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Archives, 2005 Dec. 22

Thursday January 12, 2006

Loving The Sinner…(continued)

If you’ve been following the GLBT news outlets lately, you’ve probably noticed that it’s been a particularly violent couple of months for sexual minorities world-wide. And it may have occured to you that violence toward sexual minorities has been getting a bit worse overall lately. It has. And there’s a reason for that.

Gay group wins $87,000 over frivolous suit by Louisiana pastor

MADISON, Wis. Wisconsin's largest gay rights group has won 87-thousand dollars in legal bills over what a judge called a frivolous lawsuit.

The group Action Wisconsin won the award last week over a suit made by Louisiana pastor Grant Storms.

Storms claimed the group defamed him by saying he advocated the murder of gays at an anti-gay conference in Milwaukee in 2003.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Patricia McMahon says the group interpreted his remarks reasonably and the lawsuit lacked merit.


According to a transcript of his speech, Storm said opponents of gay rights should take to the streets.

Then he mimicked the sound of gunfire, saying, quote, "Boom, boom, boom, boom. There's twenty! Ca-ching."

There’s two things you need to pay attention to in this story. First, this is a pastor, not merely a man of God, but a Christian inciting people to go out and kill their neighbors. It is more then obscene, it’s the kind of thing that lit the ovens of the Holocaust. But there is more to it. Consider also, that when he got called on it he not only denied what he did, he took his accusers to court for slander. Now…you could just write that off as tactical indignation, but if you’re brave and feel a little like peeking down into the Pit today…google Grant Storms, peruse the record of his words and deeds, and consider that Storms knew exactly what he was doing when he mimicked the sound of gunfire, and that when he took Action Wisconsin to court, he genuinely believed that he had done no such thing. Orwell had a word for it: Doublethink.

Thought marked by the acceptance of gross contradictions and falsehoods, especially when used as a technique of self-indoctrination: " a vast system of mental cheating" (George Orwell).

Definition Via Answers.Com

This is the final step in renouncing your human identity. This is the end of the road. This is the fee prejudice requires. And you pay it up front, and you pay it willingly. Nobody goes into this with their eyes closed. At some point in his life, reality collided with Storms’ cheap conceits and in order for those conceits to win, reality had to loose. But reality never looses. Storms had to walk away from it, and in the end all he could do was walk away from his human identity instead. That’s what hate demands. You have to give it everything, and eventually you become nothing.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Wednesday January 11, 2006

No Kidding

If you're very lucky, you get two or three chances at "love of your life" love. Many people get just one chance. Some people get no chances.

Rex Wockner, reviewing Brokeback Mountain

Yah. No…one reason I’ll likely not be going to see Brokeback Mountain is I’m not hugely interested in watching a film about a guy who lets it all slip away, however painfully trapped in his culture’s homophobia he might have been. I would ache to see Ennis’ heartbreak at the end, and I don’t need to be paying money for that ache. And at least I took my chances.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Tuesday January 10, 2006

Why I Will Probably Never Make Much Doing Political Cartoons

Oh this is precious…you have to read this post from this post from Tom Tomorrow’s blog, if you’re an aspiring cartoonist, someone like me who is just starting to get their feet wet in the publishing world, or simply a fan of the art of political cartooning.

Now, the thing is, I've been down this road a number of times. And this is how it always plays out: a well-meaning art director contacts me. I submit a "rough" (which in my case means a completely written cartoon with roughly sketched in art, but since the writing is the hardest part, thereís no way Iím getting anywhere near compensated for my time unless the piece runs ó which is why I almost never accept work when the words "kill fee" are involved). Even though I am given the impression of a very tight deadline, I wonít hear back for several days, possibly longer ó which will leave me obsessively checking my email and mentally juggling my schedule. Then, after the well-meaning art director finally gets a chance to consult with the page's editors, he or she will come back to me with the inevitable requests for "minor changes" which will somehow undermine, if not completely eviscerate, the integrity of the piece.

Go read the whole thing. You won’t believe what finally happened.

So I ended up googling it, but now I know what a “kill fee” is…

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Monday January 9, 2006

That Sound Of Chains Rattling In The Night…

This week’s cartoon:

More thoughts on the cartoon page. Some other good thoughts over at Howl of the Kweerwolf.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Saturday January 7, 2006

You Know It’s Really Bad When Even Your Fellow Republicans Think You’re Too Corrupt To Be In A Leadership Position…

Via Atrios commentor Cup O’ Joe:

Top Ten Things Overheard At The GOP's Conference To Elect A New Leader

10. "Put your clothes on and stop acting like an idiot!"

9. "I'm telling you for the last time, no one wants to hear about your damned lobotomy!"

8. "My mistress can kick your mistress's ass!"

7. "Glad to see you found a new career, Mr. Watts. Can I have my drink now, please?"

6. "Sorry but I'm not touching any cold cuts since I voted to cut the FDA's budget."

5. "I don't now about you, but if I find out I'm sharing a cell with Cheney or Rumsfeld I'm just gonna kill myself."

4. "I'm not going to comment on that, Mr. Cunningham: and stop making me talk into your lapel!"

3. "So I said to the cop, I said, 'Honest officer, no one was driving...we was all in the back, singing!' "

2. "You can get out from under the podium now, Ms. Coulter. Everyone's gone for the day."

1. "Let's make this easy. Who doesn't have a restraining order against him?"

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

For All Those Who Think Aging Hippies Are Such Free Spirits…

I guess I should put up a SPOILER ALERT here. If you haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain, or read the short story it’s based on, you might not want to read further for now.

Gene Shalit, who like me, refused to change his hair style decades after it went out of fashion, voiced a little establishment contempt for Brokeback Mountain and gay people on Thursday, proving once again that everything you know about aging hippies is probably wrong, unless you lived through that time in America and saw it for yourself. They called it the do your own thing 60s, the decade of peace love and understanding…or sex drugs and rock and roll if you went to trade school. 1967 was the summer of love, and everyone was feelin’ groovy. But all those good vibrations pretty much only applied if you were a heterosexual.

I was there, I lived through that period of time, that horrible, angry, exhilarating time of backlash against racism, Vietnam, and the stifling conformity of the 1950s, and I am here to tell you that when it came to gays, the hippies, the heads and the radicals could be every bit as bigoted and hostile as Nixon’s silent majority. That faggots were the product of a dying decadent materialistic capitalist imperialist culture seemed at times to be one of the few things the various counter cultures could all agree on. And if it takes a lot of hard brutal painful work to open a closed mind, let me tell you it takes a hundred times that to open a mind that thinks it’s already quite open thank you. And some of them never did. Gene Shalit, who never held a candle to Davey Marlin-Jones, being yet another Case In Point.

Last Thursday, Shalit dumped on Brokeback Mountain, calling it “wildly overpraised, but not by me.” But not content simply to let the air out of a film he thought was overpraised he went further, calling Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Jack a “sexual predator”, and lamely adding that Jack just didn’t get Ennis’ “implied response ‘Better desolate then never'”. This was of a piece with the jackass sheep jokes that peppered his review. But calling Jack a sexual predator for simply pursuing the man he loved, a man who loved him too, is no joking matter. That’s what the religious right, called real life Wyoming resident Matthew Shepard after his murder began making headlines, and it’s how bigots think. When heterosexuals pursue the objects of their affections that’s romance. When homosexuals do the same thing they’re dangerous sexual predators who have it coming. And Shalit, having watched Brokeback Mountain, had to know that Jack Twist ended up being brutally beaten to death for his sexual orientation, like so many gay men were back then, and still are today.

FROM: Bruce Garrett
SUBJECT: Gene Shalit Brokeback Mountain Review

What the hell is wrong with Gene Shalit? No...wait...what the hell is wrong with you for letting this dime store bigot review a movie about gay men and homophobia?

And bigot he is. It's written all over that review. Ennis wasn't telling Jack "Better desolate then never", he was saying "Better desolate then dead." Christ on a stick! A cinder block could have watched that film, or read the short story it was based on, and comprehended that...but not Shalit. And there's reason: anti-gay violence doesn't seem all that unusual or offensive to him. What he finds unusual and offensive is the idea that a gay person might want to try and live their lives as the people they are, despite that violence.

And to call Jack a sexual predator is just spitting in the face of every gay person who ever tried to make love succeed in a world of prejudice and hate. Was Rick Blaine in Casablanca a sexual predator when he tried to pressure Ilsa into leaving Victor for him? Was Slim in To Have And Have Not a sexual predator when she stole a kiss from Steve, just to see if she'd like it? Shalit can only see a sexual predator in Jack, because he cannot see the human being for the homosexual. In Shalit's world, anti-gay violence should win over love and honest desire, and any gay person who thinks otherwise is a sexual predator. But no...they're brave and honest about themselves in a way that clearly offends Shalit. That's how bigots react when they see even the smallest shred of pride in people they think ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Hey...I hear Shalit has a gay son. Well so did Charles Socarides. But Socarides didn't have the forum to spread his venom all over America that you gave Shalit last Thursday. How many gay sons did he call sexual predators on your show? How many parents now loath their gay sons a little more? How many gay bashers feel a little more justified now, knowing the people they bash aren't lovers, but sexual predators? You let your film reviewer give gay bashers from one end of this country to another permission to hate, during a review of a film that graphically represents what that hate does to gay people. You let your film reviewer tell your audience that a gay man who was beaten to death with a tire iron was a sexual predator, simply for loving another man who loved him, and insisting that their love had a right to exist. Is that supposed to mean he had it coming? You can be sure that's the message that was received. Is there anyone working on the Today Show, or at NBC, who has a functioning conscience? Anyone at all?

Bruce Garrett
Baltimore, Maryland.

You can watch Shalit’s review yourself via the GLAAD website here. Or use this handy contact info (via GLAAD) to express your feelings about Shalit’s use of the term ‘sexual predator’ to describe a gay man who simply believes the love he shares with another has a right to exist on its own terms:

The Today Show
30 Rockefeller Plaza
Room 380 E
New York, NY 10112-0002.

212-664-4602 [If the viewer comment mailbox is full, ask to speak to someone else]
Fax 212-664-7209.


by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Friday January 6, 2006

Boy…There Really Is A Lot Less To You Nowadays Then There Used To Be…Isn’t There?

So you just packed up and left did you? Oh…and without telling her that you were going first? She comes home and you’re gone, and all your stuff is gone, and you never bothered to tell her that you were leaving. Smooth. Damn smooth. Don’t tell me it was your spine that failed you. It was your conscience. You’ve got nerve enough to say it to her face. You just didn’t want to bother. When you babbled to me about how I’m a closed-minded self-centered bore, you were actually trying to dump your own issues onto me, weren’t you? But hey…it’s cool. No…really. It isn’t like I’m not familiar with how gay people have always made handy scapegoats for the failings of heterosexuals.

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago you were lecturing me about how to keep one foot in the closet for the sake of my own social welfare? Why is it that heterosexuals just seem to assume they’re qualified to tell us gay folk how to live our lives? Tell you what…when I need advice on how to slink out of the house I shared with someone for years like I can’t tell the difference between a one night stand and a long term relationship, I’ll ask you for some.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Lite Posting For A While

I haven’t updated here in a bit and the reason for it is deadline pressure at work. I’m doing some software development work for the next generation space telescope (the James Webb Space Telescope) and I have some deliverables due at the end of next week. Between that, the weekly cartoons and the furnace situation (yes…alas it is still a situation…), I don’t have enough hours in a day to share my thoughts here on the blog. But stay tuned, I’m frustrated about something I keep hearing in the right wing media, and even from somewhat rational commentators, about Brokeback Mountain that I need to vent about. It’s the usual blaming the victims of homophobia claptrap and I just want to have my say about it. But it’ll be sometime later today or tomorrow. And I won’t have much else to say I don’t think for another week or so.

I’m really behind on my Coming Out Story too, I know. It’s been a busy couple of months here at Casa del Garrett. If I can get beyond these next few episodes I can get into more of a rhythm on it I think. Please bear with me. A new episode should be up sometime in the next couple of weeks.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Monday January 2, 2006

The Devil Among Us…

This week’s cartoon is about this, and also this. I propose a corollary to Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to the devil what can be adequately explained by malice.

Also…catch Ex-Gay Watch’s wicked parody of the new Love In Action advertisement here. Peterson Toscano helped write it, and it was my first good belly laugh of the new year.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Saturday December 31, 2005

This Year I…

Stepped off the mainland for the first time in my life.

Was cussed by a bull sea lion.

Learned that my great grandmother was a native American.

Got a promotion.

Was interviewed for a documentary.

Gazed at strange and immense rock formations fading into a desert horizon.

Spent some quality time with my brother and wished I could live in California.

Bought a new car, and for the first time in my life was able to shop for something I really wanted, as opposed to whatever was on the lot that was cheap.

Visited the pier at Catalina Island where mom and dad met.

Stood in silent protest in front of Love In Action in Memphis Tennessee.

Had lunch and dinner with an amazing performance artist.

Walked in a few more American landscapes that I have never walked in before.

Got my cartoons published in several gay community newspapers.

Mixed concrete and learned how to repair outdoor tile.

Bought an iPod and a Powerbook and took a few more steps into the cult of Steve Jobs.

Gazed at a landscape made of petrified sand dunes.

Seeded a lawn for the first time.

Strolled around an open source software conference, delighted by how many really cute longhaired computer geeks there are in this world, yet still utterly unable to strike up a conversation with any of them.

Wrote software for the next generation space telescope.

Walked around Portland Oregon for the first time.

Got a mysterious rash in Winslow Arizona. (It turned out to be an allergic reaction to a sunscreen lotion)

Realized I now know my way Oceano California as well as I know my way around Baltimore.

Moved my web site to a new host.

Looked forlornly at my aging face in the mirror.

Said goodbye to G.L.I.B.

Finally bought the Hasselblad I’ve wanted since I was a teenager.

Commissioned my first work of art.

Got involved in fighting forced reparative therapy of gay teens.

Attended a live one man performance in an old Baltimore church.

Upgraded my car rental to an Infinity G-30 to see if an extra 10 grand really buys you that much more car. (It doesn’t)

Gawked at many beautiful longhaired guys on the beaches of California.

Raised a glass of something dangerous to the memory of Hunter S. Thompson.

Walked through time in Arches National Park.

Strolled the grounds of an abandoned mental hospital in Topeka Kansas.

Blogged in the Utah desert.

Helped people evacuate a hotel in Grand Junction.

Met a cousin I hadn’t seen in decades.

Drove past Fred Phelps’ compound.

Heard my carbon monoxide detectors go off.

Bought my first digitizer pad.

Ached at still being single.

Survived layoffs (again!)

Joined MySpace.

Drove across Kansas listening to Gay satellite radio.

Moved to an inside office…with a poster of mountains and a lake on the wall.

Had it driven home to me that there are many degrees of homophobia. Lost some old friends after I finally had to face the fact that they’d never really accepted me as I am. (I know at least one somebody who will never go see Brokeback Mountain…possibly two somebodies…)

Made new friends of people who don’t think sexual orientation is a big deal.

Made a friend of the new cat in the neighborhood.

Produced more artwork then I have in ages. Sat at my drafting table and my easel feeling like I haven’t felt since I was a teenager in Mr. Moran’s art class. It was a wonderful feeling.

New Year’s Resolution: To cultivate that feeling more often.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Adventures In Home Ownership…When Your House Raids The Bank Account

A co-worker was telling me about the big screen TV he’d shelled out a lot of money for this year, because his wife wanted HDTV. I don’t have a spouse of my own, but I have a house, and I’m here to tell you they’re perfectly capable of making you spend tons of money on them too.

This Christmas my house demanded a new furnace. And because I am still a beguiled first time home owner, I wanted to put something good in the place of the old circa 1978 one I had, not just the cheapest thing I could find to throw in there. I figured the saving grace of it was that I could get a furnace with a much higher efficiency rating. Lord knows it’s become atrociously expensive to heat this little fifteen-hundred square foot Baltimore rowhouse dwelling lately (Luckily I have no other major expenses in my life like…oh…a boyfriend). But let’s face it…I’m a techno geek. So right away I was interested in looking at the current state of the art in home heating systems.

I figured I’d add a humidifier and and electric air cleaner too while I was at it, and a programmable thermostat so I wasn’t always forgetting to turn the heat back at night, or when I went to work. These were all things I had in the back of my mind to do ever since I bought the house. I’d been looking at this and that in the catalogs and and planning for a time when I’d have some spare cash to rework the climate system here and make it state of the art. But the house decided it wanted it now. And I am still the obedient beguiled lover. You have to realize I’d grown up and lived in apartments nearly all my life, and until just five years ago reckoned I’d never own a house of my own. I am still amazed.

I figured to replace the central AC unit at the same time I replaced the furnace. The AC unit I had was cranky and didn’t cool the house well at all. It always looked to have been poorly retrofitted onto the existing furnace. The two units, furnace and AC, really need to be designed to work together as a single system. So in addition to buying a new furnace, I decided to go with a matching central AC unit for it too, then and there when it would be easiest to do everything.

I knew it would drive the cost up even more, but I felt in the long run would save me money and hassle. And like I said…I have some pride of ownership here. My little brick rowhouse, small as it is, is solidly and well made in a way they just don’t make houses anymore. I figure on anything I do adding to that, not subtracting from it. That’s a big reason why I bought a lot less house then I could afford…so I’d have the money available to do anything that I needed to do to the house right.

But an ultra high efficiency furnace turned out to be too expensive after all. The units themselves are pricey, but oh so technically sweet, using high efficiency burners and multi stage heat exchangers to wring nearly all the heat out of the combustion gas. It’s amazing how efficient they are now. But remarkably those furnaces manage to take so much of the heat out of the combustion air that you can’t get a draw going up an existing chimney if it gets really cold. So it would have to have its own special vent, most likely directly out the side of the basement wall. I’m only about three fifths below grade in the basement, so that is possible, but I have a nearly full width deck out the back which would have made it a pain. I’d have to completely redo the back deck to accommodate the furnace exhaust (as it is, the code requires I get a new chimney liner).

So all told, I could have easily ended up spending over ten grand on everything. It was too much. So I had to step back and consider the 80 plus efficiency unit instead. What I ended up buying was a nice model with a two stage burner and variable blower fan and built in computer monitoring. The idea being that the unit watches the temperature swings in the house and uses the most efficient combination of burner heat and fan speed to bring the house to normal at any given time. It only runs full out when needed, as opposed to the unit it is replacing which only had two settings…full blast and off.

With that I bought the matching AC compressor, cooling coils, humidifier, electric air cleaner and thermostat. It is all supposed to work together as a system to maintain proper temperature and humidity. So hopefully no more static discharge every time I touch anything in the winter time. And keeping the humidity at a normal level means I can keep the thermostat down and still feel warm. The new AC compressor is far more efficient then the old one, and should lower my cooling costs by half. But with the price of gas being what it is, the new furnace will probably only lower my costs a tad. I should see a big improvement in actual gas usage, but the price of gas is still going up.

Mostly, I should see an improvement in the indoor climate. It should be a lot more comfortable in here, and somewhat less dusty. One nice thing about this 1950s built house is that every room in it has both an exhaust and intake vent. I can actually close all the doors to all the rooms and still have air circulation in the house when the fan is on. Nowadays you just get one big return vent somewhere on the first floor and that’s it.

Later on I’ll see what I can do to improve my house’s insulation. The stuff in the attic crawlspace, whatever it is, isn’t wonderful. And my exterior walls need…something. They’re concrete block with a brick veneer and they can get very cold to the touch on sub freezing days. I’m still pondering what to do about them.

The new equipment will be installed this Tuesday. I’m such a wuss… I had three contractors over to bid on the job and I felt so awful calling two of them back to tell them they didn’t get it. I remembered how it was when I was trying to make it as a freelance model maker. I would bid on maybe two dozen jobs for every one that I got, and most of the time the people I talked to never even gave me the courtesy of calling me back to tell me I didn’t get it. So I called the two guys who didn’t get the job from me and practically apologized.

When I bought the house I knew going into it that there would be these sudden, major expenses and I got ready for it. That’s why I didn’t throw a look of panic when the guy told me the furnace manifold was cracked, like he probably expected. I didn’t like it. It may have eaten the spring vacation I was planning to take. But I can afford to deal with it. That is the way it is with owning a house. I’ll be paying this off until the middle of summer, and then it’s looking like I may need to have the roof redone (they say here that it’s every ten years on a flat rowhouse roof, which mine will be this summer). Apartment life was never like this. But it’s my house.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Journalisming Is Hard Work…

So I’m watching Logo, the gay cable channel, because it actually has something on right at the moment worth watching, and I see these ads for a Top Ten News Stories of 2005 program following up. So I hang around for it and somewhere between the recall of Spokane Mayor Jim West and the destruction of New Orleans they mention that little unpleasantness that happened in Memphis last summer, involving a place called Love In Action and a certain gay teen who was forced into it against his will. And as I listen to this CBS News-Logo production I am reminded again about how much I hate the goddamned mainstream news media.

Any drooling halfwit with access to a computer and the Internet could have gotten the facts right about what happened, and is continuing to happen with Love In Action, that those news media morons got absolutely wrong. No…LIA has not been shut down…they are still taking in voluntary adult clients and still taking in gay teens against their will! They filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Tennessee, but have only been ordered to stop treating people who fall under that state’s definition of “mentally ill.” That’s it. On their web site they are advertising the start of the next round of Source sessions starting January 7th. Source, as any jackass with a web browser can easily discover, is their homo-no-mo program for adults (they list other “addictions” they claim to treat in the course description too). So they are not “shut down” as CBS News-Logo claims.

Christ Almighty how fucking hard is it to get a few goddamned basic facts right? There is nothing complex or mysterious about any of this. It isn’t like you’re trying to pry energy task force memos out of Dick Cheney or anything. What happened and is continuing to happen in Memphis is almost all a matter of public record. But it’s a safe bet that the jackasses at CBS News didn’t even bother to talk to one single solitary person from Memphis who was actually involved in the protests while they were writing their blurb about what happened. Facts…? Facts…? Facts are for policy wonks… What is the spin?

But what really pissed me off was the careless, thoughtless, hamfisted way CBS News-Logo treated a certain someone in the middle of it all who went through a period of heartache and misery no kid should ever have to go through. It was staringly obvious they made no effort at all…None…to understand his situation or to actually read anything he wrote for comprehension. They just did a smash and grab on his blog for anything that would look good when plastered over a few photos of the LIA compound. The bastards had no more respect for that kid, no better respect for his person, then the asswipes at Love In Action who tried for eight weeks to crowbar their way into his soul did.

Ah…but then the news media has been giving George Bush a free pass to lie through his teeth to America for five years now, haven’t they? So why the hell am I getting all pissed off like I expected them to treat one poor kid who went through hell with any kind of decency and respect, let along treat the plight of gay and lesbian teens who are Still being forced into reparative therapy camps with any kind of seriousness. Of course they don’t care about any of that crap. Our lives are merely grist for their ratings.

God how I hate those bastards.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Sunday December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas To All…And A Happy New Year!

Copyright © December 25, 2005 by Bruce Garrett
All Rights Reserved.


by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Saturday December 24, 2005


Well a guy from BGE Home came over and examined the furnace. It is a broken manifold after all. Just a couple smallish cracks on two out of the four combustion chambers, but it is enough to declare the furnace totaled. The technician showed me where this white powdery soot had collected around the cracks, and throughout the interior of the breached combustion chambers.

So I need a new furnace. Saving grace is that the one I have is circa 1978, and so I can probably get a higher efficiency one.

Good thing I have some space heaters, an electric blanket, and a fairly small house to heat.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Friday December 23, 2005

Probably Saved My Friggin’ Life…

Buy carbon monoxide detectors for your home. Just do it. Do it now.

I’m up in my second floor office, plinking away on the computer. I am idly surfing the web between sessions at my drafting table in the basement art room. I’ve been working on my holiday cartoon now for the past week, and I need to get it done by at least tomorrow evening. As I flit from this website to that, I begin to hear a faint whining noise. I assume one of the fans in Mowgli, my Windows XP workstation, is getting noisy.

It gets louder. Now I begin to be concerned that I’m hearing a hard drive bearing in its death throws. So I put my ear down to Mowgli’s case. It isn’t coming from the case. I stand up, and walk into the hallway, and the noise gets louder. It becomes a wail.

Shit…a smoke detector…! I race down to the first floor, my nose in the air, sniffing for the smell of smoke. The whining noise gets louder, but it isn’t coming from the first floor smoke detector.

Ohmygod…the art room…! I race down the stairs to the basement. The basement smoke alarm is sitting peacefully on the wall over the stairs. It looks placidly back at me. There is only one other possible device down here that can make that kind of noise. The CO detector in the rear of the basement, by the furnace.

I walk cautiously back to it. It is screaming its little heart out. The display is reading 197 ppm.

Holy Crap! The gas furnace is on, and so is the gas hot water heater. I throw the furnace emergency switch and open the basement door and all the basement windows. Now one part of my mind starts watching the rest of my mind with suspicion. Am I getting dizzy? No…not yet…not yet…

I open every window in the house and the front door. Then I pause to think. Okay…what do I know…and how do I know it… Could the CO detector simply have gone bad? I know how to test a smoke detector. Simply light a candle and then suff it out and wave the candle smoke around it until it goes off. But I’ve never figured out a safe way to test a CO detector. I suppose I could hold one to the tailpipe of my car, but that isn’t going to tell me if a small CO buildup problem will set it off. It is all a matter of trust. I change the batteries, I hit the test button, and I trust it is working correctly. I think about it some more. I have a second CO detector in the bedroom, and it was not sounding the alarm. But then if the furnace had just started acting up it wouldn’t necessarily have.

I go back down to the basement, where the CO detector is still screaming at me. Now it is reading 218. Am I getting dizzy…? I walk over to the furnace, which is off. I reckon it must be either the furnace or the hot water heater…there is nothing else down here that could produce carbon monoxide. Cool air from outside is now pouring into the basement from the open door and windows. I double check the furnace emergency switch position. I reckon I’m safe so long as the furnace stays off. I sniff cautiously around the air intake ducts, trying to see if I smell anything. CO is produced by incomplete burning. It is odorless, but if there is any soot around the hot furnace manifold I reckon I should be able to smell something. Am I getting dizzy…? I smell nothing. Nothing seems obviously wrong.

I walk back to the CO detector and hit the reset button, which silences it. The display glares 218 back at me. I hit the hard reset, which zeros the display. I take it down off the wall, and wave it around both the furnace and the hot water heater. The display stays at zero.

I decide to bring the other CO detector down to the basement to see if it starts complaining too. I reckon to set it by the furnace and fire it up again and see what happens. When I get back upstairs to my bedroom, I notice that the CO detector there is reading 114. Just a little shy of the point where it starts screaming too.

Okay…that settles it…

I have a CO problem somewhere in the house. This isn’t anything to be fooling with. I call the gas and electric company…BGE. Our local gas and electric company, unlike many others in the country, also sells major appliances and I have a service contract with them. The lady I speak to tells me to call the fire department first. The procedure is that they check the house first, and then if they find a problem they will call BGE.

So I call the fire department and explain the situation. My CO detectors went off. I turned off the furnace and I have all my windows open and I am fine. The lady I speak to says I need to close my windows, or they will not be able to tell that I have CO in the house, which seems reasonable. I close the window and pretty quickly the fire department arrives.

I explain what happened. They ask me to turn the furnace back on. Then they do a quick scan of the house with a small hand held device. Right away they find the CO level rising. It is not as much as I had read on my own detectors, only 50 ppm, but it is enough to convince them there is a real problem. They call for a crew with better equipment, and BGE. They also begin checking my neighbor’s houses too.

The second fire crew arrives. They have a slightly more impressive set of meters, but they can’t isolate where the CO in my house is coming from. Now, because I’d aired it out before calling the fire department, it appears as if there is more CO on the second floor then in the basement.

A guy from BGE arrives. He looks like he’s been with the gas company for ages. He carries with him a large meter with a long flexible probe, like a crooked wand, attached to it. He waves it around the furnace and quickly zeros in on the area around the manifold. He is getting a reading of around 215 ppm just above it. That’s that. It’s the furnace. But at the readings he’s getting he says, the manifold is probably not broken. It just needs to be cleaned up in there. Dirt has probably built up to the point where it is distorting the flow of air in the combustion area, and the gas isn’t burning cleanly anymore. But the manifold is fine. The bulk of the combustion gas is still going out the chimney like it’s supposed to.

What was happening was that CO from incomplete burning was slowly building up in the basement as the furnace cycled off and on. It may have been happening for days. My art room is down there next to the furnace room. My plan was to spend most of tonight and tomorrow down there finishing off a cartoon. I would never have known about the CO levels I was working in, had that little CO detector not started screaming at me just a while ago. The stuff is odorless, and puts you slowly to sleep, and I have a chronic insomnia problem so I am used to taking these little ad hoc naps throughout the day. I have a nice comfy chair down in the art room which I’ve napped on frequently. It could have killed me. Maybe not just now, but eventually the CO would have built up to a lethal level down there and I’d have just felt a nap coming on and that would have been that.

Buy carbon monoxide detectors for your home. Just do it. Do it now.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Thursday December 22, 2005

Slacktivist, And The Anti Huck Finn

If you’re getting a wee bit tired of all the Faux News War On Christmas claptrap, and all the bullshit right wing megachurch power lunch executive suite religion that’s everywhere these days, you should go read Fred Clark’s latest. There is a wonderful little Christmas sermon there that comes to us, oddly enough, by way of Fred’s ongoing review of the first book in the Left Behind series…

Bruce and Loretta were not saved when this story began. They were unsaved, which is why they are among those left behind. But they did attend a church full of RTC's who were saved, so they knew how to get saved and, once they realized they'd been left behind with all the other unsaved people, they quickly got saved themselves.

Notice how many times the word "saved" appears in that paragraph? Notice how, despite this repetition, it's never made clear just what exactly the term means? That's what reading these next two chapters of Left Behind is like.

LaHaye and Jenkins, like Bruce and Loretta, are saved. And they want their readers to get saved too. So Bruce painstakingly explains to Rayford how he can get saved, and he pesters Chloe about her urgent need to get saved. And then L&J walk us through the process again as first Rayford, then Chloe each gets saved in turn. This is all laid out in excruciating detail, in the simple, childlike language of a recent presidential speech.

I don't question L&J's sincerity here. And I'll even respect their earnestness enough not to dwell on the difference here between propaganda and art.

They earnestly want any unsaved readers to get saved. And, since the prospect of unsaved readers picking up a book from Tyndale Publishers seems unlikely, they want their saved readers to be able to give this book to their unsaved friends knowing that it will explain to them both the need for and the process of getting saved.

The problem is the book doesn't do that. L&J want to tell readers what they must do to secure their own salvation. They don't necessarily offer the wrong answer, they're just asking the wrong question.

"What must I do to be saved?" the young ruler asked Jesus.

"Sell all you have and give it to the poor, then come, follow me," Jesus replied.

L&J's reply is quite different. They're not alone in this -- I've heard thousands of evangelistic sermons, but I've never heard an evangelist answer the young man's question the way Jesus did. Evangelists don't like Jesus' answer because they're intent on asking the same question the young man asked, and the whole point of Jesus' answer is that it's the wrong question. If your concern is with yourself and securing salvation for yourself, you're going to ask the wrong questions.

"What must I do to make sure that I, myself get a seat on the ark?" the young man asked.

"Oh Me H. Tapdancing Me!" Jesus says. "It's not always about you, you know. Think about somebody else for a change."

That's a paraphrase, but it's not like this was an isolated case. Jesus was always saying this kind of thing: You want to live? Die to yourself. You want to be first? Be last. Want to come out on top? Head for the bottom. Want to win? Surrender.

You want to get saved? Get lost.

Which brings us to what is, for my money, the greatest scene of salvation and redemption in literature...

Go read the rest of it. Just…go. Go. This is a good time of year to remind yourself that there is more to Christianity then you’ll ever hear from the likes of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Roy Moore, et. al. And you should bookmark Fred, for those times when some double breasted hate mongering inside the beltway power player posing as a Christian minister starts making your gorge rise.

And while you’re at it… bookmark this guy too…

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Adding It All Up

Tom Tomorrow puts into pictures something I’ve been saying for years. Not that I think he got the idea from me…it’s actually a pretty damn obvious one I think, and something he’s probably thought for years now too. But it’s nice to see it getting some open discussion now. Bush is what you get when you take Nixon’s character, and you subtract Nixon’s intelligence. And of course, Tom Tomorrow captures it in that style of his, perfectly. If I’d seen that thing sooner it would have been sent out in a bunch of Christmas cards this year.

[Update…] Christ almighty I just went back and re-read that old post of mine, and saw this…

But don't expect Smirk to ever get caught breaking the law.

Little did I know that he’d end up admitting to the whole damn country not only that he broke the law, but what is more thinks that he isn’t answerable to any law congress passes when he decides it’s a national emergency.

But this is Bush. The press corp covered for him all during the primary, when anyone with half a brain could see the vindictive spoiled gutstabber for what he was. They covered for him when he went non compus mentus on 9-11. They covered for him while he set about destroying the thriving economy Clinton left him. They covered for him when his crooked CEO crony pals brought down on America some of the biggest bankruptcies in history, wiping out the retirement savings of thousands of elderly people. They covered for him when he lied about increasing support for the fight against AIDS in Africa, and for Head Start. They covered for him when he lied through his teeth about Saddam's links to 9-11 and his ability to wage war. They covered for him when he cut medical benefits to the men and women he sent to Iraq to fight his splendid little war. They're covering for him now.

And gosh if the Beltway press isn’t still covering for him. read this from Editor and Publisher…it’s just stunning…

When chief Washington Post pollster Richard Morin appeared for an online chat this week, a reader from Naperville, Ill., asked him why the Post hasn't polled on impeachment. "This question makes me mad," Morin replied. When a second participant made the same query, Morin fumed, "Getting madder." A third query brought the response: "Madder still."

Media Matters recently reported that a January 1998 Washington Post poll conducted just days after the first revelation of President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky asked about impeachment.

Right. But Clinton was a democrat, and the Washington Press regards democrats as that party of…well…all those common people…

When Washington Post pollster Richard Morin finally answered the "I" question in his online chat, he said, "We do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion -- witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls."

As Digby says

Because the beltway press corps has conditioned itself to respond only to Republicans. They've trained themselves not take Democrats seriously, either the rank and file who inconvenience them with e-mails they do not want to read, or the leadership they simply disdain. Unpopularity obligates them to criticize Bush at least mildly, but the relief they feel when his numbers edge up a bit is palpable. They don't seem to know this about themselves.

And Atrios responds

This really is true. The press really is unable to hear and comprehend press criticism which comes from the left. It's like they're unable to process it. They love parading Bernie Goldberg around endlessly so he can tell them how evil and horribly liberal and rotten they are but will then completely ignore a book like "What Liberal Media?" which had the advantage of containing actual research and not being utterly incoherent.

Which is not to say that anyone at the Post can’t see the humor in all of this…

Froomkin's fellow blogger at the Washignton Post, Joel Achenbach, came out with a funny, if pointed, riff on Thursday: "Last night we made a pilgrimage to a friend's new house in Georgetown...We talked about gay cowboys and closeted movie stars and sex-change operations -- traditional Christmas topics, in other words -- and the conversation eventually turned to impeachment. It's true: People actually talk about impeachment, in the wilds of Inner Georgetown, not just in blogworld. I won't go into great detail about what was said, because it was highly speculative, and because I'm worried that my phone, email accounts and blog are tapped. These people don't mess around. They have secret prisons."

Hey…that’s funny all right. Secret prisons. Spying on Americans. When the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal. Imagine that. Or as I ended that post I made back in July of 2003…

Somewhere in hell Nixon is laughing his ass off.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

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