The Story So Far...  Archives

Click Here For Current Web Log More Archives Home Page

Friday, October 11, 2002.

Mandrake Doesn't Completely Byte...

I'm obsessive about getting things to work. This is why my employers keep giving me glowing reviews. But I have no great self-denying work ethic. I am just an obsessive computer geek. And yes, I know how computer geek talk just annoys the hell out of some people, so if you don't want to hear a lot of geek talk about a geek operating system, then scan down. This is the only entry for today, just so you know...

I figured the problem I had with with Mandrake the other night was in the video drivers, for the simple reason that I've seen behavior like that over and over on Windows machines, and it's nearly always been due to bad video drivers. Problem was that Mandrake's "recommended" install doesn't allow you to specify a driver. So I tried re-installing with the "expert" mode. Expert mode gave me trouble configuring the printers, but otherwise it was pretty straightforward. I found when I got to the display setup that Mandrake had correctly detected my video card, an nVidia Riva TNT-2, and was keen to activate the 3-D hardware acceleration in it. I suspected that was the trouble, and backed out 3-D hardware support, which, since I am not a gamer, I really didn't care about. That fixed the hang problem.

Mandrake came up, ran the First Time Use Wizard without any hitches, and I had a desktop. I tried the dial-up internet connection, and still wary about the script login, had it bring up a terminal window so I could manually login. It worked. Now I was connected. I tried the standard KDE browser Konqueror, it came up and I was able to browse the net. But after about fifteen minutes of browsing, my network connection started slowing to a crawl. Watching the modem lights I figured that the network packets were coming in just fine, it was my machine that was slow in processing them. And it was getting slower the longer it stayed up. Disconnecting from my ISP, closing the dial-up application and restarting it, didn't help. Eventually, even ping stopped working correctly.

I tried another install, and this time manually configured the partitions on the Linux drive, to give me a larger swap partition then the default, which was something like a quarter gig. I gave it two. Afterwards, when I connected to the net, I didn't experience any sluggishness. Does anybody test this stuff before it goes out the door?

I began trying stuff that hadn't worked before on SUSE and Red Hat. This time there was a scanner utility that made configuration a theoretically simple process. I say theoretical because even though the utility had two entries in it for PlusTek scanners, neither one was mine, and neither worked with mine. I tried downloading some RPM files which supposedly contained Sane (the linux scanner layer) support for my scanner, but running them provoked compliants of missing library dependencies. Welcome to the wonderful world of open source software! I gave up on the scanner.

I tried the KPalm application. KPalm in Mandrake actually starts to initiate a HotSync with my Kyocera Smartphone, but can't for some reason, follow through. I tried fiddling with this and that, and never getting any further, so I just gave up on KPalm.

To my delight, I found the Linux AIM client bundled with Mandrake (Gaim) actually worked. I chatted merrily away with a friend who works for another employer, and he sent me a link to his web site and pictures of the new addition he's putting on his house. That was when I re-discovered the joys of cutting and pasting in Linux. Nobody in this brave new world of open source can apparently agree on how the cut and paste functionality is supposed to work. Neither the Konqueror address bar nor the Mozilla would accept the link text I'd cut from Gaim.

Oh...and neither would import my IE bookmarks either, which is a tad odd because IE bookmarks are no big deal to figure out. Yeah, Explorer treats that "favorites" folder differently, but just open a command window and TYPE any .URL file in there and you can see it's just a damn ascii text file with a URL in it. Don't tell me this has people scratching their heads. If they're not importing IE bookmarks on religious grounds, then they need to grow up.

On the other hand, both Konqueror and Mozilla all browsed the web well, without mangling the screen display or hanging randomly, which is a heck of a lot more then I can say of the versions of either one bundled with Red Hat and SUSE. But I'm wondering now if some of the problems I saw there weren't due to a too small swap partition as well.

So I have a Linux system that almost sorta kinda works for me, but not yet nearly enough to take seriously. Here are some things I Absolutely Must Have before I can come to regard a Linux box as my prime workstation, in order of importance.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, October 10, 2002.

Agnew Would Have Just Called Them Nattering Nabobs Of Negativism...

Tbogg has a good one today, that kinda neatly sums up how the American Right can be truly scary, and a barrel of laughs all at once.

Noting that Sullivan likes a recent essay by Ron Rosenbaum, Tbogg quotes the following passage therein:

Goodbye to the deluded and pathetic sophistry of postmodernists of the Left, who believe their unreadable, jargon-clotted theory-sophistry somehow helps liberate the wretched of the earth.

And goodbye to you Ron. Regime change the door into the shut position on your jargon free way out.

More On The Bowie Shooting, And Possibly A New One In Virginia.

As I write this they're looking into the possibility that a shooting in Prince William County Virginia is linked to the Montgomery County sniper. Meanwhile the media broke information that the killer had left a tarot card at the scene near where the spent case was found. If that's so, then I question the authenticity of the case.

You may not have heard this where you are, but last week the local news media was fixating on what psychologists and profilers were saying about the killer's mindset. One of these guys kept saying over and over how the killer was "playing god". Well, sure enough, the killer leaves behind a "death" tarot card, with the words, "Dear policemen, I am god." written on it. Stipulating that I have no way of knowing any of this, I doubt this guy is that kind of screwy. This was a taunt alright, but a sarcastic one. The fact that the card was deliberately left at the scene, leads me to wonder if the case was too. It would be all too easy to snag a .233 Remington case from somewhere, and just drop it there along with the card. He planned to leave something behind this time, so how much of any of what is found there could be said to be an accident on his part? That's not however, to say it can't be revealing nonetheless.

I think it shouldn't be too hard for them to determine whether or not the case was bogus. But now I'm thinking that this guy's still on his roll, that Bowie wasn't the stumble on his part that I thought it was.

They're saying now that pedestrian traffic is down noticeably in the area. We've had a sudden cold and wet snap so that's not necessarily unusual. But from what I'm reading, parents are a lot more afraid to take their kids here and there then they were before, so this killer is managing now to clear the streets around D.C. a little. The weather starts getting colder, and long jackets become commonplace on the streets, and it'll be that much harder to spot this guy taking up a position, or clearing out of one.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Gun Thing....

In the wake of the Montgomery County sniper shootings, the usual calls for new gun control measures are popping up, from all the expected places. The Washington Post, which seems utterly unable to conceive any possible reason why a sane, decent, bleeding heart of a law abiding person would want to own a gun, today bemoans the horrible state of affairs in the suburbs that makes it possible for practically anyone (except convicted criminals) to buy, no, not just a gun, but a weapon:

Thanks to aggressive marketing by the gun industry and the political muscle of its strongest lobby, the National Rifle Association, plenty of legal loopholes make buying a snap. In Maryland, home of some of the country's tightest gun control laws, anyone who can clear a background check -- instant for some rifles, seven days for others -- can buy a weapon.

Heaven forfend a citizen should be able to buy a weapon. But gun rights advocates (and I count myself as one of these) have problems of their own in this case, because its pretty hard to argue that an armed citizenry could possibly have made any difference whatever in this particular kind of crime, unlike those sudden rampage killings you hear about from time to time, where the killer was close in to his victims. Suzanne Gratia may well have been able to save people, including her parents, in the Luby's restaurant massacre. But counting on citizens with guns to hold off a sniper is like counting on them to fend off bombers. You have to be able to see your attacker, for the gun to be helpful. The killer they're dealing with in the Washington suburbs, isn't much likely to be deterred knowing his victims may also be armed.

There are new calls for "gun fingerprinting" which I have mixed feelings about. Keeping a sample bullet on file isn't much help, unless the gun is used in a crime before the barrel wears enough for the rifling characteristics to have changed. Barrels wear with usage. On the other hand, keeping a case on file is somewhat better, but still not really all that useful over long periods of time. Guns are not like desktop computers. Given reasonable care and maintenance, well made ones will not only last your lifetime, but your children's and their children's. And unlike fingerprints on a human being, the minute irregularities in chamber, bolt, backplate, firing pin and extractor can change enough over time, to make the original samples irrelevant. For matching a particular suspect in hand, and his gun, to a specific crime scene, bullets and cases can be decisive. You might not even need the gun itself, if you can recover similar ammunition in a suspect's possession, because even mass produced ammunition has it's tell tale irregularities of manufacture. And in lieu of a suspect, bullets and cases can still give plenty of general information about the weapon used, to help direct an investigation. But for various reasons, including the non-insidious fact that parts sometimes just need replacing, keeping samples on file doesn't strike me as all that useful. I wouldn't oppose it though. I don't think it's any more intrusive on gun rights then mandating serial numbers on guns is. But if they're thinking it's going to help much in the way of solving crime they need to ponder it some more. If anything, it'll just encourage criminals to swap parts more.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Linux Thing...

SullyWatch posts a snarky remark about Andrew's Macintosh problems, wondering if he'll try Linux now. Considering Mr. Conscience Undetectable found Windows too much to cope with, I doubt he'll dare go anywhere near Linux. I would love to see him do it though. Oh yes indeedy. In Windowsland, when you complain that your software isn't working, you're told That's not a bug...that's a feature! In Linuxville, when you complain that your software isn't working, you're told to dig into the source and fix it yourself. The image of Sullivan sweating in front of a Linux box (preferably running an SUSE distribution with those occasional passages of German in the documentation) trying to make in order to get something working is so delightful I'd even start reading his web log again, just to watch him howl.

Speaking of which...

I bought a new 40 gig Western Digital hard drive and a copy of Mandrake 8.2. My co-workers aren't all that impressed with Mandrake, but it seems to be making Wil Wheaton all kinds of happy, so I decided to give it a try. I am not a Unix geek, I am a Microsoft platforms geek, going back to the days of IBM PC-DOS (which I still run on an old IBM PS-2 model 80, and a little 486 machine I built originally for Windows 3.11. I use them to run XyWrite, and my old home video database which I never seem to find the time to move off of Nutshell). I am trying to get Linux up and running at Casa del Garrett so I can escape the gravitational black hole growing ever bigger around Redmond, and so I can begin to find my way around Unix better, since they use Unix a lot here at Space Telescope.

I'm using a removable hard drive mounting system these days, to switch between operating systems I'm fiddling with, because multi booting just adds too many more ways for things to go screwy then I care to deal with. I like clean OS installs, they're easier to debug. I have a second 80 gig hard drive mounted inside the box partitioned into two logical drives, each formatted in FAT-32, which all the operating systems I'm running, except PC DOS, recognize. That drive serves as a common data drive, a place to put things I want any operating system I am running at the time to find, and share. Yesterday after coming home from work, I put the mount with the empty drive in the computer, turned it on, placed the Mandrake install CD in my Yamaha drive, and let the fun begin.

The install actually went fairly smoothly. I let the install decide how to partition the empty drive. Then I am presented with a menu of whole packages, with the option to select from bits and pieces of each. I decide to stick with whole packages (Multi Media, Development, Graphics (for Gimp) and such). I choose KDE as my default desktop. The installer recognized my Epson 740 connected via the USB port, but couldn't tell what the heck was hanging off LPT1, which is in fact, my HP laserjet 4L. But I was able to manually configure that. The dial up network connection dialogue was straightforward and after the doddering imbecilities of the SUSE attempts at dial-up, and the I'll Work, But Only If You're Root, Red Hat dial-up, this gave me hope that dial up networking in Mandrake might actually not be all that irritating. Ha.

After reboot, the Mandrake first time use wizard came up, and started asking me registration questions. I got as far as STREET ADDRESS, when I noticed that the last few characters I'd typed seemed garbled. I tried to fix them and found that my machine had locked up.

Second reboot. Mandrake detects it wasn't shut down correctly and lets me know that if I press Y, I will force a file system check. I let it examine the file system. It pronounces the boot drive free of errors and then goes very quiet for a moment and I begin to wonder if it had locked again, but eventually it starts booting. The first time wizard does not reappear. I nurture a frivolous hope that the lock was caused by something in the first time wizard. I decide to invoke the dial up connection, but the means of doing that are not obvious. After a little hunting and clicking I finally find it, and give it a whirl. It fires up the modem, I can see from the blinking modem lights (yes, I have an external modem...and here is one reason why) that the modem connects, and then nothing happens for a while. Then the modem disconnects. No notice of failure, let alone a reason why I couldn't get a connection, appears on my screen. It is as if the dialer just gave it its very best shot, and when it couldn't connect, shrugged and decided I probably didn't want to talk to that network anyway.

Okay, thinks I, I'll just change the dial up settings to bring up a terminal window, and then I'll manually log in, and see how far I get. And who knows how far I might have gotten too, but the machine locked once more after I started the dialer, as I clicked on the Connect button. The button stays pressed in, and the mouse pointer is frozen. I wait, hoping it is just catching its breath. But it's dead Jim. Another reboot. Mandrake thoughtfully informs me that the system was not shut down properly, and if I press Y, I will force a file system check. I press Y. The system checks itself out and boots. I drag my mouse pointer over to the cute little KDE start button, and it very nearly makes it there too. But no, the machine has locked again.

This is why you put a removable hard drive rack in your computer. I shut down, remove the Mandrake drive, and pop in my BeOS drive, just so I don't have to come crawling back to Windows with my tail tucked between my legs, too quickly. I really want Linux to succeed on the desktop. I like the concept of the OS being open source, something any application software writer who wants to can write to, knowing exactly how it works inside, and with no single corporation using it to manipulate its competitors. Linux can secure the essential freedom and empowerment of personal computing, that Microsoft and others are now undermining for the sake of their own bottom lines. But that won't happen if they can't get the desktop basics working.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, October 8, 2002.

We agree not to be locked out of our jobs anymore...

The Washington Post, and several other news organizations this afternoon, were busy reporting that the west coast longshoremen agreed to return to work. The headline on the Post site is, I kid you not: Longshoremen's Union Agrees to Return to Work. This is in regard to a proposal that the union be allowed to return to work for thirty days under the present contract, which the White House gang actually proposed, in order to keep Taft-Hartley from irritating the unions during the mid-terms. A return to work proposal was pretty much the way it was reported on most news stations, with the exception of NBC news, which seemed strikingly alone in calling the situation at the docks for what it was. I did miss the CBS broadcast though, so maybe they called it right too.

Hello in there... The longshoremen were f*cking locked out of the dockyards by their employers you bunch of drooling morons. That wasn't a return to work proposal, it was an open the goddamn door proposal.

A good clue...

A spent .233 Remington case was found at the site of the Bowie shooting, and if it proves to be from the killer's gun, then it's a good find. As I've said before, a case can finger the gun that shot it in a way even a bullet can't. It can also tell things like, whether the shooter reloads and what he's using, which original manufacturer made the cartridge, and (let us pray) might even have enough of a fingerprint on it to identify the killer. That would be very cool, if he slipped up on that one. This case may pinpoint exactly what make of rifle the guy is using; another thread by which he might be tracked down. Even better still, it pin points the place where the shooter was when he took his shot. He may well have left more behind then that one piece of footprint, a hand print in the ground, fibres from clothing, a hair or two. You know they're going to comb the ground he took that shot from like every grain of dirt was worth millions. There was a path from the spot, leading through the woods back to a parking lot. Now they have a spot where they know the get-away car must have been. There they can look for fresh rubber if he peeled, even slightly, in the get away. They can look for spots of fresh oil. This will tell them what kind of car it was, and maybe even lead them to places where it was getting service. They can canvas the area for anyone who might have seen a car going to and from that place that morning.

This guy's begun his spiral in for the big finale. He got pissed because the school system started defying him, and he cold bloodedly laid in wait in the woods beside a school for a kid to shoot, and that act has brought a passion to finding him and dealing with him that I've never seen in my whole life in the D.C. suburbs. You have to understand, unlike most other big cities, D.C. and its suburbs are a quilt of jurisdictions, usually competing with each other, nearly never cooperating on anything. They are all, local, state and federal agencies marching in sync now and I've never seen its like. All the big guns have been pulled in, and all the stops pulled out. That's what laying in wait with a high powered rifle in front of a school to shoot a kid has bought him. Then, as I understand it, he took two shots. Was it because he thought his first shot wasn't good enough, like the one in Spottsylvania, or did he decide, after Spottsylvania to just make sure? In any case, whatever type of rifle he was using, taking that second shot could easily have made it harder for him to keep track of his brass, in the heat of getting his shots off and getting away quickly. Whatever his reasons for taking that second shot, it caused him to leave behind a vital piece of evidence.

The clock is ticking on this guy. I'm still worried that the end of this one is going to be exceptionally violent. But I have some hope now, that the end will come sooner, rather then later.

Down for a bit today...

If you tried to get into this site and got a connection error, the problem wasn't at your end, it was at mine. My web host reported their connection to the Internet, via Verizon, was cut for most of the morning and afternoon by a bad card in a line doubler. His ISP was disconnected from the net right at it's door into it, and there isn't much you can do about that except wait for the problem to get fixed.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, October 7, 2002.

The Bad Takes A Turn For The Worse...

When I heard about the shooting of that thirteen year old schoolboy in Bowie this morning, I spent the rest of the day hoping the evidence would rule out a link to the Montgomery County spree killer. But they're saying now that it's him, and that makes this a bad one. Very bad. A co-worker I vented to this afternoon says he doesn't think it changes anything, says the reason this killer hadn't killed a kid before now was because none presented themselves as targets before. My thinking is, this time the killer, for the first time since the spree started, sought out a specific victim; a kid, in front of a school. I don't like what this is telling me.

I could be wrong. I'm just an angry, frustrated citizen who would like nothing better then to get my hands around this guy's throat, and not being able to, my thoughts run restlessly back and forth over the crimes themselves. Bowie is a part of Maryland I have no familiarity with at all. I've been to Laurel. I have a friend who lives in Crofton. But I've just never had any reason to visit Bowie, and so I never have. I'm just going by maps I have of the area, but there is a big park right next to the school, and the school itself is almost perfectly suited for easy access to Route 50, a major east-west road between Washington and Annapolis. It's almost exactly 180 degrees around the beltway from the area of the first shootings. They've been making great hay on the local news stations about bringing in a so-called "geographic profiler" to try and figure this guy out from the locations of the shootings. I think the killer decided first of all to move out from his home turf, and draw attention away from it. So he picked a spot almost one-hundred and eighty degrees on the other side of the beltway from the first shootings. I don't think he realizes that this is, in a way, still pointing attention right back to the area of the first killings. But what is worse, this time I think he was looking specifically for a school.

For now I'm setting aside the killing in Spottsylvania. I'm not sure how that one fits. Here's how I think the shooting this thirteen year old schoolboy fits. The local news media made a big point of the "code blue" the school system came under the morning when the county first realized it had a spree killer on its hands. It means the kids were kept indoors the whole school day, not being allowed outside for recess or any other activities. They made a big point of noting the code blue again on Friday. Over the weekend, when the shooting in Spottsylvania was linked to the others, and they thought they had a suspect, county officials declared that it would be "business as usual" on Monday morning, there would be no code blue, the students would no longer be shut indoors. I think this killer decided to shoot a school kid, to force the schools back into lock down mode.

The school lock down was really the only major behavioral change he was able to accomplish with his shooting spree. Nobody stopped going to stores, nobody stopped gassing up their cars, the public areas were largely as full of traffic as before, at least according to the local news. And that is what I would expect. You can make a lot of people afraid to go outdoors in the Washington suburbs, and still not have any noticeable impact on traffic. It's just too densely populated. If you pick off a few people here and there, everyone else is still going to pretty much go on about their business for the same reason that wildebeest keep migrating right through lion territory every year: even when everyone knows someone is going to get hit, everyone knows their chances of being that one are very small, from within a very large crowd. The D.C. suburbs are one very large crowd. Pedestrians just didn't react. But the schools reacted. Then, over the weekend, they seemed to defy him.

There were several large schools in the area of the first killings, that are off of main roads. Their grounds would have been full of kids during the hours of the second round of killings. I don't think he even thought to go there. Maybe he has a thing about Michael's stores. Maybe there's some link between the one in Aspen Hill and the one in Spottsylvania. But this last killing was not random, in the sense that he just drove around looking for a likely shot. My guess is he picked the target, and he picked the place. Evil as a man is (I'm assuming the killer is male, but we really don't know that either) who kills innocent people at random just for the pure meanness of it, tell me what kind of soul decides to kill a child in front of a school, sets about calculating the ways and means until he finds himself looking at one though the scope, at the cusp of adolescence, full of life, and pulls the trigger.

They say that the end for spree killers, when it comes, is usually violent. This one is bad. Maybe he's not the professional sniper they were calling him last weekend, but in my reckoning, without a doubt, whatever evil wind blows inside of him, its all there is to him now. He's going for it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, October 5, 2002.

A token of our appreciation Jeb, for all you did for America in November 2000.

We have a good shot at delousing Florida this election year. Bill McBride can beat that bilious bastard living in the Florida statehouse, but he's gonna need all the help we can give him, because you know damn well that if it's another close race, Jeb will simply steal it, like he stole Florida for brother Smirk. I'm a Maryland resident, and not normally comfortable with meddling in the elections of other states, but we all saw how the Florida gang screwed the rest of the nation in 2000, and I don't think we've nearly seen the limits of what Smirk is willing to do to this nation, and the world, so as far as I'm concerned, the rest of the nation has a stake in what happens there, and will until Jeb is outta there.

Please give all you can, to help Florida elect a real governor. Someone who doesn't think putting child abusing maniacs in charge of child welfare survices is a good idea. Someone who doesn't make pathetic lockeroom jokes about the sexual orientation of foster care parents, when the nightmare he's made of child care services is no laughing matter. Someone who thinks American democracy is more important then his brother's ambitions, and his corporate swindler golfing buddy's bank accounts. You can do that here. America desperately needs a change of leadership in Florida.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thoughts On The Killer...

I've heard the media claim several times that the Montgomery Country spree killer was "probably" a trained military sniper, but I'm not buying it. Yeah...he's probably practiced with his rifle often enough to hit a target at a particular range of distances, but if you look at what he did, all the shots he took that hit their targets were at stationary people. Three of them were pumping gas, one was sitting on a bench, and one was standing at a street corner, I presume, waiting to cross. I'm willing to assume, pending further knowledge, that the guy mowing the lawn was either stationary for a moment when the shot was fired, or he was slowly mowing directly to or away from the killer's line of sight.

That's the kind of thing you might expect from someone who's practiced much with stationary paper targets, but I don't think a professionally trained sniper, hell bent on just killing people at random, would wait around for someone to stand still. My shooting pals and I used to tape a paper target in the middle of an old tire and roll it down a hill, taking our shots when it crossed a safe point. I'm here to tell you fetching back the targets were very humbling moments. It takes better, much better then average skill, to hit a moving target, and presumably there were far more of those available to this guy then stationary ones. Yet after that first shot he went consistently for the stationary targets. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but then consider that the first shot though the store window was pretty stupid. No professionally trained sniper would do that, particularly with that slug. It's too light weight. If your target isn't practically right smack on the other side of the glass you have no good chance of hitting it, because the impact of hitting the glass is going to deflect the bullet and you just don't know where it's going to go. I think even with a heavier bullet that's a risky shot.

I think what we're dealing with here is a common household nutcase, or a militia military wannabe crackpot. The theory that he's this mad professional sniper is, in my opinion, the usual big media hysterics I've come to know and love. I hear the war blogs were busy screaming Terrorists...Terrorists... earlier. Maybe. But I doubt it's foreign terrorism, and I doubt whoever is doing this is a hard core professional. He's a competent rifleman, which is bad enough, but I don't think it all adds up to professional military sniper. What it adds up to is rampaging homegrown lunatic. And I'd like to know when fanning hysteria became part of the job of news reporters. Once upon a time it was simply to report the facts. This situation is bad enough without sensationalizing it. Remember when they were all calling Andrew Cunanan a mad homicidal genius and it turned out he was just an angry vapid narcissistic dufus who went on a rampage because he wasn't getting enough attention?

(edited slightly after thinking about it some more)

More On The Shooting Spree

The Police are saying now that there is another shooting they can definitely link to the others. It happened Thursday evening, just inside the Washington D.C. line at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Kalmia Street, where a seventy-two year old man, Pascal Charlot, was shot dead while standing at the corner. This is a neighborhood called Silver Spring. It's another shooting on Georgia Avenue, but also in a neighborhood that's easily accessible from Knowles, although that wouldn't be obvious to anyone from just looking at the road maps.

In my high school days, when I and several of my pals had jumped headlong into photography, we used to pray regularly at the church of Industrial Photo in Silver Spring; as it's name would suggest, a place where working professional photographers could buy anything they needed to get their work done, as opposed to the small boutique vacation/hobbyist stores like Ritz Camera. Industrial Photo was serious, camera geek stuff, but even in the 1970s getting from Rockville to there was a hassle if you stuck to the main roads. Until my friends and I, newly driver's licensed, found a great shortcut, that sneakily followed the B&O main from Rockville to Silver Spring. You took Knowles to Connecticut, jigged over one block (over the B&O main line) to Plyers Mill and then jigged over a block to a zig-zaggity road that follows the rail line by various names, Metropolitan Avenue, Capital View Avenue, and Seminary Road, to Second Street in Silver Spring, which took you the back way right into the heart of the business district. From there it's a pretty simple jog over to Georgia Avenue, from a number of paths. Trust me, as complex as it seems to describe it, this is actually a pretty straight shot from the area around White Flint, to Silver Spring, and at least while I was still living there, not only easy to drive, but far, far quicker then taking the main roads.

Again, this is all just wild speculation on my part, and no doubt heavily colored by my own experiences while living in that part of the world. But if you've never lived there, D.C. area traffic is a nightmare and a half. People there have roadmaps hard wired into their brains because knowing how to escape traffic jams is a survival skill that by now I'm certain evolution is genetically engineering the population for. You can almost think this killer has a thing about Georgia Avenue, but the shootings elsewhere keep making me think he's either living somewhere around Knowles, or works there, or knows someone who does. I'm thinking he took a turn towards D.C. Thursday night, after the county woke up to the fact that they had a spree killer on their hands that morning, and he wanted to avoid the county police. He could have just popped on the beltway and driven randomly anywhere in the area, but he stuck close to his neighborhood, which is what I'm told spree killers usually do.

Some more information:

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, October 4, 2002.

If It Had Happened In West Hollywood, They'd Probably Be Calling This One A Robbery And Not A Hate Crime Too..

As the trial of Benjamin Williams and James Williams approaches, The Redding Record Searchlight is reporting a gay bashing in the city where their victims Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, once lived. Let it be said that the Redding police are taking this one very seriously. Hopefully, homosexuals won't have to start dying in West Hollywood for the authorities there to start taking hate crimes seriously too. That one victim in the last rash of gay bashings there may suffer permanent brain damage, apparently isn't enough motivation for the district attorney there.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

My Old Neighborhood Bleeds.

I was walking into the Institute building yesterday, headed for the cafeteria to get some lunch. In the lobby they have monitors, mostly tuned to the NASA feed. Occasionally one will be tuned to CNN, and as I walked by yesterday, I saw a broadcast about a shooting spree in Montgomery County, near Rockville, my old growing up neighborhood.

When I got back to my desk, I fired up a browser and checked all the local news sources, including the Washington Post site, for any news. Then called a friend who still lives there to see what he'd heard. It was disturbing. Someone was apparently shooting people on the streets at random with a high powered rifle, going from one target of opportunity to another up and down the main drags I used to walk daily when I was a kid. The only lead they had on the killer was a single witness who thought they'd seen two men in a white lite delivery truck pulling away from the scene of the last known shooting, that might have had some black lettering on its side, and possibly some damage to the left tailgate lift. Well, that narrows it down doesn't it.

Today the police are saying they think it was a .223 rifle, and the media of course are focusing on the fact that this is a common American assault rifle calibre (as far as I know they haven't yet recovered a complete bullet, or any spent casings, so they don't really know). They're also calling the murder weapon a hunting rifle, which is what they were saying it was last night, which had led me to think it was a larger calibre. A twenty-two is not, fans of the .220 Swift aside, my idea of a hunting rifle. But let's assume that's what it is.

There have been no reports of spent casings found, which, if you want to get away with something like this, you wouldn't want to be found. When a cartridge in the camber of a high powered rifle goes off, the brass forms under the extreme pressure, into every microscopic nook and cranny of the chamber and the backplate, and even the firing pin. The extractor will also imprint its mark on the case. This means a spent case can finger which gun fired it, as readily as if it bore the gun's serial number.

I'm still not hearing that they've found any spent cases, which means either the killer is being careful to shoot from inside the vehicle if they're wielding an automatic, or it's a bolt action he's using, which I would be more inclined to suspect if the killer is the careful, precise shooter the police are saying he is. The people at the scenes keep saying they heard a loud boom, one described it as a transformer circuit breaker going. I'm wondering if the rifle wasn't something more like a .225 Winchester, or a .22-250.

They're saying the killer's first shot, which was the only one that didn't actually kill anybody, went through the window of a crowded crafts store in Aspen Hill. They missed their mark, which you might expect from shooting a light weight slug through a heavy store window, and afterwards seem to have stuck to targets that were outdoors. I'm assuming the roads and paths taken from this point on, but I know that territory intimately. I'm thinking they drove on down Georgia Avenue until they got to Randolph Road, at which point they found James Martin in the parking lot of a grocery store and shot him dead. That seems to be it for that night.

The next morning, at 7:41 they found James Buchanan mowing a lawn on Rockville Pike near White Flint Mall, and shot him dead. I'm thinking they drove up to Nicolson Lane, just on the other side of White Flint, drove it to Randolph Road and then to Connecticut Avenue, which they drove north to Aspen Hill Road, and there found Premkumar Walekar at a gas station and shot him dead. Then they either took Aspen Hill Road up to Georgia Avenue, or kept going north on Connecticut until it joined with Georgia Avenue, which isn't far from there, and followed Georgia north to the Leisure World retirement community, and there found Sarah Ramos doing nothing more then sitting on a bench by a post office and shot her dead. Then I think they drove back down Georgia to Connecticut, and south on Connecticut to Knowles Avenue, and found Lori Rivera at a gas station there and shot her dead. That was the end of it for that morning.

That, if you look at it on a map, is one big circle, pretty much starting and ending at Knowles, which runs between Connecticut Avenue and Rockville Pike (it's called Strathmore Avenue on one side of Rock Creek Park, and Knowles on the other). The first shooting was at one end of Knowles, and the last at the other end of it.

Initial reports led me to believe that the shootings were somehow rush hour related, and that they ended when a description of the suspect's vehicle was broadcast. My own personal hunch now, after thinking about it, is that the last killing was probably it for that moment anyway.

There is a small lite industry slum near Knowles and Connecticut where a lite delivery truck would not only be unremarkable, but easy to pull into a small warehouse and hide for a time. Maybe paint it, and fix that damaged rear lift. If that was indeed the vehicle the killer used. I'm going to guess that the first tentative shooting spree was a small circle around Aspen Hill. He drove north on Connecticut to Aspen Hill Road, up to Georgia, then down to Randolph, and from there, if he works somewhere in that lite industrial area a block off of Knowles, he would have driven down Randolph to Connecticut, and then south on Connecticut to Knowles.

They say that spree killers usually have a connection to the territory they commit their crime in. I'm just guessing wildly here, and partly that's because there is so little we know about this lunatic, and it's frustrating to just have to sit and wait for him to strike again, or worry that he just disappears like Zodiac did, and we never make him answer for what he did. I'm guessing that he has some sort of link to the area between Knowles, Nicolson Lane, and Randolph Road. Maybe he worked somewhere in Aspen Hill, or lived there, or knows someone who does. But I think his home base is somewhere near Knowles. If I was still living down there, I'd probably wander around a bit in that industrial area and see if I could see anything, and hopefully not someone pointing a rifle at me.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Signs Of The Economic Weather...

Most of us look to news reports to tell us about the state of the national economy. If you work for a company with a broad nation wide set of business links, and are high enough on the management totem pole to see the bigger picture, you might also get a clue from how well your own business is doing. And of course, if you work in any of the government offices that deal with these things, you might get your own picture just from looking at the raw statistics. When I was still a twenty something, and living through the big Reagan recession, the one even the Washington D.C. suburbs with their government and real estate economies felt, the one that taught me that laissez faire capitalism wouldn't necessarily reward honest work, and in fact didn't give a good goddamn how any particular individual came by their money, I discovered another way: The sound of train whistles.

I've lived near one or another B&O (now CSX) main lines most of my life. In toddlerhood I lived near the Washington D.C. rail yard near New York Avenue, and would sit on a stool in our screened porch watching the trains, endlessly fascinated. In Rockville, where I passed through childhood into adolescence and then young adulthood, it was the main line from Washington D.C. west to Point of Rocks, and then Brunswick. For a time I lived briefly in Wheaton, far enough from the line I'd grown up near not to hear the trains, and felt like I'd moved to the moon. Here in Baltimore, the ancestral home of the nation's first common carrier railroad, we've got oodles of tracks running all over the city. The trains prowl them all, gathering at the harbor, ducking into tunnels here and there deep in the city, then popping back above ground, and racing out into the countryside in all directions. After I moved up here and began to chart out my walking territory, I started hearing them whistle, and felt like I was being welcomed home.

When I first started working at Space Telescope, I would walk the Johns Hopkins campus, and suddenly hear a train whistle coming from somewhere nearby. I tried for weeks to figure out where they were coming from, resisting the urge to just pin point it on a map, because when you find yourself living somewhere new, you need to explore it, and discover its surprises on foot. Turns out there are a couple of tunnel openings a few blocks away from campus, and driving the nearby streets, what I'd thought were short bridges over little city creeks turned out to be, upon walking inspection, bridges over places where the trains were briefly ducking between two tunnels. I never thought I'd find myself playing hide and seek with a bunch of big ass locomotives, but you can do that here in Baltimore.

At night, in my little Baltimore rowhouse, I could hear the trains call as they made their way though the city. It was the same peaceful restful sound I'd listened to in my bed for most of my life and for someone who gets homesick as hard as I do, and I had it bad for my old Rockville stomping grounds for years after I moved up here, it really felt good to be hearing it again. Some nights, I would drift off to sleep, listening to one train after the other, bearing their cargo into and out of the city.

As recently as last spring I was hearing steady, regular train traffic moving in the city. Last night I didn't hear a single one. And that's been fairly typical for the past couple of months. Oh, I'll hear a whistle now and again, but it's become noticeably rare. And it reminds me of how deathly silent the mainline out of Washington D.C. became, during the big Reagan recession.

It's simple really. Trains move heavy bulk cargo overland, the kind of cargo heavy manufacturing needs. If the factories aren't selling any goods, they don't need much in the way of raw materials. The trains stop moving. And if you're accustomed to hearing train traffic in your neighborhood, you notice the silence.

With the big news media so eager to put the best face on a White House full of crooks and political gangsters, I just don't trust them to honestly report anything about the economy that could suggest that Smirk isn't any better at handling a national economy, then he was at handling a state economy. I couldn't tell you if the recession we're in is as bad as the Reagan one. But it's stopping the trains, at least in my neck of the woods. And Baltimore is not just a train hub, it's a port city.

There's a town in Arizona...Kingman...where I have often spent the night while driving to and from California. The Santa Fe (now BNSF) main lines run east-west there, almost right next to I-40. The last time I stayed the night there, which was the Thanksgiving right after Smirk strong armed his way into the White House, the rail lines ran right behind the motel I was staying at. I took a walk back there to watch the trains before turning in, and they were running non-stop, I kid you not, about fifteen minutes apart. I reckoned that was as close as the traffic controllers felt they could fit them together safely. There were four sets of tracks, each of which had the hard polished surfaces of rails that constantly bear the weight of locomotives. No rusty tracks here. The traffic on that main line never stopped or even paused briefly the whole time I was in Kingman that year, or if it did, it must have done so while I was asleep. If I could, I'd spend a night there this weekend, just to see how heavy the traffic is.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, October 3, 2002.

Meanwhile, back in the 1950s...

John Aravosis writing in The List sends along this link to an article in The Daily Free Press, a Boston University student newspaper. The article gives us more sickening detail into John Silber's reasoning for disbanding the Boston Academy's Gay/Straight Alliance:

Silber said the Boy Scouts, who don't allow homosexual scouts or scout masters, should be allowed to discriminate based on sexuality as a safety precaution.

"All you have to do is to have grown up in scouts for a few years and gone to a scouting camp," he said. "You find from your own experience a scout master or scout leader at camp who puts their arm on some youngster or you watch some scout who starts making a mark on some other scout. That has happened so frequently in the history of the scouts that they decided there's a better way to handle that, and that is you simply exclude persons of that persuasion on the grounds that if they are not included, then you have less of a worry — you just don't have that problem."

But wait...there's more...

He also disputed the claim that a person's sexuality is determined at birth.

"The assumption to begin with that most people are born homosexual or not homosexual is just not something that has any scientific validity at all," he said. "It's probably the case that some people have this as a genetic condition, but a very large percentage of people who become homosexual are homosexual because that is the way in which they were first seduced into sex. Not because of anything else. And there's just no reason for us to encourage that."

And just for good measure, Silber said he believes that the first amendment shouldn't apply to radio, television and the Internet. I detect U.S. Supreme Court material here...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Please Rate Our New Feature: Cartoons That Ridicule Homosexuals...

The author Mary Renault once that that Politics, like sex, is an expression of the inner person within. If you are mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your politics, and in your sex life, when what really matters is that you're not the sort of person who will behave like that. You could argue that Andrew Sullivan is a case in point. You could argue that by referencing those things which he has made public about both his politics, and his sex life. And I'm sure there are people who dislike him thoroughly, and who see his sexual orientation as part and parcel that equation, an element of his twisted personality. And I'm quite sure that some of those consider themselves fairly left of center.

I don't have any more use for the likes of Andrew Sullivan then any of the other left of Smirk bloggers I've been reading lately. Maybe less since I once read and admired some of his stuff, only to find by reading his web log that he has even less conscience then the lying, scheming, babbling fratboy jackass we have in the White House, whose ass can't seem to get enough of his kissing it. But it's one thing to mock Sullivan's hypocrisies, sexual and political, and another to mock his (and my) sexual orientation. I'm pretty sure nobody regularly reading this web log has a problem with that, so don't take anything I'm about to say here personally. Some days brick brained ignorance just pops out of the woodwork, jumps in your face and laughs. That happened to me just a moment ago, and I just gotta vent about it a little.

I have to take it as a given, that the mockeries directed at Sullivan involving his sex life aren't so much directed at his (and my) sexual orientation, as at his hypocrisy, and the cheapness of soul he fairly relishes waving in everyone's face, as a way of showing his contempt for anyone who thinks holding onto their conscience, even in the heat of battle, is a worthwhile thing. I give a lot of benefit of the doubt generally. You have to. Partly it's from knowing from experience that what may look like prejudice can easily be a mixture of your own misunderstandings colored by the expectations of a lifetime of facing down mindless bigotry. But mostly you do it, because even when the odds are overwhelming that what looks like stinking rotten prejudice, really is stinking rotten prejudice, it is just not fair to assume people are bigots, until proven otherwise. Never mind the politics of making friends, and influencing people, to assume the worst in everyone is to believe that the worst is our essential nature. I just can't go there. But you don't live life as a homosexual in this world, in these times, for very long, without figuring out that the political left isn't all sweetness and light when it comes to homosexuality either. Oh's light years better then the land of the reactionary right...but that just makes the occassional patch of razor wire out there all the more cutting.

I'm sure uggabugga thought calling this, Andrew Sullivan's new golf course, was just hilarious. It's not. It is however, the kind of cheap schoolyard fag joke you'd expect to hear batted about by the kind of people Truman Capote was talking about, when he said that a faggot is the homosexual gentleman who just left the room. It's one thing to mock Sullivan's sexual hypocrisies, and another to mock his sexual orientation. This was below cheap shot, and right down there with Dick Armey calling Barney Frank, Barny Fag.

Yes I feel a bit blindsided. No, I don't actually expect to live in a world where I'll never feel this way.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, October 2, 2002.

Actually, It's Not That I Don't Want My School Teaching Kids About Homosexual Sex, I Don't Want It Teaching Homosexual Kids To Be Proud, Let Alone Feel Like They Belong Here...

The Boston Globe Online is reporting that Boston University Chancellor John Silber, who recently tossed a Gay/Straight Alliance out of BU Academy on the grounds that "'s not appropriate for a school, particularly one that begins at the lower end of the secondary level, to be getting involved in the sexuality of its students", was busy offering a different reason for dissolving the group.

In response to student questions, he defended closing the Gay-Straight Alliance at the BU Academy high school - saying it encouraged "homosexual militancy" and "evangelism"

In other words, it was the troubling thought that Gay/Straight Alliances might build pride and self confidence in gay and lesbian youth, that Silber objects to. Silber also dispensed the bigot's rationalization that discrimination is a necessary fact of life, without which you can't choose between good and bad.

"If you don't discriminate, how are you going to decide what to tolerate and what not to tolerate?"

Mind you, this dimwit is the chancellor of a major university. So...let's reason it out here...racism is good, because it's discrimination, and discrimination is necessary. Antisemitism is likewise good, as is misogyny. Every time I read something that came out of the mouth of this drooling moron, I come closer to believing that he'd probably buy into all of that too. Either he's stumbled into a job even a head of lettuce is more intellectually qualified for then he is, or he's a very intelligent demagogue, with absolutely no conscience whatever.

We have laws against discrimination, but not against prejudice, for the simple reason that what people think in this country is their own business, but how they behave toward their neighbors, sometimes, must be everybody's business. Silber (and he is not the only one who does this) switches one with the other, and then argues a case for freedom of thought, when what he's really arguing is a case for freedom of action: in this case, the freedom to treat gay and lesbian so much human garbage. That's what he's trying to defend with this pathetic transparently dishonest rhetoric. How much further down in the Pit would I have to go, to dig up some sorry soul with less conscience in them then this? What kind of person defends maintaining an environment where some children are afraid of their peers, alienated from their community, and encouraged to hate themselves for what they are? The man who will lead the next graduation ceremony at Boston University, for one. Think about this, the next time you see a picture of him shaking the hand of a graduating student, this man, this moral runt in a chancellor's garb.

As if on cue, the reason why Gay/Straight Alliances are so vitally important to the well being of gay and lesbian school kids have already started asserting themselves:

Defending Silber, meanwhile, is a BU Academy eighth-grader named Joseph Hathaway. "Students don't go to school to be told, `It's OK to be gay, don't worry, we're here for you' and be shown films endorsing a homosexual lifestyle," Hathaway wrote in a letter to the editor in the Free Press. Echoing Silber almost verbatim, the youngster added, "I don't care if you're gay or straight, that's your business, not mine." other words, if you stay in the closet and keep your head down we won't make your school day a living hell.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Those Wacky Moderates...

Eschaton Quotes Ann Coulter on what a swell guy Pat Robertson is, and how it's gosh darn awful that some people want to demonize him as some sort of horned conservative, when he's really just a fuzzy teddy bear of a moderate kinda guy. It's really swell to see one moderate conservative sticking up for another. Says Ann:

When you look at Pat Robertson's positions, they are really quite moderate positions, as one would expect from a Yale Law School graduate.


If he didn't believe in God and go on TV and talk about it, he would be Jim Jeffords, he would be Christie Todd Whitman, I mean just in his political positions.

No foolin'? I have to admit, the following makes me think "Moderate Conservative", just right away...

When I said during my presidential bid that I would only bring Christians and Jews into the government, I hit a firestorm. `What do you mean?' the media challenged me. `You're not going to bring atheists into the government? How dare you maintain that those who believe in the Judeo Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?' My simple answer is, `Yes, they are.' -The New World Order
They have kept us in submission because they have talked about separation of church and state. There is no such thing in the Constitution. It's a lie of the left, and we're not going to take it anymore. -The State, Columbia, South Carolina, Nov. 14, 1993
You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. -The 700 Club, January 14, 1991
Communism was the brainchild of German-Jewish intellectuals. -The New World Order
The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. -The Washington Post, August 23, 1993
If anybody understood what Hindus really believe, there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies in a country that favors freedom and equality. -New World Order
I think 'one man, one vote,' just unrestricted democracy, would not be wise. There needs to be some kind of protection for the minority which the white people represent now, a minority, and they need and have a right to demand a protection of their rights. -on South Africa, The 700 Club - May 18, 1992
It is teaching kids to fornicate, teaching people to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism-everything that the Bible condemns. -on Planned Parenthood The 700 Club - April 4, 1991
I think we ought to close Halloween down. Do you want your children to dress up as witches? The Druids used to dress up like this when they were doing human sacrifice... [Your children] are acting out Satanic rituals and participating in it, and don't even realize it. -The 700 Club - October 29, 1982
I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate; this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor. -on Gay Day at Disney World, The 700 Club - June 6, 1998

In case you missed it, that last quote has Robertson threatening Orlando Florida with terrorist bombs for welcoming gays and lesbians by flying the rainbow flags over the city streets during Gay Day at Disneyworld. I wonder if Eric Rudolph was listening.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Our Strategy Is To Hope That The Jury Will Find Lesbianism More Disgusting Then Heterosexual Men Who Beat Their Girlfriends To Death And Keep The Corpse Stuffed In A Steamer Trunk In Their Apartment For Eighteen Months.

The always incisive Rittenhouse Review notes that William Cannon, Ira Einhorn's defense attorney in the case of the murder of Holly Maddux has decided to play the gay card. No...he's not accusing the dead woman of being gay. Yet. Though it'll be interesting to see how far he want's to take that. But what he's doing is suggesting that the prosecution witnesses, brought into court to testify to the domestic violence they witnessed, were probably man hating lesbians. Oh. That's why your client beat his girl friend to death, and stuffed her body into a steamer trunk which he kept in his apartment for eighteen months. She had some lesbian friends.

I reckon Cannon is laying the groundwork for a more thorough sliming of the murder victim later in the trial. Meanwhile, later this month comes the trail of the brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams, accused of murdering Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder in their home on July 1, 1999. According to reports, Matthew Williams wants to assert a defence of obedience to god's law, in the killing. You know...Leviticus, and how it says that homosexuals should be killed and their blood will be on their heads, and so on. I've been bracing myself for a painful account of the lover's last night. While most news reports have them being shot to death in their bed, and by inference while asleep, there was a disturbing suggestion in one report I read, that the couple had been forced to record a message on their answering machine, stating that they would be out of town for a while, in the hours before they were killed. Gotta figure the defense in the Williams case will be watching Cannon's courtroom technique carefully...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

There's gotta be a gay involved in this somewhere...

News reports are trickling just beneath the surface, that the Time Magazine article claiming that John Walker Lindh is gay may not be the hard knucked reporting it thinks it is. The Pakistani businessman Time claims was his lover denies the report, and insists the Times reporters misunderstood him. But of course they wouldn't do that. Would they?

I can't count the number of reports suggesting right after 9-11 that the lead terrorist, Mohammed Atta, was gay. After Lindh was captured in Afghanistan almost the first thing you started hearing from the press was his father was gay, and who knows what that might have done to the poor confused child. Now it's Lindh who is supposed to be gay. Why is it so important to the big news media to find someone, somewhere, who was involved in this national catastrophe that is gay.

I'm not for a minute denying that it is possible that some of the people involved here are gay. We're not angels any more then we are devils. We're humans just like the rest of you. Some of us are good, some of us are bad, and some of us wander aimlessly here and there between them. Just like the rest of you do. But there is a track record here of "reporters" jumping to this conclusion and it's about time somebody started asking them why they seem to have this gut level need to uncover some homosexual goings on while covering this story.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, September 30, 2002.

When I sat down to create my very own web log back in February of this year, (That's "blog" in these parts, so called I reckon after software that supposedly makes it easier for people to do...although I couldn't say anything one way or the other on that score since I just compose my own HTML directly in my programmer's editor and then FTP it onto my web host's server myself), I paused for a moment and came up with the title, The Story So Far which I felt fit exactly the kind of web log I wanted to do: not so much a topical web log as a personal one, a kind of on line diary of things that happen to me, musings on my life and my world, offered on a day to day basis. The concept was nothing new to me; I'd heard of other people years ago putting up on line diaries as a kind of life-as-art project, and the general reaction I'd heard ranged from, 'hey that's a cool idea' to 'you've gotta be crazy to put your life out there where everyone in the world can see it'. The title I'd chosen was deliberately intended to echo back to the serialized adventure stories I used to watch as a kid, and read in the comics pages, and at the time the web log was mostly intended as a way to keep friends and family, people in my life who I love, and who are scattered here and there all over the country, up to date on what is going on in Bruce's life.

Not a very original title, I'd thought. And I figured it would be unlikely to be used by other web loggers out there, who seemed to prefer far more interesting, curiosity tweaking titles like Silt or Eschaton or Slacktivist or Public Nuisance or Ethel The Blog or Skippy the Bush Kangaroo or American Samizdat or Easy Bake Coven or Hot Buttered Death or Sisyphus Shrugged, or more serious titles like The Rittenhouse Review and Talking Points Memo.

But they're out there. I just did a wee google to see if I was being linked elsewhere, since my web host doesn't give me much more then a raw hit counter for statistics, and found several on blogspot. There's storysofar.blogspot, and story_so_far.blogspot, both of which apparently started using the title recently. A little digging unearthed "dead at 27", who started his web log way before me, and seems to have stopped in February, just prior to my putting up my first entry. There's at least one more out there on blogspot, that's been running since December of last year. I didn't try to do an exhaustive search, but I am one of many.

I am not displeased, oh, quite the contrary. If any big media goon decides they want to trademark a web log with The Story So Far as its title, I figure there's enough prior art out there to make it possible for me to keep mine just the way it is. I'll strive for uniqueness, and hopefully a little interest, in the content I put up.

Now...when I get around to figuring out a title for my weekly gay political cartoon, I'll probably give that one more serious thought, and check for prior art. I'm not sure there is a title for anything you can think of though, that hasn't already been done at least once by somebody. There's enough Bruce Garretts in the world (I am to this day amazed I was able to buy that it would hardly surprise me to find that Bruce Garrett's Weekly Cartoon wasn't already trademarked somewhere. When I was in college I tried to make a living as a freelance photographer, and I once found several Bruce Garrett's in professional photography out on the web. I suppose using my DNA sequence would make a trademark impossibly huge, and anyway I'd really hate to get into a trademark fight over my DNA.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, September 29, 2002.

You gotta love Tom ("Mr Cranky") Tomorrow. He sees evidence of political fakery and he's gonna smack it right out into the open regardless of who's up to it.

I have to admit I was completely suckered in by that photo too. I didn't think Bush was actually trying to read the book upside down, so much as he'd just been handed it the wrong way, and hadn't yet turned it right side up, and some snarky photographer got a shot of it in his hands while it was still upside down. But since it spoke, not so much to my prejudices, as my certainties about the depraved indifference of the White House gang to subjects such as education, I bought into its essential photographic honesty.

Still...I know Photoshop myself (though I'm still trying to wean myself off it, and onto GIMP) and what is more I thoroughly enjoy watching the various FARK Photoshop competitions (which had me wondering if it originated on FARK, but I just checked and didn't see any competition there that might have been it), and yah, you can tell if you look critically at the damn thing that it was a fake. Yet I bought into it like a lot of other people here did. I'm guessing someone cooked it up as a snarky dig at Smirk, and it took on a life of its own because it fed into a popular (and thoroughly justifiable) dislike of the man.

In one of my Skywatcher stories, The Name Of The Mask (which I took down some months ago and haven't put back up yet, because I want to work on it some more), I have one of my main characters, Daniel Tanner, explain how Skywatchers, while patrolling the territory between their country and its mortal enemy, are trained to look carefully at the ground below, for any sign of enemy movement, and how it was getting harder and harder to do, because their enemy was always learning from their mistakes. "...we can't take anything we see for granted," says Daniel, "especially what we expect to see." I must keep this in mind as the knife fight between the White House Gang and The American Way grinds on.

Still, the blog world does correct itself fairly quickly, which is still a lot more then can be said of some media. Thanks Tom.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, September 28, 2002.

I'm recycling some old material here, but since its never actually appeared here on my web log, and since I had to rewrite a bit of it anyway, I don't feel so guilty. This is going to be another busy weekend for me, what with work I have to do on the house, a cartoon to finish, and some code to polish up a tad for testing on Monday. But I thought I'd put this one up here because it sorta kinda relates to my thoughts about the Green Lantern comic I just read that has a story line about a gay bashing, and my worries about the national rise in gay bashings I'm seeing lately.

Not all gay bashings happen when a same sex couple risks being affectionate in public, but many do, and it's something that's always in the back of your mind while you're strolling in public with your Significant Other. As we've seen lately, regards the recent string of bashings in West Hollywood, even the gay parts of town are not necessary safe spaces. It takes a non-trivial amount of courage and determination not to let any of this make you more closeted in public, and that is one big reason why the gay hating right does not like hate crime laws. One thing you hear them saying a lot is that they don't care what homosexuals do in private, which is a lie, but besides that, its basically just saying that homosexuals who live their lives in the open like everyone else, need a little attitude adjustment. A fearful homosexual, is a good homosexual.

This is something I once posted to alt.romance, several years ago, when I got fed up with one drooling moron who posted in there, who kept claiming that homosexuals aren't really capable of loving their mates, that "love is unique to a man and a woman." Someone else there had asked in another thread for everyone to post their most romantic moment. I figured that bigot, and others like him in there, needed to see a romantic gay moment, which in any case should feel right at home on that newsgroup anyway. This is about the joy of falling in love with someone. When I re-read it the other day, I realized that it's also about why we fight hate.

In the mid-90s I began dating a guy I'd known since we were both boys growing up in a suburb of Washington D.C. Keith came from a very anti-Gay fundamentalist family, and suffered a lot of emotional abuse growing up. We had dated briefly some years before, and after coming out to his family, he felt he had to break it off. I still vividly remember the hurt, but also my determination that whatever else happened between us, I was Not going to become another leash on his collar. I loved him, and I wanted him to have at least one person in his life, willing to let him be free. But god it hurt.

Eventually I moved from the Washington D.C. suburbs where we'd both grown up, to the Baltimore suburbs, where I'd found work as a software engineer. During that time Keith went to chef's school, and moved shortly afterwards to Hilton Head, where he'd done an internship at a big restaurant. He said later he found he liked the island, and that it was good to be living at least one day's drive away from his parents. One day several years after he'd broken off the relationship with me, he called me up, and then later that year came up to visit me. Almost at once we began to rekindle the affair, where we'd left off. Two weeks later, I went down to Hilton Head to visit him.

We'd known for years that we had a lot in common, both in experience and temperament. We grew up Baptists, I in a more traditional Baptist church, and he in a southern Baptist church. Religion permeated our lives while growing up, and we had both had our share of family pressures. We knew what it was like to have to fight every second you were around certain family members, to protect our self identities. We knew how rare and how important it was, to have someone in your lives who loved you who trusted you, and could be trusted unconditionally.

We lived in separate professional worlds; he was working as a cook, trying to make his way to chef, and I had stumbled into a career as a software engineer, from teaching myself how to build my own personal computers, and then teaching myself how to make them do tricks. He was still struggling to earn a living, and I was making a pretty good one. But as we would talk about our professional lives, it became clear to us both that our attitudes about work and the art of what we both did, fitting the process cleanly and elegantly to the job at hand, and leaving your mark on everything you do by how well you do it, were just about identical.

When I walked into Keith's apartment on that first visit, we discovered a common interest in things 30s and 40s. Big band music, old radios and radio shows, deco and such. As it turned out, he had some friends who owned their own bar and restaurant, which they'd fashioned into a WWII Pacific GI hangout. That evening Keith took me to their place and we had dinner. It was situated near one of the main public entrances to the beach, and just outside the door a speaker played big band music from the times. Stepping inside was like stepping back in time. Behind the bar was a picture of FDR flanked by two 48 star flags, newspapers from the times, and an old refrigerator. Mounted on the wall was an period black bakelite telephone and below it on a stand stood a period radio, which was hooked up to a CD player stashed under the counter, playing the music I'd heard outside the door.

We had a great time, and afterwards we went back to his house, and settled in for the evening. As he was flipping channels, Keith found one that was showing Jimmy Stewart in The Glen Miller Story. Keith said that was a good one to watch, so we settled in, and almost instantly discovered another little bit of common ground: we both liked watching movies on TV while sitting on the floor, backs up against the sofa, snacks placed strategically around us.

It turned out to be a tear jerker at the end. I'd forgotten that Miller died in a plane crash before the end of WWII. The film focused on his struggle to make a living as a musician, and the deep bond of love between him and his wife. There's a running gag about the song "little brown jug", which she loved and he hated, that runs throughout the film and I won't give away what happens at the end in case anyone here hasn't seen it, but it had us both crying, and Keith had already seen it several times. Another piece of common ground: we both like tear jerking romances from Hollywood's golden age. After the film we talked about our favorites. Mine is Casablanca, which to my amazement I found out he hadn't yet seen. I resolved that when I went to visit him again, I'd bring down a copy for us to watch together.

It was getting late, and instead of turning in, we decided to take a walk to the beach, knowing there was a good chance at that hour, that we'd have it to ourselves. It was the end of December, but all we needed were light jackets. Hilton Head is nearly a tropical paradise, but tourist season was still a few months away, and the streets were nearly empty. We walked past his friend's restaurant, the speakers mounted outside the door playing the White Cliffs of Dover as we walked from the pavement, to the sand. Apt, I thought, since I felt at the time like I was trying to conduct a romance in a war zone. South Carolina isn't exactly gay friendly territory.

There was no moon, and the beach was almost pitch black. It was low tide, and at low tide the beaches at Hilton Head become huge. There were no clouds in the sky though, and the night was bright with stars. Not as intense as I've seen out west, where the sky fairly blazes with them, but it was a denser field of stars then I usually get here in the Baltimore suburbs. To the east, a calm sea seemed to stretch forever, toward the bright flickering stars on the horizon.

We walked down to the water's edge, and turned south. At some point I put my hand in his, something we could never have done there in broad daylight, without risking assault, and possibly even arrest. No love story I've read so far, has quite fully captured the feeling, of how that simple, beautiful, elegant gesture of taking your boyfriend's hand in yours, can be both deeply soul satisfying, and fraught with danger.

But on that shore, the night not only sheltered us from hostile eyes, it made us a little paradise. There were no tourists, the locals were all home, and we were alone. to the many condos crowding the edge of the dunes, we would be two vague figures walking along the beach, hardly an unusual occurrence. The air was cool, but not cold, and a gentle breeze came ashore with the waves, braking one after the other it seemed, as if to the beat of our hearts. We walked for a mile or so down the shore, turned, and started walking back, not speaking a single word, rapt in the simple company of one another, like two strings spanning a single instrument, vibrating in harmony. I am a fast walker, and all my life my friends have complained at me to slow down a tad when we're walking together. I have to think to walk at everyone else's pace, and it's work. That night, Keith and I kept a slow easy pace with each other that just happened, like breathing, and in the back of my mind, a slow, easy big band song began to play itself over and over, as we walked together.

Eventually we approached the public beach entrance again, and we stopped, not wanting to return to the real world just yet. We stood on the shore and I put my arm around his waist and he put his head on my shoulder and we looked up at the stars. I love star gazing and began pointing out this and that constellation to him. Orion was high in the sky, his sword pointing toward the sea. I was pointing out the three blue giants that made up the belt, when a meteor shot across it. He shivered, and I think I did too, and for a while all we did was stand there, and silently watch the heavens, listening to the waves breaking nearby.

In the parking lot on the other side of the dunes a car radio briefly blared out some loud music, and drove away. When it was quiet again I remarked that I'd had a big band tune dancing in my thoughts all that time, and Keith just nodded his head, "Moonlight serenade...right? Me too." I like to think that even if it had been broad daylight in that moment, I would have still drawn him to me and kissed him.

We stood there in each other's embrace for the longest time. Eventually we slowly walked back to the public walkway. The little bars and restaurants nearby were all closing, and there were people in the parking area, and as we walked onto the pavement our hands parted. We were back in the world. Somebody beside one of the parked cars was having a loud argument with his companions about who should drive. He looked drunk, and I hoped he didn't end up winning the argument. In the distance I heard somebody's car alarm start warbling for a moment. Keith and I crossed the parking lot, and walked around the traffic circle to the road leading back to his apartment. On the way we passed his friend's restaurant. It was closed, but the outdoor radio was still turned on, and it was playing Moonlight Serenade...

Keith and I separated a few years after that, and I won't go into the details of why, or how much it still hurts. It was an angry parting. But I can still look back on that night and say that life is good. It is moments like that which hate wants to take away from us, to empty our lives of all those moments of perfect joy and peace and wonder, so their own lost barren souls won't seem so unnatural. We fight, not for "special rights", but so the barren wasteland won't win, won't assume the status of what it is to be human. If there is a fight more worthy then this, I can't think of what it would be.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, September 26, 2002.

Be Nice To Me...My Boss Is Friends With Your Boss...

Eschaton notes a White House transcript of Ari FleischLiar's press briefing for today, wherein he offhandedly informed the members of the press there gathered that Smirk had a meeting with their bosses:

The President began his day with the regular intelligence briefings. Then he had a meeting with the Newspaper Association of America board of directors -- he met with many of your bosses, the owners of a lot of papers, large and small, across the country. He talked about the war on Iraq -- at war.

Q Is that on the record, something we might see in print?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, it was off the record.

Q Do you have a list of who he met with?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me see if I can release it. He talked about the prospects for war in Iraq and a number of other issues, including domestic.

Note that this meeting of the president [sic] of the United States with the owners of news media outlets was off the record…

Atrios avers that were he just a bit more paranoid, he'd say that was a little threatening. I'm thinking color me surprised. This is the man who strong armed his way into the White House. You'd think for a moment that he'd respect the independence of the press? Ha. I laugh. No way in hell.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Nice Baseball Bat You Got There...Looking For Someone To Pitch You A Couple Of Fast Ones...?

Good column in the September, 24th San Francisco Examiner about how endemic anti-gay fear mongering still is in this world, and its repercussions. SF Gate reports another gay bashing in San Diego. It seems gay bashings are rising around the country, or at any rate I'm sure as hell seeing more reporting on it, and for the first time in a long while it's making me concerned for my own safety.

I like taking long neighborhood walks. It's something I've done ever since I was a kid just allowed to go further then his parents could watch him. I'll walk for hours, thinking about this and that, burning off nervous energy, taking in the sights and sounds of my neighborhood. Lately, after reading one report of a gay bashing after another, I've been wanting to take a weapon along with me. I have several that I'm confident I could use effectively, to keep an assailant, or several, very much off of me. And I could walk down the street without your ever suspecting I have any of them on me, trust me, even in my sweltering middle of summer garb. But in the state I live in, and in particular the city I live in, that could get me in worlds of trouble. That would be especially, if it's one of my .45s.

There's a saying, about how you'd rather be judged by twelve then carried by six. But in some places in this country, that's pretty much a moot distinction. A scrawny homosexual who gets tossed in jail for fighting off a pack of assailants with an illegal to carry weapon, isn't likely to get out alive, and might not even make it to trial alive. So do I let gay bashers kill me, or do I let the legal system have a crack at it? Or do I just hide inside my house?

I could move to a place with "shall issue" Carry Concealed laws, but most of them are not places that want to let their homosexual citizens live their lives in peace. Virginia for instance, still vigorously defends, and uses, it's sodomy law. There is one exception though. Vermont repealed its sodomy law in 1977, has a form of same sex civil union, and its citizens can carry a gun without having to apply for a license. The rule, as I understand it, is that you're just allowed to carry, so long as you aren't in any way disqualified (ie: you're a resident, a citizen of the U.S., not a felon...ect...). It is possible for a state to be gay friendly, and also recognize the right of its citizens to have access to the tools necessary to defend themselves from violence. If I didn't already have the job of my dreams right here in Baltimore, and a cute little Baltimore rowhouse of my very own, I'd be making plans to move there right now.

About now is where I'm supposed to make a pitch for the Pink Pistols group I reckon. But for the past several days I've been reading a steady torrent of brick brained bellyaching about how awful and unnecessary hate crime laws are on one of their listserves, and while one of the members just now reminded them that the group takes no offical stand on hate crime laws, it's far from the first such outburst of knuckle-dragging right wing boilerplate claptrap I've had pouring into my mailbox from the various Pink Pistols lists I'm on. I'm beginning to wonder if I really belong in that group, or if non well to the right of the Log Cabin Club homosexuals, who believe in the right to keep and bear arms, need a group of their own. Gays Who Own Guns And Don't Hate Everything and Everyone Ann Coulter Hates Too, seems too big a name for it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, September 25, 2002.

I Just Wanted To Kiss My Boyfriend

I picked up the current Green Lantern with some trepidation. The issue where Kyle (Green Lantern) Rayner must cope with the violent gay bashing of a seventeen year old art student in his employ had generated some advance press, mostly due to the fact that even in the twenty-first century, decades after the first of Howard Cruse's fantastic Gay Comics, the notion that a main stream comic book publisher would even acknowledge the existence of homosexuals, let alone make them sympathetic, was controversial.

I'm a middle aged (there...I said it...) gay man who lived through the dawning of the stonewall generation, the exuberance of the late 70s, the backlash, officially begun by Anita Bryant, and later made into a multi-million dollar enterprise by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and a host of others; saw the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, walked the grassy Mall at the first showing of the AIDS quilt in Washington D.C. accompanied by a bottomless sadness compounded by seeing birth date after birth date that bracketed my own, seeing in the names alongside them not faceless others, but an endless chain of peers, classmates, friends; and I am tired of victim stories.

I say this knowing full well that gay haters often spit in our faces while we shine as much light as we can on anti-gay violence, calling us whiners who always play the victim card for sympathy. I am certainly not accusing any of the creators of Green Lantern of playing the victim card, or any of its readers of being whiners. Gay bashing is still endemic in this culture, news of several gay people being beaten violently traveled the news wires just over the last few weeks, and waving the bloody consequences of it is a perfectly legitimate, perfectly justifiable way to call attention to the problem, which silence can only encourage. I just wish there were more stories of gay heroism, more stories that tell gay people that they can fight, they can prevail, that the struggle is worth it, because the love we seek is no weakness or shame but sacred and vital and the struggle to defend it righteous.

Script credits on this Green Lantern go to Judd Winick, friend of the late Pedro Zamora, and creator of the stunning graphic novel Pedro and Me. It was exclusively on his account that I bothered to buy a copy of this one. The cover, with it's bloody close-up of the beaten young man's face didn't help sell it any. Do I need to see more of this? But inside I found a story that was well told, with a young gay couple whose love for one another the publishers, for once, did not flinch away from, but treated with dignity and respect. I could endure yet another gay bashing story to see that. The comeuppance given to the bashers later in the story was not as deeply satisfying for me, as the panels at the beginning, of those two kids walking down a city street, happy in each other's company, and especially of their embrace.

You can tell when an artist, whether working in comic books or novels or the movie screen, cannot see the beauty in same sex love, sees only unsavoriness instead, even when they're trying to pretend otherwise, because that taint of unsavoriness comes right though in every line they draw, every word they type, every scene they shoot, with a same sex couple in it. I can't count the number of times I've sat squirming uncomfortably watching or reading a scene with a same sex couple in it that was supposed to be all enlightened and progressive, that was anything but. What I saw in Green Lantern #154 was decent and honest and real and I've been waiting decades to see that in a mainstream comic. If there's a breakthrough to be spoken of here, that's it.

It's A Journey...

There's a story I heard once, I hope it's false, that involves one of my very favorite science-fiction/fantasy writers. So the story went, the man was walking down the beach with his wife one day, when he stopped and looked at the waves gently rolling in, and asked her, "Suppose Picasso drew something for us right here in the sand, and we only had until the tide came in to appreciate it?" which point his wife said, "I want a divorce."

I always get very uncomfortable listening to other creative types yap on and on about the spiritual differences between artists and everyone else, so if you want to tune out now I won't be offended. But one thing that seems better understood from the inside the artist's studio then out, is that art, like science, isn't so much a collection of artifacts as a process, a journey. You're putting up signposts along your way that say, here is where I am right now...this is what I see.

Rayne Today, a Salon blog, really captures my own feelings about blogging in this context, and why I'm doing it myself:

No, hell no, bloggers are not ALL frustrated journalists. I'm certainly not. I'm just a collection of day-to-day issues in need of some airing. While some bloggers might feel otherwise, I'm not really worried about driving up my readership. Personally, my concern is finding a place to set free this stuff in my head so it's not stagnant, not locked on paper or a hard drive; I want to catch-and-release this content to a place where it can be free to have a life of its own.

And this...

A key point about blogging is that it is an art medium, and art imitates life. Blogging isn't my life, it mirrors a part of it, bearing a sometimes silent witness. And the reality of my life isn't the same as yours or anyone else's.

This medium has always struck me as something more akin to art, then journalism. You don't simply document your day, or the news of the day, so much as point out this or that thing that happened, that you feel says something about what it is to be human, alive, and living in these times. It serves well as a tool of journalism, surely. But it can tell us things about ourselves that we might not otherwise have seen, were it not for the thousands of small voices, each giving their words a place in the sand to live for a moment.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, September 23, 2002.

On The Bright Side, We've Still Got Plenty Of Duck And Cover Brochures

Not much to say on the political front today, other then to take note of brief entry on Eschaton today to the effect that Smirk's new We Will Permit No Other Country To Have A Military Power Equal To Ours policy has made the Russians "scared and pissed." Oh swell. It wasn't enough that the jackass fratboy moron had to take the economy back into the dumps, now he's gotta get the cold war restarted.

Never Log In As Root Unless You Need To Use The Computer

Wil Wheaton is making the transition from Microsoft to Linux, and it seems to be going fairly well for him. I intend to give the Mandrake distribution a try later this month myself, but based on my experience with SUSE and Red Hat I am not optimistic. Wil is only using his PC for the basics, word processing, email and internet connectivity, and interestingly enough one complaint he had about a prior distribution he'd tried was it's nightmarish dial-up connection configuration. He's having no trouble now, but then again he's not doing dial-up as near as I can tell. I still am, and the poor quality of the dial-up front ends in Red Hat and SUSE was enough to almost make me drop them both into my garbage disposal.

That is typical of what I'm finding as I slowly wade into Linuxville myself. Linux is a Unix clone and Unix was not born on the desktop and its old central admin centric heritage shows damn near everywhere in Linux. Microsoft has actually done a pretty good job of making even its high end business operating system, now XP Professional (which I am running here at Casa Del Garrett along with Windows 2000 and Be), fairly straightforward to configure for a single user system. But Microsoft was born on the desktop. The more I wade into Linux, the more I am afraid that the Anyone But Microsoft crowd has made a terrible choice for a basket to put their eggs in.

Dialup networking is still a nightmare. Installing software more often then not means you'd damn well better be familiar not only with the C programming language, but also the various dialects of shell scripts because you usually have to compile the source (often after fiddling with it, or its make file) and even then you're not guaranteed that you'll have the right dependency files you need for a successful compile. I know about this because none of the supplied software on either distribution recognized my Palm, or my scanner, and while digging around on the web quickly resulted in links to software that would enable both devices, downloading it was the easy part. They're still not working. Configuring removable storage devices to mount and unmount is tricky, and unless you're a Unix devotee, ridiculous in the first place.'s one thing for a computer geek to understand the concept here, and another to expect that John and Jane office employee is going to get it. They're not going to Unmount Drive - Remove Disk, they're just going to push the damn button and the software had better be able to handle that.

I know of where I speak. Since the mid 80s I've been earning a living as a business systems software programmer/analyst, and I know what the office environment is like. Exploiting that environment during the 80s, while other computer geeks wrote it off in favor of more glamorous computer engineering projects, is partly what made Microsoft so damn huge. Office work might not be glamorous, but producing software that makes that work easier sure helps a cash flow.

Linux, is no where near ready for the office desktop. I hear it works really swell in the server farm. That's good, because Microsoft doesn't do well there and that speaks to engineering qualities of their respective kernels (I had XP throw a STOP during boot the other day, and I'm still not sure what caused it). The Linux kernel, from what I can tell, is a damn fine piece of work. But Linux still has a long way to go before it makes a sensible alternative to Microsoft on the business desktop. I don't think retrofitting shells over it's Unix administration model, which is basically you're Root or you're nobody, is going to help it. I don't think Unix was the right model to follow here.

I Like Your Floor.

Finally got around to watching the copy of A.I. a friend gave to me. A few thoughts...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, September 20, 2002.

Hey...Wait A Second...I Just Remembered...We're Journalists...

Credit where credit is due: ABC News this evening actually showed the videotape of those three Muslim medical students detained by Florida authorities on the basis of some hysterical Shoney's patron ravings, paying the toll that, for a few days, the entire American big news media were saying they hadn't. If it seems like a trivial thing compared to the larger charge that they were plotting to blow something up, remember that this was supposed to play into the idea that these Muslims were acting suspiciously, which was why they were pulled over and held for seventeen hours...not heaven forefend, because they were a bunch of arabs. Bob Novak was bellyaching at one of them just the other day on CNN about why didn't he pay the toll if they weren't up to something. Don't hold your breath waiting for him, or any of his pals in the kook pews, to admit that the charge, like the rest of it, was horseshit.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Privatization? Oh Heavens No...This Is The Cato Institute...We Don't Believe In That Crazy Stuff...

Media Whores Online has been raining contempt lately on republican attempts to erase from the public memory, any recollection that they'd ever used the word "privatization" in relation to Social Security. Now that the stock market is tanking, that's not a winning proposition with the voters, many of whom are hurting badly from what's happened to the wonderful 401k plans that were supposed to be oh-so-much better then those evil communist socialist pension plan thingies. Not that any actual pain felt by working men and women due to the rape of their retirement savings might have any actual effect on republican ideology on the issue, which, let's face it, was never about fixing social security, so much as putting a knife in its heart and twisting it. Recently word came down from republican Valhalla that the troops in the field shouldn't use the word "privatization" at all, and what is more, they should label any attempt to associate their plans for social security reform with privatization as democratic fear mongering.

But for the same reason the Chinese communists couldn't massacre thousands of their own people in Tiananmen Square on Sunday, and tell the world on Monday that it never happened, the republicans can't so easily deny their past, and cover up their intentions. This is the age of the Internet, and the Internet remembers.

Case in point, the Cato Institute's ongoing Project on Social Security Privatization. The blog world has been having a field day today about the sudden change in the title of their web page, to the "Project on Social Security Choice." Catchy ring. Problem is, as Joe Conason Notes, there are archives of the old web pages available that anyone can view, which show the previous title in all its glory. And it gets better, Eschaton notes that the drooling morons forgot to change all the references to privatization in the the TITLE block, where if you pulled the damn thing off their website as of 1:51PM EDT today, you found this:

[title]About the Project on Social Security Privatization[/title]

When I looked at the HTML source I found this in the KEYWORD block:

"Cato's Social Security Privatization Project"

Whoops! There was a time I gave Cato the benefit of being honest ideologues. When I was in my Libertarian phase, which was during the late 70s and early 80s, I regarded their output as holy writ. As Ronald Reagan gradually educated me on what a society held together solely with market forces would look like, and I fell out of Libertarianism, I came to regard their output a tad more skeptically, but still granting that they probably believed the things they wrote. No more. Here is the proof. Cato is just another right wing propaganda machine. When they need to lie, they will. When they need to think about what it means when you have to lie...they won't.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Maybe We Should Call Him Captain Bare Conscience...(continued)

Trust a class centric Brit to remind me why we aren't flying the Union Jack in this country.

SullyWatch by way of today's Media Whores Online reprints a note Sullivan shot back at a reader who questioned his enthusiasm for a war he stands no chance of fighting in (let along sending a son or daughter to die in). Sullivan says;

i'm sorry but i pay for those soldiers to fight in a volunteer army. they are servants of people like me who will never fight. yes, servants of civil masters. and they will do what they are told by people who would never go to war. that's called a democracy.


SullyWatch cattily observes, "We always knew those muscles were just for show." Well...what else? In the servant classes muscles are for work. In the Master classes they'd pretty much have to be plumage.

Andrew, Andrew, you can play American all you like, but you're not one, and if this is the best you can understand us, then you'll never be one either. Other nations may have their military cast, but here in the United States of America we have citizen soldiers. Yes, we've come a long way from Washington's ragtag army, but that has been this country's working military hypothesis since its founding. Ours is a civilian army, and that means, in principal, if not literal terms, that the army is us. We. The People. The men and women in uniform are not our servants. They are our neighbors. They are our Fathers and Mothers. They are our Brothers and Sisters. They are our Friends and Lovers. I'm sure this fact is probably still tallied as evidence of American primitivism by the milk tea peers on your native shores, where having lower classes to clean up after the mess the lords make is regarded as a law of nature. But there's a reason why our founders placed the power to declare war, not with the commander in chief, but in the hands of the one house of congress with the shortest term, and no I don't expect the likes of you to ever regard that as sensible.

We owe it to them, our Fathers and Mothers, our Brothers and Sisters, our Friends and Lovers, our neighbors in uniform, to listen to their warnings about the cost of war. And we owe it to them, god damn it we owe it to them, not to send any of them into a war which we ourselves would not care to fight.

Somebody, please, the next time this court sycophant questions the patriotism of an American, spit in his face.

(Update: takes both houses of Congress to declare a war. The Senate, which with its long terms is supposed to be the more deliberative branch, and the House, with its short terms that are supposed to keep it close to the people. I think my point still stands. In the United States, fighting war isn't a matter of sending the servants off to die...)

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, September 19, 2002.

A cease fire doesn't mean he stops shooting at you, while you keep shooting at him...

Suicide bombs are detonating once more inside Israel. Of the three network news reports I watched on the subject, only one, CBS, bothered to mention that in the weeks of the so-called cease fire, Israel had still managed to kill about fifty-five Palestinians. Actually, according to the Canadian international news channel I get on my satellite feed, the figure is more like seventy-five. I suppose someone will say that suggesting that seventy-five Palestinian deaths since the cease-fire started might be what's brought on this new wave of Palestinian suicide bombings amounts to blaming the victims...or excusing terrorism...or something...

They showed one little victim of what Israel is pleased to call a cease fire. A boy, no older then twelve or thirteen, his small naked body wrapped in a white sheet for the makeshift morgue, his chest with a silver dollar sized hole in it just below the heart, made by an Israeli solider with one of their assault rifles. Not sure what Israel is using these days for an assault rifle, or its cartridges, but I'm grateful they didn't show the exit wound. Depending on who you believe, this child was either shot for breaking a curfew, or for throwing stones at a tank.

This is not the first time I have seen a foreign news network show direct evidence of on-going Israeli army killing of Palestinian children, that the American news networks can't bring themselves to talk about. Several months ago I watched a video of a small group of Palestinian kids throwing rocks at something, you couldn't see what, when suddenly you could hear that distinctive thwack of a high velocity slug smacking into flesh and bone. When living things are hit by bullets they don't just sigh and fall over like on TV shows. One kid's body suddenly jolted like an electric current passed through it, then his legs slowly buckled, and he fell over, his arms kinda frozen in place. It's something similar to what I have seen deer, and other animals do when you hunt them with high powered rifles. A bigger kid rushed over from off camera and scooped up the little kid's body...and then it went limp. Some brave Israeli soldier saw a bunch of kids throwing rocks, looked right straight down the iron sights at one of them, and pulled the trigger. This is what conquest and occupation has done to the nation people once called, and I once thought of, as the Athens of the Middle East.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Fool...uh...fool me...uh...fool is me...uh...shame on...on fool...

Tom Tomorrow writes, concerning Smirk, that listening to his fumbling the old 'fool me once, shame on you...' bromide is chilling (he has an audio link to it). Yeah. Like listening to him say "Now watch this putt..." a few weeks ago, right after giving an ad-hoc golf course lecture on peace in the Middle East. You'd think his handlers wouldn't dare let him out the White House door now that he'd gotten himself inside of it, but then the big news networks seem more then willing to edit him to make him look passably intelligent. Which, now that I think of it, is probably why you never hear much more of him then a quick sound bite.

The Religious Right Is Not The Taliban...(continued)

The New York Times documents efforts of the religious right to silence NPR radio, by leveraging a new FCC regulation that allows noncommercial broadcasters with licenses for full-power stations to push out those with weaker signals. Using this regulation, Rev. Don Wildmon's American Family Radio has knocked two NPR affiliate stations off the airwaves in Lake Charles, Louisiana transforming the community of 95,000 people into the most populous place in the country where "All Things Considered" cannot be heard."

Says Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for American Family Radio, "He [Rev. Wildmon] detests the news that the public gets through NPR and believes it is slanted from a distinctly liberal and secular perspective." Try to imagine the howl you'd hear from the kook pews if NPR had pushed Rush Limbaugh off the air in Louisiana. You could probably send instruments to the moon on the shock wave of that howl.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Eeek! A breast! Eeeeek! Two Of Them!

Ray Bradbury got it wrong. In the future, totalitarians won't burn books, they'll sell the people all the books they want, edited, with all the distressing passages changed to be more comforting. The poor lady who complained to Montag in Truffaut's film version of Fahrenheit 451, that she hated books because she read one once and it made her cry, needn't worry. In the future, no book will make you cry if you don't want it to.

Ever since the big entertainment conglomerates started passing laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and agitating for laws to embed copy protection hardware into all devices, including personal computers, capable of copying digital media, thereby making our legal "Fair Use" rights as consumers moot, I've found it very hard to impossible to be on their side on any copyright issue. But this is one. In this New York Times article, we learn of a chain of video rental stores, based in Utah and Colorado (why is this not surprising) that sell "cleaned up" versions of hit movies. They've discovered there is a market for this sort of thing, which isn't all that surprising. Never mind the ton of "clean family entertainment" doggerel you see everywhere in stores...there's a reason why none of it is block buster material, that has nothing to do with slouching toward gomorrah. Those films may be "clean", but they have no soul. That's not to say a film cannot be good clean family fare and still have a soul. I can name dozens of such titles, and I'm sure you could too. But for any kind of art to have a soul requires an artist with at least some degree of simple honest curiosity about the meaning of life, and what it is to be human, not a fear of finding it out.

That's the problem here...not sex, not violence, but honesty. Some people just don't want it in their homes. But it seems not even that audience can stand a steady diet of their own sterile soulless pap for very long, so now some company is bastardizing the work of honest filmmakers, for the pleasure of a home audience who might otherwise regard the makers of the films they're watching as moral degenerates for making them in the first place.

And it gets better. The Times article also reveals that a company is marketing a product that will generate things, like a computer generated corset for Kate Winslet, to cover her skin during the scene in Titanic where Jack sketches Rose nude. No word yet on whether or not this guy's box will allow someone to computer generate exposed skin on actors or actresses for the viewing pleasure of a different sort of audience, and maybe even insert a gratuitous hard core sex scene or two into films at random, though I suspect not. Now See What Hollywood Didn't Want You To See! What Rhett Butler Did To Scarlett After He Carried Her Up The Stairs! Be careful what you wish. All technology is a two-edged sword.

The film makers are readying a court fight over this, and I hope they win big. It's one thing for mom and pop to buy a video and edit it themselves before they sit down to watch it with the kids, and another for a company to reedit a film without either the film maker's advice or consent, and then sell it for a profit with the original filmmakers name on it, because they did not make that film. You can't open cans of soup, take out a few ingredients, re-can it, and sell it under the original maker's label. You can't buy a Harley Davison Motorcycle, replace the motor with a smaller, less powerful one, and then resell it as a Harley. When you put your name on something, that means you're standing by that product. Nobody should be allowed to sell your name for a profit, on a product that you did not make, and would not put your name on.

This is the sort of thing that could actually make me glad of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

(edited slightly for clarity)

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Perhaps we should call him Captain Bare Conscience Instead

SullyWatch seems to have taken a little heat in the blog world for its comments on Andrew Sullivan's sex life. Let me first say that I love this web site, (and I really should add it to my "Visit These" list of web logs), and as a gay man I have never seen the slightest suggestion that their criticisms of Sullivan are in any way shape or form homophobic. Sullivan on the other hand, richly earned the public airing of his own dirty laundry when he made the sex lives of politicians, and those radical gay activist types he detests, a personal crusade. I watched him on some network pundit gas fest assert that Bill Clinton's sexual escapades were evidence that he was a sociopath, some weeks before his own sexual escapades were made public. Afterwards Sullivan's pals in the press complained that it was all so dirty trick and unfair, and people should be entitled to a little privacy, which was a little like listening to Al Capone worrying about the number of bank robberies lately. For months this country was dragged from one end of a sex gutter to another and it wasn't Bill Clinton who did it to us, it was a conspiracy to bring down his presidency greased by right wing billionaire money, that found no weapon too dirty to use, and Sullivan was a willing part of that, and if he got caught up in it himself I can only suggest he give Doctor Frankenstein a call and cry him a river.

In the end, Neal Pollack on his web log has the better say on the matter. In a scathingly dead-on satire of Sullivan responding to Michelangelo Signorile, Pollack ends up asking;

"Does a man have to behave in private as he commands others to behave in public? Isn't morality fungible, after all? And, let's face it. I'm a celebrity."

Pollack's post is hilarious stuff, I only wish I could quote the choicest bits of it here, but it's a tad sexually graphic. No, I will not edit it for you.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, September 18, 2002.

Think About This One, The Next Time You See Him Placing A Wreath At The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier...

MSNBC by way of Cursor Informs us that Smirk is threatening to veto legislation, passed overwhelmingly by congress, to change a brick brained stupid law that deducts disability pay from wounded veterans retirement pay. Isn't that swell? He's going to send young Americans off to die so his oil pals can go in and loot Iraq, and maybe Saudi Arabia too for good measure, and he's worried that if any of them get wounded and manage to live they'll be a burden on taxpayers. I wonder what he'd do if he had to choose between a war and more tax cuts for his corporate looter buds...

And yet, it moves...

If you thought that the reason government funded scientific committees was to insure that government policies were grounded in the facts as best we understand them, then you must be a stinking liberal humanist communist pinko islamofacist traitor. The reason government funds scientific committees is to make government policies appear reasonable, not to make reasonable government policies.

Physicist Richard Feynman, in his appendix to the Challenger Disaster report, said; "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." Care to bet Smirk thinks five supreme court justices can overrule nature too?

The Annual Welcome Freshmen Book Burning Will Be Held In Front Of The Student Union Building Tonight At 8...

...and speaking of free inquiry... The Rittenhouse Review takes note of a new kid on the block called "Campus Watch", which apparently has as it's goal the intimidation of teachers who deviate from the middle east policies of the right wing. Delightfully, they claim that middle east scholars generally hate America. As though an organization dedicated to bending free inquiry to a specific political dogma isn't a direct attack on the very basis of democracy, which is freedom of conscience. Oh...and they warn that most middle east scholars are Arabs. Dossiers, I kid you not, on professors of certain political and ethnic persuasions are available on line for reading. Expect Campus Watch to issue a report titled, "Protocols Of The Elders Of Islam" Real Soon Now...

My Deepest Sympathies On The Passing Of Your Dear Wife...Perhaps One Of These Lovely Ladies Can Help You Purchase Her Final Resting Place...

Next time some knuckle dragging bigot tells me that homosexuals are obsessed with sex I'm going to have myself a good laugh in their face. Ted Barlow Gives us a link to this Italian coffin maker under the heading, "What a wonderful world". Check on the links for the following products: Filo oro, Stile impero, Articolo 109, Padre pio, Cristo Europa, and Greca Madonna.

I guess here's where I add fuel to the blog world speculation that liberals (I actually don't think of myself as a liberal, but if liberal is anyone to the left of Smirk and his gang then I reckon I'm a liberal...) just don't know to have fun. Sure sex sells all kinds of things, and yes, I'm not immune to it's power myself, and no, I don't mind being pitched to by beautiful guys. I wish more advertisers would pitch to me with beautiful guys. I love the new ads for Levi's low rise jeans. Well...the ones with the really cute guy in them anyway. I just have a hard time seeing how this kind of advertising can sell this kind of product. When my mother passed away last year, and I had to make one of these purchases myself, I can tell you that I wasn't in a mood to see anyone wiggling their butt at me, male or female. It was hard enough just getting through the process, just putting one foot in front of the other and getting on with it as best I could, and quite frankly, I wasn't entirely right in the head while I was doing it. Yes, you can be a tad crazy and perfectly aware of that fact. I am at a loss to explain just who would be moved by those ads. Unless in Italy they buy their coffins ahead of time, and store them somewhere around the house for later use...or something.

Ann Telnaes...

Here's a better link for Ann Telnaes' cartoons then the one I provided Monday. This links to her own web site, and it has numerous examples of her best work. As I said, she is one very cool editorial cartoonist.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, September 16, 2002.

Now I'll come to the Florida sunshine tree...

Ted Barlow writes that it's good news that it's still illegal in Miami-Dade county to discriminate against gays, then quotes Grim Amusements, who worries that Take Back Miami/Dade can simply keep getting measures on the ballot anyway. That's just the kind of thing that's sure to turn voters against them further, but let it be said that losing by ever increasing margins never stopped hate from shaking its fist.

I can remember sitting by my shortwave radio back in 1977, waiting for the returns from Florida, worried that Anita Bryant's "Save Our Children" campaign would win and frustrated that the news media of the day couldn't have cared less if she did, which was why I had to use my shortwave radio to get the news late at night, because none of the news stations near Washington D.C., TV or radio, were counting the votes on that ballot measure. I was a young out gay man, and it was a time when it seemed progress on social issues, and personal freedom was an inevitable thing. Patricia Nell Warren's "The Front Runner", published a few years prior, had as a plot element a Supreme Court Decision overturning all sodomy laws. People thought legalization of marijuana was just around the corner, and the cigarette companies had trademarked brand names that sounded suspiciously like pot products (Panama Red...Dealer's Choice...). The Moral Majority was yet to come into existence, and the religious right was considered an impotent force in American politics and culture. So when I finally heard late at night that Bryant had won, I was devastated all the more to hear that her margin of victory was four to one.

The next morning I walked the streets in a state of shock, mentally counting the people I passed, four to one, four to one, four to one. If I hadn't had a core of straight friends then, who helped me get through that period, who by their never flagging friendship proved to me that gay and straight could get along with each other just fine, I might have become a complete misanthrope.

Bryant's was the usual pyrrhic victory hatemongers make for themselves. An effective boycott of Bryant's corporate benefactors, combined with the religious fanatic's finely honed ability to alienate everyone in their lives except other religious fanatics, sent her career straight into the trashcan. But more then that, far more then that, her victory lit up gay civil rights activism in ways it just wasn't before, making it more militant, and at the same time forcing it to be more politically savvy. Bryant's victory was her downfall, and our rising.

So now, even with a narrow victory in Miami/Dade, our enemies have to know that they've lost the fight. What was a four to one slam dunk is now a win that even inciting violent religious passions, class hatreds, and racial anger and fear (Nathanial Wilcox, a black minister and co-chair of Take Back Miami/Dade, compared the anti-discrimination law to the Tuskegee experiment), couldn't be denied. Wilcox can vow, like Jefferson Davis, to fight on forever, but what more can he, or any of them do? I mean, other then prove that hate is a narcotic and the people who live on it either get themselves clean one day, or become junkies willing destroy their careers, their families, their good name and anything else that gets in the way of the trembling quest for that next fix.

(edited slightly after sleeping on it)

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Because Grief Is Still Grief Is Still Grief

Steve Greenburg does a good cartoon on California governor Grey Davis' signing of new domestic partners legislation. (There's no way to directly link to a specific cartoon on Daryl Cagle's site that I can tell, so if it's cycled off by the time you read this, select the cartoon for 9-14-2002 from the drop down menu and hit the "get image" button.

And Speaking Of The Ungentlemanly Art...

Ann Telnaes is one very cool editorial cartoonist! I discovered her after writing my essay on political cartooning elsewhere on this site, and were I to rewrite it now I would definitely have to include her in my list of favorites. Nowadays I regularly poll her cartoon, along with Jeff Danziger, and Ben Sargent's. Telnaes has a unique style of cartooning, almost like a highly stylized New Yorker cartoon. Her ink lines are perfect, her caricatures hit the bull's-eye every time, and her editorial punch is killer. She knows how this medium works, that it's idea driven, that the best political cartoons are good ideas rendered simply. The classic Thomas Nast cartoon titled, "The Brains" is an example of this kind of political art at its best, and for all Nast's grandiose other works, that one cartoon, and another simple and powerful one titled, "Who Stole The People's Money (twas him)" are the two Nast cartoons you most often see reproduced. Telnaes generates art like that on a regular basis and I am completely enthralled.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, September 15, 2002.

Where was God when I opened my mouth?

Seems like no time is the wrong time to bash homosexuals, when you're a fundamentalist nutcase. News from The Morning Call in Allentown Pennsylvania, that Baptist minister Marshall Griffin of St. Paul Baptist Church, took the opportunity of a 9-11 ecumenical service in (ironically) Bethlehem Pennsylvania, to condemn same sex marriage, and suggest that America's immorality was the reason why three-thousand innocent people perished. The minister of a predominantly gay church had also been invited to attend what was supposed to be a service of unity and healing and all that bleeding heart stuff that fundamentalists think comes straight from the devil. About a dozen gay and lesbian people walked out of the service during Griffin's desecration of it in protest. Griffin said afterwards. "People were asking, 'Where was God during the attacks?'" I was speaking generally when I said, 'Where were you when God needed you, when prayer as taken out of schools and we started allowing same-sex marriages?'"

Uh-huh. I suppose Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were speaking generally too, when they avered that 9-11 was God's punishment for loving our neighbors instead of hating them. William Cauller, president of the Bethlehem Area Council of Churches, at first said he hadn't heard Griffin's desecration of the service, then later admitted he had. That's what being a man of God does for you I reckon. A Moore Township Baptist pastor said later that those who expect tolerance from Griffin should show tolerance toward Griffin's beliefs. To expect honesty from someone doesn't mean you look the other way when they lie. Silence in the face of lies doesn't serve the purpose of honesty, and silence in the face of intolerance doesn't serve the purpose of tolerance, it encourages intolerance. So does inviting a homophobe to a 9-11 memorial service, that is "supposed to have a major emphasis on unity and healing," as Cauller later said, when you just know they're going to feel duty bound to slam the homosexuals in attendance, and never mind that they might be grieving lost loved ones too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Howdy neighbor.

The Catholic Review, which claims to be Maryland's largest paid weekly newspaper (howz that for gerrymandering a brag) is setting up its new shop here in Baltimore, in a building they've renovated, right in Baltimore's little gay district, a short hop, skip and a jump from several gay bars and clubs, and just a few doors down the street from our local Lamba Rising bookstore.

I have been watching this process now for several months, wondering, with some apprehension, whether or how soon it would be, before they started making noises about cleaning up the neighborhood. The other day, while I was shopping at Lambda Rising, I saw two older gentlemen walk in the door, one wearing the collar, the other dressed in a plain business suit. They made for the religion section, and then one wandered back to the front of the store to look at the video and CD selection. Lambda has an assortment of the usual skin magazines, and a few with some kink to them, but it is basically a gay bookstore, not an adult magazine store. I watched, wondering what they made of it all. As I paid for my books, the cashier told me that nuns walking toward the Catholic Review, were crossing themselves as they passed the store.

by Bruce Garrett | Link


The older man I spoke of in my entry of 9-13 passed away. This morning as I was working on a cartoon, I heard a knock at the door, and opened it to find a fireman passing out fire safety pamphlets. He asked if I had heard about the fire, and told me the sad news.

Some tips culled from the pamphlet: Careless smoking is the number one cause of fire deaths in homes. Most people who perish in home fires die in their sleep, usually as a result of smoke inhalation. A good smoke detector, with a good battery (changed every six months), will wake you up so that you can escape. Plan your escape route, and then practice it; it should be the shortest and safest way out of the house, and should include a second way out.

I know...I've heard it all before. Now scroll down a tad and read my first paragraph below. If a fire gets going in your house you have seconds to get it under control and if you can't then you need to get the hell out or you will be trapped and you will die. Take the extra effort to prevent the fire before it starts, use some common sense around electrical cords and appliances, and with open flames indoors, such as candles (a Christmas candle knocked over by a pet burned out six families from an apartment complex near mine the year I moved to Baltimore...) or cigarettes, and give yourself every possible advantage for getting out that you can before that moment comes when you have to.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, September 13, 2002.

After the firemen and police left the scene, and the last of the TV camera crews left, taking with them a local Fox News reporter who couldn't seem to stop fussing with her hair, and the neighborhood people were left to stare in wonder at the pile of burned debris, the story I heard went more or less like this: An older man, his son, and their dog had been inside the rowhouse. The older man's wife was away in a nursing facility, having had a stroke just a week or so ago. According to the neighborhood, the men were both loud, noisy people who drank and smoked heavily. That morning, the older man had apparently come downstairs, sat down on a sofa, lit a cigarette, and then went to sleep again. Flames woke him up. The sofa was half engulfed by the time he got off of it. He tried to put the fire out, and the fire kept spreading. Seeing he couldn't control it, the older man ran upstairs to make sure his son, who he thought was asleep, got out. But his son had already left, headed for a nearby convenience store to buy some beer before the fire had broken out. Badly burned by the fire on the first floor, the older man now became trapped upstairs. As the first of the fire trucks arrived at the scene, the fire had become so intense, it was blowing out windows.

I awoke as I usually do each morning, thinking about a dream I'd been having, and listening to birds chirping in the pin oak just outside my bedroom window. I heard heavy traffic on I-83 nearby, and figured it was about seven or so. I began to hear fire truck sirens, and tried to place whether they were on the Interstate, or Falls Road, my local main drag. They got louder, then louder still. Then I began to hear the sound of the fire truck motors, and knew they were close. They stopped.

I got up, got dressed, and walked outside. It was a clear, crisp September morning, and I didn't notice any particular activity in the neighborhood, so I reckoned it was the usual false alarm. Mrs Magurdy had burned her toast and a neighbor smelled smoke and called the fire department. The firemen would have a look around, and then go back to their station. When I got to the end of my street, and looked up towards Falls Road, I saw a ladder truck, and a group of people standing on the corner. I walked toward them. I live in a fairly typical Baltimore rowhouse neighborhood, with block after block of tightly packed rowhouses. They are not very tall, but at street level it is only up and down the cross streets that you can see any distance. But as I got to the corner, I could already see smoke above the rooftops, and knew where the fire was.

I turned the corner and began walking quickly to the next street over. Fire trucks were already piled into the street, and I could hear more coming. They'd called a second alarm. When I got near the alleyway I could see firemen on the roof of a house right in the center of a small, five unit row. Smoke was billowing out of the upper floor rear windows and hugging the roof line. The fireman had a pike of some sort, and was poking the roof with it near the firewall between the adjoining houses. In the early 1900s, Baltimore had a bad city fire, and afterwards rowhouses had to be built with brick or block firewalls between each unit, and the firewalls had to extend a couple feet above the roofline. This is how all but a few very old row neighborhoods in the city are built.

The fire was in a row that I had judged to be built in the 30s, and as was typical for that period, their fronts hugged the street, with large roofed porches that had a single continuous roof that went from one end of the row to the other. As I approached the street corner, I could see smoke pouring out from under the porch roof of the end unit. I tried to recall if I'd read anywhere that the porch roofs had to have fire blocks of some kind in them too, but I doubted it. The fire could spread along the porch roofs, then to the porches, and light up the whole front of this row... People from the neighborhood were standing all around, and fire hoses were everywhere on the streets, coiling around the trucks, taut with water pressure. There's another reason to conserve water during a drought... As I entered the intersection I saw a man on a gurney being wheeled rapidly toward a waiting rescue squad unit. The people working on him had cut the clothes off of his upper body, and were working on getting his pants cut off. He was on oxygen. One badly burned arm was waving aimlessly in the air.

I turned to look at the fire, saw smoke bellowing out of every window in the center rowhouse. Firemen were hacking away at the ceilings of the porch roofs, ripping them down, while others sprayed their insides with water. Another ladder truck was on the other street corner, and was providing the firemen with access to the roof. A ladder had been placed against the front wall, and extended to one of the upper windows.

There was a time when I'd have snatched one of my cameras before I left the house, even if I was certain it was a false alarm. It's a habit I'd gotten out of somehow, and one I mean to get back into. I ran home, realized I had no spare film and batteries for my 35s, grabbed my little digital camera, grabbed some spare batteries for it, and ran back out of the house. By the time I got back, most of the smoke had cleared. I breathed a sigh of relief, and began taking pictures of the scene. That was when I saw the dog.

The poor thing was laying on its side in front of the rowhouse, being looked after by two firemen, one of which held an oxygen mask up to it, and a wet rag, which he kept dabbing its eyes with. I heard one of the neighbors wailing that it was dead. You learn how and when to push the police line when you work as a freelance photographer, which I did when I was still in college, and thankfully I hadn't yet lost that knack. I hugged the trucks around the scene, picking out a path that would get me close to the dog and the firemen without getting in anyone's way and being ordered back. Once you're noticed, they keep an eye on you. I got close, took a shot, and then another, got closer, and saw the dog take a tentative breath. Its fir was not singed that I could tell, but it was slightly wet as though it had taken a glancing splash of water on its way out of the house. The fireman holding the rag dabbed the dog's eyes with it a little more, then patted its head and squeezed some water from the rag into its mouth. The dog breathed some more. The fireman patted its head once more, and gently rubbed its side.

A Baltimore fireman works to save a dog injured in a rowhouse fire
Copyright © September 13, 2002 by Bruce Garrett. All Rights Reserved

I picked my way back to the crowd on the other side of the street and told them the dog was still alive. By then it looked like the fire had been put completely out. Debris from the porch ceilings and the inside of the burnt rowhouse where piling up on the sidewalk. You could see firemen on the upper floor ripping apart ceiling and walls looking for any sign that the fire was still hiding somewhere. Camera crews from the local TV stations just across I-83 were arriving on the scene. The police were taking statements from neighbors who had seen the start of the fire. I talked to a guy who lived two houses down from the burnt rowhouse, who said to me that nobody was being let back in their houses. He worried about his cat, worried that the smoke might have gotten into his house and injured her, or that she was in a panic due to all the noise going on. He'd managed to get his dog, a cute little Dalmatian pup, out, and it seemed to be thoroughly enjoying itself among all the strangers and chaotic activity. The cat, he told me, had run under a bed when the fire trucks came, and he couldn't reach her to get her out.

A fireman placed a hose nozzle near the one caring for the dog, allowing it to drip a slow stream of water, which the fireman rinsed his rag in, and dabbed the dog's eyes again. He squeezed more water into the dog's mouth, and then it moved its head a little. More water, more movement. Soon the dog was breathing without assistance from the oxygen unit. It began looking around at the firemen. In another five minutes, it was up on its feet.

A Baltimore fireman with dog saved from a rowhouse fire
Copyright © September 13, 2002 by Bruce Garrett. All Rights Reserved

Its owners were all at the hospital, the younger man apparently had gone with his father in the ambulance. I began asking around if anyone was willing to take the dog to a vet, and a neighbor volunteered. The dog was eventually taken to their back yard.

When people were let back into their houses, they found that none of the fire had spread beyond the brick firewalls. The only shared damage, beyond the porch roofs, was a little water damage in the adjoining houses. The burned house looked a complete wreak inside. Its windows and doors were stapled shut with thick plastic tarp sheet. In front of it was a pile of debris reaching almost halfway up the first floor. What looked like a set of nice antique chairs were a charred ruin. What may have been a nice antique sofa was burned beyond salvaging. I wondered if the antiques were family heirlooms. At the bottom of the pile was what looked like the remains of a modern discount furniture sofa, the left side of it almost completely gone. Surrounding it was a mass of melted plastic and charred wooden planks that I reckoned were what was left of the ceiling, walls, curtains and blinds. An unopened video tape hawking what looked to be a fitness program, sat undamaged next to the melted remains of a small portable TV set. The stench of smoke would probably hang around the row for weeks.

I stayed for a while talking to the neighbors about what had happened, and how their own houses fared. Someone remarked about how embarrassing it would be to have the neighborhood browsing through a big pile of your stuff. Another neighbor asked me for copies of the pictures I took. I began wondering how expensive it would be to have a fire sprinkler system retrofitted into my rowhouse, and how it might be done. A bit later the man living in the end house came out and told me that he'd found his cat, peacefully asleep on the middle of the bed.

(Edited slightly after sleeping on it...)

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, September 11, 2002.

Prayers At Tonights 9-11 Services Will Be Led Mullah Omar...

I almost removed the WWII posters below from today's weblog entry a when I read this a few moments ago, but decided not to, because I still believe in the American spirit they embody, despite this latest obscenity directed at Gay and Lesbian Americans. It looks like we won, narrowly, in Dade county, but of course the more progress gay and lesbian Americans make, the purer the hate coming from the American gutter.

News from The Advocate website that the Utica, N.Y., fire department demanded the Reverend Fred Daley be removed as speaker during that city's 9-11 services today, because he plans to host a special 9-11 remembrance mass for gay and lesbian Catholics on Sunday. That gay and lesbian Americans might also receive comfort and solace in the face of their losses is apparently more then the firefighters of Utica are willing to endure. They threatened to pull out of the services, ironically titled, "One Region United," if the Reverend Daley was allowed to speak.

Perhaps they'd have liked it better if Mullah Omar was scheduled to speak in his place.

I thought the following WWII posters were appropriate for today's remembrances. If any Utica, N.Y. firefighter wants to spit on them, they are more then welcome to get in line behind Osama bin Ladin, and his Taliban compatriots.

The State Of This Nation...

Ours To Fight For

No Loyal Citizen...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, September 9, 2002.

Further Adventures In A Period Of Negotiation...continued...

I see that a gay Howard University student was beaten by members of the school's marching band, along with the Instructor who came to his aid. The Washington Post reports that the attack left the student with a swollen jaw, bruises, and the imprint of a trumpet valve. The D.C. police declined to arrest anyone. A University spokeswoman said that school officials were investigating the allegations. Presumably that includes the alleged trumpet valve imprint on one of their own students. It's bad enough when teachers see anti-gay brutality in the hallways and do nothing, but when a teacher is violently assaulted while trying to protect a gay student, and the school administration can't bring itself to immediately suspend the attackers, then you really have to worry about the kids in that school's care. One gay kid was trying to get an education, one teacher tried to do the right thing and protect him, and now both of them have to walk the same hallways their attackers are walking, one while trying to learn, the other while trying to teach. It's not the goons in the hallways who destroy a school, it's the indifference in the front office.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, September 8, 2002.

Vote for me, and I won't leave these annoying ads on your answering machine anymore...

It's getting close to election time here in Baltimore, and I am getting barraged by political ads like I've never been before. They've been flooding my mail, and what is worse, leaving their ads on my answering machine. I use that answering machine to filter out telemarketers, and when one of them leaves their junk on it I call them right back and give them hell. Now I can't come home without three or four ads on my answering machine, hawking some politician's virtues, with evidence that they really don't care who they piss off as long as it gets them elected. Hey...that one left a half dozen messages on my answering machine...I think I'll vote for him... I tried to take an afternoon nap between chores and had four of them call me, with canned messages that I'm certain were programmed to start running as soon as someone answered the phone. Is it like this in other cities?

Heinlein was right. No election should be considered valid unless there's a "None of the Above" option on the ballot.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, September 7, 2002.

The Joy of Birds.

This is my second summer here at Casa del Garrett and I'm still trying to scope the patterns of the neighborhood birds. I couldn't put out bird feeders in the apartments I once lived in and one of the first things I tried to do when I got the rowhouse was put up some feeders and attract some birds. Well, in the city you get a lot of pigeons and sparrows that dog pile on feeders and keep the other birds away, so I've had to experiment with feeder design to get the birds I want, and keep out the ones I don't. Oh...and the squirrels. The little dickens are persistent, and devious.

In the front yard I have a couple of feeders that look like little plastic bowling balls that I fill with sunflower seeds. Chickadees and titmice can hang off of them, and I've actually had a couple small woodpeckers grab a snack off them too. Sparrows, being ground feeders, don't like them, and pigeons can't hang off them, though I've watched a few try mightily. I have a sock thistle feeder I hang nearby for gold finches, and at times I've had as many as four of the bright yellow flyers hanging off it at once.

This arrangement worked fine all fall and winter, but last spring the birds simply stopped coming. I have no idea why, and nobody has been able to give me a good explanation for it. For weeks the feeders remained untouched, so after a while I just took them down.

Just a while ago, I decided to put the sock feeder and one of the ball feeders back out, figuring I'd leave them up for a few days to see if they got any customers. Well, I was right in the middle of hanging the ball feeder when a chickadee somewhere in my pin oak tree suddenly started scolding me. By the time I got back to my front door they were zooming in, and snatching seeds. It's been months since I had the feeders out, but they remembered.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, September 6, 2002.

I have nothing against homosexuals, just teaching tolerance toward them...

At the end of a week that had several violent gay bashings nationwide, comes the report that Boston University Chancellor John Silber has ordered the dissolution of the Boston University Academy's Gay-Straight alliance. A spokesdroid for Silber said that Silber "is not hostile to any particular gender orientation, but he feels that it's not appropriate for a school, particularly one that begins at the lower end of the secondary level, to be getting involved in the sexuality of its students."

I suppose the school cheerleading squad doesn't have anything to do with sexuality either. Isn't it cool how straight bigots can claim that homosexuals are fixated on sex, when they're the ones who can't see the people, in this case the kids, for the homosexuals? Never mind the fact that if schools can't give students a few straightforward facts about sexuality including facts about sexual orientation because that offends the views of gay hating religious fanatics, they have no business calling themselves schools, Silber's excuse that Gay-Straight alliances are inappropriate for schools because they're about sexuality is dehumanizing. Homosexuals don't love, they just have sex. Homosexuality isn't about love, and devotion, and honor, and the pains and joys and struggles of finding someone to love, and be loved by, in a world full of prejudice and hate, it's just about having sex. If Romeo and Juilet were about a gay or lesbian couple it would be about sex. If Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird had been a gay lawyer, To Kill A Mockingbird would be about sex. If one of the Joads in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath had been gay, then The Grapes of Wrath would be about sex.

So Silber is "not hostile to any particular gender orientation", is he? I'm sorry, but that grotesque verbiage really speaks for itself to the contrary. If that's how the head of the University feels about the gay and lesbian kids under his care then the environment for them there can't be good, and sooner or later it's going to cost them. Memo to Silber: Give Derek Henkle a ring sometime and ask him how it feels to win a $451,000 settlement from a school system that failed to take prejudice against Gay and Lesbian students seriously.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

This page Copyright © 2002 by Bruce Garrett. All rights reserved.
Send questions, comments and hysterical outbursts to:

This page created using MultiEdit for Windows and/or Visual SlickEdit for Linux, GIF Construction Set, Adobe Photoshop Elements 1.0 and/or The Gimp. It was proofed using Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 and/or Mozilla for Linux. The author regrets and/or disavows any confusion caused by this notice.