Friday, March 21, 2014

Fred's Dead - Let the Hate Die With Him

The new media is awash with news of  Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps' death.  The trending comments in social media pretty much run from vengeance to schadenfreude, but most miss the most interesting details of the events.  It seems “Rev. Phelps” was no longer in charge of his “church”, Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka.  There has been an apparent power struggle for control of the 50+ member congregation and during it Fred, the founder was excommunicated!  Additionally, his outspoken daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper was also ousted from power.   The news was broken by Nathan Phelps, one of the sons of Fred Phelps Sr. who left the church 37 years ago.

Seems Fred saw the rancor brewing in his flock and advocated a “kinder approach” to church dealings.  Well, a church based on the premise that “God Hates (insert name here)”, would not be very accepting of that message.  It wasn’t and thus Fred was OUT!

So considering the history of this hate-filled place, how am I reacting to the news of Phelps demise?  Well, that is a source of some conflict.

Having come face to face with these folks on at least 3 occasions, I can say that once I filter out their incendiary rhetoric I have always felt pity for them, and then felt I needed to go home and take a scalding hot shower.   It is hard to come face to face with hate.  It is even worse to come in contact with a willful ignorance so deep that these people have managed to actually see a completely different world than the one in which we exist.

I believe the Phelps kids have been raised in what is essentially an isolated compound, cut off from anyone but their kin and others who carry their beliefs.  They have so successfully insulated themselves that their world view is skewed in the extreme.  They see a world of “sinners” condemned to burn in hell and the Westboro Baptist Church members who are “saved”.  There are no shades of grey in their world, just black and white and most specifically those who condone homosexuality and those who condemn it.

The focus on homosexuality is where I have the most problem, obviously.  From a few Bible verses in Leviticus and one dusty letter from Paul in Romans, these people have created an entire epistemology that filters reality and creates a world of fear and hate.  More specifically, their view of God is far from the New Testament God of Jesus, and much closer to a psychopathic punishing entity whose only concern is dealing out death, destruction and suffering upon those He is displeased with.  That is a sad world to live in.

The cynical side of me has often wondered if the Phelps family can actually believe in their own hatred or is it just a ploy to get attention and more specifically to draw the ire of folks who act out against them.  They self-fund their church, and much of that income comes from law suits and settlements.  Many of the family are lawyers like Phelps himself.  Traveling to all those funerals and picket lines is not cheap.

Even if I assume their motives are “pure” it’s really hard for me to rejoice in the death of their father and founder.  To face death knowing your legacy is one of being arguably the most reviled man in the country has to carry some gravitas.  Worse still, Fred is now reviled by his family and former congregants and that has to be painful, even for someone who lived with constant burning hatred.

I guess much of the pity I feel is for a man who has steeped himself in hate so much that he hasn’t got much humanity left, and that is a tragedy.  Phelps was once a Civil Rights attorney who fought the Jim Crow laws, so there is obviously a human being buried inside all that bile.

The other reason I find Phelps a pitiable figure, is the reason for his virulent anti-gay stance.  His daughter, Lauren Drain in an interview with the Advocate Magazine comes very close to saying Fred had some kind of homosexual experience as a cadet at West Point that might have sparked his fire against gays.  Though she doesn’t specifically spell it out she notes that “…something made him change his mind about the military, and in turn have kind of a crusade against sexual immorality and homosexuals.”

All speculation, but it certainly would fall in line with other rabid anti-gay crusaders who later turned out to be suffering from internalized homophobia.  The most egregious case being George Rekers, former ex-gay therapy advocate and co-founder of the Family Research Council caught traveling with a “rent-boy” on a European vacation.

Whatever his reasons, Phelps must have been living in a state of constant agitation, and if he really believed that God was pouring his vengeance on the US, constant fear of being caught up in an apocalypse. Not a good place to live.

Worse still, for a man who claimed to preach the “word of God” it is sad that he apparently never listened to the words of Jesus.  There is not one quote about homosexuality by Jesus, but a whole lot of specific warnings for straight folks about infidelity and divorce.  Even more his ministry was about God’s grace and inclusion.

Not to get too preachy, but had Phelps spent more of his life concentrating on these messages and less on finding convoluted reasons to condemn people, he would undoubtedly be a happier man and perhaps the world would be a kinder place.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The New Gay Panic - Anti Gay Bills Flood Country

As  LGBT America is in a panic over the flood of anti-gay bills that are bubbling through the state legislatures across the country, I urge you to be calm.

Calm?  Am I mental?

Nope but I have found that by approaching the issue with a little composure I have a better idea of what is really going on.

First all of these bills are so flawed it's a wonder they were ever brought to a vote.  The most recent one in Kansas was declared by the Senate President Susan Wage(R) as "too flawed to fix".  She urged waitihg until next year to revisit the issue. So what exactly is the issue?

Well, if you take these bills at their face value, they are a license to discriminate against anyone whose behavior or lifestyle is somehow at odds with your religious belief.  IN other words if you claim it's against your religion you can refuse service or housing or anything including fire protection,

medical care or whatever.  Funny but I am hard pressed to find a religion or sacred text that condones that kind of behavior, but that's not my problem.
The real issue in these bills is not one of religious "freedom" and contrary to what it seems I believe it is not to reinstate the "Jim Crow" laws of the 1950's.  This whole coordinated effort, (and it is coordinated  make no mistake), is designed  to change the framing of the issue of "equality" and bend using pretzel logic into one of "religious freedom".

Why would anyone do that?

Well just look at the latest polls.  American's are more and more comfortable with full equality for LGBT citizens including marriage and job discrimination.  That is a pretty good sign that the Right-Wing is losing the culture war.  In other words, the world is changing and the Right-Wing is upset because they see themselves going the way of the dinosaur.  As the younger generation matures, a generation who grew up on Will and Grace and Queer as Folk and Ellen, they find it natural to view LGBT folks as pretty much not only no big deal, but pretty ordinary.

So imagine you are a fundamentalist or a Republican or both.  You see the change catching up with you.  You see the "arc of history" bending toward a justice you want nothing to do with.  You might even be having a crisis of faith since the old "it's in the Bible so it's true, word for word" is just not working anymore.

More importantly, if you are a politician, you find your "go to" tactic of holding up a boogieman to frighten the faithful and raise money and votes.  You have successfully used fear to line your coffers and get elected and now that there is less to be fearful of, well you need to put the fear back into your troops.  What better way than play on that crisis of faith they are already sensing and tell them they won't be able to "believe" anymore.  They won't be able to "practice their principals" which include being hateful and bigoted and that will put the fear of God in them for sure.

When people, even the religious right if they believe in freedom and equality, they will say of course they do.  But when you get specific, do you believe in equality for gays or immigrants or anyone who is not white?  Well the answers get more sketchy.

And that is the distinction that these bills are designed to play on, in a way that is politically correct, at least to the far-right.  If you called these the "right o be a bigot" bills, they would fail, but wrap it in the Bible and call it "Religious Freedom Bills" well who can be against that?  It works both ways.  Even progressives believe in religious freedom, it's in the constitution!

So thought these crappy laws are falling one by one we must not fall victim to the reframed issue.  Don't call them "Religious Freedom Bills".  If you do you are buying into their framing and that is a losing tactic.  Call these what they are, Bigot Bills, Jim Crow Redeux, Discrimination Promotion Bills.  That is what they really are and we must not let anyone forget it.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Time For A Gay Think Tank?

The idea the LGBT people are recruiting has never gone away.  Why?  I would guess it is a combination of just plain ignorance and fear that gay=predator.  First of all let me get this out there, of all the gay men and lesbians I know (and that’s a lot), none, repeat NONE are pedophiles.  Most, like me, find children charming in small doses.  As far as sexual attraction goes, no way!

So why does this myth persist?  Well our friends at the Family Research Council are one reason.  They continue to promote the idea that LGBT folks are all out there trolling for children.  Their “research” is completely false and not supported by any credible studies.  But, because they have the name “research” in their name, some believe them.

Maybe it’s time for an “LGBT Research Board”?  A think tank devoted to cranking out studies that dispute the crap FRC spews.   Even better, a serious policy group that creates and promotes progressive policies with regard to LGBT and sexual orientation matters in general.

Now I know there is the HRC and they do fine work, but they are not in the business of doing research, and a reputable source of studies and position papers on LGBT issues would be welcome in many places. 

Now, most of you know I work with the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance out of Washington DC.  Our organization does a lot of advocacy and policy work in the field of human rights.  Our overarching principal is “sexual freedom is a basic human right” a’d that is a pretty broad umbrella.  We concentrate on policy regarding sexual freedom issues, like free speech, sex education, LGBT rights and more, but we aren’t a think tank as such.

Maybe we will someday become one, or maybe we will spin one off as a separate entity, but until then there is a big gap to fill.  I urge graduate students and universities to think about doing some scientific work to reinforce the truth about the idea of “recruitment” and do some basic research into profiling real pedophiles. 
Until there is a critical mass of research and position papers available to lawmakers and advocates, we will continue to be frustrated by the bogus claims from the far right.

Friday, November 08, 2013


The news that the Senate reached enough votes for a super majority (filibuster-proof) vote on the Employment Non Discrimination Act was good.  I am delighted that at least a few Republicans actually saw the reason behind this law, and the injustice it will correct.  However the ebullient comments from LGBT organizations and the breathless reporting from the new channels would have you believe that it will become the law of the land.  After all, the President said he would sign it. 

Wait just a darned minute; it still has to go through the House of Representatives.  If you forgot that old cartoon from School House Rocks about how a bill becomes law? Yes all this celebration, and it is worth celebrating, is a bit premature, since the current makeup of the house, and specifically the Tea Party Republicans will not even let ENDA come to the floor much less to a vote.

Listening to Speaker John Boehner’s rhetoric, you would think ENDA would bring about the Apocalypse complete with plagues and horsemen.  According to a spokesperson for the Speaker he believes, “this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”  Then he went on to assert the incredulous statement that these protections are already covered under law.  Really?  And this coming from a lawyer?

Here is a little lesson on the law from a non-lawyer to Speaker Boehner.  Unless the protection is specifically spelled out and defined in excruciating detail in a law, it won’t hold up in court.  Courts do not like vague and nebulous statutes. That is why ENDA was created.  It specifically prohibits private employers with more than 15 employees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  It exempts religious institutions who may decide that institutionalized hate and discrimination is part of their creed.  Hey, it’s a free country, except if you are LGBT.

Boehner knows ENDA is key to brining full equality to LGBT and he also knows the Tea Party, who is in control of the GOP right now, won’t stand for it. He knows if he brings it to a vote he will probably lose his position as speaker, and therefore he won’t bring it to the floor.

I hear people say there might be enough votes to pass ENDA in the House, but I have seen absolutely no evidence of that, and the commentators who say it don’t offer any facts.  The truth is, unless the small rabid right wing that has the House in its grip are not voted from office, there is no chance of ENDA going anywhere.

The cynic in me thinks that is why some GOP Senators felt safe in voting for it, knowing it was dead in the water. They can look reasonable without any repercussions.  It’s perfect positioning for a Senator who is trying to look moderate while maintaining the hard line of the Tea Party.

So meanwhile the GOP is laughing as they watch LGBT advocates and allies applaud themselves for getting so far with ENDA.  It is a laudable achievement, but ultimately the fate rests with a far-right fringe group who has the House in its grip.  These folks have no incentive to pass ENDA.  IN fact, doing so would most likely spell their demise back home in the sticks where their constituents cower in fear of the dangerous “gay agenda” still sends people running for their guns.  Those same folks can feel comfort that they are not racist homophobic bigots, but “true patriots” who simply want to take the country back. 

Back from what?  Well mostly back from the rest of the country.  These are the people who don’t understand that the days of white, straight, male privilege are over.  They long for the America of the 1950s, a simpler idyllic time in their minds. Of course none of them experienced those glory days as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or black or Asian or Hispanic or Jewish or anything other than white, straight and Protestant.

I lived through the 1950’s and 1960’s and that idyllic veneer was an illusion.  Sadly, it’s the same illusion John Boehner is living in today.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Everyone should have an Auntie Mame.

Everyone should have someone in their life that lived outside the box, who is fabulous and fun but imbued with common sense.  Like the character Rosalind Russell portrayed in the 1950’s movie, Auntie Mame, they would be a person who no matter what, was intent on living life to the fullest. 

I consider myself luck to have had such an Auntie Mame in my life.  Her name was Melissa Caron, and she really was my aunt.  She had a very eventful life, and from the moment I met her she captivated me much in the way Mame captivated Patrick in the movie. 

Melissa had married a gambler named “Frenchy” Caron in the 1940’s and moved away from Dallas to the northwest.  There in Bremerton and later Seattle She and my uncle Frenchy operated a club and restaurant.  In reality it was a front for an illegal casino and with a military base nearby, they did very well.
My uncle unfortunately died of a heart attack leaving Melissa and her young son alone in Washington State.  His business partner, the local sheriff, tossed my aunt out on her ear and so she had to reinvent herself.

She sold much of her jewelry and furs to finance a move to Southern California where she and my cousin Michael found a small apartment in Brentwood, long before it was the trendy spot it is now.  She got a job at a local pharmacy as a clerk and on the side she took photos for the local society news.  That gave her entrance to meet the glitterati of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.  I have a trunk filled with her photos that I must someday scan and put online.

By the 1950’s she was making a comfortable living, now managing the gif department of the Brent-Air Pharmacy.  That’s when I first made a visit to meet her.  My parents took me on a cross country driving vacation in December of 1957 to California.  We saw the newly minted Disneyland, Marine Land of the Pacific, and stayed with Melissa.  I had just seen the movie Auntie Mame in Dallas before we left and when I arrived at Melissa’s “Chinese modern” apartment I was sure I was on the set of the movie! 

She greeted us in a flowing Chinese robe, smoking a gold filtered cigarette in a long cigarette holder.  She was Auntie Mame!

The room was decorated for the holidays and not to be understated, she had a big black flocked Christmas tree decorated with gold bows and lights.  Even her dog, a miniature poodle was decked out in seasonal attire. In that one day, she swept me off my feet and into her whirlwind, and I will never forget it.
That night there was a party at her place and there I met my first gay men. They were very effeminate and much like Melissa, fabulous!

Later in the week we visited her friends, and she showed me off like a prize.  I distinctly remember  a party at Gary Crosby’s house where I met Bing’s son and many entertainers who I had only seen on TV.  Again, fabulous.

Melissa remained a part of my life, even from far away in California.  She would visit my mom in Dallas occasionally and we would visit her in California on a semi-regular basis.  She was very progressive, liberal minded and opinionated and though she was never rich, she always lived with a of touches of extravagance that kept up her image.

Years later, she befriended an aging neighbor, and took care of much of her daily chores.  She helped her pay bills, shopped for her and many other kindnesses that I took note of.  She did it not expecting anything in return.  She did it because it is what you do for friends.  Great lesson!

One day, her friend fell ill and was hospitalized.  She never recovered, and that’s when Melissa was contacted by a lawyer.  Seems her neighbor, Gladys, was wealthy though she lived very modestly in a small apartment.  In her will she left most of her property to Melissa, property including blue chip stocks, bonds and all her possessions.  While cleaning out her apartment she found a stash of jewelry in her drawers that most people would keep in a bank vault.  Suddenly Melissa was well-to-do!

She promptly retired from her Pharmacy job and bought a house in Las Vegas and began the third phase of her life, that of wealthy socialite.  Again, much like Auntie Mame, she rebounded with panache and soon became a fixture in the Vegas  civic scene. 

Not to belabor the story, but again she showed me how to live life to the fullest, and take whatever came her way in stride and do it with style.  Long since she passed away, her memory still lives with me.

She was fond of one of Auntie Mame’s lines in the move, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!  You’ve got to live, live, live!”

That advice is something I always remember, and for that I always thank my Auntie Mame.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Weiner's Weiner and America's Closet

When Anthony Weiner was exposed for showing his “Little Oscar” in a text message, the press had a field day.  Granted a lot of it was because of his name and the all too obvious puns, but a lot of it has to do with our double standard we have in this country.  We live by one standard and are incensed by the invasion of privacy when someone talks about our sexual adventures, but for politicians it’s open season!

Now let me clarify something.  I am not talking about closeted public servants who actively work to suppress the rights of one sexual minority while secretly engaging in the same practice.  Because of their hypocrisy I think that makes them fair game.  The same holds true for candidates who claim high moral ground, opining about the “sanctity of marriage” and parade under the banners of “family values”, only to engage in serial affairs and get caught with their pants down, sometimes literally! 

I am talking about this illusion we have that our politicians are somehow above sex.  We as a country seem to believe that sex is some sort of dirty activity and politicians should be chaste.  We treat them like priests and if recent news shows anything, even priests are not chaste.

The whole thing boils down to our country’s strange attitude toward sex in general.  We can’t seem to talk about it like adults and we treat the subject with snide remarks or adolescent humor rather than take it seriously.  They truth is we are all engaging in it in one way or another so what is the big deal?

The big deal is most likely the long history of suppressed sexuality in the United States.  As far back as our Puritan forefathers control of sexual activities has been used by religious groups.  I could be quick to lay our repression exclusively at the feet of religion, but I believe it goes further than that. 

I suspect once the practice of psychoanalysis got going in the US we began to pathologize sexuality.  From the early work of Krafft-Ebing in the late 1800’s anything that varied from the “norm” was categorized as deviant.   Subsequently these deviant behaviors were given names and Bingo, new “diseases” were created!  Since our country is very much fascinated with rules and lists, these new classifications were tailor made for those prone to fear mongering.

It is during that time that the term “homosexual” came into common use and I believe both the scientific and religious communities embraced it along with anything else that a Latin moniker could be slapped on.  After all if you could justify it with not only science but a few lines from the Bible, then it had to be something to be monitored and controlled.

At some point we, as a country are going to have to face the fact that we need to learn to talk about sex as adults.  That means putting aside the shame and guilt about anything sexual and give serious consideration that every one of us is a sexual being every bit as much as we are human beings, it is part of our nature.  And I understand it will be uncomfortable for some folks, but that is most likely because they have denied that part of themselves for their whole lives.  Not that they haven’t had sex, just they have conveniently compartmentalized it and relegated it to a secret place even they are afraid to go.

I am not a psychologist, but I am very much human, and I found out long ago that to live a full and whole life, I had to accept and embrace my sexuality.  We have to give the same respect to every other human being.  The acknowledgement that they are also sexual beings like us and therefore having sex is part of their lives is essential.  We have to stop expecting people just because they are in the public eye to stop having sex, in whatever form they might have it. 

I can hear the shouts of protest about sports figures and celebrities, “they are role models”.  Well, if they are role models only when they are chaste and pure, and essentially sexless, we are setting a very strange example for future generations.  They will grow up with the same guilt and shame issues we have and perpetuate that on their children as well.

Healthy sex, consensual sex, even kinky sex if not the issue.  The issue is being able to admit that our humanity includes all of that and unless it is actively harming someone it’s most likely just part of human nature.  We can continue to behave one way but expect others to adhere to stricter and in fact unhealthy restrictions, or we can face facts and get over it.

Sex is the big closet that our whole country has been in, and like those of us in the LGBT community, we found coming out of the closet liberated us from a lot of guilt and shame.  We America, It’s time to come out!

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Was A Pre-Teen Terrorist

OK, I confess.  I was a pre-teen terrorist!  Well not really. However, what I used to do as a kid would today get me arrested and possibly charges with federal crimes.  How our world has changed, and not for the better.

After hearing a story of a busload of kids being surrounded by a SWAT team and frisked, because one of them had a cap-gun, it became evident that childhood is a dangerous place today, if you're a kid.

As a child, I was inquisitive and it has led me not to a life of crime, but to a life-long intellectual curiosity.  That should be considered a good thing and it sould be encouraged in our kids and in the adult population as well.  A nation without any intellectual curiosity becomes just a country full of human sheep, being led from one crisis to another, willing to give up their freeom and critical thinking in the name of security.

Here is my story or confession if you will.  I was eleven or twelve when I really became fascinated with fireworks.  Like most kids my age (this is back in the dark ages of the 1950's and 1960's when fireworks were still legal) I enjoyed my share of firecrackers and bottle rockets, and unlike the horror stories, neither me nor any of my friends ever lit our house on fire or blew a finger off.  We were taught by our parents how to light and respect fireworks.

My fascination went far beyond the noise of firecrackers. I liked the sparkly stuff, the fountains and rockets that exploded with showers of star and sparks.  I wondered exactly how they worked and what went on inside them, so I did what any curious kid would do. I went to the library.  For those who don't remember, a library is one of those places with lots of books...made of paper.

There I found a British publication from the 1930's titled "A Chemical Formulary" and within it's pages was a whole chapter on fireworks.  It detailed the construction and more importantly the formulas for the showers of sparks and the stars the shot out of everything from Roman Candles to Professional mortars that shot hundreds of feet into the sky.  I was fascinated and I decided I needed to try my had at making them.

My dad was a scientist, and working in a major institution he had access to lots of chemicals, so I made a list of what I needed and asked him to buy them for me.  He was delighted with my interest in things scientific, so he agreed, not knowing the end results of my experimentation.  It was for "A Science Fair Project" was the standard answer.  (In reality it did turn into a science fair project and I won a blue ribbon for it!)

Soon I had jars of the same chemicals from the book and I began to combine them in very small quantities.  I was not an idiot.  I had see how powerful fireworks could be so I erred on the side of caution.  Any work I did was done outside the house, far enough away that any accidents wouldn't result in burning the place down.

I learned how to make pyrotechnics that burned different colors.  For red I used strontium, for green I used barium chloride, blue was copper chloride and silver was aluminum powder and so on.  These were mixed with oxidizers like potassium chloride and perchlorates and the like.

What I achieved was pretty impressive.  Brightly colored flares from the burning compounds that rivaled the colors of the commercial fireworks I bought at the stores.  I never got to the point of building shells, since these took much more chemicals than I had and lots of time and something called "gum arabic" which I had yet to find. 

The whole thing ended when I was testing a version of a fountain.  It was filled with a mixture of various chemicals and aluminum power and was supposed to spray bright white sparks into the air in a delightful fountain.  I had rolled the paper tube myself, packed the ingreedients and sealed it with the proper material that held the fuse. 

I mounted it on a sturdy wooden base and the lit the fuse and got safely away.  The fuse sputtered and vanished into the tube.  As I watched the sparks began to shoot out the end.  My joy was quickly interrupted by what I can only assume was a very loud explosion.  I saw the flash and felt a slight shock wave and then nothing.  I was temporarily deaf from what must have been a really loud bang.  I tried to talk and heard nothing.  my lips moved but no sound.  I was scared and panicky.  I quickly rounded up all the chemicals and tucked them away fearing the wrath of my parents.  Luckily neither of them was home. 

Soon I heard a slight ringing, and then dogs barking and then a whole ocean of sound as my hearing returned.  I sat down and waited until my heart rate returned to a semblance of normal.  Then, I assessed the situation.  I must have packed the mixture too tightly into the tube, or made the opening too small and the result was a big explosion instead of a shower of pretty sparks.  Such a small difference in construction and such a big and unexpected result. 

Later I decided to keep my research to theoretical and not empirical.  Also, no one except me apparently knew what happened.  No police showed up, no neighbors complained.  I guess they thought it was one of the sonic booms we heard regularly from the nearby Naval Air Station jets.

Today, there would have been lots of notice, and the resulting investigation would have found I possessed bomb making material and had conducted tests of explosives.  I wold have ended up in juvenile detention or worse and my dad would have lost his position as professor. 

So what changed between then and now?  Well, we could point to 9/11 and be assured it would be the stock answer that justified any kind of over the top reaction by authorities.  In reality it is the media, and specifically what passes as news that has brought us to where we are today.  IN the name of keeping us informed they have numbed us with endless images of terrorist events that burn them indelibly into your memory, and more than that they replay them over and over ad-infinitum to make sure we remain scared.  A frightened audience will stay glued to the TV and that means money to cable news.  It also means money to politicians who take legalized bribes from defense contractors and security firms.  They use the fear to keep us pliable and ready to sacrifice our freedoms for the assurance that we are safe.  That safety means the strange ability to buy a gun without a background check but the inability to buy a sparkler legally in our city and chemistry sets?  Well they don't include the "dangerous stuff" anymore.

We have got it backwards in the country.  We arm everyone (88 guns per 100 people at last count) and then we keep them stupid and uneducated. 

Granted, I was a bit reckless, and I could have lost my hearing or worse.  What I learned was very valuable.  Don't mess around with things that might be too powerful for you to control!  I never injured myself permanently from my experiments again, and I learned caution.  So being what today would be considered a "junior terrorist" was in 1961 creating an award winning science fair project.

I still miss having the right to shoot fireworks safely and sanely, guess I will have to be content to shooting guns?  Go figure?