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Archive for September, 2012

September 28th, 2012

Collateral Damage

The culture war is a battlefield with many dead hopes and dreams, mostly unseen and forgotten…

‘Collateral Damage’ in the LGBT Community: Straight Spouses, Still in the Darkest Corner of the Closet

Tucked in a corner of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender closet is a little-known group: straight women and men in heterosexual marriages whose husbands or wives come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender after marrying them as “the right thing to do.” Finding the marriages too difficult to maintain due to their hidden sexual orientation or gender identity, they eventually say, “Honey, I’m gay,” or, “I need to become the woman or man I am,” or their mates discover signs of a same-sex lover or an opposite-gender wardrobe. Though some couples work out ways to stay together, most divorce, their children now in a broken family. As divorced LGBT partners begin to live their lives with integrity, their straight ex-partners are left in shock, their own identity, integrity, and belief system shattered. The spotlight on the disclosing partners, few outsiders think about their wives or husbands. “They’re straight! They’re normal. No problem.”

No problem…  For the culture warriors anyway.  Years ago, when I became involved in the struggle of a gay teen who was forced into ex-gay therapy against his will, I had my eyes opened to a bitter little corner of the culture war that was mostly under the radar of mainstream notice. The many good and decent people scarred horribly from the experience of putting themselves, or having been put through, a relentless gauntlet of shame, allegedly for the sake of saving their souls.  But as is usually the case, the saviors were less interested in the people they were theoretically saving then in building their own stepping stones to heaven.  They didn’t follow up, they didn’t give a shit whatsoever about the fate of the saved.  It was all just theater.  Grist for their bar stool conceits about their status as God’s own right hand. And you never saw it more clearly then in the human suffering of straight spouses, mostly heterosexual women, who were nothing more then useful tools for the haters of homosexual people.

Straight spouses are injured by the very anti-gay or anti-trans/pro-straight factors in our society that caused their mates to marry them — “collateral damage,” some say. Those in mixed-orientation marriages, like their partners, feel unfulfilled by the sexual mismatch, often blaming themselves and accommodating their partners’ wishes at the expense of their own.

There were the gay folk themselves, but also parents shamed into believing that their son’s homosexuality was their fault.  And there were the spouses of homosexual men.  One thing you notice right away listening to the stories of the survivors of ex-gay therapy is how little attention is paid to women.  In the manner of righteous misogynistic patriarchal thugs, those women never mattered.  Lesbians were seldom a target of the ex-gay outfits.  They were focused almost exclusively on male homosexuality.  And so of course, heterosexual women lured into marriages with gay men didn’t matter, except as tools to cure men of their homosexuality.

Once they know the truth, the vast majority divorce and must pick up the pieces of their fractured families to create a semblance of normalcy for their children. In addition, a number keep their ex-partners’ “secret,” wanting to avoid the latter’s rejection by community, workplace, or place of worship, and to protect their children from taunts. If their partners disclose publicly, they are rightfully praised for their courage, while their straight ex-spouses are forgotten. Keeping the secret or feeling discounted, straight spouses retreat into their own kind of closet, invisible. Some find peer support through the Straight Spouse Network. Few find the knowledgeable professional help they need.

There is another victim of this human tragedy as well, unseen, unacknowledged, possibly even unaware themselves: other gay men, who might have loved, and been loved by those gay men, had they grown up in a world where their sexual nature was not used against them, for the sake of the righteous.

So much love lost to the world, to so many hearts left to wander the world alone.  So the righteous could make their stepping stones to heaven out of other people’s hopes and dreams of love.

I am not an atheist because I have a grudge against religion.  I stopped believing simply because I had to finally admit to myself that belief had stopped making sense to me.  But I will acknowledge that it was helped along by that relentless torrent of hate flung at me and at so many other good hearts simply for what we were.  It forced me to question the biblical truths I was raised to believe.  I think eventually the questions would have come anyway.  Having had the father I did, the whole concept of original sin, and being held guilty for acts not of my own doing, struck me as monstrously grotesque the moment I began of fully understand it.  But there is no doubt the questioning came sooner, and more forcefully, because I had to think about why such a wonderful, beautiful, life affirming thing as falling in love was, for me, proof that I was an abomination.

I’ve had it good, golden even, compared to what other gay people have had to endure.  I was never thrown out of my house, never had to hear my own parents tell me they hated me for what I was.  But I am alone.  I have been alone my entire life.  And I have seen the faces of others, so terribly alone as am I.  We homosexuals are a minority.  In the best of all possible worlds it would still have been a harder road to that place of peace and joy for us.  It didn’t have to be made worse.  Yes mother, yes father, I will take my heart, and all its hopes and dreams of love and devotion, and put them in this little coffin and bury it.  Because I am your good son…

I am an atheist. I love life, and this good earth, and I try to love the people who come my way in it.  I try to be a good neighbor.  I want love to succeed, if not for me then for others.  There is no despair in me in knowing that the end is the end.  It means that this life I have now is what I have to make right, make good.  To leave this world in some better way because I have walked in it is enough.  There is nobility there for me.  And hope.  But if there is a judgment day coming, I would rather answer for the life I’ve lived then have to answer for the life of someone who told a gay man to get himself married so God would not abandon him, and then be shown all the broken and destitute hearts that he thought on that day would be the proof of his love of God.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Collateral Damage

Atlas Stiffed His Waitress…

…of course it was to teach her self sufficiency, not because he wanted a free lunch.  I saw this graphic go flying by on the net yesterday…

And a lot of the time they’re drowning in it because of the greed and avarice of people who like to yap about how there aren’t any free lunches.  Cheap labor, sure.  The cheaper the better.

I know a little about how it is to be working poor.  Not as much as many.  Somehow I never went to bed hungry or without a roof over my head.  And I didn’t have children to support.  But there was a time back when I was in my late thirties that I lived in a friend’s basement and mowed lawns and did Manpower jobs to make ends meet.  This was after the Savings and Loan crisis had cost me the small but steady income I’d had as an architectural model maker. Time was I couldn’t afford a car and sometimes not the bus either.

I had this geeky little mindset for fiddling around with electronic gismos.  Mom always said I got it from her dad, a man who opened one of the first businesses in his area building and servicing radios back before World War II.  But there was never enough money to send me to a nice college and I had to go to work right out of high school.  I had one low wage job after another, mostly stock clerk and warehouse work, and no idea what to do with my life.  I liked to paint and draw, and I had done some photography for a couple local newspapers.  But you need time to pursue a career in either of those and I had to bring money into the household.  Eventually I got a job working for a man who went to the same church mom did, and who ran his own business making architectural models.  It was work that tweaked my artistic side and I loved it, but my new boss was a fundamentalist nutcase who wouldn’t leave his employees alone about religion and he had an explosive temper.  One day right before Christmas I and most of his other employees bolted after one of his outbursts and I was on my own again.

But I liked doing that work and eventually established myself as a freelance model maker with several big customers and one former co-worker who brought me into the shop he’d established.  During that time I bought a Commodore C64.  I had little use for computers before then, not even as video game playing devices, but the price of the Commodore had come drastically down and when I discovered I could write pretty decent job proposals on a word processor and figure out my costs with a spreadsheet I snapped one up.  That little computer turned into a sort of hobby with me as I taught myself how to write programs in its BASIC interpreter and began to tentatively explore the emerging online world of Computer Bulletin Boards, in hopes of finding a gay community I could socialize with there instead of in seedy pickup bars.

Eventually and I was able to build an IBM PC clone from parts I got at a HAM Fest and with its for-its-day vastly greater horsepower and tons of software tools available for it I really started getting pulled into that world.  While my customers for my freelance architectural model making business were going belly up all around me I kept dinking around with my PC clone because computers interested me, and because they had become my social outlet.  But I had no college degree and no money to go get one so I never seriously considered trying to earn a living with it.  Eventually I found a community of fellow gay geeks online and began doing support work on a local gay community BBS system, using what I’d learned dinking around with my own computer.  That eventually led to my getting a few one-off jobs writing software.  One job was for a local gay community organization that wanted a membership database and form letter generator.  I did it in dBase IV, a little Word Perfect macro programming and a little Microsoft Quick Basic.  Then, through that same gay BBS, I got another one-off job.  And another.  And another.  Just at a moment in time when having even any sort of IT experience you could put on a resume meant you could get a job at decent pay and you didn’t need to have the college degree that I didn’t.

The dot com boom lifted me out of poverty almost overnight and I managed to hang onto this new career path after it faded.  Otherwise I have no idea what would have become of me.  I was 38 years old the day I could finally afford to rent my own place, a little one bedroom apartment in a Baltimore suburb.  And it was all because of some really lucky breaks.  Yes, yes…clearly I have the aptitude for the work I do and a good work ethic or otherwise I wouldn’t now be making a six figure salary and working on the James Webb Space Telescope project.  But don’t even start telling me that my income level today is because I am a highly motivated and intelligent person who worked hard to get ahead.  I was all of that when I was living in a friend’s basement and mowing lawns to make ends meet.  I was all of that when I was standing in an unemployment line because I needed that government handout to put food in my mouth.  I had some damn lucky breaks.  And…support…when I needed it badly…from my friends, and from my fellow citizens.  That is why I’m making the living I am now.

So I get a little ticked off whenever I hear some winger yap, yap, yapping that the unemployed are just lazy and unemployment checks amount to freeloading.  There were times in my life I took unemployment and gladly.  And I needed that money not because I was lazy and didn’t want to work, but because my jobs had been yanked out from under me.  Because Wall Street bet on red 25 when they should have bet on black 17.  With other people’s money.  Then they wag their fingers at the unemployed and tell them they’re lazy.

Not everyone gets the break I got.  Poverty does not equal stupidity or laziness.  People who work two grueling minimum wage jobs to make ends meet are not lazy, and particularly if they have children to support.  There is a serious lack of opportunity out there and some of that is deliberately crafted to keep wages low and Wall Street profits high and it is obscene for those financiers and their sock puppets to be wagging their fingers at people they’ve basically trapped in low wage lives and the unemployment line and calling them irresponsible.

You want responsibility Mr. Romney?  How about taking responsibility for costing people their jobs?  How about taking responsibility for trashing the hopes and dreams of all the workers and their families after you Bain raided their companies, and/or shipped their jobs overseas?  How about taking responsibility for the fact that the American Dream is smaller and further out of reach of so many hard working Americans because you needed a car elevator?  All the luxury that surrounds you every day…it could have been a reflection of the wealth you brought into this world, not the wealth you took from it.

Am I better off now then I was four years ago?  No doubt your kind thinks it’s the most important question of all but it’s the wrong question.  It isn’t all about Me, it’s about US.  As in U.S..  We’re electing a president of the United States.  That calls for a different question.  You had wealth, which means you already had power.  Now you want more.  Well of course, lots of people want more power.  And…wealth.  There’s just never enough is there?  The question is, is your country is better off for your having used the power you already had.


[Update…]  Someone else who isn’t biting the hand of the neighbors who helped them when they needed it most

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Atlas Stiffed His Waitress…

September 27th, 2012

Not Quite Broken In Yet…

I bought the ‘E’ class diesel, Traveler II, last December.  It wasn’t exactly the kind of money I had in mind to spend…I would have been thrilled to own a ‘C’ class diesel…the smaller car seemed more reasonable for a single guy…but Daimler still won’t import those for some reason.  As it turns out, I really Really like the ‘E’ class after all.  It is a solid, beautiful car, very nice on my occasional passengers, has lots of extra trunk space (which is nice for people who take road trips with lots of camera equipment), and yet gets absolutely great fuel economy.  It has been an absolutely solid and reliable ride all the way.

It’s already time for Traveler IIs 20,000 mile ‘B’ service.  Since the plan is to eventually become one of those wirey old codgers with a Mercedes diesel that has half a million miles on it I feel off to a reasonably good start.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not Quite Broken In Yet…

Atlas And Republican Jesus Slow Dancing In History’s Graveyard

Is the GOP Still a National Party?

Republicans have enjoyed a state-level resurgence even as they have lost — and lost big — their once commanding national majority. The GOP was once the landslide party, the party of Eisenhower ’52 and ’56, Nixon ’72, and Reagan ’84. Even Bush I’s 53.4 percent in 1988 was very respectable. Reagan’s 50.7 percent in 1980 wasn’t a landslide but still demonstrated that an outright popular majority supported the Republican. In the five elections before ’92, the GOP won popular majorities in four.

You should go read this article in full.  It’s a take down on today’s republican party, not bitter, but clearly ticked off.  He comes close to saying it outright: the republican party is now the party of southern christianists and wall street financial barons, locked in a deadly embrace of money and highly motivated southern tribalists each demanding fealty from republican politicians…one for their money, the other for their votes.

Because the world view of each is so self-centered, insular and disconnected they have made the nation nearly ungovernable. They have their own facts, their own news channel, their own pundits all telling them their deranged conceits are the highest wisdom. There was a time when I could hope the money guys would eventually come to their senses: economic disaster has a way of making you pay attention to reality. But as their world has become more and more infected with Ayn Rand’s poison that seems a lost hope too.

They’ll let it all burn down: the christianists because Armageddon means Jesus is coming…the financiers because they won’t stop believing in their own Atlas-like infallibility until they’re jumping out their wall street windows because they’ve lost everything and this time there isn’t any money left in anyone’s pockets to bail them out.

I really wish I knew what the answer was.  But it seems all there is left to do now is ride it out to wherever it’s going, and maybe grab whatever small piece of America you can as the pieces all float past and hang on to it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Atlas And Republican Jesus Slow Dancing In History’s Graveyard

September 24th, 2012

Hoisted From The Archives: You Were Played. You Were Conned. You Were Used. Some Of You Anyway. You Dopes.

Because Eugene Volokh enjoys watching laws meant to protect hated minorities being used against them, and to restate a point I made back in 2007, when Shrub the Junior was still our president…

Via Digby…

Avedon Carol:

…I would have been unable to resist saying that Republicans have shown no sign of believing in “the right to keep your own money” or in limited government or in a “strong defense”. Allowing rich people and corporations to make use of (and often ruin) public services without paying for them is not giving you “the right to keep your own money”; in fact, it’s making you pay for the things they get more use from. Limiting the power of government to protect your Constitutional rights is not “limited government”; neither is allowing a president the power to summarily deprive individuals of those rights “limited government”. Bankrupting the Treasury in order to give the DoD money it doesn’t need (and doesn’t spend wisely) while you go blow up other countries that posed no threat to the US is not “a strong defense”.

Conservatives have always supported intrusive government, they have always endangered Americans by aggravating other countries, and they have always been very happy to collect taxes from ordinary working people and use that tax money to fatten the Malefactors of Great Wealth while depriving the rest of us of our freedoms. Those same people conned a number of libertarian-minded young people in the ’70s and ’80s into believing that conservatism was liberalism and vice-versa because a few intolerant lefties went overboard in their objections to morally reprehensible expressions of racism and sexism. I would have thought these kids would have grown up by now and realized that they’re still paying taxes but under the Republicans they’re getting less for them – and that’s before the bill for all that “strong defense” comes due. How dumb they have to be to think it makes sense to be both Republican and gay after all this just doesn’t bear thinking about.

I was one of those who were conned…right up until Reagan gave me a clear understanding of what kind of government we were likely to end up with when market forces become the moral standard and the rule of law bows to the rule of money.  But I think the final nail in my libertarian phase’s coffin was the reaction of many of my ersatz fellow libertarians to the supreme court decision in Hardwick v. Bowers, that upheld the sodomy laws.  I heard a lot of applause for the court standing up for state’s rights, while at the same time paying lip service to the proposition that individuals should be free to have whatever sex they wanted to, as long as it was mutually consensual.  How, I asked them, don’t sodomy laws violate the fundamental libertarian principles of individual freedom and freedom of association?  To which I got the standard “state’s rights” reply.

Me: But…sodomy laws are wrong…they’re evil…

They: The federal government has no business telling the states what laws they can pass.

Me:  But…you Do agree that state don’t have the right to trample on the individual’s liberty…?

They:  The federal government has no business telling the states what laws they can pass.

Me:  But…states don’t have any more right to abridge the freedoms of the people then the federal government does…

They:  The federal government has no business telling the states what laws they can pass.

…and so on.  That was when I realized that a lot of libertarians were merely right wing conservatives cloaking themselves in libertarian rhetoric about individual freedom when it suited them.  I’ve watched them play that game ever since.  And amazingly, as President Nice Job Brownie has proven, they can rip the rights guarantees right out of our constitution, eliminate the right to a trial by a jury of our peers, eliminate access even to the courts, spy on Americans and laugh at the need to get a warrant, lie the country into war, assert that the government has the right to determine what is, and what is not a family, declare same sex couples to be legally strangers before the law with no recourse to marriage or even civil unions, and wave our tax dollars in our faces before stuffing them into their cronies pockets…and those gen-X knuckleheads who bought into it during the Reagan years will still insist that republicans and conservatives are for individual rights and democrats and liberals hate freedom and are for big government.


Seriously…Plaintiff should have joined the International Association For Heterosexuals Who Can’t Stop Whining About Teh Gay Flaunting IT IN OUR FACES.  I’ll bet Avis would have given Plaintiff a discount off any car in the lot.  Double discount for the jacked up pickup truck model with the confederate flag bumper sticker that says Heritage Not Hate.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Hoisted From The Archives: You Were Played. You Were Conned. You Were Used. Some Of You Anyway. You Dopes.

The Libertarian Facade: What John Birchers Wear When They Want To Look Cool

Winger Eugene Volokh of the ersatz libertarian leaning Volokh Conspiracy gleefully passes on notice this morning that a lawsuit against Avis for discriminating against a straight customer can proceed.  The gist of it is that because Avis gave a discount to the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce they were discriminating against heterosexuals by charging them more in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.  If you thought that libertarians were opposed to such laws to begin with you’d be right.  If you thought that most people who oppose such laws are libertarians you would be sadly mistaken.  And especially when they claim to be libertarians.

Pay attention:

Another thread of argument runs through AVIS’s briefs: … since Plaintiff could have become a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and thus qualified for its favored discounts …, there was no pricing discrimination…. [But this] assumes an evidentiary showing which has yet to be made…. [A]lthough AVIS repeats it often as fact, there is no evidence that membership in either International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce was open to Plaintiff when she rented her car….

Okay…but where was the evidence that membership in either organization was not open to this Plaintiff?  There isn’t any.  And even if it was, that still doesn’t make a case that Avis itself is discriminating against heterosexuals.  Perhaps they give a membership discounts to the International Heterosexuals Butthurt Because Gay Bars Can’t Be Raided And Their Customers Thrown In Jail Anymore Association as well.  Surely Plaintiff could have found solidarity there.

But never mind that.  Didn’t I hear somewhere that libertarians don’t like anti-discrimination laws to begin with?   Hahahahahaha….

Volokh commenter 1: “Is it me, or is this a case where the discrimination laws are shown to be working across the board, that is against gay discrimination against straights as well, and yet the two most ‘voted up’ posts here are of the ‘gays get special rights under this law’ variety. What in the world?”

Volokh commenter 2: “It’s not you. It’s principled libertarians exercising outrage and protesting about a private company’s business decisions, as they always tell us disadvantaged minorities (like straight white people) should do.”

Except of course, this is not a case about discrimination and that first commenter needs to look, really look, at why it’s getting applause from the gays get special rights pew.  Special rights are when that smaller kid you enjoyed beating up gets a protector and now you’re having to answer for your abusive behavior and being a bully isn’t fun anymore.

A libertarian would tell the person filing this lawsuit to go to hell, Avis can do as it damn well pleases.  Eugene Volokh and his peanut gallery enjoy the spectacle of laws intended to protect a despised minority being used against them.  How dare they think they were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Libertarian Facade: What John Birchers Wear When They Want To Look Cool

September 21st, 2012

Thank You For Choosing A Mercedes-Benz…NOW TAKE CARE OF IT!

Just received in the mail today a nice letter from Mercedes-Benz USA, all done up on Very Nice stationary, thanking me for “choosing one of the most advanced diesel automobiles in the world…” and then just about screaming at me to stick to the factory maintenance schedule.

It is critical that you follow the service interval requirements of not more then 10,000 miles or one (1) year, whichever comes first.  Permanent engine damage can occur if the interval is not closely followed.

(Emphasis theirs!)  Followed by two more pages of Very Nice stationary detailing the maintenance schedule. As if I’d buy a car this expensive and not read the service book.  You best believe I read the service book.  Like a seminarian studying the holy writ I read the service book.

But I get their concern.  I don’t think American drivers understand diesels.  I wonder sometimes if one reason the Germans don’t import many of their diesel models into this country is because most American drivers just don’t know how to take care of one.  The reputation of diesels, particularly Mercedes diesels, for über longevity probably doesn’t help any.  People think hey…it’s a diesel…they’re tough. Well…yes.  They’ll outlast a gasoline burner every time.  But you have to do the maintenance.  Oh…and don’t stomp on the accelerator in a futile attempt to get gasoline engine acceleration out of one because it isn’t in there.

The simplest routine thing you do for a car’s engine, the oil change, is absolutely vital for a diesel engine.  That’s because the compression ratios on a diesel are greatly higher then even a high performance sports car’s is.  Compression is how a diesel ignites its fuel. They work on the principle that compressing air heats it up.  So at operating temperature a diesel gulps down a bunch of air, compresses it to temperature, and then at the right moment injectors squirt in the fuel and it ignites and you get your power stroke.  For that to work compression has to be high enough to heat the air enough. (when starting cold, diesels use either glow plugs or pre-heat the fuel before it is injected.)

Compare: The Corvette LS9 6.2 liter V-8 with an Eaton four-lobe Roots type supercharger has a power output of 638 bhp at 6500 rpm and 604 lb·ft at 3800 rpm and a compression ratio of 9.1:1.  My 3 liter V-6 twin turbocharged Mercedes diesel on the other hand has a compression ratio of 17:1.  In diesel fashion it only generates 240 bhp at a red line of 4500 rpm…about a third the Vette’s.  However it generates 400 lb·ft at 1800 rpm.  So the Vette engine has it on torque and horsepower, but the diesel is less then half its displacement, still has 2/3rds its torque and look at where the torque Is.

These engines are not racehorses, they’re draft horses and they will go any distance and bear loads that would give a gasoline burner of equal size a heart attack.  But you absolutely have to do the maintenance.  You can slack on the oil changes in a gasoline burner or cheap out on the grade of oil used and still get good service out of one for quite a while before it catches up with you and gets expensive.  A diesel can be completely destroyed in a very, Very short time if you do that.  Like in under 30k.  Try this wee experiment: look at the dipstick right after you’ve given a diesel engine an oil change.  See how nice and golden the oil is?  Look at it again at 100 miles.  Looks dirty as hell doesn’t it?  17:1 and running on diesel oil not lightweight gasoline will do that.

This is the big reason why I never bought one second hand though I’ve wanted one since I was a teenager.  By the time I was old enough and making enough to afford a second hand Mercedes diesel I’d seen tragically what your typical American driver does to a diesel engine.  Yes, they’ll last practically forever.  You can’t build 17:1 ignition-by-compression on the cheap and expect it to outlast the warranty.  And the routine maintenance isn’t expensive.  But you have to do it.

And I would recommend changing the oil twice as often as the factory recommends on any car.  I’ve done that on every car I’ve ever owned and never had any engine problems.  But it’s especially critical for a diesel.  Daimler gives its engines very large oil reservoirs…something around nine quarts in the V-6s (compared to around 6 in an American V-8) and they say change every 10k.  I change at five.  The other service gets done on schedule.

So anyway…I’m looking at this very nice letter from Mercedes-Benz USA printed on Very Nice stationary and what I’m seeing is evidence that Americans just don’t know how to take care of a diesel.  And these aren’t just any diesels.  These are Mercedes-Benz.  These are magnificent automobiles, they are expensive, they are exceptionally well made, and it is so embarrassing to see how MBUSA needs to gently remind its customers…it’s presumably well to do customers…on Very Nice stationary, to take fucking care of their cars.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

September 19th, 2012

It Isn’t The Mirror’s Job To Flatter You

La Noonan today while eviscerating Romney, flings this one out

“I wrote recently of an imagined rural Ohio woman sitting on her porch, watching the campaign go by. She’s 60, she identifies as conservative, she likes guns, she thinks the culture has gone crazy. She doesn’t like Obama. Romney looks OK. She’s worried about the national debt and what it will mean to her children. But she’s having a hard time, things are tight for her right now, she’s on partial disability, and her husband is a vet and he gets help, and her mother receives Social Security.

“She’s worked hard and paid into the system for years. Her husband fought for his country.

“And she’s watching this whole election and thinking. You can win her vote if you give her faith in your fairness and wisdom…”

Right there’s your problem Peggy. Your party has been faking that fairness and wisdom thing for decades now…ever since Reagan showed them how to do the fakery right. He was an actor after all. But it was never sincere and back in those days the party did its fakery with its eyes wide open. So Reagan could assume that wise and kindly American dad persona at the same time he began his campaign where three civil rights workers were murdered with a speech about states rights. He knew what he was doing.  He knew you can’t win by telling Americans you want to dick them over.  It seems you’ve forgotten that.

But somewhere between then and now you folks started eating your own dogfood and now it’s Romney who carries the flag.  Face it Peggy, he didn’t steal it, your party gave it to him.  Romney Is The Modern Republican Party.  Its sickeningly plastic smile plastered over its transparent plutocratic callousness toward everyone who isn’t wealthy, sprinkled with the usual bigotry toward darkies, women, faggots and patronizing contempt for all the rest that grow their food, serve their meals, build their homes, mow their lawns, nanny their children and die on foreign battlefields.

For decades you’ve reached that elderly woman on the porch and her husband by way of their fears and prejudices. But their lives have been growing more and more pinched as the plutocrats have been sucking up more and more of the nation’s wealth.  And now your party is up against a democrat who talks about citizenship and community, the old American values your kind regards as a dirty joke.  He speaks to our hopes and dreams and aspirations as a Nation, not as a collection of gated communities.  And that elderly woman is old enough to remember a time when that America was peaceful and prosperous.

It gets harder and harder to wrap policies that are dicking her and her husband over in that fake folksy Reagan fairness and wisdom, but it’s either that or resign yourself to living in a country where even the commoner’s children can grow up healthy, go to school, get a decent education and make a good life for themselves.  You needed an ever better Reagan this year and you don’t have one, and that’s because you forgot the only way you win with that woman is to tell her the darkies are coming for their daughters, the homos are coming for their sons, and bullshit her about kinder gentler conservatism and that shining city on the hill they can behold as their standard of living sinks slowly into the sunset. You really needed to groom another good actor for the role.   But you ate your own dogfood, you bought into your own spiel about rising tides lifting all boats and Romney, corporate raiding tax evading, everpandering, plastic smiling Mitt Romney is what you got.

Now give him a big hug and a kiss because he’s everything you ever believed in made real.  Sickeningly, appallingly, unavoidably real.

Cheer up Peggy. It could have been Rick Santorum.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on It Isn’t The Mirror’s Job To Flatter You

September 16th, 2012

Adventures In Medium Format Photography…(continued)

I took a day trip to York, Pennsylvania yesterday to do a little test of the Hasselblad with the metering prism, diopter and focusing screen I bought for it, and two new black & white roll films I’d never worked with before; Fuji Neopan 100 and Agfa Retro 80. The Agfa is advertised has having almost H&W Control like qualities of grain and red spectrum response, but it develops so they say in HC-110. Since Kodak is not at all well these days, and they’ve stopped making Pan-X altogether, which is what I like using in my medium format cameras, I need another source of film.  So I am experimenting.

I haven’t developed the Agfa yet, but the Fuji is already stunning me. It’s emulsion backing is more transparent then the Kodak…to an H&W Control degree practically…so there will be more bandwidth in the resulting images.  Plus it lays absolutely flat on the scanner tray. I don’t need to fuss with it to get it to lay flat, it just does.  My shots with it in York are running though the scanner now.  I’ll see what kind of images I get later today.

But I am already delighted with what I see the metering prism doing for me.  All exposures are exactly on target with the new prism.  Much, Much better then I was able to get reliably get with the Gossen hand held.  My thing is I like shooting into the sun and that can be tricky.  I’ve developed the Fuji and the two additional rolls of Kodak Pan-X I took with me and glancing at the negatives as they came out of the wash everything was spot on.

And it’s faster to work with then I expected. Since there is no direct coupling between the meter and the lens, you have to transfer the reading you see in the meter to the lens manually. But the reading you get is in EVs (Exposure Values) and the Hasselblad lenses have EV settings on them that are a snap to use. Once you set the EV on the lens, the shutter speed and f-stop settings are latched together and you just rotate both depending on whether you want the highest speed or the greatest depth of field.

I am having zero problems now with focus.  The new focusing screen is both brighter and because it has that split-image focusing aid in the center, quicker to focus with.  Plus the diopter is a big, big help.  I can see everything snapping into focus now, whereas before I had to search it out and sometimes I was just guessing at it.  I got it wrong a bunch of times I later found out.

I should have done this Much earlier, but it was a pricy accessory.  The only problem I was having as I wandered around York was the Distagon wide angle lens is flarey.  I had to pass by a bunch of interesting shots simply because there was obvious lens flare where I was shooting from and I could not find a way out of it.  The Distagon is an old design.  It also has noticeable vignetting at the extreme corners.   But it’s amazingly sharp.  There is a newer 50mm lens for my Hasselblad I’ve seen on the used market, which they claim has improvements over the Distagon in terms of vignetting and flare.  But that’s another big wad of money.  There’s a 40mm that’s an even bigger wad of money and I really like shooting at the wide angle perspective.  It suits the kind of work I do.  But I can only spend so much on photography equipment in a year.  Film itself is getting a tad pricey…for some reason.

The Hasselblad is a tad heavy to start with, and the metering prism adds to that.  But it’s a compact weight and I don’t mind carrying it around if it’s because the camera is built to last.  I like solid things in my life and especially my tools.

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Adventures In Medium Format Photography…(continued)

September 14th, 2012

Dancing As They Fall Into The Pit

Actual Fox News Headline:

Obama Calls Libyan President To Thank Him After US Ambassador Murdered.

Unbelievable. Barack Obama called Libyan President Mohamed Yusuf al-Magariaf today to thank him for his support.

This is the day after US Ambassador Stevens was murdered at the consulate.

And, the Islamist killers may have been tipped off by elements within Libya’s security forces

Media Matters reports in regard to the above:

As USA Today reported, the White House said in a statement that Obama called Magariaf to thank him “for extending his condolences for the tragic deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, and two other State Department officers in Benghazi.”

You see now, in the information network streams, decent people all across the political spectrum looking at all of this in disgust.  What you need to understand is it doesn’t matter anymore. They’ve lost all concern for how they appear to people outside the bubble. All they care about now is whipping up the rubes, and themselves.  But here’s the thing…the rubes know they’re being played and they don’t particularly care.  It’s all about dancing the tribal war dance now. Because the lizard brain is all they have left of themselves inside.

This is what hate does to people. Your gay neighbors have seen it for decades now. Hate does not share power within a person’s heart. It will make you throw everything fine and decent inside of you overboard, the minute, the second any of it gets in its way. And then all that is left inside is the steady beat beat beat of the tribal war drums. You have stopped being a person. Now you are just a tool of hate…dancing, jerking, stumbling onward to its drumbeat.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Dancing As They Fall Into The Pit

September 13th, 2012

Adventures in Medium Format Photography.

Looking back over my receipts, I bought the Hasselblad in January of 2005 with the Kiev 45 degree prism and the 80mm Zeiss Planar lens and hood for just under a thousand bucks. Sounds expensive but they went for about that new back in the 70s when I was a poor teenager and a thousand bucks back then might as well have been a million. I’d wanted one ever since I saw what those amazing Zeiss lenses were capable of. But it was way out of reach. New ones are still way (way!) out of my reach. But used older ones are something I can afford now, and this one was in cherry condition…like whoever owned it had barely used it. Over time I bought another two film backs for it and a 50mm Distagon lens because I like shooting wide angle. But the camera mostly sat in the camera cabinet.

That was partly because Apple’s Aperture software just gaged on the large scans off it. To work with them in Aperture I first had to drop them down in resolution in Photoshop. It was a pain in the neck. The workflow completely broke with those scans. You couldn’t even bring the image up in the browser because it would just go gray and you would get an “unsupported format” error message. Eventually Apple just declared it would not support grayscale image scans altogether, that Aperture was for digital photography only, and that pretty much meant it would not be usable for photographers who still liked working in film.

I could have switched to Adobe’s Lightroom product, but after working with the Hasselblad for a while I was discovering that everything about working with that camera was a pain in the neck. The standard focusing screen had no focusing aid and my aging eyes could have really used one. Or at least a diopter. So I was never able to focus on a subject quickly. Plus I had to work with a hand-held meter which only added to the slow deliberate pace of taking pictures with it. Some photographers are fine with that but that just completely messes me up when I want to explore a subject. And it was a triple pain when I had the red filter on it and had to futz with calculating the filter factor in addition to everything else.

It was: see an interesting subject. Stop. Fuss with taking the meter out of my pocket and its case. Figure how to get a good reading. Do I need to walk in close? Angle the meter down a tad? Wait…I don’t have my reading glasses on. I can’t see what the meter is telling me. Put the glasses on…take a reading. Transfer the reading to the lens. Bring the camera to my eye and compose. Wait…take your glasses off.. I’ll just set them down over here. No…better put them back in my pocket. Now try to focus. No…I need my distance glasses to focus because I don’t have a diopter on this thing. Focus…focus…not sure that’s right but it’s the best I can do… Compose. Shoot. Put meter back.

So I became disappointed with it and mostly the camera just sat. And I never got a chance to see what an amazing camera it really is or how much fun it could be to work with. I figured I would just stick to my 35mm SLRs for expressive photography.

As I said, Apple eventually declared it would not support film photographers. I discovered this after an upgrade to Aperture completely hosed the display of all my black and white image files and I looked on their support boards to see what the problem was. (As an aside…Never tell Apple disciples…never even hint to them…that their holy computers and software are anything but perfect.) So I bought a copy of Lightroom. I figured since Photoshop had no problem with the scans off my film scanner it wouldn’t either. And it doesn’t. So I was finally was able to just wander around the shoots I’d done with the Hasselblad. as few as they were because I hadn’t taken it out much…and I was stunned.  (The following JPEGS don’t do justice really to what I saw…but to do that I’d have to upload the original size image files and at about 150 meg a shot you would wait a long time for those to load…)

My God…why hadn’t I been using this camera more…? Well..could be because I needed a diopter and a metering prism at least. Through the lens metering is much, Much faster, more accurate because you are getting a reading of exactly what you’re taking a picture of, and if you put a filter on the lens you get a meter reading on the light coming through the filter…you don’t have to futz with filter factor calculations (those two shots of Monument Valley were taken with a red filter, which darkens the blue sky and brings the clouds out into sharp relief).  Then this month KEH ran a medium format equipment sale and I decided it was time to spend the money to make the Hasselblad usable for the kind of photography I do. Light footed, hand held wandering around for what I like to think of as found images. What I figured I needed to do it right: a plus 1 diopter, a brighter grid lined focusing screen with a split image focusing aid, and a center weighted metering prism.

The pieces came in the mail over the past couple days and just a few hours ago I assembled everything and…whoa. Gonna shoot some test rolls this weekend. One roll of Rollei Agfa Retro 80 and a roll of the Fuji neopan 100. Because Kodak is not looking at all well and I need other sources of film to feed my habit. But already I am Loving what the Hasselblad has turned into with the new accessories. This is going to be fun. Finally.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Adventures in Medium Format Photography.

September 9th, 2012

We’re Sorry We Slapped You. Now Turn The Other Cheek.

The Wretched Two-Step…as choreographed by Rowan Williams

Ah One…

The archbishop reiterated the church’s opposition to gay marriage…

Ah Two…

…but said it had been “wrong” in its past treatment of homosexuals.



by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on We’re Sorry We Slapped You. Now Turn The Other Cheek.

September 3rd, 2012

From Our Department of Bitter Regrets…(continued)

Mom’s tragedy was she liked bad boys. Dad being the specific case in point. Mine is I like good boys. Decent, honest, responsible. Problem was the good boys of my generation were almost universally terrified of telling their parents they’re gay. And should their parents have found out anyway and told them to pack themselves off to a therapist or a nice ex-gay ministry, they’d pack their bags and dutifully headed to the nearest one.

Yes mother, yes father, I will put my heart and my soul and whatever fulfilled and contented love life I might have had, put them in this little coffin and bury it. Because I am your good son.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on From Our Department of Bitter Regrets…(continued)

From Our Department of Bitter Regrets

I’m on the verge of turning 59, which it seems to me is on the verge of turning 60, and thereby becoming officially an old man.  The old, single, lonely gay male troll I swore I would not let myself turn into when I came out to myself at age 17.  Somehow it happened anyway.  But I had help getting there.

When I was a teenager, before I came out to myself, my straight friends and I would do little things to help a friend break the ice with a girl or boy who’d caught their eye.  And sometimes not so little things.  Once we arranged to get two of them together at a local Baskin-Robbins and then, one by one, found an excuse to leave until they were the only two there.  That was just something you did, some happy little thing you did, to help a friend.  There was more then ample reward in the glow of happiness you saw in their faces when they had that chance to connect with someone who made their heart skip a beat.  It made you feel almost as wonderful as if it had been you.

After I came out to myself, I figured my straight friends wouldn’t be much help in that department.  These days it’s different, but back then gay people were still considered mentally ill and sodomy illegal in all but one state. You could loose a job if you were found out…ask me how I know. And while I don’t think my own mother would have thrown me out of the house, I had a pretty good idea that she wouldn’t take it very well.  My straight friends, even the most progressive and liberal ones, wouldn’t have known very many out gay people.  They couldn’t connect me with potential dates the way we’d done for each other.  So right away I knew I was going to have a much harder time finding that special someone then my straight friends.  I had to find my way into the gay scene.  The problem was I had no idea where to go look for it, other then the one seedy gay bar downtown everyone knew about…a place I felt pretty sure the sort of boyfriend I was looking for would not be waiting, and in any case not the best of places for a gay teenager to hang out.

So for almost a decade, well into my thirties, my dating life was a pretty brutal struggle.  Even when I chanced across someone who made my heart beat, and I seemed to do the same for him, navigating ourselves to a place where we could feel safe opening up our feelings toward each other was a minefield.  Once I met a guy at the catalog retailer I was working at at the time…a small outfit that had only three stores and sold mostly during the Christmas season from the glossy catalog it mailed out.  I worked in the warehouse and he at the store at Montgomery Mall…and whenever I went out there with a van full of new merchandise, or he came to the warehouse on some errand, and our eyes met, I swear the sparks flew.  But it was a dangerous time for gay people, and were either one of us found out, we could be fired.  So I was cautious…I figured first I’ll strike up a conversation with him the first chance I get him alone, get his name, and we’ll talk.  But it seemed every chance we tried to get ourselves alone together, in the warehouse, at the store loading dock, we were constantly watched.  One day his manager saw us share a smile and I saw the look on her face.  The next day we were both fired.  I never got his name.

That’s how it was.  Then in my thirties, I found my way to the first gay BBSs and from there to one from which I made nearly all of the gay friends I ever had until 2005, and the Love In Action protests.

I came to know an older gay man there, knew him for decades, and eventually came to consider him one of my best friends.  My attempts at finding a boyfriend from among the BBS users were pretty uniformly unsuccessful, but I had confidence because now I had such a big theoretical gay social circle that was away from the bar scene…a place by that time I understood to be pretty much exclusively about tricking.  I wasn’t into trick.  I wanted…I Needed…someone to love and be loved by.  I understood by that time that lots of people, gay and straight, couldn’t care less about the love part.  They just wanted sex.  Fine.  You look for your paradise, I’ll look for mine.  I figured…I Trusted…that the gay people I had made friends with by then would help out just as me and my straight friends had helped each other, once upon a time.

I’m shy, but not paralyzingly so.  And…introverted.  But all I need is a little help breaking the ice, getting me a name, an introduction.  Better still, some info.  Am I his type?  Is he mine?  Then I’m okay.  You expect friends who know people who know people who know people, can help out with that.  Once the ice is broken I can pretty much handle things myself.  But left to myself I have a really hard time socializing in a crowd of people I do not know, and which is full of cliques I am not a part of.

The older gay guy I came to know…and Trust…would sing his favorite song to sing at me whenever I got to feeling lonely.  Bruce…you need to get out more and try harder. And he and his boyfriend would take me out clubbing some nights, and to the dancing boy bar in Southwest D.C..  But when some nice looking guy caught my attention I was always on my own.  And when I would ask him about that he would sing his song.  You need to get out more Bruce…

It went on for years and I eventually I began to notice that not one iota of help meeting people was coming from his direction, or that of his younger boyfriend.  One day, in an effort to get him to realize that, actually, I had been trying pretty goddamned hard my whole life, I sat down at the computer and wrote him up my entire dating life resume’, starting with the guy in A Coming Out Story and walking through the entire mess, one name at a time, how I met each one, how I tried to win their affections, from age 17 to the age I was then.

It went on for page after page after page. I was hoping at least, being my friend, being someone I thought I could confide in, he could at least tell me what I was doing wrong so goddamned consistently.  Instead, he casually dismissed it out of hand and like a broken record, began singing that same damn song again. I was aghast…did you not read what I wrote there?

But I considered him a friend, a very good friend, who had helped me get my start in the IT world and gave me a comfortable place in his circle of friends.  Then (and this is a long story I’ll set down here someday soon probably) I watched him sit on a chance to set me up with a date with a guy who, it seemed, might be a good match.  It never happened…I’ll never know now whether we would have been a good match or not.  I Trusted him when he told me he’d get around to it…eventually.  I waited half a year for him to get around to it…pinging him every now and then on progress…Yes, yes, Bruce…we don’t socialize with that crowd much anymore…we’ll get around to it…I just need an excuse to ask about it… As if my being desperately lonely wasn’t excuse enough.  And when I finally confronted him about it he told me the chance was gone, the guy in question was seeing someone else now…and I felt like I’d been kicked in the face.  I trusted him.

And his boyfriend, his younger boyfriend, looking me in the face one night before that confrontation, and telling me,  “I’ve seen the guys you look at…people who look like that want people who look like that…”  Didn’t make me feel a whole hell of a lot better.

I had to wonder after that, how many other times he passed over a chance to introduce me to someone compatible.  There was one time I got help from one of the others in our little happy hour group. He was new to our group, saw my eyes light up, saw my difficulty breaking the ice with the object of my attention, and with a little smile, he got me a name.  That was all I needed and I dove right in. Nothing eventually came of it…he was already seeing someone else…but it was looking back on that I realized I never had any help at all from the others in our group, or that older gay friend or his boyfriend.

I should have walked away from them then.  No…way before then.  I should have noticed what they were trying to tell me all those years I’d known them.  I didn’t want to.  You get beaten over the head when you’re small about being a good for nothing…because your mom is a divorcee, because your dad is a crook…and it has it’s effect.  No matter how proud you are later in life of your accomplishments, and how far you managed to rise above the circumstances of your youth, buried deep within is the small kid who feels like every friendship with one of the kids on the good side of the tracks is something he is lucky to have and doesn’t really deserve, because he is good for nothing.

How could you leave me to a lonely life?  Granted, we all have to find our own way in love..but friends can help.  How could you not want to help?  How could you let chances to help Bruce go passing right on by like it was no big deal?

Because: People who look like that, want people who look like that… One day it finally dawned on me that the dating resume’ I’d sent him had probably proved him right after all.  I wasn’t getting out enough.  I wasn’t trying hard enough.  There was the proof.  You see…I knew their names.

What he’d been telling me all those years I knew him, that I didn’t want to hear because I couldn’t believe anyone who knew me would tell me this, was what I was doing wrong was seeking out a boyfriend. Someone like me needed to just get used to picking up a nightly trick. Bruce, accept the fact that you’re not boyfriend material, just get out and get laid more, and you’ll be a lot happier. In many different ways, he kept trying to tell me this and I didn’t hear it because I didn’t want to. I didn’t believe anyone who knew me would tell me this. I didn’t listen to what he said, I listened to what I wanted to believe he meant.

I remember one day in his kitchen, early on in our friendship, when he first started singing that song to me, he gave me a little talk about how I needed to get out more, and he added, who knows maybe someone will (and here he paused as though choosing his words carefully) find me…attractive.  I saw that pause, that hesitation, saw it for what it was then, in that instant, and pushed it down somewhere in my consciousness where I didn’t have to know what it was I saw.  He…didn’t mean that the way it sounded…

Oh yes he did… Beauty. It’s a subjective thing, but you look at the representation of it in popular culture and you see a lot of agreement about what it is all the same.  I don’t think that’s commercialism pushing a concept of beauty onto us.  When it comes to sex and sexuality, it’s a libido thing too, and that is, I am convinced, hard wired into us in a very deep place, and you can’t reason with your libido.  Nobody can.  This is something your gay neighbors know all too well.  So by American standards of male beauty, I fall pretty short.  But…so what?  Never mind I’m not particularly attracted to that standard of male beauty.  There is no ugly.  I have seen, and so have you, couples that make your head spin, wondering what each sees in the other physically.  But they make each other happy, and part of walking through life with your eyes wide open is figuring out that your cup of tea isn’t necessarily everyone else’s.  Everyone’s libido is different.  Your gay neighbors know this perfectly well too.  Some males are not attracted to women, and you can’t psychoanalyze or pray us out of that.  It is what it is.  Growing up, living life with your eyes open, you come to accept that some people will find beauty where you don’t, and never will and that’s okay as long as they do find it eventually.  There is no such thing as ugly, there is only we really don’t do it for each other, and my problem isn’t I’ve never been hit on, just not hit on often enough by someone I’d hit on myself that the magic ever had much of a chance to happen.  Plus, when I was younger, and theoretically much more hittable, it was a dangerous time for gay people to be open about it, even a little.

Regrettably when I was in the prime of whatever sexy I might have had, you had to be extra careful what you said, and to who.  A lot of gay people back then, struggling under that suffocating culture of anti-gay hate, never found love.  But we weren’t supposed to.  Love is not something the scapegoat can be allowed to know, because love can move mountains, and the one thing you never want the scapegoat to do is move mountains.  But it seems, far too many of us of my generation and before, took that homophobic message to heart and either stopped looking for love altogether, or decided that gay people are better off not needing it.  Especially the ugly ones.

How toxic relationships endure: I let them put me in the too ugly for a boyfriend box because I didn’t want to believe that my friends would ever do that to me.  They had no right…it was stupid, it was ignorant, it was a sickening betrayal of friendship and trust.  But I have to admit looking back on it, that I saw them doing it.  So I suppose, when all is said and done, it actually is my fault after all, that I’m nearly 60 now, and still single and lonely.  I should have walked away from them the moment I saw they’d put me in the too ugly for a boyfriend bin.  I should have found gay friends who saw someone deserving of love in me.  I should have gotten out more.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on From Our Department of Bitter Regrets

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