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Archive for November, 2015

November 24th, 2015

They Have Always Existed. But Where Did Decency Go?

This came across my Facebook stream the other day, from Jim Wright, who you should follow…


It’s not that these people exist…
…it’s that you live in an America where they are cheered

-Jim Wright


That’s it. I mean…the gutter was always visible to us, but in the same way the grotesque carnival sideshow tents were always there to peek into. You could tune in the screaming pulpit thumpers on the radio dial if you knew where to look. There were phone numbers you could dial to get recorded messages from Birch Society crackpots and white supremacists. Every now and then you got a pamphlet handed to you by a man whose stare made you want to stay out of arm’s reach. There were late night talk show on the UHF band, like The Joe Pyne Show, that you might tune in to for a laugh, only to switch channels soon after because you felt like you were suffocating listening to so much hate, so off-handedly spoken into the camera.

Now the gutter is front and center in the national conversation. Only it’s not a conversation anymore because the gutter doesn’t do conversation. It just screams in your face, and then laughs when it sees that it can still shock you in a place you thought you weren’t shockable anymore…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on They Have Always Existed. But Where Did Decency Go?

November 22nd, 2015

Sneak Peek. . .

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 3.21.55 PM


Here’s a sneak peek at something I’m still working on for A Coming Out Story. Only the line art is finished now…and I’ve added the text but not the speech balloon arrows or any of the thought balloons (I really need to figure out a better, faster way of doing the thought balloons in Photoshop…). I still need to add the shadows and texturing and maybe tweak a few things here and there.

But I wanted to show this to you before I disappear for a while during the Thanksgiving week. I’ll finish it when I get back and add it properly to the menu on the ACOS main page.

Read it Here.



by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sneak Peek. . .

November 14th, 2015

No…This Isn’t Asymmetrical Warfare…

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

The death cult chose its city well—Paris, secular capital of the world, as hospitable, diverse and charming a metropolis as was ever devised. And the death cult chose its targets in the city with ghoulish, self-damning accuracy—everything they loathed stood plainly before them on a happy Friday evening: men and women in easy association, wine, free-thinking, laughter, tolerance, music—wild and satirical rock and blues. The cultists came armed with savage nihilism and a hatred that lies beyond our understanding…

-Ian McEwan, Message From Paris

I appreciate the argument I’m hearing more vocally now, that there is more than just a little chickens coming home to roost element to this latest attack. Jim Wright writes that “We created this”, and he lays the blueprint of it out in meticulous and sickening detail. Yes. We created this. That is to say, we gave ammunition and delivered recruits to the culture of death McEwan speaks of.

But make no mistake, that culture of death seeks revenge against us not for the wrongs we have done to the people of the middle east, but for living, for embracing life, for embracing joy. It makes use of the desperate, the wounded, the broken, but it is not engaged in “asymmetrical warfare” as I’ve heard said. You want to see what asymmetrical warfare looks like, study how the Viet Cong waged war against the French and Americans. They killed American soldiers. Lots of them. And like the Viet Cong ISIS has also taken its war to the enemy, and chosen its targets accordingly. The gay men they’re throwing off rooftops. The women they’re stoning to death. The school children and their teachers they’re massacring. The historical artifacts they’re blowing up. The works of art they’re hacking to pieces. Compare and contrast and then consider who and what the enemy really is.

Revenge you say? Yes. Absolutely. Revenge against the living. Revenge against beauty, against intellect, against the human heart and soul for existing. Soft targets are they? Cowardly attacks on unarmed people who can’t shoot back. No. Just…no. They went after the same hated enemy in Paris that they’ve been murdering at home. Those were not soft targets but simply The targets.

Yes, we Did bring this on ourselves. As Wright says, “Terrorism grows like bacteria in warm agar, among the destruction and ruin of war. Terrorism grows in the gaps between civilization.”

“We could have rebuilt that civilization after the Soviet Union pulled out.” says Wright. “We could have made the Mujahedeen our friends. We could have. But it would have cost us money. Our money. Lots of money, vast, vast sums of it. It would have taken decades of sustained commitment. It would have taken effort. And so, instead we left. Fuck it. Not our problem.”

Well it was our problem. And it still is. We fed the beast. We need to stop doing that. We need to practice what we preach to the world about liberty and justice for all. The power of an idea is not in what it can destroy but in what it can build. If all we bring to bear on the Middle East, or anywhere else, is bombs and bullets, subversion and assassination then you have to forgive the world for thinking our ideals are no better than any tinpot dictator’s. Perhaps we stopped believing in the power of our ideals because those ideals require work, and bullets and bombs and covert operations are so much easier. Just press a button. Just pull a trigger. Just send someone else’s children off to war. Perhaps the chickens that came home to roost were the bills due on the ideals we preach but can’t be bothered to practice.

But don’t mistake the desperate wounded people the beast gives kalashnikovs and suicide jackets to for the hate that wages war on civilization vicariously through them. Doing everything Wright says we should have done would not have mollified it. It would have made it hate us all the more. But at least it wouldn’t have so many willing tools.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on No…This Isn’t Asymmetrical Warfare…


So soon is it after Veteran’s Day, so many are in a rush to go to war.

I know the feeling. We all do. We’re human. We bear in ourselves the ancient blood of the killer apes that walked upright on the African plains so long, long ago. We are not so far removed from them we don’t feel the pull of it. It is instinct. The hated Other challenges us, and we long to sink our teeth into them. To defend the Tribe. To protect our young. And because killing is an ancient pleasure handed down to us from the long ages of Earth.  It’s the one that won’t admit that you should fear, because those ancient terrible lusts might one day take them by surprise. And in an instant, the human identity is shed.

We are more than that. The killer lives within us, but we are human, we are civilization builders, artists, and dreamers, and we don’t have to listen to the killer ape. Let us think before we act. Please.

There’s a poem…The Old Astronomer…I’m sure every astronomer knows it for these beautiful lines…

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

It’s in my will that my ashes are to be scattered in my beloved California, on a hill overlooking the Pacific near the Garrett family lands. So I will have no tombstone, but if I did I would want those words engraved on it. 

To the people who planned and instigated this killing…to the people now rejoicing in it, calling for war and more war…war against the infidel, war against the hated Other, war just for the pure pleasure of war…all I can say is, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry you’ve lost your memory of what it is to be human. I’m sorry the killer ape has taken your soul away from you.  I’m sorry that hate has emptied everything from within you that could have been decent and kind and noble. There are worse things that can happen to a person than to die. I see them in you now. I wish you could see them too, but you have fallen into a pit I’ve seen very few claw their way back out of. I’m sorry you are lost.

But you need to understand something. We have seen the Pillars of Creation. We have watched the stars being born, and dying, and hurling their flesh back into the universe to began the dance all over again. We have seen the horizons of other worlds. We have harvested light from the first galaxies. And we are not fearful of the night.


by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

November 11th, 2015

The Ones Who Went To War

I’d post a photo of my maternal grandfather Albert (whose name mom gave to me) in his uniform but I still need to scan that one in. He served in the Philippines in the late 1800s…I don’t know if he later served in WWI or not. But oddly enough even though he died long before I was born, I owe much of the career I have now to him. After the Army, he ran his own business building and servicing radios and whenever mom saw something in me that reminded her of her dad she encouraged it…which is why I got a taste early in life for fiddling with electronic gizmos, which led to my building my own computers back in the IBM-PC/DOS days, and why I’m earning a good living now as a systems software engineer (my job title).

But I did scan this photo of mom and her first boyfriend, and fiancé, Morris. Morris was Jewish, and my granddad Albert, according to mom, didn’t much care for Jews until he met Morris. According to mom he came to like Morris very much and approved of them getting married.

But Morris was in the Navy during WWII, and so I was told, his ship sailed into Nagasaki harbor after Japan surrendered. He later told her that his ship was unable to move for a time, due to the number of bodies floating in the water. Whether it was the sight of that, or other things he saw during the war, or whether it was a thing that would have happened to him regardless, he fell into severe mental illness after the war and his family had to institutionalize him. So mom lost her boyfriend to madness, and if the war alone didn’t do that to him, it definitely contributed. Before his family took him away mom said, he used to scare her fondling his big army knife, stroking his face and arms and body with it like he was going to cut himself, talking about the corpses he’d seen with their guts spilled out.

So when we remember and honor our service men and women, let us please also dedicate ourselves to supporting them after the war too, and their widows and widowers, and their orphans, because our thanks are hollow otherwise, and especially to dedicate ourselves to not sending anymore of our neighbors to war, if it is humanly possible to prevent it. The wars don’t end for them merely because the shooting stopped.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Ones Who Went To War

November 7th, 2015

Where Did The Fun Go…?

This post may distress some of my friends but such is life, and I have a point I’d like to make for those of us who like to play with guns. Play safely, play responsibly, but play. Target shoot, skeet, blasting away at cans you gather up on your way to your favorite shooting spot in the woods. I have something I’d like to say to all of you.

I’ve owned guns since I was in my twenties and a friend introduced me to the shooting sports. He took me to a place in the country and let me shoot his little Ruger Mark 1. A “plinking gun”, it fired the 22 rim fire cartridges you used to buy by the bricks of 500 or so, and just go out into the woods and blast away at cans set up on a wooden plank. Afterwards I developed a smallish interest in the hobby, and over the years bought several firearms of my own, some for household defense, but mostly just for fun.

For most of us who do this, it isn’t about bloodlust. We don’t want to kill anything. We are not into vigilante fantasies or Red Dawn hallucinations. There’s a primitive, elemental attraction to fire, and things that go bang. We are mostly I think, the kids who liked watching thunderstorms, and playing with firecrackers. Yeah it’s dangerous stuff, but back in the day you were given the warnings, told how to play safe, listened to the stories about what happens when you don’t play safe, and still allowed to have those dangerous childhood pleasures. It’s a different world now.

I haven’t been in a gun store, just to look around, in decades now. Some months ago a friend asked me to drive him to a gun store where he had one of the rifles he inherited on consignment. My hobby as I said, was never more than a middling interest. I can get ammo at most sporting goods stores and some department stores (I refuse to walk into a WalMart), but I don’t often need to. A lot of indoor ranges insist you buy their rounds, I suppose to make sure nobody brings in anything unsafe. I settled on a set of household guns decades ago and haven’t felt the need to buy any new ones since. My camera hobby, and my road trips demand most of my discretionary budget. But just the other day I let my friend take me to a store in my old hometown to buy a part for one of my rifles. It was depressing. And now that I think of it, it’s the same thing I noticed at the other store my friend who had the rifle on consignment took me to.

When I started my hobby decades ago, you could walk into a gun store and see a wide variety of firearms. You saw little 22 plinkers like the Ruger that got me started. You saw professional match grade pistols. There were the usual self defense weapons, but also nicely engraved collectibles and reproductions. I once bought a replica civil war revolver, fully functional if you bought the black powder, balls and caps for it. I loved that gun…it went off with a great big wizard of oz belch of fire and smoke. After about ten shots you had to completely disassemble and clean it because black powder leaves so much residue behind it will jam the gun eventually. But I don’t want black powder in the house anymore and I don’t think any indoor range even allows them (way too much smoke) so I haven’t shot that gun in ages. But some years ago, while visiting Tombstone Arizona, I saw some replica Smith and Wesson 44 caliber black powder revolvers and I was tempted. Back then Colt had started making its old civil war era revolvers again, starting the serial numbers, so they claimed, right where they’d left off. The only difference between the new and the old would have been in the way better steel and manufacturing techniques used. So one wondered if the term “replica” was even appropriate.

You saw collectibles in various finishes, some with fantastically intricate engraving and inlays, in lovely custom display cases made with beautiful woods.  Expensive commemoratives you wouldn’t dare shoot. Some of art you saw applied to rifles and handguns was just beautiful. Some of it was embarrassingly hilarious. My friend and I still joke about the nickle plated Smith and Wesson revolver we saw at one store  just outside of Washington D.C., with pearl grips and the words “SUPER STUD” engraved in gold on the side of the frame. Just saying the words SUPER STUD is enough to set us both off, even now.

You saw rifles of all kinds, shapes and sizes. One gun store I used to frequent had a Weatherby I longed for, though it was completely impractical for any kind of hunting I could possibly do here in Maryland, even were I into hunting. But the wooden rifle stock…I swear it was the most beautiful piece of wood I’d ever seen, and my mom had a nice German console HiFi that was solid mahogany (and which I deeply regret now not keeping).  No need to kill anything with it…just to wield the fire from that rifle at a paper target at a distance would have been a pure pleasure. I am not a big guy, that gun would have challenged me. But mastering it would have been Fun. But no way could I have afforded a Weatherby then, and I am not in the market for such an expensive rifle now.

The point is, you used to see a wide spectrum of stuff in a gun store. That was not what I saw when I walked into one a few days ago.

There is an understandable pushback now against sales of military style rifles. I appreciate that, even if as a gun owner myself I take issue with how the arguments are often framed. A rifle is a rifle is a rifle. It’s not how it looks, it’s how it functions. I have no problem with limiting the functionality of personal firearms to keep them from being used as instruments of mass destruction. I am very much for that. Some sorts of weapons, more aggressive in nature than defensive, are reasonably limited to the police and the military. I see the logic in limiting the number of rounds in a clip. I see the logic in keeping assault rifles, which unlike the ambiguous term “assault weapon” is a specific term for a specific kind of soldier’s rifle, off limits to private sales. If you want to play with them go join the army. But just because you replaced the wooden stock of one rifle with a plastic faux military one, that does not change the fundamental characteristics of the weapon itself. Slapping a large capacity magazine on it Does. Fine. Keep those off the market. If you like, mandate a change in the frames of rifles that take them so only small capacity magazines will fit (although I don’t know what you’ll do with all the rifles already out there…). But a rifle is a rifle is a rifle.

An AR-15 looks and handles very much like an M-16 but it is not an M-16. It’s functionality is limited so it can be sold to private individuals. Yes it can be retrofitted to bring it up to that level of military capacity. That isn’t legal except for the high capacity magazines which in my opinion should not be sold over the counter anyway, and it does not change the fact that functionally it is pretty much the same as any other magazine loading semi-automatic rifle.  Or to put it another way, the logic of outlawing sales of an AR-15 would also outlaw the sales of Any semi-automatic rifle, and I think I am reasonably allowed to object to that without being called a gun nut. People mock the argument that it’s only cosmetics that separates the so called assault weapon from the sportsman’s rifle, but that’s what it is if it does not change the functionality of the weapon itself. You’re focusing on the appearance and not the functionality.

But that’s an argument that cuts both ways too.  Which brings me to what was so depressing about what I saw a few days ago.

What I saw was almost exclusively military style cosmetics. It was everywhere in that store. Dark plastic stocks and grips mostly. The usual camouflage paint. Various patriotic slogans engraved on some of them. Some red white and blue painted frames no less. There was one rifle painted in a kind of tie-dye scheme that I thought was fun in a flippant way, but even that one could not relieve the dire seriousness of the rest of the inventory. It was all about the military look and feel. I felt like I’d just walked into a tea party open carry convention. Now instead of the shooting sports, you had preparations for some sort of civil unrest that any sane person would hope to god never comes to pass. It all seemed to be about the culture war now…with guns being the totem, the talisman, the fetish of the tribe.

I saw no plinking guns. I saw no match or hunting rifles. The only wooden stock I saw was on what looked like a WWII style combat rifle. There was a great big Don’t Tread On Me flag behind the counter. This was not the world into which I first walked into a gun store many years ago.  

Deep down inside I’m a peaceful kinda guy who just likes things that go bang. I understand those things can be dangerous. I accept the responsibility for handling them safely. I accept the responsibility for owning and using those things in accordance with the law. I accept that because they present a danger to my neighbors, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has the right, it has the obligation, to regulate their purchase and use. Our shared public spaces convey shared responsibilities and obligations.

But more than all of that, I accept that a rule of law is what makes civilization possible, and that if you don’t like the outcome of an election, you love your country by respecting the process and working within it to change things. Private ownership of firearms is a right that makes perfect sense in the context of democracy, but they not our defense against tyranny, the ballot box is. And I very much resent being lumped in with a bunch of sociopathic anti-government anarchists simply because they like to babble on and on about their right to keep and bear arms. 

I guess it’s hard to nearly impossible for some folks who just don’t like guns to separate the sporting aspect of them, the fun you can have shooting them, from blood and death and destruction. I hear so much from my liberal friends about how guns are designed to kill people and that’s all you need to know about them. Well it isn’t. But that is just what I saw in that gun store too. And that’s what depressed me, and why I sat down to write this longish blog post. Everyone seems to agree now, left and right, that the only thing guns are good for is killing each other.

Now it’s all about war. The fun was gone. The fun seemed long forgotten.

I hate what has happened to my country some days…

[Edited…and edited again…sorry…I just want to make myself clear on this…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Where Did The Fun Go…?

November 5th, 2015

There’s A Message There For You Too Mrs. Boynes

On Facebook yesterday, Janet Boynes Ministries posted a link to an article applauding the outcome in Houston with this statement:

Houston voters just sent a very strong message to the homosexual lobby, don’t mess with Texas!

But the message from Houston, and Texas generally these days, is Please don’t mess with Texas. Because Texas can’t cope. Texas is afraid. It’s afraid of brown skinned people. It’s afraid of well educated people. It’s afraid of people of different religions, different Christians, godless heathens. It’s afraid of Teh Gay. It’s afraid of transgendered people. Please don’t mess with us because we’re a mess…

George Takei hit the right note yesterday:

Fear indeed can be a powerful weapon, but it ultimately never can defeat love. Those who deploy it always wind up on the wrong side of history, which will remember you as heroes and them as mere bullies. -George Takei

George Takei Statement

This from a man who would know from first hand experience what the ignorant fears and paranoias of the many can do to minorities. There’s another message here Mrs. Boynes, but you will need to step back from the immediate moment to see it clearly.

When I came out to myself as a gay teenager back in 1971 all but 2 states had sodomy laws. Now I could legally marry the man I love, and in a state (Maryland) whose voters approved same-sex marriage at the ballot box. “The arc of the moral universe is long,” said King, “but it bends towards justice.” And I am old enough to have witnessed the progress of that arc from Hardwick v Bowers to last night, when the only way bigots could get a non-discrimination law protecting a hated minority repealed was to make their case in the toilet. When I was 17, a law protecting sexual minorities would have been laughed out of the conference room, if not tarred and feathered. Now you have to make scarecrows out of bathroom icons. Even in those lopsided victories hate can manage in the reddest of red states, that’s gotta be depressing.

And I have witnessed over and over again in my own lifetime the truth of what Takei is saying. Where is Anita Bryant now? Where are any of the hatemongers of the 60s, 70s and 80s? At the same time Prop 1 was defeated Salt Lake City elected a Lesbian as mayor. Salt Lake City mind you, not San Francisco.

There’s your message Mrs. Boynes. You should read it sometime. We are not fighting for special rights. We are not fighting for social approval. We are not fighting for the right to take a pee. If you could see the people for the homosexuals, for the transgendered, for the Other that Texas fears and loaths, you’d understand why we will pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work on it. Hearts of gold. Spines of steel.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on There’s A Message There For You Too Mrs. Boynes


There’s a lot of well justified anger over what happened in Houston Tuesday. And as always, you hear complaining that by venting that anger the losing side isn’t respecting the democratic process.

It’s a bullshit argument, and maybe also yet another indication of the race to the bottom in Texas education. Respect for the process is one thing, respect for the beliefs and opinions that led to a particular outcome is another. You respect the democratic process by working within the system to change outcomes you dislike. That doesn’t mean you have to treat anyone’s ignorant prejudices as anything other than ignorant prejudices. Prejudice does not gain respectability by virtue of there being a lot of it.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Respect

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