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April 9th, 2018

The Healing Power Of Love…At Least If You’re Gay…

This comes across my Google news feed today…

How romance can protect gay and lesbian youths from emotional distress

A recent study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that being in a romantic relationship can help gay and lesbian youth like Pegues feel less mental distress — even more so if they are black or Latino. This contrasts with the fact that, in heterosexual teens’ lives, romance is generally found to cause distress rather than alleviate it.

In fact the study seems to suggest that being in a romantic relationship causes stress for Everyone but gay folk. I’ve no idea why that would be so, unless it’s we have to work harder for it and cherish it more because so many people want to take it away from us.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. -Lao Tzu


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
April 8th, 2018

Don’t I Feed You Enough??

Feline love. I have the front door opened and the outer storm door closed to let more sunlight in. I look up from my lunch to see the neighborhood calico on my doorstep looking in. So I walk over thinking she would like some food and maybe some fresh water. But…no. She’s presented me with another offering of dead bird…the fourth one in two weeks. Feathers are everywhere on my front porch, and the fresh kill right on my doorstep. 

As I open the door she fixes me with that unnervingly steady cat gaze. Where’s all that cat food coming from…how come I never see you kill anything…here, let me show you how it’s done…

Yes dear…I know you love me. Another one I have to give a proper burial to in my garden. As I wrap the bird up I wonder if Klingons leave the dead bodies of their enemies at the doors of their boy/girl friends as a token of love…

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

Funny How Shadows On A Silver Screen Can Thoroughly Destroy You…And Yet Lift You Up…

Also on Twitter the other day…

Bright Wall/Dark Room? @BWDRFollowFollow
What’s the very first movie that broke your heart?

Oh gosh…not even slightly hard to recall. For lots of folks my age it’s Old Yeller. But my first serious movie heartbreak was The Yearling. I was maybe 9 or 10 when I watched it on TV.

Broke my heart twice it did…

 

…but then I went and read the novel anyway and got my heart broken all over again. But that was the book that gave me the insight into how multi-layered stories can be. I was in elementary school and pulling books from the big kid’s side of the library where I was told I was too young to really appreciate them. I nabbed a copy of the novel with the amazing N.C. Wyeth illustrations and devoured it. As I read that tragic end I suddenly realized that the title of the book referred to the boy, not the deer, and it felt like a revelation. Suddenly the world of books became larger, infinite even. 

So when it came time to write my book report on it I put all that into it, and the demented bully of a teacher I had for that class accused me of having my mom write the report for me and gave me an F, because how could a boy my age possibly understand that. Mom was furious and brought to a teacher-parent meeting the radio I had just built from parts to show her I was smarter than she thought. But no…I was the child of a single divorced mother and that made me by definition a problem child and both of us had to be punished for it.

Third heartbreak then. But I never gave up the joy of reading. That epiphany was too much to let go of. I’m 64 years old and my house is full of books.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

I Know The Feeling

On my Twitter feed this morning (if it looks like I’m merely substituting one social media addiction for another…you may be right. But Twitter isn’t as comprehensive a snare into your life as Facebook is and…one step at a time please…) I see the following…

Rainbow Rowell @rainbowrowell
One of the great epiphanies of my lifetime was realizing that I disliked so many female characters because they were created by men who didn’t like women.

I can empathize. Lots of gay characters I have absolutely hated too…cute as a few of them were…

I don’t even know if the character of Francis Amthor was even in that Chandler book, let alone if she was written as the quintessential big predatory dyke, but she well could have been. I was in my twenties and into my detective novel phase and heard Chandler was the gold standard, so I picked up a paperback copy of one of his novels in a bookstore and randomly opened to a page in the middle to see if I’d like his style of writing. There I beheld a scene with Marlowe roughing up a gay guy who takes a swing back at him but, as Chandler observed, girly-boy bones just can’t land a good punch. I put it back. The only reason I watched (and still love) Farewell My Lovely was for the amazing cinematography and recreation of 1940s Los Angles, and Robert Mitchum’s definitive hard boiled detective. But it’s like nearly every other Hollywood movie when a gay character appears onscreen and I just have to wait it out while the straight boys get their kicks kicking Teh Gay around.

I could add all the faggots that even the sexually liberated underground comic books cheerfully waved in my face, but you get the picture. I had my epiphany when I read Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet. If any one thing turned me into Teh Militant Homosexual it was reading that book.


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
April 7th, 2018

The Snagglepuss Chronicles

Recently DC Comics began a Hanna-Barbera “crossover” series and they are the strangest, weirdest things you will ever see in this lifetime. Imagine your favorite old Hanna-Barbera cartoons re-imagined as real people, not simple animated cartoons…the Flintstones drawn as an actual anatomically correct people, experiencing life as real flesh and blood human beings do, but still living in that Bedrock setting, or the Scooby Doo gang as real kids investigating paranormal events in the middle of the Apocalypse…and you get the picture.

I’d been taking a pass…I actually hated what Hanna-Barbera did to animation all through the 60s, 70s and 80s, which didn’t get turned around until Who Framed Roger Rabbit appeared and reminded everyone what real hand drawn frame by frame animation looked like. Even Disney was starting to loose it. But then I saw Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, and had an abrupt change of mind.

It’s actually brilliant…Snagglepuss re-imagined as a kind of famous and closeted Tennessee Williams-esq playwright, coping with the homophobic prejudices of the 1950s and 60s. Yes…they’re actually going there. And it’s not that hard at all to re-visualize that character in those terms…that pink oh so theatrical mountain lion whose tagline was Exit, stage…(right or left as need be). Weird though it is to see these characters drawn as if they were alive in our real world, and interacting with humans and it’s all taken for granted that its normal. And it is very Very weird. And yet…it works. 

Snagglepuss is a famous playwright in the mold of Tennessee Williams, working on getting his latest Broadway play ready for its opening night. But the story is set firmly in the pre Stonewall struggle for gay survival in a world that hates us from every possible direction. I especially like how the writers weave the cold war, it’s blacklists and witch hunts, and the threat of nuclear annihilation into the story. Then there are scenes like this one…where we see that the play Snagglepuss is putting on stage is very much autobiographical…

This is the central theme of issue 4, and perhaps the entire series. Huckleberry Hound is we discover, also gay and in the previous issues came to New York and connected with Snagglepuss again, who introduces him to the Stonewall Inn, where he meets and begins to date one of New York’s finest, a certain constable McGraw. But the Stonewall is raided…not the raid that provokes the riot this time…maybe that one comes later on…and constable McGraw is ordered to be part of the raiding party and ends up gay bashing Huck after Huck says to him “Hello again officer…” in front of McGraw’s superiors. He later breaks down in front of the Stonewall, aghast at what he’s just done. Snagglepuss wasn’t there, he was introducing his own wife to his boyfriend, because he’d grown tired of seeing himself as a coward.

At the end of this issue, Snagglepuss is bailing Huck out of jail, and as the panels wander among the nuclear wreckage of yet another desert a-bomb test, Huck tells him… “You were right, you know a man cannot pretend forever. A man can no more hide his nature than outrun his shadow. The truth is they will always find us S.P., whatever we do, wherever we hide, they’ll find us. We’re fools if we think otherwise. Our only choice in this life is to change the world or be destroyed by it. And God help me S.P., I’m not sure which one I prefer.”

It’s brilliant. There’s more I haven’t touched on…the references to the Blacklist…the government agent angry that S.P. isn’t willing to cooperate with their witch hunt…the nuclear bomb engineer who when asked whether the American public should know the truth that building bomb shelters is pointless says “Oh no! It’s a democracy. The truth is the last thing you want people to have.” and… “…there is no such thing as Truth. Only usefulness”.

For this I can accept the absolute weirdness of seeing the old cartoon characters drawn as if they were real and lived among us and it was all taken as normal. There was a time after all, that we thought Mutually Assured Destruction, digging bomb shelters in our back yards and leading school children in duck and cover drills was normal.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Mercedes Love…

…still in it.

My Mercedes-Benz is a 2012 E350 Bluetec…a diesel…and my dream come true car. It’s the car I’ve wanted since I was a teenage boy and an uncle came for a visit driving his brand new Mercedes 220D. So I take care of it, not just because it cost me a bundle, but because it’s my dream come true car. Actually I’ve always taken care of all my cars, even the junkers I drove when I had no money. The Automobile is a miracle machine, a magic carpet that gives you all the new horizons you can find on every road you’ve haven’t yet been down. You take care of a thing that gives you so much wonder. You love it back.

A religion I’ve had since my first car, the 1973 Ford Pinto, is changing the oil more frequently than the factory says. Nothing kills a good engine faster than not giving it fresh lubricating oil regularly, and no single thing you can do for it will extend its life more than doing it more often. For American cars you take the recommended interval between oil changes as a bare minimum. I changed the oil in the Pinto every 2k. They will tell you it’s a waste of money but it isn’t. When I finally had to give up the Pinto it was because everything But the engine was coming apart. That’s how they used to build them in Detroit. I got 136k miles out of that car and when I watched it go away you could still pop off the top valve cover and it looked factory new in there. The steering wheel was cracked, as were the vinyl seat covers and the dashboard padding, and the shift stick would sometimes pop out of its base like a gecko’s tail in my hand. But that engine, that little 1600cc one barrel carburetor four calendar engine that would even run smoothly on sub regular gasoline, still ran as strong as the day I took the car home.

When I got the diesel I knew it was even more important to stay on top of the oil changes due to a diesel’s high compression and really, I mean Really dirty blow-by. Daimler says change the oil every 10k, and that’s probably reasonable given that they put a nine liter reservoir in those engines, and specify type 1 synthetic oil. I’ve changed mine every 5k and have been told repeatedly that’s a waste of money. My response is it’s cheaper than a new engine. But recently I read a post on one of the Mercedes forums to the effect that the new Bluetecs may need their oil changed as frequently as every 3k due to how the emissions systems heat the oil up to higher than usual temperatures and recent changes to the oil spec. When I took the Mercedes home it specified Mobile type 1 5w-40 diesel blend. Then they stopped making that and MBUSA started putting a 5w-30 type 1 in during routine service visits. I was skeptical. If the engines are running hot 30 weight may not be good enough. Eventually bought my own oil extractor so I could do my own between servicing oil changes, and began buying oil from a supplier who could get me the same stuff they put into them over in Germany, which is still 5w-40.

The extractor allows you to pull the old oil out of the engine from the dipstick pipe. It sounds strange and counter intuitive, but that’s actually the better way to do it on a Mercedes because (so I’m told) the drain plug at the bottom of the engine doesn’t actually allow all the oil to drain out. It’s a bit higher up on the block than would be needed to completely drain the engine, to prevent (again, so I’m told) all the oil exiting the engine in case the plug ever falls out while you’re driving, leaving enough in there to get you somewhere safe when the console display starts screaming at you that the oil is almost gone. Using an extractor gets it all out and it’s easier to use than it sounds. Run the engine until it’s at temperature (I take a quick drive up I-83 and back), then pop the hood and pull off the engine cover. The oil filter is right there and its easy peesy to pop the cap off (you definitely need the cap wrench though) and just let it hang in there and drain. With the extractor you basically thread a plastic tube down the dipstick pipe and connect the other end to what looks like a tank with a pump attached. Then you pump enough air out of the tank to get the oil to start flowing up the tube and into the tank. Once that starts the siphon effect keeps it going so you don’t have to keep pumping. There is a pressure relief button you press from time to time to let air out of the tank.

It’s a nice arrangement. You don’t have to get under the car at all. The only thing is it’s slow…about 20-30 minutes to get it all out. But you know when it’s all out because you actually hear a slurping sound, like sucking on a straw when the glass is nearly empty, and the siphon breaks and the oil stops flowing. By then the oil filter has drained and you can put the new one on. Which is where, more familiar as I was with changing the oil in American cars, it became strange.

See…in the Pinto and my other cars, including the Geo Prism which was a Toyota Corolla under the skin, and the Honda Accord, the filter was in its own can under the engine and you just unscrewed it and screwed on a new one. In the Mercedes, like other European cars, the filter is in a permanent can and you unscrew the cap off the can and pull out and replace the filter inside. And as you might expect (being used to The American Way) the cap is very…strange. Here’s what mine looks like…

If you can picture it, the filter fits over that structure in the middle of the cap. When you screw the whole thing down, a metal tube feeding oil into the filter pushes into the filter and over the part of that structure where it’s narrowed to a tip, up to the mid point where it gets its widest. Oil pushes through that, into the filter and out and back down onto a trough where there’s a drain back down, presumably to the oil pan. But look at that thing. First time I pulled mine off I was completely bewildered as to what the hell that structure at the end, where it narrows to a little tip with a little o ring at the end did (there is another much larger o ring near the top of the cap). It pushes down into a tube within the feed tube and seals it off and I could not for the life of me figure out what it was for. So I did a little digging online and discovered that it’s Yet Another Drain back to the oil pan, for when you are changing filters. The German engineers figuring that having that other drain would make draining the filter go faster. And it’s not a Daimler thing either. BMW does it too. And I know this because when I did my last oil change that center structure came off and I thought I’d broken it but I wasn’t sure. It seemed like it might have been a press fit. So I frantically Googled around for info about whether that center structure comes off and yes, it does and yes it’s just press fitted onto a bunch of tabs at the base. Panic Attack Over. But I mail ordered another cap just in case I ever do break it and now I can’t drive the car anywhere, like to the dealer to get another one.

The engine takes nine liters of oil. That works out to about nine and a half quarts and it’s one of those things that really impresses me about German engineering: they specify a change interval and put enough oil in the engine to make it reasonable, instead of just barely minimal. But the way the process works is after you’ve put the new filter in place you don’t fill the engine up with all nine liters. Put in eight and start it up, let it run for a bit so you’ve got the filter charged, then stop and check the dipstick and top it off. So there’s another little difficulty. Here’s the dipstick they gave me…

Trying to see where the oil level is when you’ve got a fresh pan of honey oil in there is really Really hard because the plastic that thing’s made of is shiny and you can’t tell where the oil actually is on there if it’s completely clean and new. For example…

This is after a week of driving on the new oil. Because it’s a diesel the oil I just put in there is already getting mighty dirty. But look at that. Can you see where the oil level is on that thing? It’s hard, but it’s just shy of the screw on the right. You pretty much just have to trust that the nine liters you bought is exactly right and you really did get all the old stuff out and there wasn’t any extra left in there to put you over the maximum…which is scary because over filling the oil pan can damage the engine.

Anyway…the car has just under 115k on it…next routine servicing is at 120k and I’ll probably tell them to skip the oil change because I’m doing it myself now with the 5w-40 which was the spec when I bought the car, or if they’re willing use the oil I provide.


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!

Boardwalk! Finally!

Woohoo! Just now bought points at Disney’s Boardwalk. It’s a big deal for me because this is the spot I want to have when I go to Walt Disney World. It’s perfect in so many ways. At least to me.

I’ve been going down to WDW at least twice a year ever since a certain someone coaxed me into a visit. It’s one of my favorite stories…the German classmate telling me over the phone after I expressed skepticism about theme parks, Come on man…it’s your heritage! Baseball, Mom, Apple Pie and Mickey Mouse. What’s wrong with you? So I went, mostly to see him again after 30+ years of searching for him, but also to finally get a taste of the Disney park thing. I was born in California, half my family tree is there, and I’ve never visited Disneyland. My thing was the cross country road trip. I had no time for theme parks. But I figured a drive down I-95 to Walt Disney World was do-able.

But I’m old enough to remember watching TV when Walt Disney was still alive, and I’d forgotten what a Mouseketeer I was. I decided to get a room at a middle tier park hotel, and chose Caribbean Beach since it was closest to Epcot where my classmate worked, and which I thought I’d like better than Magic Kingdom, which was as I understood it, just a restatement of Disneyland in California. I thought maybe I could just walk across the street and there would be a conveniently located park gate near the hotel…but no…not that hotel. I wrote about that first ever check in to a Disney Hotel here. It was ten years ago this November. What I missed jotting down was the experience of walking into Epcot for the first time, and that Disney kid I once was all coming back to me in an instant. I was hooked. From that moment on, WDW became a thing I had to have in my life.

Luckily I’m at a point in my life where I’m earning enough to do that. Disney is anything but cheap. That said, if you do the backstage tour you will come away from it wondering why the tickets aren’t twice as expensive. It is a massive operation to make it all work. Soon I got an annual pass, which made the visits less costly per day, and came with some useful spiffs like free parking at the parks and merchandise discounts. I’ve written before about how the annual pass keeps sucking you into renewing it every year Here. The dollar figures are from 2012 so ignor those…it’s way more expensive now, but if you go there regularly you are nuts if you just buy your tickets at the walk up counters. The annual pass saves you tons, especially on the renewals.

A co worker asked me on one of my trips to get one of the Christmas limited edition DVC (Disney Vacation Club) pins at Boardwalk, which is one of their upscale hotels, located around a small lake next to Epcot. There was a second guest entrance to the park that I’d thought only guests staying at those hotels (there are three…Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club) could use that entrance, but it turns out anyone can, and if they want go enjoy all the restaurants and shops along the early 20th century themed boardwalk. So I got my co worker their pins and did a little exploring and discovered there was a pathway that wound alongside a canal that led to Hollywood Studios, which was by then my second favorite WDW park. But those hotels were the top tier and horrifically expensive. Well out of reach so I thought, which was disheartening because what I was seeing was that staying at one of them meant I’d have walking distance to my two favorite WDW parks…Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

But Boardwalk and Beach Club were DVC which by then I knew was their thing for buying into staying at the upscale hotels on a regular basis. Digging into it a little further I discovered that the DVC rooms, unlike the regular hotel rooms, had complete kitchens…or in the case of the little studio rooms, nearly complete, but still much better than your usual hotel room. It looked very attractive, but I was skeptical about getting locked into something like that. The middle tier hotels like Caribbean Beach were just fine, and about as much as I could afford on a regular basis. 

One year a co worker who was already DVC offered to let me tag along on a DVC presentation for one of their new hotels, Bay Lake Towers which was being built next to the first hotel they built at WDW, the Contemporary. The Contemporary is the one the monorail goes right through and I’ve always found it’s futuristic architecture beautiful. I ran that by that certain someone who coaxed me into my first WDW visit and he told me never to go to a DVC presentation without first breaking both my hands so I couldn’t sign anything. But I pretty much had decided not to join. Too much money and I didn’t want to get locked in.

Then one year I discovered there are web sites that let you buy a stay at one of the DVC hotels using “points” that DVC members were willing to sell for that year. The DVC point system makes it different from what I understood your usual timeshare is. Instead of buying a slice of time at a particular hotel, you buy points you can use at any DVC resort in a given year. The more points you buy, the more time you can reserve. You buy into a “home” resort, but you can use your points at all of them; the only difference being you can reserve up to eleven months out at your home resort, but only seven at the others. You can bank up to two years worth of points, and borrow points from the next year. 

Apparently some DVC members were willing to sell points for a year they could not stay, and Disney is fine with that. I looked at the cost and saw that it was about the same as staying at a middle tier hotel, the only drawback being once you reserved on those second hand points you couldn’t back out of it if something suddenly came up and you had to make a sudden change of plans. I decided to try it anyway, and queried one of the sites dealing in other people’s DVC points about buying a stay at either Beach Club (my preference then since it seemed to be nicer) or Boardwalk. Either one would get me walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios which was what I wanted most. Luckily as it turned out, there were no Beach Club points available for the days I wanted to stay (my birthday week in September). But there were Boardwalk points.

Boardwalk, as it turned out, was ideal. It seriously felt as if they’d built and themed it just for me. When I was a kid and mom had a couple weeks vacation we went to various beach towns along the Atlantic coast, so strolling a boardwalk tapped deep into childhood feelings of joy. And mom, being a depression/WWII era kid, grew up on big band music and so naturally so did I and Boardwalk was piping that stuff all through its in house music system. There was a 30s themed bar with the old leather chairs and radios playing the music and radio shows of the times and at the end of my day I’d take a book I was reading there, sit in one of the comfy leather chairs next to a radio, have a cocktail and read until I was ready for bed and then I’d just go to my room. In the mornings I would walk the path to Hollywood Studios and make a beeline for The Writers Stop and get my morning coffee and danish (alas The Writer’s Stop was taken down when Starbucks moved in. Foo!).

It was all too perfect. So before I left I stopped into the DVC kiosk and asked to talk about buying into the thing. I’m sure they saw me coming. Up to that point I’d been visiting WDW at least twice yearly, spending money with the Disney card my co workers talked me into, and using my hotel keys, and later the Magic Bands to buy things. They must have had my profile down pat because the offering they made me was for fewer points than I was told was the minimum to buy in, but right dead in the middle of my spending comfort zone. I looked at the numbers and they made sense if I was planning on visiting WDW at least once a year. If I did that my costs would end up being about what they would have been if I’d stayed at a middle tier hotel every year, but this was getting me a room at one of the top level hotels.

Preferably Boardwalk, which I asked for. But I was told they weren’t selling Boardwalk points just then and anyway I could use my points at Boardwalk if I wanted to. So I relented and bought what they were selling: Grand Floridian points. It was a mistake. Granted, being DVC gave me a bunch of handy new spiffs, the best of which was I could now renew my annual pass on the Florida resident discount since now that I have property in Florida (the state of Florida taxes me on it as if it’s actual feet on the ground property), plus, unless the republicans really did kill this, I get a tax break on the Florida state tax and the mortgage interest. I’ll find out if I still have those next year I reckon.

But I didn’t really want to stay at Grand Floridian. It was on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop and I wanted to be near Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Plus, I didn’t like it’s The Hotel In Death In Venice theming. It felt suffocating. But to get into Boardwalk with only a seven month window to reserve I discovered, was nearly impossible. By then so many of the rooms were already booked you could only get three or four days in a row. 

It was frustrating, and twice I took out that frustration on the poor DVC customer service folks. But eventually (I don’t know why this wasn’t made plain to me before) I was told I could be put on a waiting list for Boardwalk points, and it might only be a month or so I’d have to wait. It was what I should have done in the first place.

Just now they came through. I will sell the Grand Floridian points, either back to DVC (something else I was told before that I couldn’t do) or in the third party market. Then it’ll just be the Boardwalk points I’m paying off and I can easily sustain that. And with eleven months out that I can reserve it’ll be a snap to get my birthday week at Boardwalk every year now, though I did manage with lots of frustration, to get it this year too. As this post is already long enough I’ll go into that adventure some other time.

Right now I’m just…delighted.

 


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
April 6th, 2018

Facebook Is To Socializing As McDonald’s Is To Food

Reposted from my Facebook page…which is going silent for a while…

Just a note to say thanks to everyone who reached out to me when I was having a bad time. I haven’t read everything yet but it is all very much appreciated.

I’m still not completely back together, and for now I’m taking a wee sabbatical from Facebook to spend more time on my blog to write more generally about my life and what I see like I used to before “social media” ate all the blogs up, and focus on other areas of my website where I have my artwork. So don’t take it wrong if you don’t see me here for quite a while. I’m not deactivating my account so people can still contact me here if you don’t want to bother visiting me elsewhere.

At some point, on the blog most likely, I’ll write more about what’s been going on with me that made a bad day at work seem like everything was coming apart. Basically the job has been all that’s been holding me together now for well over a decade. I know that isn’t healthy, but it’s the way it is. You can’t spend an entire adult life without finding that significant other, even if just for a while, without beginning to think there is just something fundamentally wrong with you. Logically I know it isn’t that simple. But there it is. I need to see if I can find it in me to see hope in my life again as the individual singular me, apart from the work I do that is for a greater good. Being a part of that has lifted me so much, but there has to be more, and right now there is not. So I’m going to go try and find it now.

Hopefully I won’t be away long, but in the end I really want to put Facebook in the background of my online presence and not the foreground as it has been. This place isn’t all that good for us either. There’s a world out there we should live in more. It’s so easy to socialize on these social media things and it now seems to me so dangerous for those of us who have precious little, if any, human intimacy in our lives. It’s real in that our friends are real and we’re all here, but this world we’re interacting in isn’t real and it’s all text and maybe a few videos and in actuality every interaction we make here is in a sense at arm’s length. That can’t be good. It’s to socializing as McDonald’s is to food. A steady diet of it might just kill you.


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by Bruce | Link | React!

Not DTF, But DTL

This came across my Twitter feed just a few moments ago. I think he meant “only” there and just fat fingered the keystroke…

Every single time I’ve been lectured about how sex is overrated, it’s been someone trying to convince me that my sexual orientation is more of an addiction than a just a simple uncomplicated variation on human sexual desire. And it comes from that dehumanizing stereotype about gay males that says Homosexuals Don’t Love, They Just Have Sex. The activist and author Vito Russo put it succinctly when he wrote in The Celluloid Closet that “It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.” Everyone who ever talked at me as I’ve defended the normalcy of my sexual orientation about how sex is overrated has been coming from the perspective of that ignorant prejudice. The only time it’s ever stung was when I heard it from my high school crush, by way of defending his own life choices.

GQ Magazine has an article this month that I encourage you to read. Luckily it’s online…

Not Every Gay Man Is DTF

The idea that all gay men fuck like rabbits? That’s a myth.

In part, as the article suggests, a lot of this overlaps with stereotypes about male sexuality in general. And it damages both gay and straight men. We hold ourselves to unrealistic standards and when we don’t measure up we stress that there is something wrong with us. The running gag in A Coming Out Story is how the imaginary character representing my libido is always wearing a fig leaf and a slightly apologetic look on his face while he keeps making me notice that how nice a certain classmate looks…


A Coming Out Story, Episode 1 “Meet Your Libido”

For years I thought of myself as a sexual milquetoast because I Just Wasn’t All That. Then one day on a gay BBS System I frequented, a fellow user posted anonymously to its health forum asking the doctor who ran it if there was something physically wrong with him because he wasn’t as interested in sex as the other guys and needed lots of foreplay to get started. He provided the doctor with details I won’t go into here, and the doctor wrote back, reassuring him that his level of sexual interest was actually more typical of adult males than the popular notions would have him believe, and closed by saying he should enjoy all the foreplay. The exchange was a revelation because that user’s experience with his own libido could have been my own. Since then I’ve read other men’s health articles that have had similar things to say about the male libido. But the GQ article I linked to above is the first one that I’ve seen to make the same point about the gay male libido. We Are Not All That

We get doubly hit by the stereotype. One tune I hear regularly in the kook pews is the reason gay males are so sex driven is we have rejected the moderating influence of females…which applies a different sexual stereotype, that of the matronly sexually chaste women…to the stereotype of the wanton gay man to the homophobe’s trope that men and women naturally complement each other. But it is not so simple. The complement in sex is the what your libido says it is. For most of us that’s the opposite sex, but for some of us it isn’t. The complement in love and romance is the person. Or to put it another way, in the marriage vows it’s not do you take a man, but do you take This man.

At the end of what was a long conversation about why he was not right for me and never would be, after assuring me that sex was overrated, and that it was like farting (“It stinks for a little while, and then it’s gone…”) my high school crush, the one who made me realize, never again to doubt, that being a homosexual was not anything to be ashamed of, and that love and desire were wonderful things, he tried to end the discussion by telling me that when I’m on my deathbed it won’t be all the people I’ve had sex with that I’ll be remembering, but those I’ve loved, and who loved me. As if they were mutually exclusive things. And there you see the second, and most destructive thing the stereotype does to gay men. 

It’s a deliberate knife to the heart. What the haters have been telling gay people for ages is that our sexual nature is actually corrosive to love. If we embrace our sexual selves so they tell us, then we can never love. But the human status isn’t a whiteboard anyone can erase and scribble their hatreds over. We embody the living history of hundreds of millions of years of life on earth within us every moment of our day, and those ancient tides will pull and tug at us whether we acknowledge them or not. When you believe deep down in your gut that your homosexuality is the enemy of your need to love and be loved than your sexual desires, when they eventually force their way out of you because you can’t deny an instinct that is older than the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone us, will usually have their way with you in highly self destructive forms. It splits you in half, body from soul, and leaves you little more than a shell, desire and the human need to love and be loved ricocheting around inside, wearing you down from within, when they could have made you strong and whole.

That only serves the interests of bigots and hate. Which is exactly why they work so hard to make us believe we are broken. But we are not broken. They are. Anyone who would poison within a person the joy of sex and their human capacity to love and be loved is deeply, profoundly broken.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
March 26th, 2018

Back To Work On A Coming Out Story…

Back home from Florida, with renewed energy and determination to complete A Coming Out Story, and to tell it like it was. Funny how that always happens lately. 

I’m not naming any actual names except my own (well…and one teacher who was amazing), and I’ve made it clear repeatedly that the story is one third things that actually happened to me, one third artistic license (time compression, reordering / relocating certain events) and one third pure fantasy (such as my libido didn’t actually materialize as a naked but for fig leaf me). Hopefully this allows my classmates some plausible deniability. Teenagers do things that adults wouldn’t necessarily want on their resumes.

Tom Clancy once said that the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense. This story is me trying to make sense of what happened to me back in high school when, as the subtitle says, the first person you come out to is yourself. I’ve a new story arc to start soon, A Conversation With God, that’s mostly me trying desperately to figure out why I’m getting myself all tied up in knots over a certain someone, especially when he smiles at me. After that story arc things start getting…interesting.

It was a different world. The best of times, the worst of times, as the saying goes…


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by Bruce | Link | React!
March 15th, 2018

Please…No More Doomed Gay Couples…Okay?

Call Me By Your Name DVDs are for sale now, and I’m not at all sure anymore that I want to see this movie. So, like Brokeback Mountain I may end up giving it a pass.

Like Brokeback, and frustratingly, once again we have the tragically doomed homosexual relationship. A tale as old as time you might say. Or as old as Hollywood at any rate. As far as we’ve come and we still get told our love affairs are doomed. But that’s not the worst of it, at least for me. Spoiler Ahead for those who haven’t already seen the movie or read any of the reviews that go into Timothée Chalamet’s stunning performance, particularly in the final scene.

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Time has passed, and Oliver has told Elio over the phone that he’s getting married. To a woman (the story is set in 1983). So the last scene is the poor kid sitting in front of the household fireplace crying but still trying to keep his shit together while the rest of the family goes on about their business behind him. His first love dumped him, not so much for a woman as for respectability. So really…what was he to Oliver?

Just…a little too close to the bone. I just can’t watch this.

I don’t know that I can ever get to the point where I can watch this movie. I haven’t watched Brokeback either, though I did read the Annie Proulx short story. That was difficult enough. I’m not wanting some superficial junk food romance. I don’t want to be told sweet lies about the inevitability of love, or True Romance Comics stories of how perfect it is. It’s just as false. Heterosexuals get their tragedies, but also their triumphs, because their relationships are seen as legitimate, complex, multifaceted. Ours, as Vito Russo once said, are just about sex. What I’m seeing here is that even when Hollywood grasps that it’s more than that, it still can’t fathom it being more than a summer affair. Well at least it’s not the tire iron.

I have gay friends whose couplehood made it possible for most of my adult life to believe that it is even possible to have that kind of deeply felt, body and soul relationship, not just something I read once in a Mary Renault novel. But I’m in my middle 60s now and all I have to look back on is one strikeout after another after another after another, usually via the agency of some hostile third party that needed a righteousness boost. But I can at least live it vicariously in art, if not in life. It gives me a reason to keep getting out of bed and contributing, in a small way, to the work I do at Space Telescope. It allows me to keep pursuing my little efforts at art while sitting at the drafting table, or walking about with my cameras. But the suspicion keeps nagging at me: what does it really matter? Was I really the kid that was never meant to be born? Is this why I always feel like I’m on the outside of life looking in? I don’t need to be told love fails, my entire life keeps telling me that every waking moment of my day. I need art that reminds me the struggle is worth it, even so.

I don’t think anybody who knows me knows how badly I need those reminders. 

Maybe when I’m ready to watch Brokeback I’ll watch this one. In the meantime what I’ve read of the father’s speech was good. I’ll keep that much of it.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Please…No More Doomed Gay Couples…Okay?

My New Favorite Place in DC!

Hahahahaha…

 

…and tacos are their specialty! Tico’s Tacos! I lived to see it! Oh…and at a nice upscale spot on 14th street where they serve pricey cocktails.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on My New Favorite Place in DC!
March 9th, 2018

The Walking Wounded In The Garden Of Paradise

Political cartoonist I follow (including following him to the same web host his site is on, on the theory that if they were willing to host him they should be cool with me too), tweeted out something the other day about it being four months since his life came apart. So I went looking on his profile for all his previous tweets for the last four months and it’s looking like he suffered a breakup. To the point that he’s had to go find another place to live.

I don’t know much about his personal life. But for one recent post selling t-shirts his website has no posts since last October. And he’s been vague booking what happened, but it’s not hard to read between the lines. I don’t know if he was married or not. He was on tour in Europe promoting one of his books and apparently came back home only to be blindsided by whatever it was. But if it was a relationship breakup I wonder how blindsided it could have been. When Keith dumped me for some guy he met on AOL Instant Messenger it was a shock, but deep down inside not an entirely unexpected one.

I’m learning all this just a couple days after I had my nuclear war with my first crush remembrance and dinner. I was eating the premium Kobe Beef dinner at the WDW Hollywood Brown Derby when I got the Hey, Let’s Both Burn Our Bridges And Dance In The Ashes email from him, so I’ve tried to buy myself the best dinner I can afford at a nice local restaurant on that day every year since. But it’s somehow more depressing to see it happen to other people than to me. Maybe that’s because as a barely post-stonewall generation gay guy my expectations were low to begin with. Maybe it’s because after a lifetime of singlehood I’m inured to my own experience. Keith never actually said the magic three words to me, which is probably why I saw it coming deep down inside. He was strike three and by that time walking alone back to the dougout was almost a relief. But seeing the hurt in others can still get to me.

Some folks in my life have suggested that I’ve been better off single because then I never had to deal with this kind of loss. From the inside though it seems to me like I’ve been fighting a two front war all my adult life, not to hate myself, and not to hate the world. Somehow, I’ve really no idea how, I’m still winning that war. But the internal cost…you’ve no idea, and I wouldn’t want you to.

I wish that cartoonist healing and peace. I wish it to all the lonely. We deserved better. Life is good, even so. But goddamn it can cut you just as deep as how high it can lift. So we walk. So it goes.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Walking Wounded In The Garden Of Paradise
February 22nd, 2018

A Wee Proposal

Outrage over the shooting deaths in a Florida school, and discussion of mass shooter profiles, and how they almost always include incidents of domestic violence, led me to a thought. They’re saying, and I completely agree, that domestic violence should be right at the top of warning signs that someone should not be allowed to buy or possess firearms. I am coming to a place where I believe it needs to go further than that.

Spouse/lover abuse…child abuse…and I don’t mean only sexual abuse, but also beatings, starvation, the sorts of things you read horrible news stories about when kids are discovered locked or hidden away in homes of religious fanatics…kids beaten and murdered even because a parent or guardian thought they might be gay, or boys just to feminine, girls too assertive…parents who send their kids to those horrific camps where they’re starved, beaten and otherwise tortured because they were “defiant”…and the adults who run those camps and profit from them. These are all warning signs, telegraphing to the rest of us that this person cannot be trusted with power.

Never mind firearms. See how excruciatingly difficult it’s become now to enact sensible firearms regulation even when it has become staringly obvious that what we’re doing now simply isn’t working. It’s like the trickle-down trope among conservatives, how taking more and more of the tax burden off the rich and big business will result in an improved economy that works for everyone, and nearly the exact opposite is what happens, and yet they keep on pushing it. Same with firearms. Relaxing gun  restrictions isn’t making us more safe, it’s having the opposite effect. Yet they keep pushing it. But maybe at some level they’re right…guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And people, certain kinds of people, also kill democracies. Should anyone who ought not to be allowed to have a gun, be allowed to have power?

If I could magically wave a wand and put a new amendment into our constitution, it would be something to the effect that anyone with a criminal conviction for domestic violence or child abuse cannot ever hold public office whether local, state or federal, no matter how minor, nor could they work in law enforcement in any capacity.

I’m thinking of a country where we never have to wonder if we are being governed by sociopaths.


Posted In: Gently Tapping My Pulpit Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Wee Proposal
February 17th, 2018

Gunshots That Echo On And On And On…(continued)

More dead children. How did it come to this? I ask myself, as a sixty-four year old American male, and also as a gun owner who believes in a democratic right to own your own firearms. Firstly, there is a Scientific American article I would implore you to read…it’s a good one…science is our friend…let’s try using some…

4 Laws That Could Stem the Rising Threat of Mass Shootings

These are good…I enthusiastically support Every One of them, and especially the singling out of domestic violence as an indicator of future bloodshed. Seriously, if the one who loved you, who you took into your arms, is afraid of you, who the hell shouldn’t be? And if a child can’t trust you to at the very least keep them safe from harm then you are not a very well adult, and to whatever degree possible you need to be kept far away from any sort of weapon.

But here we are again. How did it come to this. Well you might say it’s the easy availability of guns, but I’m old enough to remember when they were even easier to get your hands on. Before the assassination of president Kennedy you could buy them in mail order catalogues and have them delivered to your doorstep. You could walk into most any hardware store and put your money down and walk out with one. Mass shootings, especially in our schools, were simply not as frequent then as they are now. Which is not to say they never happened either. There was the notorious sniper shooting spree at the University of Texas in 1966. To my knowledge they still don’t really know why he did it. Maybe I’m not remembering it right in my senior years, but that seemed to be a horrific exception. Now it’s happening almost monthly. What happened? How did it come to this? We are not helpless. And yet…we are…so long as we can’t talk to each other. And not just on this one issue either.

Fox News. Clear Channel and the Talk Radio screamers they promote. Right wing tabloids like the National Enquirer. Stealth propaganda outlets like Sinclair Broadcasting. What you need to understand about them, at long last, is they aren’t specifically trying to promote a policy point of view. They exist to sew discord and make the common working class citizens fear and hate one another. Because that is the only way the hard right can win elections, given how vastly unpopular its policies are. They’re good at it. And we are way too good at falling for it.

I feel sometimes like I have a foot in both these worlds. Most of my friends are liberal democrats like myself. Yet when another mass shooting happens I find I’m mostly just keeping my mouth shut while everyone around me is calling gun owners child killers, ammosexuals, Moloch worshipers, et al.  And even when temperatures cool down a tad I darent speak up when someone starts yapping about this or that devil gun de jour. It’s one of those issues where actually knowing what you’re talking about disqualifies you from talking about it. But if you want to make some actual progress on getting things back under control listening to one of us who isn’t an hysterical nothing else matters NRA single issue voter might be helpful. And since this is my blog let me just go right ahead and put something out here: maybe you’re the one obsessing on guns.

Listen to me. Now it’s the AR-15. Not all that long ago it was the AK-47. Who knows what it will be next time. There are lots of semi automatic rifles that are not functionally all that different in one regard, which is is why banning just that one rifle makes no sense and won’t get any traction: ban the AR-15 and you might just as well ban dozens of others. It’s not just that one gun. But yes, in another sense you’re absolutely right…there is something unique to these sorts of weapons that you can justifiably say puts them outside the boundary of reasonable personal, sport and self defense firearms. And no god damn it, it’s not the military style plastic grips and stock. No it isn’t the semi-automatic mechanism either. No. It isn’t. You Are Paying Too Much Attention To The Gun.

The kid who murdered 17 people last week came to the school, so I’m told, with a backpack full of 30 round magazines and he fired off something like 150 rounds in the space of just a few minutes. Look at that. No…really look at it. How was that possible? The problem isn’t the rifle.

Here’s the problem:

This is what makes the AR-15, and every other rifle and handgun that uses a magazine to reload vastly more dangerous. It takes maybe a second to drop an empty, slam another in the magazine well, drop the bolt, and away you go…thirty more rounds. Or more. Google “AR-15 magazine” sometime and get properly horrified. Then reconsider. It is not the gun. Forget the gun. It is the magazines.

California, my beloved land of my birth, for the past several decades has been trying to address this in various ways, each of which the NRA kook pews have found a too ingenious for their own damn good work-around to. But it’s a good path, and I propose going all in on it; and I say this as someone who owns firearms that take magazines. Go after the magazines. Here’s what I propose:

Firstly: any gun that takes a magazine needs to either have a magazine lock or be retrofitted for a permanent magazine, such that the gun now reloads with an en bloc clip like the M-1 Garand did. Limit capacity to only what a revolver would normally have, which would be five in the magazine and one in the chamber…six rounds total. Make higher capacity magazines illegal to own on the same scale as silencers (yes…I know…republicans…) and sawed off shotguns.

But with rifles like the AR-15, and certain handguns, you can go further. See how in the photo above, the cartridges are staggered, they don’t line straight up and down. That’s one way of stuffing more into the magazine. But it also makes them fatter. With a five round limit you don’t need that, so the magazines could be thinner. I’m showing my age here but I remember when we made the switch from leaded to unleaded gasoline and they made the fuel inlets smaller on cars that only took unleaded to prevent leaded from getting in and trashing the catalytic converter. We can do the same here. Make the magazines narrower and then require all new semi automatic weapons for civilian use to have magazine wells that will only allow the smaller capacity magazines to fit inside them, and require everything already out there to be retrofitted.

Secondly: (re: California and “bullet buttons”) require anyone who wants to manufacture new magazines to get a license from the Federal government and they have to make them to spec. Because sure as shit the NRA kooks will make them that are narrow at the top so they can fit in the smaller magazine wells and fatter below the magazine well. I know how they think…as I said, I walk among them.

This buys us three things. 1) It limits the firepower of semi automatic rifles in a meaningful and practical way. 2) Simplicity. Now we’re not playing whack-a-mole trying to define what is, and what is not an “assault weapon”. It’s moot. If it takes a magazine, it Must be limited as per above, end of story. Plastic faux military do-dads or not, it makes no difference. Every firearm that uses a magazine to reload must comply. Simple. 3) Political. We are not going after your guns, we are going after firepower civilians do not need and it matters not what sort of gun it is. You have a right to own a gun. But your privately owned gun is for pleasure/sport shooting or self defense, not criminal activity, armed rebellion or terrorism. And when they start babbling about how we need our guns to protect us from tyranny, push back, Hard, with, no…the ballot box is our defense against tyranny, and then pivot to a discussion about voter suppression and gerrymandering. Because as long as every American adult can cast an anonymous ballot in a free and open election, and all votes are equal, no government can become too oppressive.

I appreciate this is not going nearly far enough for some, and way too far for others. So I have a final proposal: Show The Carnage.  

Seriously. Show the public…everyone…both sides, all sides, all the grim horrifying pictures of the aftermath. Show Everyone what a bullet does to a child’s body. Show us the dead where they lay, trying to escape. Put the images out in the public view. I appreciate that family and loved ones will not want that because it would reopen terrible wounds all over again and again. Fine. Work with them. Listen to them. Respect their wishes. But surely some will agree this needs to be seen, to be adequately understood.

Then, maybe, hopefully, enough people will stop reflexively digging in their heels and we can work with each other to fix the problem. Please? Because we are not going anywhere, except into the trashcan of history, if we can’t work together, if we can’t talk to each other.

 


Posted In: Life Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gunshots That Echo On And On And On…(continued)
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