Monday, November 30, 2009

List of Gay Films

Wikipedia offers a great big list of gay-themed films here.

I find the list useful when searching for something new to watch, although I've begun to prefer shows that retain the same cast of characters. Recommended TV shows are Noah's Arc, Beautiful People, Queer as Folk (British and American version), Little Britain, Little Britain USA, and the first two seasons of Torchwood (the show went south in the third season, R.I.P.) Also worth a try is anything with Kathy Griffin and the Graham Norton Show. Peep Show occasionally works a gay theme into the plot as well, although none of the characters are gay.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fiscal Conservatism Awakens

When the wars began, the Wall Street Journal rolled over in its sleep. Hundreds of billions of dollars flew away. The final cost we may never know. When Obama tried to pass health care reform, the Wall Street Journal transformed overnight into an advocate of fiscal conservatism. The idea of poor people receiving medical care from the government must be quite alarming to their constituency.

I'm Still Amazed

In 1976, California's sodomy law was repealed. Imagine. It used to be illegal for two males to be together. It was considered a prerogative of law enforcement to interpose itself in the bedroom of two consenting adults.

By the present time, 2009, the electorate has progressed so far as to be willing to debate the idea of enshrining gay marriage into law. I never expected such a possibility to arise. Even though gay marriage has suffered many defeats at the voting booth, the margin of defeat in many cases is not all that bad.

A long road has been traveled in a political and ideological sense. I can remember when newspapers printed lies about us with impunity. I used to wonder how journalists and newspaper editors could be so ignorant after graduating from college. Apparently they were all just afraid to write anything different from what had been written before. Fear of change seems to be universal. Demonstrating that change is not always bad--that's half the battle. I think the visibility of gay people was essential in overcoming prejudices.

It is reassuring to observe so many steps made in the direction of understanding. Society remains concerned with ethics and efficiency. No human lives are considered insignificant. Society expects each member to perform to their maximum potential and shows an interest in integrating each member to the best of his or her abilities. This is a better scenario than gay males growing up assuming that they are already social rejects, candidates for drug addiction, crime, prostitution or suicide. Rather than such unpleasant outcomes, a brighter future is suggested. Most of the gay men I have known have had professional careers and many have had monogamous partners. I would call this a step in the right direction, toward stability and happiness.

For society as a whole, increased overall efficiency is the significance of gay rights. Instead of a certain percentage of individuals growing up thinking that they are worthless or inferior, they can grow up with a better semblance of normality. Such a development serves to turn back the hands of the Doomsday Clock.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Clinics

In my town, there were once two clinics. One was devoted to counseling poor pregnant women in the hopes that they put their offspring up for adoption instead of having an abortion. It is in a nice section of town in a quaint old house and is staffed by three or four counselors.

Another clinic was devoted to distributing medicine and medical advice to people infected with the HIV virus. It was located on a remote stretch of highway in a trailer and served by one nurse.

Guess which one shut down due to lack of funding?

The AIDS clinic was really a life-saver. I know, because I used to drive an AIDS patient to the clinic to pick up his meds. It was ill-funded even while operational. Sometimes the meds were unavailable due to lack of supply. The nurse on staff (there was only one nurse) had no recourse. Many HIV patients go on unscheduled vacations from their medicine due to lack of funding. All the price breaks announced by Big Pharma are only for the benefit of people in Africa, not for Americans.

By the way, the building that once housed the AIDS clinic has been transformed into a headquarters for the local Republican party.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Favorite Living Celebrity

There is at least one living celebrity that I would like to know, assuming I had a magic wish granted to me by a genii: Ian McKellen, the actor who played Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. I don't really know much about the Shakespearean actor, other than he is one of the few out gay men in Hollywood and has had a great career. That he played Macbeth implies depth and profundity, which no doubt came in useful during his LOTR gig.

Gandalf is one of my favorite characters of all time. I can't but think of him as a role model for what I would like to become, if I could. The magic helps, naturally, but he is always saying wise things that speak to the heart.

Tolkien was a great writer. I don't know why literary critics put him down, but perhaps it is because they come from an academic environment, where the analytical faculties are favored to the exclusion of all else. They judge literature using left-brain criteria. Such critics miss the point of art. They would be better off as proofreaders. Being a good critic means knowing the human animal--what he is and what he can be. There must be a bias favoring writers that really get it, whether or not their prose conforms in every respect to established conventions. An analyst concerns himself with details, but the details of the parts are inferior to the sum of the whole. Critics need to get off their high horse once in a while. Just because something is wildly popular does not make it bad.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Water on the Moon

This is the best news I've read all year. Scientists have discovered water on the Moon. The Moon is better equipped to support life than it at first appeared.

If we ruin this planet, a handful of us may find a second chance on a smaller satellite orbiting around the Sun. There may be enough water to sustain a small village.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why Blog?

The blog receives few comments, which sometimes concerns me. Does my writing do me any credit? Am I making any sense at all? Such doubts may occur to other bloggers as well. But if a blog only receives ten hits per day, with most of these being click-and-go, then one can't expect much feedback.

Why should someone bother reading an unpublished amateur, when there are best-selling luminaries online, offering their thoughts in many cases for free? I don't know. If the quest for readership were all that mattered, then no one would bother blogging. There are heavy hitters servicing just about every conceivable niche. When I visit Border's, I'm overwhelmed by the many different books and writers that I've never even heard of before. I haven't enough remaining time in my life to read all the books, even if the inventory never changed. This is the golden age of literature. Books are plentiful, cheap, well-constructed, proofread until nearly perfect, and can even be ordered online without ever leaving one's home.

I view my blog as a public journal for recording my thoughts, ideas and opinions. It is safer than a word processor, because if my computer ever dies, the articles remain secure in the cloud. In my day, I have seen many a hard drive crash and be irrecoverable. Besides, my thoughts may be useful or at least amusing to others. Who am I to assume otherwise? In the case of a certain cult classic game, there are obvious reasons for players to read igor's little insights. I can't imagine playing that game without my trusty regen.bat, which protects against sudden death.

The blog is more for me than anyone else. I like reading my own material, because I tend to agree with myself. No big surprise there. My blog is my favorite blog of all. I'd rather write on it or read it than watch my favorite show. Since February, the blog has really cut into my television watching. I have a massive backlog of shows I have been meaning to watch. This is the golden age of television, as well, although not television news.

Writing is both therapeutic and an effective exercise of the mental faculties, which slide toward decay in a world of canned entertainment. Whenever someone feels troubled over an issue, they should write about it. Reviewing one's own writing can be instructive, like looking into a mirror. I am aware of at least some of my faults, if not all. I also see some good qualities, which is why I continue.

However, when writing, exercise caution concerning negative events or emotions. For instance, many political writers indulge their spleen to excess. Their hatred is tribal in nature and does not seem grounded in reality. For instance, Limbaugh and Coulter are forever going on about liberals. They do not know what they are talking about. Theirs is non-productive writing. Perhaps they make a great deal of money through their writing. Money is not as important as ethics. I would not trade places with either of them for all the money in the world.

Be careful with the digging up of old bones, such as conflicts, infatuations, or traumas of the past. Sometimes it is best to leave old bones undisturbed in their grave, particularly if one has moved on. By thinking about a subject, one gives it energy. Monsters can rise from their slumber to haunt us once again. Deny them your power. Rather than brood, focus instead upon the present.

However, some of us are reflective by nature and seem to have no choice but to analyze events in the past in the hopes of arriving at a better understanding. There may be instances when one chooses to travel into subterranean caverns in search of self-knowledge. It is a dangerous journey, with fell creatures lurking in the shadows. Here there be dragons. But such an expedition can prove cathartic. Old memories can serve as an instruction, maybe even a useful one, for myself and others. I will only be around for so long. After I am gone from this earth, the only record I leave behind may be stories. They needed to be birthed. I carried them to term and placed them in a nest somewhere out in the world. Then I returned to the sea.

By writing a story, I transcend it. The beast is dissected, with every part labeled. It is pinned down, framed and hung upon a wall. Thereafter, its power over me diminishes. If this is the attitude that a writer takes, then excavations of old bones can be constructive rather than destructive.

Avoid alcohol, the bane of all writers, because in the long run it inspires melancholy thoughts. For an inhibited, reserved writer, booze may seem like just the thing. A friend of mind refers to it as mental lubrication. I have not found it to be helpful at all. As for marijuana, it relaxes the analytical faculties, reducing the quality of prose. Reading, in particular, becomes far more challenging. I doubt marijuana would be of much use to a writer, unless he suffers from writer's block. If therapy is the main goal, rather than prose quality, then marijuana may be of benefit.

For my part, I prefer sobriety when writing or reading. The only drug that I have found useful for intellectual work of any kind is caffeine in the form of coffee, chocolate, or tea. Some writers swear by nicotine, which is supposed to improve concentration, although I have never observed any such benefit. However, if nicotine seems beneficial, then I would suggest absorbing it through a patch, rather than smoking, or else using a vaporizer on unprocessed, cured tobacco. The tobacco in most cigarettes has harmful additives, and combustion renders tobacco more carcinogenic. The goal would be to maximize the benefit and minimize the harm. However, you could easily become addicted to nicotine, which is one of the most addictive substances known to man. This is the main reason that I avoid it.

Sharing one's thoughts with others is not a bad idea, because there is a slim possibility that your output may be of benefit to others. However, I must add with reluctance a warning. On today's Internet, everything is traceable, archives are kept forever, lawsuits are becoming more common, and government oversight of private power is insufficient. A private individual of modest means should consider the many benefits of remaining as anonymous as possible. Of course, there is no such thing as total anonymity, but there is such a thing as "good enough" anonymity. Even at the cost of clarity, it may be prudent to refrain from mentioning keywords such as names and places, at least until such things are rendered irrelevant by the inexorable march of time. There are exceptions, such as a wealthy writer with a lawyer on retainer. It is all right to be the knight in shining armor, if you can afford the suit and horse. Otherwise, remain in the forest among the trees, dressed in green.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Favorite Celebrity

If I could travel back in time and spend a year with any celebrity from any time in recorded history, it would be Oscar Wilde.

Wilde was a gifted storyteller. His contemporaries raved about him. He got himself invited to all the best parties just because he could hold a room spellbound with his stories, insights and wit.

I'd like to go back in time as a young man, in order to compete with and take the place of Bosie, the homme fatale that led Oscar to his financial and social ruin. I'd have been a better influence, I think. Not as reckless, but curious and eager to learn.

In many ways, I think of Oscar Wilde as the Christ-figure of the gay community. The impression is inescapable. Of course, Oscar's fate was milder by far, but he lived in better times. Had Jesus lived in the modern age, he would have survived to a ripe old age. I do wish Jesus came back today and ran for President. But I suspect few people would vote for him. He'd be far too liberal.

Another person I'd like to have known was Robert Ross, Oscar's best friend and the executor of his literary estate. In some ways, Ross is even more interesting than Oscar--more sensible in many ways, wise, good, and cautious. He came out in the 1800's, which boggles the mind a bit. Courage was not something he lacked.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Courage

Many people live in fear of various fates, such as poverty, disease, or death. It is possible for some to avoid poverty and disease. However, death is assured for every mortal, although in the future, I foresee some progress being made on this front. Even if scientists do find a way to extend the human lifespan, how will they forestall the end of the Universe? These are complicated matters. I like to listen to scientists and hear their insights for solving problems. Governments that only pay attention to opinion polls are bound to make costly mistakes. The scientist, also, must be heeded, because it is possible that he really knows something. Most of us just have opinions. It is incredibly difficult to ever really know something. If in doubt, consult other scientists.

Humans do not fear death; what they fear is the unknown. Death is the great unknown. We fear what will come during death and after death. Will there be pain? Will the pain be intense? After the pain ends, will there be an afterlife full of torment? Will we be reincarnated into a lower or a higher form? How will we be remembered: as heroes, as average folk, or not at all? These are the questions that may occur to a soldier, a cancer patient, or an elderly person. They are eternal questions that have been asked from ancient times to the present.

Different seers have supplied different answers. Some answers flatter our ego. These I view with suspicion. Man is ruled by his ego too much. It is a known weakness and must be guarded against. Even very intelligent people succumb to the weaknesses of their ego.

Other answers seem pessimistic--for instance, the idea that everything is only material, random and irrelevant, without any higher purpose. That I view with suspicion also. I assign an ethical value to actions based upon what I perceive as the likely outcomes. It is true that this is subjective on my part. But every human being lives in a subjective state of mind. Objectivity is possible to approach, but in the long term, it is not a sustainable state for a human being. At least I have never seen pure objectivity in anyone I have ever met. It is my opinion that outcomes are important. We should want the good to prevail. To this end, good people should not serve evil. It is sometimes difficult to determine what is good and evil, however. This is why freedom of speech is important, in order to have open discussions with others, that we may arrive at a more accurate answer. Many minds are better than just one way of thinking.

I am not sure what comes after death, because I have not crossed the river Styx. In due course, I will know, and everyone alive today will also know. "Knowing" may not be the right choice of word for an inanimate corpse. I am not sure how to phrase the concept. Death is the great leveler. We will be equal then, even if we were not equal in life.

Finding courage is as simple as recognizing that death need not be feared. Death is a transition from one state into another, from being into non-being. What seems important to an individual may not be so important in the greater scheme of things. We live in small worlds. When we die, our small world is destroyed, and what is left is the greater world to which we return in total, leaving nothing behind. Our constituent parts will be used by other organisms according to the cycle of nature. Our thoughts and ideas, which we flattered ourselves as being special, are already shared by others and will still be considered by others in the future. We are replaceable; or if not, then perhaps we were unnecessary in the first place. Nature is a superb engineer who designs redundancy in all of her systems. Even the Earth is replaceable; or if not. . . does it matter to the Sun? I think that the Sun will go on shining, whatever happens to the Earth. There are probably beings similar to us in other locations in the Universe, too far away for us to contact.

What is there to worry about? What is there to fear? All that is ever at stake is time, and just a short span of time at that. The extra-cautious may live longer. Is life, then, just a contest to see who lives the longest? Is it a contest to see who acquires the most possessions before the end? What kind of a contest is that?

To me, what is more important is living in an ethical manner, which seems simple enough to do. Be honest, when you can. Share your ideas with others, if it is possible. Live with forthrightness. Try to contribute whatever it is that is within you, that spark of light that can be found in the doing. It may not always be possible. Life is an opportunity, although nothing is certain. Some lives are cut short by the vagaries of fate. Never fear, there are others. No sooner does one light fade than another shines.

Of course, there has always been the problem of evil in the world. The present time is not all that much worse than times past. In many ways, the present is better. Think about the Dark Ages. Would you want to have lived during that violent and uncertain period, when the climate was colder? Reading history is necessary if you want to make an accurate comparison between the past and the present. It is tempting to assume that we have the hardest situation of all, but many of our ancestors had a harder time still.

Many good people despair, because evil-doers sometimes have the upper-hand. The wicked are often rich and strong and less concerned with ethics than with power over others. If another does harm to you, even to the point of death, then their crime weighs upon their soul, not yours. The harm wrought by an evil-doer serves to increase the intensity of your light and the light of others. Even in the darkness, light pours forth. Do not underestimate its power. At first, the light seems like nothing. You may not even be aware of it at all. But it carries the force of right, and there is no greater force. Try as it might, the darkness can never be victorious, because it is nothing and cannot create, because it has no energy.

A spiritual crime marks the perpetrator, diminishing their power in manifold ways. It is difficult enough to determine what is right, without tripling one's bets by doing any harm. Others may commit all manner of evil, even in the name of God. They may use underhanded methods to get ahead, to claim a victory over you. Over the generations, such ways are bound to return to harm their own bloodlines in ways they cannot foresee. In harming you and yours, they harm their own kind even more. Few believe this, but history offers evidence. It is a strange thing, almost like a law of the Universe. But do not use this belief in karma as an excuse for doing nothing, for accepting without resistance any evil that ever happens. That too is a mistake.

The Difficult Assignment

I remember when I first went to work at my last company, one of the senior people on my team took a dislike to me--I would say an instinctive dislike, like that of a dog for a cat. For a long time, I did not understand why, because I never sought any conflict with others. I think the main problem was that I was male, and she didn't like any of the men in our department, but she disliked gays even more. Since I was both gay and male, that represented a double whammy. The fact that I didn't subscribe to her particular religious beliefs represented the icing on the cake.

She was more subtle than most and knew ways of getting her ends without being too obvious about it. For instance, she found a way to get our boss to transfer her most difficult assignment to me. She had received the task a couple of years ago, but with her cunning had managed to put it off with a variety of excuses. She admitted that it was too difficult for her, which may have been an indiscretion on her part, although she never expected that I would solve it by myself. She was hoping by the confession to discourage me. But I like challenges, if they only involve mind work.

She calculated that since I was just starting out with a new language, the hard stuff would do me in. I'd get canned, and she could work her social magic to get a new recruit that she liked better, preferably a straight white female. Anytime I went to ask her questions about the assignment, she would obfuscate or make a belittling remark questioning my intelligence or work ethic. I took a hint and remained alone in my cubicle, talking to no one, doing nothing but thinking, reading the reference manuals and absorbing many things. I looked at old programs and studied how other programmers went about handling similar chores. Remember, when reinventing the wheel, it is best to reinvent as little as possible. Whenever I found good ideas, I adopted them or made notes of them for future use.

The assignment involved displaying data in realtime on a mainframe screen. Our customer desired the capability of sorting a list of names by alphabetical order (with lowercase and uppercase taken into consideration), and/or by date, and/or by category, and/or by subcategory, and/or by status, and a couple of other fields that escape my memory at this time. Up to ten different flags could be selected or unselected and would alter the results. In SQL, this is a simple matter that requires just a few statements. In the old programming languages, it is not such a simple matter. There was no "SORT" command available of any kind. It was necessary to reinvent the wheel, and that is what I did. I created a series of sorting algorithms, using flags (indicators) to keep track of each of the many different stages of my subroutine. Nested loops held sorts within sorts within sorts. It was a sordid (sorted) affair.

The code was written over a decade ago, and today I am not sure whether my sorts could have been characterized as bubble or insertion sorts. Wikipedia disparages the bubble sort to such an extent that I suspect there would have been complaints over efficiency if I had used it. But I had a vague memory of the various sorting techniques I had learned in college, and "bubble sort" seemed like a fun, nifty name, so that was the label I applied to my technique, whether it was accurate or not. Everything took place in memory, by necessity, without any temporary data files, which meant that each time the user advanced to the next page, the sorting had to be performed all over again. There was not a large amount of data involved.

I was careful to document the program with remark statements, although I have my doubts over how much they helped in understanding the process. The older languages rely quite a bit on GOTO statements, which are rightfully associated with spaghetti code. I tried to use structured techniques, such as subroutines, as much as possible, but it was not always possible due to the limitations of the language, particularly in a realtime environment. As for object-oriented techniques, forget it.

Yes, there were plenty of bugs I had to iron out, but in the end it worked and remained largely unchanged for the next ten years. I think that was one of the tasks that earned me my first raise and guaranteed my job security.

Now of course she wanted to know how I solved it. When I told her I used a bubble sort algorithm, she had no idea what I was talking about and didn't want to know. She never liked listening to technical explanations. Her interests concerned the social hierarchy, and she much more intrigued by the higher-ranked individuals than by anything having to do with the peons. She assumed I had borrowed all the code from another programmer. So she went around asking the other senior programmers if they had helped me in any way. She spent much of every day whispering and gossiping with others, usually about other people in the department or about her husband, who she detested. Only about half her day was ever spent by the computer. No, other than helping with advanced syntax, the senior programmers hadn't had much interaction with me at all. In fact, some of them were unaware I was working there. Some programmers live in their own insulated world and are not quick to notice changes in the outside world, even in their own department.

She was always alert for the risk of someone giving me any assistance or advice, and always sought to nip that in the bud whenever she could. For my part, I am by nature reluctant to ask others for help, especially strangers. If someone else helps me, then I tend to keep an internal ledger with their contribution marked down for future repayment. She did succeed, however, in damaging some of the working relationships I tried to build with others, because she was politically connected, and her boss thought she was the perfect Christian. She did all the little political things. I could see the writing on the wall, in terms of my future at that company. But if you work in such an environment, then perhaps you should do as she did, if climbing up the corporate ladder is your goal.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vast Riches

Ever wondered what Internet advertising pays? Here's an insider's view:

$4.72 is the total payout for hosting ads on this site for over a year. I removed the ads, because it is not worth $5 to annoy myself and my users with advertisements. I did not bother requesting a payout of the paltry sum.

Obama on the Economy

Republicans picked up two governorships yesterday.

I suspect local issues are a huge factor in both races, but there is another obvious factor and that is Obama. His policies regarding the economy have been neither intelligent nor innovative. He is nothing like FDR. I don't understand the wisdom of throwing money at fat cats on Wall Street, the same rascals that wrecked the economy in the first place. Perhaps they donated money to the politicians, but that is no excuse. "Cash for Clunkers" is difficult to defend as well. He is also spending a fortune on foreign wars that have no possibility of benefiting the United States in any way, shape, or form. Obama has spent a pile of money without much benefit accruing for ordinary people. If the Democrats lose again in 2012, the reason will be a lack of ideas. Rather than show themselves to be different from Republicans, some Democrats look like right-wing conservatives themselves.

The following proposals would save money, make money, and give hope to ordinary people. Stop the wars, create new jobs programs that will hire the unemployed in meaningful and useful work, increase the funding for Americorps and the Peace Corps, legalize marijuana and let law enforcement focus on real crimes, increase funding for education, connect rural communities to broadband Internet service, and build mass transit to reach more communities so that our highways serve trucks, instead of cars, and people do not feel the need to purchase cars.

Right now, the Peace Corps is a joke. In return for working two years in an underdeveloped country, a volunteer is given $6000, or enough to purchase a moped and a computer. Such a volunteer would find more profit in working at McDonalds. Americorps awards $100 per month of service and a stipend that supposedly pays living expenses. These amounts should be quintupled, at least. They were adequate for 1980, but guess what, there has been inflation since that time.

As for education, there is a shortage of funds for graduate research assistants, who cannot pay all the fees and living expenses based upon their minimum-wage (or below) salary. Those working toward a Ph.D. or Master's degree are compelled to take out loans which must be repaid at a later date on a paltry professor's salary. College professors should be paid more to reflect the enormous investment in time and effort that they made in earning their degrees. All too often, universities cut back on scholarship and research, while spending freely on games.

How do we pay for all these proposals? Simple. End the wars and reduce military spending. Done. The budget deficit can be pared down and eliminated in ten years, as well. No additional taxes--in fact, taxes can be reduced. The United States has carried the cross of world security for too long. It is time for other countries to step in and share the burden.

Republicans express no interest in any of these proposals. Republicans want more war. They can never get enough. Republicans prefer to give taxpayer money to big businesses while running up the budget deficit. When trying to drum up public support for these core GOP beliefs, Republicans talk about abortion, gays, God, and guns. The only chance for reforms gaining any traction lies with the Democrats, but many Democrats are just Republicans in disguise. What we need in Washington are more liberals that are willing to try brave new ideas.

I have found one Republican that makes good sense to me: Ron Paul. The Democrat that I like best is Barney Frank. I may not agree with them on everything, but the times I have heard them speak on television or the radio, I have been impressed. Not all politicians are bad. Whenever someone talks against politicians, I mention those two names, the standouts, who have a strong sense of ethics and are not afraid of taking a bold position on an issue.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions