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July 14th, 2024

Lest You Become A Monster…

They openly admit now, that the plan is to use the tools of democracy to destroy our democracy. But here’s the thing: only the tools of democracy can sustain democracy.

Resist. Not just fascism, not merely the tyrant, but also the beast within. When you fight fire with fire, everything burns. Defend democracy.

Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 10th, 2024


sig·na·ture /?si?n?CH?r,?si?n??CHo?or/

1. a person’s name written in a distinctive way as a form of identification.

2. a distinctive pattern, product, or characteristic by which someone or something can be identified.

Or in other words…

Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 9th, 2024

The Little Cartoon That Was A Rorschach Test For Homophobia

This sweet little cartoon about a gay boy’s first crush was finally released to the public July 2017 and became an instant worldwide hit. It was shortlisted for the academy awards best animated short but of course it wasn’t even nominated because John Wayne was still rolling in his grave about Brokeback Mountain.

Go see it Here.

What struck me…as it always does…about the comments, how they were all divided between the oh cute oh how sweet oh how darling comments from (gratefully) so many heterosexual viewers who were in this day and age finally getting it how gay kids have crushes and fall in love too, just like everyone else…and then also the comments about why are you forcing sex onto kids. There was not sex at all in the cartoon…not even so much as a kiss. But the negative comments were all about sex.

And there it is. Or as Vito Russo once wrote:

It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.

The cartoon short was about a gay kid’s first crush. And it was like a Rorschach test for homophobia.

Posted In: Gently Tapping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Sex, Art, And Truth

Some years ago when I began A Coming Out Story my intention was to do the artwork in the style of the old underground comix. It would be all ink line art with cross hatching instead of my usual charcoal shading. In addition to the object of my adolescent crush, Mom, and various friends whose names and faces I would change around a bit, I had a notion that my journey to sexual self discovery would also include three fantasy characters representing different aspects of my consciousness.

Left Brain and Right Brain would represent the art/spiritual versus the science/techno geek in me. Then, because this was a coming out story, there would be a character representing my libido. I visualized him as an unfailingly polite yet absolutely relentless nag who would be making me very anxious and irritated all through the story. Unlike the other two, who would only inhabit subconscious central, Libido would be able to interact with me in the real world, because he was a sudden pest whenever I least needed it.

And in the spirit of the underground comix I initially decided that he would embody as a naked version of me. Left Brain would embody as a stereotypical nerd with white business shirt, narrow tie and a pocket protector. Right Brain would be hippy child me with a flower in his long hair, a tie-dye t-shirt, bell bottoms and bare feet. But I figured Libido, because he represented my sexual self, had to be naked, just like nearly all my favorite underground cartoonists would sometimes represent themselves. To Hell with the comics code authority!

But as I began working out the first few episodes of the story, I kept feeling very uncomfortable about drawing myself naked. Let me see if I can illustrate that with a side story.

Back in sixth grade one day I arrived in class to see someone had written stuff on the big blackboard in the front of the classroom. It was some kids from the class ahead of us, who had gone on to Junior High (what they now call Middle School). They wrote a bunch of stuff on the blackboard to tell us what to expect because Junior High was a very different experience, according to them. Instead of just one classroom all day long, you went from this class room to that and each one taught a different subject. Also, there was no recess. But there was gym class.

My eyes came across the following verbiage: “Tell them not to worry about group showers, it’s no big deal.”

I could feel my jaw dropping. What?! WhAT??! WHAT!!!???

You might think a gay kid would be just delighted to shower naked with all the other boys, but I was in denial all the way to my senior year, and I never got past the embarrassment of showering with the others. I would just tune everything out. I love a good shower, especially after a lot of physical work. But I would just imagine I was the only one there and that got me through it.

And it’s a bit of a running joke in the story (and my life) about how mom and I would just avoid the subject of her boy’s emerging sexuality whenever it got dangerously close. To paraphrase Monty Python, are you embarrassed easily…I am…but don’t worry, it’s all part of growing up and being Baptist.

So there I am fretting about drawing my libido character as a naked me, but I felt I had to in order to respect the truth of my story, except it was too damn embarrassing to draw myself naked…but TRUTH…but…but…I just can’t do it…

..and then I realize…hey wait…that’s Truth. And I swear as soon as I thought that, the first four episodes of the story just immediately came to mind fully formed. And the punch line in that first episode is perfect; “I’m your libido, not Robert Crumb’s libido.” Yes…that.

And all this is a long drawn out way of saying that I’ve still been fussing with how to draw that cartoon riff on Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” that I started about four years ago and couldn’t finish, because I couldn’t get comfortable with drawing the dancer in it naked but for the hat which they were told they could leave on. Last time I brought this cartoon up I said I was going to do it the way the song was written because TRUTH, instead of the way I started it which was to just let the dancer keep their tiny little briefs on. But no…TRUTH.

But I have my own truths to deal with, and this reticence about nudity and how to draw nudes is one of them. Maybe I’m a prude after all. Maybe this is what you get when you raise a gay boy in a Baptist household. But I dislike sexuality being turned into cheap push button entertainment and I would much rather be teased than doused with porn. Pornography is obvious. I like sensuality and romance, which is why porn never really did much for me. And there is a sweet sexy and romantic subtext that I see in that Randy Newman song. That is what I want to develop in the cartoon.

And I’m getting back to work on it because I think I see a way now, to respect the song’s truth and my own. An artist has to be faithful to their own truths or don’t even bother because it’s way too much work to be faking it.


Posted In: Art Gently Tapping My Pulpit Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 8th, 2024

Worst First Dates That Inspire Ghost Stories

Hoisted from today’s Facebook Memories…

On a “Worst First Date” challenge thread I see a story about a guy who met his date at the agreed upon restaurant and she never spoke a word the entire time, ate her food and left. Then he sees an earlier text message he missed from his date saying she couldn’t make it and could they reschedule, and now he’s wondering who it was he just fed.

I see a ghost story here…something along the lines of the trope about the hitch hiker or ride giving trucker who turns out to have been a ghost…but all this ghost does is eat your food and leave.

Oh…that was Eleanor, who died of starvation after waiting hours for the waiter to take her order…see, it was the shift change…oh yes, she’s a hungry one…

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
July 1st, 2024

Why? Oh…I know why…

Why? Why on Earth?? When I have so many other things around the house that need doing.

So I’ve been doing some “downsizing” here at Casa del Garrett, mostly getting off of old computer manuals and documentation I will never need again (these go to recycling so at least the paper can have another life), plus some other items in my extensive (not kidding) library that I will probably never read again, and don’t seem likely to ever be reference material. I’m still trying to find a second hand book repository for these.

It began when I had to buy a new furnace/AC unit and had to move around a bunch of furniture for the contractors to work. That gave me an opportunity to clean in places that are otherwise hard to get at. In addition I had a duct cleaning done, which had probably not ever been done since the house was built, judging by what the duct cleaners found. So I had to move around a bunch of other furniture too. 

Before putting it all back, I decided to use the opportunity to do a little downsizing. The fact is I have too much Stuff. I’ve lived in this house since the summer of 2001, but moved into it with a lot of stuff I’d accumulated over the years. Much of that, like my hand and power tools, and all my spare parts, proved to be even more useful when owning a house than they were when I was living in apartments and the basement of friends. But I’d also managed to collect a pretty large library of books and LPs…a fact the movers probably didn’t appreciate since both are very heavy when boxed up. And I was already loaded with computer stuff, since I was by then making a living as a software engineer, which was what enabled me to buy a house of my own in the first place. And before that I was into computers partly as hobby, partly as a means of communicating over a modem. When I discovered modems and BBSs I dove into it. That led me to volunteering on a local gay BBS, and that led me to my first jobs writing software.

Which brings me to this. It’s an IBM PS2 Model 80…the top of the PS2 line once upon a time. My first big W-2 software gig was at Baltimore Gas and Electric Home Products and Services, which was an exclusively IBM worksite The big iron downtown was all IBM, and in the offices where I worked everything on the desktops was a PS2…usually a model 50. or 55. So when I came across this model 80 for sale at a computer flea market years later, I was already pretty familiar with them. 

Poor thing has just sat in my basement storage area for over a decade, beside an Apple PowerMac G5 I bought for the art room and eventually replaced with an Intel based Mac Pro. As I began deciding what to downsize around here, I looked at both of those computers and the space they were taking up. It seemed ridiculous to just be holding onto them when I knew I’d probably never need either one ever again. But I didn’t want to just take them to the city recycling place. This wasn’t like giving up an old VCR or TV…both those machines were the top of their lines back in the day. I knew some collector would want them both. But how to find them good homes? 

And the more I thought about the PS2, the more I remembered the days of DOS and how the advent of the personal computer seemed to open up fantastic new worlds…worlds which, surprisingly I found I could navigate pretty easily. I didn’t have a college degree in computer science and wasn’t likely to ever get one since I had no money for college. No matter in retrospect. Computer logic just seemed to click with me.

Long before that first job, and those first days volunteering at G.L.I.B. (The Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau) I discovered I could build my own IBM PC compatible from parts. There was no way I could afford an actual IBM PC, but I could buy a part here and a part there until I had all that I needed. I remember after I built that first IBM compatible and got it to boot, just sitting on the edge of my bed staring at the monitor with it’s 640k memory test still on the screen and an ‘A’ prompt (that first computer initially booted PC-DOS from a floppy disk) and looking at the blinking caret in something like awe. Until that moment my computer was a little Commodore C64. Now I had a Serious computer…and IBM no less. Well…a pretty good copy since it booted genuine PC-DOS, not the more generic MS-DOS. This was no toy. This was International Business Machines serious business. I sat there for I don’t know how long stunned at the awesome computing power I suddenly had at my control. What have I got myself into…

Well…what I’d got myself into, though I didn’t know it then, was a career that would pull me out of near poverty and eventually into the space program. Walt Disney was fond of saying his success story all began with a mouse. Well mine began with a boot to DOS. And I rode it all the way to the James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Center and Integration and Test Lab.

So that PS2 machine had more of my life wrapped up in it than the PowerMac by light years. I began to wonder if I could just find a place for it in my den where I could work on it again as a kind of hobby.

I tried booting it the other day and it threw a couple error codes that I needed to look up, but I was pretty sure what they were. The PS2s need a small internal battery to maintain their configuration memory and the one in mine had likely died many years ago. It’s a simple fix…replace the battery and boot with the configuration disk and restore your configuration. But while Googling the error codes I discovered there are hobbyists out there who love to work on these machines. And they know where you can get parts. So that notion of keeping the PS2 as a hobby became lots more attractive.

So I got it running again and I’m just going to let it run for now and see what I can make of it. See if I can give the PowerMac to a good home later. 

And try to get all my other stuff around the house done. I still have a lot of Stuff to sort through and decide what to get off of, and what to keep. It’s going to take weeks, but I’m 70, on retirement income, and I need to simplify. 

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
June 29th, 2024

Old Man At The Bar Stories…

I went to the little whiskey bar just off The Avenue yesterday evening. It would be a favorite place except it’s only open Friday and Saturday evenings. But in a way that only helps it maintain a speakeasy vibe. It’s halfway below sidewalk level in the Bluebird Lounge building, and it has some of the same menu items as the Bluebird. The bartenders there make the best Old Fashioned I have ever had.

As I’m sitting off to the side in one of the nice leather club chairs, two skateboard kids come in and sit down at the bar. They’re served drinks so they must be at least 21, and otherworldly though they are they look kinda cute to my eye. I say “otherworldly” partly because of the tats (arms and legs), the hairstyles (man bun on one, long, very long dreadlocks on the other), the t-shirt logos, and the stickers all over their skateboards. They live in a different world from the one my inner 20-something still lives in. Generally I am not in favor of tats. Naked skin has it’s own mysterious beauty. But these two are very cute. I wonder if they’re a couple.

I keep trying to remember to bring a book to read with me when I go to this place. Cellular reception down here below sidewalk level is very bad. But I don’t want to be distracted by social media today, so I do something I’ve done ever since I was a small boy; I withdraw into my own private world. I have some artwork I want to think about, and some stories I want to eventually write. I sit there savoring my old fashioned and think about what I need to do to get my darkroom live again. I think about the process of downsizing all the Stuff in my house. Do I really want to get rid of all those Microsoft Developer’s Network CDs I have. Maybe I should put that old IBM PS2 Model 80 in storage, along with the PowerPC Mac Pro. Am I ever going to boot either of those up again?

Occasionally I pop back into the real world to sip my old fashioned, look the bar menu over again (am I hungry now?), and steal some glances at the two younglings at the bar. Every now and then I see the one with the bun stealing a curious glance back at me. Probably I strike a very weird old man drinking whiskey and staring off into nowhere vibe. Actually I’ve probably carried that vibe with me all my life.

I see them chat easily with the bartenders and other Bluebird staff that come and go. So they are either regulars or friends of the staff there. Scruffy as they are I can tell they’re not homeless street kids. Their clothes have that clean but tattered look that is too deliberate to be the result of poverty. It is style. Their skateboards are well worn. Probably they were at the skateboard park across Falls before they came here.

Then the kid with the bun takes down his man bun…and a full head of long, luxurious hair flows down around his neck and over his shoulders. I’m stunned. What the hell are you doing tying all that up into a bun for chrissakes! You’re beautiful! Don’t do that to your hair! Let it be free! But that’s not the world they live in. And I can only observe from outside.

Kids these days…


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
June 26th, 2024

Ghosts Aren’t Real…And Yet We Still See Them…Occasionally…

I could swear I saw a ghost just now. But no…for one thing I’m pretty sure ghosts aren’t real (good props for story telling though…). No…most likely just a striking resemblance to someone I once knew long, long ago, in a Rockville far, far away…

Stay golden George…


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
June 23rd, 2024

The Photographer And The Beatles

I’m reading a Vanity Fair article about a young photographer for the Daily Express who was assigned in January 1964 to tag along with The Beatles as they went on tour, first in France and then on to their first tour in the US.

These couple paragraphs of the article really took me back. The band is in Paris and the photographer, Harry Benson, has to get his photos back to the paper in London for the paper’s next daily edition. This was Way before digital cameras and the Internet…

That evening they knocked about in the suite again. But my day didn’t end when the Beatle’s day ended. Every night I’d stay up in my hotel bathroom, developing and printing pictures, so the Express could pick one to run in the paper. I’d use gaffer’s tape to seal any openings around the door, wedge towels under the door, and put a bedsheet on the floor to kneel on. In the pitch dark, I’d put the exposed rolls of black-and-white film in little tanks with D-76 developer, usually spilling developer all over the place. I’d hang the rolls of negatives on the shower rack to dry. I ruined more toilets developing my photographs than I can count.

I’d then put my enlarger on the commode. I’d choose the best frames, print them wet, then fix them with fixer in a small tank. When you flipped the light on, you’d see a hellish mess: your hands and bedsheet stained yellow. You used the bathtub to wash the prints and negatives, drying them with a hair dryer. By then it’s 5am. You’d set up a transmitter and attach it to the bedroom phone and send three or four “selects”; it would take about eight minutes to transmit each picture.

I’m assuming the transmitter worked along the same principle as a radio fax machine. Those would have been international dialing costs, plus hotel dialing charges, and all that even more astronomical when they got to the US. But his newspaper would have gladly paid for all of it along with the other travel expenses given how popular The Beatles already were. That was how you did it back in the 1960s. It would have been how you did it all the way up to the 1980s and the first personal computers and modems I think.

I remember developing my photos in the one bathroom in the apartment mom and and I shared. I don’t remember making that much of a mess and I’m guessing it’s because this guy wasn’t familiar with working in a darkroom, but would just hand off his rolls to the newspaper darkroom guys. If you’re in the darkroom you’re not out in the field getting some shots. Also, I think the Brits make a distinction between “toilet” and “commode” but I’m not sure what it is. I remember setting up my enlarger on the toilet seat. When it came time to make prints I had my trays positioned in and around the bathroom sink. I had a plastic tub with a hole I’d drilled into it that I put my prints in to be washed under the bathtub faucet. I’d hang blankets around the bathroom door to light proof it. For printing I had a safelight I’d attached to the wall above the clothes hamper.

I still have some of that equipment down in the darkroom I’ve made out of the basement bathroom in my house today, including that safelight. Much better enlarger though.

His process seems weird. I can see printing wet given his deadlines. But printing negatives “wet” should only be do-able After fixing because the fixing part of the process takes the unexposed silver nitrates off the film. If you look at film after developing but before fixing (use stop bath!!!!!) you can see the negative in there but the rest of it is milky white because that’s the silver nitrates that weren’t developed because they were not exposed to light. Fixer takes that off the film and now you have a negative you can print.

His film tank should have allowed him to turn on the lights after it was loaded and then he can see what he’s doing pouring the chemistry in and out. I’m wondering what sort of camera he used, but it was a roll film camera of some sort, so I don’t understand why he didn’t have a light proof tank with him that he needed to develop his rolls in total darkness and splash developer everywhere (the Nikor tank was patented in 1937). “By the 1960s the Nikor tanks and reels were pretty much the industry standard.” There were tanks and reels back then for 35mm and 120 roll film. He would have still needed either total darkness or a safelight to print. If he’s printing in total darkness I can see him splashing chemistry everywhere. In the article he doesn’t talk any about the equipment he used and I can understand why since the focus was on being there when The Beatles were just becoming huge. But I’ve done film developing since I was a teenage boy and I have questions.

But…obviously he knew what he was doing because he got his shots and got them back to the paper. And he had the tenacity I didn’t have to make it in that incredibly competitive world…especially since it was a Fleet Street paper he worked for. And he got some of the earliest shots of The Beatles as they were on the cusp of becoming huge, embedded with them on their first tour in the US. Weird as his process was he has my respect, and a maybe more than a little envy.

Posted In: Photography

by Bruce | Link | React!
June 21st, 2024

Heatwave This Weekend Is Already Here

I got up early for my morning coffee walk through the neighborhood. It was 5:30am and the air outside already had that sort of morning humidity that tells you the rest of the day is going to be brutal. 

As I write this it’s only just past 8am and already it’s too hot for 70 year old accustomed to air conditioning me to be out and about. At least on foot, the car has air conditioning. Which came in handy when I took a quick grocery run at 6:30 am. It was about as hot then as you’d expect at 10am. Though the grocery store is only a ten minute walk from the house I drove it because I wanted to bring back some distilled water for the darkroom.

I used what morning time I had before the heatwave to finally put out the last of the solar garden stuff. Well…except for the little solar beach trailer that suddenly stopped lighting up a couple nights ago. I’ll need to take that apart and see what I can accomplish. I ran a voltmeter across the solar cell and it’s producing electricity, but the on off switch was a little sketchy when I first tested it and it might have failed. I can replace the guts of it if it comes to that and it’s work I can do indoors.

I can water my flowers later in the day, which won’t keep me outside for more than a few minutes.

Meantime I’m sorting through a bunch of old computer books I probably don’t need to hold onto anymore. That’s also indoor work.

I’m going to be basically trapped inside all weekend here in Charm City. Tomorrow and Sunday they’re calling for 100 degree plus temperatures and with our mid Atlantic humidity it’s going to be brutal. I have a new high efficiency AC/Furnace system in the house so there’s that. But with the stress this weekend on the electrical grid I worry about brownouts and power outages happening. Now we get to see if BGE sized the feeds for the new rowhomes around here adequately. My plan B is to go get a motel room if it comes to that. But I would really rather my perishables in the fridge and chest freezer didn’t perish. 

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
June 15th, 2024


Stop! You’re breaking my heart!

Posted In: Photography
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Life In The Big City…

This was the view in my front yard just now.

There were two of them, munching away on the ground cover. Bon Appétit! My lawn cutter doesn’t do the front because of the steep hillside. Would you like dressing with that salad? Some croutons maybe?

Life in the big city…who knew?

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Pulse And Disney Pride

On June 12, 2016, a madman hopped up on religious zealotry and armed with a military assault style rifle, a nine millimeter handgun and multiple clips full of military grade ammunition entered the Pulse nightclub, a gay discothèque, killed 49 people and was himself killed by the police. Statements the perpetrator made during the attack indicated it was in retaliation for US bombings in the middle east, but his singling out a gay nightclub for the attack cannot be swept under the carpet as coincidence or simply due to the venue’s alleged lack of security (there was a security guard stationed at the front door, whom the attacker evaded by going in a side door). The man was said to have been angered by the sight of a gay male couple holding hands, and his own father had taunted him homophobically. There is no doubt in my mind, and in the community at large, that homophobia played a decisive role in the attack, regardless of his other motivations.

I had to resist the urge to call my former high school crush just to make sure he was okay. This was only a few months after his family found out he was talking with me again and the notice came down not to contact him in any way shape or form (how do you contact someone with a shape?). I’ve often wondered if he worried that I might have been there, because I visited Orlando often, mostly to go to Disney World, or how I was feeling when I heard the news. But the next day I posted my thoughts on it on this blog, which he always insisted that he never reads, so he would have known.

I’d previously scheduled a July 4th vacation at Disney World, so I was there just a few weeks after the attack. I couldn’t do Gay Days that year because of the schedule at work, but federal holidays were usually good times to request vacation. Driving into the city that week I saw billboards everywhere expressing grief and solidarity with the LGBT community. The entire city seemed to be in shock.

It changed everything.

Before this Disney was keeping Gay Days at arm’s length, and whenever the usual suspects started bellyaching about it they’d say they’re in the hospitality business and everyone is welcome. When I was there after the attack I was wearing my rainbow Mickey pin. It wasn’t the actual Pride rainbow, it was the Peace Rainbow that some United Nations group created. But it was close enough to the Pride rainbow that lots of us wore in in the parks during Gay Days and everyone knew what it was supposed to signify. As I wandered inside the parks every now and then a Cast Member would notice the pin and start a conversation with me about what happened at Pulse. It seemed everyone had to talk about it, because they were all in shock. We were a community in shock.

And so I heard the stories…horrible, horrible stories. And I am certain all that shock and horror went all the way from the cast members and vendors and managers to the boardroom. Because they would all have had family, friends, co-workers, who they were frightened for that night.

The commercial media does a really bad job of explaining to the rest of the country the venomous hate directed at us. Because that would be taking sides in what the media boardrooms regard as a partisan argument, and anyway in that mindset we’re still a perversion best left unspoken of during family time. That day everyone in the country saw the hate for what it was, but especially the people of central Florida. And it wasn’t just that the people who died either were, or could easily have been, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, they saw all the gleeful contempt for the dead and wounded afterward by local preachers and republican pundits and politicians. Some publicly expressed regret they weren’t all killed that night. They saw the right wing politicians that kept insisting that regardless of what happened, the homosexual menace had to be fought for the sake of god and family. And in that one moment they saw, clearly saw, all of them for what they were.

And all that corporate keeping us at arm’s length changed decisively afterward.

A year later on the anniversary, at the end of the day in Magic Kingdom, they turned the lights off of Cinderella’s castle and had a 49 second moment of silence for the victims. The year after that an entire line of actual Pride rainbow merchandise appeared.

This year, DeSantis ordered all the bridges in Florida to only display red, white, and blue lights from the end of May to the middle of July, allegedly to salute our veterans. Hahahaha…no. Notice how his order blocks out the entire month of June, not July. It was to prevent displays of the Pride rainbow. The people see you Ron. And you republicans in the Florida statehouse. We saw all of you on the night of June 12, 2016. And in the days that followed.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to a fund established by Orlando officials to help people affected by the nightclub shooting.

Disney officials also said they would match dollar-for-dollar individual contributions by the company’s employees to the OneOrlando fund, established by Mayor Buddy Dyer following Sunday’s shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

Disney has about 74,000 employees in the Orlando area, which is home to its Walt Disney World resort. Disney also lost an employee, or Cast Member, in the shooting. The name of Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, was added to the victims list on Monday.

“We mourn the loss of one of our own Cast Members, Jerry Wright, as well as others within our extended Disney family, and we offer our most heartfelt condolences to their families, friends and loved ones as well as all who were affected by yesterday’s senseless acts,” said George A. Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World Resort.

The FBI’s director has said the agency is trying to determine whether the Orlando nightclub shooter had recently scouted Walt Disney World and other locations as potential targets.

Posted In: Life Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
June 13th, 2024

Everything Hate Has Taken From Our Lives

…in this man’s obituary. Via NBC News…

Veteran comes out as gay in his obituary: ‘Now that my secret is known, I’ll forever rest in peace’

Col. Edward Thomas Ryan of Rennselaer, New York, wrote that his fear of being ostracized by friends and family kept him from coming out.

The obituary, published by the Albany Times Union on June 8, 2024, ended with a message written by Ryan himself.

“I must tell you one more thing. I was Gay all my life: thru grade school, thru High School, thru College, thru Life,” he revealed, adding that he found love in a relationship with a man from North Greenbush, New York.

“He was the love of my life,” Ryan wrote. “We had 25 great years together.”

Ryan went on to say that his love died in 1994 “from a medical procedure gone wrong” and that he will be buried next to him.

Ryan concluded by explaining why he did not come out in his lifetime.

“I’m sorry for not having the courage to come out as Gay,” he wrote. “I was afraid of being ostracized: by Family, Friends, and Co-Workers. Seeing how people like me were treated, I just could not do it. Now that my secret is known, I’ll forever Rest in Peace.”

In a cemetery in Washington DC, there is a tombstone that reads; “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men, and a discharge for loving one.” 

Posted In: Politics

by Bruce | Link | React!
June 11th, 2024

Yes I’m Going To Keep Smoking Them

Just in moderation. 

This post is probably going to distress some of my friends who would really wish me to quit smoking my cigars for the sake of my heart. But since I had that Hoyo de Monterrey Jose’ Gener the other day, the first cigar I’ve had since coming home from California last month, I’ve been thinking. Which usually means a blog post. It’ll probably be self justifying and full of excuses but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The seductive thing about nicotine is it calms you down but it doesn’t dull your mind. And in some circumstances it can actually help you think more clearly. Yes, there is science that backs me up here…

Nicotine stimulates the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in triggering positive feelings. It is often found to be low in people with depression, who may then use cigarettes to temporarily increase their dopamine supply. -Smoking and Mental Health – The Mental Health Foundation (UK)

Preclinical models and human studies have demonstrated that nicotine has cognitive-enhancing effects. Attention, working memory, fine motor skills and episodic memory functions are particularly sensitive to nicotine’s effects. Recent studies have demonstrated that the a4, B2, and a7 subunits of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) participate in the cognitive-enhancing effects of nicotine. Imaging studies have been instrumental in identifying brain regions where nicotine is active, and research on the dynamics of large-scale networks after activation by, or withdrawal from, nicotine hold promise for improved understanding of the complex actions of nicotine on human cognition. – Cognitive Effects of Nicotine: Recent Progress – National Library of Medicine, Institutes of Health

Nicotine improves cognitive functioning in smokers and psychiatric populations, but its cognitive-enhancing effects in healthy nonsmokers are less well understood. -Effects of Nicotine on Attention and Inhibitory Control in Healthy Nonsmokers – NIH

So on the one hand it helps you think clearly and relieve depression. But it is also bad for your health and highly addictive. That is especially true when it’s being delivered via cigarettes, but any tobacco is a health risk. It can cause cancer. It can lead to heart disease.

In my case, I’m pretty sure the binge cigar smoke I did at the cigar shop in Disney Springs back in September 2019, was what lead to the heart attack I had the following October. Normally I would sit down in their little leather chair lounge section and people watch as I smoked a Padron. Normally just one and I’m done. That vacation I smoked one after the other after the other until my head was spinning. That kind of chain smoking is so rare in me I can’t remember any other time I did anything like that but I’m pretty sure why I did it. I was depressed and miserable after learning I would likely never see a certain someone ever again, even just to scowl at each other over dinner.

Love is mysterious. Go figure.

In retrospect I don’t think I actually had a heart attack, just the build up to one, which could have been fatal for all I know had it not given me plenty of warning and I was already in the hospital. The pain came and went, came and went, came and went, came and went, and it got bad enough that I had to check myself into the ER. But it never really stopped coming and going, even while I was in the emergency room. As they were wheeling me up to the operating room I was actually feeling fine. Maybe it was an indecisive heart attack. Do I want to kill him now or wait for a bit longer? Decisions, decisions…

After the angioplasty I was told there was so little damage to my heart that it could not be detected by the usual means. So I was lucky. Instead of slamming me down all at once and killing me then and there it just kept coming and going, coming and going, all the way to the operating room. But the message was pretty clear. Among other things: Stop smoking.

That’s relatively easy to do when it’s cigars. Cigarettes are to nicotine as the needle is to heroin. They’re basically a nicotine delivery system. Cigars are something you savor over a period of time…you take a walk and reflect and think, you don’t just wolf one down and then light up another…

…unless you’re depressed and just want that dopamine high, and like me you could never get cigarette smoke into your lungs.

You don’t inhale a cigar. Twice in my life I’ve tried to inhale a cigarette. First time I was a kid and a bunch of us found an unopened pack in a construction area behind the apartments we lived in. We passed them around. I could not get past the first puff. For the rest of my childhood I wondered why adults smoked them. Then I became one. Second time around I was in my 60s. I was feeling depressed and miserable and decided to try cigarettes again. I bought a pack of unfiltered high octane ones because why not just go for it. That time I made it to two puffs. Then I almost hacked my lungs out. So…no more of that.

By then I was used to the full bodied flavor of a good cigar and I am still wondering about cigarette smokers because cigarettes taste to me like you are smoking a piece of cardboard.

I have enjoyed cigars since I was old enough to buy tobacco, graduating almost instantly from the drugstore brands that are machine rolled with the intake port ready made, to higher quality hand rolled boxed labels you need to cut the ends off of before you light up. At some point I found myself perusing the walk-in humidor of an upscale cigar store, tried one of the expensive ones just to see if it was worth the money, and had an epiphany.

The downside to those top shelf brands is they can be hard on a budget. 35 bucks for just one cigar did you say? Hahahaha…some even sell for hundreds. My saving grace is I have always been, except for that one time in Disney World, a casual smoker. Well…except late in my term at Space Telescope, when the stress got serious. For that I would buy a small tin of mini cigars and take a smoke walk around the parameter of Wyman Park. That was when I began to understand why the mainframe guys I worked with some decades previously called their cigarettes “programmer’s candy.”

But my usual routine is have a cigar after dinner, maybe at the end of a week, take a walk and savor it. So I could afford the top shelf cigars because I didn’t smoke them that often. Now I’m at a stage in my life when I probably shouldn’t be smoking them at all, but in my defense my intake these days is a fraction of what it was previously. And my little cigar walk yesterday with that mild Hoyo de Monterrey, my first cigar since coming back from California, was a revelation.

Thing of it was, after the heart attack I was afraid, but I didn’t want to give cigars up completely because I knew they helped me with stress, and unlike alcohol they didn’t dull my mind. If anything they sharpened it and perked me up. But fear is not a good motivator. It just makes you keep avoiding a problem instead of really looking at it.

I’m looking at it now. I’ve been sluggish and morose all month long. The occasional margarita only made it worse. I was feeling my age like I’d never had before. I could see all the pleasures of life walking away from me. I was avoiding the box of Cubans I’d brought back from California because I was so tired all the time and miserable and I was afraid. I figured one of those would only make it worse, maybe provoke another heart attack. I kept telling myself maybe later, maybe later.

Eventually the misery got to a point I didn’t care anymore. So the other night I flipped misery the bird and decided to give a Hoyo de Monterrey a try. I’d heard they were top notch premium Cuban cigars and I’d only known the brand from the boxes I saw in drugstores.

I went for a cigar walk around the neighborhood at twilight. And I swear I could feel my mind awakening. By the time I got back home I felt a lot more perky and did some work around the house instead of just flopping right into the bed.

The next morning I noticed a definite improvement in mindset and attitude. And energy. Lots more energy. Got a Bunch done on the backyard and in the house. Didn’t even need my usual afternoon nap.

So, dig it…I smoked one cigar late in the day…a mild Cuban…and the next day I did not smoke at all and yet I had more energy, clarity of mind and a much better attitude. I felt great, just coasting on that one cigar from the previous day. It’s two days later as I write this and I’m still feeling the boost I got from that one cigar.

Before the week is out, I’ll probably have another. But at age 70 I can also feel the toll it takes on my body. I felt it while I was smoking that Hoyo de Monterrey and I had to let it go out when it was only two thirds done.

I listen to my body, and when it says stop I stop. It’s something I’ve learned to do with alcohol too. And…gardening. And moving luggage from the car to the hotel room. And really anything that makes me exert myself. That twenty-something body I had once is in the past. Also the thirty-something body…the forty-something body…and so on. I’ve got the 70 year old model now and when it says stop I have to stop.

It’s because cigars aren’t the nicotine delivery system cigarettes are I can stop and take a break for a few days or weeks. Everything I’ve ever heard about cigarettes, everyone I’ve known personally that smoked them have told me this, that they are incredibly addictive. I read a story years ago about addiction in returning soldiers from Vietnam and one of them said that quitting cigarettes was much harder than quitting heroin. I am so glad I never got myself hooked on them. I advise people to stay the hell away from them. I really don’t think that’s hypocrisy.

I think about the people I knew who smoked them that later died of lung cancer. And I would feel really bad if someone reading this who was trying to quit cigarettes, decided that maybe just one or two every now and then wouldn’t be so bad after all, because nicotine has it’s beneficial side. No. The cigarette seems insidiously designed to prevent moderation, also any pleasure apart from satisfying an urgent need for more nicotine now, right now.

That said, I know cigars are a health risk too. So maybe this is my hypocrisy. They can give you cancer and heart disease. Ulysses S. Grant was a heavy cigar smoker and that gave him the throat cancer that killed him. But they’ve been a part of my life ever since I was a young man and I’m pretty certain now that I’m not quitting them entirely. Just…never do that chain smoking thing ever again!

Yes I do other things to relieve stress…I make art, I go for walks, I hike a trail, I drive some roads. All of these require energy and for a while this month I was flat out. Now I have some. And a better mindset. Tomorrow if the weather is as lovely as it was today I might go hike the NCR trail for a stretch.

Except for that one time I have always smoked in moderation. And since the heart attack I have cut back. Mostly that was out of fear and I might bump it up a notch now, depending on what my body tells me. Usually I don’t smoke the entire thing anymore anyway. I can feel my body saying “enough” and I just let it go out. I have to overrule that waste not want not mindset I grew up with but that’s getting easier now that I’m also trying to downsize the house.

So. I have a humidor full of some of the best Cubans down in the basement art room. They are the real thing, not knockoffs. I may not need to buy any more for years at the rate I’m smoking them. They calm me down. They relieve the eternal stress. They sharpen my mind. They perk me up. They have been a part of my life since I was a young man. And I would rather not shuffle sadly into that good night, let alone go quietly. Maybe they do kill me in the long run, even if I moderate. But in the longer run I’m dead anyway. I made it to 70. Don Juan said all paths lead nowhere. Take the path with heart and it will make for a joyful journey. I like a good cigar from time to time.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
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