A friend on Facebook who shared this said it felt like the funeral procession for our country. It’s the slower tempo they’re singing it at that gives it a more somber tone. But a more beautiful rendition of the national anthem I have never heard and I refuse to hear it as the closing number on the American experiment in democracy.
No. I hear it in the way I used to listen to the old Baptist hymns in the pews when I was a kid. This is the national anthem as a spiritual, and the faithful are not beaten down or cowed by the ruthlessness of predators. The heart is stronger than the fist. America isn’t a place on a map, it’s a dream of liberty and justice for all, and we Americans are the people of the dream, wherever we happen to live.
“Every year on the third Monday of January, Americans of all races, backgrounds and ideologies celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is rightly lionized and sanctified by whites as well as blacks, by Republicans as well as Democrats.
“It is easy to forget that, until fairly recently, many white Americans loathed Dr. King…”
Until fairly recently?? On what planet? But never mind… I lived through that period. I was an eighth grader when he was murdered. They hated him more than all the others back then. Malcolm X…Stokely Carmichael…Huey Newton… they hated King with a passion totally absent from their fear and loathing of the others. Because King claimed the moral high ground, and spoke from the roots of his religious faith in a completely authentic way that the segregationists could not.
Most of all they hated him for that.
Read this Times opinion piece for its clarity of the history of conservative appropriation and inverting of King’s activism…turning it against the very struggle for civil rights and equal justice that he championed, and eventually gave his life for. In the software trade we have a phrase to describe what the republicans did: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.
by Bruce |
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December 27th, 2016
FYI – A Coming Out Story Episode 20 Coming Soon
I’m on holiday vacation for the next couple weeks and I’m using my time at home to work on A Coming Out Story. Hoping to finish up the pencils and inks and scans on Episode 20 by the end of the day today. After that it’s mostly just adding the text and the texturing, getting the HTML pages made and uploading all of it. Probably get it all done by Friday
by Bruce |
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December 23rd, 2016
Brought me to tears, this. Especially since the company that produced this ad, Kodak, has been such a big part of my life and they’re struggling now to hold on in this digital age (note that the filmmaker shot this in 35mm). They could have just kept silent but not only did they not do that, they went far beyond simply making a boilerplate statement of diversity: they showed us all a film about love. And now…when so many people need it so very much.
I think this may just be the best Christmas present ever. Thank you so much Kodak: from a gay guy who’s been an amateur/sometimes professional photographer since he was a teenager back in the 1960s-70s (who still loves his film cameras very much). I wish I could have grown up in the world your filmmaker shows us here…but I am glad that other gay kids will now…thanks to folks like you.
December 15, 1971…Sometime around twilight I took a walk from the apartment mom and I shared, up Parklawn Drive to Twinbrook Parkway, then across the railroad tracks and to Rockville Pike. I sat down on a curb near the Radio Shack and watched the twilight deepen over Congressional Plaza. A classmate I was madly crushing on, but could not admit to myself that I was crushing on, had put an arm across my shoulders as we walked together down a school hallway to a side exit where he always parked his little motorcycle, and given me a quick little squeeze, and my head went into the stratosphere and I’d been walking on air ever since. I was watching the colors in the sky deepen, but all I could see was his face, and all I could think about was how it felt to have his arm around me.
Eventually I could think it: I’m in love. And then I could think the rest of it and not be afraid or ashamed, because nothing had ever felt so wonderful. And from that moment on I was never afraid or ashamed. Life was better than I’d ever thought possible. The days after that, winter into spring, then into summer, really were like a Walt Disney movie. The birds really did sing a little more sweetly. The stars really did shine a little more brightly. I walked with a lighter step. Life was wonderful. Everything was wonderful.
by Bruce |
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December 11th, 2016
No More Excuses
If you vote for the racist because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not racism? If you vote for the sexual predator because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not enabling sexual predators? If you vote for the hate monger because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not enabling hate?
This is what pushes my button whenever I see otherwise decent people trying to excuse the election of Donald Trump on the basis of voter economic insecurity. For one thing, he didn’t win the popular vote, and that by a non-trivial margin. For another, he won the electoral vote by, so I’m told, a majority you could have fit inside Chicago Stadium. So it isn’t like an army of the economically disenfranchised suddenly decided to vote republican. Time and again we’ve read polls showing that Trump’s support was largely a middle and upward economic base. It wasn’t economics.
But even if it was, there’s still the man. There is unambiguously still the man. If you vote for the racist because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not racism? Bambi eyes and I’m not a racist because I never personally lynched a black man doesn’t get you out of that gutter, if you’re willing to enable the racism that gets black men killed, as long as it doesn’t get you killed too. But how certain are you that it won’t? The predator does not play favorites. We are all prey.
My frustration…let me tell you about it. Back in 1980 Jimmy Carter was running for reelection against Ronald Reagan…another vacant tool…who liked talking about welfare queens. Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign with a speech about states rights just a few miles from where three civil rights workers were murdered by klansmen for helping black people register to vote. Carter called him out on the racist dog whistle and our feckless news media had kittens, slamming Carter as though he’d committed some below the belt personal foul against Reagan, and never mind that a halfwit could have seen what Reagan was doing there. But the myth of the liberal news media dies hard. By then in the elevated testosterone atmosphere of the newsrooms they’d taking a loathing to Carter as a weak kneed wuss, and admired Reagan’s manly pose and they eviscerated Carter, and Reagan, not initially seen as beating Carter, won in a landslide.
If they’d called Reagan out on his racist dog whistling maybe we’d have a different America now. But the pattern held. Whenever a democrat called out republican racist dog whistling for the next eight shining city on a hill years they were summarily slammed by the establishment news media. But in 1981 Lee Atwater, who was working in Reagan’s White House at the time, admitted they were doing just what Carter and the democrats said they were…
“You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.””
My frustration: dig it…in 1981 Atwater laid it all on the table…yes, we’re actually doing all that…And For The Next Several Decades our feckless rotting zombie corpse establishment news media kept treating the calling out of republican racist dog whistling as some sort of dirty politics, not the dog whistling itself.
And now we have a dangerous hate monger just days away from having his finger on the national security infrastructure, let alone the nuclear button And they’re still insisting everyone look the other way at republican hate mongering. Trump won because he spoke to the forgotten workers of America. Kindly ignore the firehose of raw bigoted hate he sprayed everywhere he campaigned.
For decades…arguably in fact ever since the Civil War…this country has not been able to have an honest conversation about race hatred, let alone the rest of it bubbling and churning down in the American gutter. We still can’t. Oh yes, we the hated Other talk about it. We try to get the attention of the popular culture to look at it. Every now and then we succeed…for a time. Matthew Shepard. Proposition 8. Pulse. But then the spotlight wanders off, and hate resumes its attacks on our lives out of sight, out of mind.
Now we are on the threshold of seeing that wilful blindness end the American Experiment. And I have no patience at all…none…for people who want us to keep making excuses for the elephant in the room. The time for fucking around is fucking over. It was fucking over when Ronald Reagan walked into the White House on the graves of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.
I repeat, If you vote for the racist because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not racism? Trump played a bigoted game. He spoke directly, unambiguously, to the hate that’s never been far from the surface of American politics. And that is how he won. Barely. We will never save the American dream, if that’s even possible now, by trying to find some way not to have to deal with that fact.
At long last, can we, finally, deal with the fact of hate in America? Or do we just shrug our shoulders, reassure ourselves that haters will just keep hating, that we have to work around it…somehow…and dream of what might have been, while the fire next time burns it all down.
Those interesting little intersections between my gay heritage and my science-fiction geek child heritage. On a Facebook page I follow, dedicated to Retro Sci-Fi good stuff, someone posted the trailer to the George Pal film version of Frank M. Robinson’s novel, The Power. I wrote in the comments…
If you haven’t watched this, see if you can find the novel it is based on by Frank M. Robinson and read that first. It pulls a pretty impressive rabbit out of the hat at the end that you don’t see coming and the movie had a hard time giving it the same kind of impact. Pal gave it his best shot but he went for the science-fiction visuals and the book reads more like a dark cinema noir detective story.
I’d bought my copy whilst browsing the paperback shelves on the basis that it had been made into a George Pal movie and I was a fan of his. But it was better I read the book first, because as I say there it really throws you a very clever plot twist at the end that you don’t see coming, but it retrospect it was all there. Robinson played fair. And as I said, it read more like a dark cinema noir detective story than a science fiction thriller about a man with superhuman powers of mind over matter. It’s a good read…I highly recommend it.
While googling more about it I discovered this, from Robinson’s obituary in the New York Times…
Frank M. Robinson, a well-regarded science fiction writer whose credits include a novel adapted for the 1974 blockbuster film “The Towering Inferno,” and who was also a speechwriter and adviser to Harvey Milk, the San Francisco city supervisor assassinated in 1978, died on Monday at his home in San Francisco. He was 87…
He made his name as a writer on the basis of The Power, and got screen co-credit for two Irwin Allen blockbusters and with that money settled in San Francisco where he met Harvey Milk and worked for him as a speechwriter. He had a small role in the movie Milk and its star Sean Penn interviewed him extensively about his memories of Harvey…
Mr. Robinson had little or no dialogue in most of his scenes. But at one point he improvised a line, standing at a window to shout a profane coming-out announcement about his sexuality. “I’ll tell my brothers!” he said. Mr. Van Sant liked the moment well enough to film it a second time.
Mr. Robinson had never told anyone in his family that he was gay, neither his parents nor his four brothers. And though the scene did not end up in the film, saying the words had made him tremble with emotion, he told The Chicago Reader. It had been his coming out.
“I suddenly realized I was saying goodbye to all that baggage.”
Power, power, who had the power…? You did Frank. Well done.
by Bruce |
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A Memory of Love And Romance
You reposted one of those Facebook chain post things…this one was where you ask people to post something they remember most about you and then repost it to see what people remember most about them. But I can’t post this to your page because…well…you know. So I’m posting it here. It’s actually something I posted back in the Usenet days, on alt.romance. Some moron wrote in there that gays don’t really love so there couldn’t be any such thing as gay romance, and in a way of fighting back at that crude prejudice I posted this. It’s been a while so I’ve edited it a tad.
It’s as close as I ever came to it, for a while I believed I was living it…finally, so the memory is very heavily tinged with sorrow and regret. But you gave me a chance to revisit it tonight and for that I am grateful….
In the mid-90s I began dating a guy I’d known since we were both boys growing up in a suburb of Washington D.C. He came from a very anti-Gay fundamentalist family and things he’d experienced had wounded him deeply. But he had a kind and gentle heart and he was a survivor. We’d dated briefly some years before but after coming out to his family he felt he had to break it off. I still vividly remember the hurt, but also my determination to let him go his way without playing the angry jilted lover. Whatever else happened between us, I was not going to become another leash on his collar. I loved him, and I wanted him to have at least one person in his life, willing to let him be free. But god it hurt.
Eventually I moved from the Washington D.C. suburbs where we’d both grown up to the Baltimore suburbs where I’d found work as a software engineer. During that time he went to chef’s school and moved shortly afterwards to Hilton Head where he’d done an internship at a big restaurant. He said later he found he liked the island and that it was good to be living at least one day’s drive away from his parents. One day several years after he’d broken off the relationship with me he called me up, and then later that year came up to visit me. Almost at once we began to rekindle the affair where we’d left off. Two weeks later I went down to Hilton Head to visit him.
We’d known for years that we had a lot in common, both in experience and temperament. We grew up Baptists, I in a more traditional Baptist church, and he in a southern Baptist church. Religion permeated our lives while growing up and we had both had our share of family pressures. We knew what it was like to have to fight every second you were around certain family members, to protect our self identities. We knew how rare and how important it was, to have someone in your lives who loved you who trusted you, and could be trusted unconditionally.
We lived in separate professional worlds; he was working as a cook, trying to make his way to chef, and I had stumbled into a career as a software engineer from teaching myself how to build my own personal computers and then teaching myself how to make them do tricks. He was still struggling to earn a living, and I was making a pretty good one. But as we would talk about our professional lives it became clear to us both that our attitudes about work and the art of what we both did, fitting the process cleanly and elegantly to the job at hand and leaving your mark on everything you do by how well you do it, were just about identical. We were birds of a feather.
When I walked into his apartment on that first visit we discovered a common interest in things 30s and 40s. Big band music, old radios and radio shows, deco and such. As it turned out, he had some friends who owned their own bar and restaurant, which they’d fashioned into a WWII Pacific GI hangout. That evening he took me to their place and we had dinner. It was situated near one of the main public entrances to the beach. Just outside the door a speaker played big band music from the times. Stepping inside was like stepping back in time. Behind the bar was a picture of FDR flanked by two 48 star flags, newspapers from the times, and an old refrigerator. Mounted on the wall was an period black bakelite telephone and below it on a stand stood a period radio which was hooked up to a CD player stashed under the counter playing the music I’d heard outside the door.
We had a great time and afterwards we went back to his house and settled in for the evening. As he was flipping channels he found one that was showing Jimmy Stewart in The Glenn Miller Story. He said that was a good one to watch so we settled in and almost instantly discovered another little bit of common ground: we both liked watching movies on TV while sitting on the floor, backs up against the sofa, snacks placed strategically around us.
It turned out to be a tear jerker at the end. I’d forgotten that Miller died in a plane crash before the end of WWII. The film focused on his struggle to make a living as a musician and the deep bond of love between him and his wife. There’s a running gag about the song “little brown jug”, which she loved and he hated, that runs throughout the film and I won’t give away what happens at the end in case anyone here hasn’t seen it, but it had us both crying, and he’d had already seen it several times. Another piece of common ground: we both like tear jerking romances from Hollywood’s golden age. After the film we talked about our favorites. Mine is Casablanca which to my amazement I found out he hadn’t yet seen. I resolved that when I went to visit him again I’d bring down a copy for us to watch together.
It was getting late and instead of turning in we decided to take a walk to the beach knowing there was a good chance at that hour that we’d have it to ourselves. It was the end of December but all we needed were light jackets. Hilton Head is nearly a tropical paradise but tourist season was still a few months away and the streets were nearly empty. We walked past his friend’s restaurant, the speakers mounted outside the door playing the White Cliffs of Dover as we walked from the pavement to the sand. Apt, I thought, since I felt at the time like I was trying to conduct a romance in a war zone. South Carolina isn’t exactly gay friendly territory.
There was no moon, and the beach was almost pitch black. It was low tide, and at low tide the beaches at Hilton Head become huge. There were no clouds in the sky though, and the night was bright with stars. Not as intense as I’ve seen out west, where the sky fairly blazes with them, but it was a denser field of stars then I usually get here in the Baltimore suburbs. To the east a calm sea seemed to stretch forever toward the bright flickering stars on the horizon.
We walked down to the water’s edge, and turned south. At some point I put my hand in his, something we could never have done there in broad daylight, without risking assault, and possibly even arrest. No love story I’ve read so far has quite fully captured the feeling of how that simple, beautiful, elegant gesture of taking your boyfriend’s hand in yours can be both deeply soul satisfying, and fraught with danger.
But on that shore the night not only sheltered us from hostile eyes, it made us a little paradise. There were no tourists. The locals were all home and we were alone. To the many condos crowding the edge of the dunes we would be two vague figures walking along the beach. The air was cool but not cold and a gentle breeze came ashore with the waves breaking one after the other it seemed as if to the beat of our hearts. We walked for a mile or so down the shore, turned, and started walking back, not speaking a single word, rapt in the simple company of one another like two strings spanning a single instrument vibrating in harmony. I am a fast walker and all my life friends have complained at me to slow down a tad when we’re walking together. I have to think to walk at everyone else’s pace and it’s work. That night he and I kept a slow easy pace with each other that just happened like breathing, and in the back of my mind a slow, easy big band song began to play itself over and over as we walked together.
Eventually we approached the public beach entrance again and we stopped not wanting to return to the real world just yet. We stood on the shore and I put my arm around his waist and he put his head on my shoulder and we looked up at the stars. I love star gazing and began pointing out this and that constellation to him. Orion was high in the sky, his sword pointing toward the sea. I was pointing out the three blue giants that made up the belt when a meteor shot across it. He shivered, and I think I did too, and for a while all we did was stand there silently watching the heavens and listening to the waves breaking nearby.
In the parking lot on the other side of the dunes a car radio briefly blared out some loud music and drove away. When it was quiet again I remarked that I’d had a big band tune dancing in my thoughts all that time, and he just nodded his head, “Moonlight serenade…right? Me too.” I like to think that even if it had been broad daylight in that moment I would have still drawn him to me and kissed him.
We stood there in each other’s embrace for the longest time. Eventually we slowly walked back to the public walkway. The little bars and restaurants nearby were all closing and there were people in the parking area. As we walked onto the pavement our hands parted. We were back in the world. Somebody beside one of the parked cars was having a loud argument with his companions about who should drive. He looked drunk and I hoped he didn’t end up winning the argument. In the distance I heard somebody’s car alarm start warbling for a moment. We crossed the parking lot, and walked around the traffic circle to the road leading back to his apartment. On the way we passed his friend’s restaurant. It was closed, but the outdoor radio was still turned on and it was playing Moonlight Serenade.
[Update…] Our little fling didn’t last long. It was a long distance relationship when we started it up again, with me in Baltimore and he in Hilton Head, and he eventually dumped me for a guy he’d met on AOL messenger, who I guess he just liked better than me. They’ve been together 17 years now. I was a contract software developer back then and my company had offices close to Hilton Head and I was making plans to move closer to him when I got told. We were chatting on AOL messenger when I asked him straight up if he was seeing someone else and he said finally that he was. So I stayed here in Baltimore and eventually got the job at Space Telescope and a house of my own, which he actually visited once, so I could say it all worked out I suppose. But like that character in Heinlein’s Job – A Comedy of Justice, I’d have washed dishes forever to have had him to come home to. So it didn’t work out, it just happened the way it did.
by Bruce |
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November 26th, 2016
Who Are The People That You Think You Are?
Fred Clark was tweeting about his Thanksgiving today. Seems it was more like the movie Twelve Angry Men…the Henry Fonda version…and himself in the Henry Fonda role, than a nice family get-together. His isn’t the only story of this kind I’m seeing out here. You begin to wonder if Thanksgiving or any family holiday is worth keeping in the new/old America. And it’s not just the blood family, but the chosen one too. So many people so suddenly dumbfounded that friends they thought they knew turned out to be perfectly fine with installing a racist, sexual predator in the White House, for whatever slippery self serving excuse they could come up with at the dinner table.
But this is good. Knowing where you stand and who is standing there with you after all, is always for the best, even when it’s painful. This is largely why I stayed home Thanksgiving. I had invites, I had a work related excuse to decline but I’d have stayed home anyway. You really don’t want to see me go nuclear. I expect the Christmas invitation lists are being rewritten even as I type this.
Good. Life is too short to be spending it in the company of louts. There’s a scene in Mary Renault’s novel The Charioteer which the main character, Laurie Odell, hears the man his divorced mother is about to marry take a cheap dig at a working class nurse…
“Well, girls of that class are often so unfair to themselves. I expect under all that make-up she’s really quite a nice little thing”
It tells Laurie everything he needs to know about the character of the man his mother is about to marry. Renault writes: Some events are crucial from their very slightness; because circumstances have used no force on them, they are unequivocally what they are, test-tube reactions of personality.
Just so. And this election was just chock full to the brim of such moments freely given to the public by the man now slated to sit in the oval office. From mocking a disabled reporter to pussy grabbing, Trump has left us no doubt as to the man he is. And it didn’t matter. To almost half the voting public it didn’t matter. And that, is also unequivocally what it is, a test-tube reaction of personality.
It has shocked us, the other half of the voting public. And who knows, maybe the rest of the nation too. And really…in retrospect…it shouldn’t have. We have always known this about them. We just didn’t want to know. And now we have to.
by Bruce |
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November 20th, 2016
Ruling Out Decency
This is rich…follow along for fun and games…
First NBC News PR tweets this:
And cue the boilerplate right wing outrage! The tweet is misleading! They left out the Important Part!
Well that clarifies it. The effortless way Reince doublespeaks that is. But one supposes that’s a requirement for the job of Chairman of the Republican Party. So which part of that statement he gave was incorrect…the part where he says he’s not going to rule out anything, or the part where he rules out something?
But that’s not even close to the totality of the mendacity going on here. The statement is even more sinister when you consider how many of them on the white nationalist right have been saying for years that Islam isn’t a religion, it’s a political movement. A good follow up question would have been “Is Islam a religion?”
by Bruce |
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November 10th, 2016
Perhaps, I Have Not Been Making Myself Clear All This Time…
A little something I just posted to my Facebook page…
Odd really, in retrospect, the little things you don’t expect to make you snap until they do and you reach for that UnFriend button. Like that Kermit The Frog drinking tea meme I just saw babbling about how funny it was that all the people who voted against hate were spewing so much of it now.
Fuck that noise. Seriously. Your LGBT neighbors are poised to lose everything we’ve struggled so hard to gain in the past few decades. The right to marry and have our marriages recognized across the country. We may go back to new era of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or worse. A Trump supreme court could overturn Lawrence v. Texas and then we’re all back to being presumptive felons, unable to get security clearances and professional licenses. If you think that’s hyperbole take a fucking look at his transition team. He’s stacking it with the dregs of the anti-gay sewer. I just cancelled a Christmas trip to visit family in California because I am afraid to drive across the country I am seeing now.
Hate? Hate? You think you know what hate is?? I’m laughing in your face. Your LGBT neighbors have lived under a cloud of hate nearly all our lives, only to see the clouds part a bit in the past few years. And now the sky is getting ominously dark again. Thanks to some of you, who for whatever god forsaken reason decided to vote for the pussy grabber. We have lived in a torrent, a blizzard of unrelenting venom. We’re child molesters, walking disease vectors, destroyers of family and civilization, abominations in the eyes of god, walking signposts of the end of the world, bringers of doom to nations. Multi million dollar political action groups work 24/7 to generate attack ads that incite violent religious passions toward us. And It Gets Us Beaten, Bloodied And Killed. Every week…Every Fucking Week…I read about another attack somewhere.
You have no idea, not clue one, how hard some of us have struggled all our lives not to hate back.
And now, thanks to some of you, we who simply desire mates of our own sex, who have wanted nothing more than that same happily ever after you do, who have watched as our hopes and dreams of love and happiness get ripped out of us so other people could make their stepping stones to heaven out of them, we are seeing it all coming undone, and the darkness coming back down on us. And there was never any reason for any of it. We are not monsters, we are not a cancer on society, we are not sick, we are not degenerates, we are human beings, there is nothing wrong with us. There was never anything wrong with us. And yet, we keep getting these knives stuck in our hearts. Sometimes, so we are told, with Love. How wonderful it is to be loved.
If my reposts of all the eminently predictable hate incidents suddenly happening, against gay folk, against non-whites, against foreigners and immigrants, look to you like hate and not a warning about what this country is on the verge of becoming if you don’t Wake The Fuck Up then by all means defriend me now before I see one more little thing that makes me snap and I hit the button myself. Save me the trouble. If you can’t grok why I, and so many others are angry and terrified just this moment then you don’t understand my walk at all and we really aren’t friends after all are we. Go away.
I had one life. Once upon a time I fell in love. It was like something out of a Disney movie. No…really. The stars really did shine a little brighter. The birds really did sing a little more sweetly. I really did walk with a lighter step. It was the most wonderful thing in the world. And now some of you have elevated to the highest offices in the land the very same human gutter that took those moments from me and turned them into an empty barren wasteland. And now I’m old and it’s getting toward curtain time for me and it’s over, it’s all over. No chance of it now. None. And now some of you are all like, what…what did we do that was so bad…why are you so mean and hateful??
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