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January 12th, 2014

The Parka That Represented A Mindset

OhMyGod…Sierra Designs is (or was) making it’s original Mountain Parka!!! It’s on the kind of sale that looks like it’s a discontinued item (again) and some sizes for some colors are marked as not in stock. But you can get to them from the main page if you go to “Men’s Apparel -> 60/40 Heritage”. Or you can just do a Google search on them like I did just a few moments ago on a lark.  Or just click this link.

See…I’ve been wishfully thinking about that parka for decades. Decades. I had one way back when, but not understanding the concept fully I bought one that had a Thinsulate liner and really, it’s supposed to be a shell. The idea was if you needed to you wore something else under it like a sweater or a vest. Otherwise it made a good wind breaker for back country hiking.  But there was more to it.  Oddly enough, a piece of clothing can also represent something more than itself and the purpose it was made to.

Back when I was a kid a lot of outdoor stuff you saw was made the same way they’d been making outdoor equipment since almost the turn of the century…much it merely riffing off old army designs that even the army wasn’t using anymore. Nobody was really thinking about what the equipment was supposed to do. New materials were mindlessly used in old designs that had been originally made with canvas and trotted out as something new and great simply because the canvas had been replaced with nylon or some other synthetic fabric.

In the late 60s a few small companies in California began rethinking everything. One of them was Sierra Designs which began selling their Mountain Parka in 1968. It hit the outdoor market like a bombshell for its innovative design and over engineered construction (they used to guarantee their stitching for life). It quickly became a thing. If you’ve ever watched the original Carl Sagan “Cosmos” series, that parka he was wearing at various points in it was one. It was a very recognizable item because its design was so unique for its day, yet it made so much sense for its purpose.

Nowadays all this is old hat…but I remember the thrill of walking into a Hudson Bay Outfitters store in the 70s and seeing so many new ideas and designs for outdoor equipment (I was in my wilderness backpacking phase then) that looked so different and yet made so much sense. Because some people had started rethinking what that equipment was For, had begun to realize what new materials and new technologies could accomplish. And those people got other people to thinking too.  This was the same think outside the box mindset…you saw it mostly but not exclusively on the west coast…that would eventually yank the power of the computer out of the mainframe and put it on people’s desktops, and then into their hands.  It was this:

We keep moving forward opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. -Walt Disney.

After the stifling 50s, that was the future I thought was was walking into when I was a teenager.  Well…it wasn’t all that.  But in some ways it was.  And still is.

Time passes…the universe expands…my economic status declined rapidly after the Reagan recession and the Savings and Loan scandals wreaked the economy. I got rid of my Thinsulate lined parka when its fabric got hopelessly torn and I had no money for a new one but I figured I’d get one of the basic shells at some point. But the company changed hands, joined with other outdoor companies like Kelty and stopped making some of its classic products including the Mountain Parka. Every now and then I’d check the company web site to see if they’d re-introduced it but it was never there.

Last Christmas my brother bought me a really nice L.L. Bean down vest and I started thinking again about the Sierra Designs parka and just now I looked and it’s back!  So of course I bought one. I didn’t need one…I have some very good coats and parkas in the coat closet already. But sometimes you wear an item of clothing not for what it is entirely, but for what it represents.

sagan-cosmos-2


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 11th, 2014

Cat Dreams…

Some weeks ago I brought a new cat into the house.  Her name is Isis.  She’s an eleven year old black domestic short hair I adopted from the Maryland SPCA.  More about that later.

I’m down in the art room working on the computer. Isis comes in and sits in my lap for a while, then hops off and lays down on a cat bed I’ve given her for down here. I keep working and after a while I hear a little sound, like a little cat snore. I’ve heard her snore occasionally since I brought her here and usually it stops after a moment or two. This time it gets louder. Then it gets really loud.

Alarmed, thinking she’s in distress, I get up and go check her. She’s laying curled up in the cat bed, and seems sound asleep. But she’s growling. It’s the same noise she makes when she’s at the front window and sees another of the neighborhood cats. You’ve probably all heard that set your teeth on edge slow drawn-out growl that’s the prelude to an all out cat fight. This was the sound she was making. But she was sound asleep, eyes closed, paws twitching slightly. I figured she was having a bad dream. I remembered a passage from Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley when Charley, his dog, was having a nightmare after seeing his first Yellowstone bear:

In the night I heard him whining and yapping, and when I turned the lights on his feet were making running gestures and his body jerked and his eyes were wide open, but it was only a night bear. I awakened him and gave him some water. This time he went to sleep and didn’t stir all night. In the morning he was still tired. I wonder why we think the thoughts and emotions of animals are simple.
- John Steinbeck, “Travels With Charley”.

So I place a hand on my cat and for a moment it’s as if she doesn’t feel it at all. Then she startles awake, head up, eyes blinking. (What…what???) I give her some friendly pets and chin scratches and stay there while the dream leaves. She gets up and sits in my lap for a while and I keep petting the bad dream away. Eventually she wanders upstairs to the food dishes. I suppose cats do comfort eating too.

I wonder sometimes what animals that dream think of their dreams. Do they understand the dream wasn’t real? They must have some grasp of it. How else does a cat reconcile waking up from a dream of, oh say, stalking some tasty birds and then suddenly they’re in their cat bed inside the house. Or do they just casually accept that reality is like that? Not linear from past to present, but bouncing here and there like hot water on a griddle.

Silly human…the whole world is unstuck in time, you just don’t notice. Which of course means…because clearly I’m better at noticing these random time warps than you are…that it’s breakfast time whenever I say it is…


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 7th, 2014

Let Us Give Them Comfortable Little Graves…

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

Lawmaker questions including gays in human trafficking anti-discrimination regs

A lawmaker who helped author Kansas’ constitutional amendment banning gay marriage questioned a state official Tuesday about why his agency included sexual orientation in an anti-discrimination clause for safe houses for victims of human trafficking.

Now why on earth, you may be wondering, would anyone object to telling people who are providing services to kids who have been rescued from human trafficking rings to not discriminate against the gay ones?  You may be wondering that is, if you hadn’t been paying attention to the bottomless abyss that is the anti-gay industrial complex…

After rattling off a series of nondiscrimination categories for admission to the secure facilities that included gender and race, Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, asked Smith why sexual orientation was also included.

“I wasn’t sure what your origin was on listing sexual preference,” Pauls said. “Gender covers a lot of the sexual discrimination, potentially. I just wasn’t sure why the sexual preference was added.”

Smith said it was a safeguard to ensure homosexual victims get helped.

And there’s the problem right there.  There are no homosexual victims, there are only victims of homosexuals…

“The issue is, if you have a homosexual child who was prostituted out there, you don’t want a facility denying treatment to that child,” Smith said. “Not that we believe anybody would deny services based on that.”

But then, what do we mean…really…by “denying services?” We give them a place to stay. That doesn’t mean they have to feel comfortable here does it?  Behold:

Pauls also said she didn’t believe any human trafficking victims would be denied access to a safe house on that basis, but she said including it in legal nondiscrimination regulations could pose problems for religious institutions providing help, whether they be Christian, Muslim and other faiths that oppose homosexual activity.

“They might refuse if part of the followup treatment is to make the person comfortable in the alternative lifestyle they may have been forced into,” Pauls said.

You would expect that child services professionals would be making very sure every kid rescued from this sort of thing, not just the gay ones, knows in their heart that they aren’t to blame for what they were made to do.  Every kid was forced into it.  There is no “may have” about it.  But there’s something else going on in this woman’s line of questioning.  Something those of you reading this who haven’t been fighting this fight for so long may be missing here.  Homosexuals you see, don’t reproduce, they recruit.  There are no gay kids, only heterosexual kids that were abused by homosexuals and “turned”.  So really every gay kid was forced into that “alternative lifestyle”.  See how that works?

We are not denying these kids services, we are denying they are gay.  And these children need rescuing too…from the homosexual agenda.  So the religious institutions providing services to exploited children need to be able to tell those kids that Change Is Possible.  For God sakes don’t make them comfortable with being turned into homosexuals. Tell them they are not homosexual, that their homosexuality is only the damage their masters inflicted upon them.  And never mind this might only make them even more suicidal than they already were.

Those men who did this to you…they made you think you’re homosexual…but God can heal you…  And when the healing doesn’t come, when the sexual attraction to their own sex does not go away, because homosexuality is a real thing and some kids after all really are gay, what is that kid supposed to think, except that the men who sold them, and the men who exploited them, damaged them beyond repair.  Raped once by the peddlers of children, raped again by the peddlers of righteousness.  And then what do those kids do? They do what bullied gay kids do year after year after year after heartbreaking year.

And thus the safe house becomes the final nail in a little coffin that didn’t have to be, but for the ignorance, but for the unmitigated unforgivable arrogance of some theoretically devout people, who just knew they knew better than that kid’s maker what that kid was meant to be, whose arms that kid was made to be embraced by, and loved.

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.  We can’t let them just be homosexual.  We can’t just tell them they’re loved just as they are.  Dear Lord don’t tell us we have to let them be comfortable in sin.  Better dead than that…

 


Posted In: Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

“Ich liebe dich, Schätzchen!!”

So tempting…

love_he_shouted

So very very tempting…


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January 5th, 2014

Pitchforks And Torches Will Be Handed Out After Today’s Prayer Breakfast…

Via Towleroad…

“The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats…That’s a lie. That’s an absolute lie [that the federal government's ruling overrules Utah's laws]. We have a right to raise our kids without homosexuals being part of the Boy Scouts, the schools and teachers and doing everything. They can be all that, but don’t shove your agenda down my kid’s throat. We have a right to raise our kids how we want not how you want.”

utah_sheriff_children_throats

The homosexuals. The homosexuals. The homosexuals. The homosexuals are coming for our kids. The homosexuals are coming for our kids. The homosexuals are coming for our kids. Shoving themselves down their throats.

Does this “lawman” realize that he’s inciting the sort of passions that get gay people beaten and killed? Oh…probably…

jack_d_ripper

Ice cream, Mandrake, children’s ice cream…


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 2nd, 2014

Fear Of Mickey

This came across my Facebook steam a while ago, via Towleroad

Disturbed by NSA Spying? Disney World’s New “Magic Bands” Track Guests.

Disney World’s new NSA-style “Magic Bands” track guest movements. “The MyMagic+ ‘vacation management system’ can track guests as they move throughout Walt Disney World and analyze their buying habits. If parents allow certain settings on the Magic Bands, employees playing characters will be able to see data with the use of hidden sensors — so a child might walk up to Mickey Mouse, who says, “Hi, Bobby! Happy birthday!” Some rides will be designed so that there’s interaction between the machines and people with Magic Bands in waiting areas, thus keeping guests entertained as they wait in line.

Yadda, yadda and so on…  I got mine just before my last trip down and I loved it.  It was simple, convenient, I could do everything I needed to do, get in my room, enter a park, get a fast pass, buy food, drinks, stuff, without having to mess with a bunch of different cards. Plus, though I didn’t use it in the water parks this trip (too cold this time of year) it’s waterproof, which is a really Big plus when you’re in the water parks and you want to buy a snack or a drink without having to trudge back to your locker, get your wallet, trudge back to the snack stand, then back to the locker, then back to whatever you were doing.

I appreciate they’re tracking you. That’s fine…anything that gives them insight into how to make my stay there as enjoyable as possible is a Good Thing, especially considering the money I’m spending.  If they want to track me around the parks and figure out how to make me want to keep coming back…fine!  It’s Disney World.  Just make it fun is all I ask.  Here’s the difference between a Magic Band and the NSA: When I leave the parks, the Magic Band comes off and goes back in its box.

NSA don’t go away, doesn’t ask permission, breaks the security on my personal devices, gets my money straight out of my paycheck whether I like their act or not and don’t care if I’m having fun.

magic_band-sm


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

To Whom It May Concern…

born_in_a_cage


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That Fine Line Between Love And Hate And How To Cross It

I was approaching the U.S. Supreme Court building across from the Capital, a year after their awful decision in Hardwick v. Bowers upholding the sodomy laws. For the first time I think ever, I was going to a demonstration not to be the detached photojournalist, but to actually count myself as a participant.  And to reenforce that I’d not brought any of my cameras (a decision I now regret, but so it goes).  I’d arrived via the subway, got off at Union Station and was walking across Constitution Avenue when I noticed there was a police presence already forming up.  As I walked past a group of them I heard one policeman, an older black gentleman, saying to his companions, “I don’t have no trouble with the older faggots…”

It struck me as a grim echo from another time and the bitter mockery of it made my head spin.  Yes, yes…nobody has any trouble with the ones that know their place.

This came across my news stream shortly after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah’s anti-gay constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the right to marry…

Utah weighs impact of ruling allowing gay marriage

While Utah’s attorney general strategizes an appeal of the ruling and Mormons take a softer approach in opposing gay marriage, others in the traditionally conservative state predict broader acceptance of the practice nationwide.

A quote in this leaped out at me…

For Hunt, 44, a bellhop at a swank downtown hotel a few blocks from the LDS church’s sacred Temple Square, the days have been spent discussing the ruling’s impact with family and fellow Mormons.

“Is it the end of the world? No,” he said, shivering in the 15-degree cold. “In the end, we have a message to the gay and lesbian people who live among us — we don’t hate you, it’s nothing like that. But we believe what we believe. And our conviction is strong.”

We don’t hate you…  No dear, of course you don’t.  As long as we stay in our place.  Bet you don’t have no trouble with the older faggots either.

How often I heard this crap back when King and Malcolm X were telling white folk they weren’t shining shoes anymore. We don’t hate them coloreds, they’re fine people…happy cotton pickers…dance with a lot of rhythm don’t they? We don’t hate women either.  How could you say I hate women…my god I married a woman…she’s a nice little homemaker…great in the kitchen…wouldn’t want her running a business though…that’s man’s work.

It’s disingenuous self serving sanctimony.  Sure you don’t hate Them.  You don’t hate Them as long as They know Their place and stay in it.  It’s when They won’t stay in Their place that the hate starts happening.  Torrents of it.

Ever wonder at the passions you see suddenly snap out of a bigot when they’re forced to…you know…behave like a bigot?  It is because now they have to see what monsters they really are deep down inside. You made me do this to you…I hate you for making me do this to you…for making me see what kind of person I really am…


Posted In: Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

Back…

After a few false starts I’ve managed the upgrade.  At some point I might start looking for another theme since I very seldom update the right column anymore.  But for now all I wanted to do was get the blog on the current version of WordPress.

I am also running a class reunion site here that has been woefully neglected and now it’s so far behind in WordPress versions it’s not even displaying anymore and I had to take it down.  That’s going to be a manual upgrade process I am not looking forward to…

 

 


Posted In: Blog Administration
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December 30th, 2013

Blog Going Down For Upgrade Soon…

One of the things I wanted to do over my holiday vacation is upgrade the blog to the latest version of WordPress.  As I have some custom code in there it isn’t the most straightforward of processes.  But I have this entire site copied over to my household network and I can always go back if there is a major problem.  I’m just giving you this heads-up because it may not come back for a while when I do it….probably over the New Years holiday sometime when everyone is too hung over to be web surfing.


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December 27th, 2013

A Coming Out Story…Why, Has It Been A Year And A Half Already?

I just this morning finished the pencils on an episode of A Coming Out Story that’s more than a tad out of sequence…about four episodes after the story arc I’ve been trying to start since…oh…almost a year ago. (sigh) But it got me started again.  The story arc that’s supposed to start appearing next is the flashback to the sex ed class I had back in junior high…it was eighth grade, 1968…I can verify that because I still have my old year books and one of the gym teachers that taught it was only there when I was in eighth grade.  The guy I’m drawing is a composite of him and several other awful gym teachers I had over the years.  I can’t emphasize this enough: everyone in the story except me is either disguised or a composite of several people.  This is particularly true of the object of my affections.  I don’t want anyone embarrassed by things they did ages ago, in what was practically another world when it came to understanding sexual orientation.

The story arc after that one is an imaginary conversation with God.  Both these story arcs serve to get the times I grew up in and my frame of mind during adolescence more fully understood.  But I don’t want to post them out of order.  After these two mini story arcs then the action moves back into the main story arc and I’m at a football game taking photos for the student newspaper, and I go to the snack tent to grab something to eat only to discover You Know Who is working the snack tent.  I’ve been looking forward to drawing this part for literally years now.

It’s taken me a long time to fully appreciate that I’ve got my most creative energy in the morning. The thing about those of use who don’t or can’t earn a living by our artwork is we have regular jobs and that takes time away from the work of doing art.  And the problem with that for most of us is during the work week you try to do things in the evenings after work and that just doesn’t work.  Unless you’re a night person, brain does not function at the levels required then.

This holiday stay-at-home vacation has really driven this point home for me:  I am at my best creatively in the morning.  So I need to work on anything that requires that kind of thinking and concentration at the beginning of my day, and schedule the follow-through, or routine or drudge work in the afternoons. I do it this way I get tons of stuff done. I was already trying this at work, since a lot of what I do there in terms of programming and system engineering is a kind of creative thinking.  So I schedule my day to hopefully do the creative stuff in the morning and then the follow-up and routine stuff in the afternoon and I get a lot done.

But this holiday vacation I’m really seeing it. I get up and go down to the art room and do some work and leave the cleaning chores I’d planned for the afternoon and lo and behold I actually get things done.  What I need to do is get up early so I can have an hour at my drafting table before I go in.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
December 23rd, 2013

To My Readers…

Folks stumble across this little internet space of mine now and then and a few stick around and I reckon I have to keep posting this so there aren’t any misunderstandings, particularly about the blog.

This is a life blog. I started doing this before blogging became a thing, before it became a legitimate alternative to the pop media and corporate news services, before it became a kind of citizen journalism.  ‘Blog’ back in the early days of the World Wide Web, was a kind of shorthand/slang for ‘Web Log’…little online diaries people posted on their personal web sites in the days before you could update your status on Facebook.  The first blogs, started by artists, who were thought by some to be crazy putting their entire lives out there for the whole world to see, were just artistic experiments.  Then it became a thing.  Particularly during the Bush presidency, and the Iraq war, as people became frustrated and angry with the mainstream news services.  Nowadays, many blogs are topical, political, outlets of citizen journalism.

But this is not that kind of site.  This is a life blog.  It is my life blog.  I vent a lot here about politics, but I am a gay man, who grew up during the cold war, and even worse, lived most of my life in the suburbs of Washington D.C., which isn’t exactly known for its rural pastoral arcadian lifestyle…

No, Seriously.  I did my duck and cover drills in elementary school.  I listened to the monthly tests of the air raid siren behind the apartment complex mom and I lived in.  I did my pre-induction physical six months before Nixon ended the Vietnam war.  I remember sitting at the desk in my underwear with a few dozen other guys filling out this form that asked things like were we ever communists, wondering if I should check the box that asked if I was a homosexual.  I lived through the counter-culture wars in the 1960s.  I marched and took photos at the Nixon Counter Inaugural. I came out to myself on December 15 1971 somewhere between 4 and 5PM. I have marched in every gay rights march on Washington since the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979.  I wandered among the panels of the Names Project quilt when it was first unveiled on the Washington Mall in 1987, terrified that I would find one with the name of a certain someone I first fell in love with once upon a time there among them.

So I tend to vent a lot about politics here.  But this is not a political blog.  It is a life blog.  I put stuff here on the blog, mostly for the same reason I post my cartoons and photography elsewhere on this site. I am an artist. It sounds pretentious to say it, but there is no way to understand my frame of mind at any given time without understanding that I have this powerful need to Get It Out Of Me regardless of who cares or who even understands.  Mostly I do graphic art.  Sometimes words come out.  The Internet is just another way I have of putting my stuff out there.  It is not and does not function as an online publication of some kind.  It is a life blog.  Think of this place as being slightly retro…like it’s owner.  Matter of fact, apart from this blog, the rest of this site is all hand coded by me in simple HTML.  Yes, I’m a computer geek too.  That’s how I earn my living.  That’s where the artist and the Internet meet.

I have comment moderation turned on, not so much to regulate the content here but to keep spammers out of the comments.  For every real comment I get here I also get about 50 – 100 spam comments.  These are posted just to raise the rankings of a particular web site in the search engines and there’s no easy way to filter them out.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  My email box is even worse.  Send me an email and I might not even see it in the torrent of spam.  But this is not an online publication, it’s a life blog.  If you post a comment here or send me an email it might not show up for a while…maybe even a long while.  That might be because I’m not paying close attention to the blog because I am occupied elsewhere in my life, or it might be because I want to read it over carefully and post a response.

I don’t particularly care if you need to tell me why something I posted here is wrong.  I might argue or I might just eventually post your comment and say nothing. I might even agree I was wrong, or at least clumsy.  But I won’t endure a long heated argument either.  Obviously outright abuse won’t get posted, but I seldom get that here for some reason, probably because a troll wants a bigger audience than just me and the few regulars here.

This isn’t a political forum.  I am not a citizen journalist.  I am a software engineer for the Space Telescope Science Institute.  I am a computer geek.  I am a technology nerd.  I am a science geek. I am a photographer.  I am a cartoonist, I do political cartoons for Baltimore OutLOUD. I am a painter.  Sometimes I write stories.  I am an artist.  This is my life blog.


Posted In: Life
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December 19th, 2013

The Atheist And Christmas Music

I’m sitting at my desk listening to Christmas music.  Specifically, to my Pandora app on my iPhone. Pandora has a “Peaceful Holidays” channel and I love it.  The music lifts me, soothes my soul, brings back old and very pleasant memories of Christmases past.  Back in the day I would set the family manger scene under the Christmas tree.  I was the good Baptist boy.  Nowadays if I bother with the tree (the holidays aren’t the best of times for us single people) I use my manger figures to make a little middle ages town. (Funny isn’t it, how the people of Jesus’ day all dressed like people from middle ages Europe.) But even if I don’t put out the decorations, I have Christmas music playing softly on the stereo. I inherited all mom’s LPs, and treasure the Christmas ones especially. So how does the atheist I’ve become in my old age listen to this essentially religious music and still enjoy it so very much?  See…there’s a thing about music: it’s not about the lyrics.  Let me reach back into my blog archives, and tell you a story…

It is 1981, and I am a longhaired twenty-something out for a hike along the trails around Sugerloaf Mountain near Comus, Maryland. I am alone, with one of the new Sony Walkmans as my only company. I am well into my Bruckner phase, and in the Walkman is a cassette I’d recorded the previous day with his Symphony 8 and the Te Deum. Some say that title was a tad redundant for a Bruckner piece…that everything he ever wrote could have easily been subtitled, as he had in the dedication to his ninth symphony, To My Beloved God…

It is September, my birth month, and the air is clear and crisp as it only gets in the Washington D.C. suburbs during the beginning of spring and fall. The sky is a deep cobalt blue, flecked here and there with threads of high cirrus clouds. I walk lightly with a branch I found at the trail head like a staff, my hiking boots clomping over a narrow trail that winds through the woods, around and up the mountain to a little park on it’s summit. As I walk a pair of headphones fill my world with wonderful, evocative, richly textured symphonic classical music. I am in love with my Walkman. It lets me fill my world with music, yet bother no one else. Years later, I would rediscover that love in a little white iPod.

I reach the top of the mountain. The little park is empty. It is just me and Bruckner. I plop myself down on a rocky ledge that faces south toward the Shenandoah valley. It is a lovely view. In the distant haze I see the northern end of the Shenandoah mountains reach toward the horizon, and go over it in a procession of gently curved peaks. Several turkey vultures are in the sky below me, circling idly on a random updraft. Through the rolling hills of the Maryland Piedmont the Potomac river glistens in the late afternoon sunlight. A ribbon of smoke floats eastward from the smokestack at the Monocacy river power plant.

I take it all in, and Bruckner’s deeply spiritual music seems to make the very air around me sing. Life is good. It is awesome.

The music ends, and I take off the headphones. There are people behind me.

I turn to find that my quiet spot has been invaded by a crowd of picnickers. I figure them for a church group, since the boys still have their Sundaywear on, and their hair slicked down. Only somewhat more disturbing than the fact that a crowd of people were able to get behind me while I was listening to the music, is this kindly older lady sitting only a few feet from me: she is looking straight at me with that expression that at 27 I’ve come to know and love…

Incoming proselytize!

She smiles a sincerely transparent smile at me, and says, “That must be very nice music you’re listening to. What is it?”

I am dressed in cutoffs and a Hudson Bay Outfitters t-shirt. My hair is about as long as it gets, almost halfway down my back. I have my blue bandanna tied around my head, 70s fashion with the ends of the knot trailing down just behind my left ear. I am in my golden earring and lambda necklace stage of outedness. My friends tell me I have this perpetually bewildered look on my face when talking to strangers, and I know a hook when I hear it, but I look her in the eyes and answer her question seriously. “The Te Deum, by Anton Bruckner, Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic.”

Her eyes glaze over. We stare at each other for about a second. Then the kindly smile reappears and she says to me in all seriousness, “That’s very nice, but I think on the Sabbath we should listen to music that praises God…don’t you?”

That does it… I get up, nearly dropping the walkman, and start walking back to the trail. Behind me I hear the woman say, “Where are you going?”

“Into town to buy some.” I reply, walking faster.

I’d seen the lyrics to that Bruckner piece once on an album back cover and they disappointed me, Christian though I still identified at the time. And I think it was then that I resolved never to read the lyrics of classical music pieces that I discovered and loved.  I still try to avoid it. Michael Nesmith once said on one of his album covers that the lyrics were only the logical part, that the meaning was the music itself.

I am not an atheist because I have a grudge against religion, I’m an athiest simply because I discovered I’d reached a point where belief had stopped making sense to me.  But many things I learned and experienced in church I still hold close to the heart.  I still find myself humming some of the old hymns while doing chores.  And Christianity has produced wonderful, deeply spiritual music. When it’s done from that place of love and awe, all art, even the darkest, speaks a universal language, deep, soulful, and spiritual.  It is a place where we can recognize one another, and our common humanity.

If the lyrics add something to the music for you, then fine. If not, then never mind the damn lyrics. They’re just the logical part, for those of us who have trouble sometimes, seeing the heart.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
December 17th, 2013

‘Tis That Christmas Story Season…

Well…there’s a baby in the manger one, which a lot of good people still hold dear.  I have a different one in mind.  This just came across my Facebook stream…

17 December 1843 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, was published.

I saw it and immediately thought the artist had captured both Scrooge and the entire Dickens story perfectly.  This is one of the better representations of Scrooge I’ve ever seen, and you see a lot of them this time of year. Most of the time what you get is a caricature, an easy to dismiss stereotype. I hear the 1938 movie version with Reginald Owen is well liked, but the first serious telling of the story I ever saw was the George C. Scott version and I still find that the better one. In it, Scrooge is a business man of his day and age and when he says the poor had better die soon and decrease the surplus population you feel it as Dickens meant it to be felt, that this is a man who is probably very good at business, but has lost his soul.

There’s the old story of the birth of Jesus.  There’s other’s like Amahl and the Night Visitors, also a favorite of mine once upon a time.  There’s It’s A Wonderful Life.  But for me the meaning of the season is best seen in A Christmas Carol.  You just have to get past all the cardboard Scrooges.  If I were doing a film version of it today, I’d make him an American financier, and change not a word of dialogue or action, and it would make you cringe for the soul of this man.

[Update...]  It was the Alastair Sim version I was thinking of, as the first of the believable Scrooges, not the MGM Reginald Owen one.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
December 13th, 2013

Milepost On The Road To Baba Yar

This, via Towleroad…

Popular Russian Actor Applauded After Announcing He Would Like To Burn All Gays Alive

Popular Russian actor Ivan Okhlobystin was cheered by an audience this week after announcing that he would like to burn all gays alive, Queer Russia reports:

Said Okhlobystin:

“I myself would shove all live gays into furnace. This is Sodom and Gomorrah, I as a beliver in God can not treat this indifferently, this is a live threat to my kids!… I do not want my kids to think that faggots are normal. This is lavender fascism.”

Lavender fascism, as opposed to systematically murdering a hated minority which is a sacrament…

If you think it’s bad in Russia now, wait until after the Olympics, when it will be easier for the world to look the other way.


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
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