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Archive for January, 2013

January 31st, 2013

Still Not Getting It…

…and probably never will.  Mother Jones tweeted just now (as I am typing this…):

In 2010, nearly 6x more women were killed by husbands, boyfriends, and exes w/ guns than by armed male strangers.

Yes.  And what do you think this means?

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

January 30th, 2013

Working On My Photo Galleries

My silence here lately is because I’m spending what free time I have to blog working on a redesign of my photo galleries here.  A big part of why I bought my domain back in 2001 and put this web site up, was for it to be a showcase for my cartoons and photography, and both those galleries need some refurbishing.  Over the years Facebook made it easy for me to neglect my own web site, but thankfully their policies lately, and Timeline which I absolutely despise, have brought my attention back to it.

Here at least, I have some control over how my artwork is displayed.  Also, by putting my artwork up on my own web site I am not agreeing to anyone else’s business model for their use.  Artists take note: Those Terms Of Service can change at a moment’s notice and next thing you know your artwork might be selling toothpaste.

Or worse…

NJ gay couple sues, condemns use of their picture in Colorado ads

Photographer Kristina Hill…and married couple Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere…are suing an organization that used the engagement photos of Edwards and Priviterein in a smear political attack mailer against Colorado State Senator Jean White…

This is that case of the same sex couple whose engagement photos were appropriated for use in some anti-gay republican attack ads.  They’d posted the photo in a blog they started to celebrate their upcoming marriage.  Two years later it was snatched by “Public Advocate of the United States”, nutcase Eugene Delgaudio’s SPLC listed hate group, for use in anti-gay republican attack ads.  Additionally the photograph was altered to show different a background, to make it seem as if it were taken locally for a given race.  Always protect your copyright…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Working On My Photo Galleries

January 19th, 2013

Memo To The NRA…

…next time, schedule Gun Safety Day Before Gun Appreciation Day.

There ought to be some big national organization out there that provides firearm safety courses.  Give them a call if you need help with it.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

January 18th, 2013

Speaking For Myself

Josh Marshall posts a letter from, as he puts it, the Non-Gun People…

Speaking for My Tribe

I’ve been thinking of writing some version of this post since the days immediately after the Newtown shootings. It overlaps with but is distinct from the division between people who are pro-gun or anti-gun or pro-gun control or anti-gun control. Before you even get to these political positions, you start with a more basic difference of identity and experience: gun people and non-gun people.

So let me introduce myself. I’m a non-gun person. And I think I’m speaking for a lot of people.

It’s customary and very understandable that people often introduce themselves in the gun debate by saying, ‘Let me be clear: I’m a gun owner.’

Well, I want to be part of this debate too. I’m not a gun owner and, as I think as is the case for the more than half the people in the country who also aren’t gun owners, that means that for me guns are alien. And I have my own set of rights not to have gun culture run roughshod over me…

Go read the whole thing.  This is the kind of conversation I have been wanting this country to have about guns. Marshall recognizes there is a cultural element…a Tribal element…to it, that makes communication among the factions hard. He’s reaching in to examine how that tribalism is making it hard both for him, and for those he lumps into the Gun Culture, to talk to each other.  This is good.  Before you can fix a problem, you need to understand it.  You can’t make policy in a democracy when people can’t talk to each other.  Well…you can…but not good policy.

And here I would like to put down my first marker sign: For all the same reasons I cannot speak for Gay People, though I am a gay man myself, I cannot speak for this Gun Culture he speaks of, though I own guns, though I take pleasure in shooting them, though I believe the second amendment confers a right to the people, not just to well regulated militias.  I suspect he’s talking about a stereotype.  I actually can speak to how that works; there are gay males who outwardly seem to fit perfectly the Hollywood/FRC/NOM flaming swishy limp-wristed lisping girly boy club haunting faggot. But a stereotype like a shade of skin or a religious belief does not tell you anything about the person within, nor does knowing that a person is gay, or Asian, or Muslim, necessarily tell you anything about the person within.  People look to stereotypes for justification, not clarity.  I don’t have a gay lifestyle simply because I am gay any more than I have a gun culture because I own a gun.  I have a life.  But try to tell that to someone who can’t see the people for the homosexuals.  And if by gun culture Marshall means he doesn’t want the lunatic right running roughshod over him…hello…I don’t want them running roughshod over me either.

This is good:

More than this, I come from a culture where guns are not so much feared as alien, as I said. I don’t own one. I don’t think many people I know have one. It would scare me to have one in my home for a lot of reasons…

He goes on to say that in the current climate people seem reluctant to say they think guns are scary and they don’t want to be around them.  That’s one big part of the problem we have talking to each other about guns.  Not the guns are scary part so much though.  Guns are dangerous.  They have to be.  They’re weapons.  It is not completely irrational to be afraid of them.  Point of fact, I would say it’s irrational to be absolutely unafraid.  Some degree of fear that isn’t immobilizing is a good thing if it reminds you to pay attention.  I am afraid of my table saw, I’ve witnessed a table saw nearly slice someone’s hand off.  Every time I step up to mine to do some work I pause and reflect on what can happen if I am not careful.  Will this be the time it happens…? Same thing with my guns.  Every time I lay a hand on one of mine I pause and think.  This thing could kill someone.  And even more so than the table saw…Much more so…the gun is a weapon; it is supposed to be dangerous.  The table saw is dangerous, but that is not its purpose.  The gun’s purpose Is to be dangerous.

There is a completely logical connection between Gun and Dangerous.  They are weapons.  It is not naive to be afraid of guns.  People should not be reluctant to say so in this conversation.  It isn’t naive and it isn’t simplistic.  It’s a completely normal reflex to have about weapons.  If anything it is naive to expect people’s fears not to be a part of this conversation.  Where fear mucks it up is when it gets in the way of knowledge and understanding.  This is the sort of thing that really irritates the hell out of me, and I suppose most people who have experience with firearms:

But remember, handguns especially are designed to kill people. You may want to use it to threaten or deter. You may use it to kill people who should be killed (i.e., in self-defense). But handguns are designed to kill people. They’re not designed to hunt. You may use it to shoot at the range. But they’re designed to kill people quickly and efficiently.

Charitably, this is the sort of rhetoric that comes from “…a culture where guns are not so much feared as alien.”  Uncharitably it is manipulative rhetoric, and the sort of thing that quickly destroys trust that the conversation is being held in good faith.  Handguns are not designed to kill people.  A soldier’s rifle is designed to kill people.  By nature and design a handgun is a defensive weapon.  It has not the range, the accuracy or firepower of a long gun.  It’s useful as a defensive weapon for the person holding it and that’s about it.  The only instance where a handgun can function as an aggressive weapon is where an attacker knows their victims are unarmed and unsuspecting.  But if the complaint about handguns is they’re more easily concealed, which makes it easier for an assailant to get close enough to be dangerous, I have a photograph I took back in the 1970s, a couple days after a period of unrest in Washington D.C., of a group of youths, one of whom was carrying a sawed off shotgun under a very lightweight jacket.  He was holding onto it through a hole in one pocket.  You would never have known he had it on him until he swung it up in your face.  All it takes to make a long gun easily concealable is a hacksaw, and then you have a weapon of much greater force than any handgun.  I own a 30-30 lever action rifle, the bullets it throws bear more force than the ones coming out of Dirty Harry’s 44 magnum, and it is an old cartridge design…the first meant for smokeless powder.  Long arms are aggressive weapons.  Handguns are defensive weapons.  That is their nature.

And here’s where tribalism and the stereotype of the Gun Nut and Gun Culture get in the way of communication.  Just my saying these things makes me a gun nut in some people’s regard and their eyes glaze over.  I know too much about guns to be a normal person.  I must be an NRA goon.  But no…I simply enjoy shooting.  I enjoy it enough that I have become familiar with guns.  I appreciate that some folks simply don’t want anything to do with guns, but a big part of the problem of having this conversation is people talking past each other and loosing trust.  You may not like guns, but when you say a handgun’s only purpose is killing people, those of us with experience with guns hear that as a backdoor argument for banning all guns.

We “gun people” should recognize that “non-gun people” have completely rational reasonable fears and issues with guns in the public spaces, and we should have those same issues actually.  Guns are dangerous.  “Non-gun people” need to get past their Gun Nut stereotypes.  I will admit that given the efforts of the NRA and Ted Nugent, that is very very difficult.  But we are not all of us unreachable on this issue.

I don’t hunt…did it long ago to get it out of my system, to see and understand those ancient passions within me, so they would never take me by surprise.  So…been there, done that.  I don’t shoot because I want to kill anything.  But I went to the range with my brother last month while I was visiting, and enjoyed myself thoroughly all the same.  It isn’t always about blood lust.  In fact, for a lot of us I would imagine, it’s about that eminently human joy in wielding fire.  I enjoy firecrackers and lightning storms and watching Myth Busters blow things up too.  I don’t go out to the range with those human silhouette targets you often see…I hate silhouette targets.  I am not about killing things.  I am precision hurling little slugs of lead at unreasonable velocities with the fire in my hands.  The targets my brother and I practiced on that day were round metallic bulls-eyes of various diameters, placed at various distances.  You could hear it when you hit them, and there were several sets with very small round metal dots you had to hit to flip up, and when you got them all flipped up there was one square one at the end you hit to drop them all back down again.  I was pleased to find that even with guns that were not my own but my brother’s, I was pretty good at hitting things squarely.

I think it’s fun.  Your mileage may vary and that’s fine.  But yes, there is another aspect to all this gun play that is serious and needs to be talked about among us Americans, and that is that guns are weapons, they are dangerous, and while I recognize an obligation to my neighbor’s safety and to the common welfare, I also believe I have a right to defend myself from violent attack, and that means I must also have the right to possess the tools to do that.  I don’t ever want to be put into that position, Atrios’ comment that all gun owners have vigilante dreams is ignorant.  When I think about what I might have to do with one of my guns I think about how to prevent it from getting that far.  I have a household alarm system, we have a neighborhood watch, and this kid who was bullied all through junior high stays alert when he’s out and about because keeping my eyes open for trouble was drilled into me long, long ago.  But there it is…that irreducible bottom line.  I have a life, I’d like to hold onto it a while longer thank you.  I have a right to bear a weapon in self defense.  But I completely agree that right is not unconditional.  There is always that little matter of the common welfare.  Public spaces, convey public obligations.

Arguments about the meaning of the second amendment are not trivial, but there is a point being missed when cardboard revolutionaries yap about private ownership of guns balancing the power of the state against the individual.  No.  The ballot box is our protection, our check against the power of the state. Those who advocate the gun over the ballot box betray the American Dream.  That is the old way of kings and armies and strongmen, not the way of democracy.  But there is another argument to be made here.  If I am not allowed the means to defend myself, if I must instead rely on the state, utterly, to defend me, then I am not so much a citizen, as a subject.  I don’t think you can get many people to buy into that notion, hence the effort to convince people that owning a gun makes them less safe.  Yes, yes…and owning an automobile makes you less safe too if you don’t bother learning to drive.

If you want to argue that police are trained in the use of firearms why shouldn’t anyone who wants to own a gun also have to go through training…I would agree with you.  If you want to argue that you need a license to drive a car, why not also license gun owners…I would agree to a point.  When you take your car onto the public roads, the public has every reasonable right to require you to demonstrate you know how to drive safely before you’re allowed on the highways so that you are not a danger to others.  Public spaces convey public obligations.  No man is an island on I-95.  The same can be said for bearing a gun in the public space.  First prove you know how to handle a gun safely.  First prove you understand the relevant laws.  I could be convinced that training on gun safety, and demonstrating an understanding of it before a purchase is allowed is reasonable.  I think licensing carrying a gun in public the same way we license automobile drivers is completely reasonable.  I agree there are public spaces where guns simply should not be allowed, period.  Like…oh…courthouses…hospitals…Schools.  I get that urban crime argues for carry permits, but I also get (and I think my fellow gun-people need to get) that densely populated zones aren’t swell places for firefights to break out.  It does not greatly bother me that I can’t carry a gun on the streets of New York City.  What I don’t find reasonable is the position that since guns are dangerous nobody should be allowed to have them.  And what I don’t get is why this became a left verses right argument.  The welfare of the common man and woman is not greatly improved by rendering them defenseless.

If Marshall wants to draw a distinction here, I would suggest a more useful one than between non-gun people and gun people, is that between democrats and oligarchs, between those of us who believe in that liberty and justice for all thing and those who think the world would be a fine place if the everyone knew their place.  Yes, yes…free people own guns…but not because they own guns but because they are free.  And free people cast ballots too.  Ask some of the people busy waving their guns around since Sandy Hook if they believe in the right to vote.  Then ask them what they think of all the voter suppression that went on in the last election. There’s your problem.  I saw it driving through Texas last month, on the way to California, in literally dozens and dozens of billboards advertising military style and SWAT firearms.  This business about “assault weapons” is mostly misdirected, but contains an element of common sense: the difference between a six or seven round clip and a hundred round clip is the difference between a weapon of self defense and an weapon of aggression.  In my opinion you can draw a line between them, on the basis that self defense is a right and aggression isn’t.  But there are those who do not accept that aggression is not a right.  Not all of those are criminals in the usual sense.

There’s the problem.  This argument isn’t about guns.  The violence racking our country isn’t about guns.  It’s about “Who is my neighbor?”  It’s about the culture war.  It’s about tribe.  Guns Don’t Matter.  Some nights I fear we are working ourselves up to another civil war.  What matters is that Americans can’t look into each other’s faces, and see a neighbor whose life is precious too. Guns Don’t Matter.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Speaking For Myself

January 17th, 2013

Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown!

This year, I propose having a pre-game celebration.  Jim Burroway posted this today on Box Turtle Bulletin and it added some weight to my Valentine’s Day thoughts lately…

New York Times Magazine Publishes “What It Means To Be A Homosexual”: 1971. The Harper’s October 1970 cover screed by Joseph Epstein — the one where he called gay people “an affront to our rationality” and were “condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom among men” — generated an outpouring of anger in the gay community, which resulted in a protest inside the offices of Harper’s (see Oct 27). Gay activists demanded another article to give the gay community equal exposure, but the Harper’s refused the request. Its editors also refused to apologize. The outrageous insults in the piece become something of a second, lesser Stonewall in the way it brought out even more gays and lesbians who decided it was time to become more involved publicly.

Among them was Merle Miller, a former editor at Harper’s who was also a novelist and biographer…

You should go read the whole thing…Jim’s “Today In History” posts are worth reading every day.  But this one helped remind me of the times I grew up and passed through adolescence in.  That time when we are discovering first the first time, what desire and love are all about.  It should be the most magical, wonderful passage in our lives, but for some of us, condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom it was made into a nightmare.  More so for others than for me, thankfully, or I might not even be here now to type all this.  But the atmosphere of hatred and contempt I grew up within did its job on me too.  In 1971, the year before I graduated from high school, the year I experienced my first crush, Joseph Epstein wrote, “If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth.” He couldn’t of course, but there was always the next best thing. You could make sure whenever it was in your power to do so, that a gay person never had that chance to know what it was to love, and be loved wholeheartedly in return.

Without a doubt Epstein did just that whenever he got the chance.  His howl against the homosexual in that Harper’s article almost certainly became a dagger in the the hopes and dreams of young gay men and women back then, reassuring parents, teachers, clergy that it was no sin to put a knife in the hearts of teenagers in love, that if they were condemned to live their one life in loneliness and heartache that was merely the Curse Of Homosexuality, not their own bar stool arrogance and cheapshit prejudices that did it to them.  Bobby and Johnny are getting just a little too friendly aren’t they…let’s pack them off to the psychiatrist quickly now…or to some nice church camp somewhere far away, where they can pray their unspeakable sin away…

Ah…Valentine’s Day…when all the lonely hearts ponder writing new songs about the one that did them wrong.  I have a different thing in mind.  How about stories of that which might have been, but for the cheapshit prejudices of the world we were thrown into.  I have a few stories of my own to tell.  Pull up a chair.  Sit a spell.  Love is in the air.  Let me pour you a drink.  There is a box of Valentine’s Day candy over there on the table, pieces of the moon rattling hollowly inside…angry, angry candy…

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown!

January 14th, 2013

“That’s for me to know, and you to find out…”

Reminded this morning about the writer Martin Woodhouse, who with his brother Hugh wrote some of my favorite episodes of Supercar, and did many episodes of The Avengers.   I recalled seeing this short story of his online and liked it very much. Some people are just natural story tellers.   It’s available free online at the link below.   You should read it.  It is a swell little story about various kinds of love…perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Running Down The Beacon

A (short) story about various kinds of love – by Martin Woodhouse

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on “That’s for me to know, and you to find out…”


How The Suburbs Killed The Automobile

They made it a necessity.  Matthew Yglesias links me to this…

Ask Umbra: Can I have a kid and be car-free?

My husband doesn’t like me to take our baby on the bus, even to visit friends who live near the bus line. He thinks buses are dirty, that my time is too valuable, and that it makes us look poor.

I stare at the screen and a much younger inner me looks at that entire conversation in wonder at how thoroughly the creation of the suburbs made the automobile so dominant.  Now it’s if you have to take the bus you must be poor.  But we always took the bus and we weren’t poor.  Not very well off exactly, but never poor.

I was raised by a single working mother and we didn’t have much, but there wasn’t that automatic assumption back in the 50s and 60s that if you took the bus you were poor, and actually back then having more than one car in the household meant you were pretty well to do.  Dad went to work in his car and mom stayed home to take care of the kids and do her housework and if she went shopping it was usually via the bus.  So seeing me and my mom sitting on the bus going somewhere was no stigma…mother and child on the bus in the afternoon going shopping was the usual thing.

Cars were expensive things, and especially so for single working moms.  We didn’t have one in our household until I was fifteen.  Suddenly our world opened wide. We could drive the the store and pack back lots of groceries and I didn’t have to pilot a full grocery cart all the way home.  We could drive to the beach.  It was instant liberation.  I still remember how that felt, to have all those distant places suddenly within reach.  Probably my itch to get in the car and just go somewhere for the shear joy of driving has its roots here…not in the fact of our carlessness, but in how the car opened up the world to us.  90 percent of the miles I have put on every car I have ever owned have been pleasure driving.  I love the automobile, and perhaps it may seem a bit paradoxical that this is why I would not want to live somewhere I had to use the car for everything.  I hate traffic and I hate using the car for mere commuting.  The same boring route and traffic jams over and over and over and over and over…  It seems disrespectful somehow.  The car is for exploring.

This is why the suburbs have always felt suffocating to me.  You can’t walk to anything.  There is no good public transportation for the common chores of life.  You’re trapped inside a spaghetti tangle of twisty roads and cul de sacs that are specifically designed to thwart drive through traffic, that also make it impossible to walk to anything.  City life is good precisely because you don’t need a car for every little thing.  That used to be the norm.  I remember it.  I still think that way.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How The Suburbs Killed The Automobile

January 13th, 2013

Something Tells Me Valentine’s Day Is Coming…

Must be the smell of…silicone….

Making silicone soulmates

The Dollpark company in northern Germany is where men can have all their fantasies fulfilled – as long as they’re not too fussy about having a partner with fascinating conversation, more than one facial expression, or a pulse.

But isn’t love never having to say you’re fussy?  There is a lid for every pot, and of course the German ones are engineered like no other!

Yes!  The season of love is at hand!  Which means it’s getting near time for another Valentine’s Day Poster Contest!  Perhaps this year I’ll share the worthy entries on Facebook, and the theme can be Love Is Never Having To Say You’re Sorry For Selling Your Friend’s Private Data.

We promise this year to announce the start of the contest before the deadline for submitting an entry passes! This time will be different. We’ll make it work.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Something Tells Me Valentine’s Day Is Coming…

January 9th, 2013

Dangerous

This flitted across my Facebook stream a while ago…I really wish I had the original because I’d caption it differently…

Having had and witnessed so many arguments with anti-gay bigots who say that marriage isn’t about love, I’m pretty sure this would fail miserably at getting the point across.  You simply can’t make that point with the hard core bigot, they just don’t get that “love” stuff to begin with, or to any degree they do they regard it with contempt as a sign of weakness.

This is a good argument to make with everyone else who is open to hearing to our stories and seeing our shared humanity.  But there’s a another one.  I’d caption the picture above something like this:

In a world bleeding itself to death with violence and war, how rational are those
who warn that it is dangerous to allow men to love other men?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Dangerous


Becoming You

Saw this flit across my Facebook stream this morning…

There’s a surprisingly fine line between laziness and vanity, and sometimes they enable each other in a good way. Following the herd is too much work. Being different just for the sake of being different is too much work. Eventually you see that it’s faking it either way. I never worried about my artistic “style” because I knew the moment I started obsessing about that it would stop being genuinely me. Morals aside (which you really do need to think carefully about) you really needn’t worry about Who You Are. What you do is follow your bliss, take the path with heart, and the person you are just happens.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Becoming You

January 7th, 2013

I Should Probably Do A “Ten Movies I Love” Post Now…

…just to not be completely negative.  That’ll be an easier, funner post.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Should Probably Do A “Ten Movies I Love” Post Now…


Ten Movies I Hate

I never make pointless New Year’s resolutions on the grounds that anything you notice that needs changing you really should start changing right then and there.  And…it’s just another randomly designated special position in the Earth’s orbit.  Solstice is actually something worth noting and celebrating; it’s when the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer again. But there are routines we all fall into around now, and most often it’s the annual cleaning out and sorting through last year’s Stuff to make room for this year’s Stuff.

While going through my word processor files I found this list I must have started work on to post here and didn’t for some reason. I’m guessing it was a reaction to all those damn Best Of lists you see around this time of year, but this is my all-time hated it list, not just last year’s hated it list.  And it’s from a few years ago.  If your eyes glaze over at all the lists this time of year, feel free to skip this one.

Anyway…in no particular order…

The Boys in the Band

A play for sympathy, that starts out with a quick shot of a gay bookstore employee casually shoplifting for a friend. Please don’t hate us…we can’t help ourselves. Have pity… Puke…puke…puke…puke…  At the end of it the self absorbed and self loathing Daniel wishes gay people didn’t hate themselves so very much. They say now that it’s a period piece and reflective of the reality of gay men’s lives in that time. But so what. Picasso said art is a lie that makes us see the truth, not that it’s a truth that makes us believe a lie. You just know that a lot of homophobic bigots left the showings feeling entirely justified in their cheapshit prejudices, and lots of young gay men left feeling sorry for themselves and hating what they are.  If Crowley really wanted gay people to stop hating themselves, so very much, then he might have told them they didn’t have to live in the ghetto of other people’s ignorant disgust.

Mad Max (aka The Road Warrior)

When I first learned to hate Mel Gibson movies. Dirtball toddler with a deadly boomerang kills cute teenage loverboy of evil bad guy lieutenant…proving once more that pretty boy faggots have it coming. But then even evil perverted bad guys can have hearts too, sort of, deep down inside of them, somewhere. “Be still my dog of war. I understand your pain. We’ve all lost someone we love.” Oh fuck that noise. When Gibson later came out in a Spanish newspaper as a homophobic nutcase (“they take it in the ass”) I couldn’t have been less surprised.

Lawrence of Arabia

A sexually ambiguous, self absorbed and manipulative British officer befriends two young beggars who, unaccountably, seem to regard him as some sort of deity. Rather liking their attention, he leads them into the desert where he gets one killed in a quicksand, and then later shoots the other. When shopping for a deity to follow, be sure to ask for references.

Loved the musical score and the photography. Hated the movie.

The Detective.

Frank Sinatra playing Frank Sinatra playing a hard boiled film noir detective…a loathsome self hating homosexual killer, who begs for pity on his confession tape… What’s not to like? Besides everything I mean. “I thought maybe just once more….maybe I could get it out of my system…” I get to feeling like a bit of murder myself just remembering William Windom’s pathetic gay confession scenes, and especially where his character takes a stroll through a gay cruising ground by the docks. The camera, followed around by some really cheesy background music, pans across the gay guys there who are all busy either making out or cruising, with such contempt and disgust you’d have thought they were filming a group of cannibals dismembering and eating bodies instead of…well…some guys cruising for sex…just like they do at all the heterosexuals singles bars all over town. The horror. The horror.

Advise and Consent

All American virtuous freshman senator is blackmailed by evil ex homosexual lover. All American virtuous freshman senator confronts evil ex homosexual lover in the bar from Hollywood stereotype hell. Vito Russo nailed it when he described the scene as a vilification of gays who accept what they are, while canonizing the All American virtuous secretly homosexual freshman senator for hating them. And being a virtuous homosexual, he goes back home and kills himself.

The gay bar scene, like the one in The Detective, is a hoot for all it’s piss elegant faggotry. The reality in those days was that gay bars were dank, seedy, hole in the wall places run by mobsters who couldn’t have cared less how the place looked, or what sort of swill they served to their customers. Gays endured them because there was simply no other place to go to socialize and meet other gays but places run by organized crime. In many cities back then, it was illegal for a bar or restraint to serve a known homosexual.

A.I.

Man…Stanley Kubrick really hated the human race, didn’t he? Enough for it to show though even the Steven Spielberg treatment.  Poor Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law were just stunning enacting non-human intelligences.  You really believed they were machines trying to cope with self awareness. But the movie was just a depressing cloud of human self loathing and I really wished film explored more of the other side of the coin presented in the opening moments, where the lady tells Doctor Hobby that the question isn’t whether we can make a machine love us, but can we love them back.  And…there was this really unforgivable missed opportunity here, to really dig into something these human/android stories can talk about. You see it when the executive of the company that makes the Davids pontificates that while God made man in His image, He didn’t make man God.  Well…fine.  We make our machines in our image…we have no choice about that. everything we create is in a sense a kind of art.  Everything we make is an image of ourselves. What does it say about us? Could we love it back? Well Kubrick thought he knew those answers.  I think better answers are out there waiting for a better storyteller.

Death In Venice.

If you just look at the pretty pictures, it’s a sultry visual treat. If you pay attention to what’s going on by the end of the movie you just want to smack them both.

The Business of Fancy Dancing.

Gay Native American has an identity crisis. And his utterly indifferent white guy boyfriend isn’t helping matters any. Whenever these two appear together on the screen (which isn’t very often) you just keep thinking “What the hell do these two see in each other?” There is not a shred of love shown between them. Well…except maybe here:

White Guy Boyfriend: “How can you make love to a white man?”
Seymour: “I just pretend you’re Custer.”

Ah…romance…

I loved Smoke Signals. I love reading Sherman Alexie. This film only made it to my ten most hated list because of Yet Another Shallow and Loveless Same Sex Relationship from a guy I would have thought, especially after all his gay media interviews, could have spared a few frames of insight and thoughtfulness and illumination about same sex couples. I mean…since he bothered to write one into the story. I still don’t think that straight male directors necessarily can’t do films about gay people, but…crap…Alexie shouldn’t have been more evidence against that.

…him and goddamned Oliver Stone. The only reason Stone’s Alexander isn’t on this list, with its DVD Director’s Cut that’s de-fagged even more then the theatrical release, is that I’m not going anywhere near it. Swear to god you’d think he could have shown a little backbone for the home video market. But the director of Platoon decided to cut and run.

Caligula

Proof that big budget porn is still…well…porn. My straight high school buddies (we were all in college then) drug me to see this one. It’s why I am unimpressed whenever someone waves some sexually extreme behavior they’ve heard gays are into in my face. That one movie, made by heterosexuals, for the entertainment of heterosexuals, and the profit of the publisher of one of the nation’s biggest tit and ass magazines, gave me tons of stuff to wave back in Their faces. Not that this was worth the pain of sitting through it. Okay…I’m gay…but this movie made sex look cheesy and boring and gross and that’s unforgivable.

And speaking of which…

Making Love

Self repressed gay man, a young doctor building a practice, who has a completely charming long time girl friend, suddenly takes a trip on the wild side with a handsome party boy, gets his heart broken, but finally comes to terms with his own sexuality. They called it groundbreaking when it first came out, because it was the first reasonably well budgeted film from a major studio with well known actors in it that portrayed same sex love in a positive light. But it only served to reinforce the notion that homosexuality is just about pure lust and that only heterosexual relationships are based on love. The first part of the film treats us to how wonderful the main character’s relationship with his girlfriend is. They seem to be such a sweet, caring, loving couple with so much in common, and who have so much fun together. The first glimpse we get of Mr. Repressed’s true sexuality is when he tries to pick up a guy at a gay cruising ground. All through the film we never see Mr. Repressed love another man, just desire them, and in particular one stereotypical self absorbed urban gay pickup artist.  Sweet.  At the end Mr. Repressed is seen finally settled down with another man, but we have no idea what the two of them saw in each other and the audience is left with the impression that he’s settling for a very distant second best because he’s a homosexual and can’t help himself and both him and the poor woman who was his soul mate are left to glance back wistfully at what might have been.  The only love you saw in Making Love was between the man and the woman.

The mostly gay audience I sat watching it with laughed nearly all the way through it, while I just sat and squirmed.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Ten Movies I Hate

January 6th, 2013

Notes On The Road This Time

I’m just back from one of my semi-annual road trips to California, in case anyone reading this blog was wondering where the heck I went. My job at Space Telescope came with a wonderful vacation benefit, but the workload now on JWST is pretty steady and taking a couple weeks off at one go is getting harder and harder to schedule. I figured the Christmas/New Year’s break would be a good time to take a road trip to California and see my brother and give the Mercedes its first taste of the great plains and the southwest. As we get closer and closer to launch it will become very hard to schedule a long road trip west.

Time was I’d take everyone who reads this blog along with me for the ride.  But these days it probably isn’t the smartest thing to let the whole world know you’re away from your house.  So the blog went silent.  But I’m back now…I have pictures to develop and post…I have stories to tell.  But I also have unpacking to do and some settling back in to my little Baltimore rowhouse.  So for now let me just jot down a few notes while the road is still fresh in my thoughts…

First, a few statistics from my car’s trip computer:

  • Total Miles: 6,420
  • Average Miles Per Gallon: 36.8
  • Average Speed: 60 mph
  • Total Driving Time: 105.59 hours
  • 2917.4 miles from my brother’s house to mine, mostly along I-40.

I’ll total up the fuel chits later.  West of the Mississippi you get highway speed limits higher than 70mph and sometimes higher than 80. You cover distance faster, but mileage suffers. Still, this is absolutely the most fuel efficient car I have ever owned and that’s saying something.  My first car was a 1973 Ford Pinto with the little 1600cc engine and one barrel carburetor.  It did 35mpg tops. The little Geo Prism got high 30s and so did the Honda Accord. For a car this size and this sumptuous the fuel economy is just amazing. At the end of some days on the road this trip I was pushing 39mpg. But when I hit the high mountain passages my averages went down into the low 30s.

Bio-diesel was not a major problem. First bio-diesel pump I saw on the way west was at a Love’s just west of Little Rock. I’d put a tad over a gallon in the tank before I noticed this little sticker…

…and quickly shut off the pump. That sticker, which I saw on every pump selling bio-diesel, is not helpful. But next to it (usually) is a bigger green sticker that does specify the grade you’re pumping. I never saw anything lower than B10 on the road, and nothing higher than B15. Mostly it was B10.

So there I was with a half tank of regular diesel left, plus I’d driven from Maryland with a full five gallon spare diesel can as insurance…that it eventually turned out I didn’t need. The Pilot truck stop across the highway had the same set of stickers on it. But across from the Pilot was a Petro and it had a Chevron station attached to it that had regular diesel pumps and I was able to fill up.

That was pretty much how it went all the way to California and back. Wherever I ran into bio-diesel I was always able to find a station nearby that had regular. But it was completely random as to which brand was a problem. Most often it was the Love’s. But I ran into it at all of the truck stop chains at least once. Usually it was the Shell or Chevron stations that had usable diesel, but I ran into it there too occasionally.  But wherever I ran into it I nearly always found usable diesel right across the street.  Just once in Arizona I had to drive to the next exit.

And there was no noticeable price break on the bio. If anything, the regular was usually cheaper, and sometimes by a lot. At one location in New Mexico there were two big truck stops, a Love’s and a Pilot, both selling bio at $3.95 a gallon. An independent travel center nearby was selling regular diesel at $3.73 a gallon.

My path this time took me well south of I-70. I have no idea how bad it is further north in corn state territory. But for now at any rate, I can drive my car from the East Coast to the West. How long that remains the case remains to be seen.

Truck Stops Are Now “Travel Plazas”. There are five big chains you see all the time on the road, Travel Centers of America, Love’s, Flying J, Pilot and Petro and while the truckers are their bread and butter business, they’re all vying for the long distance passenger car market and some like Flying J/Pilot are even offering us “loyalty cards” now.  Flying J/Pilot is the chain that seems the most determined to remake itself as a general purpose highway “travel center” with a clean, uncluttered common floor plan and mini food/coffee court. I could walk into any Flying J or Pilot from Maryland to California and see pretty much the same layout and after a while you knew where everything was when you walked in the door.  Their coffee bar was especially handy and the coffee was very good, with half to a dozen or so coffee dispensers all lined up with various blends in them.  By the time I got to California I was making it a point to stop at one of these and I ended up getting a “Flying J/Pilot” loyalty card because I was stopping there so often for their coffee and breakfast muffins.

Rest rooms in the big chain truck stops are often Much cleaner than the state run highway rest stops. You need a high tolerance for country music though.

When stopping for the night, make sure your cell phone network isn’t crappy before checking in. Unless you really want to be disconnected from email and the web. I bought into the iPhone when the first one came out and that was an AT&T device only. Since then they’ve added other better carriers, but the one with the best network, Verizon, uses a digital signal that prevents their iPhone from doing both voice and data at the same time. So I stick with AT&T. But its network in the out of the way spots is crappy. The nice thing about cell phone technology is you aren’t dependent on your motel for internet service. But you need to remember to check your signal before you check in.

Almost any cheap motel room can be a good night’s sleep if you bring your own pillow and a sleeping bag that can double as a comforter. During winter travel you should always carry a good sleeping bag with you anyway, in case of breakdown. Also food and water. Take some good ear plugs (I use silicon ones) and I also bring along one of these white noise generators, because screaming dysfunctional family of five, or selfish TV volume up full jackass will probably be given the room next to yours. Note that these amenities can be found in expensive motels too, so if you aren’t as willing as I am to go with the cheap room you still need ear plugs at least and I strongly recommend the white noise generator too.With these four things, pillow, sleeping bag/comforter, ear plugs and white noise generator, all you really need to care about is is the room clean and the mattress reasonable.

Check the ersatz Continental Breakfast on your way out to see if there’s anything worth taking on the road with you. It’s included after all. Occasionally I am able to make a good breakfast muffin out of the sausage and egg servings. But it’s rare the cheap motels serve meat and eggs in the morning.

And…no matter how tired and irritable you are when you get off the road an into a room, smile and be nice to your desk clerk. I’ve worked late night and over night shifts a time or two in my life. They are not fun. And depending on how far into the sticks you are, that clerk checking you in may be desperately wanting to go with you when you leave the next morning.  Once in a very small town in southern Utah, I was checked in by a young girl who chatted with me for a bit about her dream of getting onto American Idol.  It was going to be her ticket out of there. I tried to suggest and tactfully as I could that her ticket out of there was to just get up and go.  But the Unknown is a very frightening ball and chain on a person…I know this from personal experience, I suppose everyone does to some degree.  Be nice to your desk clerk.  Also everyone who serves you on the road. Especially in the sticks. Notice how they sometimes look at you like you are nuts when you tell them you’d love to move out of the city someday, into some nice quiet out of the way place in the country Just Like This One.

Don’t drive long into the night.  Shift your schedule forward instead.  Get off the highway early, early…like around six or seven. Then get back on the road next morning early. That way you have no trouble at the end of a long day on the road, getting a good room on the ground floor you can back your car up to. And early in the morning traffic will be very light to non-existent, which is a better way to start your day (obviously that does not apply in Washington D.C. or L.A.).  And speaking of traffic…

Truck traffic was very heavy this trip actually.  Which is good, because it means the economy is picking up. My own private economic indicator is train whistles. Here in Baltimore, when I hear them often I know heavy bulk goods are on the move, which is good. Whenever I am stopped for the night in Kingman Arizona (it usually works out that way somehow), I go watch the BNSF main line for a while. When times are good the trains are about fifteen minutes apart. When they’re not so good you maybe see or hear only one or two in a night.  This trip the trains were running pretty constantly through Kingman, but not at fifteen minute intervals.

The new Mercedes loves the open road as much as its driver. 19 degree gale force winds in Virginia and crappy Arkansas highways barely rate its notice. And there is nothing more satisfying than hearing that muscular diesel engine sound in the morning as you repack the trunk, as though the next seven or eight hundred miles ahead of you that day are but a mere trifle on the way to its first hundred thousand miles. I chatted briefly at a diesel pump in Arroyo Grande with a couple young guys driving a very beat up old 240D. It had lost both its bumpers and its paint job was worn almost to the primer and its owner had bought it for $600 dollars and was absolutely in love with it.  Tattered and worn as it looked he said it was the most solid and reliable car he’d ever owned.  His friends he said, told him it was more like a piece of farm equipment than an automobile. But to a Mercedes aficionado, that is a complement. What most Americans don’t know unless they travel abroad, is Daimler is the world’s biggest maker of heavy trucks and buses, and the Mercedes diesel sedan is often seen doing taxi duty in other countries.

To make an automobile that is that heavy duty and substantial, yet also agile, comfortable and beautiful, is a serious work of engineering art. This is the car I’ve been dreaming of exploring the open road with all my life. I’ve owned it for just over a year now and put nearly 30k miles on it. But that was mostly on several drives down to Florida…three to Disney World and one to Key West…which were acceptable to it I suppose.  Most days it’s just sitting in front of my little Baltimore rowhouse.  I can walk to work, and to the grocery store and The Avenue and Cafe’ Hon in Hampden, and I absolutely hate city traffic. For a year now it may have been sitting there wondering if the slovenly pointless life of a computer geek’s status symbol was its fate after all.

No dear…I love you better than that…

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Notes On The Road This Time

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