  I found a partially exposed roll still in one camera body that I though might…just might…be the roll from the reunion.  My habit is to use one body for color and one for black and white, and at the reunion I had both of those plus the digital camera.  Maybe I just hadn’t taken out the roll of film from the black and white body.

But I was done for the weekend.  I’d used up all the distilled water I’d bought and before I could process any more I’d need to buy some.  After a thorough search of Casa del Garrett I’d come up with four possible rolls of film and a fifth that had still been in the camera.  Figured I’d do them Monday.  I was already thinking out my apology to the reunion committee for loosing the film.  It wouldn’t have been a big loss…I’d given them a ton of stuff already.  But that one last little roll might have had some good shots on it too, and it seemed now that it was gone.

So this morning I get up and start cutting all the film I’d developed down from the hangers.  I cut a roll to lengths of six shots each, and store the strips temporarily in glassine envelopes until I get them scanned.  During scanning the roll gets assigned a number based on a system I’ve used since high school, and then it goes into an archival film holder page with that number written on it, plus a few notes about what’s on it, and the page goes into a binder for safekeeping.  As I’m cutting I’m looking at what’s there.  It’s an odd assortment of images from almost a decade’s worth of odds and ends…film I hadn’t gotten around to developing because it wasn’t pressing.  An office Party.  Images of Kansas and Monument Valley.  Shots from around my Baltimore neighborhood.  Oh…what’s this…??

I’d worked my way back to the beginning of my weekend’s work and there, in the middle of one of the rolls, were the shots from the reunion.  I hadn’t taken a whole roll of black and white that evening, which was probably why I’d not developed it the next day.  I’d likely wanted to finish the roll first, then in the process of getting the color film developed and working on the digital images plus all the stuff from my high school years, I’d let it slip.   I’d developed the roll I was looking for in the very first batch I’d done and I’d missed it completely.  The reunion shots were right there, in between a trip to Stroudsburg to visit my friend Glenn, ironically another high school classmate I hadn’t seen in almost two decades, and Peterson’s performance at Gallaudet a month after.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere but I am unlikely to learn it.  Considering the volume of film I still shoot, even with the digital cameras in my stable, I actually don’t stage all that much.  It’s mostly odds and ends that I put aside for later processing.  There were another two full rolls from Peterson’s Gallaudet performance that I’d developed right away, and one from that first visit in years to see Glenn.  The reunion shots were in the middle of both of those and I had tons of other stuff from that event that I’d taken care of.  It fell between the cracks. 

I do this all the time…staging odds and ends for development that I never get around to for years, and then suddenly I do it all at once.  And what I discover every time is how facinating the odds and ends are when you look at them after years have gone by.  It’s like re-living random bits and pieces of your past all at once.  But I need at least, to make it a rule from now on, that no film goes into the staging area without a tag on it that tells me what it is. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Hectic Weekends With The Absent Minded Photographer

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