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June 21st, 2018

Brokenness Requiring Surgery

Facebook gives me memories. On This Date. Yes. It was seven years ago. The torn rotor cuff. Recovering from surgery you said. Insurance wasn’t paying for all of it. Two months going on three out of work with no long term disability. I was so worried. But by October you were back to work, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, slugging liter mugs of beer around like it was old hat. Your therapist did a good job.

That evening we talked…passing a ski lift ticket I’d found on the floor back and forth like a talking stick. I saw the surgical scars. They were disturbing.

Seven years ago…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Brokenness Requiring Surgery
June 4th, 2018

That Knife In Your Heart Is My Artistic Expression

It’s a profound misconception of artists, that we are by our very nature a humane and compassionate lot, understanding the human heart and soul in an intimate way, kind hearted and deeply reverent of the human status. In fact, we are simply ordinary people who have this urgent, consuming need to get out of us whatever feeling and emotion is within, however we can.

It boils within us…painters, musicians, writers, actors, dancers, sculptors, designers…chefs…

…flower arrangers…

…cake makers.

But we are just as human as anyone else, with every greatness and every cheapshit flaw known to humankind represented in the roll call of the famous and notorious. And all too often, all too often, what is deep within us that simply has to get out, is as brutish and ugly as human brutishness and ugliness can get. Yet, we can make it seem beautiful. We can make you believe.

We have served the angels, and we have served the dark demons deep in the human gutter, giving them everything within us we have to give as energetically and as passionately, because we can do no other. We have held high the human spirit, and we have praised the destroyers of civilization with equal passion. We can make the painful, bloody struggle for a better world seem not only worthwhile, but noble and awesomely beautiful, and we can with equal skill and artistry make the utter destruction of civilization also seem both noble and awesomely beautiful. Some of us gild the human heart in sublime light, while others of us stick knives in it, all with equal joy, each believing absolutely in the beauty of their work.

We are as human as anyone else. For better and for worse. Do not judge us by our talent. It does not make us special in any way.

Judge us by the muses we serve.


Posted In: Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Knife In Your Heart Is My Artistic Expression
May 21st, 2018

That Shirt Would Look Great In Your Mouth

Two great regrets are always with me. That I’m single, and that I’m not in California. Sometimes I get to allay the latter. But it’s never enough.

I’m sitting at the bar at Texas Roadhouse the other day. I like their fried chicken and they make a decent margarita. One of the young ladies behind the bar recognizes me from previous visits and we chat for a little bit. She asks me if I’ve done any travelling this year and I start down the list…California, Florida, New York City… A man sitting next to me wearing a ridiculous camouflage Hawaiian shirt says “All of that is good except California.”

“I was born in California”, I reply, not even bothering to look at him. “My dad’s side of the family lives there. I go back as often as I can.” Probably the tone of my voice shuts him up.
 
I have lived nearly my entire life here in Maryland and I don’t completely regret it. I got a good public school education here, the economy is good, the people are nice, the climate is…bearable. Maryland is one of only three states that gave its gay couples equal marriage rights by popular vote before the Supreme court legalized it nationwide (the others were Maine and Washington).

But deep down inside I have always felt myself a California expatriate. Its deserts and mountains and old growth forests, its stunning beaches and ocean sunsets, its urban life and wilderness paths and California skies, have called to me as far back as I can remember. Every time I go back I know it’s where I’ve always belonged, and I ache knowing I have to leave eventually to return to my life back east. It is the great regret of my life I didn’t get a chance to live and grow up there. After the divorce, mom moved me back to her family’s side of the country. But at least it was to a place where a gay kid could grow up and not want to kill himself.

I am aware of how the sort of moron who thinks military camouflage makes a Hawaiian shirt look nice hates California. The land of fruits and nuts as I’ve heard them say. But as that famous California hippy General George S. Patton once said, If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking, and there’s a reason the bible belt can’t even buy its own stop signs without help from the diverse and energetic coastal zones. So don’t be badmouthing my beloved California and expect pleasantness from me.

 


Oceano Sunset

 


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Shirt Would Look Great In Your Mouth
May 10th, 2018

Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian

I’ve been a couple hours wandering around the March for Science rally zone near the Washington Monument with my camera. I’ve grown up in the Washington DC area and this is a familiar routine for me. So many marches and rallies I’ve attended and documented as a photographer, occasionally for a small local newspaper, but mostly to satisfy some inner need to turn my camera eye on current events. But today I begin to feel my age. My body wants rest now. And…food. Being a local, I know there is a hot dog kiosk run by the national park service near the old Smithsonian they call “The Castle”, and with some regret because I know it’s going to make me miss some good shots, I make for it. 

I walk further and further away from the crowd around the Monument, but not so far that I can’t hear the speeches. Once upon a time I felt lucky that I lived so close to such an important focal point of current events like the nation’s capital. Now I live in Baltimore and I can’t just hop on the subway and stroll down to the Mall with my camera bag. I have to pick my battles. As I did for the rally in front of the Supreme Court during the arguments on same sex marriage, I got a hotel near Union Station so I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic on I-95. I figured the subway was also sure to be mobbed with science marchers that day. I wanted to just walk out of my hotel room and spend the day in the middle of things, then go back and take a nap and maybe find a good place later for dinner.

Now I’m standing in line at the hot dog stand wondering if I can even make it through the rest of the event. I get my food, and a diet soda, and wander over to an empty table and chair. It’s been drizzling off and on here and most of the seats are wet, but I find one that’s close enough in to the kiosk that it didn’t get rained on.

Eventually a man and wife couple about my age come over and ask if they can have the empty chairs next to me. I tell them sure, but they’re probably wet. The man goes to get some paper napkins to wipe the chairs off and his wife sets their boxes down on the table and we begin to chat. She’s a science teacher in a deep southern state, and here to support her student’s education. I have a spiel I go into about how it was Khrushchev who gave me my good science education because he scared the hell out of us with the launching of Sputnik and suddenly teaching kids science was a good thing. As her husband joins us she tells me of her struggles teaching science where teaching anything that flatly contradicts fundamentalist dogmas can get you fired, if not shot. We chat amicably her husband joining in from time to time to say how much he supports his wife and admires her determination. 

The wife finishes up her sandwich and gets up to leave. She has a friend she has to meet up with. The husband is tired from all the walking and stays behind for a while. I know how he feels. We began to chat about making the trip here and how nice DC usually is this time of year. In the distance we can hear the speeches from the rally stage. Someone is comparing Trump to Nixon. I shake my head sadly. No, no…I was there… The husband says disgustedly “Now they’re getting political again.”

If I was a cat my ears would be pricking up now. “Well,” says I, “Nixon at least had some experience in government and politics, and he was smart. Trump is no Nixon.”

He shakes his head and says with more than a touch of bitterness, “Nixon was framed.”

In an instant I’m 21 again and I’m hearing that shifty voice on the TV again and all the memories of that time, and the anger and frustration and outrage come rushing back. But I’m not actually 21 anymore and I don’t jump up on my pulpit and start thumping away. I’m a 60-something and I’ve just had a head on collision between what was then and here I am now, and my voice fails me. Probably that’s for the best. It was such a nice conversation we were having. Maybe he sees the astonished look on my face, or hears it in my sudden silence. What the hell!? But we agree without saying so that our conversation is now over and because I’m four decades removed from the 21 year old I used to be I leave it at this. We part amicably. 

I toss my hot dog box in a nearby trashcan and walk a short distance away. I can still hear the speeches in the distance, but now I just want to go back to my hotel room and sleep. It seems now that any food makes me tired. But also my legs are starting to hurt. I think about the shots I’ve managed to get so far and decide to just skip the march. I remember Don Juan’s warning about the forth foe and allow myself to feel even more gloomy. The walk back to the hotel is going to be about as much as I can handle now. But I know there is more to it. I’m 63, and reckon I’m just beginning my walk into the country of old age. I still find it hard to really believe. A therapist I was seeing after mom died told me once that I “present young.” It was the only thing she said to me that managed to make me feel better. But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore my body’s insistence on it. And I’m coming to realize that the weight of everything I’ve seen in my life seems to somehow add to the fatigue. So many times I’ve let my guard down, only to have reality suddenly jump out at me and laugh in my face. I want to believe in the human status. But humans make that so damn hard.

You present young… There is no such thing as growing up. There is only growing. That, ultimately, is why we practice science. To learn. To discover. To grow. And if you’re not doing that you’re just waiting to die and life is so damn short. How can you just let it all slip away like that. A joke I heard once is that it isn’t that life is so short but that you’re dead for so long. There is so much, so painfully much that you will never know…how can you let everything you Can know get away from you? The earth is round. Evolution happens. Global warming is real and burning fossil fuel is causing it. Trickle down economics is grift. Nixon was a petulant resentful cheat and yes…a crook!  We are all on Newton’s beach, finding this or that pretty sea shell or pebble while the great ocean of truth around us is all undiscovered. But at least we can find those.

I turn toward the Capital dome and start walking…and thinking… 

The first foe is fear. You walk into the unknown and it scares you and you back off and then you’re finished before you have even started. Defeat the first foe, defeat fear, and you will learn and you will grow and a moment will come when everything becomes clear. And so you have encountered the second foe: clarity. Its weapon is certainty. You believe you know all there is to know and you stop searching further, and again you are defeated, because that clarity you think you have is just a small part of a greater whole you will never know. Defeat the second foe, realize that for all that you do know, it is only a small portion of what there is to know, and taken by itself it is almost always wrong. Then you will be wise and strong in your searching. Your knowledge will grow and you come to realize that knowledge is power and you begin to seek out even more knowledge and bask in the power it brings. And so you have encountered the third foe: power. Its weapon is hunger. Now your knowledge is a powerful weapon you can turn on your enemies, but it is never enough and you want more. And more. And even more, because as you become stronger so do the enemies you encounter, and so you will seek knowledge only for the power it brings, and so you have become a tool of power. Defeat the third foe, realize that power is never yours to have, but only to yours to hold in trust for a short while, that you are never its owner but merely its guardian, and do not hoard it, but pass on to others. Then you will continue to grow and learn and continue down the pathways of knowledge, though the weight of all the years you have now spent learning and growing begins to bear down on you. And so you will encounter the forth and final foe, the one you can never completely defeat but only push away for a time. The forth foe is old age, and its weapon is fatigue…

I go back to my hotel room and take a nap. I miss the march entirely. Later I wake up and it’s not nightfall yet, so I go back out with my camera, and wander the streets taking pictures of the discarded signs and march ephemera…

 


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian
May 8th, 2018

Sex and Love

You said, When you’re on your death bed it won’t be the times you had sex you’ll be remembering, but all the people you loved.  As if those were necessarily two separate and unrelated things.

Doesn’t that say it all?

 


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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
April 30th, 2018

The Good Old Bad Old Days

“It’s all yuppies and kids in strollers and all of that — and a few old codgers,” Crowley, 82, said over a recent lunch. The gays have scattered, not just from that building but from others, and we’ve distributed ourselves throughout the city — and throughout society. Gay sanctuaries are vanishing.

Is that true of gay culture and gay identity, too? I increasingly get the sense that gayness itself has scattered, becoming something more various and harder to define. “Gay” tells you about a person’s lusts and loves, but it used to tell you more — about his or her boldness, irreverence, independence. It connoted a particular journey and pronounced struggle, and had its own soundtrack, sartorial flourishes and short list of celebrity icons. Not so anymore…

-Frank Bruni, the New York Times, The Extinction of Gay Identity

Once upon a time gay folk had no way of networking beyond a few urban cores in a few big cities. Long distance telephone conversation, let alone travel, was expensive and cumbersome and people just didn’t make friends much beyond their local neighborhoods. So the only gay communities large enough to have any sort of scene at all were the urban ones, and for decades those urban gay scenes defined gay culture and sensibility. But it was misleading.

I remember the advent of the personal computer and how those early very primitive PC networks began allowing gay folk from distant, exotic lands like…Kansas, to network with the more established gay neighborhoods in the big cities. Can you say Culture Shock. The flame wars sometimes got pretty intense and sysadmins would have to step in and chill everyone out. But eventually there came an understanding that the urban gay scene wasn’t where every gay person experienced life, culture, coming out and finding community. We are not like other ethnic and racial minorities, we are all the colors of the rainbow. It is our weakness and our strength both.

To the degree that our safe spaces, the bars and secret members only clubs we needed are vanishing now, because we are becoming part of the fabric of American society, becoming neighbors, shedding the myths, lies and superstitions that used to define us, that is an unconditionally good thing. I expect that the gay bar will never completely vanish for the same reason that all bars and nightclubs tend to arrange themselves around a theme and clientele. But we will see lots of the old hangouts vanish, only to be fondly remembered. That happens.

There’s a Facebook page I follow dedicated to those of us who grew up in Montgomery County Maryland that’s constantly reminiscing about everyone’s old favorite restaurants, bars and hangouts. It isn’t just gay folk watching them vanish. We all experience this as we grow older. There are so many places I miss now that had nothing to do with my sexual orientation. What’s changing for us gay folk is we are part of that story now too. We are becoming once again part of the communities and cultures we were exiled from once upon a time. Normalcy. But we will always still be different. Just from now on, different in the sense that everyone is in some way different. And from that will always come a sense of fellowship and community with others like us. The gay identity isn’t going extinct, it is becoming bigger. Because it was always bigger than the urban scene that for so long was all there was for all of us to see.

So many people of my generation have such fond memories of the 50s and 60s and 70s. Simpler times it is often said. But they seem simpler looking back on them because we were young and we were simpler. What Frank Bruni is bemoaning is a past that, like much of those fond memories of simpler, happier days gone by, wasn’t completely real.

 


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April 24th, 2018

The Classic TV Spot The Homosexual Game

I have a certain fondness for the old Burke’s Law TV series. It’s a very weird concept even for its day: a millionaire playboy police captain who investigates homicides among Los Angeles’ fabulously rich in his chauffeur driven Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II, in between makeout sessions with one lovely babe after another. And it’s certainly a product of its time in its regard for women. But all that went over my head when I was a kid. My interest in the show was I liked Gene Barry, having loved his stint as Bat Masterson previously, and the stories were pretty engaging mysteries that usually played fair with the audience. But the big draw for me at that age was that Rolls Royce. I was absolutely fascinated by that Rolls Royce.

Years later I’m sitting at home watching an episode from the first season DVD set. Because even with all the early 1960s sexist baggage I find I still enjoy the whodunnit mystery format, the writing is better than I remembered (at least two episodes were written by Harlan Ellison, and in one of them Sammy Davis Jr. Plays a suspect named Cordwainer Bird (!)), the Rolls Royce still fascinates me, and I get to watch a ton of famous dead Hollywood stars bring their magic to life again. The episode I’m watching is Who Killed Annie Foran? (the episode titles always began with “Who Killed…”).

The episode synopsis is thus…

Party girl Annie Foran is found strangled in the back seat of a customer’s car at the exclusive restaurant Club Nova. Suspicion falls on her ex-boyfriend, baseball sensation Eddie Dineen, who was there at the time in the company of his mentor, the acerbic columnist Whitman Saunders, and Saunder’s assistant, Milo Morgan.

Don Ameche does a killer job playing Whitman Saunders, a slimy Hollywood gossip columnist whose evil just oozes of the TV screen. The scenes between him and Gene Barry are electrifying in this one, and all the more when you consider that Saunders is a pitch perfect embodiment of the evil faux moralizing gossip columnist and Burke is a millionaire playboy giving Saunders all the righteous shade you could ask for.

Saunders has been playing up Eddie Dineen in his columns, and wrote a hit piece on his ex girlfriend Annie to get the couple to break up and get Dineen matched with the more socially glamorous and acceptable (I think…I’m typing this from memory at the moment) Mitzi Carlisle.  The episode begins at dinner party in a very exclusive club with Saunders, his assistant Milo, Eddie and Mitzi. Ameche just oozes evil as he pontificates about this and that, abuses the waiter over some slight he won’t even explain, while dictating his next column on Eddie to Milo. As they are leaving a valet pulls what they think is Saunders’ car around and when the valet opens the back passenger door Annie falls out, dead. Cue the screams from the ladies in the crowd. 

But the car didn’t belong to Saunders. It was another man’s car that was nearly identical to his. Burke quickly rules that man out as a suspect and quickly focuses on Eddie, who may have thought Annie was a drag on his career. Annie as it turns out, was a call girl, though this was 1964 TV and you didn’t come right out and say so. So it’s implied as Burke and detective Tilson search her apartment looking for her address book because…suspects. Burke finds a picture of Eddie he autographed for her. But maybe it was Mitzi, who didn’t want her respectable socialite name associated with Annie’s in one of Saunder’s columns. Or maybe Mitzi tried to set up Saunders because she really loves Eddie and hates Saunders for being such an evil manipulator but she dumped the body in the wrong car. Or maybe it was Eddie’s coach (played tough as nails by Jackie Coogan). Or maybe it was Fisk, the shifty night clerk of the hotel Annie stayed at, and worked out of (played by Sterling Holloway the way Sterling Holloway always plays anybody). Fisk tries to blackmail Eddie over his relationship with Annie and Eddie goes on the run and is eventually captured by Detective Tilson (the series young nerd to Les Hart’s hardboiled old school cop). But by this time Burke is convinced Eddie didn’t do it. He had arrived at the dinner party with Saunders, and couldn’t have put the body in the wrong car.

But Milo…meek mild deferential Milo, always dutifully writing down Saunders’ dictation arrived at the party late. In the Big Reveal at episode’s end, Burke confronts Milo in his apartment and asks why he did it. Milo as it turns out, worked at the same Chicago newspaper as Saunders and was a bright and rising star, slated to get his own column, until Saunders dug up some dirt on him. Remember, this is 1964 so the writers couldn’t come right out and say he’s a homosexual. You had to allude to it, just as they did in 1972, in that Hawaii Five-O episode I was bellyaching about previously, though with a bit more of a heavy hand. Words…bad words…about Milo…were thrown about, he tells Burke as he lounges in his evening attire in his piss elegantly furnished stereotypical homosexual apartment, and he lost his job and his career when no newspaper would touch him afterward. Then Saunders, who gets the column and the fame Milo would have but for him…graciously…offers Milo a job as his assistant. And if you’re thinking now that if it was the last job on earth you’d tell Saunders to go stuff it rather than work for him after what he did, you need to understand a basic fact about homosexuals on TV and in the Movies of the period…and well after: These are homosexual characters written by heterosexual men whose only understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality is everything their cheapshit bar stool prejudices tell them.

Milo kills Annie and tries to frame Saunders because all this time he’s hated the man’s guts (and Don Ameche plays a intensely evil stone hearted narcissistic man in this one). He killed Annie because she was a call girl. Evil, he tells Burke, destroying evil. Burke observes that’s a bit psychotic. Milo, being homosexual, doesn’t deny it. The one slim shred of decency the writer, Tony Barrett, allows him is to say if Eddie had been arrested for the murder of Annie he would have stepped up and confessed to the crime himself, to keep Eddie out of jail.

(I’m paraphrasing this from memory at the moment, and might replay the episode later to get it right…)

BURKE: Would you have confessed if it looked like Eddie was going to to take the fall for Annie’s murder

MILO: Would it help my case?

BURKE: Not in the least.

MILO: I would have confessed.

 

 

Somewhere, in some better place, maybe, Vito Russo nods his head…

Hollywood is too busy trying to make old formulas hit the jackpot again to see the future. Hollywood is yesterday, forever catching up with what’s happening today. This will change only when it becomes financially profitable, and reality will never be profitable until society overcomes its fear and hatred of difference and begins to see that we’re all in this together. –Vito Russo

 


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April 23rd, 2018

When Cameras Brutalize Film

I use stainless steel developing tanks and wire reels to develop film. I’ve been hooked on them since I was a teenager, probably for the same reason I get hooked on a lot of things that aren’t made of cheap plastic. I like having solid, reliable, built to last things in my life. But there is a lot of interest in the plastic tanks and reels, largely because many of those systems claim to be self loading.

People complain the stainless wire reels are too hard to load without the film jumping over a track and ruining the negatives. I’ve never had that problem, and always assumed people were just doing it wrong. Keep a steady tension on the film and keep it aligned with the reel as you’re loading it and it always works. Plus, if you always shoot the full 36 exposure rolls there is a simple check to see if you’ve jumped a track: if you get to the end of the roll before you get to the end of the reel you need to back up and find where it jumped.

Granted all this is a bit hard at first in pitch darkness. When I was a teen I sacrificed a roll of cheap B&W film so I could practice loading the reels in daylight, until I could do it right every time with my eyes closed. Oddly, sometimes I still close my eyes in the darkroom, pointless though that is.

I’ve never had a problem with this…until recently. And now I think I understand better what’s going on. See…I’ve been a Canon camera kid since I was a teenage boy with his first F1 he worked all summer flipping burgers to buy. And the take up spindle in Canon cameras rolls the film With the natural film curl. My first 35mm SLR, the Petri FT, took up the film Against the curl, and so did the Maranda Sensorex I traded up for. They did that allegedly to keep the film perfectly flat against the shutter frame. Canon, more reasonably, just made the pressure plate bigger. Over the years I’d forgotten how much easier the Canon made loading film onto those wire reels because the film wasn’t all kinked out of shape by the camera.

But now I’ve added two Nikon SLRs to my camera arsenal: a classic F with both standard and Photomic Ftn metering viewfinders, and an F2, with the first generation Photomic head which I am still scouting standard finders for. And I am rediscovering how difficult it is to load the wire frames after those cameras have had their way with a roll of film. I shot a roll with the F last Saturday morning and that afternoon it was a pain getting it on the reel. It happened to be the first one going into the tank and I fussed with it for minutes until I finally got it on. Then came the others from the Canon F1N and they went on without any complaining, and that made me take notice of the difference and I remembered.

Back in the day I was a pretty fierce Nikon critic, and it was this sort of thing that gave me the bad attitude. Don’t even get me started. But time brings perspective and I can appreciate what they did get right, even if what they relentlessly got wrong still irritates. I work with them now, in addition to my Canon F series SLRs, because of a thing I suspect only the old fully mechanical cameras have…a kind of human/machine rapport that can work with you artistically, depending on what you are reaching for.

The analogy I make is to how some musicians have many instruments for playing different kinds of music. It’s more than tonality, it’s how the feel of the instrument helps the artist in the expression of the work. That may sound wonky to some but I’ll bet every guitarist reading this knows what I’m talking about. What I discovered some years ago, when I examined the Nikon F2 I eventually bought in a camera store in Topeka Kansas, is that cameras can give you that feel across the human/machine boundary that helps the work too. I’d never really considered that before in my cameras, though I’d long known about it with my brushes and pens. I’d been very particular about those since I was in my single digits.

So I’ve made my peace…kind of…with Nikon cameras. And actually the Leica’s take up spool does the same damn thing to the film, but I forgive it because the Leica engineers got Everything else exactly right. That little rangefinder blows both the Canons and the Nikons away.


Posted In: Life Photography
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on When Cameras Brutalize Film
April 21st, 2018

Wait…Where’s That Light Coming From..??

Note to self: remember to take off your nice new wristwatch with those really really bright phosphorous hands and numbers, before you go into the darkroom…


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How To Incite Religious Passions For Votes And Get Gay People Killed

In California, the current republican candidate for governor is telling people lies he hopes will energize the only voters California republicans have anymore…

Would a Proposed Law ‘Ban the Bible’ in California?

A Republican politician and a right-wing television station grossly misrepresented California legislation that would amplify restrictions on “gay conversion therapy.”

Link goes to the Snopes article, which goes on to say…

n April 2018, the right-wing One America News Network (OAN) interviewed California State Assembly member Travis Allen, who is running for governor as a Republican, about Assembly Bill 2943, a proposed law currently before state legislators.

The bill relates to “gay conversion therapy,” but according to Allen and “Tipping Point” host Liz Wheeler, it would effectively ban the sale of Christian books, including the Bible.

You can read the entire exchange at the Snopes link. Note that it was the right wing media employee who suggested to Allen that the bill in question would ban the Bible, and then Allen happily went along with the talking point. This seems to be the new republican campaign paradigm: run for office and let the right wing billionaire funded media tell you why you’re running and what to say. Rupert Murdoch perfected it, but others like Sinclair and One America (sic) News Network are buying in.

Rhetoric like this does more than energize a fearful and resentful base, it gets gay people beaten on the streets and it gets us killed. Which is more than okay with the people funding and promoting people like Allen. Laws like the one in California banning conversion therapy on minors are sweeping through the nation because gay people have a voice now in the public sphere, and we’re telling our stories…

Gay conversion therapy survivors share painful legacy of ‘ex-gay’ treatments

“It’s wrong… it’s totally unacceptable. I’m an example of the enormous damage that it can do to people.”

That was Ron Smith’s reaction to Health Minister Greg Hunt’s refusal to condemn a controversial plan by a section of Victoria’s Liberal Party to debate gay conversion therapy.

The 71-year-old former Baptist minister is a survivor of electroshock therapy, a now discredited practice once believed to rid patients of their same-sex attraction.

“They … put a wiring on my private parts that measured temperature changes, and showed me about a thousand pictures of men and a thousand pictures of women over about a 10-day period,” Mr Smith recalls.

“When my body temperature rose when I saw the guys, which is natural for me, they delivered high voltages of electricity through wires that were attached to punish me for being gay and try to make me straight.

The linked article is to a story in an Australian newspaper, and the context is the motion filed last week by an anti-gay politician there for state legislation to allow health practitioners “to offer counselling out of same sex attraction or gender transitioning to patients who request it’‘. Bigots like to frame this as simply giving parents and kids a choice. Note the formulation “same sex attraction”. The dogma is that nobody is actually homosexual, but rather that people suffer from broken heterosexuality which can be repaired. Well, people who have been through the repair have something to say about that…

“Electroshock therapy — giving people drugs while they showed them gay porn so they’d throw up. Not giving them drugs while they showed them heterosexual porn so they wouldn’t throw up.

“It was all behavioural modifications.”

These practices were prevalent in the 1950s and 60s, but in some dark corners of the world are still in use today. They accomplish nothing other than pain and suffering for the patient, and a lifetime of nightmares and fear of their own emotional needs. More often now the so called therapy amounts to religious and pseudo psychiatric counselling to make a person so deeply ashamed and fearful of their sexual desires they wall off everything inside of themselves that might give them joy. We have to die inside, for the sins of bigots.

After embracing his sexuality at the age of 22, Mr Webb is now an active member of his Uniting Church community, and a leader of The Reformation Project, a bible-based support group for LGBTIQ Christians.

But he admits the shame he carried for so many years is still part of his life.

“Carrying that around I understand why I ended up getting an anxiety disorder, why I’ve struggled with co-dependency for so long … it does damage you for life in a lot of ways.

“I’m better now but sometimes those scars are soft to touch.

This is what opposition to ex gay therapy bans is all about. After decades of alleged therapy that has manifestly accomplished nothing other than making gay people hurt, and yet they insist they have some god given right to keep doing it to us, you have to conclude that making us hurt is the point. And if ex-gay therapy is outlawed they are fine with inciting the mob to go after us. It’s not after all, about fixing us, it is about breaking us. Either the clinic or the mob will do. But no, you do not have a right to make your neighbor hurt. No matter how much you hate them.


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How To Incite Religious Passions For Votes And Get Gay People Killed
April 19th, 2018

Things That Come At You From Out Of Nowhere…Like Van Doors For Instance…

Putting this out here in case this is worse than it seems at the moment so people will know what happened to me.

I was walking to the student cafeteria and there was a delivery van partially blocking the sidewalk. He had his hand truck blocking the grassy area next to it so I couldn’t walk around, but there was a gap between the hand truck and the back of his van that I tried to thread. As I was walking behind the van I hard gust of wind came up. It’s become very gusty just now. I bent my head down to keep my hat on my head, which may have saved me from a worse injury. The gust slammed one of the van doors into my head. Hard. No…really hard. I felt it in my teeth. And I fell over.

Someone came up behind me, I don’t even know who because my eyes were shut, and the van driver came out. Both offered assistance, but it’s a thing I reckon with my generation of guys that if you take a hit and you can still get back up you don’t make a big deal out of it. I asked if there was any bleeding. There wasn’t. But it really hurt. I expect there’ll be a knot on it later. I opened my eyes and nothing looked blurry. I hadn’t passed out. I tried standing up and didn’t get dizzy. So I thanked the folks there for offering assistance and told the driver to secure his darn door so it didn’t hit anybody else. Then I walked inside, bought some lunch, and walked back to the Institute.

I asked a co-worker to look at my eyes and tell me they were both dilating the same and she said they were, though one looked more bloodshot than the other. I walked over to my manager’s office and told him what happened, mostly to make sure someone else knew what had happened so if I happen to suddenly pass out people will know it’s probably because I took a pretty hard hit to the head.

At the moment I still feel fine. I think what saved me was bending my head down when the wind came up, and instead of taking it full in the face the door hit me pretty straight on the exact top of my head or close to it. I’ve only taken one harder hit than this in my life, ages ago at the Deep Creek cabin while I was trying to bang some firewood free from ice and a log flipped up and hit me square in the forehead. At least that’s what I’ve always assumed happened because I don’t even remember getting hit. One of my classmates found me sprawled on my back just as I was coming to and we both asked “What Happened?!” at the same time.

[Update…] It’s Friday afternoon as I type this and I seem okay. No ancillary aches and pains, no headache or dizziness. Must still have a pretty thick skull. Still not sure which side of the family to credit that to…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Things That Come At You From Out Of Nowhere…Like Van Doors For Instance…
April 18th, 2018

What A Wonderful World I Missed Being A Teenager In…

In my newsfeed this morning…

Story Here.


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April 15th, 2018

Why I Never Get Any Work Done Outside

I keep waiting for spring to happen here in Maryland, and I keep forgetting that central Maryland is one of those places where the weather gets squirrely this time of year. One minute it’s finally spring, the next it’s back to flannel shirt weather again. Yesterday it was in the 80s here in Charm City. Right now as I type this it’s cool in that bone chillingly humid way the mid Atlantic just loves to dish out. Humidity is like the secret sauce of miserable in these parts, though I can hear southerners laughing at me as I type this.

I was going to get some outdoor work done this weekend in preparation for spring eventually getting here, or maybe just a dash straight into summer. I never feel like I’m giving my little Baltimore rowhouse enough love. I put on new steel entry doors in the kitchen and basement. The original wood doors were still there and looking their age. I got a nice full length glass panel door with blinds strung between the glass panels for the kitchen entry, and now I’m getting use to having that extra sunlight coming in the kitchen, plus being able to enter and leave by the back door without having to fuss with it jamming in the frame all the time. Somehow when you make improvements like that it motivates you to pretty up the surroundings.

I had a list of things I planned to do. Yesterday was going to be prepping the backyard for spring flower planting and putting out the solar lights. But then I decided wanted to listen streaming music from Radio Paradise while I worked. Then I looked at where I have the Roku box mounted by the TV and saw the problem I’d been putting off fixing with the coax running to the TV antenna I have mounted to one of the front window panels. So I decided to fix that. Plus, a friend gave me his old Blu-Ray player and I decided to fix the issue with the cabling of that to the TV that I’d been putting off, while I was fixing the other problem. I was using an s-video to RCA cable on the DVD player but the Blu-Ray player didn’t have the s-video socket. It did have the usual RCA jacks though. So I went down to the basement to dig through my storage container full of cables to see if I had another good set of those, plus a coax extender for the TV antenna. I had neither. So I got in the car and drove to one of the big box hardware stores in Cockeysville to get some.

Why am I using RCA connectors on a Blu-Ray player…I hear you asking. Because my TV set is an old Sony Trinitron and I just don’t watch enough TV anymore to justify buying one of the new flat panel HD ones just for HD video. Local broadcast TV is really all I need. But the Blu-Ray player plays one of my Outer Limits season 1 DVDs that the DVD player wouldn’t, so there’s that.

When I got back from the big box and finally got my cables in order I tried to get the Roku tuned to Radio Paradise (remember, this is what started it) and discovered I was getting no video signal out of the Roku. I spent a couple hours fussing with it and finally did a hard reset, which meant I had to go log on to the Roku website, dig up my Roku account password, and mate the box to the account again. My crappy Verizon DSL bandwidth made that process drag out horribly. But I finally got it all done and in total getting distracted by the notion that listening to music while I worked would be nice only took about four and a half ours out of my day. By then I was ready for an afternoon nap. I’m old. But I did at least get a first round of cleaning the backyard deck done. That deck is going to need more TLC though before it’s ready for spring and the precious few weeks I can lounge out on it without getting eaten by mosquitoes. They say that mosquitoes aren’t very strong flyers so I think I might invest in an oscillating fan for the deck this year, as an alternative to festooning it with mosquito coil pots. I also got a bunch of indoor work done, but alas nothing on the drafting table.

I was going to make it up today with a burst of work in the front yard. I need to take the pressure washer to the walkway, weed whack the little amount of actual grass I have out there (it’s a narrow noodle of property I live on) trim the edges and get the flower pots ready for planting. But then this happened…

How can I possibly disturb this? Cats have this preternatural ability to curl themselves up into forms that would be absolutely inhuman to disturb. Plus, it’s become really chilly outside and she might want to go into that shelter I made for her and she won’t if I scare her off with the weed whacker and the pressure washer. So I did more yard work out back. Basically everything I was going to do yesterday until I got distracted by wanting to listen to music.

So things do eventually get done around here. Just not in the order I ever plan for it.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why I Never Get Any Work Done Outside
April 14th, 2018

Greetings From Uncle Sam!

I was going through the stuff in my fireproof safes to sort things into the new fireproof file safe I had to buy, because the older you get the more paperwork you seem to accumulate that you just can’t loose. Things like the deed to my house for instance, and my will. I found a folder of paperwork that went way back to my teen years and let the contents take me back to another time.

Nixon was president, and the Vietnam war was still going strong, when I got this in the mail…

It’s the thing that sets a sharp and unbridgeable divide between us Kennedy era baby boomers and the Reagan era ones. They never felt the touch of the draft. We lived under its shadow the moment we turned 18 and by law had to register at our local draft office. Mine was in the old Rockville post office. I still distinctly remember the sign inside, hanging above the door where we could see it as we sat and filled out our form, Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here. Draft office humor. Ha Ha.

On the day above I went to the address in the letter, which was not the old post office but another nearby place where two buses were waiting to take us to Fort Mead for processing. I remember sitting there among all the other scared teenage boys as soldiers from the Navy, Marines and Air Force came aboard and tried to talk us into enlisting because, as they said, we’d get a better deal from them than from the Army. Some took the bait and walked off the bus with them. I stayed.

I remember getting to Fort Mead, having to strip down to my underwear and line up with the others to be processed like cattle. Not even that first group shower in Jr. High made me feel so humiliated. This wasn’t about hygiene…a point was being made. From now on we were not to even think of ourselves as human: we were government property, to be used and disposed of as the military wanted. We were poked and prodded, told to cough, told to drop our pants and bend over…I still have no idea what the doctors were looking for as they peered at our butt holes other than maybe evidence of sodomy. That was still illegal in the state of Maryland and in the military, and as I sat in my underwear in a room with the others, answering questions on a form, I debated being honest about my sexual orientation because I reckoned that would get me out of it. But at what cost? In addition to asking about medical and family history (Has anyone in your family been confined to a mental institution?) the form listed dozens of organizations and asked if you belonged to any of them. I reckoned answering yes would put me on a list of suspected communists and at that moment I wasn’t sure which was more dangerous. When I came to the are you a homosexual question I lied and said no because I was afraid of getting put on a list of known sexual deviants. And if you think that’s being paranoid you were not a homosexual in 1972.

At the end of it all they said I didn’t measure up, being eleven pounds under the minimum weight for getting drafted. I think I was 5’9″ and 112 pounds back then, which was about typical for me. I was a scrawny thin as a rail boy all through grade school, and a favorite story of mine is when I went to visit a classmate at his home and the next day at school he tells me his mom asked if I was a heroin addict. So I was spared becoming Vietnam cannon fodder. I got a letter temporarily excusing me and was told I’d be called back in six months to see if I’d improved any. Before that could happen however, Nixon turned off the draft. Not that I was in any mind to gain weight after that.

If I can point to any one thing that fueled the counter culture and the protests of the 60s it is that war and the draft that gave it tens of thousands of young men like me, full of life’s hopes and dreams, to eat. So much human potential that was lost to this country, to humanity, that we will never even know.

And it scares me to think that had I been recruitment bait when Al Qaeda attacked us on 9-11, I’d have probably gone right down to enlist, lied again about my sexual orientation to get myself into the fight, and been promptly turned into Iraq cannon fodder, or maybe Somalia cannon fodder, or some other place where we are fighting pointless needless wars so politicians can thump their chests for angry old white votes. 


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Greetings From Uncle Sam!

The Curse Of Gentrification!

Dimitri’s, our little neighborhood hangout for the Thunderbird and Southern Comfort crowd has shut its doors, and the building’s owners are looking for new tenants. Gentrification happens.

Dimitri’s was pretty unapologetic about what it was. Its mascot on the overhead sign there and right on the doorways was a staggering drunk clinging to a lamppost while chugging a bottle. It was a legendary neighborhood dive bar long before I arrived. But if it was a trouble spot I never noticed it. I think I only saw the police there once or twice in the eighteen years I’ve lived here. I see them regularly by the 7-11 on The Avenue. Occasionally they’d have a barbecue in that parking lot next to the building and I’d walk by to the lovely smell of pork on the grill. But it wasn’t good for its clientele. Maybe it’s my Baptist upbringing: when I was a preschooler my bitter Baptist grandmother would take me by the hand as we walked to the grocery store, and whenever we passed by a bar she’d point at the door and say darkly, “the devil lives in there.” I laugh now, but there’s something to be said for that Baptist skepticism of drink. I’ve often told friends back in D.C. that between the crowd waiting for the methadone clinic down by The Avenue to open and the one waiting for Dimitri’s to open, the human decay on display in front of Dimitri’s seemed lots worse. 


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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
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