Category Archives: Opinion

Doomed to a continued existence of fighting and killing each other

Opinion

Rebel Yell by S.C. GwynneI have always been fascinated by history, particularly the history of wars. Right now I am reading Rebel Yell by S. C. Gwynne, subtitled “The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson.” It’s a serious tome—575 pages of reading, 45 pages of notes, and 13 pages of bibliography. The copy I have is an “Advance Reader’s Edition.” Sadly, I seem never to read these privileged editions until well after the book has been published, in this case October 2014. Nonetheless….

Mighty Stonewall by Frank VandiverStonewall Jackson was one of the Confederacy’s greatest generals during the Civil War. The first book I ever read that was dedicated solely to Stonewall Jackson was Mighty Stonewall by Frank E. Vandiver (1925-2005), published in 1957. Dr. Vandiver was president of Texas A&M University from 1981 to 1988.

When I heard that a history professor had been named president of my alma mater, I was fascinated and immediately turned to finding out more about him. That was when I discovered his Mighty Stonewall book. Dr. Vandiver was a foremost authority on the Civil War, and he is mentioned several times in the notes and bibliography of Gwynne’s book.

I am barely halfway through Gwynne’s book, but it is obvious what the “violence” and “passion” in the subtitle mean. Jackson was extraordinarily violent, even going so far as to shoot his own men when he deemed it necessary. The passion comes from his dedication to “Providence.” He had a firm belief that he was fighting for God. Since I haven’t finished the book, and Jackson died two years before the end of the war, I don’t know where “redemption” comes from.

Jackson died on May 10, 1863, of complications from pneumonia which set in after he had been wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville. I would have liked to have heard how he reconciled losing the war if God was on his side and the side of the Confederacy.

Therein, though, lies part of the problem that still exists in the world, a problem that has existed forever and probably will exist forevermore: a belief in a magical guy in the sky who wants humans to fight for him. If only everyone could believe in the same magical guy, no one would have to fight. Of course, we could also ask, “If that magical guy is so all-knowing and all-powerful, why can’t he fight his own wars?”

religion was our first attempt stampReligion was humanity’s first attempt at explaining the world and universe. Mankind’s first attempts at doing anything are bad, some of them notoriously bad. Religion was not very good at explaining things, relying on myth, superstition, magic, mind control, etc. It’s not religion’s fault. Humanity and science simply had not evolved to the point where the universe could be better understood without making up things. It is religion’s fault for not getting with the times.

science and religionAs long as there are people willing to believe religious dogmas written thousands of years ago instead of using logic, reasoning, science, facts, etc., to understand the universe, and to kill in the name of that religion, humanity is doomed to a continued existence of fighting and killing each other.

A few more of my favorite memes collected from the Internet, and I make no apology to my Christian friends. That’s what’s wonderful about America—people are free to believe what they want, or not to believe at all, and to criticize each other for their beliefs, or lack thereof.

witches

the dark ages

superstition

salvation

left-handed sin

imaginary friend

fabricate supreme being

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Gender training and mass transit….

Opinion

Last summer, a friend—we’ll call him Julian since that’s his name—went to Texas to visit his dad. His mom and dad got divorced eight years ago. Mom lives here; dad lives there. Dad got remarried and had more children; mom’s still single.

One night Julian and I were chatting on Facebook when he started using foul language, specifically in relation to his dad. One of Julian’s half sisters was playing with her brother’s army toys.

Dad admonished her for playing with boys’ toys. Julian was having a fit, believing that children should be able to play with anything they want to play with, as long as the toys were age-appropriate and safe.

Dad, on the other hand, admonished Julian for not understanding, and not believing in, “gender training.” Dad believes that if parents don’t train their children for the proper gender, those children will grow up confused, perhaps even gay. Dad said, “You’ll understand when you have children.”

I don’t have children. I never wanted children. So I’m not the best person to ask about gender training. I’m going to give it to you anyway: Dad’s full of crap.

I have no problem dressing a baby girl in pink and a baby boy in blue. That helps the public know the gender of your child, not that it’s really the public’s business. Nonetheless….

When the child is old enough to choose which toys to play with, which clothes to wear (as seen recently on the Internet), I’m all for letting the children experiment. The only harm I can see is from the ignorant public. Fortunately, there are parents out there who want their children to be happy, and they don’t mind educating the ignorant public at the same time.

Recently I was in La Jolla, bastion of the overly rich (and mostly conservative Republicans) and found this at a bus stop:

img_0216 bus stop public art la jolla stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those two figures have depth, enough depth so that children can stand in them. The little sign between the two figures says “Play at your own risk.” How interesting that the city installed these on a street corner at the intersection of two heavily trafficked streets for children to play in and then refuses to take responsibility for the risk that they provide.

There were three children playing in them when I was there, running around, laughing, and generally not paying attention to all the traffic zipping by. One little girl finally tripped and fell. Mommy, who was sitting on the bus bench about ten feet away, came and got all three children when the crying started. I was able to take a picture after she rounded up her three children.

Look at the gender training: girls wear dresses, boys wear pants, boys are taller than girls. (And the boy is a little crooked…. too much to drink?)

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering all I know about La Jolla, but I also think that if a really bad accident happened to a child of someone who lived in La Jolla, that someone would be the first person to sue the city.

Wait. Nevermind. People who live in La Jolla would never be caught using public transportation. Mass transit is provided so their servants can get to work….

la jolla map

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But I don’t know for sure….

Opinion

Yesterday morning I had the privilege of traipsing around a couple’s private garden.

It was a lot of un, and I got a lot of great pictures.

In addition to a beautiful garden, they had a dog and two cats.

Here is one of the two cats:

IMG_1753 abyssinian cat stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That’s Cleo.

Cleo is an Abyssinian cat, 15½ years old and suffering from renal failure.

To me, Cleo doesn’t look happy. In fact, he looks in pain.

Zoey the Cool CatZoey the Cool Cat (picture ►) is a mere 7½ years old but it’s obvious to me that she has slowed down, and she’s continuing to slow down. She’s not a kitty anymore….

I know we all love our pets, but at what point do we decide that it is time for our pets to leave us, to cross over that rainbow bridge?

My mother-in-law’s boyfriend spent several thousand dollars on treatments for his cats when they got old.

I want to think that I would easily spend thousands of dollars to keep Zoey the Cool Cat with me as long as possible, but I don’t think I could.

Instead, I think I would say my goodbyes to her and, from the vet’s office, go right down to the animal shelter and get another loving feline friend.

There are so many which need loving homes, and at that point I would have a loving home to give.

But I don’t know for sure….

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Chemicals. You can’t get away from them!

Opinion

I thought I would follow up on my Monsanto post of January 14, 2015. It was by far my most controversial post, and a few people decided to unfollow me because of it. One even said in a comment, “I’m saddened and stunned that you have bought into their [Montanto’s] propaganda, so I will take a break from following your blog for awhile.” If I were vindictive, I would have taken a break from following his blog!

If you missed my first Monsanto post, see it here: I’m going with Monsanto on this one, for the moment.

Today’s post was inspired by a conversation with a grade-school friend about the complete and total Blue Bell Ice Cream recall due to listeria contamination. The CEO and President of Blue Bell, Paul Kruse, is an old Texas A&M colleague and Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity Brother. I haven’t spoken to him in 21 years, but 40 years ago, in college, I knew him well.

My grade-school friend, Carol, said on Facebook, “I’m glad they [Blue Bell] are doing the responsible thing by pulling all of their products and trying to figure out the cause for the listeria. I also wish they would pull all of the chemicals out of their recipes so I could buy their ice cream again!”

I responded that there are chemicals in everything. “Not in what I eat!” she exclaimed. That’s where she’s wrong. Grossly wrong. That wrongness comes from either not taking chemistry in high school or college, falling asleep during class, simply not caring or understanding, or listening to Fox (Entertainment) News talking points.

The universe is nothing but a mixture of chemicals. That’s why certain foods are acidic and cause acid reflux, and some foods are basic. As an example, go look at the Wikipedia entry for cucumber, right side. It will show you a list of all the chemicals that make up a cucumber.

As another example, take the common sugar Sucrose. Here’s its chemical makeup:

Sucrose

One great big chemical.

Some will tell me that Sucrose is just a bunch of elements—Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Carbon. That’s true. But many of the elements in and of themselves are bad for people. Arsenic, for example. Chromium. Lead. Mercury. Plutonium. So that argument is moot.

Let’s look at chocolate. Who doesn’t like chocolate? The main ingredient in chocolate is a chemical, theobromine. Looks like this:

Theobromine

Theobromine poisoning can result from the chronic or acute consumption of large quantities of chocolate, especially in the elderly. Theobromine can cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness, anxiety, an increased production of urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and withdrawal headaches.

Zoey the Cool CatEverything around you is comprised of chemicals. Your desk chair, your desk, windows, curtains, clothes, computer monitor, lightbulbs, even little Zoey the Cool Cat (picture ►).

The fact that the universe is one big mass of chemicals is why I believe there will never be a cure for cancer. Perhaps individual cancers (lung cancer, for example) but not all cancers. There are too many variables involved and we can’t isolate all those variables, especially since each individual body is different, too. That’s why I have O+ blood but someone else has AB-. That’s why people have allergies.

The different mix of chemicals is why we have different foods. It’s only a matter of time before the chemists at Monsanto succeed in creating a cucumber from scratch, using just a bunch of chemicals in a laboratory somewhere.

Monsanto’s problem is not that it wants to feed the world using genetically modified organisms (GMO). Their problem is that they want to rule the world by being the only company that has the food that the world’s population needs to survive. Even that might eventually come to an end—see the packaged and pill foods that the astronauts and fighting military personnel eat.

Meal, Ready To Eat

Meal, Ready To Eat (MRE)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

While we all might like those fresh vegetables, until humanity learns to masturbate, put a condom on it, or take a pill before or after, we’re heading to oblivion due to lack of food and water, or we’re going to have to accept that in order to feed the world’s population, we are going to be eating GMO’s and MRE’s. We are not going to have the room to grow those organic vegetables. I mean, which is more important? A rich person eating an organic salad, or millions of starving children?

Reminds me of the 1973 Charlton Heston movie, “Soylent Green,” where the woman was eating, spoonful by spoonful, a jar of strawberry jam. Strawberry jam was a luxury for them, a very expensive luxury.

I believe that’s where humanity is heading, and simply being against Monsanto isn’t going to stop it. We need to curb population growth or find new ways to feed, clothe, house, and heal that population.

The current crop of Republicans in the United States, however, don’t want anything to do with curbing population growth, or feeding, clothing, housing, and healing the population. All they care about is that the little embryo makes its way out of the vagina. After that, it’s own its own—no food stamps, no health care, no housing—until it’s of military age. Then they will take it for four years of fighting, fighting which will come sooner rather than later if we don’t try to solve this mess now. But simply being against Monsanto because one is a farmer or enjoys chemicals under the “organic” label is not going to solve the problem.

My wise old grandmotherAs my wise old grandmother (picture ►) used to say, “If you’re going to complain, offer a solution.” Well, my complaint is about humanity’s overpopulating the Earth, and my solution is masturbation, condoms, pills, and GMO’s…..

One final thing that my wise old grandmother said, and which I believe is very relevant to enjoying all that life has to offer:

Too much of anything is bad for you

So enjoy life.

Eat, drink, and be merry.

Just don’t do anything excessively.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with

Opinion

My wise old grandmotherWhen I was young and living with my wise old grandmother (picture ►), she used to sit at the dining room table during the day creating her scrapbooks and photo albums. Her sons used to chastise her because she would cut up her pictures to create what she wanted. As she used to say: “What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with.” I can only imagine how much fun she would have in today’s world with Photoshop.

I bought Photoshop when it hit the PC market in the early 1990s. Throughout the years, my photo editing skills have continued to improve. Since I know what I can do with Photoshop, as well as video editing programs, basically I don’t believe anything I see on the Internet. Instead, if I like it, I enjoy it, perhaps even sharing it. But there is so much stuff that I know is fake, most, but not all, of it involving still pictures.

That reminds me of the broadcast from Times Square on December 31, 1999. The broadcast, of course, was live, as had been all the New Year’s Eve broadcasts for as long as I can remember. Not until later, though, was it disclosed that the broadcast wasn’t as live as we thought. Turns out that a big lighting display in Times Square was broadcasting an advertisement by a competitor of the television station that I was watching. I never saw the advertisement because it was being edited out as the video was being broadcast “live.” So even live events might not be the truth!

A couple of years ago I experimented with my own video editing. Watch this one minutes video of a Coaster train in the Miramar area of San Diego and tell me which way the train is traveling.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you think the train is traveling left to right, well, only in the video. In actuality, it was traveling from right to left. I changed it in about five seconds and one click of the mouse using Corel Video Studio Pro.

Here in San Diego, commuter trains are of the push/pull configuration. In other words, sometimes the engine is at the front, pulling the train, and sometimes the engine is at the rear, pushing the train. I have never liked the push configuration; it just looks wrong. So when I discovered the “reverse” function in Video Studio Pro, well, I couldn’t help but click on it. Voilá!

I have had fun with still pictures, too, like this one:

Sandstone arch at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In that one, there actually is only one bridge. The hole looked like an eye, so I thought that two eyes were better than one. Here is the original with just the one eye:

Sandstone arch at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

So remember: Just because you see it on the Internet and it’s been shared by 159,472 people and viewed 9,471,002 times doesn’t mean it’s true. That doesn’t mean you can’t simply enjoy it. As Edgar Degas said a century ago: “Art is not what you see but what you make others see.”

Abraham Lincoln

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May every racist find an Alana Infantino

Opinion

When I tell someone that I’ve been estranged since 1993 from both sides of my family, I often get asked, “Don’t you miss them?”

No, I don’t. Let me tell you why.

Kingsville, TexasBackground information: I was born in Kingsville, Texas, deep in the Deep South. Kingsville is a small farming and ranching community of about 25,000. Back in its heyday it was a major railroad town for Missouri Pacific Railroad, which is why my ancestors located there since they all worked for the railroad.

There was one black student in my high school class. I was one of his few friends, and I often got bullied for it.

Texas A&M UniversityI went off to college at Texas A&M University, pretty much an all-white institution of higher education. Students used to say that the only black people on campus played football or basketball.

Just 50 miles down the road was Prairie View A&M University, a sister institution of higher education but pretty much all-black.

This was in 1973.

The last time I was in Kingsville, Texas, was in 2001. At that time blacks and Hispanics were finally making inroads into politics.

I remember sitting in my uncle’s back yard one day. It was an impromptu family reunion because my brother and sister were in town, and they had not been in Kingsville in 25 years or so.

My wise old grandmotherAlso in the crowd were three cousins and their families, including children, and my wise old grandmother, 91 at the time. That was the last time I saw my wise old grandmother before she died in June 2003.

As the conversation turned to politics, I remembered something my wise old grandmother had told me many years previous: “There are three things you don’t talk about in polite company: religion, sex, and politics.” As soon as my uncle opened his mouth and started spouting racial epithets and ethnic slurs, I knew that my wise old grandmother was right. The conversation turned ugly, in my mind, very quickly, with everyone except me and MWOG jumping in with their own brand of ugliness. It kind of surprised me about my brother and sister because they had lived in New Orleans for 25 years. Hellooooooooooo.

I once was like them. After all, I had grown up with them.

It all started to change for me on April 15, 1993. After writing a check to the IRS to pay my taxes, I loaded my 1989 Mustang GT with 100 CDs, called a friend who lived 100 miles away and told him to come get the dogs, and disappeared. I was on my way to Canada to commit suicide.

Twelve days later I wound up in San Diego. I was out of the work force for 11 months while I worked on sexual orientation issues as I was coming out. Being gay was only part of the problem. As my coming out counselor told me at the time, “You have a lot of black and white videotapes. It’s time to colorize them.”

Eleven months later I put myself back in the work force as a temp because I only wanted to work on T-W-Th to make enough money to pay for food, shelter, and gas for the Mustang to go to the beach.

My first job as a temp was for a guy very much like my granddad. Every other word was a cuss word or a racial slur. I didn’t go back after lunch break. And now you know why I always talk about my wise old grandmother but not my granddad.

My second job started as an interview. I was to meet Alana Infantino, a lady with whom I’m still friends 21 years later. (Hi, Alana!) I didn’t know what kind of name Alana Infantino was, and I sure didn’t realize that the person was a woman. I had been raised to believe that women belong in the home, barefoot and pregnant as my uncle would say.

I liked Alana but had a problem with a woman being my boss. I remembered what my counselor had said, and I took the job, intent on colorizing my old videotapes.

Thirty days later and I was working as a full-time, permanent employee for the company Alana was with. The caveat was that I would be a consultant and would work wherever the company sent me, although San Diego would be my home base and I would get to come home every 2-4 weeks, at company expense.

The first place the company wanted to send me was Detroit. Alana, being the very smart and astute woman that she is, took me out to eat to discuss the opportunity in Detroit. By that time, she knew all about my past, my family, and why I was in San Diego. She told me that day, “Russel, there are females in the office in Detroit. There are black people in the office in Detroit. There are even black females in the office in Detroit. Are you sure you want to tackle those obstacles now.”

I was sure.

It was one of the best things I ever did for myself.

I hope the racists in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, at the University of Oklahoma, and throughout the nation—especially in the Midwest, Deep South, and rural areas where racism still seems to be so pervasive—find their Alana Infantino, and sooner rather than later. Life is so much more pleasant….

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Opinion—People like him are evil

Opinion

I grew up in a family where mom and stepdad were alcoholics.

Although all seven of us kids were the subject of physical and verbal abuse, my oldest stepsister and I bore the brunt of that abuse. That was the main cause of me acting out and becoming one of Utah’s greatest (?) juvenile delinquents.

Once my wise old grandmother adopted me—I was just three months short of age 11—and gave me love & discipline, I recovered.

One thing that my wise old grandmother taught me during the eight years she had me was zero tolerance for abuse, whether that be verbal or physical abuse of people, even adults, or abuse of fauna, flora, or even property.

Early yesterday morning I drove about twenty miles south to visit—and get pictures of!—San Diego Historical Landmark #13. It was pretty cool! Blog post coming soon!

As I walked around SDHL #13, I saw a guy drop an animal over a ballpark fence. At first I thought it was a little fox. Looked like this:

Abandoned dog

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

When I got over to the fence, I realized that it was a dog, a dog very happy to see me. I found a gap between the fence and a gate and got the dog out. Friendliest little thing, but obviously scared, and emaciated…. no collar.

As I was looking around trying to decide what to do, the guy looked back, saw me with the dog, and came back to us. As he got closer to us, the dog took off after him. I made the presumption that the dog belonged to him, but because of the dog’s emaciation—as well as my first thought of abandonment by the guy dropping the dog over the fence—I followed them for a little ways. All seemed to be well, but as I walked back to my car—a good 30 minute walk—I kept thinking about that emaciated dog.

Back at the parking lot, I found some firemen on break and talked to them about the dog. They gave me Animal Control’s number.

I drove my car back to the ballparks where I had seen the dog, parked, and walked to the ballparks. Sure enough, the dog was back in the ballpark, behind the chain link, trying desperately to get out. The guy was nowhere around, so I called Animal Control and reported an abandoned dog, and what had happened. It took them all of 17 minutes to get to the park. They rescued the dog, confirmed that it was in bad shape from lack of food, and took it away.

I am so sorry that I did not take a picture of the guy to give to Animal Control. People like him are evil, should be prosecuted, and then locked away for at least a little while….That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking with it.

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