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December 7th, 2022

Two Different Drag Shows

Are drag shows entertainment? Of course they are. Is drag fun? Yes, if you’re into that sort of thing. Is drag appropriate for children? When has it not been. I can’t count the number of times I saw men dressing up as women on TV shows and goofing around when I was a kid. In the 1950s and 60s TV and Movies could get some cheap laughs out of reversing gender roles, so long as it was understood those roles weren’t being challenged, but simply reversed for laughs. Nobody thought anything about it until gay people and our ways of drag became more visible. And in that are the other reasons for drag besides entertainment.

There are so many line items in the checklist of gay culture I just don’t tick off that I’ve been asked outright how sure I am that I’m gay. One of these is drag. I see it, I logically get that it’s a thing for lots of people (gay and straight), but at some deep personal level I don’t get it. But I respect it as an art form, and even admire the performers who are good at creating the illusions involved. Otherwise it does not interest me much at all, unless sometimes to watch the sort of adult somewhat androgynous slender male I’m often attracted to who is usually pretty good at doing drag. But when I watch a performer like that, I’m usually trying to visualize what they look like out of drag. 

I’m sure it’s because I am so plainly at the far end of the Kinsey scale. I am not much attracted to uber masculinity but the female body does zero for me and so drag just isn’t an interest. I like guys. I like watching guys. Beautiful, sexy longhaired guys. Bluejeans and light shirts that let you know what the body under them is like.  I just can’t look away. Makeup and glamor are other things that really disinterest me. I’m a sixties kid…we rebelled against faking a look in favor of natural hairstyles and skin tones. I have this theory that our libidos key on whatever fashions were in style during the time we are coming of age, and that is what you will always react to as beautiful and sexy. So I’m probably stuck in that mindset and it makes it hard for me to appreciate drag other than as an art form. When I hear people saying drag has this sexual connotation to it, I have to consider that logically, because my libido just doesn’t see it.

But there is a political aspect to it that I can see that pretty clearly; not just logically, but deep down at a gut level. You grow up hearing from every direction that you are some sort of sexual outlaw, a deviant, a pervert, a threat to the social order, for not conforming to your assigned gender role, for being something you cannot help being, and it makes you think about the why of it. You start thinking more carefully about things like gender and sexual roles. You think about them enough and you can’t help but see the wrongness in some of what you are being told has to be. The roles imposed on women. The roles imposed on men. What makes these the natural order? And then you feel a need to challenge it, if only to defend your inner self from being erased. The other thing about being a sixties kid is you almost always have this knee jerk reaction to any kind of imposed social conformity. Yes Mr. Establishment sir I am a young male and no I will not cut my hair. And I will wear my turquoise jewelry. And a ring in my ear if I want to. And so what if I’m gay and I love a man. What’s it to you.

And on top of all that, I am a geek child. Show me the science or STFU.

Why am I being asked to conform? What if I don’t?

What if I can’t?

Drag has not only been an art form in gay circles for generations, it is also a political statement about gender and sexual fluidity. At its most basic, it’s about each of us dealing with our own sexual nature on our own terms in our own ways. And it is that, without a doubt, that is the problem our recent crop of fascists have with it.

The current bellyaching about drag shows has nothing to do with protecting children any more than Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign in the late 1970s did. She went on a rampage against gay people after a law was passed protecting us from job discrimination and it wasn’t Save Our Workplaces it was Save Our Children. It was, and is, a visceral attack of the sort many other hated minorities have experienced throughout history. The blood libel against Jewish people for instance, is that murdered Christian children to use their blood in Jewish rituals. But this campaign against drag shows and gay people serves a more fundamental purpose, which is to reestablish and enforce social and gender roles.

Like this if necessary…

If you think I’m being hyperbolic here, just listen to them talk about gender roles and what they view as the threat liberal democracy poses to men and to masculinity and you’ll see pretty clearly what all this is in fact about. In a lot of instances you can see homophobia as second hand misogyny. Women must submit to men not have sexual power over them because men must always be powerful and in control, but absolutely Not in a sexy and fuckable way. These wannabe men so afraid of losing power, so terrified of the idea of giving themselves to a lover, sharing themselves body and soul with another, have been showing up at drag events in their own sort of drag show, carrying weapons of war wherever that is now being allowed because guns are power, never Never Never a cute butt.

Let me tell you something about drag shows. The following is an excerpt from a post at A Mighty Girl about Ruth Coker Burks, who in 1984 beheld a hospital room door with a big red bag over it, and when she entered, the dying young man inside. For the next ten years Burks helped care for over 1,000 people dying of AIDS and even dug the graves for 40 of them herself in her family’s cemetery, when their own families would have nothing to do with them…

During this time, as the AIDS epidemic was devastating the gay community across the country, she began to get referrals from rural hospitals from across the state. “They just started coming,” she explains. “Word got out that there was this kind of wacko woman in Hot Springs who wasn’t afraid… I was their hospice. Their gay friends were their hospice. Their companions were their hospice.” Time and time again, Burks reached out to their parents but, out of the 1,000 people she cared for, she says that only a handful didn’t reject their dying children. And, although she often saw the worst in people, she says she was also privileged to see people at their best as they cared for their friends and partners with dignity and grace: “I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die… Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion.” Burks also saw how the gay community supported one another and her efforts. “They would twirl up a drag show on Saturday night and here’d come the money. That’s how we’d buy medicine, that’s how we’d pay rent. If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Drag queens. Drag shows. “That’s how we’d buy medicine.” “That’s how we’d pay rent.” “If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.” Look at the armed fascist mobs, in full faux military garb, threatening drag shows and everyone inside, including children, while the local police stand by and watch. Remember and think about the people they’re waving their weapons at.

“I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die… Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion.”

In the bedrock of the need of fascism, and tyranny of any form, to set gender roles and women’s rights in stone, is the one thing it cannot abide. Love and devotion. There’s the ultimate enemy of every form of tyranny that ever was, the enemy everything they do is calculated to extinguish in mankind. So they can rule over us. Love.

 


Posted In: Life
Tags: , ,

by Bruce | Link | React!
November 24th, 2022

And Here I Thought You Were Just An Idiot. . .

A wee mystery solved recently, that had puzzled me off and on ever since I saw that bit of code back in my contractor days.

I was working the absolute worst contract job I ever had, at a local insurance company that had a reputation among contractors for being a brutally hostile workplace. I did not know about this until shortly before I left but it only took two days of working there before I was screaming at my handlers to get me the hell out of there.

I was there to track down and fix a bug in the report application they sent out to all their branch offices, that would randomly cause a blue screen of death. That happens in Windows when the operating system itself crashes and it takes a really serious problem for that to happen, because the operating system will catch most of the errors an application does not and close that misbehaving application down. The problem has to be really severe for it to percolate up the calling stack and take down the operating system.

So of course I needed access to their source code. But in the two week timespan I was there they never managed to get my network account set up or get me a workstation that I could log into in order to do my work. The manager there, when she wasn’t having shouting matches on the floor with the other managers about WE JUST HAD ALL THESE LAYOFFS AND YET NOW THEY’RE BRINGING IN ALL THESE EXPENSIVE CONTRACTORS!!!!!!!, would tell me scornfully I would just have to do my best. So I brought in my own laptop computer. But that didn’t give me access to the code I was supposed to be fixing. Somehow I managed to get one of the other developers to look kindly on me and make a print out of the code I was supposed to be fixing. 

I saw a potential source of the problem almost right away, and I’m proud now to be able to say I tracked down at least one of the blue screen causes (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the only one). But that’s not what I want to talk about here.

The guy who wrote the code had taken a job elsewhere (couldn’t blame him). Supposedly he was a top level developer complete with a BS in computer science. Fine. Okay. Whatever. That only made the code I saw even more dumbfounding.

Never mind GlobalDummyInteger1, GlobalDummyInteger2, GlobalDummyInteger3, GlobalDummyInteger4, GlobalDummyString1, and so on and so forth. This made my jaw drop:

StringArrayForSomethingElse(1) = StringArrayForSomething(1)
StringArrayForSomethingElse(2) = StringArrayForSomething(2)
StringArrayForSomethingElse(3) = StringArrayForSomething(3)
StringArrayForSomethingElse(4) = StringArrayForSomething(4)
StringArrayForSomethingElse(5) = StringArrayForSomething(5)
StringArrayForSomethingElse(6) = StringArrayForSomething(6)

…and so on for 50 array elements. I must have stared at it for minutes. Then I thought…okay…some of the elements need to be treated differently for…some reason. So I walked down the entire fifty lines of code and they were all doing the same thing, copying the strings in one array to a different array one line of code, one array element at a time.

Understand…the above only takes a few lines of code if you use a For-Next loop…

For count = LBound(StringArrayForSomethingElse) To UBound(StringArrayForSomethingElse)

StringArrayForSomethingElse(count) = StringArrayForSomething(count)

Next count

It’s a loop. The first line initializes a counter and a maximum count based on the lower and upper bounds of the array. Let’s say it’s 1 to 50. It says basically do what follows, starting at the lower bound, and keep doing it for as long as the counter is less than or equal to the upper bound. The second line does the actual work of copying the array elements based on the value of the counter during that pass through the loop. 1…2…3…4…and so on. That last line increments the counter and throws it back to the first line. Every time the loop goes back to that first line the counter is evaluated again for is it less than or equal to the upper bound. At some point the third line is going to increment the counter (per my example) to 51, which is more than the upper bound and when the first line sees that’s its value the loop stops.

Simple. But even simpler if if they’re both dynamic (can have their length changed) arrays because then you can just copy one array to another with a single statement.

StringArrayForSomethingElse = StringArrayForSomething

The point being was pretty dumb to do it the way he did it, and if anything about the arrays changes then you have to go back through all fifty lines of code to fix it. I just could not believe a senior software developer with his bachelor’s degree wrote that code.

As the years passed I would occasionally think back to this and wonder about it. Then Elon Musk bought Twitter and went on a self absorbed rampage through it’s software engineers. And for the past week or so I’ve witnessed a lot of chatter about code reviews and performance metrics and suddenly it hit me: Management at this insurance company was measuring software developer productivity by how many lines of code their developers write per day

Or per pay period or whatever. So of course instead of using only a few lines of code to do a task, you use as many lines as possible. That is how you keep your job if that is how your job performance is being measured. And oh golly there are So Many Ways to take a simple line of code and break it out into dozens. If not hundreds. But then you’re just showing off.

It’s a really stupid metric, it almost makes software development look like piece work, but it seems many businesses use it, because management does not understand software development and maybe they need to focus on results and not micromanage the software maturity cycle. And yes, it results in bloated, buggy and hard to maintain code. At Space Telescope I had a project manager who would say negative productivity was a good thing. It was tongue in cheek but it had a serious meaning. Efficiently written code is easier to maintain and less prone to mistakes (bugs). Being able to take many lines of code and reduce them down to only as many lines as necessary is a good thing. Negative productivity.

I’ve no idea what sorts of metrics Musk is using to slash and burn Twitter, but I suspect it’s more of a knee jerk personal reaction to the developer and not their work. What we’re seeing in that foobar is something you often see throughout human history, that the legend is bigger than the man.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
November 21st, 2022

To All Who Come To This Happy Place…Go Away…

Like a lot of Disneyphiles, I’m glad Chapek is gone. But digging into it I really doubt Iger is going to reverse any of the obstacles Chapek put up to my enjoying Walt Disney World like I used to, like I was hoping to in my retirement years.

It seems the fact that singles can’t make dining reservations in many of the nicer in park restaurants, the park reservation system, and the god awful new model annual pass system, now called Magic Keys, are parts of a single whole designed to allow management to keep operating costs down by running things with fewer staff.

Initially I was under the impression, like a lot of people, that the park reservation system was for keeping down the crowds. This was a logical conclusion given it was rolled out during the COVID-19 closures. But COVID was a convenient time to implement something I now learn was being planned long before. Management sees it as a way of spreading out attendance and allowing them to keep staffing needs down. The way the Magic Keys work fits into that scheme and even then it looks like they really don’t want to allow anyone to buy new ones because the upper level Keys make it easier to get park reservations. So the Keys have to be limited too.

Story now is for one day new Key purchases were allowed, but you had to get into some sort of digital line to get one and some are saying they waited in excess of 20 hours only to be told the line was closed and no new Keys would be sold. It used to be you just went onto the website and bought an annual pass like you would tickets. No more. Because the entire system is being geared to keeping their operating costs down by keeping the need for staff down.

This is how singles not being able to make dining reservations fits into it. A server can serve a table of two or more, preferably an entire family of four or more. But the same work goes into serving for one and the tab is smaller. So they’re trying to keep single diners out. I’ve written here before about how I’ve talked about that with the Cast Members, none of whom liked the change and all of whom advised me to just make a reservation for two and show up as one. But that’s bullshit.

So I strongly doubt Iger is going to reverse any of that. But it’s what’s keeping me from going back.

My DVC points are still on the market but nobody has bitten yet, probably because interest in making Disney World a yearly or twice yearly thing is waning. What I hate about all this is the MAGA mob is going to say Disney is losing money because of their gay friendly policies. But no. They’re losing money because because they’re making their repeat guests miserable and eventually people stop going.

For most of my life I thoroughly enjoyed myself vacationing at the beach, or on the road. I don’t have to make additional reservations separate from my hotel ones to drive the highways or go to the beach. Usually I don’t have to make any to get a nice meal somewhere. I just show up and ask if it’s okay I sit at the bar. Last year I visited Richmond and found some really nice places to eat and to wander around. I had to buy train tickets and make a hotel reservation. I didn’t have to make a reservation to enter Richmond. Last week I took a brief getaway to Ocean City New Jersey. I just showed up at the Port O Call and asked if they had a room. They did, it was off season so they had plenty. I didn’t have to make a reservation to walk on the boardwalk. I didn’t have to make a reservation to look at the ocean and hear its waves breaking on the shore.

I only started going to Walt Disney World back in 2008, after I discovered my high school crush was working there. He insisted I come down for a visit. “It’s your heritage man…baseball apple pie and Mickey Mouse…what’s wrong with you?” So I went and I’m old enough to remember watching TV when Walt Disney was alive and that first moment I went through the gate at Epcot it all came back to me and I was hooked. If Iger turns it around and I can have the same experience I had before Chapek I reckon I’ll go back again. But I don’t think he can. I’m not even sure he would want to. They’ve baked it all into the system now.

When Walt Disney opened the gates to Disneyland he stepped up to the microphone to dedicate the park. He began by saying, “To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land.” But it isn’t anymore. And especially if you’re single like I am.


Posted In: Travel
Tags: ,

by Bruce | Link | React!

Active Shooter – Active Resistance

The BBC reports

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said one patron grabbed the attacker’s own gun and hit him with it during the shooting in Club Q on Saturday night.

Another club-goer reportedly helped to keep the gunman pinned down until police arrived.

The gunman killed five people and injured 25 more before being arrested.

The suspect, named by police as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, is now in police custody.

I think something changed, similar to what changed after 9/11, in that passengers are lots more willing fight back now. The old advice to just remain calm and don’t do anything that might provoke the hijackers really doesn’t apply anymore. Since the Pulse massacre probably something like the same effect is happening in our spaces. And given the stereotypes people buy into about us, I’m wondering how surprised this shooter was that he ended up pinned to the floor getting beaten with his own gun.

I’m hearing calls now for the community to arm itself and while I’ve no trouble with people doing that so long as they’re willing to accept the responsibility, I really don’t think places that serve alcohol and guns are a good mix. But there is something else that I could wish some group on the level of ACT-UP or GLAAD might step up and do and that is offer the community training on what to do in an active shooter situation.

The Institute gave us that training and I would strongly recommend it to all of us in the community. But it costs money to bring someone who knows the subject to come and teach it to groups of us. Someone with deep pockets should step up.


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
November 20th, 2022

They Have Always Been This

Twitter, perhaps in its dying breaths, still provides interesting rabbit holes to dive down. Today it’s this post from Samuel Perry, who lists himself in his profile as: Sociologist | Studying Religion & Power | Author: Growing God’s Family; Addicted to Lust; Taking America Back for God; The Flag & The Cross. But it would be a mistake I suspect, given his other posts to assume he’s completely on board with the white evangelical power grab. And especially not this post:

Little something to remind Christian Right Twitter as they trash French for this post. White evangelicals went from 60% saying privately immoral officials couldn’t be ethical in office to 17% & the only thing that changed was opportunity. Your moral compass points toward power.

To which he adds this graphic…

He also put up this a few hours later…

Following Jan 6, White evangelicals were the only group where a huge majority said banning Trump was wrong. But they’re also the only group where a majority says social media cos. shouldn’t remove aggressive content from elected officials even if it may provoke violence.

It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and say so what, we always knew where they were. But this needs, especially these days, to be thrown back in their faces whenever they start bellyaching about things like religious freedom and same sex marriage. It isn’t their freedom they are fighting for, it’s their total dominance. And if anything that’s been made even more explicit with the publication and widespread evangelical approval of The Case for Christian Nationalism by Stephen Wolfe.

So I decide to go take a peek at what’s happening in that thread David French began with…

The magic of our republic is that it creates space for people who possess different world views to live together *and* stay true to different faiths and moral convictions. How the Respect for America Act furthers this vital national goal:

He links to this article in The Atlantic

Pluralism Has Life Left in It Yet

The Respect for Marriage Act, and the harmony between religious liberty and LGBTQ rights.

It begins thusly:

It’s been called the “oral argument that cost the Democrats the presidency.” On April 28, 2015, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. stood up in the Supreme Court and argued that the Court should recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. During that argument, Justice Samuel Alito asked him a question that voiced the concern of millions of people of faith. Here was the key exchange:

Justice Samuel Alito: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax-exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­-sex marriage?

Solicitor General Verrilli: You know, I—I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is—it is going to be an issue.

With that response, General Verrilli confirmed a growing sense of alarm in theologically conservative Christian circles. If they continued to maintain that marriage is a union between a man and woman, would they be treated as bigots? As the equivalent of white supremacists?

Let us say, after all the years that have passed between then and now, with that subset of the American population growing less and less inclined to maintain pretenses, that whatever alarm they may have felt wasn’t they would be treated for being what they so plainly are and have no trouble whatever being, but that their scapegoats, their hated Other would be granted equality in the eyes of the law. Yes, that had implications for being able to make their stepping stones to heaven out of our lives, out of our hopes and dreams. It simply could not be allowed to stand.

So then, the stacking of the US Supreme court with more Alitos. 

To really appreciate what is going on in that David French thread it helps to know a wee bit about the man…

In August 2017, French was one of several co-authors of the so-called Nashville Statement, which affirmed “that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.” [Wikipedia] 

The Nashville Statement:

  • Affirms that God designed marriage as a lifelong union between male and female, and that marriage “is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church”
  • Denies that differences between men and women render the sexes “unequal in dignity or worth”
  • Denies “that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
  • Denies “that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”
  • Affirms that “Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure”

 

And yet, Trump was a bridge too far for him. And that of course, meant his immediate exile from the fellowship of Sauron’s ring. A lot of the pushback goes something like this…

Pluralism is your idol, sir.

You would have been a ‘faithful servant’ of Julian the Apostate, David. Don’t spend your 30 pieces of silver all at once, Judas.

Are we sure 2015 David French wasn’t just as much a simp to secular pluralism and just didn’t have the opportunity to approve of such evils?

Repent and seek Christ.

This commenter almost gets it…

My goodness. 2015 David French Eviscerates 2022 David French. Makes me sad, Trump did break him.

What Trump did was give him, and others like him, a choice: take the remaining shred of humanity within you around behind the barn and shoot it, or take a step back from the abyss. 

Pluralism cannot coexist with Christian Nationalism and they know it. They have always known it. They have always despised the concept, and along with that, democracy. They may love the America of their totalitarian fever dreams, but they will fight democracy to their dying breath, and especially The Compromise: that everyone has the right to practice their religious beliefs in their churches, and in their homes, but in the public square, and in the marketplace, we are all Americans.

My money is as good as yours. I have the same right to speak my mind as you do. In the public square and in the marketplace, the government takes no sides apart from the democratic necessity of Equality, Liberty and Justice. For all. This, it must enforce. So we can all be Americans. Having to bake that cake for a same sex couple is the price you pay for government not stomping into your church and burning your holy texts.

But there are those who think that price is too much to pay for an America where we all live together in peace. Because God is on their side and the holy text that will burn are not theirs, but yours. They are the chosen ones. They have the only true religion. And God wants them to grind the heretic underfoot. Because God hates the Other as much as they do. And they are on the march.

 

 

 


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
Tags: ,

by Bruce | Link | React!
November 18th, 2022

Silence Equals. . .

So I let myself get dragged into a Twitter thread about same sex marriage. It started with a friendly post by a religious guy who said “Imagine thinking that allowing gay people to get married somehow diminishes heterosexual marriage.”

He gets instantly swarmed by right wing religious nutcases telling him he’s leading people to hell and so on and so forth. Okay…so much so as usual. But the yapping takes a turn I’m familiar with from the USENET days: that marriage is and can only be about procreation and children. I wait for the obvious rebuttal to that from the other gay friendly posters and it never comes. Instead the arguments swirl around secular society versus theocracy and how same sex couples have families and can raise children too, with one poster in particular doggedly sticking to the premise that only procreation matters to marriage, not any of that love stuff, because that’s how god ordained it.

And…unable to sit on my hands anymore, I jump in like it’s 1995.

But there’s a couple things I think the rest of you need to know about all this.

It took me a while to see it, but the head nutcase in the right wing infotainment cocoon, Matt Walsh, had just post election pivoted from demonizing transgender folk to demonizing same sex marriage. So that’s the topic de jour in the howling monkey tree now. But there is also this…

A new book making the case for “Christian Nationalism” has hit the streets, and it isn’t saying the quiet parts out loud, it’s writing them in neon lights. I guess they’re all done with that finally.

It’s “The Case for Christian Nationalism” by Stephen Wolfe, and it is not exactly fringe material, having been in the top 2000 books on Amazon for weeks, and charting in the top 500 ever since it’s November 1 publication. It argues for ethnic purity as a necessary condition for our, or any other nation’s survival. It argues that imprisoning, and perhaps even executing heretics, is a good and necessary thing. The book presents itself as a theological justification for White ethnonationalism. Or in other words, white supremacy…at least here in the United States.

But more fundamentally than that, Wolfe argues that even if Adam and Eve had not sinned and been cast out of Eden, humans would have congregated in separate communities on the planet and developed their distinct ways of life. This he says, is why there are nations.  And so following that, Christians have the right to do everything in their power to institutionalize Christianity, make government structured according to God’s vision for human life, creating a national government in which civil authorities direct the citizens to the “true religion” to the “fullest extent of their power.” 

Including executing heretics. But only if that becomes necessary. If you don’t know where that leaves sexual minorities message me, I’ll fill you in.

I Repeat…This Is Not Some Odd Little Fringe Tract. It is now a best seller and it has energized the howling monkey tree. The usual response to criticism of it is oh you just hate Christians.

I hate every moment of having to fight this fight. But I’m a gay man and I remember the first time I fell in love, and for the honor and the dignity of that moment, and every moment of love I ever felt for another man, I will not remain silent. Furthermore…I am an American. The flag waving doesn’t run very deep in me, but the belief in that American dream of liberty and justice for all does and I will not remain silent.

We are living in very dangerous times, and as was once said, and is still true today, Silence = Death.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
Tags: , , ,

by Bruce | Link | React!
November 17th, 2022

Representation

When I was a kid, the comic books that attracted my attention mostly had science-fiction themes or they were humor titles. But I had to be careful. My bitter Baptist grandmother threw a lot of them out when I wasn’t there to protect them from her. She would say they weren’t fit for children, but I’m pretty sure it was I thought they were fun and the son of Bill Garrett wasn’t allowed fun. I had a bunch of Scrooge McDuck comics that would be collectors items today if she hadn’t put them in the trash. But then, so I’m told, a lot of kids of my generation have similar stories. Thank you and rot in Hell Dr. Wertham.

My only interest in anything Super was the TV Superman played by George Reeves, but the Superman comics of that time were hit and miss with me. I only have a few left from those years. Oddly, so it may seem, the early Batman comics struck me has having a kind of science-fiction element to them because that character had no super powers, but he had a lot of futuristic gadgets. Back then DC would publish Annuals, which were thicker reprints of much older stories, and that’s where I came to know that golden age Batman and Robin.

I had high hopes when I saw the first TV ads for the series by William Dozer. But it almost completely ruined the character for me. I realize it’s still enjoyed by a lot of people for it’s campiness but Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (who also did Action Philosophers) in The Comic Book History of Comics really hit it on the head in their chapter on Pop Art. In it they describe how Dozer, a TV producer was given the job of bringing the character to TV by the network. So he bought a few Batman comics and his initial conclusion after reading through them was that putting Batman on TV was nuts.

But then he had the idea of going so over the top with it, making it so square and so serious, that adults would find it amusing. And it was a hit. The network’s market research showed that it was a hit with small kids who took it seriously and loved the colorful POW ZING, and also with adults who thought it was hilarious comedy. But teenagers Hated it. Van Lente and Dunlavey suggest that it was because that age group realized their culture was being mocked by it.

That was me. But back then I stayed tuned for the gadgets and that cool Batmobile, and also watching some big name guest stars ham it up. But it quickly became tiresome and I stopped watching. Worse, by then the comics had become infected with camp too, and I stopped buying, except for my usual science-fiction titles. And Mad Magazine, which did a killer parody of the TV show. I still have that issue. Yeech!

Time passes…the universe expands…and none of the later Batman and Superman movies and cartoons did anything for me. I’m sorry, not even Chris Reeve’s Superman movies did either. I’d say he was the best of the lot, but I just could not get into the stories. And I began to realize that part of the problem with bringing those characters to life was they needed to be set in the timeframes they were created in, because they really didn’t make much sense in the here and now.

Then Batman The Animated Series came out, and I was wowed.

It was Miller’s Dark Knight (which I liked the first couple issues of and then hated the rest…don’t get me started on Frank Miller…) meets golden age Batman…and they set it in an art deco Gotham City that seemed as if it was still 1930s/40s but also today. The art direction was pitch perfect: it set the character squarely in both its time frame and ours, which I didn’t think was possible. But you can do things with animation you can’t, or can’t easily with live action. I still think that the Gotham City they created for that series was among its most stunning achievements. But the voice actors they got for it was another.

None of it would have worked without the great writing, and none of those stories would have worked without the voice artists. I had no idea that Mark Hamill was voicing the Joker, but the voice he gave that character was perfect. There’s a YouTube video of Hamill at a convention panel somewhere and he’s asked to give that Heath Ledger Joker line “Why so serious” but in His Joker voice. And he does and the audience roars with cheers and applause.

All of the voice actors who worked on that series were perfect. The characters weren’t campy clowns mocking the audience anymore, they were integral parts of the story that made the stories make sense.

And especially Kevin Conroy’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. The series rescued that character for me from Dozer and camp, and Miller and his bitter strongman fascism. He made the character larger than life, because those characters have to be that, and yet his Bruce Wayne/Batman was so very Very human. In it’s way as amazing an achievement as the art direction. It all worked, and Conroy’s voice acting was a big reason why the character worked, and why everything else worked.

And now he’s gone and I feel the loss of it, because he did so much for those of us who really wanted to like that character and his stories but just couldn’t for all the stuff the studios had done to him.

And now I understand more how Conroy could make that character come to life in a way nobody else could. This is from a Facebook gay superheroes page I follow (Gay League). Representation matters…not just to us, but to everyone. Because our stories resonate deeply in the human status. Everyone benefits by hearing our stories too.

 

I cried a little today when I heard Kevin Conroy had exited the stage for the final time. His death is the second time he’s elicited tears from me and I’m generally not much of a cryer, especially where celebrities are concerned.

A little background ( and by little, I mean a lot. Hang in there. It’s worth it):

I have to admit, I was never the biggest fan of Batman. I’d seen and loved Tim Burton’s “Batman” in 1989. But, even that was not enough to make me care for the character much.

Of course, I liked Batman as a mainstay of the Justice League. But his inclusion in their exploits (and reruns of the 60s era television series) was pretty much where my interest ended.

It was 1992 and I was visiting my aunt who had the television on for my younger cousins.

I had my head buried in a book, much like I always did, when I first heard the iconic theme song of “Batman, the Animated Series” and Kevin Conroy’s distinctive, “I am VENGEANCE! I am the NIGHT! I AM BATMAN!”

And. I. was. hooked!

Batman, the Animated Series was my new jam. I was obsessed with finding and watching every episode I could find from then on.

If I had to pick a favorite episode from the first season, undoubtedly it would be “Beware the Gray Ghost” featuring my other favorite Batman, Adam West, as the titular Gray Ghost – Gotham’s first crime fighting vigilante in the continuity of the show.

Conroy would go on to portray the DCAU Batman for over two decades in “Superman Adventures”, “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” as well as many other projects featuring the character over the years.

I truly hate when fans claim a character in this way. But, in this case it must be said: Kevin Conroy was MY Batman. When I think of the Dark Knight Detective, I think of Conroy. Every time without fail. All other Batmen are measured by his standard.

It’s always his voice I hear in my head when I read the comics. Kevin Conroy (and Bruce Timm, natch) made me like Batman way more than I ever would have otherwise.

The stories he starred in made me actually care about this privileged orphan boy millionaire who had a fetish for dressing in a leather bat suit and beating people up accompanied by a pre-teen boy wearing little more than a domino mask and a cape, little green undies and elf shoes (okay, when they finally introduced Robin in the show, he was wearing pants and boots, but you get the idea).

When Conroy was briefly featured in the Episode 2 of the WB’s live action Arrowverse “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event as Bruce Wayne, I cheered!
This was *the* man!

The only actor I feel who ever brought true depth to the character was reprising his role -LIVE ACTION- even if only for a single scene and I. Was. There. For. It.

I never knew until recently why he resonated so much with me, why – out of dozens of portrayals over the years, some by the biggest, most sought after actors of their time – Kevin Conroy’s Batman was the only one who ever caught my interest.

And here, those who have followed from the beginning of this screed will be happy to learn, is where my first set of Conroy inspired tears were made manifest.
Earlier this year, shortly after Kevin Conroy came out publicly as a gay man in his 60s, DC Comics published their 2022 Pride Issue which featured a number of Queer characters in their stable.

I have mixed feelings about those sort of things because on the one hand I am very wary of non-Queer people who profitize and corporatize Queerness into a commodity.

But on the other hand, I understand how vitally important representation in such things can be for young Queer people grasping for something – anything – which make them feel less an outcast, less a misfit, more accepted for who they are and more loved by those around them.

I usually hold my nose and buy the Pride issues anyway despite their exorbitant pricing and dubious quality as a “special edition” (whatever that is) because I know DC will only keep making Queer interest material so long as it sells.

This time around, the yearly Pride issue contained a story about a hero we hadn’t heard from in a completely Queer context before.

Kevin Conroy – MY Batman – had written “Finding Batman”, a biographical comic at the end of the issue exploring the trials and tribulations of coming of age during the height of the AIDS epidemic, of being a closeted actor in an environment which was completely unforgiving to gay actors, of the many times someone casually called him “faggot” as if that were acceptable.

He spoke about living a double life, being one thing in private and another in public, hiding who he truly was to protect himself while watching practically his whole generation of gay men succumb to AIDS while the world just…watched.

It was a story of growing up Roman Catholic while watching his world fall apart around him. It was a story of a young man whose parents divorced as his father succumbed to alcoholism and eventually death.

It was a story of watching helpless as his brother was taken away inch by inch by schizophrenia at the same time friends and colleagues were wasting away in hospitals dying of a disease no one wanted to talk about.

It was a story of survival and a story of triumph.

Finally, the masked cowl could come off and he could be seen as who he really was: a phenomenal actor who inspired an entire generation of comic and animation fans-who, as it happened, was also a gay man. Finally, he could openly embrace who he was, his own story fully without fear.

Suddenly, this man who had always played a role in both his personal and professional lives could take off that mask and be who he wanted and needed to be.

As the short narrative drawn by the excellent J. Bone came to a close, I shed a few bittersweet tears as I thought about my own journey, my own “secret identity”, my own experience with AIDS both as a gay man and a person living with HIV.

Suddenly, I got it. I knew why Conroy’s portrayal resonated so perfectly for me when Hollywood heartthrobs the like of George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Bruce Willis, Christian Bale and Robert Pattenson looked good in the suit but ultimately fell short.

In fact, I feel like all of them were adept at playing either Bruce Wayne or Batman consistently but couldn’t quite nail the other. But, not Kevin Conroy. He could do both flawlessly and made it seem effortless.

I know what you’re thinking, “We get it. It’s because he’s gay and you’re gay and blah blah…”

Who TF is telling this story anyhow?

Yes, acknowledging my people for their achievements is important. The fact he’s a gay man is a definite plus. But, it goes far deeper than that.

I’m a gay man, yes. But before I even knew what that meant, I was a comic book nerd and like him or not, like all comic book nerds, I KNEW Batman!
? ??

Conroy may not have had washboard abs or bulging biceps to fill out the leather and latex outfits. But, he did have authenticity of character. He practically was Batman in a way none of the other hunky hunks who played the role could even approach in their clumsy heteronormativity.

Conroy could convincingly play a man with a double life because he had lived a double life most of his life.

He could play a man driven by tragedy and trauma because he *had* experienced loss, tragedy and trauma on an almost daily basis.

He could play a successful man who was awash with guilt and anger because he had survived while his friends and family were not so lucky.

He was believable because that imaginary mask was a reality for him.

As I write this, I’m streaming “Batman: The Animated Series” on HBO MAX and remembering all the times as a young gay man I lost myself in an episode of the series.

As a few more tears escape the near watertight edges of my eyes, I want to thank Kevin Conroy for all the times he was there for me and other kids both Queer and straight when we didn’t have anywhere else to go.

For some of us, no doubt, Batman saved us from our own traumas, our own trials and tribulations, our own masks and double lives and Kevin Conroy was the vessel through which he acted.

I can think of few stories more inspiring than knowing Kevin Conroy-the best, the ONLY Batman – got to take off his mask and be his authentic self after years of hiding his trauma from the world and living a double life for the benefit of his public life and his career. Would that we all could come to terms with ourselves so completely.

I only wish he’d been able to enjoy it longer.

Rest well, old friend.

You are missed.

But never, ever forgotten.

-F. Daniel Kent

 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
November 7th, 2022

We Will Find Our Way To The Better World

This from a gay history group I follow on Facebook…

Tom Doerr and Marty Robinson during a Gay Activists Alliance sit-in
at the New York State Republican headquarters, New York City.
Photo by Diana Davies, 1970.

I would have been 15 or 16 depending on exactly when this happened, and all I knew about the fight for gay equality then was basically nothing apart from the occasional snide jokes on late night TV, but they made those same jokes about hippies. But look at this photo. This is a couple. They are people not stereotypes. And they are taking a stand when that was still extremely risky, to get us all to a place when we could have what they were lucky enough to find in each other, and not be afraid or ashamed.

How often do you hear them say they don’t care what we do in the privacy of our homes, but we should not be allowed to “flaunt it” in public. But what is “it”? 

This is. This is what the fight has always been about. The haters reduce us to the sex we have, but this is what they don’t want anyone to see, especially us. We are not to know that this is possible to us. We must be scapegoats, never neighbors, never to have a place in the American dream. And so, to that end, we must see ourselves as sexual deviants, pathetic faggots, or dangerous sexual predators. What we must never be are lovers. 

Because love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken…

Because love alters not with his brief hours and weeks but bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Because being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Because love can give you the courage, and the strength, to move mountains. And the one thing you never want the scapegoat to know is they can move mountains.

 


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by Bruce | Link | React!
November 2nd, 2022

VOTE!

“That you can’t fight fascist MAGA is a rumor being spread by fascist MAGA.” (Audre Lorde…slightly paraphrased)

So today I took the light rail down to the Baltimore City Board of Elections drop box…

 

Don’t let them discourage you from voting. Don’t listen when they say your vote doesn’t matter. If they thought you vote wouldn’t matter they wouldn’t be trying so hard to discourage you from voting.


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by Bruce | Link | React!
November 1st, 2022

Why Couldn’t Today Have Been Yesterday?

Oh my goodness it’s almost summertime out there this afternoon! I’m gathering up my Halloween do-dads and I’m just wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt and I could swear it’s early May out there. And No Mosquitoes! This is perfect weather for working outdoors.

This would have been the perfect day for the neighborhood goblins to come out trick or treating. But alas…


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Now What Am I Going To Do With All This Candy?

Post Halloween day chores:

Finish bringing in all the decorations.

Put electric cables away.

Remove the batteries from the battery operated things, run the voltmeter on them and put the ones that still meet spec in the Used But Still Good container.

Pack up all the Halloween stuff into their storage containers.

Figure out what to do with the extra two bags of candy I couldn’t give out because rain kept a lot of trick or treaters away…


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by Bruce | Link | React!
October 27th, 2022

Update. . .

Regarding the previous blog post…here’s one of me after the dental work…

 

This would have been taken while I was living in a friend’s basement apartment in Rockville for passport I thought to get as a second form of ID since I didn’t have any credit cards. I didn’t get the passport after all, but I kept this because I liked it. Finally I had a smile I could wear openly and happily.

There’s two classmate friends in my life that I owe bigtime: one for letting me have a place to live in his house when I was unemployed and had no idea what to do with my life. The other for giving me a smile again.

 


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Update. . .

Once Upon A Throwback Thursday. . .

 

Throwback Thursday (are we still doing that?). This is from an old Polaroid a friend probably snapped of me while I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment in Rockville (now North Bethesda!) mom and I lived in during the 60s/70s/80s. I would have been in my twenties. I would have still had the Pinto and probably was working at the Best Products just on the other side of the fence between them and the apartments.

I can tell a lot about the timeframe that this was taken because it has to be sometime in the mid 70s, before that awful couple years I wrote about yesterday. It’s in my face. I look at this and see someone still comfortable in the life he has, confident that even better times are just around the corner. A boyfriend. A good job that paid well (I was going to be a newspaper photographer). A place of my own. Everything was still possible.

As to why I had it taken…I’m not sure. This would have been before the microcomputer days, let alone the Internet, so it wouldn’t have been to post to an online profile. This is a Polaroid, I had no scanner then, and getting copies off a Polaroid wasn’t simple. So this was a one-off. I think I had it taken just to have a couple of me that I actually liked. There are a few other poses in the set but I liked this one best. Which explains why it’s a Polaroid: I could look over each one and decide if I needed another.

The problem was always that I didn’t have many of myself that I liked. By then I was well aware that I wasn’t very good looking, but every now and then I saw a good photo of me so I wasn’t overly concerned about my looks at that age. My teeth were very crooked though, and I was extremely self conscious about that. In every photo of me from that period I’m always smiling with my mouth closed. You almost can’t see the smile here, but it’s there in the corner of my mouth. That problem wouldn’t get fixed until I was in my thirties when a friend kindly financed some dental work for me and pointed me to a super good dentist.

This image is from a time before the Internet, personal computers, cable TV, and cell phones let alone smartphones. I’m pretty sure this was before 1977 and Anita Bryant’s rampage on gay civil rights in Dade County Florida. I had listen to my shortwave radio to get the result of the vote in Dade County because none of the mainstream network news companies bothered to cover it until much later. News for and about gay Americans was not fit to print in those days. If I wanted that news, and I didn’t want to drive into DC to the Lambda Rising bookstore, I had to go to a seedy adult bookstore in Wheaton and walk past racks of pretty hard core heterosexual pornography to get a copy of the Washington Blade and The Advocate. The subway wouldn’t be built out beyond the beltway in Montgomery County until 1978 when the station at Silver Spring opened. After that I could drive into Silver Spring and hop on the Metro to get to DuPont Circle and Lambda Rising. When the Twinbook Metro station opened in 1984 I could just walk from the apartment to the subway and it was a straight shot down the red line to DuPont Circle and back.

I was so happy not to have to go past those heterosexual porn magazines ever again. I mean…okay…whatever floats your boat. But…jeeze… And yet, in many quarters of American culture, not just the pulpit thumping churches, but also mainstream news media, TV, movies, and magazines, the youngster you see in this photo was regarded as a deviant threat to American society, family values, and civilization itself.

That is the world you are seeing in this image. TVs still had vacuum tubes, telephones had a wire connecting them to the wall, you got your news from the morning or afternoon newspaper, or the nightly network news broadcasts around dinnertime. Am radio played mostly music or sports, music came on vinyl LPs or cassettes, big box department stores were still a thing, and bookstores and newstands were everywhere, but you couldn’t get any gay publications in them because gay people like the kid in this photo were almost universally regarded with contempt and loathing. But the kid you see there was still pretty confident of his future. Bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to meet tomorrow. He never found a boyfriend.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Once Upon A Throwback Thursday. . .
October 26th, 2022

The Empty Zone Beyond Time

I was unemployed for an extended period of time back in the early 1980s and I remember how badly that mucked with my wake/sleep patterns. There was probably a marginal case of depression along with it that kept me from being more energetic about finding work. I did manage some odds and ends…usually Manpower type temp work for a day or so. But mostly I just sat in my room listening to music or reading. And smoking pot. All night long.

By day, if I was awake, which usually I wasn’t until mid-afternoon, I would take long winding walks around my neighborhood, or along the railroad tracks. Then it was back into my room, door closed, to smoke some pot and zone out with some music or a book. Oddly, or not given we were Baptists, mom was actually very very glad it wasn’t alcohol and said nothing about the pot. On my walks I’d often smoke a cigar because even then I didn’t want cigar smoke in the house. I knew mom would have a fit about tobacco. This was before I had my first computer.

I remember how it distressed mom to see me so aimless and sad all the time, but from my own point of view I don’t think I’ve ever been down in that dark pit so deep since. I’d broken up badly with Strike Two (he’s straight so it wasn’t his fault), and I was thinking that this was going to be my life now (romance wise it was…but that’s not what I’m thinking about now. Or the pot). It was my first extended period of time where the clock didn’t matter. And it royally screwed up my sleep/wake patterns.

I can see it happening again. The difference now though is I am at least as active as I was when I had a full time job. I’m not just sitting around the house listening to music, and last California visit I discovered, to my regret, that pot does unpleasant things to my head now so I can’t indulge like I was hoping to after retirement. Maybe it’s, as they say, the stuff is stronger now. Or it’s I’m old and my brain is full enough of a lifetime of art kid strangeness to take in any more strange. Or both. Maybe. I’ve read my Don Juan. I know what you have to do when the ally turns on you. I think I’m finally past that ingrained Baptist fear of things that make you feel good, but not so post Baptist that I can’t grimly accept the pleasures of the past are no longer mine. Life, veil of tears, and all that. Dust we were and dust we shall be…so on and so forth. Just leave it alone.

Now it’s I go to bed super early, like 7 or 8, wake around midnight, do housework, laundry, dishes, work on a project, blog, whatever, until sleep beckons around 4 or 5, then wake up again around 10 and lay in bed reading social media until nearly 11. I was taking stock and thinking that I’m not living a full day when I realized that, well, yes I am, just in random fragments.

It’s just…spooky…how it’s beginning to feel like that time back in the early 1980s when I was unemployed for like…a couple years I think it was. This was also when I stopped doing art. Somehow I roused myself out of it. I think it was I got hooked on the personal computer. When I saw my first one it grabbed my attention somehow and then I had something for my brain to engage with, that didn’t have to touch my feelings. First it was I wanted to tune in to those mysterious shortwave teletype signals. That segued into online computer bulletin boards and my first real connection with the gay community. And from there I learned programming, networking, got work, built up a resume…

You’d have had to see that kid back in the 1980s all alone nights in his room zoned out without any prospects at all to appreciate how different his life became. And how spooky it feels now, to experience that same mucking up of my sleep/wake patterns I did back then. Good thing having a house is like having a second job.


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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Empty Zone Beyond Time
October 22nd, 2022

Where They Burn Art. . .

This has been making the rounds on social media…

A high school student’s mural angers parents over what they say are hidden messages

School district officials and a high school student in Michigan have drawn the ire of parents who allege that a painted mural contains LGBTQ propaganda, a depiction of Satan and a message of witchcraft…

Here’s a portion of it…

You can see right away what they were bellyaching about. No…not the rainbows. All the happy children. Hearts. Smiles. Friendship. Love. It was too much.

So it goes. And goes. And goes. And goes. Whenever these fights over art occur I think back to that Martin Niemöller quote (First they came for…) because it’s missing a few. Homosexuals, yes, but what I’m thinking of when I read this article are the artists. They came for the artists too. Oh you bet your life they came for the artists.

I was watching a documentary recently on the Nazi takeover of the arts. Something I didn’t appreciate previously was for a brief moment it amounted to a mini civil war within the party that Goebbels himself Lost, believe it or not. Goebbels liked modernist and expressionist art (yes…it sure surprised me). But the other major player in the propaganda war was Wilhelm Frick who wanted everything that wasn’t classical and pure German stock burned. Hitler, also hating modernist art, supported Frick and Goebbels was forced to backtrack and eventually organized an exhibit, separate from Hitler’s new Führermuseum, for the display and mockery of “degenerate art”.

You have to wonder how many wonderful artworks met the fire back then, never to be seen.

Thereafter, artists in Germany had to obtain a license to produce art, even if it was only for advertising. Of course you could not be Jewish. But just as importantly, you had to have had no association with “degenerate” art or artists. An artist if they didn’t toe the line could lose their license. Without a license an artist could not even make art in their own homes for their own private use. You could be denounced, and disappeared, just like that. Many artists, if they could, fled.

Wilhelm Frick, who won the culture war over Goebbels, was eventually tried after the war and hung for crimes against humanity. He had also been instrumental, in his role as Minister of the Interior, for formulating the Enabling Act and the Nuremberg Laws, and also for being one of the most senior people responsible for the existence of the concentration camps. Where they burn books, they also burn people. Also where they burn art.

 


Posted In: Art Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Where They Burn Art. . .
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