Thursday, December 12, 2019

Stretching My Muscles

A friend gave me a Holga film-camera for my birthday. Holgas used to be made cheaply in China and are entirely plastic. Even the lens, normally glass, is plastic. The cameras were intended for poor peasants who couldn't afford real cameras.

A few Western artists, despite owning expensive digital-cameras, have fallen in love with Holga. Why? Because the cameras produce unpredictable photographs. Unexpected visual "mistakes" like light-leakage and vignetting give their pictures weird, unplanned effects. Plus, you use real film -- which is unheard of these days -- and that introduces other unpredictable variables.

Here are a few of my experiments. I like working with this camera.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Adding Color To Your Life

My recent experiences with Suzanne and Sheila stimulated personal growth at an accelerated rate. Every day I examine my life and question what I'm doing, what I'm not doing, and why.

The process has led me to wear brightly-colored fingernail polish every day, in public, even when dressed as a man. And I'm really happy about that. Ecstatic at times. I spent six decades wanting to publicly be myself and now I am, whatever the cost. Local shop-keepers, bank-tellers and others are having to revise their understanding of me, which is okay.

The only time my nails are not painted is during work-hours. And I'm wondering why I take it off then. That may change soon as I think about this some more.

By the way, if you want to give me a Christmas gift, nail polish works! The brighter the better. Reds, pinks and purples all put smiles on my face. I don't shy away from feminine hues, I lean toward them.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Half My Age

Two weeks ago I was in Florida tending to the increasing needs of my father, who's now 89 years old. While there, he asked me to go through his stuff and organize things.

I found old photographs I'd never seen before, including the one below. It depicts me half a lifetime ago -- literally. The picture was taken 31 years ago when I was 31 years old.

Looking at your younger self certainly causes one to reflect.

The woman next to me is Maura, my first love, with whom I lived for twenty years. I've written here about Maura before: she currently lives in Wales (U.K.) where she's continuing her career as a fine art painter.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Critic John Simon (1925-2019)

John Simon was one of the most prominent writers of my adulthood. Love him or hate him (and many did both), his writing sparkled with wit and intelligence. Simon took strong positions, used acerbic language and wielded metaphors like swords.

Simon died last week at age 94. I didn't learn about his death until today 'cause I was down in Florida last week tending to my elderly father.

Simon wrote critical reviews of theater, film and books in New York magazine, The New York Times and The New Criterion. He appeared on TV as himself in episodes of "The Odd Couple" and "Saturday Night Live."

The most controversial thing Simon did was note how actors look. He said Barbra Streisand's nose "cleaves the giant screen from east to west, bisects it from north to south. It zigzags across our horizon like a bolt of fleshy lightning." Simon described Kathleen Turner as a "braying mantis." In response, film-critic  Roger Ebert said: "I feel repugnance for the critic John Simon, who made it a specialty to attack the way actors look. They can't help how they look, any more than John Simon can help looking like a rat."

Actress Silvia Miles was once so upset at Simon's review of her play that when she saw him in a famous New York restaurant, she dumped a plate of food on his head. During a later interview, Simon said Miles "has retold [that story] ten thousand times. And th[e] steak tartare [she hit me with] has since metamorphosed into every known dish from lasagna to chop suey. It's been so many things that you could feed the starving orphans of India or China with it."

I'll miss John.  :-)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Twilight Zone

Hi, everyone. Happy holidays.

I just had a weird experience. Weird. Let me share it with you and see what you think. I invite you to tell me your thoughts on it.

I went down to Florida this week to visit my dad. Of course I wanted to take my motorcycle but I had to carry several large boxes that wouldn't fit on my bike so I took a car. On the way home today, I headed north on a little-used highway between Washington and Baltimore. I needed to stop so I looked at my GPS for a place to get coffee. GPS said there was a Starbucks a few miles away. Oddly the Starbucks was the only business in the area. Usually on highways, gas stations and restaurants are grouped in bunches.

Now, before I go any further, let me preface this story with salient facts:

- It was the middle of the day
- I had not been drinking
- There is no history of mental illness in my family
- I am not prone to conspiracy theories

GPS directed me to leave the highway at the next turn. There is no sign at the turn. There is no exit number. The area looks desolate and I normally wouldn't have pulled off but GPS assured me there was coffee ahead. I wanted coffee.

The Starbucks was a few miles ahead. The area is strange, like a foreign planet. All the trees are burned down, there is no foliage or green plants, just ugly brown land and swamps. Then I saw dozens of buildings. Huge buildings of unusual shapes. There are strange structures near them that look like scientific equipment. Big spheres, antennas and odd-shaped coils. Electrical systems bigger than I've ever seen. All of the buildings are surrounded by high fences with barbed wire. With no signs. No signs!

Finally, at the entrance of a building I saw a sign saying "NSA Employees Only." Then I saw signs saying, "Area Patrolled By Military Dogs." Obviously I stumbled into a large, secret governmental complex. Entry roads are guarded by large gates.

"NSA" stands for National Security Agency, the intelligence arm of U.S. Department of Defense. NSA is responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. According to Wikipedia, NSA "relies on a variety of measures to accomplish its mission, the majority of which are clandestine."

The area I found stretches over many miles. I saw no stores, no restaurants, no houses. Nothing except restricted buildings and strange equipment that look like props in a science-fiction movie.

I wondered why there would be a Starbucks in this area. Nobody lives there. Nobody goes there for any reason except to work for the government which, I presume, has its own coffee-makers. The site has a vibe of being highly-controlled, like prison.

GPS said the Starbucks was a few miles ahead. In the middle of nowhere with nothing around it. I trust my GPS and really wanted a cup of coffee so I pushed on.

Eventually GPS said the Starbucks was approaching. I slowed down and was going about 30 mph. I spotted a Starbucks store with a big Starbucks sign out front. But as I approached, the store suddenly vanished. What the...?! Even though I was driving slow, I guessed I'd missed it so I turned around. I headed back to the same spot where the store was and... nothing. No store. No sign. Not even a parking lot or curb-cut.

I made a U-turn and tried again. I plugged Starbucks back into the GPS and it said it was 700 feet ahead. Then 500 feet. Then 300 feet. I saw the store. I saw the sign and the building. But, again, just as I pulled up, the store vanished. I swear to God, it disappeared. There was no parking lot, no cut in the curb to turn off the road. I reversed course and on the way back, drove 5 mph to inspect the area. Nothing. There is nothing there. I stopped the car to triple-check. No building. No store. No coffee.

This is not the end of the story. The area was creeping me out so I pushed "Go Home" on my GPS. It directed me through some roundabouts. I was totally lost and glad I had GPS to take me home. But it didn't. It steered me into the entrance of a large military building. As I was pulling up to the guarded gate, I realized GPS was wrong and turned around. I went back onto the road. I re-pushed "Go Home" on the GPS. It steered me, again, back to the military site. I gave up and drove around until I found a road leading back to the highway.

What happened? Seriously, what happened there?

Pondering these strange experiences on the rest of the drive home, I came up with this. NSA, our most secretive government organization, conducts a variety of cutting-edge scientific experiments. They spend millions on developing stuff we don't know about yet. I accidentally stumbled into their nest.

I believe they've developed technology to create three-dimensional visual images, like holograms, which can be seen from one angle but not another. I don't believe they made a real Starbucks disappear; I think the store was never there in the first place. I was merely shown an image of one and believed that until my angle of vision changed. Then the projection failed to register on my eyes.

By analogy, I heard the government invented a way to project sound in a narrow path toward a target, like a laser. It is unnoticeable by those outside the target-zone. Obviously, the tech was invented for military use.

Why is this visual technology being used on a public road? Well, nobody goes into this area unless they know it is there. Nobody turns off a highway onto an unmarked road. The tech is probably used to demonstrate to official NSA visitors their scientific capacity to create convincing illusions. You can imagine a NSA engineer bragging: "Hey, look at this cool thing we can do!"

Well, that's my theory. What's yours?

P.S., If I should suddenly go missing, you can infer I was right about this.

Monday, November 18, 2019

My Secret Obsession

I have a secret obsession. Honestly, you'll probably not be surprised; it is consistent with what you already know about me.

I love dance clothes. Costumes, leotards, tights. Even shoes. There are different types of dance (e.g., jazz; ballet) so there are different types of dance clothes. I love 'em all.

For years I collected paper dance-outfit catalogs. Then the Internet arrived and we can now see the clothes by visiting web-sites. One company sends me an e-mail each morning with pictures of their stuff. Reading that e-mail is the highlight of my day.

I've kept this obsession under wraps 'cause I doubted anyone would understand. The appeal of dance-wear is two-fold: beauty and hyper-femininity. Aesthetically, they're wonderful: form-fitting, brightly-colored and well-designed. They also enhance feminine shapes, curves and physical attributes.

Confession: I own dancewear. I buy it 'cause it makes me happy. I wear it in private for fun. I don't wear it in public or even show pictures on the blog 'cause I lack a female form and dancewear is revealing. Nobody wants to see what I have to offer. But I simply enjoy wearing it. Moving in it. Dancing in it.

Propelled by confidence created in the recent experience I had with Suzanne, I'm going to break that rule today and show you an outfit I own: a glittery performance dress and canvas jazz shoes.

The dress is beautiful. Please keep in mind I wear dance clothes for pleasure, not to impress anyone. I'm just want to share some of my happiness with you.

Saturday, November 16, 2019


I received a host of nice gifts for my birthday. One of the coolest is a film camera. Yes, a camera that uses film! It's called the "Holga."

No longer being made, the Holga was designed in China for poor Chinese consumers. It is entirely plastic, even the lens. The Holga was cheaply produced with parts that break easily and don't work properly. Ironically, that's its appeal.

Because the camera is unpredictable, it is used by artists to create photographs that are ethereal, surreal or simply unexpected. Light enters through cracks in the plastic, making halos, distortions and strange visual effects. The viewfinder doesn't show you what the camera will photograph so everything is a surprise.

I shot a roll of 120 format film this weekend in black-and-white. The film produces square pictures. I don't know how they came out because I need to send the roll away for developing and printing. Do you remember those days? It'll be a week before I see the results.

This camera fits my style of doing things the hard way -- which is more work but creates more satisfaction. Big thanks to my friend Ashley for knowing me so well!