Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's a beautiful day... the neighborhood...

Or, to be specific, a beautiful day if you're a city worker, sucking up that lovely unionized weekend o/t from a budget that is supposedly a billion dollars in the red...

Our streets were closed off today so a local college ("local" if being 20 miles away counts as such) could run a triathlon. This meant that hundreds of residents had to find other places to park, and had to schedule their day so they could stay home until the whole affair is over, supposedly by 1:00 p.m. It meant listening to someone yammering away on a PA system starting at about 5:45 a.m., hearing tow trucks hauling away the cars of those who didn't get the message, motor cops riding up and down the street and the noise made by a bunch of college students cheering on their favorite ath-a-letes.

It also meant that every "parking enforcement" officer in town was here in their Prius or Honda hybrid down to keep "order" as dozens of city-owned trucks dashed around hauling cones, signs and whatever else. The bill for this event would probably keep several dozen families fed for a year.

I have nothing against triathlons. Just the opposite. But I do have something against the disruption they cause.

That's especially true since the number of Saturdays messed up by this nonsense has increased from one the year I moved here to three last year and, if gossip in the nabe is to be believed, to six this year.

Doesn't seem like much, does it? I'm here to tell you that this, like the inconvenience of having your neighborhood be considered a choice spot for film crews, gets incredibly annoying after the second or third such instance.

It's no coincidence that our city council personette lives across town. None of this stuff happens on her block.

I really don't mind community events, but when outsiders come in to take over our streets, disrupt our sleep, and generally screw up the pattern of life without so much as asking any of us if we mind -- or saying "thank you," for that matter -- it is freekin' irritating.

PARENTHETICAL LATEST-NEWS-STYLE UPDATE: It's over. All the cones, barriers, police tape, runners, bicyclists and assorted non-local items have been hauled away. Peace reigns. Sorta, anyway. And it's still a beautiful day.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm feeling more and more like... of these...

Yeah, that would be a dinosaur.

The latest reason -- that I'm willing to talk about, anyway -- was finding out that the Rocky Mountain News is shutting down on Friday after a 150-year run as one of Denver's daily newspapers.

I never worked for the paper locals have long called "the Rocky;" I haven't worked directly for any newspaper -- except as a delivery boy when I was a kid -- though my byline has appeared in a couple. In fact, I'm not certain I've ever seen a copy of this one. But for someone who grew up with newspapers, I'm saddened by the passing of any of them. And the Rocky is not this year's first paper to fail; nor will it be the last.

There are plenty of reasons for the demise of newspapers. Financial problems play a major role; a century ago, most were owned by a local publisher, often an individual. It didn't take a massive income to keep said individual happy (and, often, wealthy). Today, most are owned by conglomerates, home to highly paid executives who have no direct connection to the paper. As a result, profits are eaten up by a horde of hangers-on, fancy office buildings, and all the detritus of corporate life.

Many papers were purchased by these faceless entities in good economic times. Massive debt was created when loans were taken out to buy them. Profits might fall, but interest rates seldom do, except when a bankruptcy court steps in.

Another big contributor is, of course, the Internet. People wonder why they should buy a paper when the same content is available on the 'net. For "free," too. Advertisers, who once sunk their dollars into newspapers, were seduced with tales of millions of "click-throughs" and switched their allegiance to web-based publishers.

Finally, most major newspapers have become so agenda-driven and ideological that it's difficult to trust their news reporting. That's one reason I dropped my subscription to our local reactionary rag long ago.

Still, I hoped a day would come when newspapers once again assumed their proper place in society by doing what I was taught to do in journalism school: report facts in news stories, and leave opinion for the editorial pages.

Now it's unlikely to happen. From what I've seen, within a decade the number of major papers in this country will be reduced to a fraction of what it is today. Some large cities won't have even one, much less two or more.

I won't miss some of the casualties as they are; I will miss what they could -- and should -- have been.

As for the Internet: I feel bitter about that, because the money isn't there for most of those who actually create content. I've seen my work on various sites many times; I have never seen a dime as a result, and I'm not alone in that.

There will be a day of reckoning, by the way. Advertisers are beginning to learn that a fair percentage of website visits are more-or-less random, and the ads aren't bringing in expected returns in business.

But by the time advertisers and readers choose to take a second look at newspapers, the presses will have been silenced forever in too many areas, and the trained personnel who could put a paper on the racks will be flipping burgers.

At one time, I nourished a mild fantasy of spending my last writing years behind the editor's desk of some small-town newspaper, doing what I once trained to do while being a part of -- and in contact with -- a community.

Well, forget that.

I'm beginning to think I should avoid the rush and go get measured for one of those blue vests.

Bad enough that this is happening; there are so many people around who are so web-based that they don't give a damn about the demise of the real "press."

I hope the dinosaurs were wiped out without warning or prolonged agony. It ain't like that for writers, Jim.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Forget the Olympics...'s a sport that will leave the fans gasping!

And yes, I think medals should be awarded to the throwee, too.

Actually, when I think about it, this isn't so impressive. I've been thrown farther by girls who couldn't have weighed more than 110 or so (that would be 50 kg for the international audience) dripping wet....

Friday, February 20, 2009

I really want to...


But I won't.

I'm a considerate bastard, I am.

And I'm a realist. I know that the things that bug me aren't on anyone else's radar.

Even Atlantis is denied me.

It can be a real drag to live in my world, Jim.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A place to move?

The Sun, a Brit newspaper, wonders if this is Atlantis.

I have my doubts. They've been excited by blurry photos of Nessie and various UFOs, too.

But I'm hot to find a new place to settle....

As expected...

...the slimy crooks in Sacramento got their tax increases and passed a "budget."

Apparently, none of the lazy, pampered cretins who sit on their fat asses in state offices will lose their so-called jobs. Really important state programs, such as the annual $10 billion spent on illegal aliens -- oh, excuse the hell out of me, "undocumented workers" -- and plenty of cars and other freebies for elected officials, will go on.

Of course the top income tax rate in the state will approach 10% -- millionaires will pay 9.8%, and those who make more than $45K will chip in 9.5%. And we will all pay a minimum of 7.5% sales tax, see our vehicle license fees double, and get it in the neck in a number of other creative ways.

All this assumes the state gets a huge chunk of the federal "stimulus" giveaway, A/K/A money the Feds are pulling out of thin air while deferring payback to our children and their children. If not, I'm guessing the Governator will come around again, begging bowl in hand, and ask for even more.

What the hell am I thinking? He'll do that anyway. All public officials are drug addicts, only instead of duji or opium their jones is for money.

There are lots of dislocated arms in Sacramento today, yanked out of their sockets by these pitiful greedheads patting themselves on the back. They "saved" California!

Can I have a "A-MEN?" Or at least a "wOOt?"

It's going to be damn hard to rent a one-way U-Haul truck in California for the next few months. People stretched to the breaking point by the sick job market and now burdened with an unbearable tax load are going to be bugging out in droves.

I hope I'm one of them.

Not, as I mentioned last night, that I'm convinced anyplace else is a potential Paradise. Washington D.C.'s chickens are going to be coming home to roost much sooner than most people think. The "stimulus" plan, particularly when combined with the "mortgage stimulus plan" and whatever other giveaways and fraudulent "public-works" projects the government can dream up to pay off campaign contributors (or bribe potential voters) will bankrupt the nation. Except, that is, for the already-wealthy whose bank accounts are protected by all the giveaways and tax breaks.

Once Washington kills the American auto industry -- which it blames for all the failures it has piled on them, from insane regulations to forced acquiescence to union demands (unions being particular pals of the politicians) and economic policies that have left many Americans simply incapable of buying cars -- and renders the dollar essentially worthless, we will be in deep dung.

This is not helped by the so-called "conservative" free-market people, who may be right in some principles but are blind as bats when it comes to the realities of economics when caught in a tug-of-war between the ignorant crooks in government, the Ayn Rand absolutists and the as-long-as-I-get-mine crowd.

Can you tell I'm not particularly feeling upbeat about the future?

I suppose a lot of us would be hanging ourselves, except we simply can't afford rope.

I'll start looking around for a cave that fits my radically downsized needs. And I'll write if I find work, of course.

In any event, with luck I won't be in California a year from now.

If there is a California a year from now....

Waiting... find out if I need to start making serious plans to leave California, a thing which will be extraordinarily difficult for me.

Our corrupt, free-spending state legislature is meeting tonight to pass a so-called "budget" that will combine budget "cuts" -- in reality, reductions in their atrocious spending plans -- with massive tax increases.

The increases will include an additional $0.12 per gallon in gasoline tax, a higher sales tax (up to 9.5% in Los Angeles), a 5% surtax on income taxes and a plethora of additional "fees." For most people, the increase will be $1500-2000 per year.

I can't afford that.

The governator, who has proven himself a real "girlie man" (to use his term) when dealing with unions, has already cut a deal with the primary state workers' union that guarantees them no layoffs. Even so, he threatens to lay off thousands of state workers if the tax package doesn't go through.

Big deal, I say. Fire the whole pampered lot of them, as far as I'm concerned. The state has added thousands of workers since Ahhh-nuld became governor, and has increased its spending by more than 50%.

None of these cretins give a damn about the citizens of the state. Therefore, I don't give a damn about them. Let them hit the breadlines. They are the laziest bunch of people I know of, anyway.

Not that I expect things to be much better anywhere else. When the bill comes due for the new President's "stimulus" plans, we -- and our children and grandchildren -- will be on the hook for an unimaginable sum of money anyway.

Who benefits? Not you, and not me. Greedy and stupid people who bought houses they couldn't afford, venal bankers and investment brokers and others of similar character will be "helped." We will pay.

This is, I suppose, the inevitable result of the nanny state that first came into being in Franklin Roosevelt's day and blossomed during subsequent administrations. Despite the bleatings of certain economists, money is indeed a finite commodity. You cannot spend it when you don't have it.

But that is what our governments have done.

So I'm guessing my relocation, if I can manage it, will only be a temporary respite.

It was fun while it lasted, I guess.

The latest news is that the state's legislature will meet at 11:00 tonight to pass the "budget" that, like Washington's "stimulus" plans, was crafted in private and not revealed in full to the public even now.

I don't think I'll stay up for that. I can read about how badly we've been screwed tomorrow.

And then start trying to figure out some way to escape.

To where? I have no idea.

Maybe George Noory will have suggestions. He always knows where the space aliens are congregating....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stormy weather... what we had here most of the day.

It rained all morning, and the ocean was rough, to say the least...

I have to admit I was feeling claustrophobic today. I couldn't stand being in my place but had nowhere to go. I went for short walks in between rain showers, but that didn't help.

Later in the afternoon, the rain ceased, and I mentioned the spectacular high surf to my neighbor. We convinced each other -- at first reluctantly -- to go down and take a closer look.

At that point my camera's batteries failed, but she took some neat photos, a couple of which you can (and should) see here.

It was remarkable to stand within a hundred feet or so of these waves and sense the violence of their action. The breakwater took a pretty good pounding.

It was also bloody cold, but worth suffering that for a chance to see something neither of us had seen in the time we've lived here.

Tonight, it's still cold, of course, though the waves have calmed some and there are puffy clouds in a sky that's a billion stars deep. The rain is more or less over, though the prediction is for more storms this coming weekend.

I don't feel quite so claustrophobic now.

Only in the U.K...

...would a news site offer up a headline like this.

It's great news, anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's February 14th...

...and, of course, I know that that means.

It's a work day for me, as I have to head off to an exhibit and then write about it. It's not something I would look at on my own, I must admit, but has the saving grace of not being related to anything I ordinarily write about. I'm hoping this will lead to orders for other articles on unfamiliar (to me, anyway) topics.

This means I'll miss the Valentine's Day dinner at the local International Order of Red Men lodge. They eat early, beginning the festivities at 6:00. The price is right -- $19.95 per person, "includes dinner, drinks dessert & entertainment" according to the flier stuck in my door last night -- but even the free drinks wouldn't make up for the fact that I'd be sitting there by myself....

I do wonder about the "entertainment," though. What would tickle the fancies of the pretend-Native Americans, anyway? Musicians? Stand-up comedy? A magic act, maybe?

The flier gives no hints. It merely lists the basic info, superimposed over an inexplicable photo of a rose in a vase (low-cost black & white reproduction gives it a vaguely sinister horror-movie vibe) with a starfish and conch shell below. Could the latter two items be "Red Man" totems? Dunno....

It almost seems weird enough to check out.

But I'll be working, and this Valentine's Day will be, as too many others have been, just another day.

I will avoid going into any brick warehouses, though, and will certainly stay the hell away from Chicago.

Friday, February 13, 2009

On the shelf...

...and that's not a self-evaluation, though I admit to feeling twinges of a placed-in-storage-unused attitude tonight....

Instead, this is an idea I have brazenly stolen from a friend who can see me and raise the pot when it comes to education, erudition and, alas, talent.

She listed the books on the top shelf of one of her bookcases. One or two struck me as odd choices, but then I realized she, like me, may have simply placed books up there somewhat at random. When I moved recently, I simply pulled books out of boxes and tossed 'em on the shelves until each row was filled.

I have room for four bookcases only, and three are mainly devoted to work. This is my "recreational" bookcase...

The top shelf contains the following, listed by subject and with explanations where I think they are helpful. You will notice I am interested in biographies; I'm guessing they make up the majority of the books I have in this case, and dominate the top row. From left to right:

Jim Tully's A Dozen and One, 13 character sketches of people he knew, including Charles Chaplin, Clark Gable, Diego Rivera (the brilliant Mexican muralist and Communist), Paul Bern (the husband of Jean Harlow), columnist Walter Winchell and H L Mencken;

Jack Warner's (one of the Warner Brothers) autobiography;

Jack Kerouac (Ann Charters);

Harry S Truman (David McCullough);

Burt Kennedy (who? He was a producer of "B" movies, primarily Westerns) (autobiography);

Winston Churchill (Roy Jenkins);

David O Selznick (producer of, among other movies, Gone With the Wind) (David Thomson);

Nikita Khruschev (Walter Taubman);

General H Norman Schwarzkopf (autobiography);

Howard Hughes (Richard Hack -- and a "hack" job it is, too!);

Samuel Goldwyn (L Scott Berg);

W C Fields (James Curtis -- a superb job!);

Mao Tse-Tung (or, in the new politically correct spelling, Mao Zedong) (by his personal physician, Dr Li Zhisui);

Franklin Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt is two shelves down...I need to swap them) (Conrad Black);

Lyndon Johnson (Barry Goldwater is on the third shelf also...another swap needed!) (Unger & Unger);

Edward D Wood, Jnr (do I need to tell you he produced Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda?, two of my favorite movies?) (Rudolph Grey);

"Uncle Joe" Stalin (Edvard Radzinsky).

I am so glad she came up with this idea! If challenged, I might reveal other shelves, too! In fact, I'll match her, row by row, even if the results merely confirm my weirdness....

By the way: that lumpy gray object on the top of the case is my helmet, safe in its bag....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sometimes, I suspect even Viagra won't work...

...and seeing this would have to count as one of those times. I've never needed the stuff, and was convinced I don't now, but after a quick peek at these pictures I'm not so damn sure.

Having posted the above link, I feel it's only fair to warn you against clicking it.

It's Octomom, a few days before delivery.

'Nuff said.

Dumb, dumb, dumb...

...that would be me.

I'm having one of those days. You know, the kind in which you're glad you aren't the one with a finger on the Red Button (because if you were, the planet would be instantly vaporized simply because you can't control those manic urges) or operating heavy machinery.

All I've operated today is a computer, and even that has resulted in a certain amount of damage. Sharp objects? Don't have any nearby, thank you.

I guess it all began last night. I was enjoying a perfectly pleasant conversation with a friend when an email came in. It advised me that one of my articles, hot off the press, contained an egregious error. An error which, so far as I can determine, I made all on my own with no help from anyone.

What I was writing about was a device produced in minuscule quantities, and so its serial number has great value to collectors. Somehow, I got it into my head -- and notebook -- that this particular example was Number 052 of its series.

Nope. It was Number 067.

I would ordinarily castigate myself briefly, dash off a note to the magazine editor telling him to run a correction in the next issue, and laugh it off. Yes, it is embarrassing to make a mistake, but after writing well over a thousand articles in my "career," I've learned you can't hit a home run every time at bat.

(Where the hell did that metaphor come from?)

But knowing the owner of this device -- by no coincidence the person who sent me the email -- leads me to feel absolutely certain that this mistake will be hung around my neck like a giant, stinking albatross. I haven't heard the end of it, and will not for a good long time.

The memory of those irritating moments last night has steamrollered its was into my consciousness every time I needed to check a fact during my work today.

As a result, neither my work nor my temper have been worth a hill of horse dung today.

I was considering jacking the whole thing in and heading down to one of the local sleazy bars for a drink. Or 10. But then I realized I'd have to sit with myself in the bar, and I'm definitely in a mood to punch myself out.

And so, as soon as my fresh pot of coffee has finished brewing, I'll get back to work.

If I screw up the current article in any way relating to facts, it won't be my fault. I'm working mainly from printed information sheets.

I'm not having a very good time here, Jim.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An update...

...on the photo I posted last night.

There is a story behind the photo of the firefighter giving water to an injured koala.

It's a happy story, an unfortunate rarity amid the tales of loss and destruction coming from Australia's great tragedy.

But it's worth reading....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sometimes, odd things affect me... is the case with the horrifying fires that are ravaging Australia right now.

A friend wrote from Down Under to tell me an acquaintance was nearly killed by one of the fires in a place called Yarra Glen. That bothered me, of course. But the devastation didn't hit me, I mean truly hit me like a fist in the gut, until I saw this photo on an Australian newspaper's website...

I admit it: I wept. Not just for the koala, but for all the humans and animals who have suffered and died down there. And for the bravery and courage of those who have fought the fires and saved what, and whom, they could.

There are times when, self-absorbed as I am, I realize that all in life is not about me.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

angry**********.com... a website I've become addicted to. I'm not publishing the full name, as it's primarily for wretches like me in a specific career who need a place to bitch in anonymity.

I haven't posted there. Yet. But it's only a matter of time.

I'm not angry enough today to go there and spill my verbal guts. I received two whole checks yesterday, thus allowing me to pay this month's bills and, if I'm a good boy and don't waste money on trivial pleasures like ordering a pizza or buying books or music, covering next month's essentials as well.

Not that my monthly nut is so damn big these days. I have surrendered most things people take for granted, and live in a space so small that when Kate put out a call for people to post pics of their bedrooms, the resulting photo was so embarrassing, including as it did my office space and "living" space all in one minuscule package, that I decided against putting it here.

I love my work. I really do. I will write four articles this week, and each will be well-researched, clean and -- one hopes -- have the little touches that make my editors happy they have chosen me.

Sadly, none will be good enough to make publishers feel an uncontrollable urge to call their accounting departments and say: "send this boy a!" Nor will it cause them to think that perhaps the combination of writing talent, expertise and care taken with the work deserves a few extra dollars in the pay packet.

While I have mentioned these undesirable traits of my profession in the past, I have tried to moderate my disgust with a writer's lot. I know a few writers who are just starting out on the long career journey; one is stunningly good, and will in a reasonably short time be great. These people sometimes visit my journal, and I would not want to imply that they might fall into the same bottomless void that has swallowed me more-or-less whole.

If the value of sheer talent means nothing, we as a society are truly doomed. So I continue to hope that some who show extraordinary talent will achieve deserved fame and financial comfort even if I have not and never will.

I admit, shamefacedly, that I feel tremendous relief that neither landlord, phone company nor utilities will be hounding me this month. Or even next month.

Is that good enough? No.

But age and a lack of marketable suit-and-tie/work-in-an-office skills forces me to continue on my lonely and too-often unhappy path. From time to time, I crank out an especially good article, one that makes me feel as if all the tsooris is worth it.

That's a pathetic payoff, but what the hell? It's what I have, Jim.

And I keep buying lottery tickets....

Saturday, February 07, 2009

"They" say it's gonna rain...

...but I'm convinced it won't rain here for a while...

Why do I even mention this? There are far more important things than some random precipitation to be concerned with.

Octomom continues to make headlines. This simple girl, whose sole purpose in life if you ask her is to have babies (and, apparently, to emulate Angelina Jolie, puffy-lip-wise), has now cranked out 14 of them, eight in the last delivery. Never mind that she can't afford to give them what they need without government help; she wants to have them, and so went trotting off to fertility clinics where unscrupulous doctors filled her with embryos.

This woman is just plain nuts.

But her saga pales in comparison to the hundreds of Octomoms in the U.S. Congress. The senescent fools in Washington -- and the president -- seem convinced that spending almost a trillion dollars we don't have, that simply don't exist, will somehow save the nation from the current economic crisis.

It's as if you and I decided to write checks we can never cover. I admit I'd like to do that -- I really have the hots to own a Porsche and a nice house -- but I somehow think it wouldn't work out so well if I chose to begin spending wildly with nothing in the bank to cover it.

No matter how much they howl about needing to do this right now, it's a stupid idea.

What we need is to have our so-called "leaders" spend less, while simultaneously loosening their legislative hold on businesses that actually employ people.

Why do I bother writing about this? A lot of Americans seem to want something for free, and they are being listened to. Those of us who want to do our jobs without regulations and exorbitant taxation are in the minority.

I have no children, but your children, and their children, are going to be paying for the lunacy of the "Stimulus" legislation about to be passed.

And who will benefit? The pals of those in government, that's who. Wall Street operators will make fortunes from the "Stimulus," and so will various Senators and Representatives whose campaign funds will be be swelled by contributions by those who are going to be cut into the cash.

Better for me to stick to the weather.

Sure looks like it's gonna rain...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Today was...

...Groundhog Day.

You all know the act, right? Groundhog emerges from hole on February 2nd, either sees his shadow or doesn't. If he sees it, we get six additional weeks of winter.

That's a pretty cushy gig, Jim.

So, on a day that was warm and sunny here, the legendary Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow in the Pennsylvania snow, and therefore announced more winter.

On the other hand, "Staten Island Chuck," a true Noo Yawk Unionized groundhog, saw his shadow and bit New York City's Mayor Bloomberg. I'm sure he was acting on behalf of a fair number of Hizzoner's constituents....

I loved the movie "Groundhog Day." Bill Murray, right? I dug Andie MacDowell big-time, too. Cute plot.

I mention that because there are times when I feel like I'm living my own twisted version of the Bill Murray part. Each day starts out a repeat of the last one. Only I don't even get the beautiful girl by the end of the day. Oh, she's around somewhere, I think, but there's none of that lovey-dovey jazz. I guess the producers felt the movie would have been a downer if Murray didn't get MacDowell between the sheets before his day reloaded.

Every day I start out figuring the next day is gonna straighten things out. Every night I think that, too. But in the night, fate hits the "rewind" button and it's back to Square One.

I could leave you with a mildly Groundhog Day-related joke, but it's sacreligious as all get-out, and I don't know all y'all that well.

Yeah, I'm tempted to run back into the cave and hibernate for six more weeks. Saw my own shadow today, too.