Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Smells like...


Yup, everyone's carving up pumpkins around here, and all the dribblings have scented the air.

Good job A few people lit 'em up and left 'em out last night, or I wouldn't get to see them...

This time tomorrow, I'll be hanging out with people dressed as hotel employees and journalists. I'll stick with my normal costume, which is enough to frighten small children and women. Especially women.

Maybe I should get a mask, come to think of it....

And it's a good job I took that photo of an elaborate pumpkin-carving last night, as I'm not in any sort of jolly picture-taking mood today. For which I can thank a few select people who haven't kept up their side of various bargains.

And that's only people I work with....

The next six days are not going to be pretty. I'll try to take some photos to make all y'all think I had a glorious time, though.

Too bad that won't work on my mood.

I should be used to this. I'm not.

And sometimes, more often of late, I wonder why I even freekin' bother to try to make things work.

Monday, October 29, 2007

All I have to say is...

...that I wrote 2418 reasonably well-considered words today for a client. And I am severely irritated with my computer.

Why is that stupid black-and-gray box arousing my ire? Simple. I was trying to download some recordings from a website today (quite legitimately) and it wouldn't let me. Every time I clicked "download," it would throw the songs right into Quicktime (not even WinAmp, which I prefer) and play them, but not save them.


So far, all the help facilities are no help at all. I wasted too much time on this.

I wanted the tunes so I could listen to them over and over and derive arrangements from them. They are very unusual -- jazz, played by a woodwind quintet with added drummer, bass and harpsichord -- and incredibly neat. I smile when I hear them.

I know, given enough time and familiarity, that I can boil them down and make something different -- but still neat -- for me to play.

If, that is, I can ever get them on my computer for repeat listening.

There are gifted people who can listen to a tune three or four times and write out accurate charts. I've met some. Unfortunately, I'm not among them, and have to memorize everything and listen again and again to correct my mistakes.

Finally, after getting incredibly frustrated, I dropped that project for the day and went on to what I was supposed to be doing.

Tomorrow, being the last day here before I head off to Daytona Beach, will be busy. Housecleaning, laundry and, if possible, a few other errands.

I heard today that it may be a wet weekend there, which is going to complicate things.

Nothing is simple anymore.

And that's how it was today....


...and we all know what they say about "red sky at morning..."

I'm not sure I woke up on the right planet this morning, especially after I saw this in WorldNet Daily:

A leaked Italian government report concludes "aliens testing secret weapons" are responsible for a series of strange, spontaneous fires that erupted from appliances and other home furnishings all over the village of Canneto di Caronia three years ago.

Go look at this, which is the coolest Halloween pumpkin ever....

Me? I should probably just go back to bed. My premonitions for the day ain't good....

Saturday, October 27, 2007

It's just me in these headphones...

...so I can listen to whatever music I want.

Yeah, this is one hell of a life, this sentence of solitary confinement I'm serving. I'm free, baby, and don't you forget it.

Don't have to worry about feeding any mouths but my own, and I'm none too picky food-wise. Laundry and dishes? They can wait. Floors need mopping? Maybe tomorrow; mine are the only feet that walk on 'em.

No wife to care for, no kids bugging me to turn on the TV, take them somewhere or pay attention to them. Don't have to share the bathroom, and I can sleep on any damn part of the bed I want.

If I decide to crack open a bottle of single-malt, there's no one to get on me if I have a drink or three too many, or make fun of me if I wake up with a headache*.

Freedom, oh yeah!

I mean, I'd have to work harder to make sure everyone in the house was secure. I'd probably be in a place where I had to do yard work, too, and maybe fix-up stuff around the pad. I'd have to soothe sad people, do what I could do to make their lives as happy and comfortable as possible. I'd have to learn, have to teach, have to be responsible.

I couldn't give myself a pass when I don't do what I should, couldn't make excuses for me when I get lazy. I couldn't tell that miserable sonofabitch in the mirror he's a pretty damn fine guy, even when he hasn't done anything to earn it.

Don't even have to cover my mouth when I sneeze. If I don't shower 'til noon or dress in yesterday's duds, who's to complain?

I can hit the town any time I want, too, buckaroos. If I feel like heading up to The Spot, the Indian Room or June's Place to chug cheap beer with the other burnouts, well, it's right up the street. Twenty blocks, maybe. Wouldn't take a woman with any discernible class to those places...and of course not the kiddies.

Don't have to commit myself. No one to say "I love you" to, and no need to demonstrate love in any way. That can be hard work.

Yesseirree, I got it all. Freedom! No responsibility!

And if my wonderful life of freedom goes on much longer, I'm going to just walk my ass right over the bluffs and become fish food, Jim.

Guess I'm just having too much fun in solitary....

* I'm not doing that these days anyway, but hey, I could if I wanted to!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Buried treasure...

...in the form of a CD, still in its original shrink-wrap, that I found while cleaning out my music cabinet. It's at least five years old; maybe more, and is a remastering of sides cut by legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson between 1952 and 1957. Why I never listened to it is a mystery; I was buying jazz discs by the dozens in those days, and Oscar was -- and remains -- one of those jazzmen I most enjoy.

This disc is special because of the people working with him. Each cut has one of his "friends" sharing the spotlight: Lester Young, Milt Jackson, Anita O'Day, Sonny Stitt, Fred Astaire, Roy Eldridge, Buddy Rich, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, Ben Webster and Ella Fitzgerald. Dynamite stuff.

The recording -- or at least the remix -- has an annoying flaw, in that the soloists are miked very closely. One can hear the "clank" of Hampton's mallets hitting the vibraphone bars, hear the clicking of the valves on Young's saxophone, hear Fitzgerald drawing breath between phrases.

Doesn't bother you after the first hearing. I've played it through three times so far tonight.

The real highlight for me was the re-discovery of a haunting tune written by the legendary Billy Strayhorn for Duke Ellington's Orchestra back in 1949. Lush Life is a magnificent piece of music; I learned it, years ago, but never truly mastered its intricate harmonic patterns, or the depth of emotion in the melody.

It's a New York City kind of song. I've been in bars there, and only there, where its story might come to life. But Billy was a New York kind of songwriter, conditioned by the years with the Duke at the Cotton Club and everywhere else.

Ella was not the ideal vocalist to record it; neither -- though I bless her for trying -- was Linda Ronstadt. The lyrics, and the tune, demand a special kind of voice, sultry, dark and smoky.

Still, this, like a very few other great songs, touches a nerve deep inside. There is a veneer of cynicism, but below the surface, is pain made beautiful, but no less painful for its beauty...

I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come what may places
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life from jazz and cocktails

The girls I knew had sad and sullen grey faces
With distingué traces
That used to be there you could see where they'd been washed away
By too many through the day twelve o'clock tales

Then you came along with your siren song
To tempt me to madness
I thought for a while that your poignant smile
Was tinged with the sadness of a great love for me
Ah yes I was wrong, again I was wrong

Life is lonely again
And only last year everything seemed so sure
Now life is awful again
A trough full of hearts could only be a bore
A week in Paris could ease the bite of it
All I care is to smile in spite of it

I'll forget you, I will
While yet you are still burning inside my brain
Romance is mush, stifling those who strive
So I'll live a lush life in some small dive
And there I'll be
While I rot
With the rest of those whose lives are lonely too


...the moon looked like this...

And that's all I have to say. Or show.

I'm either ahead of my time...

...or way, way too late....

According to an article in The Daily Mail, some big-dome Brit has predicted the future of mankind. He envisions evolution working out about like this by the year 3000...

According to one Oliver Curry, "The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures...

"100,000 years into the future, sexual selection could mean that two distinct breeds of human will have developed."

Moreover, he sees humankind becoming pretty well homogenized, so that "Men will have symmetrical facial features, deeper voices and bigger penises," in a report commissioned for men's satellite TV channel Bravo.

"Women will all have glossy hair, smooth hairless skin, large eyes and pert breasts, according to Curry.

"Racial differences will be a thing of the past as interbreeding produces a single coffee-coloured skin tone."

The Daily Mail points out that this sounds as if Mr Curry has spent too much time reading H G Wells' famous novel, "The Time Machine."

Curry then goes on to say: "While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is the possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other.

"After that, things could get ugly, with the possible emergence of genetic 'haves' and 'have-nots'."

Since humans were once "dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures." I don't know whether I'm a throwback or a sign of things to come....

You thought I was going to identify with the handsome, well-endowed males of the future?


But neither have I seen all that many women who fit the description of Ms 3000, either. At least not without plenty of outside help.

Back to science-fiction, Mr Curry.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A small note of cheer...

...just after I finished my previous entry and was moping about.

My musician friend R. called. He had just finished his nightly gig -- it's two hours later where he is -- and was sitting in what I gather is the most famous drive-in in Milwaukee. It's apparently called "Sonic" or "Orbit" or some such name; he's not too comprehensible when his mouth is full of Philly Cheese Steak.

It was the usual conversation: music, cars, music, women, music. And then he asked when I was planning to come up there. He made the same invitation not long ago, and I chalked it up to kindness; it appears he and his wife really would love to pack the kids of to the grandparents and spend some time partying and rushing about from place to place where music can be made.

With me?

Well hell, yes, I'm up for it. I haven't met his wife, but in talking to her on the phone have concluded she is a major sweetie. I know R. and I get along.

So I've decided, finally, that we'll set a date when I get back from Daytona Beach in early November and I'll cash in a bunch o' frequent-flier miles for a ticket to Wisconsin.

Damn. I may not come back. Even though it will lack one element -- two, really, as I can't yet play well enough to do anything in public after my long hiatus from the keyboard -- that would make it perfect, it's irresistible.

My only problem will be getting a care package of California delicacies through airport security. I've promised him a jar each of almond butter and cashew butter -- delicacies featured by the wonderful Trader Joe's markets -- and some other things I can't figure out how to send.

At the end of the conversation, he offered to send me a cheese steak sandwich. I countered by asking him to send me Diana Krall or Alison Krauss instead.

But I know if he could do that, he'd keep them.

He's greedy that way.

I don't have anything to say.

No, that's a lie. I have a lot to say, but it just doesn't seem to be getting from brain to fingertips. It's all swirling around in my head like thick porridge in a blender. As if anyone would put porridge in a blender.

I really want to write about several things that are bugging me, but the idea of exposing my ignorance about women, government, and everyday reality has no appeal.

Being an idiot about government makes me no different than those in government -- or than 98.6% of the general public, comes to that -- so that's a relatively minor annoyance. Likewise, a certain distance between me and reality is not necessarily bad; it may be one of the few things that has kept me around for so many years.

But my lack of knowledge about females -- particularly as they relate to men -- is what has kept me single for too many years. They simply don't operate the way I was taught to believe.

That all probably has to do with what Mrs Eddy used to call "malicious animal magnetism."

Since I'm feeling both grouchy and stupid tonight, that makes this a great place to stop.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A brownish day...

...as the winds have died down and the smoke hangs, unmoving, over this area. From my limited perspective, this is the worst day yet; the smoke makes lungs and eyes hurt, and the increased heat saps what little energy is left.

I tried keeping the windows closed, but that didn't help much.

Very little sleep last night.

It is now reported that the big fire in Orange County was set by an arsonist. Along with rapists and child-molesters, I have a special place in my thoughts for arsonists. I advocate the same penalties for all three types of criminals. And the penalties do not have provisions for unhappy childhoods or previous drug/fast-food consumption turning them temporarily into maniacs.

The politicization of the SoCal disaster has left me, once again, thinking that we need to reform government and remove virtually all those currently in (or seeking) office. When people are free to run their own lives, they band together in times of need. When shackled by government -- and/or fully invested in the victim/handout mentality -- they become pitiful blobs of protoplasm.

As you can imagine, events and environment are doing nothing for my depression, which seemed to be lessening slightly as of last weekend.

I do have one slight direct connection to the fires. A company that owes me a fair-sized check for work I've done for them has its offices in Malibu. Needless to say, the check has yet to arrive.

Poor me, I know.

Back to work. I hope.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Moonbats and Wingnuts get involved...

...in the SoCal fire scene.

For those who don't know, "Moonbats" are wacko-lefties who see everything bad/dangerous/worrisome as a conspiracy of right-wing evil. Wingnuts are the wacko-righties who attribute everything bad to anyone more liberal than, say, A. T. Hun.

Both groups are deranged, unstable, unteachable.

The Moonbats seem to have the notion that Jorge Bush personally set the fires, running from scene to scene with his little box of matches. A virtual moonbat, our pathetic Senator Barbara Boxer, believes that if Bush hadn't gotten us into Iraq, the fires would have been doused Sunday afternoon, just after if not even before they started.

Wingnuts, on the other hand, are convinced that none of this would have happened if the Sierra Club hadn't prevented the clear-cutting of every forest in the land, and the complete paving-over of every patch of bare ground in California. Get rid of conservationists and Al Gore, and everything will be peachy.

If these people had lives and not blogs, I'd have more hope for the survival of humanity.

Our compassionate president sent Michael Chertoff, the pitiful mouthpiece of Homeland "Security," out to San Diego to see what the Feds could do. While he was babbling incoherently and platitudinously about how the government "cares," another interesting story came to light, and was reported on local radio:

The City of San Diego designated Qualcomm Stadium, its pro football field, as a place for refugees from the fires. At present, it is said between 10,000 and 15,000 people are there.

By midday today, officials were asking the people of San Diego to stop sending aid to the stadium. They are overloaded with cots, food, water, medical help and everything else the refugees might need for days to come.

So while the government is making promises and holding press conferences, human beings responded as human beings do and gave everything they could to help those in need.

Fires, earthquakes and floods are natural disasters. Politicians are unnatural disasters.

You would think they would keep their mouths shut until the fires are finally doused. But even that is beyond them. Creeps.

Maybe what we really need is to give more power to human beings and banish wingnuts, moonbats and politicians to well-deserved obscurity.

Today's NASA photo...

...which highlights the locations of the major fires in red.

The fires span a distance of roughly 175 miles up the coast...

An outer circle of hell...

...is where I'm living right now. Though spared all the misery being visited by those people in Malibu, Orange County, San Diego, the resort areas of Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear and the Santa Clarita Valley, it's smoky and hellishly hot Where the Ghetto Meets the Sea.

Look at the photo in the last post. I live right under that big smoke plume.

So far, I haven't been outside today. Closed all the windows and turned on every fan I have. It's not helping; the only time I can even begin to breathe normally is when I stand in the shower, which I've so far done twice today. I'm running out of Visine, too.

PARENTHETICAL I'M-NOT-THAT-MUCH-OF-A-SELFISH-CREEP THOUGHT: Again, I'm suffering nothing compared to the 500,000 evacuees, some of whom have lost their homes. But misery is misery, and while I don't share the pain directly, I can't escape being on the fringes of it.

Most of the areas now on fire or already burned are familiar places. Some have been favored photo locations, some were nice places to drive through, and some are ugly reminders of how destructive continuing population growth can be.

Conditions are not getting better. The winds and minimal humidity continue to fan the flames, and optimistic predictions of how soon the weather patterns might change are being revised.

We've been lucky here. There is plenty of brush to burn in areas a few miles away, but it hasn't happened.

Fires are a part of living in Southern California. Human stupidity has made them more destructive and dangerous.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Still burning...

...and now that the smoke is coming from all four sides, the atmosphere has gotten worse. The odor of burned wood is very strong.

I found this satellite image on NASA's website. Taken at 2:30 this afternoon, it shows the smoke from the major fires blowing out into the ocean. The two largest plumes come from Los Angeles County; the smaller (below the others) is from the San Diego fires...

I'm glad to be where I am in relation to the fires. I wish I was somewhere else altogether.

This is an inevitable consequence of trying to fill what was once desert with people.

Where there's smoke...

...there are fires. Fifteen, at last count (and the number is growing), consuming hundreds of thousands of acres between the Mexican border and north Los Angeles County. Homes are being destroyed, people are being evacuated (more than 250,000 in San Diego County alone) and firefighters are working beyond exhaustion.

No fires are close to my area, but the air is heavy with smoke. I'm grateful for that, even though breathing is difficult and my eyes are burning.

The light is indescribable. With the sun barely showing through the foul smoke, even the reflections on the waves seem to be on fire...

Some of the fires were caused by falling power lines in the high winds; others are being blamed on arsonists. That's a standard pattern here; when one fire starts, the sickos come out to start more.

I feel deep sympathy for those who have been displaced, hurt or have lost possessions in the fires.

But it also must be said that the disaster has been magnified by the foolishness of those who build in areas historically known as fire targets, whether the individual multimillion-dollar pads in Malibu (which, by reason of topography and vegetation, suffers such fires almost annually) or the tens of thousands of homes in developments built on what were once dry, open lands in known fire paths.

It won't be long before all these people are rebuilding in the same places. And then the whole sorry scenario will play out again.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Only in Japan...

...will you find a story like this!

TOKYO, Oct. 19 — On a narrow Tokyo street, near a beef bowl restaurant and a pachinko parlor, Aya Tsukioka demonstrated new clothing designs that she hopes will ease Japan’s growing fears of crime.

Deftly, Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer, lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending machine.

The wearer hides behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine. Ms. Tsukioka’s clothing is still in development, but she already has several versions, including one that unfolds from a kimono and a deluxe model with four sides for more complete camouflaging.

Ms. Tsukioka said she chose the vending-machine motif because the machines are so common on Japan’s streets. For children, she has a backpack that transforms into a Japanese-style fire hydrant, hiding the child.

Ms. Tsukioka said her disguises could be a bit impractical, “especially when your hands are shaking.” Still, she said she hoped the designs or some variation of them could be marketed widely. So far, she said, she has sold about 20 vending-machine skirts for about $800 each, printing and sewing each by hand.

She said she had never heard of a skirt’s actually preventing a crime. But on a recent afternoon in Tokyo, bystanders stared as she unfolded the sheet. But once she stood behind it next to a row of actual vending machines, the image proved persuasive enough camouflage that passers-by did not seem to notice her.

I'll never again walk past a vending machine without stopping to ask it out to dinner....

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Lights out!

Yes, Los Angeles -- and San Francisco, I think -- are in the midst of an hour without lights. And it's all for the Environment!

Dousing the electrics for 60 minutes is supposed to eliminate the same amount of pollution as, say, 5000 illegal aliens in their beat-up Dodge Vans. Or something.

Needless to say, in my neighborhood the lights burn the same as they do normally. And of course I, Mr Environment, have not doused a single lamp.

What a hideous Gross Polluter I am!

I'm kind of ashamed...I bet our illustrious Mayor Antonio "we clean your toilets!" Villaraigosa turned out the lights while he's bopping his mistress tonight.

Excuse me...I can microwave something and increase my electricity consumption!

Have to hurry...the lights go back on in 10 minutes!

PARENTHETICAL UPDATE-TYPE NOTE: Thanks to the high winds in the area tonight, several communities have participated in the "lights-out" program involuntarily. Me, I enjoyed a microwave pizza....

Why I hate my town, #32,974

Got a letter in the mail a few days agp from three "members of the community." Fancy letterhead, neatly printed and machine-signed.

The issue is the desire of a developer to turn what was once a large area of Navy housing into a "wonderful residential community." The people who allegedly sent the letter are whores for supporters of the project.

Most of the letter was the same old dung developers always spew when they are trying to add more housing density than the area can support. You know, the old "40% open space!" crap which, I'm sure, considers streets, sidewalks, utility easements and parking lots as "open space."

I have no doubt the developers will get their way. In Los Angeles, it's just a matter of who you bribe convince, after all.

But one paragraph in the letter really got my attention: "...will also provide 1100 condominiums and town homes that will offer new housing opportunities for the community. Pricing that starts in the mid to high $300,000s will give first-time homebuyers and local working families an opportunity to stay in [the area]...."

Ummm, yeah. Right. Sign me up, buckaroos.

I know damn few people here -- or anywhere, comes to that -- who can qualify for a $300K pad without the "help" of the kinds of bogus mortgages that have caused so many foreclosures in recent months.

Never mind that Los Angeles as a whole has long been over-populated, has long survived on stolen borrowed water piped in from far away, has a local government more interested in addressing the demands of illegal aliens than its own citizens, spends money at a rate that will soon have the city government -- if not the local taxpayers -- bankrupt, and is run by as corrupt a bunch of pathetic knaves as Chicago at its worst.

But I'll bet our local city council-creep is in full agreement with the "concerned members of the community" that this rat-maze of condos and "townhomes" is just what we need.

She hasn't yet said so. Probably because they haven't yet slipped enough green into her pockets.

This area is sliding into the toilet rapidly. I can't wait to get the hell out.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I didn't know...

...that Deputy Sheriff Gil Hernandez was finally released from prison after serving his sentence for upholding the nation's laws -- and protecting himself from an attempt to murder him -- but my friend Harp O'Fly found the story somewhere and relates it (with pictures) here.

Hernandez should never have been arrested, much less persecuted by a vengeful, open-borders government (directed, I have no doubt, by notorious puppet-of-corrupt-Mexican-politicians Jorge Bush and his attack dog, Johnny Sutton.

There have been few instances in modern U.S. history of such heinous acts by public "servants" as the ordeal of Gil Hernandez. Equally bad is the silence of other "public servants" in congress, each of whom has more claim to time in a jail cell than a Deputy Sheriff who was doing his job.

That leaves Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. Jorge decided they were impeding the free access of illegal-alien drug smugglers across the border, and sent out some of his best apologists and liars to get them imprisoned. If Jorge gets his way, they will be behind bars for more than a decade.

Perhaps the only elected official with the cojones to oppose this lunacy is Rep. Dana Rohrbacher of California. He -- with some (but not enough) help from a few other members of congress -- has been working to free the Border Patrol agents for quite some time.

Rohrbacher did some research, and discovered that two law-abiding American citizens who were working to protect us from the cross-border invasion are receiving treatment worse than that accorded terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, as reported here.

Where is the ACLU on this? Where are the "concerned lawyers," "mothers for peace" and all the other wack-jobs who are so quick to embrace terrorists and want them moved from a reasonably humane detention camp to the Four Seasons Hotel? Where are the advocates for the rights of those of Hispanic descent? Hypocrites, one and all, they are silent.

I was not surprised that my local newspaper, which welcomes as many illegals as can be crammed into our already over-populated state, ignored Gil Hernandez's release. Nor am I surprised that the New York Times, which is too busy trying to impose their pitiful elitists socialist agenda on us, didn't think this was a worthwhile item. They, after all, ignored the fact that a soldier from their own area was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (posthumously) for bravery in Iraq.

I would have thought the Bush-haters like the Huffington Pest, would have jumped on this story. No, wait...they are all for illegals and drug smugglers, too.

The Bush apologists -- Michelle Malkin, Rash Fatblob and the like -- are too busy faking enthusiasm for Jorge, trashing everyone who disagrees with them and patting themselves on the back for their own cleverness to have noticed.

All these people should shut the hell up and go away, if you ask me. The fundamental issues that are pushing this country toward destruction deserve thoughtful attention, not snappy one-liners, name-calling and partisan rhetoric.

And one of the major signs of decay is that our government can imprison those who uphold laws they don't happen to like, but which are still part of our legal code and are, moreover, supported by the majority of citizens.

Ramos and Compean are rotting in jail today. Given the imperial nature of our president and congress, any one of us could be next.

They must be freed, exonerated and recompensed for their mistreatment. And those who have persecuted them, or have stood idly by while justice was being subverted, must be held accountable.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

All dressed up...

...with someplace to go.

Not all dressed up, thank goodness. No tie required tonight. Just nice duds, with jacket. California Business Casual, or something like it.

And for what? To "celebrate" a new exhibit at a museum. So I get to stand around guzzling Perrier (D. the photographer is going too, but I'm driving) and schmoozing with people I am not particularly Great Buds with. Including, by the way, the PR people who made all sorts of promises and came through with zippo/nada/nix/gournisht for me.

Oh, well. Maybe some of the company bigwigs will be there so I can bypass the PR hacks and get them on the case.

Me, I'd rather stay home and do, well, damn near anything else. Getting to this place means 90 minutes in traffic -- 30 minutes for the return trip -- in a hard-riding, rattly vehicle, followed by speeches that will be little noted nor long remembered, a plate of rubber chicken and lots of forced jollity.

It's not so bad, I guess. Except I am not feeling jolly.

Enough of this. Time to hit the highway. Hope it doesn't hit back.


Yes, I think I've been poisoned, by the noxious exhaust of my neighbor's crippled car. It's what is known in some quarters as a "rice rocket," a cheap car modified to look racy and make lots of power. Unfortunately, the owner was clueless enough to believe the claims made for all the hop-up parts he added, and never stopped to think that a cheap hecho en Mexico motor might not be strong enough for the abuse he has subjected it to.

Anyway, this morning I realized that my clothing (now in the laundry basket) smells of boiled antifreeze and unburned gasoline. I like cars, yeah, but I'm not really interested in smelling like one. Especially one that, on its best day, couldn't possibly pass a smog test.

I may have to bundle up my duds and send 'em to Al Gore. No, he couldn't squeeze into 'em these days. But he could sniff them.

My jazz-man neighbor had people over to his pad last night. Seems some local group hired him to play piano for a show in honor of Jimmuh Carter that's happening in a few weeks. They plan to serenade him with songs from Camelot, though some clever soul has rewritten the lyric so instead of bawling "Camelot! Camelot!" they are singing "Habitat! Habitat!"

I don't care if Senile Peanut Boy has been known to pound a nail into the frame of a low-income house when photographers are there to record the event: This is downright hokey. And to hear these clowns rehearsing (each in his/her own key) at 11:00 last night did not warm my soul.

Besides, all I can think of when I hear the word "Habitat" is not humanity, but those yellow-tinted transparent plastic tubes and boxes that snap together to house hamsters, mice and gerbils.

This could easily lead me into another rant about the government, "insurance for all," "housing for all" and all that happy horsecrap. But I will refrain, except to note that I, who cannot afford a house and pay my own doctor/pharmacy bills, am damn sick and tired of paying for those even worse off than I to own homes and get free medical treatments.

Never mind that. Work calls, and though I'm trying to ignore the call, it's getting louder....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just call me "Sid"...

...because I'm feeling really vicious tonight.

Maybe it started while I was talking to a neighbor who was out enjoying some sunset-time doobage this evening. He was slightly bent about someone or something, and I mentioned I had a short list of people for whom I'd be a happy spectator as the shit-storm hit them.

He misunderstood, thinking I might, if connected to a "family," be ordering hits. I swiftly disabused him of that; I was thinking, I said, of those who skate right past the punishments karma is supposed to deliver.

On that matter, we agreed. Where the Ghetto Meets the Sea is, after all, the last stop before a very wet hike to Hawaii, Japan or Australia, depending on which direction you choose. Some of us have reached the end of our various ropes, have been over-karma-ed when we fetched up here. Charles Bukowski went mad here, kids, not in whatever apartment in the San Fernando Valley the city wants to make into a shrine for him.

If ol' Charles had lived, he would have moved into this building to suffer a bit more before he tapped out, Jim.

But I digress.

Damn near everyone is within target range of my short-fused cannon tonight. Among those who are in dire need of a karmic pop in the snoot are:

Two ex-girlfriends;

All politicians;

Self-righteous political commentators;

Advocates for various religions;

The East Indians who run the corner store.

PARENTHETICAL HEY-I-KID-BECAUSE-I-LOVE NOTE: The last are included just to be, well, vicious. I actually like the owners of the Pt. Fermin Market. But I should offend someone by including a comment some over-sensitive person will pounce on as "racist," and I am feeling offensive as hell tonight.

I know damn well I must have been Rasputin's meaner brother in a past life, 'cause I'm paying big-time for something major-league awful I must have done.

So why is it that people who sow pain and discomfort wherever they go get a free pass?*

This is, in case you care, not really me writing this. I try to love, want to love -- or at least like -- as many people as I can before time's up.

Bah. Forget it. I doubt I could ever explain this clearly.

PARENTHETICAL ONE-HOUR-LATER-NOTE: Another neighbor came by to ask me to look at his car and tell him what's wrong with it. Diagnosis: total, ugly head-gasket failure. Engine is now a giant paperweight. He and his wife were not happy....

The hell with this. I can't face any more grief (mine or anyone else's) or introspection tonight.

* This question is what gets the religious folks on the list. I don't want to hear any damn "it's God's will" or "the sun shines equally on the righteous and unrighteous" blather. I want a God who knows what the score is and, like Judge Roy Bean, hands out swift and terrible punishments to miscreants.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So three people I respect...

...have commented that I should go ahead and spill my guts about the single thing that does more than anything else to keep the Depression Machine running. It's tempting.

But I'm not going to do it.

The decision is based on a purely selfish motive: I'm not exactly overdosing on self-esteem these days, and the consequences of telling the story would do more damage to me than anyone else*.

Why? One thing I try very hard to do is never cause anyone intentional hurt, even if the recipient has hurt the daylights out of me. I've brought pain to too many without meaning to, and that's bad enough to leave me a fairly good-sized load of guilt. Going out of my way to hurt would be worse.

I'm not shy about revealing my own failures. They are part of me, and I try to write about me. Revealing someone else's -- in a personal context -- is just not something I would be happy doing. Such stories are always colored by the participant's role in them. Some things I know are true; others might, probably would, be seen differently by others.

Moreover, if I did go into the story, how could I ask the next person with whom I got into such a situation -- should that ever happen -- to trust me to not reveal things said and done in confidence?

The therapeutic value of a full confession would be high, but brief. I know myself well enough to be certain I'd start hating myself the moment I posted it.

I'm not making myself out as some super-good guy. I'm not. I simply value what little I have left in what might be called "moral values" more than I value sweet revenge. Part of me still thinks the original positive feelings were right, and what happened after was an aberration that time and sober reflection might turn around, though I have less than no reason to believe that**.

Maybe that's why I never became a lawyer. And maybe it's why I find myself in this situation.

Even so, I'm grateful to have friends like the three who made the suggestion. They might be right, too; but I can't do it.

* Not entirely. But it's true enough to make a compelling reason.

** Ignore this sentence. I have reason to believe no lessons have been learned, and they would have been learned by now.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oh, no, is he still depressed?

Well, yeah, he is.

I can read all y'all's minds, and sense you're not digging reading about my Black Fog. Neither am I. But it remains, and that's that.

No spilling my guts about the Really Important Stuff, though. I just finished writing a long screed to a friend pouring it all out to him, and am not inclined to repeat it all.

So I'll just bitch about work again, which, aside from the Really Important Stuff, seems to be taking up 99% of my waking life.

Got my itinerary for the Daytona Beach trip this morning, and found it's a six-day gig. To keep it above the minimum-wage line, I'll have to generate five stories out of it. That won't be particularly easy. It's gonna be chicken-with-its-head-cut-off time, baby.

While I only made it halfway through another article today, it's a near-miracle I got that far. Haggling over future stories was the big thing: I'm still to-and-fro-ing with PR weenies on a major piece. I mentioned it before; they are still being creeps, right up to the moment when they either cave in or I get loud & abusive and cancel the whole thing.

Spent another hour talking to an editor from a book* I seldom contribute to. I stay away only for budgetary reasons, I assure you; I love the editor -- not that way, though she is incredibly smart, well-read, super-nice to work with and easier on the eyes than a Visine bath -- and would be a happy boy indeed if I wrote only for her**. But because the stories take much effort for little return. Still, she comes up with pieces I want to do (if only to be able to gab with her) and I can't resist. We discussed what I'm preparing to send her, and she loved it enough to ask that I expand it considerably with info she knows I already have. Oh, well, they pay by page count....

Do you see a problem coming up here? It's this: I can't juggle 'leventy-seven stories at once, and it seems I will be doing that for some weeks to come. More than once during the day I have had to simply walk away from the desk and go outside to stare at the seagulls lest I put my fist through the monitor.

This is a big deal to me when I'm happy. Imagine what it's like to wade through it all when it seems so completely pointless.

That's where the Really Important Stuff comes in.

Which is a good place for me to sign out.

* We Real Magazine Writers call magazines "books," probably to give ourselves some fraudulent but much-needed dignity.

** If her "book" covered a wider range of topics, that is. Some years ago, I put in time doing a major selling job to get a fancier magazine to hire her. If they had, I would be their word-slave. They dug her too, but didn't offer her enough money to make her want to relocate.

Sunday, October 14, 2007



I was a good boy and worked today. I was pleased that the story I wrote yesterday did not read like a Google translation from Ruthenian or Coptic. A few little revisions -- including an easy trim of 150 words -- made it fine, and I sent it off.

The story I wrote today goes under the knife tomorrow. Being more impression than fact, it was not too painful.

I am the "infinite number of monkeys," but writing facile gibberish rather than Shakespeare.

My turmoil continues.

I'm sick of the way things are. And making the changes necessary, alone, without what might be called "moral support" -- a little more personal than that, to be fair -- strikes me as being impossible.

And the ghosts would follow wherever I went, anyway.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


...not physically, you understand. Even though I feel as if I've been drained of what General Jack D. Ripper called "our precious bodily fluids." And I didn't enjoy it, either. I simply feel drained.

For the first time in two weeks, I actually finished an article. Hooray for me, right? Wrong. I did it without a having a single word register in my head. At the moment, I couldn't tell you what I wrote, or if it's in any known language.

I'll find out tomorrow, when I do that last edit before shipping it off. Then, I get to start in on another.

Sometimes, like an avalanche, I can build up a kind of verbal momentum, and crank out several stories in a short time. I hope this is one of those times.

Most of the time, I'm not like this. I. Am. Not. Like. This.

Depression was, until a couple of years ago, a mild irritant, no more aggravating than a flea bite. The cure was never more than a few days away. No longer; I suspect my current malaise will be measured in weeks, if not months.

It'd damn well better be over by the end of the month. My plans have been changed for me: instead of going to Las Vegas, where all that would have been expected of me was to party at night and nod understandingly at various presentations during the day (something I have learned to do over the years), I have to go to humid Daytona Beach, Florida, and actually perform. Don't know if I'm up to it. Right now, I guarantee I couldn't do it.

But I have a couple of weeks to get my mind right.

And the money would help. I can milk two or three articles out of the trip.

This is what my life has come down to: I work, hope I get paid in a reasonably timely fashion, and get seriously crazed if I don't have more work assigned than I want to do.

As Frank Zappa once asked: "does this kind of life look interesting to you?"

I'm here to tell you, Jim,* it's not interesting.

I could work very damn hard if I saw a goal ahead. I don't. The freekin' New York Times killed my fantasy of moving to Whitefish, Montana with an article about the rich bastards who are buying up the area -- the Times seems to think it's good to transfer ownership of the land from those evil loggers to the nouveaux riche dot-com and Wall Street paper-shufflers, but I see it as a way to push the residents into rented housing, from which they work -- at coolie wages -- to keep the zillionaires happy and well-fed. But the Times knows it can't offend its Limousine Liberal base, and I don't care who the hell I offend.

Not entirely true. There are one or two people I would hate to offend.

But the dreams are gone. Or at least buried so deeply that I dare not think of them.

In case you haven't noticed, the Black Fog is still very much here. And I am, once again, holding myself back from vomiting up a bunch of stuff that I consider absolutely true and relevant to my depressed state.

All my fantasies are as dead as the Dodo. It's not nice to have a life without dreams and goals.

Who needs "precious bodily fluids" when no one else wants them?

* Had to include "Jim," for the sake of my "fan".

The black fog.

It's called depression, and I sensed the first wispy tendrils on the horizon several days ago. Now it's here, wrapped around me.

Aside from the usual symptoms -- lethargy, unwillingness to think about things I need to think about -- work, for example -- and a simultaneous desire for solitude and for someone close enough to reach out to, the worst thing is that...

...I just deleted seven paragraphs, 'cause I don't want to say what I said.

Even though I meant every word, and each was, at least to me, true and accurate.

I've tried several proven methods to ward it off. All failed. So I guess I'll just sit here and wait for it to pass.

Feeling depressed is a real drag, Jim.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Just in case...

...all y'all were being kind and not mentioning that I am the last person around who could afford -- or should have -- a Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabrio of my own, here's pictorial proof that I do...

I was trying to be a smartass by sneaking in a photo of a 300S that's 1/20th the size of the one at the show. Oh, well.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shiny objects...the finale...

...and a new peak of randomness to the photos.

Something that always catches my eye is a classic hot rod: '32 Ford, "flathead" V8 engine with proper old-time speed equipment, Ford steel wheels with proper hubcaps, and all the trimmings...

I'm always drawn to early Porsches, too. I wish this mid-50s 356 Cabriolet's owner had put the top down, though...

The most beautiful Lamborghini ever, the wonderful Miura. The V12 engine is set crossways behind the passengers; it is one of the most enjoyable cars I've ever driven...

Finally, here's a lousy photo of a '55 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet, about as elegant a design as was produced in those days...

Fortunately, I just happen to have a similar 300S here, and was able to make a clearer photo at home...

No more cars. For a while.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Shiny objects, part 3

This selection is about as random as it gets, spanning the years between 1895 and 1937. I am so happy none were among the cars on my judging list, as each was magnificent.

First, an 1895 Benz Landaulet, built long bfore Karl Benz had even heard of Miss Mercedes Jellinek...

Thirteen years later, cars had evolved to the point where this massive Pope-Hartford touring car was state-of-the-art...

Ditto for this sporty Simplex two-seat runabout...

The improvements made in design and technology in 31 years are pretty evident when you compare the Benz above with the Mercedes-Benz 200 Cabriolet below...

But the pinnacle of automobile-as-art may be this stunning 1937 Delahaye, with stunning bodywork by Figoni et Falaschi. This, and other F&F creations, represent French design at its absolute best...

One more set of pictures later.

Atlas Shrugged at 50...

...makes one wonder how the characters would have fared in the real world....

John Galt would have put his miraculous motor into production. Two weeks later, the design would have been copied by a Chinese company that then sold exact copies for 10% of Galt's asking price. After the bankruptcy court finished with him, Galt would have taken a job selling house siding produced by Hank Rearden's mills;

Dagny Taggart and her illegitimate children -- at least one each from Francisco d' Anconia and Hank Rearden, who were in such a rush to bop her that they neglected to use any birth control devices -- would have become Galt's sole support after his motor idea unwound, but Dagny would soon have tired of this and moved in with Francisco, at least until she found out that he really did enjoy messing about with the chicks from his "worthless-playboy" days. Her railroad, unable to compete with other forms of transport, took aid money from the reconstituted US government and now operates a line between Milan, Michigan and Kankakee, Illinois;

Hank Rearden, too, would face the bankruptcy process. Cheap imported steel, lax safety standards and complaints about the pollution spewed by his mills did him in. Besides, most people didn't want blue-green houses;

Francisco d'Anconia, an illegal alien, would have been deported. After returning to Spain, he went big into leveraged buyouts, destroying all the businesses run by Galt's admirers and making himself a fine pile o' money;

The American public, realizing that Galt and his pals had never run for office or established their legitimacy as dictators, would have demanded their arrests. Trials would be pending, though most vanished back to Galt's Gulch, where those unable to think big thoughts were employed as gun-toting guards to repel any unwanted visitors;

The American government, crippled by a lack of revenue, shut down. Then, someone noticed that private companies run by Galt's cronies were billing them individually for each fire extinguished, each pothole filled, and they were now helpless against foreign invaders since the Galtists had no interest in supporting any military, met in Washington to demand that a limited government be imposed;

Pollution from the unrestrained manufacturing envisioned by Ayn Rand grew so bad that the new government imposed severe restrictions. Several former Galt followers attempted to do penance, setting up a campaign to plant trees, tear down unnecessary structures and break up highways-to-nowhere built to satisfy the Galtists' need to make Nature vanish;

The sole survivor of the Galt debacle was the cigarette factory established by the Galtists. It turned out that these were vile weeds indeed, and all who smoked them are currently on respirators.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Shiny objects, part 2

Here's a random sample of sporting-type cars. Two came from Italy, two from the UK, and one is an Anglo-Italian hybrid.

Any time I see an Alfa-Romeo 1750, I will photograph it, and you will be forced to see it...

The Alfa was built circa 1931. This Maserati A6CGS racer is from the mid-1950s...

When sales of the D-Type Jaguar, an all-out racing car, slowed in 1956-57, the factory converted some for street use and called the result the XKSS. Only a few of these hairy-chested beasts were built...

Aston Martin wanted a race-worthy version of its DB4 luxury tourer, and had the Italian body-builder Zagato build the lightweight bodies for them. Of all Astons new and old, I find this one from 1959 most striking...

Finally, I know my friend Scott loves Morgans, but I doubt he's ever seen one like this. Underneath the fiberglass body, the 1964 Plus Four Plus was a traditional Morgan all the way. Fewer than 50 were built...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Shiny objects, part 1...

...being some photos I shot at yesterday's show. I'm still not happy with my photographic efforts, but will try to find enough to present.

The first one is a Ferrari Enzo, the only modern car I pointed the camera toward, and is here for my friend Scott, who would probably love to have one in his driveway. I hope he's shorter than I am if he ever gets his wish....

More to my liking is this tiny 1949 Ferrari type 166 "Barchetta" ("little boat" in Italian)...

Or better still, this '57 Ferrari 410 "Superamerica," which is one fast, fine ride....

I consider the '62 Ferrari 250 "Lusso" ("Luxury") the most beautiful of all Ferraris. For years, the big-time collectors scorned Lussos because they were slow (that's relative) and heavy. But a brown (ugh) Lusso once owned by Steve McQueen sold at auction for 2.5 million scoots recently, so they are now the Ferrari flavor-of-the-month...

Finally, the Ferrari-built car I would love to own, the 1972 Dino 246. Dino was Enzo Ferrari's son, who died young, and the grieving parent named a series of cars after him. All were simply called "Dinos," so any Dino wearing Ferrari badges has been altered by a poseur owner, but no matter; this is a sweet car, and I came very close to buying one when they were new*...

* I console myself for not having done so by realizing that "mine" would have had many hundreds of thousands of miles on it by now, and would be pretty shabby compared to the lovingly restored examples we see today.

Saturday, Sugarcane and Sundary...

...is a title that makes no sense unless you visit the home of my ex-journal.

Sugarcane and Sundary are nice ladies* with whom I have online friendships. They announced that they were leaving the desert for a couple of days to come out here where there is an ocean, and thus beaches.

We all agreed to meet. At first, I didn't think I'd make it. Work has been difficult, and I should have sat here on my fat nalgas trying to finish a difficult article.

But the drive wasn't too far, so I decided a little while spent with them might make me feel better.

And it did.

Three hours of conversation over coffee passed in what seemed like moments. Both of them are interesting, both have interesting lives, and both are easy to relax with.

It's a real delight to find that "friends" can turn out to be friends, and these two definitely brightened my day and my weekend, to say the least.

So here's a picture of sugarcane (on the unidentified derelict's left) and "the Fucking Midget"** on the right...

Thanks for a happy few hours, you two!

* Sundary is Sugarcane's "adopted daughter." As an adoptive online daddy myself -- having been adopted by the wonderful Whatsername -- I can relate to that.

** You'll have to read her journal....

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Today, such as it was...

...the temperature hit 91 this afternoon. I dehydrated rather severely, even though I kept chugging water, and the blazer goes to the cleaners tomorrow. If it's dry by then.

As for the show itself, I did my duty, peering into cars I was assigned to judge, searching for dirty, incorrect or badly restored items. There seemed to be more than usual. To the average person -- even the average car enthusiast -- what we were doing would seem the height of anality, but when someone enters shows of this type, that's what they expect. We did have a clear winner in our class, but even that one had some moderately serious flaws.

The worst part of the day -- aside, that is, from the relentless heat and sunshine -- was that there were fewer cars in the show than usual, and many of them were there last year. Thus very few photos (I'm still trying to decide if any are really worth posting*) and not much interest on my part.

But I did get to see some old friends, which was very cool, got one of my all-too-rare helpings of respect (that badge that says "judge" works wonders!) and had two better-than-average meals.

Not a total loss. But I'm glad I've cut this gig down to two such events per year.

* Not only did I find few subjects I felt like shooting, but the midday sun made the photos contrasty as hell and riddled them with sun-spots. Not good.

Not suited...

...but clean, encased in tie, blazer and dress pants, I'm off to the car show, where a day of wandering around in the sun -- it's supposed to be 85 today -- and choosing the prettiest/cleanest/best car from a large field of pampered machines awaits.

There will be pictures.

And I will be dehydrated and grumpy.

Which is different from normal in what way?

Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

So you want bad poetry, eh?

At least Missi does, and suggested I write some kind of awful verse based on seeing-eye ducks and ex-girlfriends.

It just so happens, dear, that poetry of the absolute worst quality is one of my fields of expertise. Few can compare to me when it comes to ugly rhymes, pitiful scanning and a total lack of rhythm in verse.

And so, with apologies to damn near everyone, here is my ode to guide-ducks and former lovers....

Consider the plight of the seeing-eye duck
as winged critters go he's a bird with no luck
plunged rudely into blind humans' strife
forced to surrender his fine duckish life

With a little more training these mallards might be
a help to those not blind, but unable to see
we can navigate curbs but fall down right quick
when faced with the travails of pleasing a chick

How I wish I'd been pulled away by little webbed feet
when I encountered a female who came off as sweet
I happily let her entwine me with tethers
but she cut me loose to chase fancier feathers

Poor liitle duckie, how sad you must be
I'd love to make you happy by setting you free
so you could waddle off to the nearest duck-pond
and I'd go along, too, to stay clear of the blonde.

I warned you it'd be horrific....

Friday, October 05, 2007

The good old days.

I was rummaging through a couple of old files today, and came across this two-page tabloid spread from April, 2002 that reminded me how much I miss The Weekly World News.

There is something of a sad story behind my keeping this story, but it's really not too important now. Everyone involved enjoyed the article when it came out.

And those of us who were/are writers lamented the fact that we didn't work for the WWN...

Since you can't read it, the caption to the photo at the lower left is worth repeating:

"President Bush congratulates Bill Depp, after awarding him a medal for being one of the first sightless people to use a guide duck."


...and the toys, if any, will appear later.

Right now, I'm waiting for a phone call or email from a PR agency. I'm supposed to do a story about one of their client's products, and am meeting some resistance.

Why can't they go to some extra effort to get five pages of free ink?

It's a bargaining process. They can't do this, so I suggest that as an alternate way of making it happen. Sadly, the ingredients they are resisting are big parts of the core of the article I'm supposed to be doing.

One of the irritating elements is that the PR guy is being paid to deal with me. I'm making no money by going around and around with him. For me, the income doesn't happen until the story is published.

Thank goodness every story isn't like this. More and more of them are, though.

On another subject, it's chilly and breezy this morning, and the forecasts for the weekend are inconclusive. I wouldn't mind except that this Sunday is one of those days when I have to dress up and wander around in the sun all day. Another car show to judge; last year, it was downright hot...I'd love a cooler day this time.

PARENTHETICAL YOU-DIDN'T-ASK-FOR-IT THOUGHT: Yes, there will be lots of pictures posted. I can't help myself.

Since the PR guy hasn't gotten back in touch, I have to run off and do other work-errands now.

Is it any wonder I'd rather just lounge around playing with toys?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

So here it is...

...and, as Kim, the gorgeous Aussie, suggested, it's a car part.

Press the silver button on top, and the mechanism begins to rise...

...and then unfolds like a strange plastic flower, to become...

...a Mercedes-Benz cupholder!

Cupholders were a Very Big Deal in the early 1990s. No car was complete without two, four or six of them. Usually, they were just cup-shapes molded into plastic parts. Leave it to Mercedes to set engineers to designing the ultimate in automatic folding, disappearing holders for your Slurpee. Actually, it's not that big; a small cup is all it can take.

I was in Germany not long after these superbly over-engineered devices were introduced. My itinerary took me to a company "boutique" where accessories were sold. It turned out cupholders were not mounted in German-market E-class sedans. Only Americans were undisciplined enough to be distracted by drinking beverages while driving.

But the store was clogged with eager locals grabbing them to install in their cars. I believe the price was something like DM 59.00 in those pre-Euro days. I bought one, brought it home, and a friend mounted it on a neat aluminum plate.

It's still fascinating to push the button and watch it do its ballet....

Big contest!

Yeah, right. In reality, the next item from my boxes o' toys is a good object for your guesswork. No prizes (I'm cheap), but I have a hunch I could offer a huge wad of cash for the correct answer to the "what is it?" question, and be certain no one could claim it.

So take a guess...

As soon as I get a few guesses and/or the right answer, I'll show you more pictures of it.

The only hint I'm giving is that I bought it in Germany in the early 1990s, and that shouldn't help a bit.

Take me out to the ball game...

...or at least bring nine year-old me a genuine Major League baseball.

That's what a family friend with good connections did...

Pretty cool, huh? Even before throwing the first pitch I noticed it was autographed...

I look at the ball today and feel, well, superannuated. I remember these guys.

And I'm sure a fair number of you don't even recall Sandy Koufax....

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

To the moon!

No, I have no toys or other goodies relating to "The Honeymooners."

But I do have this nifty little bank once given out by the Hollywood State Bank (whatever that may have been). Simply place a coin on top of the rocket, push a tiny lever, and zoooooom! it flies through a slot into the moon...

I can tell you that tests show it works roughly 48 times out of 50....

There may well be more toy photos soon. I made trips down to the garage for each of the items shown so far. When I brought the little space-age bank up, I simply left it in the large packing box of toys (one of two) it was stored in. As soon as I clean 'em all up, I'll show more.

It's a good distraction for me.


Not everything in my "toy" collection is a toy by definition.

I have three or four containers for food items -- specifically ice cream -- that I have carted around with me for many years, and here are two.

First up, a box for Bing Crosby Ice Cream. I've talked to a number of people -- including several who were among Bing's friends -- and none recall ever seeing this product, but here's proof. On the back is Bing's "personal guarantee of quality," though I doubt it would have done much good to get in touch with him to complain...

And then there's this gem from the mid-1950s, a take-home package of Foster's Ol' Fashion Freeze. This was (and may still be if you can find one of the "Neat Blue and White Stores" mentioned on the package) the tastiest ice cream in the universe. Vanilla only, but in taste and texture, it was unique, and I want a cone-full (with chocolate dip) right now...

I shouldn't have started this. I'm feeling the urge to go out and scout out some shelves so all the goodies can go on display. Even if I'm the only one who will see them in person....

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


While digging through my toy boxes to find Flip Wilson/Geraldine, I couldn't help but start pulling out some other novelties I've accumulated over the years. Just to see how they're faring in storage, you know.

PARENTHETICAL, PATHETICAL THOUGHT: 99% of my good play-stuff lives in the garage. All shelves that might have done toy duty, except one, are filled with books and other large items relating to work. When you live alone and see few people regularly -- none of whom make it over to the pad -- you can get sloppy and lose perspective.

Anyway, I found my stereopticon, and had to bring it upstairs. For the few who don't know, a stereopticon uses two images photographed a precise distance apart and two lenses (one for each eye) to produce an amazingly realistic three-dimensional view. They were popular home items up into the early 1920s or so. Mine is, alas, not one of the super-fancy examples, but is an inexpensive type one might have found in any lower-class home circa 1910...

I don't have many slides (as they were called) for it, but I still get a certain amount of amusement from seeing President Wm McKinley and his wife posing...

One may also look at the battleship Maine before the Cubans set a bomb off under her hull in Havana harbor...

But my favorite of the 50 or so slides I have has to be this one. I've cropped it down to a single image for clarity. Meet "Oliver W." the ostrich, about to take his owners out for a ride on their ostrich farm down in Florida, circa 1900...

I'm so easily amused....

Makes me wonder why I'm not amused more often!

Flip-ing out!

When leaving a comment in another journal, I happened to mention that, among toy cars, cast-iron toys, wind-up toys and other detritus, I have a Flip Wilson talking doll, which my late sister gave me sometime back in the 1970s.

A very sweet lady, with whom I share the wonderful bond of having "adopted daughters" (hers and mine) chimed in and said she wanted to see it.

So...here's Flip...

And, on the "flip" side (sorry, couldn't help it), here's Geraldine...

Sadly, they became mute many years ago. One day, budget permitting, they'll be packed off to a doll hospital for surgery.

I can't remember everything they said when you pulled their string, but here are a few samples:


"The ugly people know who dey are, don't dey?"

"I like the blues, 'cause when the record wears out it still sounds the same"


"What you see is what you get, baby! Whooooo!"

"Don't touch me...you don't know me THAT well!"

Words to live by...from a talking doll.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Can't help it...

...so I'm posting yet another view of Lake McDonald. We stopped pretty regularly to take photos and just stare...

The main thing is this: I'd really, really like to be there right now, even if the chill is settling in after sunset.

As often happens, I don't exactly pick up with normal life feeling invigorated when I return from the road. I have been, and still am, struggling with a story that must be completed quickly. I feel somewhat itchy, nervous, and my attention span is shorter than usual.

Something I can't explain well: a big part of what frustrates me when confronted with what seems a perfect place is that I have to move on within moments of beginning to feel the serenity such places inspire. Almost but not quite can grate on you after a while.

If I believed in miracles, which I most definitely do not, it would be even worse, as I'd think I was right on the edge of experiencing one.

Oh, well. I'm not there, and work awaits.

The joys of renting...

...Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea.

Windex kills flies very efficiently. This is something I have learned while waiting for the promised new window screens to arrive. I absolutely cannot close the windows; for that, I pay with various kinds of insect life dropping by. One neighbor was bitten by a mosquito last night. Her screen situation is worse than mine as I still have one functional screen out of five.

To add insult to injury, we received notice of our annual rent increases last night. As of November First, my rent goes up by $87.00, a not inconsiderable sum.

It may well be that the owner is trying to pull a fast one, as there are limits to how much more he can charge in this rent-controlled area. We're checking to see if a rollback may be required, as he has included "fees" he may not be legally entitled to pass on.

I have nothing against making a profit. I'd like to do the same, in fact. But one should give value for money, and in a place where the amount spent annually on maintenance and repairs seems to run in the high single digits, we aren't getting much.

That 87 scoots will probably reduce my purchases of Windex. So I'd better get my screens, and damn soon.