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January 14th, 2015

The Militant Hurricane Bolt Agenda

The table is running out of dominos.  South Dakota’s constitutional amendment reserving marriage to heterosexual couples only was struck down the other day by a federal judge…

Federal judge: South Dakota ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional

Judge Karen Schreier ruled in favor of six same-sex couples who challenged the South Dakota ban on gay marriage and put her decision on hold pending appeals.

Well this didn’t sit well with Bob Ellis over at The American Clarion, owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005, 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, political reporter and commentator and founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance…

Marital requirements exist for a reason. It takes a man and a woman to form a marriage. Two men or two women sodomizing each other performs no useful function whatsoever for society, and there is no benefit whatsoever in having government serve as a “friendship registry” for two people who want to sodomize each other on a regular basis.

…a point he really drives home with the following illustration:

real_unreal

Never mind shop class, you start to wonder after a while if the sex education classes in certain parts of the country would actually benefit from a trip to the hardware store.  Because when the dimwit you’re arguing with starts reaching for the nuts and bolts to prove their point about sex it’s a safe bet they’re not much of a do it yourselfer.

hurricane_bolt

Hey look…it screws in the wall…and then another a screw goes into it. Hardware bisexuality!  Or…versatility of you like.  Pissst…Hey Bob…if you think the militant homosexual agenda is a threat to our very existence, you really need to investigate the militant hurricane bolt agenda.  Seriously.  This is probably why they have hurricanes in places that allow this.


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 13th, 2015

Second NOx Sensor Replaced…

Got Spirit back from the dealer yesterday evening. In addition to the check engine light work they also did my usual between services oil change (I change the crankcase oil in all my cars at least twice as often as the factory recommends) and adjusted the emergency brake. I noted in the loaner car I got, a 2015 ‘C’ class, that emergency brakes are now electronic push button controlled. What could possibly go wrong?

Again I’m told it was the NOx sensor, but now I’m told there are actually two of them and so this time they replaced the other one. Fine. Let’s have no more of this now, at least for another 70k miles. K?

So now I’m seriously thinking about buying another extended warranty when the current one expires. The next extended warranty on offer would be a 100k plus one and I’m told, the dealership will offer one then. But a 100k plus warranty can’t be anything but expensive. I won’t be needing it until late this year at the earliest, but I’m already thinking I probably need to start a new pot of savings Now just to pay for it. I’ll have to look hard at the cost/benefit. A Mercedes diesel sedan is not supposed to cause trouble if you take care of it and do the maintenance, even after it’s got hundreds of thousands of miles on it. That’s no blue sky exaggeration, that’s the actual history of these vehicles. They make taxi cabs out of them elsewhere in the world. And I’ve met other Mercedes diesel owners who’ve put nearly half a million miles on their cars and were still in love with them.

But the new cars are vastly more complex than those older models too. Case in point, the emissions control system in mine that got all hysterical on me in Oklahoma and Texas while I was in the middle of my Christmas road trip. One factor in the legendary longevity of older Mercedes diesels is very likely how simple they are mechanically. Superbly engineered yes. Built like a bank vault yes. But still simple compared to the same gasoline powered versions, and way more so than the car I have now when you factor in things like the twin turbochargers that give it a surprising (for a diesel) capacity for sudden acceleration, plus all the various computer controlled subsystems. This is what I worry about going forward.


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January 11th, 2015

You Promised…

I’m spending the weekend here at Casa del Garrett with a loaner car from Valley Motors, a Very Nice new model Mercedes-Benz ‘C’ class, while Spirit is once again having a check engine light issue worked on, that dogged me back and forth across the country last month. That was a road trip I took to the ancestral Garrett lands in Oceano California, to spend the holidays with my empty nest brother.  Check Engine in Spirit, my Mercedes, means there is a problem with the emissions control system.  Thing is, that should have been fixed a couple months ago when my dealer installed a new NOx detector after the last Check Engine light event.

Back home, surfing the web and Facebook, I chanced across the following article…

Why Does Mercedes-Benz Require OEM?

Mercedes-Benz wants to ensure that your car is operating in as close to ideal circumstances as possible, and that means using the parts your car was built with. Mercedes-Benz is famous for its engineering for excellent reason, but that means they have to design custom parts or engineer seemingly-common parts to very specific tolerances, or it will affect the performance of the car.

Even seemingly-generic parts are built to a much, much higher standard than many other brands on the market. Thus, Mercedes-Benz builds their own parts, engineers them to an exacting degree, and carefully inspects them, selling them with a warranty that ensures any certified Mercedes-Benz repair facility can replace the part free of charge if a defect escapes their inspection.

The work currently being done on Spirit is completely covered…which is good considering it would cost me about a thousand bucks total if it wasn’t. Add that to the $950 the last NOx detector work would have cost.  But this is what you are paying for when you get that work done at an authorized factory trained service center. These cars are Not Cheap, not simply because they are luxury cars but because they are engineered to a higher standard, and that costs money.

The article I linked to is mostly about body work, but it really applies to everything about cost of maintenance and repair for a Mercedes-Benz: the parts are expensive, because Daimler specifications are higher, tolerances lower. Even down to the wiper blades and oil and air filters. I’ve seen side-by-side comparisons of Mercedes OEM parts and good quality third party parts and it really leaps out at you. It’s not even close. Everything about these cars is more substantial. Everything. This means maintenance and repairs can seem atrociously expensive.  But it isn’t just throwing money at it for the sake of showing off how much money you have to throw:

The essential idea behind the Mercedes-Benz philosophy is this: if the car is properly cared for, it will work out to be cheaper in the long run. While Mercedes-Benz is rightly associated with luxury, its cars are also built to stay on the road for as long as you care to drive them.

This is what we who love these cars value them for. This is what was true back in 1971 when my uncle drove to visit us in his brand new Mercedes-Benz 220D, and it’s what I’m counting on being true now: that spending money on this car is a long term investment in a vehicle engineered like no other, that is solid and substantial, safe and utterly reliable, that I can drive to and from the grocery store or to and from California whenever I want to and not worry about it falling apart because it was made to fall apart so you’d have to go buy another.  That was Detroit’s model. That is not the Mercedes way.  The Mercedes way is to build a better car first, then add the bells and whistles on top of that. And that is how it feels to drive Spirit.  I read a user on one of the Mercedes-Benz forums I frequent, describe his ‘E’ class diesel as feeling as solid as a locomotive, yet nimble and sure footed on the curves.  That’s it. That’s the experience you get driving one of these cars.

But… They really screwed it up in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I would not own any Mercedes-Benz product made between 1997 and 2007. It’s the worst of both worlds: expensive cars that break down more than they should and require expensive parts to repair. I’ll give them this: it seems every German car maker had the same problems during that time frame.  So every time a problem arises, you wonder if this is just a random event, or the beginning of a downhill slide. And I can’t afford a downhill slide on a car that’s this expensive to repair.

I have two years and 20k left on the warranty. I bought an extended warranty…which I’m grateful for now given the cost of the work that’s suddenly had to be done.  Figure by the end of this year I’ll be over the 100k mark given how many miles I put on a car. So this second Check Engine fail is worrisome enough that I’m considering ditching the car if it needs another 1k+ repair before the warranty runs out, and just go with a cheaper ride.  I’m fast approaching a time in my life when living on retirement funds and social security makes any sort of high dollar spending very problematic.  I don’t mind paying a premium for regular maintenance, so long as that buys me a car I don’t have to worry about between maintenance. But it has to do that or I can’t justify it…

…even to own the car of my dreams, the car I’ve wanted ever since I was a teenager.

In 2008, when the new models designed under then new CEO Dieter Zetsche (one of the few CEOs today who I greatly admire) started hitting the showrooms, Daimler began running a series of ads, admitting to past failures to live up to the standard they’d set for themselves, and promising to do better. The slogan was, “Because we promised you a Mercedes-Benz”. I’m holding them to that promise.  So is the kid I once was, and he does not forget a broken promise.

 


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 10th, 2015

Letting Go Of Pooh Bear

Adorable little Winnie The Pooh plush toy I’ve had in the house ever since I moved here got placed into one of those donation bins for adoption, hopefully to go to some needy kid who will give it a lot of love.

It was something I’d bought as a gift for Keith over a decade ago. Keith was the closest thing I’d ever had to a boyfriend, but that turned out to be more in my mind and heart than in his. He had a fondness for the characters in the A. A. Milne stories and I’d bought him some little Disney statuettes before. There was one of Tigger teaching Eeyore how to smile he liked. Sixteen years ago I saw the stuffed bear in a Disney gift shop at White Marsh and I knew he’d like it. I brought it back home to give to him on his birthday later that year. Several days after I bought him Keith told me he while we were chatting on AOL Messenger that was seeing someone else he’d met on AOL Messenger, and that other guy was moving from New York to Hilton Head so they could live together.

So Pooh stayed on the top of one of my bookcases ever since, moving eventually from the apartment in Cockeysville to Casa del Garrett here in Baltimore, but never really ever doing much except sitting there waiting for someone to give him some love. Every time I looked up at him I thought I needed to let him go to someplace where he would be loved as he was meant to be, but somehow I couldn’t let him go. Until today. It takes me that long. I hope he finds a good home.


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January 9th, 2015

It Stinks For A Little While, And Then It’s Gone…

This, concerning the reality show My Husband’s Not Gay, came across my Facebook stream just now…

 

doughnuts

I listened to someone compare it to farting once.  In retrospect I’ve wondered if he wasn’t telling me he’d become asexual since we were both teenagers.  Oh well…most Disney characters are after all…


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December 10th, 2014

Staring Into The Pit…

I link to Andrew Sullivan reluctantly, Very reluctantly, but I have to give credit where it’s due too. This livestreaming he did on the torture report is very good, the outrage in it genuine and worth sharing. You should feel that outrage too.

Darkness Visible: Live-Blogging The Torture Report

“The barbarism was the very opposite from a few bad apples at the bottom of the pile, as they tried to persuade us at Abu Ghraib. The bad apples were at the very top of the chain of command, rotting this country’s reputation and honor from the top down. And those begin with Bush and Cheney and Tenet. They are now wanted men. And they will go abroad again – at their legal peril. And so America becomes a legal sanctuary for war criminals. As long as they are our war criminals.”

Like a lot of Americans, I believe in that liberty and justice for all stuff, and government of the people, by the people and for the people, and I want so much to be proud of the way my country embodies those principles. Civilization stands or falls on them. But it is not always so. Just ask the native Americans, just ask the sons and daughters of the slaves, just ask the peaceful protestors of any decade who felt the club and the boot. Mary Renault, at the end of her novel about the poet Simonides, wrote “In all men evil is sleeping; the good man is he who will not awaken it, in himself or in other men.” That sense we often feel among us, of American exceptionalism, ought rightly to impart a sense of obligation, as something every generation is called to live up to, because we are human after all, and with the potential for great good comes the potential for great evil. But too often powerful evil people manage to turn that sense of ourselves and our purpose into cheap bar stool nationalism, an excuse to congratulate ourselves as we look the other way at the evil done in our name, in the name of our country. They need to be held accountable. Or history will hold us accountable, and laugh at all the times we waved our flag as if it stood for anything more than a place on a map.

 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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December 4th, 2014

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding? Let Me Explain…

This came across my Twitter stream today…

@teamyasumura: “For Real: When first on TV in 1966, ‘Star Trek’ was not shown in many Southern states because it portrayed integration.”

I remember watching a broadcast of the Emmy awards when I was a kid. I Spy had only been on for one season but one of the production crew, not sure who now, won an award for the work he’d done on the show and on the podium after accepting his little statue said he wanted to thank the producer. “Sheldon Leonard”, he said, “has a lot of guts.”

I had no idea what he was talking about and I was 13 years old so I let it slide. It wasn’t until many years later, when I read about how some local TV station owners in some parts of the country would reliably get up in arms whenever a show wasn’t sufficiently respectful to race bigots, that I saw what he was talking about. Basically in 1965, by casting a black man, Bill Cosby, as one of the two series leads, he was thumbing his nose at a lot of TV station owners, who between them represented a lot of potential audience.

My generation thought we’d lived to see the day our country put all that behind us. We were wrong. Horribly, laughably, wrong. All that peace love and understanding stuff we believed in didn’t amount to crap. The bitter rage of the gutter only deepened, and bided its time.

I think some part of me did eventually see it, about a decade or so ago, when I first read about towns that buried their community swimming pools, rather than allow blacks to use them too. I remember being stunned. You buried…the whole goddamned pool?? We failed to understand the power…and the potent venom…of race hatred. We failed to appreciate how hate alone can sustain the hater for decades, for generations all carefully taught. And now it is all coming back. We achieved nothing. We were irrelevant.
 
 
 

whitesonlyswimmingpoolsign


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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
December 1st, 2014

A Lifetime Spent Searching…Hoping…Waiting…

This came across my Twitter stream the other day…

Susan Boyle Has Her First Boyfriend at Age 53 (People Magazine)

Well I’m happy for her. There’s little enough love in this world. I’m sixty-one years old myself, and I’m still waiting…
 

 

alone


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November 30th, 2014

Those Simpler Times When We Were All Digging Fallout Shelters

 

skate
Photo credit: Bill Eppridge

 

My Facebook stream had one of those those Do You Remember When things aimed at boomers like myself and the slightly older. I sat through it, the usual stuff about how things were for us when we were all kids, Do You Remember When Telephones Had Dials…Saturday Mornings Were For Cartoons…You Got Your Schoolwork On Mimeographed Pages… ending with the usual If You Remember This Then You Lived In Simpler Times Consider Yourself Lucky…blah blah blah…

Yeah it was simpler…for us. We were kids. We were simpler back then. Probably not so simple a time for all the grownups leading us in our duck and cover drills though, and sitting through the random tests of the emergency broadcast system on the TV.

cuba-fallout-shelter


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November 19th, 2014

The Moralist

You should read this by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Cosby Show

Declining to seriously reckon with the rape allegations against him is reckless. And I was once reckless.

This entire episode probably grieves him and other black Americans worse than it does me, but I am put into a very dark place by it. I deeply respected this man, not simply as an entertainer but as a moralist.

Coates talks here about an article he wrote for The Atlantic that was published 2008, after following Cosby around the country for a couple years as he lectured the black community on morality. He writes that Cosby, “…was not speaking as a man sent to assure a group that racism did not exist, but as a man who sincerely believed that black people, through the ethic of “twice as good,” could overcome. That is the core of respectability politics. Its appeal is broad in both black and white America, and everywhere Cosby went he was greeted with rapturous applause.”

Perhaps there’s an answer in there, better than the cynical one; that when all is said and done, humans are no damn good. That’s almost where I wanted to go when it finally hit me that he really did these things.

Bad enough that white racists are going to be pointing at this as though it were proof of every filthy lie about black people they can imagine. Worse that everyone might take it as further proof that humans in general are no damn good. When someone you once idealized as an example of the better things within us turns out to be…this…it leaves you a little emptier inside, a little less reluctant to give up on the human race. But misanthropy is just another way of giving up, of taking the easy way out when you discover life is harder than you thought.

I was this same kid Coates talks about himself being. I have not been raped, but I have had the same experience with bullies he did.  Maybe this is what gives the outcast boy a greater sense of sympathy with the fear women have to constantly live with…

Rape constitutes the loss of your body, which is all you are, to someone else. I have never been raped. But I have, several times as a child, been punched, punched/stomped/kicked/bumrushed while walking home from school, and thus lost my body. The worst part for me was not the experience, but the humiliation of being unable to protect my body, which is all I am, from predators. Even now as I sketch this out for you publicly, I am humiliated all again.

I know that feeling well. And this is why the accusations ring true to some of us, even in the absence of proof…

And this happened when I was a child. If recounting a physical assault causes me humiliation, how might recounting a sexual assault feel? And what would cause me to willingly stand up and relive that humiliation before a national audience? And why would I fake my way through such a thing? Cosby’s accusers—who have no hope of criminal charges, nor civil damages—are courting the scrutiny of Cosby-lovers and rape-deniers. To what end?

And this is why it is so excruciatingly hard for some of us to accept…

It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.

I didn’t pay that much attention to Cosby’s moral sermons at the black community, because it felt like listening in on a family argument that really wasn’t any of my business. White Americans have their own house to clean up and that other Americans have their issues is neither reason nor excuse for ours. When Cosby’s moralizing to his black neighbors did cross my mind I felt torn. “Twice as good” isn’t fair, isn’t right, is proof if it’s anything of the pernicious failure of white middle America to look at the stranger’s face and see ourselves. But I believed in the principle right enough, if not “twice as good”, then good at the very least: that to change your world you must become the change you wish to see. Set an example. You can preach at people until you are blue in the face and it just goes in one ear and out the other.

And there’s the problem. Cosby went on a moral crusade. I stayed out of it, because I am white, and we have our own house to get in order. But how many times have gay people seen this behavior? And I despair whenever I hear gay people conclude because of it, that morality is nothing more than the bigot’s scold, a weapon the powerful use to keep the rest of us down. Morality is our friend. Right and wrong really do exist as objective concepts. Otherwise, why care about what Cosby did.  A lot of people, a lot of the same sort of people, drape themselves in moral robes like they drape themselves in the flag. Patriotism isn’t the last refuge of a scoundrel, religion and morality are. Remember this: often, very often, people will go on moral crusades so they don’t have to look at the wreck they’ve made of their own inner lives. The true moralist preaches by example.


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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
November 17th, 2014

The Complementary Nature Of Prejudice And Ignorance

You wonder some days if some people even bother listening to themselves…

“In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart…”  -Pope Francis The Oblivious.

Here it is again in another form: Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.  That’s what Francis is saying there if he’s holding that up as a reason why same-sex couples ought not to be allowed equal access to marriage. He’s saying that homosexual relationships can’t, by their very nature, aspire to permanent commitment, solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love. He’s saying that the deepest longings of the homosexual’s heart are actually quite shallow.  They can’t aspire to marriage because they don’t have what it takes. Because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.

If that’s not what he meant, then why say it in front of an audience that includes some of the worst bigots in the United States.  He’s telling them he shares their belief in the essential emptiness of the homosexual’s soul. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex…  And if that’s the case, then this man will simply continue his flock’s long jihad on the deepest longings of the human heart after all, reassuring himself as they always do, that the knife isn’t actually cutting hearts capable of bleeding.  And as they always do, he’ll continue to blame the pushback on modernism…

“Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact.” -Same Guy.

Oh it’s facts now is it?  Here’s one: same-sex couples share the same longings as opposite-sex couples, because they are as human as anyone else.  Gay people have the same human heart, and it is moved by love in the same way.  That is a fact.  You’d see it if you could see the people for the homosexuals: and yet, it moves.

 


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November 16th, 2014

Neighborhood Calico

I keep forgetting I can take video now with this little pocket device I’ve been carrying around for years. It’s the still photographer I am. I forget that pictures can move too, if the occasion presents. So the little feral calico cat that’s made herself something of a home around Casa del Garrett has become friendly enough toward me now that she’ll come to greet my car when I return home. Yesterday it was after a trip to the grocery. She’s four, maybe five years old now, which is so I’m told about as long as outdoor cats live and it’s getting on toward the winter cold, and I’m starting to worry about how much longer I’ll have her in my world. So I’ve started recording some moments with her…something now I deeply regret not doing with Claudia…

 

Toward the end of the video I have a geezer moment and I get the term “tabby cat” confused with “tom cat”. Her dad, obviously, was a tom cat. One of her parents was a tabby.

I started feeding her two hurricanes ago, after I saw her huddled in one of my basement window sills in a torrent of cold driving rain. I knew I didn’t dare go out to try to coax her somewhere dryer because she’d just run off and I was afraid I’d find her dead there in the window sill the next morning. But next morning she was gone. I put a dish of tuna on the window sill and when I checked it later it was empty. I’d deliberately used a very visually distinctive old Fiestaware bowl, and the next time I saw her I put some more tuna in it and walked out on my porch with it and held it up so she could see it. She seemed to recognise it, and I put it down and went back inside and watched from the front window. She came up and chowed down. I knew I was making a commitment then, but she’d been hanging out on my street for about two years by then and I was getting attached. This was before Claudia.

Later that day, while I was doing some lawn work by the front steps, I saw her come over and sit down on the sidewalk about five yards away from where I was, and she gave me a long level stare like I’d never seen a cat do before. I thought, I’m being sized up. Then she walked off.

After that, my feeding her became a thing. Later my neighbors on either side got into it too. One even built a small winter shelter for her out of one of those big plastic storage containers. So she knows she this side of the street is a safe space.

I’ve no idea how much longer she’ll be with us. Five years is a long time for a feral. But she won’t be coaxed inside..at least not for more than a few seconds. I’ve gotten her to peek inside the house maybe three times and it’s never for more than a few seconds and she bolts out again. You can’t get too close. She’ll come sniff my shoes and that’s about it. But I got her to trust me and that’s happiness enough.


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November 3rd, 2014

The Hated Other And The World They Did Not Want To Hate Back

mags

A couple more magazine back issues I ordered for my “Gay Studies” bookcase came in. One is a Life from 1964 with the Homosexuality In America article, including a section on the science of that period which begins, “Do the homosexuals, like the communists, intend to bury us?” I would have been ten years old when that issue hit the stands.

The Harper’s of September 1970 has the infamous Joseph Epstein essay that provoked a sit-in at the offices of Harper’s. Titled The Struggle for Sexual Identity, it ended with,

“If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth… nothing [his sons] could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual. For then I should know them condemned to a permanent niggerdom among men, their lives, whatever adjustment they might make to their condition, to be lived out as part of the pain of the earth.”

I would have just turned 17.

I look at these magazines, and especially the ads, and it hits me that many of the people I know at work, and in my Facebook friends list, would not have even been born when these were published. But I remember that period of time quite clearly though, and yet when I did fall in love that first time, and came out to myself, I really believed that I could have that perfect joy in my own life too, regardless of what others thought about me. Looking over these magazines now, and the brutal ignorance and hostility toward me and my kind on full display, as casually and unaffectedly as if describing the weather, I can see how naive I must have been back then, to think that it would not touch my life too, and throttle my hopes and dreams like it did to so many others. For some of us it will always be a time before Stonewall.

I eventually did find my own way to a small community of fellow gay computer nerds and geeks. I’d hoped that would make the difference and just by socializing among friends like the straight boys and girls did I’d find my other half. But hatred cuts deep into the heart of the hated other, and hardens it nicely, and later in life than I should have I learned the same lesson Janis Ian did at seventeen. The shy, socially awkward plain looking kid is even less likely to be cared about in a community that is always under suspicion, always under attack. If the weakling falls behind and gets eaten, the important thing is it wasn’t you.

It’s better for gay kids now. Some of them. Thankfully. In time the force hate bears down on our lives will be a thing of the past. Mostly. But it didn’t have to be. The 1964 Life Magazine article on the science of homosexuality is titled “Why?” Probably my interest lately in collecting artifacts from that period is about my own search for an answer, to something that is unanswerable: Why is it so much easier to hate than it is to love?

me and camera

Why?


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

Feeling Persecuted Are We…?

Serendipity in my Twitter feed just now…

persecution


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

So It Goes…

Caught the end of Brokeback Mountain again last night. I’ve never been able to watch the entire movie, although I’ve read the Annie Proulx short story from beginning to end.  But Heath Ledger…he really makes you feel it,  and that just makes me so much more miserable inside…

jack


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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