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July 17th, 2018

LP To Digital…Not As Hard As It Use To Be

I posted yesterday complaining that so many of my favorite classical music LPs still weren’t available in digital form that I could listen to on my iPod. Yes, I still use my iPod Classic, as well as my iPhone to listen to music. The iPod comes in very handy for when I’m just doing household chores, or I just want to disconnect from the internet tubes for a while and just listen to music, and work down in the art room. It’s been years since I last attempted to make a digital copy of one of my LPs, largely because the software I was using only ran on an older PowerPC Macbook, and had a limited number of exports to MP3  format you could make without buying the premium version, which by the time I’d decided to go ahead with that the software had been orphaned.

So the other day I finally began looking around for another program I could use, and pretty quickly found Audacity…

 

The appeal here is this software runs on Windows, Macs, and Linux, and I was really wanting something that would run on Linux because I had that running on a small laptop that would have been perfect for parking next to the living room stereo and connecting it up to the output jacks on the Dynaco PAS-2. I still have a source for new stylus for the Shure Type III I so I can theoretically get a good signal from any of my LPs that are still in good shape. What’s nice about Audacity is the editor is pretty easy to use and lets you mark each individual track on an LP and export them all at once with the track names as filenames.  So I can just set everything up, hit record and let the LP play, flip it over to side 2 without needing to stop the recording, then when it’s done I can disconnect the laptop, take it back upstairs to the office and edit out the dead spots and identify and tack on the track names, and then export it all to the directory I have on my central store, and later import everything into iTunes.

There are some nice bells and whistles…a level normalizer, noise filters and such. My Kenwood KD-600 turntable is pretty well isolated, and the LP I copied over last night was in good shape, so I didn’t any of the noise filters but the level normalizer worked well. The only hassle was finding the right settings to get Audacity to recognize my USB input device and the headphone jack on the laptop. Hassling with I/O devices is something you just expect with Linux. But at least I didn’t have to recompile anything to get it done.

I have a waiting list of LPs I need to do this with. But I’m happy. I had a surprising amount of music I could just not listen to any other way but on the stereo, or a bunch of old and very worn out cassettes and I don’t have a Walkman anymore, just the iPods for taking music with me. I grew up in a series of apartments mom and I shared, and time was if I wanted to listen to music and not disturb the neighbors I either had to wait for them to leave their apartments or play it on the headphones…I had a nice pair of Koss Pro 4aa headphones once upon a time…and that meant I was always tethered in some way to the stereo, literally at times. When the first Walkman came out I was immediately enchanted, but couldn’t afford one. But they eventually came down in price as other makers piled on and I remember how lovely it was to just be able to stroll around in a comfortable cocoon of music that would travel with me Everywhere. When the first iPods came out I was hooked immediately, and that quickly led to me buying digital copies of new music, where before it would have been an LP, plus all the copies of music I already had that I’d worn out from playing over and over.

In a way I’m kinda glad to see the LP coming back into vogue. LPs, when properly engineered and played back on good equipment sound wonderful. I’ve bought some new pressings and they’re, I’m here to tell you, generally Much better in quality than when I had to buy back in the day. But the LP tethers you to the stereo too, and once you have tasted freedom…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on LP To Digital…Not As Hard As It Use To Be
July 16th, 2018

Remember When The Berlin Wall Fell…And You Thought The Cold War Was Over…?

This, stunning editorial, in today’s New York Times, saying things about the president of  the United States I would never in my darkest nightmares would have expected to see. Not even when Nixon fired Archibald Cox have I been so afraid for my country as I am right now, right this moment…

Trump, Treasonous Traitor

The president fails to protect the country from an ongoing attack.

Words like this are not simply a matter of anger and hyperbole any longer, but acknowledgements of the reality we now face. Whether this man was in any way directly connected to the Russian attack on our elections is effectively moot. The evidence that such attacks did happen is clear, convincing, and overwhelming. Whether this man is now actively engaged in a cover up of that attack is also effectively moot. He is by any salient measure not defending the country from that attacker, he is instead befriending it. And he is the Commander in Chief.

This is an incredible, unprecedented moment. America is being betrayed by its own president. America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it.

And there is evidence coming to light that some in congress, a body with the the best most effective power to halt the course this man has set this nation upon, have also been compromised by this enemy.

We are in dangerous times. Very, very dangerous. One or two more steps into this darkness, and there will be no going back…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Remember When The Berlin Wall Fell…And You Thought The Cold War Was Over…?
July 15th, 2018

Searching For Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor
Thing about classical music is there is so much of it out there on LPs that never seems to have been migrated to digital and I can’t find it on either Apple or Amazon music. This is particularly true of orchestral transcriptions of piano music. Since that’s a…let’s call it a “cover” like the rock kids do…of some original piece that the composer never intended to be orchestrated, there is no “standard” version of it and everyone does it a little differently.
 
Case in point: There’s a really evocative Chopin piece…his Prelude in E Minor, that I first heard on an album of “covers” of classical film music. This one was a cover of music played in Five Easy Pieces. So…a cover of a cover. I fell in love with it instantly, but then I went to get a copy of the original version and discovered it’s a solo piano piece, and the version I heard was so breathtaking, with the piano and string orchestra basically doing a call and response to each other, I just could not get into the original solo piano version. I still can’t.
 
But the version I heard on that LP, is the only version like it. I just looked around online for it and I can’t find it in any other form but the LP. And the other orchestral versions of it I just reviewed are, IMO horribly over melodramatic. That piece is a very emotionally strong piece, it dives deep into a solitary place inside of you, but it needs its original simplicity to be that. Transcribing it for orchestra is a delicate maneuver. Too many heavy hands have taken it on and ruined it. Though I’ll allow that Stokowski’s full orchestra transcription is very good for a dramatic interpretation. He’s like…the exception to everything in classical music.
 
So…just now I played the version I have on LP, it is still in very good shape, and I’ve been meaning to get updated LP to digital software because I have a Shostakovich symphony I’ve also been meaning to transfer over…so…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Searching For Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor

Back On The Diet
It’s late in the year for it, but I’ve been dieting to get my shape back into a form where I can get back into all my summer shirts, and look reasonably well in my swim trunks when I get to Walt Disney World this September, and hit the water parks. For some reason I’ve been disinterested in my appearance lately. But now I want to get the hourglass back, and shed some body mass. It’s not the painful thing for me it is for many, at least not in the being hungry all the time sense. It’s painful in the Very Boring Food sense. Basically three rules:
 
Firstly, no extra sugar. That means no cookies, candy bars, cupcakes. Also cut back on the alcohol. None of this is a problem when I’m also trying to save money for a big vacation anyway. This is probably the single biggest thing that makes a difference, and initially the hardest to get started on. Sugar is intensely addictive, and you don’t notice that until you try to cut back on it. But after about two weeks your body adjusts and isn’t demanding it anymore. So get through those first two weeks and it gets Much easier for the rest of it. I’ve found when the sugar withdrawal gets bad in that first two weeks, just taking a short walk kills it right away.
 
Secondly, and this takes some diligence, just simply don’t eat until I’m actually hungry. A friend once remarked that a lot of eating is out of boredom. It’s also habit. Home from work, time to eat. 12 noon, time to eat. Bedtime, time for a snack. Just don’t eat until you get hungry. The surprising thing, to me at least, is that most of the time I’m used to eating, when I stop to think am I hungry now, I’m not.
 
When I do get hungry, another bit of diligence is to stop eating when I’m not hungry anymore. That takes some paying attention to it, and a lot of unlearning all the scolding I got when I was a kid to eat everything on my plate. Sure, when I’m a growing boy that was probably for the best. But now I’m a 60-something who doesn’t need all those calories.
 
So stop eating when not hungry anymore. But that not only takes thinking about it while I’m eating, but also not eating the kinds of food that make you want more because it’s so delicious. Which brings me to Three..
 
…going back on the bland foods I grew up with. Here’s where pain lives. It’s so damn boring.
 
But it works. Just a week and a half into it now and I’ve lost 4 and a half pound already, and I’m not killing myself over it. Just following the rules above. Another week of it and I’ll be back in my 31s, and getting into the summer shirts that fit nicely. By September I should be able to hit the water parks with my hourglass back and only be squeamish about showing my corpse pale whiteness and gay otter body hair. One year I tried a spray on tan (seriously) to see if that helped me feel better about it. It did somewhat, but it also felt like I was faking it. When it started fading it made me look like I had some sort of skin disease. Now given the hilarious spray tan from the bargain tanning salon in the strip mall behind the county landfill now occupying the White House (I keep waiting for some reporter to shout back at him when he calls them fake news, “Fake? Like your tan?”), I will probably never do that again.

This isn’t just about vanity. There’s a health issue here I need to watch. My body tends not to accumulate fat around the hips and waist, so much as around the upper body. So I’m told, that’s a risk sign for heart disease and stroke. This is why my nicest summer shirts don’t fit now, because of just that slight bit of extra body mass around the upper chest and armpits. I loose that and they fit nicely. But it takes about four to six weeks of this diet to get there, because the body loses it randomly. A little off the top…a little around the waist…it’s like it flips a coin to decide where it comes from.


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July 6th, 2018

A Hug From Beyond The Grave…

Something to understand about the relationship between mom and I, that I need to get out here, before I go into what I just discovered digging through the stuff of hers’ I bought home after the funeral. After she passed away, people in the small western Virginia town she retired to, folks I didn’t know from Adam, would see me walking along, come up to me, and tell me what a ray of sunshine she was, and how sad they were to have her gone. It really helped.

And it was no act. I grew up with it. That was her. And I never doubted that she loved me. She really was a ray of sunshine everywhere she went. So whenever I misbehaved, and she got angry, and the ray of sunshine got all dark and stormy, it was Scary. Because you kept forgetting that was in there.

Mom knew her only child was gay, long before she retired, decades probably, before she passed away. But we never spoke of it. Partly that was reticence on both our parts to discuss anything related to sex. There’s a Monty Python routine that begins “Are you embarrassed easily? I am. But don’t worry, it’s all part of growing up, and being British.” Also part of being an American Yankee Baptist. Easily embarrassed would be an understatement. In my old age I can just let it slide. But in my adolescence, just when a boy needs to talk these things out with the parent unit(s), neither mom nor I could come anywhere near the subject without getting the terminal squeamishes and running the hell away.

But there was also this: she could see it coming. I did an episode of A Coming Out Story about this. With Bruce, it was always about the other boys. You might have thought there were no girls at all in his world. Well of course there were…his friends all had, or were looking for girlfriends. But Bruce was oblivious. Mom would comment later that she knew the names of all my male friends, but I never once mentioned any of the girls unless prompted.

She knew. In my mid thirties mom had to go into the hospital for gallbladder surgery. Back then it was a very invasive procedure, unlike today. A patient had to recover for at least a day, maybe two, after surgery. One afternoon I went to visit mom in her hospital room. She had another women as a roommate, I think they were also there for the same procedure. As I walked in I was greeted by the other woman, and her visiter, a female friend. A few moments of conversation and I could tell both women were friendly, intelligent, and liberal. Mom was getting along well with them both.

Somehow, a conversation about the torrent of political junk mail started. Reagan was running for his second term, and I, a staunch democrat by then, was baffled that I was getting so much mail from the GOP asking for donations. I related one of them…a flyer allegedly from George Shultz saying he and Reagan “need you Bruce” to fight off the democrats.

The two ladies burst into hysterical laughter. I wasn’t getting why the joke was That funny…but yes, it Was a bit hilarious they’d send that to a democrat. Then the roommate managed, between laughs, to get out “…and they sent that to a homosexual…they Need Him…they Need Him…” Uproarious laughter ensued, while mom and I sat next to each other, smiling back at them amicably and pretending we didn’t hear that.

Eventually the ladies noticed we weren’t laughing along with them…gathered themselves together…and decided it was time for them to take a nice refreshing walk. As the roommate passed me on her way out, she put a reassuring hand on my shoulder, as if to say “It’ll be alright kid…”

After they were gone, mom and I immediately changed the subject.

Mom…what sort of conversations have you been having with your roommate about me…that you won’t have with me…? 

Time passes…the universe expands… One day mom retired, and moved to a place in south western Virginia, to be near her cousin and their family, and to live in mountains much like the Pennsylvania ones she grew up in. For reasons I still don’t completely grok, that Pennsylvania side of the family held some kind of grudge against her all her adult life, after she married dad.

By then I was very much the out and proud gay American, but I still couldn’t talk about it with mom. Several times just before she moved away I tried to broach the subject. And the ray of sunshine would get all dark and stormy and I’d back the hell off. So I thought to try a different tack. I subscribed her to the PFLAG newsletter. A thing I’m certain lots of gay kids have done over the decades, as a way of laying the groundwork for officially coming out to a parent. Some months later I went for a visit, and after the usual joyful greetings and catching up on the news, mom pulled out a copy of the PFLAG newsletter, showed it to me, and asked if I knew why she was getting it.

Well…she knew damn well why. But the ray of sunshine was all dark and stormy just then and I wimped out and said I didn’t know. And she very ostentatiously put it in the trash.

Time passess…the universe expands… Here I am in my basement going through things of hers, deciding what to keep and what to discard. It’s one of the tasks I’ve set for myself this stay at home vacation, in an effort to reduce the amount of Stuff I have in the house, preparing myself for old age, when I might have to rent part of my house out, or move to a cheaper part of the country to live, like mom did. But I can’t be moving to somewhere they hate Teh Gay.

I have her diaries now…I know that she knew…I know that she stressed over it considerably. To her dying day she was a deeply religious woman. In the Baptist way she never tried to force me to go back to church, but I always knew she wanted me to and was sad I didn’t believe anymore. I tried in every way I could to make her proud of me, but there were some places I could not go. To church was one of them. Into the arms of a woman was another. Just a few days before she passed away we shared our last phone conversation, and she asked if I was coming for a visit soon. I said I would try, but I didn’t like being on the road by myself much anymore. “I know…” she replied. “I wish you weren’t so lonely. I wish you had someone…” A pause. “It doesn’t have to be a girl…”

And of course we both immediately changed the subject.

And here I am going through her things. Much of it I just simply stuffed into these Rubbermaid storage containers and brought back with me, and I haven’t really gone through any of it in detail, except for what I needed to dig up to settle her affairs.

And I found this.

It’s the issue with the “Mother Talks Back to the Bigots” text that was flying around the Internet in the Spring of 2000 when the election was starting to heat up, and GOP antigay flyers were flooding the mail in the swing states. I’m certain the pulpits were thumping down there in Southwestern Virginia…and the talk radio screamers. Mom didn’t want her boy to be gay, but she loved him very much nonetheless. And this was what she would have read, and didn’t throw in the trash but kept in her files, for me to find all these years later…

“I don’t know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn’t put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse…”

Glad I decided to go through this stuff finally, instead of just putting it off until I was in my grave too, and it fell to someone else to throw it all away.


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I Get My Best Ideas From Homophobes…(continued)

Further refinement of the sketch I posted the other day.  I’m experimenting with Procreate’s charcoal effect brushes. This was mostly done with the Willow charcoal stick. The boots were done with the medium charcoal block. I used the dry ink brush to ink over the technical pencil sketch lines.

I’m actually coming to like this mode of sketching and drawing now. It’s still a little clumsy to me because I’m still having to break concentration every now and then to find a functionality I need right then. And the tactile feel of drawing on glass still seems very weird. I’m never quite sure then I put the stylus down where the mark will appear. But I’m getting more use to it and for a hunt and peck draftsman like myself it’s very nice to be able to draw, erase, draw, erase, draw, erase, and not worry about digging a hole in the paper.

 

…and once again…Thank You Ted, for the Motivation I really needed!


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Get My Best Ideas From Homophobes…(continued)
July 4th, 2018

I Get My Best Ideas From Homophobes!

This article in The Advocate came across my news stream the other day…

Calls to for the vice mayor of Dixon, Calif., to step down hit a fever pitch over the weekend following a post to his blog in which he called for Straight Pride American Month, or “SPAM” as he unironically called it. In his wildly homophobic post, Dixon Vice Mayor Ted Hickman gleefully clung to the differences between straight and gay people, referring to LGBT people as “tinker bells,” “fairies,” and men in “skin tight short-shorts and go-go boots.” 

You say men in skin tight short-shorts and go-go boots like it’s a bad thing Ted…  So I thought I should sketch that to see if he’s right about the wrongness of it all…

Well I certainly don’t see anything wrong with that Ted. You must be confused. 

Some months ago on the advice of Rick Worley, he of “A Waste of Time” comics, I splurged on an iPad Pro 12.9 specifically so I could use it to sketch on, and maybe get some episodes of A Coming Out Story done with it. What I discovered is drawing on a glass surface is different enough from drawing on paper that initially I was struggling so badly with it just to get anything decent out of me I just kept walking away from it. Adding to the struggle was the iOS interface model is to have no or very few actual menus, but instead use stylus or finger gestures and taps to access different functions, and it kept making me break concentration on what I was drawing to go on an Easter egg hunt for some function I needed just then…like how the hell do you Undo!?

So the iPad quickly fell into disuse. Which itself was a source of stress since I’d paid so much for it. I’d bought the version with cellular data functionality because I wanted to travel with it and I didn’t want to have to depend on WiFi hubs, some of which could be letting hackers into your computer. I bought the version with the least amount of memory on the basis that I’d store my sketches in one of the cloud services and it was still about a thousand bucks, plus another 250 for the Apple Pencil (to draw on it with) and a leather sleeve for it that had a holder for the pencil. All told with the Apple Care and taxes it was close to 1500 bucks and for that money I needed to be using it. The problem was how to motivate myself into learning to draw on glass, and getting familiar with a new user interface.

So…thanks Ted!


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Get My Best Ideas From Homophobes!
June 28th, 2018

And Now, For Something Completely Different…

Since this is a life blog, which I began way back when blogs were a new thing and not yet a commercial media thing, and since I’m way too friggin’ stressed out about the news these days, I’ll be trying a bit harder to post random life blog stuff here for a little while.

There was a post I saw elsewhere about how a chorus will sing a long single note in rotation, some singers taking a breath while others keep singing, such that the effect is the entire chorus is maintaining the note. That’s what I’m doing now. Because all last night I caught myself wondering if it was all still worth living, and I am not letting that happen to me. And if it’s happening to you because of the stress of current events…please…pause…take a breather. It’s okay. You can come back to the fight when you’re ready. We need you. We need everyone. Don’t let the stress of it break you.

This is one of those little Cut and paste about yourself thingees you see on the social media forums…something a little more light hearted about day to day life…a little more about me, because this is my life blog…


1. Do you make your bed?

If I don’t in the morning I’ll make it just before going to bed.

2. The first car that was officially yours?

1973 Ford Pinto, 1600cc overhead valve single barrel carb. I got 136k miles out of it before I had to give it up.

3. Three grocery items you don’t run out of?

Bread. Cheddar cheese. Tea bags.

4. When did you start doing your own laundry?

At some point in my early teens…like 13 or 14. I don’t recall any decisive moment, it was probably I needed it done at some point and just kept on doing it myself, a thing mom sure didn’t mind.

5. If you could, would you go to high school again?

Yes. And be a little braver this time about my sexual orientation and my first crush.

6. Can you parallel park in under three moves?

Yes. It’s simple once you know the trick.

7. A job you had which people would be shocked to know about?

I don’t know about shocked…I was stock clerk at a private mental hospital once…

8. Do you think aliens are real?

Well I think they’re out there. Visiting us, not so much.

9. Can you drive a stick shift?

Yes. Wish the car I had now had one. But they don’t import the ‘E’ class sticks.

10. Guilty TV pleasure?

Old ‘B’ Sci-Fi flicks and Republic Serials when they’re on.

11. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

Cold. It’s easier to warm up then shed heat.

13. Sweet or salty?

Who? Me? Depends on You.

14. Do you enjoy soaking in a nice hot bath?

No. Shower. Nice…hot…luxurious shower.

15. Do you consider yourself to be strong?

I’m a gay male who made it to 64 single and soul-lonely the entire time. I reckon I must be.

16. Something people do, physically, that drives you crazy.

Stopping to check their grocery receipt right in the middle of the exit door.

17. Something you do, physically, that you are sure drives people crazy.

Go off on a topics of personal interest at the slightest provocation.

18. Do you have any birth marks?

One odd little one on my belly, about the size of a freckle, that could either be a mouse or a coiled up snake.

19. Favorite childhood game?

Imagining worlds…telling myself stories about them.

20. Do you talk to yourself?

Well…I talk when I’m alone. Not so much to myself as to the house, or the car, or whatever.

21. Do you like doing jig-saw puzzles?

No.

22. Would you go on a reality show?

No!

23. Tea or coffee?

Coffee in the morning, sweet ice tea the rest of the day.

24. First thing you remember wanting to be when you grew up?

A cartoonist.

25. No matter how much money you have or don’t have, what are you an absolute snob about?

I don’t think I’m a snob about anything…but I’ll admit to sometimes taking excessive pride in personal art projects.

Play if you want to…


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on And Now, For Something Completely Different…
June 27th, 2018

Just Never Let Yourself Forget Why It Matters

 

We’ve a long and dirty fight ahead of us. It’s okay to be angry. But don’t become anger. It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t become fear. Because then you will forget why it mattered that you were angry and afraid. It matters because love matters. It matters because without love and trust and hope, and dreams of what could be, civilization is not possible. Then there is only the jungle. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t let the jungle in. You will get lost. Remember you are not anger, you are not fear, you are human. Remember the possibility of love is why it matters.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Just Never Let Yourself Forget Why It Matters
June 22nd, 2018

The Paradox Of Gay Visibility

This, from The Washington Blade, came across my newsfeed this morning…

EJ Johnson recalls crying with dad Magic Johnson after coming out

There’s a passage in it, where EJ’s mom relates how she figured it out…

“We went to Hawaii once and I’m sitting behind him and his friend,” Cookie says.”The girls go by in their bathing suits and the guys go by and when the guys go by, they were like, ‘Whoa! Hey!’ and then girls go by and nothing. So I was like, okay, we need to have a talk.”

This was something about me mom noticed all the time during my teen years. I did an episode about that in A Coming Out Story. But that was artistic license: we never had a talk about it when I was a teenager. We couldn’t. Not in the late 1960s and early 70s. After mom passed away I inherited her diaries and it was only then that I saw the extent to which she’d figured it out…and kept avoiding knowing what she’d figured out.

But there was a reason she didn’t get too alarmed about it either, back when I was a teenage boy, and even more so back when mom was a teenage girl. A fact which may escape most folks today. Back then, the trope in movies and TV, juvenile books and magazines, was boys didn’t have any interest in girls until they were almost adults. Then suddenly all their hormones activated and they started dating girls. But until that sudden change happened, a boy’s interests were in hanging out with the other boys. And your best friend was someone you stuck with through thick and thin, always stood up for, shoulder to shoulder…

“Teenage boys are wild about girls.When their hormones kick in at puberty, they can think of nothing else, and that”s the way it has always been– right? Wrong. Before World War II, only sissies liked girls. Masculine, red-blooded, all-American boys were supposed to ignore girls until they were 18 or 19. Instead, parents, teachers, psychiatrists, and especially the mass media encouraged them to form passionate, intense, romantic bonds with each other. This book explores romantic relationships between teenage boys as they were portrayed before, during, and immediately after World War II. The author takes the reader through a rich landscape of media — sci fi pulps, comics, adventure stories, tales of teen sleuths, boys’ serial novels, wartime bestsellers, and movies populated by many types of male adolescents: Boys Next Door, Adventure Boys, Jungle Boys, and Lost Boys. In Hollywood movies, Boys Next Door like Jackie Cooper, Ronald Sinclair, and Jimmy Lydon were constantly falling in love, but not with girls. In serial novels, Jungle Boys like Bomba, Sorak, and Og Son of Fire swung through the trees to rescue teenage boys, not teenage girls. In comic strips and on the radio, Adventure Boys like Don Study, Jack Armstrong, and Tim Tyler formed lasting romantic partnerships with other boys or men. Lost Boys like Frankie Darro, Leo Gorcey, and Billy Halop starred in dozens of movies about pairs of poor urban teenagers sticking together, with never a girl in sight…”

We Boys Together: Teenagers in Love Before Girl-Craziness, by Jeffery Dennis, 2007

That’s the boyhood I remember. And if you think all that is exaggerated, or a case of the author seeing homosexuality where there is none, what you have to remember about that period of time is that in the movies and TV sex simply didn’t exist, let alone homosexuals. Married couples slept in separate beds. When Lucy Ricardo got pregnant they couldn’t even say the word pregnant on TV. You got the feeling movie and TV characters had no genitals at all…especially in movies and TV shows created for kids and teenagers…and babies when they happened really were delivered by the stork to unsuspecting but very happy couples. Now how did that happen? And nobody saw anything out of place in two boys having a passionate friendship. In fact, it was thought to be good for them. Builds character. teaches the importance of trust and loyalty. The steadfast friends who always stick together through thick and thin. I watched those movies on the TV, and the old TV shows, read the sci fi pulps, and the comics, adventure stories, tales of teen sleuths, best friends forever, even as Hollywood was setting out to change all that, and recognize the existence of teenage hormones. At least, the heterosexual ones.  

It was something mom could tell herself as I kept getting older and older and still showing no signs of an interest in girls, even to the point of getting my heart broken over some other boy who broke up with me, or moved away. I remember crying my 8th grade heart out in when a friend I’d known since elementary school moved out of state, and I knew I’d never see him anymore, and mom just giving me that boys will be boys sigh. Looking back on it I can just picture her thinking to herself, just wait until it’s a girl that breaks your heart… 

So I was a little late with it. Some boys were. Not to worry…one of these days Bruce will discover girls and he’ll get with the program. Plus, we were Baptists and I wasn’t supposed to be having any sinful thoughts about girls until I was older and those thoughts could be directed toward marriage. Mom could feel good that I wasn’t tempted into sinful lust just yet.

Which meant I never had the pressure at home to start dating and questions weren’t asked about why I had no interest in girls until much, Much later. and by that time I’d made my peace with my sexual orientation, even if mom and I still couldn’t talk about it. I had a few years of breathing room. I don’t think gay kids these days have that. The paradox of gay visibility is it’s making the world safer for us, even as it exposes gay kids to pressure about their identity they might not be ready to face for a while. They can’t hide from themselves or their peers the way I could.

But at least the world they eventually come out to isn’t as hostile as mine was. Even in red state America they can at least think about taking the one that stole their heart to the prom…maybe even imagine marrying them. How I wish. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gladly traded that safe cocoon, and having The Talk with mom, for a boyfriend.


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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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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.


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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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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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