Happy Birthday Richard Avedon

Today is the 91st birthday of famed photographer Richard Avedon.  His iconic images capture the beauty, fragility, vulnerability, and life of his subjects that very few other photographers have the ability to express.

 

NAME: Richard Avedon
OCCUPATION: Photographer
BIRTH DATE: May 15, 1923
DEATH DATE: October 01, 2004
EDUCATION: DeWitt Clinton High School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: San Antonio, Texas

Best Known For:  American photographer Richard Avedon was best known for his work in the fashion world and for his minimalist, large-scale character-revealing portraits.

Richard Avedon was born on May 15, 1923 in New York City. His mother, Anna Avedon, came from a family of dress manufacturers, and his father, Jacob Israel Avedon, owned a clothing store called Avedon’s Fifth Avenue. Inspired by his parents’ clothing businesses, as a boy Avedon took a great interest in fashion, especially enjoying photographing the clothes in his father’s store. At the age of 12, he joined the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) Camera Club.

Avedon later described one childhood moment in particular as helping to kindle his interest in fashion photography: “One evening my father and I were walking down Fifth Avenue looking at the store windows,” he remembered. “In front of the Plaza Hotel, I saw a bald man with a camera posing a very beautiful woman against a tree. He lifted his head, adjusted her dress a little bit and took some photographs. Later, I saw the picture in Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t understand why he’d taken her against that tree until I got to Paris a few years later: the tree in front of the Plaza had that same peeling bark you see all over the Champs-Elysees.”

Avedon attended DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City, where one of his classmates and closest friends was the great writer James Baldwin. In addition to his continued interest in fashion and photography, in high school Avedon also developed an affinity for poetry. He and Baldwin served as co-editors of the school’s prestigious literary magazine, The Magpie, and during his senior year, in 1941, Avedon was named “Poet Laureate of New York City High Schools.” After graduating that summer, Avedon enrolled at Columbia University to study philosophy and poetry. However, he dropped out after only one year to serve in the United States Merchant Marine during World War II. As a Photographer’s Mate Second Class, his main duty was taking identification portraits of sailors. Avedon served in the Merchant Marine for two years, from 1942 to 1944.

Upon leaving the Merchant Marine in 1944, Avedon attended the New School for Social Research in New York City to study photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the acclaimed art director of Harper’s Bazaar. Avedon and Brodovitch formed a close bond, and within one year Avedon was hired as a staff photographer for the magazine. After several years photographing daily life in New York City, Avedon was assigned to cover the spring and fall fashion collections in Paris. While legendary editor Carmel Snow covered the runway shows, Avedon’s task was to stage photographs of models wearing the new fashions out in the city itself. Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s he created elegant black-and-white photographs showcasing the latest fashions in real-life settings such as Paris’s picturesque cafes, cabarets and streetcars.

Already established as one of the most talented young fashion photographers in the business, in 1955 Avedon made fashion and photography history when he staged a photo shoot at a circus. The iconic photograph of that shoot, “Dovima with Elephants,” features the most famous model of the time in a black Dior evening gown with a long white silk sash. She is posed between two elephants,  her back serenely arched as she holds on to the trunk of one elephant while reaching out fondly toward the other. The image remains one of the most strikingly original and iconic fashion photographs of all time. “He asked me to do extraordinary things,” Dovima said of Avedon. “But I always knew I was going to be part of a great picture.”

Avedon served as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar for 20 years, from 1945 to 1965. In addition to his fashion photography, he was also well known for his portraiture. His black-and-white portraits were remarkable for capturing the essential humanity and vulnerability lurking in such larger-than-life figures as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. During the 1960s, Avedon also expanded into more explicitly political photography. He did portraits of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Julian Bond, as well as segregationists such as Alabama Governor George Wallace, and ordinary people involved in demonstrations. In 1969, he shot a series of Vietnam War portraits that included the Chicago Seven, American soldiers and Vietnamese napalm victims.

Avedon left Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, and from 1966 to 1990 he worked as a photographer for Vogue, its chief rival among American fashion magazines. He continued to push the boundaries of fashion photography with surreal, provocative and often controversial pictures in which nudity, violence and death featured prominently. He also continued to take illuminating portraits of leading cultural and political figures, ranging from Stephen Sondheim and Toni Morrison to Hillary Clinton. In addition to his work for Vogue, Avedon was also a driving force behind photography’s emergence as a legitimate art form during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. In 1959 he published a book of photographs, Observations, featuring commentary by Truman Capote, and in 1964 he published Nothing Personal, another collection of photographs, with an essay by his old friend James Baldwin.

In 1974 Avedon’s photographs of his terminally ill father were featured at the Museum of Modern Art, and the next year a selection of his portraits was displayed at the Marlborough Gallery. In 1977, a retrospective collection of his photographs, “Richard Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977,” was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before beginning an international tour of many of the world’s most famous museums. As one of the first self-consciously artistic commercial photographers, Avedon played a large role in defining the artistic purpose and possibilities of the genre.

“The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion,” he once said. “There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”

Richard Avedon married a model named Dorcas Nowell in 1944, and they remained married for six years before parting ways in 1950. In 1951, he married a woman named Evelyn Franklin; they had one son, John, before they also divorced.

In 1992,  Avedon became the first staff photographer in the history of The New Yorker. “I’ve photographed just about everyone in the world,” he said at the time. “But what I hope to do is photograph people of accomplishment, not celebrity, and help define the difference once again.” His last project for The New Yorker, which remained unfinished, was a portfolio entitled “Democracy” that included portraits of political leaders such as Karl Rove and John Kerry as well as ordinary citizens engaged in political and social activism.

Richard Avedon passed away on October 1, 2004, while on assignment for The New Yorker in San Antonio, Texas. He was 81 years old.

One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Richard Avedon expanded the genre of photography with his surreal and provocative fashion photography as well as portraits that bared the souls of some of the most important and opaque figures in the world. Avedon was such a predominant cultural force that he inspired the classic 1957 film Funny Face, in which Fred Astaire’s character is based on Avedon’s life. While much has been and continues to be written about Avedon, he always believed that the story of his life was best told through his photographs. Avedon said, “Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is… the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.”

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Today’s Date in History

dictionary

It was on this day in 1828 that Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language was published. Webster put together the dictionary because he wanted Americans to have a national identity that wasn’t based on the language and ideas of England. And the problem wasn’t just that Americans were looking to England for their language; it was that they could barely communicate with each other because regional dialects differed so drastically.

Noah Webster was a schoolteacher in Connecticut. He was dismayed at the state of education in the years just after the Revolution. There wasn’t much money for supplies, and students were crowded into small one-room schoolhouses using textbooks from England that talked about the great King George. His students’ spelling was atrocious, as was that of the general public; it was assumed that there were several spellings for any word.

So in 1783, he published the first part of his three-part A Grammatical Institute of the English Language; the first section was eventually retitled The American Spelling Book, but usually called by the nickname “Blue-Backed Speller.” The Blue-Backed Speller taught American children the rules of spelling, and it simplified words — it was Webster who took the letter “u” out of English words like colour and honour; he took a “g” out of waggon, a “k” off the end of musick, and switched the order of the “r” and “e” in theatre and centre.

In 1801, he started compiling his dictionary. Part of what he accomplished, much like his textbook, was standardizing spelling. He introduced American words, some of them derived from Native American languages: skunk, squash, wigwam, hickory, opossum, lengthy, and presidential, Congress, and caucus, which were not relevant in England’s monarchy.

Webster spent almost 30 years on his project, and finally, on this day in 1828, it was published. But unfortunately it cost 15 or 20 dollars, which was a huge amount in 1828, and Webster died in 1843 without having sold many copies.

The book did help launch Webster as a writer and a proponent of an American national identity. Webster had a canny knack for marketing, traveling around to meet with new publishers and booksellers, publishing ads in the local newspapers for his book wherever he went. He also lobbied for copyright law and served for a time as an adviser to George Washington, and wrote his own edition of the Bible. And his tallies of houses in all major cities led to the first American census.

In his book The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture (2011) Joshua Kendall argued that Noah Webster would today be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

lincoln shooting

On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., just five days after the surrender of the Civil War’s Confederate leader, General Lee. Lincoln died the following morning.

titanic

On this day in 1912 the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on its way from Southampton, England, to New York City. The ship, on its maiden voyage and carrying more than 2,000 people, was designed with watertight compartments to withstand a head-on or side-impact collision. Instead, it scraped along the side of an iceberg for 10 seconds trying to avoid it, tearing open numerous separate compartments. The accident happened at 11:40 p.m.; less than an hour before, a nearby ship attempted to radio the Titanic to beware of ice ahead. The ship’s wireless operator on duty, overwhelmed with his job of relaying personal messages to passengers, replied, “Shut up, shut up, I’m busy …”

grapes of wrath 1

It was on this day in 1939 that John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath.

bullock press

It’s the legal birthday of the modern printing press, which William Bullock patented on this day in 1863 in Baltimore. His invention was the first rotary printing press to self-feed the paper, print on both sides, and count its own progress — meaning that newspapers, which had until then relied on an operator manually feeding individual sheets of paper into a press, could suddenly increase their publication exponentially.

The Cincinnati Times was likely the very first to use a Bullock press, with the New York Sun installing one soon after. Bullock was installing a press for The Philadelphia Press when he kicked at a mechanism; his foot got caught, his leg was crushed, and he died a few days later during surgery to amputate. His press went on to revolutionize the newspaper business.

This Just In(box): A Collection of things that are emailed to me daily, that I read and don’t post to facebook because I am not that type of person and you are welcome:

Utah woman hid seven dead babies in her basement [Huffington Post] As stories like this always go, the neighbors said she was ‘normal’ and friendly.  Her husband (recently released from jail) and three daughters didn’t notice the boxes of dead babies stored in the house or that she was pregnant.  Everyone is always so shocked.

America’s Abortion-Free Zone Grows.  A 1,200-mile-wide area stretching from the western border of Idaho to the eastern borders of North and South Dakota is virtually free of abortion providers. Robin Marty reports that the situation is getting worse after an apparent pro-life vandal destroyed a clinic in Kalispell, Mont., last month.[The Daily Beast]  I believe these two articles would be cross-referenced in a filing system, if such things happened any more.

Chickens In Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide:  In-depth look into the many personalities of chickens. [Rodales] I am not sure how I got on that mailing list, but the book looks exhaustively thorough, if you have been considering chicken raising.

Kansas Shooting Suspect Has KKK Ties, History of Gun Charges [Slate]  That sort of racist is a dying breed.  That sort of bigot bucket list will soon be a thing of the past.  I hope his family is proud of him.

Every Date This Week Is a Palindrome [Slate]

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Rear View Mirror – My Week In Review

Earlier this week, I biked the lower half of the Lake Washington Loop.  Today, I am going to bike the upper half.  The upper half is a lot prettier (sorry Renton) and has a lot of it’s own path.  The whole loop is about 60 miles.  I am not sure how far the top half is.

When there are bad accidents that people survive, there are always comments about how things are “miracles” and how “God’s not done with you yet” and so forth. So I guess God was done with all the other people that died and for whatever reason, they don’t get any miracles? Whenever I see someone on the news obviously trying to wrap their heads around what they have been through and dealing with survivors guilt and they claim that their guardian angel saved them, I think of this quote:

So this is how it is: the innocent suffer, the guilty go free, and truth and fiction are pretty much interchangeable. There is neither a Santa Claus nor an Easter Bunny, and there are no angels watching over us. This just happen for no reason. And nothing makes any sense..

There are people that can handle the randomness of how the world works and people who need to have everything explained to them and are willing to believe fairy tales and fables if that’s what it takes. Pray all you want to whoever you want, but in the end, we all turn to dust and are forgotten.

Texas must be happy that Arizona and Florida are now considered the bat-shit crazy racist states and it can fly under the radar. But Arizona and Florida better watch out for Kansas and Michigan…

This week on Waldina, I celebrated the birthdays of Beverly Cleary, Mary Pickford, James Garner and Jean-Paul Belmondo, confessed my obsession for the Brazilian capitol of Brasilia, remembered the publication of The Great Gatsby, published the list of everything I am currently on my radar.

The Stats:

Total views: 109,722
Views This Week: 792
Total Subscribers: 264
Total Posts: 1,076

This week on Wasp & Pear on Tumblr, I posted photos of containers turned into houses, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Hole’s Live Through This, reminded you that Odwalla Super Food has the same amount of sugar of five Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, posted photos of abandoned places, Saint Hoax transforming world leaders into drag queens and reminded everyone of the silliness of banning books.

The Stats:

Total Posts: 2,047
Posts This Week: 43
Total Subscribers: 163

I chronicle what inspires me at Waldina.com
I faceplace at facebook.com/parkeranderson
I store my selfies at instagram.com/therealspa#
I tumblr at waspandpear.tumblr.com/
I tweet at twitter.com/TheRealSPA
I ADN at alpha.app.net/spa

 

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Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary

Today is the 98th birthday of universally-loved award-winning children’s author Beverly Cleary.  You will have a difficult time finding anyone who has not read her books as a kid, they were a major part of elementary school.

Born: April 12, 1916  McMinnville, Oregon, USA
Occupation: Author
Genres: Children’s books, novels

Beverly Cleary (born Beverly Atlee Bunn; April 12, 1916) is an American author. Educated at colleges in California and Washington, she worked as a librarian before writing children’s books. Cleary has written more than 30 books for young adults and children. Some of her best-known characters are Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Beatrice (“Beezus”) Quimby, her sister Ramona, and Ralph S. Mouse. She has won many awards, including the 1984 Newbery Medal for her book Dear Mr. Henshaw.

Cleary’s books have been published in 20 different languages and have earned many awards. A few examples of awards she has won include a Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984); a Newbery Honor for Ramona and Her Father (1978 ); a Newbery Honor for Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1982); a Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the Association for Library Services to Children of the American Library Association (1975); the Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal (1980); and the Children’s Book Council’s Every Child Award (1985). Cleary’s books have been read on PBS and ABC-TV. She received the Library of Congress Living Legends award in the Writers and Artists category in April 2000 for her significant contributions to the cultural heritage of the United States. She received the National Medal of Arts in 2003.

Her birthday, April 12, is recognized as National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day, in promotion of sustained silent reading.

In Portland, Oregon, the Hollywood branch of the Multnomah County Library, near where she lived as a child, commissioned a map of Henry Huggins’s Klickitat Street neighborhood that resides on its lobby wall. Statues of her beloved characters Henry Huggins; the Huggins’s dog, Ribsy; and Ramona Quimby can be found in Portland’s Grant Park. In June 2008, the two-campus K–8 school of the same neighborhood, Hollyrood-Fernwood, was officially renamed Beverly Cleary School. As a child, Cleary attended the former Fernwood Grammar School, one of the two buildings that makes up the school that now bears her name.

In 2004, the University of Washington Information School completed fund-raising for the Beverly Cleary Endowed Chair for Children and Youth Services to honor her work and commitment to librarianship. In 2008, the school announced that she had been selected as the next recipient of the University’s Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award, the highest honor the University of Washington can bestow on a graduate.

Cleary has a 220-student residential hall at the University of California, Berkeley named after her.

Cleary has been mentioned as a major influence by other authors, including Laurie Halse Anderson, Judy Blume, Lauren Myracle and Jon Scieszka.

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Brasilia – Not So Secret Obsession

An entire city of Mid-Century Modern Architecture?  It sounds amazing.

Brasília is the capital city of Brazil. The city and its District are located in the Central-West region of the country, along a plateau known as Planalto Central. It has a population of about 2,562,963 (3,716,996 in the metropolitan area) as of the 2008 IBGE estimate, making it the fourth largest city in Brazil. However, as a metropolitan area, it ranks lower at sixth. It is listed as a World Heritage Site UNESCO. Brasília hosts 124 foreign embassies.

As the national capital, Brasília is the seat of all three branches of the Brazilian government. The city also hosts the headquarters of many Brazilian companies. Planning policies such as the location of residential buildings around expansive urban areas, as well as building the city around large avenues and dividing it into sectors, have sparked a debate and reflection on life in big cities in the 20th century. The city’s design divides it into numbered blocks as well as sectors for specified activities, such as the Hotel Sector, the Banking Sector or the Embassy Sector.

The city was planned and developed in 1956 with Lúcio Costa as the principal urban planner and Oscar Niemeyer as the principal architect. On April 22 of 1960, it formally became Brazil’s national capital. Viewed from above, the main portion of the city resembles an airplane or a butterfly. The city is commonly referred to as Capital Federal, or simply BSB. Residents of Brasília are known as brasilienses or candangos (the latter referring to those not born in the city, but migrated there when the city was established).

In local usage, the word “Brasília” usually refers only to the First Administrative Region within the Distrito Federal (Federal District), where the most important government buildings are located. Brasília has a unique status in Brazil, as it is an administrative division rather than a legal municipality like nearly all cities in Brazil. Nationally, the term is almost always used synonymously with the Brazilian Federal District, which constitutes an indivisible Federative Unit, analogous to a state. There are several “satellite cities,” which are also part of the Federal District.

Brasília International Airport is the main airport in Brasília, connecting the capital to all major Brazilian cities and many international destinations. It is the third most important airport of Brazil, in terms of passengers and aircraft movements.

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The Great Gatsby

Once, I went to a reading of the entire The Great Gatsby.  It took about eight hours and at least a half dozen people to play all the parts.  When they got to the last paragraph, we all recited it together.  It was intense and glorious and beautiful.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

 

 

It was on this day in 1925 that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby was published. Fitzgerald believed he had written a great book, and he was disappointed by its reception. He wrote to his friend Edmund Wilson: “Of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about.”

Fitzgerald was already famous when The Great Gatsby was published. His first novels, This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), sold well. Scott and his wife, Zelda, were celebrities — a beautiful, fashionable, social couple. After watching them ride down Fifth Avenue on top of a taxi, writer Dorothy Parker said, “They did both look as though they had just stepped out of the sun.” Shortly after the publication of The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins: “I want to write something new — something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”But first he wrote a play, The Vegetable, and it was a flop. To pay off his debts, he churned out magazine stories. He wrote to a friend: “I really worked hard as hell last winter — but it was all trash and it nearly broke my heart as well as my iron constitution.” He had high hopes for a new book. He wrote to Perkins: “In my new novel I’m thrown directly on purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere yet radiant world.”

The Fitzgeralds’ extravagant New York lifestyle was weighing on them, and in the spring of 1924, the couple and their young daughter headed to Europe, where Scott was looking for somewhere quieter and less expensive to work on The Great Gatsby. (Fitzgerald’s idea of a quiet lifestyle was relative; of his 1926 visit to the Riviera, he wrote: “There was no one at Antibes this summer, except me, Zelda, the Valentinos, the Murphys, Mistinguet, Rex Ingram, Dos Passos, Alice Terry, the MacLeishes, Charlie Brackett, Mause Kahn, Lester Murphy, Marguerite Namara, E. Oppenheimer, Mannes the violinist, Floyd Dell, Max and Crystal Eastman … Just the right place to rough it, an escape from the world.”)

After a stay in Paris, they headed south to the town of Valescure on the French Riviera, which Fitzgerald called the “hot sweet south of France.” In those days, the Riviera was cheap, and they rented a villa on a hillside. He described the Mediterranean: “Fairy blue [...] and in the shadow of the mountains a green belt of land runs along the coast for a hundred miles and makes a playground for the world.” They went to fancy dinners with rich friends, listened to jazz on the phonograph, and lay in the sun drinking. Fitzgerald worked on The Great Gatsby, writing to Perkins that the south of France was idyllic and that he would finish the novel within a month. Zelda was not so happy; Scott was too busy with his novel to pay attention to her, and their daughter was watched by a nurse. She distracted herself by flirting with a French naval officer, and the Fitzgeralds’ marriage deteriorated.

They moved to Rome that fall, where Scott made final edits on The Great Gatsby. He couldn’t decide on a title — he considered On the Road to West Egg, Gold-hatted Gatsby, Among the Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, The High-bouncing Lover, Trimalchio, and others. While the book was in publication, Fitzgerald suddenly came up with Under the Red White and Blue, and Perkins had to convince him that it was not worth delaying publication and that they should stick with The Great Gatsby.

When The Great Gatsby was published on this day in 1925, it cost $2.00. The reviews were mostly good, but sales were bad — after the initial run of 20,000 copies, there was a second printing of 3,000 copies in August, but some of those copies were still in the warehouse when Fitzgerald died 15 years later. He told Perkins that he thought there were two reasons for the book’s failure: that the title wasn’t very good, and that there were no strong female characters and women were the ones buying fiction. A few years before he died, Fitzgerald went from bookstore to bookstore trying to find copies of his books for his lover Sheilah Graham, but he couldn’t find any.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald wrote: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”

 

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The List

This is the list of things currently on my radar:

Today, I am going to (pay someone to) change my oil and then head to the lake to burn branches. If anyone has any evidence that needs to be ‘misplaced,’ let me know.

There is a very interesting article about Barbara Walters on Salon that makes me think of her in a different way. By a different way, I mean, think of her at all. She does seem like an insider more than a journalist.

How much do I not need this bike?  So much (I have three), but I mean.  What?  Ridiculously cute.

Speaking of bikes, I went on a 25 mile bike ride on Tuesday.  It was my first of the year and to be completely honest, my first in over a year.  It was a beautiful day and I did the bottom loop of Lake Washington and over I-90.  Most of Renton smells like cigarettes and I get just as lost there on a bike as I do in a car.  How is it that two days later, the only really sore part of my body is my left thumb?  I consider myself to be an out-of-shape old man, I should be in traction right now.  Ya, that more or less was a humble brag.

There is a great article written by Saeed Jones for Buzzfeed about the Gay Mafia (capitalize it, you don’t want the Grammar Mafia coming after you).  After the Mozilla change-up, we all know the power of social media and how attached it it to perceived company profits/losses and how some people on the wrong side of history feel that the Gay Mafia is powerfully pushing their agenda.  The article closes with this paragraph that sums it up perfectly:

And so, ultimately: I’m sorry if my equality is inconvenient for you. Or that you risk being taken to task for bigotry no longer afforded the veil of public opinion. If I sound cold, understand my words have been chilled by stories of a lesbian couple murdered last month in Houston, a 4-year-old boy in Oregon murdered by a mother who believed she could beat the gay out of him, more than 30 states where LGBT people can be fired for being out, and a nation where marriage equality is still not a reality for all of its citizens.

Don’t ever read the comments.  You will feel better about the world.

I gotsta go.

-spa

 

 

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