The rain has returned to Seattle, which also means that my hay fever has kicked into high gear. Since I have moderate-to-severe allergic reaction to every single pollen, spore, and mold there is, hay fever season last most of the year. But there are certain times when I can count of sudden worsening of symptoms, and one of those is when the rain come back in the fall after the relatively dry period that usually lasts from about July 12th until the end of August/early September.
This year the coming of the rain meant the end of hazardous air quality from the smoke plumes from wild fires everywhere, which means that as my lungs were clearing and my cough was subsiding, the sinuses became painfully clogged and sneezing fits became the norm.
Just before that smoke came in and turned September into a new kind of hell, I had picked up some spot-color flowers to plant in some of the pots out on the veranda, because all the dianthus, violas, and pansies that had been growing in some of the pots had died off. Most of my planters are full of lavender, but most of them are going to seed, so there was suddenly not much color out there. But I didn’t get the plants in before the air quality turned really bad, so I set them up where I could water them and waiting for the rain to come clear us out.
I mentioned this elsewhere and was asked (for not the first time) why I grow a bunch of flowing plants on my deck when I’m allergic to all those pollens.
The amount of pollen produced by the number of flowers I can personally grow is negligible compared to the pollens put out by the thousands of trees and millions of flowering plants growing throughout and around the city. Since I’m going to have the hay fever regardless, I might as well have some pretty flowers to look at when I feel like it.
And I like seeing bumblebees going from flower to flower. I even get hummingbirds feeding on the flowers!
There is a challenge with the smaller spot colors in that we also get a lot of squirrel activity on the veranda. This was true even before I added a squirrel feeder to the mix. They like to bury things in the flower pots and later try to dig them back up.
The bird population coming to the feeder has finally gotten back to what it was two summers ago before a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk starting hanging around our deck and eating the little birds. The hawk only lingered in our neighborhood for a month, but it ate a lot of bird during that time! The small bird population has taken a while to bounce back. We have so many juncos, sparrows, chickadees, and finches coming to the feeder that I have to refill it every day.
That may change, because Tuesday afternoon I looked out in time to see another juvenile Cooper’s Hawk was perching on one of the drain pipes from the roof. Before I could take a picture one of the local crows divebombed it and it flew off. It was distinctly smaller than the one from two years ago, so it is probably a male.
I don’t know if it’s going to start hunting in the neighborhood and we’re going to have another mass die off of the little birds. The crow might have sent it packing. On the other hand, it may be a bit stubborn.
I was working on something else, and not certain I wanted to say anything more about the grifter-in-chief’s taxes, but then I saw this excellent post elseweb:
1. The way he’s been able to continue functioning is a classic rich fuck tactic, in which if your business fails to the tune of, say, 15 million dollars, you can carry that loss forward across several years to avoid paying taxes. One massive loss can clear out your personal tax burden for several years, even as you bring in more money with new businesses and investments.
2. Trump is literally a national security risk. If he underwent the same background check other people need to pass to get clearance, he would have fucking flunked it. The NYT piece says there’s a mysterious foreign debt lender on Trump’s records, whom he owes half a billion dollars, and we don’t currently know who the fuck that is. But that debt is personally guaranteed to come due in the next few years, and he doesn’t have the money to even dent it. So, what does a man with no morals do when he owes a shitton of money and has no way to pay? Apparently he runs for president.
3. According to Dan Alexander at Forbes, the actual amount that Trump owes is spread across a lot of his properties and comes to around $1.1 billion overall. Same dude is trying to tally up how much income Trump’s properties bring in. So far, it doesn’t add up to that much.
4. Trump’s businesses are almost exclusively real estate, hospitality, and attractions. All of them were hit hard by COVID. This readily explains why he was so adamant about reopening the country as quickly as possible; his loan repayments depend on that income.
5. Also explains why he spends so much time away from the WH and at his own properties. When we talk about how much the taxpayer spends on Trump’s outings and golf trips, if that money is paid to the Trump Organization, it’s essentially an attempt to funnel money out of the US Govt and into his pockets to, again, prepare to pay off his massive debts.
6. He’s essentially using the IRS as a loan provider. That massive 72.9 million dollar tax return from the IRS that he’s being audited over, it’s essentially him taking out a ‘loan’ to try to pay down other prior debts.
7. Oh yeah and he stealthily wrote off a bunch of money in “consulting fees” that were paid to fucking Ivanka. Imagine using your own daughter to dodge taxes, jesus.
Basically, Trump has done the billionaire version of taking out a credit card to pay off other credit card debt, and the time is running out for him to make payments. His entire presidency is a money-making scheme of someone who is coming up on major deadlines on his loans and doesn’t have the money to pay.
There’s a lot of reading to do, but I personally suggest this thread from the Forbes guy, which outlines how much Trump is in debt for each of his properties, and then how much operating profit is allegedly coming in.
If you want to read the referenced thread from Forbes contributor Dan Alexander, click here.
The reason I hadn’t planned to say anything more about this topic is similar to the reasons why I’m not watching the debate.
None of Trump’s supporters are going to be swayed by this revelation. I’ve already seen some of them crowing about how this proves how awesome Trump is, because only suckers pay taxes, or taxes are evil, et cetera.
Trump’s 40% is locked in. Members of his base would support him even if Don Jr kicked down the door to their home and held them at gunpoint while Trump strangled their child to death right in front of him. They are a lost cause.
No matter what happens in the debate, Trump, the GOP, and the right-leaning media are going to lie about what happened and will declare Biden the loser.
No matter what happens in the debate, most of the so-called liberal media will act as if it was a meaningful exchange of ideas, and will cite any gaff or mispeaking that Biden does as being the equivalent of the blatant lying that Trump will do.
There is nothing I could learn at the debate that will change my mind about who I’m voting for.
The only people who care about facts have already decided not to vote for Trump. So, what’s the point?
I realize that there are people who do care about the facts who might not understand what we’ve learned from seeing the grifter’s tax returns, so there is some value in sharing this.
While the debate is on and being analyzed, I’m going to watch the season finale of Julie and the Phantoms and then settle in with my the new Dresden Files book.
Between the incredibly fun on-line birthday party Friday (featuring a rather large number of martinis), running an online roleplaying game Saturday, watching my favorite football team with their third game in a row this season, along with errands and housework and sleeping in, I did not do a Weekend Update post. And there were so many news stores were worth commenting on that broke since Thursday night when I queued up the latest Friday Five. So I’m giving y’all the update today. Which is a good thing, since the story I’m going to lead with officially broke late Sunday…
So, the one the biggie: Tax bombshell reveals Trump’s image is a sham. This really isn’t a bombshell. It’s something most of us have believed for at least the last four years. A man who is worth multiple-billions of dollars doesn’t need a constant flow of endorsement deals (many of those weird businesses that come and then fail, such as Trump Steaks, aren’t actually owned by him; rather, the company pays him to use his name and get him to endorse it for a time), nor does he need to charge hundreds of millions of dollars to the taxpayer to keep a few of his golf courses and hotels afloat.
And most importantly, an actual billionaire running for political wouldn’t fight tooth and nail for more than four years to conceal his tax returns from the public.
Welcome to the fourth Friday in September. September, the month when superior people are born, and this day in September is the on which extra-special awesome people are born.
I’m just a little bit prejudiced in that evaluation. Today’s blog post has a slightly odd title because today is my birthday. And it’s one of those big ones evenly divisible by ten. I am now officially a member to two different groups within the population considered at high risk in the pandemic. Yesterday I was in only one. I usually make a post on my birthday that ends with some words of wisdom. I decided I don’t need to do a separate post today, so you get the words of wisdom here: Taking care of yourself is being productive.
And now it is time for me to roll out this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about deplorables, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and some things I wrote).
Many, many years ago on a Sunday afternoon 11-year-old me was sitting in the back seat of my grandparent’s gold Ford Galaxie reading the latest copy of Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine. Sunday morning church service has recently ended, and while my grandparents and Mom were mingling in the after service coffee event, I had persuaded Grandma to let me have her car keys so I could go read my magazine in peace. My space adventure was interrupted by someone tapping on the window. I looked up to see Donny, who I knew because his father was the best friend of my grandfather. I rolled down the window, half-expecting him to tease me for not being down at the church social.
Instead, he pointed to my magazine and said, “I didn’t know you were into science fiction! Who are you reading right now?”
I had met another fan. Which was a very rare thing through most of my childhood.
Those years were weird in so many ways. I usually use the shorthand description of “ten elementary schools across four states.” That is an accurate description of what my father’s petroleum industry job did to our life. It elides over that fact that almost all of those elementary schools were in tiny, redneck towns where most people listened to country music, watched Gunsmoke and Hee Haw every week, and went to church every Sunday morning no matter what. In such communities, my mother and an occasional librarian were often the only other people I met who even knew what sf/f was.
It wasn’t just that science fiction and fantasy weren’t popular, there was also that fact that our time in many of those towns was very short. It was complicated! For instance, it was late in fourth grade that we moved to the tenth of those elementary schools, where we remained through the end of sixth grade. Similarly, all of kindergarten, all of first grade, and a couple months of second grade had been at the first elementary school I attended. So eight of those elementary schools were scattered over second, third, and fourth grades.
Anyway, there is another weirdness to that tenth elementary school: the last of fourth, all of fifth, and all of sixth grade were spent living in a small town in Utah that was very close to the Colorado border, and less than an hour drive away from the small Colorado town where I was born—the town where my parents met and married as teen-agers; the town where my paternal grandparents and one set of maternal great-grandparents lived. The same town that we would finally move back to in time for me to attend 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. But the flip side of that is that at many random intervals during my 4th, 5th, and 6th grades (and especially the summers between each) we were visiting said town—which included attending church services at the church my grandparents had been attending for longer than I had been alive.
That two plus years nearish to the town I’d been born contained a number of important turning points in my life. My paternal grandmother bought me a subscription to Galaxy Science Fiction — which she graciously renewed as part of my birthday presents for the next few years. My maternal grandmother a year later got me a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction which she also renewed for the next few years. The older brother of one of my classmates realized that I and said younger brother didn’t know what the word “boner” meant, and thus he decided to give us a very unauthorized (and not completely accurate) education in human sexuality. And then puberty hit and that last bit became more relevant (but also mostly useless) than I’d expected.
All of those things will become important to this story eventually, I promise.
My paternal grandmother had “accidentally” set up my subscription so my magazines arrived at her house, so I couldn’t actually read them until I came to visit. Mom had driven herself, my sister, and I over to my grandparents during midday on a particular Saturday, and I had only got a short period of time Saturday night to start reading my latest copy of Galaxy. Which is how I came to be sitting in my grandparents’ car in a church parking lot trying to read my science fiction magazine when Donny tapped on the car window.
Donny was the youngest son of Mr & Mr. G. Mr G had been my Grandpa’s best friend since WWII, and after the war they had both ended up moving their families to the same small town in Colorado. Mr & Mrs G were essentially my dad’s godparents. Southern Baptists absolutely do not believe in baptizing babies, so that don’t have christening ceremonies and they don’t have godparents. But many Southern Baptist churches do “Dedication Services” for newborn babies, and at those services non-family members who are also members of the church agree to be sponsors of the child—which is just godparents and christening with different names, but we won’t worry about that.
Mr & Mrs G were slightly older than my grandparents. Mrs G had been a school teacher in the local school district for many years, and in addition to being my father’s godmother, had also been his teacher for one grade. They had three children who were similar ages as my parents. Their eldest, a daughter, was the Secretary who ran the administrative office at the Middle School. Their middle child, also a daughter, taught at the elementary school. And their youngest, their only son, Donny, was a bus driver and maintenance person for the school district.
Donny was about ten years older than me, so he was 20 or 21 years old at the time of this meeting and therefore an adult. But he was also someone that I had more or less known my entire life. But he had been someone at the outskirts of church events and the few social occasions we’d both attended. I had a vague notion that he had completed some course of study at a nearby Junior College sort of recently, and when he’d come back, he had moved out of his parents’ home and gotten his own place.
I remember that the conversation was quite fun, with him being a fan of several writers I had never heard of, as well as some that I had barely heard of. I specifically remember that he wasn’t much of a Heinlein fan, but understanding why lots of people were. Our mutual nerding out went on until the after service coffee meet broke up and everyone drifted out of church and to their cars.
It was probably two months later that I saw Donny again, since most Sundays we stayed in the small town in Utah and attended church there. We had another conversation, that time on the steps of the church about sf/f books we were each currently reading.
My family was gearing up to move to that town. My folks had bought some property. We started coming over to spend almost every weekend with my grandparents, as Dad, Grandpa, and I would work on various aspects of the plot to get it ready. My tasks over those weeks ranged from things like digging the ditch that the natural gas pipe from the newly installed meter to the house would go, or pulling weeds, or painting pipe pieces with protective sealant. At some point a decision was made to bring my bicycle from home to my grandparents’ place, because Dad and Grandpa found it useful to be able to send me on errands while they continued to work to get the property ready for us to move in.
There came an afternoon during this time when I didn’t have any construction related tasks to do nor errands to run. I was free to goof-off if I wanted. So I got on my bicycle and rode to Donny’s house. Because we were in town almost every weekend at that point, I had been having enthusiastic conversations with Donny about whatever book or story had most recently caught my interest. At some point I had looked Donny up in the local phone book and found his address. I don’t know what I expected, it’s just that Donny was at that point the closest thing I had to a local friend, and we both loved the same kinds of books. He was clearly surprised to find me on his doorstep. He didn’t invite me in. We had a conversation on his front porch where I enthused about some story I had read recently, while he nodded and made the occasional comment.
It was awkward and I wasn’t sure why.
I think it was two Sundays later when Donny came up to me at church and told me that he thought I should try to make some friends my own age. “It’s fun to talk to you about books, but you I think you’d be better off spending more time doing normal things for a boy your age.” And he walked away.
He was certainly not the first adult I had known who had suggested that I should spend less time reading and more time playing with other kids. But I hadn’t thought of Donny as one of those kinds of adults. And it never feels good to have someone tell you that they do not want to be your friend.
As it happened, I had become friends with a couple of guys my age who attended the same church. And when school started that fall, I made a few more friends (but also acquired new bullies). One of the friends I met became a bit more than a friend, as we frequently found ways to fool around together.
When I saw Donny at church, he always seemed to be turning away to talk to someone else or simply walking out of the room. When I saw him at school it was different. Donny greeted and joked with all of the kids. If he saw me, he would call out my name, and make a comment like “Hope you’re reading good stuff!” It wasn’t any different than he acted with any other students, but it was infinitely more friendly than he acted at church.
One day, well more than a year after that “find friends your own age” conversation, as I was walking to school, I saw Mr G backing his truck out of his driveway, turning rapidly with a squeal of tire, and heading up the road. It so happened that Donny’s parents, Mr and Mrs G, lived in a house that was right next to the middle school. You could see their front yard and driveway from the windows in the Science classroom, for instance. Mr G didn’t normally drive that like that, so it stuck out as weird.
Minutes later, as I was talking to some of my classmates before going inside, I learned that there was a problem with one of the school bus routes. A driver hadn’t shown up for work, and the substitute hadn’t known the route. So one of the buses was somewhere out in sticks half loaded with kids while the other drivers on the CB radio attempted to talk him through the route.
Classes got underway, but there was more weirdness. While the guys in my grade were in gym class, the girls were all in social studies, and they had noticed from the social studies room’s windows a county sheriff’s deputy car driving into town much more rapidly than usual (the highway was visible from the school as well), and that he had flashed his lights before driving through a stop light and then turned uphill. Before that class was over, the girls also saw an ambulance, without its lights on, turn up the same road.
As us boys were coming out of gym class, we saw Miss G, Donny’s eldest sister who was the school secretary, hurrying out the main doors. She seemed upset. None of us had ever seen Miss G leave the school grounds while school was in session before that. And when we joined the girls in our next class we heard about the police car and ambulance.
Two class periods later the Principal announced over the PA system that Donny had died in his sleep the night before. Miss G would be taking a few days leave of absence, so some administrative things might not run as smoothly as usual for the next few days.
My memories of the funeral service (held at our church some days later): the family opted for a closed casket service; after the service Mrs G had draped herself over the casket sobbing uncontrollably, with Mr G, her daughters, and a number of others trying to offer condolences; at the reception in the church’s social hall a lot of the adults kept exchanging meaningful looks; there was whispering.
The whispering between the adults continued for some weeks. Any time adults were talking about Donny and noticed me, they would quickly change the subject. I remember several times hearing specific references to the fact that during the previous several summers, he had gone to a town known as a tourist hub elsewhere in state where he worked as a bartender. Lots of school district employees had a summer gig, usually in another town some distance away. At the time I figured that, given Southern Baptists’ feelings about alcohol, the bartending was considered something of a scandal.
The official cause of death eventually announced was a previously undiagnosed heart condition. I had concluded that the reason for all the whispering was some people in town thought Donny had committed suicide, and that the family was trying to cover it up. The whispering died down, eventually.
Then one day I walked into the public library and at the spot where they usually displayed new arrivals, there was a poster thanking Mr and Mrs G for donating Donny’s entire collection of books to the library. The library staff was still processing the books, but some were available for check out at that point. His collection leaned heavily into fantasy. There were some books that I had read before, and many that I hadn’t. But the thing that really jumped out at me was the collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs books, all in hardback, including all 24 Tarzan novels that Burroughs wrote.
Most of Donny’s books had a book plate (one of those adhesive stickers that says something like, “From the Library of _______”) with Donny’s name written in his own handwriting. The Librarians chose to leave the plates visible, gluing the pocket that held the book’s checkout card to another page. They did stamp “Property of R—— Public Library” underneath each plate.
The Tarzan books stuck out for me because I had only ever managed to find one or two of the books from the middle of the series. I was far more familiar with the movie and television versions of the character. But because Donny had the complete set, I was able to start at the beginning and read them all the way through. Based on the handwriting on the bookplates and the publication dates of the set, Donny had been at most in his early teens when he’d first read those books.
And he occasionally made notes in the margins. The notes were always in pencil and always stayed clear of obscuring any text. It was usually comments and questions about the plot. It made me feel almost as if I was finally having a conversation with Donny about some books he loved with which I was only now becoming familiar.
The Tarzan books are not great literature, but they usually delivered a rousing adventure. They are a good example of early 20th Century pulp adventures. The plots get rather repetitive, especially when one is reading them one after another. For some of the latter books in the series, I think sometimes I was turning the pages more to see if there were more notes from Donny, rather than wondering what would happen in the plot, next.
There were two other things that happened in relationship to Donny’s death which at the time should have given me pause.
The first happened very shortly after Donny’s death. I had a secret boyfriend. A guy my age who I regularly fooled around with (all very furtive with the constant fear of being caught). There was an abandoned shed in the woods where we often met to do what we did (which was actually pretty tame, but you know, guys raised in Bible thumping churches in redneck towns doing any sort of sexual thing together was pretty out there). During one of the classes we had together, I quietly asked him if we were still on for later that day, after each of us finished our sports practice (he was on the basketball team, I was on the wrestling team). He shook his head emphatcally and said. “Nope. Not for a while. No.”
I didn’t get a chance to talk to him more privately for a couple of days. He told me that on the evening after Donny’s funeral, his father had taken him aside and asked him a lot of questions about Donny, and guys at school. Including something along the line of, “You know, boys can get up to a lot of trouble with each other. Sometimes their curiosity and hormones make them do things they oughtn’t with each other. Do you know if any boys at your school are doing that?”
Being asked that freaked him out. So for a couple months he avoided being seen with me at school and just didn’t want to meet up to fool around. Eventually we started doing things again. And his dad never said or asked either of us anything about such topics again.
The other incident happened several months after Mr and Mrs G donated all of Donny’s books to the library. I was at the church potluck, and one of the church ladies that I never got along with (I think she hated children in general, and teen-age boys in particular), so I was a little surprised she walked up to me and started a conversation.
She began with, “I understand you spend a lot of time at the library.” I agreed that I did, and started to explain how much I loved books. But she interrupted to observe what a tragedy Donny’s death had been. Which I could only agree with. Then she said, “I understand that they donated a lot of books he owned to the library. And I hear that you have been reading them. A lot.” I started to explain that his collecting included lots of books I’d heard about, but never been able to read before. But she interrupted to say, “You shouldn’t fill your head with unrealistic fables and superstitious nonsense. You’d be better off reading your Bible than reading all those questionable books!”
I don’t know what I would have said if we hadn’t been interrupted by the pastor’s wife (who also happened to be a librarian at the aforementioned public library). She sort of swooped in and talked about what a serious student I was and managed to mention that a year before when a bunch of church members pledged to read the Bible together in a year, I was one of the few people who came to all 52 weekly meetings and always had interesting things to say about the section we were reading that week.
I don’t know why it wasn’t until literally decades later, when I was telling a friend about how I had wound up reading all 24 Tarzan books over the period of about a month, that I finally put all the pieces together and realized that at least some people in our church thought that Donny was gay. I mean, I knew everyone was always calling me various slurs, but I had never heard anyone refer to him that way.
So it didn’t occur to me back then that maybe the reason Donny suddenly put an end to our conversations at church was because he realized people were speculating about whether he was planning to molest me (since they believed that all gays were also pedophiles). I didn’t realize that the reason my secret boyfriend’s father had talked to him (in veiled terms) about whether any boys at school were engaging in homosexual activity wasn’t because he had suspicions about his son, but because suddenly everyone was whispering about Donny after his death. And why I chalked up the weird church lady’s conversation about fantasy books as merely attack on my personal reading habits, rather than some suspicion that someone thought Donny’s Tarzan collection (or his Jules Verne books, or the Wells, or Bradburys) were recruitment tools for the Secret Homosexual Army™.
It’s probably an extremely good thing I never got a chance to tell the church lady about how I enjoyed finding Donny’s notes in the margins of the books. She probably would have stormed the library and tried to organize a book burning!
While I don’t know why 13-year-old me didn’t connect those dots, I’m glad I didn’t. Because if I had, I would have probably become so self-conscious about what I was reading and who I talked to about what I was reading that I would have missed out of a lot of the wonderful books I read over the next few years.
I’ll never know if Donny actually was gay, or if people just assumed he was. I just know that while he was alive, he loved books that took the reader on flights of fancy about daring adventures in impossible places. And I know that for a little while, he helped me feel a little less alone in the land of the mere, mundanely possible.
I was reading on two different services people discussing some problematic tropes, and for part of the conversation I found myself feeling attacked. By which I do not mean the funny meme-sense of that phrase where you recognize an unflattering truth about yourself in a generalized comment someone is making. No, I mean I felt as if the people discussing the issue were either dismissing my lived experience, or at least making the decision that people such as myself don’t matter. And for different, though related reasons. Which shouldn’t be that surprising since the problematic tropes in question are related to one another.
One of the troublesome tropes under discussion was that Old Canard, Bury Your Gays. If you aren’t familiar, the trope refers to the fact that often in fiction, queer characters are killed off and written out of series far more often than non-queers. I wrote about this a few years ago (Invisible or tragically dead… reflections on representation) in a year where over the course of the first 80 days of that TV season, 22% of all the queer regular or recurring characters across all network shows had been killed. And I pointed out that if the same rate of “anyone could die” actually applied across all of the casts of network shows regardless of orientation, that that would mean 2.5 characters being killed every single night of prime time television, and would mean that each season shows would have to replace more than 94% of their casts.
Many people have rightfully pointed out that a major contributor to the problem is that so many series, movies, novels, et cetera have at most one queer character (and rarely a pair of queer characters). In those cases that means that the only representation a show has of nonheterosexual people is erased by one character death. And even in those rare cases where there is a second queer character, since the second character is almost always in some sort of relationship with the first, that means that the sole queer representative left in the series is now an example of the equally bigoted/stereotypical Tragic Backstory Gay.
The lack of adequate representation is only part of the problem. Another very big part of the problem is that many writers think that queer characters are only suitable for queer plotlines, and so once the series has dealt with an incident of homophobia and an relative/friend learning to truly accept and support the queer character, that there is absolutely nothing else one can write for the character so they are now dead weight. But there are folks—most of them members of the queer community or allies—who genuinely think that the lack of realistic numbers of queer characters is the only reason Bury Your Gays is a problem. And unfortunately this causes other problems.
The discussion that I saw this week illustrated this well. One person was explaining what Bury Your Gays means, and went on to express their personal opinion that because they have read or watched so many queer characters get killed off so many times that they just don’t want to ever watch or read such a storyline again.
And people got very angry about that assertion. “How dare you say that I can never kill a queer character in my story!” “How dare you demand representation but also special treatment!” And so on.
Which is absolutely not what the person said.
Let’s switch topics for a minute. I was physically and emotionally abused by my father as a child. For that reason, I find it very difficult to sit through storylines involving abusing characters in stories I read or watch. This means that sometimes I stop watching a series or I put down a book never to pick it up again. I experienced a lot of that in real life and would rather spend my free time (which is what the reading of novels and watching of series or movies is, my free time) on other things. Similarly, many years ago a particular series I and friends were reading seemed to be obsessed with rape (and the gleeful humiliation and torment of vulnerable characters in general) as a plot engine. I decided that I didn’t need anymore of those kinds of scenes in my imagination, and I stopped reading the series (and when the editor of said series later became the author of an international best-selling fantasy series that similarly pruriently reveled in rape and torture, I swore off that, too).
In neither case am I saying that no one has the right to write such stories. Nor am I saying that people who want to read them should be legally banned from doing so. I’m just saying that I am done that that. I don’t want to read that. I exercise my right to choose what I read and watch and will go read and watch something else.
That doesn’t mean that I am weak. It doesn’t mean that I’m fragile. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or immature about me. I am making a choice and stating a preference. That’s all.
And yes, I’m generally in sympathy with the commenter who said she’d rather not read any more deaths of queer characters. For 59 years I have read stories in which if gay people like me were included at all we were the depraved villains or the tragic victims. And if I could go another 59 years of life and never, ever read or watch another story in which that happens, I would be happy (and not just because it would be cool to live to be 118 years old).
It’s not that I refuse to read stories where that happens. I do, even when I have been warned, sometimes. And full disclosure: in the series of fantasy novels I’m working on a lot of queer characters have bad things happen to them. In book one a canonically pansexual character appears to die (and his apparent death is quite important to the plot), though it is revealed later he survived. But as the series goes on I kill off an asexual character, a bisexual character, a genderfluid character, and (in flashback) a trans character. So as a queer author I’m doing this. But I also point out that there are a lot of other gay, lesbian, bi, pan, genderfluid, ace, and trans are in the story who don’t come to untimely ends. And as I’ve mentioned in blog posts before, I’m one of those authors who literally cries at the keyboard while writing a death scene, so I don’t take these things lightly.
So I’m saying that it is perfectly reasonable for a reader/viewer to make a decision about what kinds of stories they want to watch. And while writers get to decide what they do in their own stories—readers, viewers, and other writers are allowed to point out if we think they are portraying harmful stereotypes or perpetuating bigotry.
There was a second trope discussion where I felt attacked. People were lamenting the Gayngst trope. This is the tendency of many writers to portray all queer people as being unhappy with their lives, and specifically wishing that they weren’t gay. The people participating in this thread were unhappy with this trope because they were convinced that it is never true. One person asserted that there were no queer people anywhere who, once they got past the questioning stage and realized that they are queer, wished that they weren’t queer.
Which is where I really felt attacked. I realized that I was a gay boy at the age of eleven. Puberty hit like a freight train, as I said in that post, and finally I knew that all those people (including my father, some pastors, numerous teachers, and other adults in my life) who had bullied me for being a sissy, pussy, c*cksucker, and f*ggot had been correct.
I did not magickally become a wildly pro-gay activist at the moment of that realization.
To use the terminology of the the great James Baldwin quoted above, among the filth that I had been forcefed throughout my life up to that time was the absolute certainty that queers like me were going to spent eternity burning in Hell. And, since god is supposedly a Just Creator, we deserved it.
So, yes, I spent the next 13 years of my life frequently crying myself to sleep at night and begging god to take those feelings away.
It wasn’t until I was 24 years old that I started to believe that maybe, just maybe being queer wasn’t a curse that absolutely meant I would never know love, that I would constantly be fighting off depraved urges, and that I would ultimately deserve to be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
I was well past questioning for those years. And it wasn’t until I was 24 that I let a female friend talk me into the notion that maybe I wasn’t gay, but was actually bisexual. I would say that was the beginning of my questioning years, not when I first realized back at age eleven.
If some queer people younger than me really do immediately go from, “I don’t know why I seem to be different than what society expects me to be” to “Hey! It’s great to be queer” than I am very happy for them. I have my doubts that the transition is that instantaneous, but maybe it is.
So, while Gaynst shouldn’t be the universal portrayal of all queer people in stories and pop cultural, it’s okay to admit that some of us experienced that as part of our process of becoming who we are. And you should be able to criticize the stereotype without also erasing the queer people who experienced coming out differently than you.
It wasn’t until I was 31 years old—literally 20 years after I first realized and understood that I was a gay man—that I finally vomited up enough of that self-loathing and other filth to start walking this earth as if I had a right to be here. And the struggle of getting that point is something which should be honored, not erased.
So, today is the Autumnal Equinox, the official beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.
Which usually feels much more momentous to me, but time has become a fog since the pandemic. I’ve been working from home full time since mid-February, and I have a very difficult time remembering what day of the week it is. The year seems to be whizzing by at breakneck speed, while individual workweeks drag like molasses in a Winnipeg winter storm.
Seriously, every Tuesday or Wednesday by midday I feel mentally exhausted as if I’d enduring ten days of overtime with no days off. It’s just weird.
Autumn (also known as Fall) has long been my favorite time of year. The coming of Autumn always makes me think of new projects or breathing new life into old projects. I assume the pattern was set by my years as a kid where Autumn meant the beginning of a new school year. But it might also be the fact that I have never been comfortable in warm weather, and the coming of cooler (but not yet cold) days after a sometimes grueling summer felt like another kind of renewal.
I had Monday off again (work has made changes to vacation policy forcing many of us to use some of it up or lose it). I had intended to use the day to sweep and tidy up the veranda, finally plant the spot color flowers I picked up just as the air quality was taking a turn for the worse, and try to get some writing done. I did basic sweeping, got the flowers planted, and working on this blog post. Only a subset of the goals, but progress is progress, right?
Now the smoke has cleared and it is raining again, I hope that it will start feeling like Autumn to me and will trigger some creative energy, because it’s been very difficult to muster any for some time now.
I kept not finishing this post, nor two others regarding sci fi topics. I have resolved to do better this week! You may be aware of the fact that week before last wildfire smoke from California came to the Seattle region via the jetstream. Slowly our air quality went from Good to Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Individuals. Than Saturday before last the air flow below the jetstream also shifted, and we got smoke from Oregon as well as more from California. The air quality went through stages of Unhealthy for Everyone, Very Unhealthy, and Hazardous for a bit over a week.
Meanwhile, only a few hundred miles south of us (where some friends and relatives live) the air quality was frequently “too bad for the sensors to measure.” So I was also feeling a lot of anxiety about their safety.
Despite closing up the house and changing the hepa filters in the air cleaners, I started coughing eight days ago (and had almost constant headaches and itchy eyes). After calling my doctor to verify that the inhaler he has me keep around for when I get bronchitis was okay to try to use for this, I began using it. I’m only supposed to use it four times a day, and each time it gave me relief from the coughing for about an hour at a time. Which isn’t much out of the day, but better than nothing.
My husband had headaches and a little bit of coughing during the same period, but nowhere near as bad as the symptoms I had. I blame past me. While I quit smoking 27 years ago, I did smoke for a number of years (which is why I tend to get bronchitis so often), whereas he never did. So I suspect part of the reason I reacted so badly is the damage done to my lungs back when I was a smoker.
It was not fun keeping all the doors and windows closed as much as possible, as things got uncomfortably warm and stuff on several days.
The good news is that we finally got real rain over both our state and Oregon for the last two and a half days. The Air Quality Index starting Saturday morning was all the way down in the Good range! I still have a bit of a cough but things are definitely improving.
Unfortunately, wildfires are still burning in Washington, Oregon, and California (not to mention many other parts of the world), so I’m not sure how long we’ll keep having good air quality.
In other news, I have a significant birthday coming up, and we have toyed with trying to do a virtual party, Unfortunately I don’t have a guarantee at this point that I won’t be called in to work despite having requested time off months ago because I’m the only Tech Writer that hasn’t quit, been laid off, or retired over the last few years in the entire division, and we have software releases this week.
I’m also still reeling from the news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That has really done a number on my mood.
It is once more time for a post in which I link to stories that either didn’t make the cut for this week’s Friday Five, or broke after I composed the Friday Five, or are an update to a story I’ve linked to and ranted commented upon in a previous post. This is going to be a bit different than my usual Weekend Update, it gets personal a couple of time. You’ll understand why, I’m sure.
Script: “Hi, my name is ____ I am one of your constituents. I am calling to ask Congressperson ______ to go on the record saying they will respect Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wishes as well as the precedent set in 2016 to not nominate a new Justice until after a new president is installed. Thanks for your time.”
Call your senator: (202) 224-3121 Capitol Switchboard
Don’t know who your senator is? Find your senator.
Script: “Hi, my name is ________ and I live in (STATE). I am calling to ask Senator ______ to go on the record saying the Senate will not hold hearings on any potential replacement for Justice Ginsburg until after a new president is installed, per Justice Ginsburg’s last wishes and the precedent set in 2016. Thank you for your time.”
I have been trapped in the house since last weekend, thanks to the Air Quality Index ranging from Unhealthy for Everyone, Very Unhealthy, and not very far south of us sometimes Hazardous. When the haze first came in more than a week ago and they started forecasting worse to come, I replaced the Hepa filters and Charcoal filters in both of our air cleaners. Even so, by Saturday night I was coughing. We did our best to keep everything closed. I converted our two box fans to air cleaners (take a 20 inch Merv-13 rated furnace filter, bungy it to the back of the box fan, set up the fan somewhere in the middle of the room and let it run. Do not put the fan in a window. Keep the windows closed.).
In case you need a reminder, I’ll just drop this hand sum-up I’ve referred to before:
Sometimes when a man and a woman love each other, and the man is the president of an evangelical Christian clown college and is friends with the pussy-grabbing authoritarian president of America, they get married and then they meet a 20-year-old pool boy named “Giancarlo” and they are like “Oh hey, Giancarlo, is that the Holy Bible in your pocket, or is it your boner?” and he is like “Oh it’s just my boner” and they are like “Good, we really aren’t into that Holy Bible shit when we aren’t profiting financially from it” and the pool boy is like “cool” and they are like “cool” and so they start having a sexual affair with the pool boy for years and years, where the lady does nakeds with the pool boy while the clown college Christian leader husband plays shadows puppets with his weener and watches in the corner, and they end up giving the pool boy SWEET business deals that kinda sorta look like payoffs, and fly him all over the country in their jet, and maybe there’s a similar arrangement with the hot jacked personal trainer, but we’re not sure yet, but anyway then everybody finds out and the man has to quit being a clown college Christian leader, WOMP WOMP.
When Falwell Junior finally was forced to resign and the university opened investigations into possible financial improprieties, certain commenters out there opined that this was either part of Falwell’s kink (the pool boy and the other pool boy situations seeming to be on the cuckold fetish spectrum) because many cucks like being humiliated publicly, or that he was slamming his fist on the self-destruct button because he is tired of pretending to be an evangelical leader.
I didn’t buy either of those scenarios at the time for a variety of reasons. Only one of them being that first drunk call Junior made to a conservative radio show a few days after the Instagram post with his arm around a woman who wasn’t his wife, with his pants on done and a glass of what he later claimed wasn’t alcohol, but “black water” in his other hand.
No, the reason why is because I’ve known men like Junior before. White straight men, often from a conservative southern background (though not required) who are used to “getting away with it” over and over. They think they are invincible. They think the rules don’t apply to them. They have always been able to lie their way out of it before, and they are confident that they will continue to do so.
Let me give a very personal example. Content Warning: I’m going to be discussing my dad’s physical abuse of more than one family member and the death of a pet.
There are no further news links, so if you want to stop reading, now’s the time.
Okay, mind the content warning…
I was nine years old, my alcoholic and abusive father was hung over, and he had yelled at my four-year-old sister several times to keep it quiet. But she was in a hyper mood (many years later when she was diagnosed as, among other thing, bipolar, we would refer to these days as one of her manic periods). Eventually, Dad snapped and he beat her viciously… and left her lying apparently unconscious on the floor of her bedroom.
When she roused it was clear that something was seriously wrong. On the drive to the hospital, Dad drilled us with the cover story that we were all to stick to: she was being rowdy and won’t settle down and she fell down the stairs.
Among her injuries was a fractured skull. At some point during her medical treatment, she apparently told the nurse that “after the third time Dad hit me everything went blurry, so I don’t remember what happened.”
About a week later a state patrol officer or a county deputy (I don’t remember which) and a man from Child Protective Services showed up at our house. The tiny town we were in didn’t have any state agency offices, and the guy had had to come out from a city somewhere.
Each of us was taken by the guy from CPS individually to a nearby park to tell our version of events. I had learned my lesson about never contradicting Dad’s version years ago, so I dutifully repeated that Dad had told her to settle down several times, but she kept running around singing and then fell down the stairs.
I assume that Mom, my sister, and Dad all told the same story.
There was a glaring problem with our story.
There were no stairs.
We lived in a three-bedroom mobile home. It was a fancy mobile home, with an Extandal (as they called it at the time) which made our living room twice as wide as the rest of the trailer. But it was a single-story home with no stairs.
The CPS guy never asked any of us to show him the stairs.
The CPS guy and the officer left. Dad was angry for days afterward, but also on his best behavior even when no one was around. Eventually he learned that there would be no charges and the investigation was closed. Dad was still angry about my sister breaking the rule and contradicting his story, but because he was afraid people were still watching, he couldn’t do his usual thing of punishing one of us and explaining to my sister that he was hurting me or Mom because sister had screwed up.
So, instead Dad killed the family cat in order the punish my sister for telling the truth.
He got away with it. And his job had us move a few months later, and there was an incident where I was the one who wound up in the hospital… and he got away with that. And continued to with each of my younger half siblings and the only time he ever faced consequences was when he slapped one of the grandkids hard enough that she wound up in urgent care… but even then, the only consequence was that for a time all of my younger siblings had restraining orders on him that he couldn’t be around his grandkids without supervision.
Anyway, to get back to Falwell Junior…
I don’t have any knowledge that Falwell Junior was ever abusive of his kids or his wife, and I’m not claiming that he is that kind of abuser. But we know that for the last several years he has done other things that should have had consequences (talking repeatedly at work about his personal sex life, sending pictures of his wife in fetish gear to a number of university employees who didn’t ask to see them, attending nightclubs and consuming alcohol in direct violation of the university rules which are supposed to apply to employees, the shady real estate deals that some former employees started talking about last year, the pool boy’s shady real estate deal that reporters contacted the university about years ago, et cetera). And I’m pretty sure that Junior has been getting away with various things like that his entire life.
I know I’m bringing some of my personal baggage into this, but every time I have seen Junior speak, I have recognized that cocky smirk and the look in his eyes that say he knows the rules don’t apply to him. Because I spent 15 years of my life being raised by a man who had that some smirk and the same glint in his eyes.
Now Junior’s finally facing consequences, and he doesn’t know how to handle that. Self-medicating by drinking heavily constantly is only the tip of the iceberg, I suspect.
Welcome to the third Friday in September. September, the month when superior people are born.
The air quality index has remained in either the Unhealthy for Everyone or Very Unhealthy range all week. I only started getting partial night’s sleep when my doctor confirmed that the inhaler I have incase I get a case of bronchitis can be used for this. I’m coughing slightly less now that I’m using the inhaler four times a day. I really hope the rain comes and cleans us out soon!
It’s time for me to roll out this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about the haters & deplorables & related, and five videos (plus something I wrote).