Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Big Recap...

...simply because I have no intention of hanging around until the numerals change over to 00:00.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: Used to be, I'd say "until the clock strikes 12," but that's so old-fashioned. The world has moved along, and I now have only one clock that has hands and numbers. I'm trying not to sound as old as I feel....

It's been a bad year, Jim.

What a change 365 days have made! This time last year, I was sitting right here, eagerly awaiting the chance to post an entry (on another site) with the title "0:00!" And I was up six hours later, touting Bill Handel's report on the Rose Parade.

This time, I won't be up at midnight, and Handel won't be doing his New Year's morning show. He's on vacation.

This time one year ago, I had a woman who (claimed to) love me, I had two clients whom I could trust, a few coins in the bank and a lot of optimism for the future. I knew 2006 was going to be the year when I actually managed to pull it all together and start enjoying life.

And a radio host played Guy Lombardo's syrupy rendition of "Auld Lang Syne," replete with tremulous saxophones, and tears came to my eyes.

Tonight, I just heard the same recording again and it made me reach for another shot of Mr Beam's contribution to the New Year's party. Outside, the police helicopter is circling. They're not after me; I have no intention of getting in my car at this point.

The rest? Forget it. I have one client I feel semi-comfortable dealing with (naturally, they contribute the least to my income) and everything else I looked forward to is gone.

The scars remain, though.

I just tried to hit the sack and fall asleep. Not working. So I'll probably write at least once more before 2006 is over.

I apologize for that in advance.

One thing for which I am grateful... that Hobbes, the one living being that has remained loyal to me through the years, who has never betrayed me, is still here and thriving, and will see at least the start of another year with me.

Even if at the moment he is lying on the bed with his back deliberately turned toward me because he did not like his dinner....

So far, no good... the Big Countdown continues, with roughly 5:49 to go.

The closer 2007 gets, the less I'm looking forward to it.

Yes, I understand that all it really means is putting a different number on checks and letters. But one wishes, somehow, for a kind of milestone, a point that represents a shift from bad to good.

Nope. January 1, 2007 is not going to be that point. I can fix some things that went wrong last year all on my own, but they are all minor. The really important stuff still depends on other people.

Last year, with a very few -- but very much appreciated -- exceptions, those people I trusted, loved, or simply expected normal businesslike relations with, disappointed me. One particular disappointment was especially damaging; not only do I continue to suffer from it, but so will anyone foolish enough to get too close to me in future.

Assuming, that is, that anyone would want to do that.

I'm glad to see 2006 go, believe me, but at this moment I'm sorry there's another year coming along to replace it.

8:23 to go...

...and I have just returned from the market.

While I walking into the store, I heard a horn blaring behind me. An elderly man in a battered old Nissan was backing out of a parking space, and the driver of a giant SUV had to slam on the brakes to avoid him.

The SUV driver, complete with blow-dried hair and form-fitting t-shirt over his potbelly, leaped from his truck and started screaming at the old man, who looked both bewildered and somewhat frightened.

As the SUV driver approached the Nissan, a woman ran over and stood in front of him. "Hey," she said, "that's an old man in the car. Be nice, okay?"

I could see the SUV driver, stoked up on his hate weed, was about to move the argument to a new level. I began to move toward the confrontation. Before I could get there, a guy who looked like a biker -- and, in our neighborhood, probably is -- walked over, stood between the jerk and the woman (the old man still sat in his car). Though he was perhaps two inches shorter -- and maybe 100 pounds lighter -- than the SUV creep, the biker moved to within an inch of him and said, "bro, how would you like a new face for New Year's?"

SUV Creep backed off, retreated to his Expedition and, as he rolled up the window, started yelling threats about "police," "jail" and "assault charges." By then, Mr Biker was standing next to his door, with four more people standing behind him. The woman was talking to the old man in the Nissan, occasionally putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

The Expedition took off at full speed, hitting an empty shopping cart and barely missing a couple of cars when he reached the street.

So. Nasty, Evil Biker versus Mr Solid Citizen. Whose side would you take? I know where I ended up...I was one of the four ready to assist in some reconstructive surgery on that arrogant shit in his oversized look-at-me toy.

This might be as good a place as any for me to wish SUV Creep, and all like him, a thoroughly rotten New Year.

In fact, I wish the same to all who throw their weight around, lie to take advantage of, hurt or frighten others, or are simply plain old fuckweasels.

Conversely, I hope Nasty Evil Biker, that sweet woman, the bewildered old man and all like them a joyous New Year.


The Japanese couple who live on the floor below me recently acquired two new kittycats. Here's one of them...

The other, also young, is gray with faint tabby markings. I think. She is camera-shy, and jumped out of the window when I tried to take her picture.

A message from Gully Jimson.

I have never read the classic novel, "The Horse's Mouth," but it's on my to-read list for the coming year.

However, I've always been struck by a scene at the end of the book, as recalled by Lord Buckley in one of his performances.

Gully Jimson, the principal character, is dying in a hospital bed and, as Buckley recounts it:

"...a nun says to him, 'Mr Jimson, at a time like this, shouldn't you be praying a little more and laughing a little less?' He looks at her and says, 'Madame, it is the same thing' and taps out."

I have prayed too much, and not laughed enough.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I've spared you again...

...from being inundated with unhappy words and dark thoughts.

With one day to go in the current year, I'm both glad it is coming to an end and not at all looking forward to having a fresh one to deal with.

All 2006's baggage seems bound and determined to follow me straight into 2007.

But I'm not going to talk about it tonight.

Being stuck in my world is bad enough. I don't want to drag anyone else in while you're all chilling the bubbly and setting out the party favors.

I wasn't asked, again...

...when Associated Press did its latest poll. This time, the subject was 2007, and AP reports that "...seventy-two percent of Americans feel good about what 2007 will bring for the country, and an even larger 89 percent are optimistic about the new year for themselves and their families...."

That's good to know. Really.

Nothing would make me happier than to think that 89 out of 100 Americans are going to have a better life by the end of next year. Well, I'd be happier still if all of those I care for are about to have the best 12 months of their lives.

And yeah, I admit I wish I wasn't among the 11 percent.

It would be very difficult for the next year to top this one misery-wise. I messed up plenty of times, and when I wasn't busy fouling the nest there were people willing and eager to do it for me.

You'd probably find them among the 89 percent, too.

One more little thing....

Recently, I made a music CD for my brother. While I was putting it together, I found something sad on one of the recordings from which I was picking out tunes for him.

I'm a bit embarrassed by it. It was a recording of me sight-reading through (while simultaneously trying, somewhat awkwardly, to create an "arrangement") my first try at the great Thelonious Monk standard, "'Round Midnight." Since the recorder was almost never running when I played, I included it on the disc as a curiosity, a memento of a long-ago time when I was happy enough to make music.

I felt the lyrics then; I really feel them now....

It begins to tell,
'round midnight, 'round midnight.
I do pretty well, 'til after sundown,
Suppertime I'm feelin' sad;
But it really gets bad,
'round midnight.

Memories always start
'round midnight,
Haven't got the heart to stand those memories,
When my heart is still with you,
And ol' midnight knows it, too.

When a quarrel we had needs mending,
Does it mean that our love is ending.
Darlin' I need you, and lately I find
You're out of my heart,
And I'm out of my mind.

Let our hearts take wings
'round midnight, 'round midnight
Let the angels sing,
for your returning.
Till our love is safe and sound.
And old midnight comes around.
Feelin' sad,
really gets bad
Round, Round, Round Midnight

-- Thelonious Monk

I've been a good boy... least for another day.

Despite considerable provocation, I did not curse anyone out today, did not vent my anger on either the deserving or the innocent.

Nor, despite an overwhelming desire to do so, did I break down and write explicitly about those things that continue to hurt me the most. The secrets of my empty life remain secret.

I did not weep. I did not pop open the single-malt and drink myself into a stupor. In fact, I didn't even touch the single-malt, or any other liquor.

I wanted to do all these things. But I didn't.

The act of not doing them has exhausted me.

That is all.

Oh yeah: hang in there, Saddam.

Friday, December 29, 2006


This is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

A Swiss pilot, who has long dreamed of flying like a bird, has achieved his dream....

image snitched from the "Jet-man's" website.

Go to his website to read about him and see video of his exploits.

One can only imagine what it must feel like to soar through the sky, supported by your very own wings....


Death is very much in the news this week. Former president Gerald Ford died, which saddens me because he was a decent man, and certainly a far, far better president than the two who preceded him, something I hope (but don't expect) will be said of the president who takes office in 2008.

Come to think of it, Jerry Ford was better than the one who followed him as well.

James Brown died too and that makes me very sad. I always dug "the Godfather of Soul" and always will.

And of course Saddam Hussein is likely to get his neck stretched at any time. It's a far more decent death than he allowed any of his victims....

I wasn't feeling angry about any of this until I went to the post office a while ago and saw a sign taped to the front door. It seems Tuesday has been declared a "national day of mourning" for Gerald Ford.

How do we mourn for him? The government employees among us will show their grief by taking a day off from work. With pay. Some members of Congress will pay their respects to him by partying in South America on a "fact-finding" trip.

Damn, that shows true reverence for the man, don't you think?

The rest of us can feel sad that he's gone, say a prayer for him if we're so inclined, and maybe even watch the funeral on TV.

While we work.

And while we do without, for yet another day, government services we pay for.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why do I bother?

While wading through an old notebook today, I found a list of New Year's resolutions I made up 12 months ago. I have reason to believe they were written not long after a long phone call with someone who "needed me so much," but that's another story.

So let's see where my head was at during the waning days of 2005....

"By the end of 2006:

1. (name withheld) and I will be (deleted);

2. I will make sure (name withheld) has all the love, fun, security and respect missing in her life now;

3. I will not be working for (deleted) and (deleted), but only for honest clients who pay well and on time;

4. I will quit (deleted);

5. I will take a real vacation, and will take (deleted) with me;

6. I will quit (deleted) not the same as #4;

7. I will get a (deleted) or (deleted), and get back into my music seriously;

8. I will be debt-free;

9. I will start working on my book;

10. I will have a home, not just a roof over my head."

So, how did it turn out?

In baseball parlance, I'm batting .000, am in fact farther away from achieving any of them than I was when I wrote the list. Possibly, one lesson to be learned is that one should never make resolutions that require anyone else's cooperation. Another lesson might be to make no resolutions that have preconditions -- such as the interrelationship between #3 and #s 7, 8, 9 and 10. Forget about the connection between #s 1 and 2 and all the rest....

With that in mind, let me present my one -- and only -- resolution for 2007: I will not make any more frigging resolutions, not this year, not ever again.

Few things are more painful than missing every goal you set for yourself.

And I've experienced more than one of the "few things" this past year, too....

Nothin', nada, nix, gournisht... what I got today.

The editor involved in yesterday's debacle got back to me today, and we discussed ways to push back his production schedule to get the delayed story in the issue he (and I) want it in. What it all boils down to is this: if the photographs can be taken by a date that may be possible, we'll make it. Now I have to report back to the person who called for the delay and see if I can push him along a bit.

This will make it harder on me. I'll have to gather the information in bits and pieces to have the story done before the photo session. I don't like writing stories in small chunks to be stitched together at the last moment. Real writers can do that, I'm told.

Nonetheless, I'll do it. And this was the best news I've had all day.

When you get right down to cases, it was the only news I've had today.

That ain't good.

I'm still floating around aimlessly. Sometimes -- this is one of them -- I need an anchor. But since my "anchor" jumped ship* many months ago, I feel like the little fuzzy critter in a "Wack-a-Mole" game, waiting for that hammer to pound me back into whatever hole I dare pop my head out of.

When you're alone, the highs are never as high, and the lows are beyond description. And there is no good escape from what's inside your head.

* this may be the dumbest mixed metaphor I've ever used. I'm kinda proud of it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lord Buckley passes sentence...

...on me.

I don't quite know what made me unearth my old recordings of The Great Hipster today, unless it was a simple need to find something, anything, that would make me smile.

I've listened countless times, can do most of his "bits" from memory. Better still, thanks to my time hanging with old jazz musicians, I'm reasonably fluent in Buckley's favorite language, Classic Jive.

But when I got to his story of Nero, I dug that the public's impression of the Roman emperor (as relayed to Nero by one of his pals) was an accurate summation of what I'm beginning to think is the best that can be said of me....

"Them...cats is sayin' you ain't nowhere, you ain't never been nowhere and ain't ever gonna be nowhere 'cause you is nowhere in front!".

And, as his sidekick went on to say, " done boined the town down last night, and the pop-u-lance is out there. They is gettin' mighty salty wit' you, indeed!"

So Rome burned, while Nero stood by layin' down tunes on his fiddle, and the pop-u-lance didn't like it a bit....

I can dig it, Nero baby.

If none of this makes the remotest sense to you, that's okay. All I've ever really wanted to do was repeat the words Lord Buckley laid down on another occasion:

"M'lords, m'laides, would it embarrass you very much if I was to tell you...that I love you?"

I really wonder...

...if someone, or something, is trying to send me a message.

Anyone who has read more than one or two entries here know this has been a bad year for me. Beyond bad, really; it has aged me considerably and has crushed some of my cherished dreams and beliefs. It has also brought me to a place where, like a fighter who has been knocked out but doesn't quite know it yet, I stagger around, waiting blindly for the next blow to land, not knowing from what direction or source it will come.

Didn't have to wait long today.

While I was struggling with a recalcitrant story that must be finished this afternoon, I received a call. A story that was to be done next week will have to be delayed for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with me.

I was looking forward to doing this one. Not only was it to be an exclusive for me, but arrangements had been made to sell it to two non-competing publications simultaneously. Thus, two paychecks instead of one, which is of course desirable.

The story will still be written. But the delay moves it past a publication deadline, which means that instead of having to wait two or so months for payment, I won't see any return for at least three or four months.

At the best of times, that would be something of a blow. As matters are these days, with other clients apparently locked into ultra-slow pay mode and my debts steadily increasing, it is intolerable.

And that brings me to the question that haunts me: when does the downward spiral stop? When are losses to be replaced with gains?

I don't know how I managed to speak calmly with the person who broke the news to me. I made it sound, as I had to, as if it was a minor problem.

Only I -- and now you -- know that it has taken the last remaining wind right out of my sails.

What good is keeping your focus on the horizon when you have been deprived of the ability to take any steps toward it?

Some religious people believe God will not load more difficulty on anyone than they can stand. I have to say I disagree. My burden, the combined weight of personal and business betrayals, seem beyond my strength.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Santa, the day after...

...dropped by to leave off an unexpected gift...

From Harry and David, a tower of delicious goodies: cheese, candies, chocolates, nuts, pears, and the mysterious "Moose Munch Confection..."

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT WHILE BUSILY CHEWING: One of the pears, which proved to be perfectly ripe (and perfectly delicious) has vanished since the pictures were taken a short while ago.

This is a gift that will be treasured long after the last crumb of cheese and last truffle have been savored. Because of the giver, whose friendship has meant so much to me, it is precious.

I can't argue with the words on the little Harry and David card nestled under the ribbon: " shows just how much someone appreciates you."

They don't know the half of it; they don't know how much I appreciate her.

I hope she knows. In a minute, after I wipe away the moisture from my eyes and can see to punch a number in the phone, I'm going to tell her.

Reality returns....

...reminding me that, while yesterday was not the greatest day of my life, it can always get worse. Which, today, it has.

I received a call from someone who is, well, something of a pest. I wrote about a project of his several months ago. It was not easy. Not only did I have to endure him for the better part of a day, but the article involved many hours of research before I could even begin writing. The writing process was slow as well.

From the day after I met with him, he has called regularly, asking when the story would appear. I explained to him -- the first time, and during every call thereafter -- that I have nothing to do with the story once it's sent to the editor. Said editor did say "it'll be in the next issue," but as magazines generally work on a given issue several months ahead, I could only give him rough estimates.

In this morning's call, the publicity seeking pest advised me he had just seen the latest issue, the one in which I was led to believe the story would appear. It wasn't there.

Suddenly, there was something more important at stake than placating this guy: as of today, it will be a minimum of a month until I am paid for this work. I was counting on the money. Just as I was counting on money from several other clients who always have the best possible excuses for not sending checks....

I really hate my fucking job. I don't want to do it any longer.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Duel to the death...

...while the rest of you were, I hope, opening presents and enjoying a loving day with those near and dear to you, I was slowly sinking into a major funk. I'm nowhere near being able to describe my feelings coherently, so that's not what this is about.

Naturally, as my anger grew, the more it seemed to me that everything was (a) going wrong or (b) happening for no other reason than to twist the knife deeper. Finally, the last straw: my neighbor started playing his "jazz" CD again, over and over. And over and over. I went for a walk -- from whence the bird photo came -- and, when I returned, he was still at it. The bass slicing through the thin walls was making me crazy.

In a moment of sheer and wonderful frustration, I decided I needed to replace the dead CD/DVD drive in my computer. Like now. Today. The first effort several days ago ended in failure, thwarted by a silly piece of plastic.

I vowed that today I would make the repairs, or one of us would not emerge from the room whole.

It was at this point that I discovered a basic difference between cheap and "quality" computers. The former, like my old $199 Chinese beast, are assembled with millions of tiny screws and rivets. All the drives and switches are fastened down solidly. But my fancier (and pricier) new machine has drives and subassemblies that slide into place.

That fershlugginer piece of plastic I thought was intended to discourage user service is what holds 'em down.

So: Side panel and front cover off (45 seconds), slide out messed-up drive (two seconds), unhook cables (five seconds). Take deep breath, slide in replacement (two seconds), hook up cables (one minute for my large fingers), replace panel and cover (30 seconds).

And it works.

I can once again listen to music while I work, and can get back to burning the CDs my friends requested.

It was easier than assembling kids' Christmas toys, too.

Damn, I wish I could fix busted relationships as easily as I can fix busted machines....

A Christmas get-together...

...where The Ghetto Meets The Sea...

A surprise dose...

...of Christmas eve cheer was administered to me tonight.

A friend who lives in the building next to mine -- which is a charming little 1920s apartment court -- invited me to join her, and two of her neighbors, for Christmas Eve dinner.

I had time to whip over to Trader Joe's and pick up some sparkling apple cider and pie, so did not arrive empty-handed. The food was traditional fare: turkey with stuffing, mashed 'taters, peas, wild rice.

The really nice part of the evening was the company. H. is a photographer, so we have something in common. Better, she and the other guests are part of what makes this area so nice to live in, what the inevitable yuppification Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea will destroy: a kind of benign but slightly demented end-of-the-continent sensibility that breeds individuality and a desire -- almost a need -- to live among all kinds of oddball people.

Does that makes sense to you? I don't know. It might be one of those you-have-to-be-here things. I simply dig hanging out with real people who don't care about image or status. They simply are.

Christmas-y it wasn't. Not exactly, anyway. No religion involved, just four people who craved relaxed, friendly, caring company in a season that virtually demands such close social intercourse.

Christmas: be there or be square, Jim.

So it was four people and two cats in this little 1920s apartment with its hardwood floors, a space for a long-gone Murphy Bed on one wall, munching on holiday food and making each other laugh.

H. will never know what she saved me from, bless her heart. I had a bout of self-revelation today, and the revelation did not please me. I will write about it, because it is most bothersome.

But not tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

Tonight, I'm smiling. H. is a good friend, her neighbors are interesting and likable, her kittycats dug me, and Hobbes is snoozing after enjoying some turkey leftovers.

According to NORAD, Santa is at this moment in Calgary, Alberta. I know a place there where he's going to leave some fine presents. A few lumps of coal dropped over Idaho, and he'll soon be on his way to Seattle.

I don't care that he'll zoom right past my place, too. I was given a sweet gift this evening, which I hope I returned in some small way.

It's already December 26th in Manila, where Art Bell is doing his show. I've got a full stomach, a full heart, and a shot of Trader Joe's best single-malt.

Seems like a perfect moment to say "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

From today's email...

...comes something that makes me want to break my usual habit of not posting all the hideous garbage people "forward" to others....

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best
wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible,
low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the
winter solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable
traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of
your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions
and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice
religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling
and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the
generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due
respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose
contributions to society have helped make our country great
(not to imply that the UK is necessarily greater than any
other country) and without regard to the race, creed, colour,
age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of
the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal.

It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original

It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement
any of the wishes for her/himself or others and is void
where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole
discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the
usual application of good tidings for a period of one year
or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting,
whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement
of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion
of the wisher.

I guess that just about says it all!

Santa sightings!

This is a very cool thing for little kids! And, for that matter, big kids....

The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa Claus on their radar systems for many, many years. In the beginning, their "sighting reports" were available by telephone and were carried by radio stations; nowadays, they can be accessed via computer.

It's all very entertaining and very sweet.

And I admit that I check in a few times each year myself....

PARENTHETICAL STATUS REPORT FROM HERE: So much for lying in bed snuffling and hacking. As soon as my laundry comes out of the dryer, I'm off to do some shopping for a house-bound neighbor whose children and grandchildren decided to stop by this evening. Fortunately, everything she needs can be purchased in sealed packages *coughs*....

Christmas Eve...the Final Indignity!

So I woke up this morning feeling vaguely apprehensive. Last night was not good; few things hurt as much as having your subconscious dish up lovely dreams that you wish were true -- or wish you could see as portents of the future -- but most definitely are neither.

I soon had more to deal with than apprehension. I was having trouble breathing; my sinuses were, and still are, plugged up. My throat is sore, and I'm running a mild temperature.

So as of this moment, it seems certain I will need to go out and buy myself a present. I'll bring it home, climb back into bed and unwrap it, and spend Christmas Eve chugging it down.

But I guess a bottle of NyQuil is a better gift than lumps of coal. Even if it isn't as nice as a bottle of Bushmills.

Ho, ho, ho.

Art Bell just said...

...that eventually men will be extinct.

He bases this, I guess, on the female kimodo dragon, which can apparently reproduce without males. From what I've read, other species can indulge in parthenogenesis, too.

Based on the reactions of women who have been close to me (both those looking to reproduce and those already done with it), it appears I'm already extinct.

Have a good time, ladies. I'll be over here in the tar pits, waiting to be excavated in a couple million years.

All y'all can come look at my skeleton.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Not a night for miracles...

...though, for a few brief moments, I stupidly allowed myself some hope.

Early in the evening, I suddenly realized I was in a good mood. What was up with that? My computer is giving me grief, I know now that the chances of receiving any of the money owed me before the New Year is virtually nonexistent, and nothing else improved today.

But there it was: a feeling that things would work out okay.

So I went for a walk. It's beautiful here tonight; clear, with just a slight chill to the air. As has happened before Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea, it looks as if Christmas will actually be fairly warm. But the walk was a bad idea.

It didn't seem so at first. I wanted to get away from the loud television next door, the people who live above me (who are stomping around in a loud and annoying way) and the people yelling at each other outside my window.

But I think when I walk. And I thought about...well, I'm not going to say what/who I thought about, though some people can probably guess. No help for that, really; when I tell myself "I will not think about ****," that's the same as forcing the thoughts into the front of my mind.

So now I'm thinking that tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and it will be no different than any Sunday night has been for much too long:

Lonely. Unsatisfying. Pointless.

This just isn't making it.

Even the little things...

...are conspiring to irritate the living bejeebers out of me.

Since the mailbox was empty once again, I decided (for budget reasons) to replace the malfunctioning CD/DVD drive in my computer with a nice low-mileage part I installed in my previous comp. not long before it died an ugly death.

Did all the usual: after lugging the old box out of the garage and whipping out the good drive, I disconnected my working computer, set it on the dining table and prepared to do the transplant surgery.

Nope. Not happening. Not only are the various mechanisms "protected" by a plastic piece that has to be broken -- thus voiding the warranty -- to get access to cables and fasteners, but the connections appear to be much different, and not interchangeable. I couldn't be sure unless I took the drive out, which I can't.

IS-THIS-MAN-THAT-STUPID? THOUGHT: I know you're wondering why, if the stupid thing is still under warranty (an extended warranty I paid extra for at Fry's), why don't I just haul it over there and let them fix it? Simple answer: they will want to keep it for a minimum of two days, maybe longer.

So here I sit, unable to finish burning the CDs I want to send to a couple of friends, unable to so much as listen to music in here. And, oh yeah, I can't look at any press material for work that came on CDs, either.

Looks as if I have three choices (after the holidays, of course): I can call one of those they-come-to-you technogeeks and spend $100 or more getting the thing straightened out, or I can cart it back to Fry's and sit around with my thumb up my (deleted) for however long it takes 'em to decide to fix it. Or I can pull out the ol' 12-gauge, ventilate that ugly black box thoroughly, and be done with the whole damn mess.

Option Three looks real good right now....

Just another little dose of Christmas Cheer around here....

Another Saturday morning...

...and I had to drag myself out of bed early to drive a considerable number of miles to get some information for an article I'm writing.

We met at the parking lot where, almost every Saturday, a bunch of people gather. They bring their own interesting cars, then stand around drinking coffee while looking at (and talking about) other peoples' cars. Considering the date, I was surprised to see that this was perhaps the largest such gathering so far.

Familiarity has made me a bit jaded, I guess, and I can pass by most new Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Porsches and the like without breaking stride. That doesn't mean no one brings cars that make me stop and stare. In some rare cases, I may even feel a twinge of desire to own them.

A good example is this mildly customized '62 Cadillac...

Everyone loves cute little Nash Metropolitans, right?

Here's one that's slightly less cute, but certainly faster than any original...

This gorgeous Packard falls into the I'd-love-to-own-it category...

Of course the best thing about this show is that it starts and ends early! I got there by 7:45, looked around, took care of business and was on the freeway heading back here by 10:30.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The tide turns...

...and not for the better.

I won't be depressed during the Christmas and New Year's season. I'll be depressed and angry.

It's not that anything worse than usual happened today. There were annoyances, of course, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The misery of the past nine months is simply coming home to roost.

I have to work tomorrow, and I'm damned if I know how I'm going to put on the expected friendly, optimistic face to deal with the people I have to see.

From tomorrow night through New Year's Day, it's just me. I can no longer fool myself, so won't even bother trying.

I'll need to stay away from little kids for the next two days. I'd like them to carry on believing in Santa Claus, like them to continue to believe in the miracles of the season.

If you, dear readers, have any love and warmth in your lives, hang on tight. Don't let go of it, don't take it for granted. The love promised to me was a mirage and has been given to someone else. And I didn't even take it for granted.

Can there be anything worse than a joyless Christmas and an impending New Year that promises nothing but more loneliness and pointless struggle?

I'll try to return tomorrow with pictures of pretty lights.

A message to President Bush:

Dana Rohrbacher, a Congressman from California, has sent a letter -- co-signed by many of his colleagues -- to George Bush, asking him to issue a Christmas pardon to Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, the two Border Patrol agents who were persecuted (and will soon be jailed) for shooting a drug smuggler.

I've written about this travesty before, and am still angry about it. The jury that convicted Compean and Ramos was not only pressured to do so, but accepted the testimony of the drug-smuggler -- who was granted immunity, given free medical care, was caught smuggling drugs again after the trial (and was cut loose!), and now is suing the government because he was "incapacitated" by his minor wound -- as somehow compelling.

There is little doubt in my mind that Compean and Ramos were hung out to dry under orders of the same man to whom Rohrbacher addressed his letter.

Nonetheless, Bush can redeem himself (at least on this particular issue) by acceding to the request.

Of course I believe he should order the two agents reinstated in their jobs as well.

I would like to ask all who read this to go here and add your names to a petition that will be sent to Bush.

ABSOLUTELY NON-PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: I disagree, in some cases very strongly, with some of the positions this organization takes. But in this instance, they are right on, and I signed. It's too important an issue to let drop because the one organization willing to step up to the plate has some other views that aren't supportable.

The entire illegal-immigration issue has been so politicized, is so rife with corruption on the pro-illegal side and so destructive to the core of this nation that at some point we will have to decide whether any of the people in our government are really representing us, or are advancing an agenda meant only to enrich themselves and a few pals here and in Mexico.

Granting a pardon to Compean and Ramos would not only be an act of true justice, but would signal that Bush actually is capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong, something not often apparent.

I would be so happy to have George Bush offer proof that he can be better than I believe he is, and this would be a damn good place for him to start.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

About those holidays...

...or, in my case, what freekin' holidays?

I have to be out for a while tomorrow, so that means Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be sit-at-the-desk-and-write days around here. Deadlines, y'know, though I'd be more cheerful about cranking out the verbiage if said clients had already paid for the last work they ordered and received....

There was an outside chance that I might have Christmas dinner with a couple of friends, but I was told this afternoon that the female half of the duo decided she preferred to be up in Central California doing a dinner for some other friends. They made a half-hearted offer to include me if I wanted to do eight hours on the road Monday to get there and back. Which I don't. Oh, well.

So my Christmas celebration, remarkably similar to my Thanksgiving celebration, will probably consist of hitting the deli for some special treats for the cat.

I might go out one evening and look at Christmas lights, and imagine what it would be like to be inside, sitting around the tree with loved ones....

TOTALLY IRRELEVANT PARENTHETICAL NOTE: Every year, I receive a Christmas card from a large Japanese corporation I deal with. Not, mind you, from their U.S. branch, but from the home office, where a friend holds an executive position. I looked at the envelope and found that it was postmarked in Singapore. Damn, everything is outsourced these days!

I'm trying hard to not wish the whole damn thing would be over and done with as quickly as possible; I know a lot of people are having wonderful holidays, and I'd like the good times to linger as long as possible for them.

But here, on this one small piece of the planet, its major Grinch-time, Jim.

Being lonely during normal times is bad enough; being without any company -- particularly loving company -- during the holidays is simply awful.

I know I've said it before, but it's in the front of my mind again: twelve months ago, I had a vision of Christmas, 2006 that filled me with hope and happiness. But Santa delivered that particular gift elsewhere.

Tom Clancy has nothing on me!

PARENTHETICAL PREFACE-TYPE EXPLANATION-THING: This happened ten or so years ago, so my memory is somewhat hazy about some details. And, since it involves my work, I've had to leave a few things out....

Somewhere, there is a photo of me staring through a fence. I'm wearing a heavy blue winter coat, and am standing in snow. My hands clutch the fencing; after all, I'm in Russia and, like so many Russians of that time and before, I want to get out....

The story began on a cold winter day in the town of Kirkenes, Norway, to which I was flown in a rattly charter plane with a faulty heating system and a dark, dirty cabin. From my hotel, one could see the highway leading into Russia and, in the far distance, a checkpoint that blocked the road.

It was a normal enough trip: work, great food and strong beverages -- including a wonderful dinner of reindeer steaks in a log cabin -- and beautiful scenery.

Part of the trip involved a drive to a small village. The road ran right along the Russian border, which was marked by a sturdy, but badly maintained fence and tall guard towers here and there on the Other Side. Aside from the one route from Kirkenes, I saw no roads crossing the border.

Even so, our hosts had been adamant about Russia being off-limits to us. Insurance issues, paperwork issues and, probably, a wish to not have to bail me or one of my colleagues out of a Russian slammer made them conservative.

The "don't go there" command was, of course, like waving a red cloth -- a Soviet-red cloth, for sure -- in front of a herd of bulls. I was riding with a good friend as we drove back from the small village where we had lunch, and topic "A" was a quickie visit to the other side of the fence.

We had gotten separated from the other cars in our caravan and, on one lonely, deserted stretch of road, the temptation overpowered us. We stopped, got out, walked over to the fence. My friend started taking pictures.

At that particular point, there were holes in the barrier, large enough for one to crawl through. Though a guard tower was visible, it seemed empty. What could go wrong? The Ivans wouldn't care if we popped in for a quick visit, would they?

My friend went first. I took pictures of him Over There. He returned, and I went in while he snapped a few photos.

We spent the rest of the drive laughing about it. We'd put one over on both our hosts and the Evil Reds.

Not long after, we got back to Kirkenes and joined the rest of the group. We were last to return, save one other car carrying two colleagues who were covering the trip for a TV show. Time passed, and that car didn't show up.

Hours later, they arrived, and went into a huddle with one of our hosts. They appeared to be somewhat irritated.

As well they should have been. They were collared by the Norwegian police, acting on a complaint from the Russians about two guys in a red (name withheld) station wagon who had illegally entered Russia and, worse, had photographed a sensitive military installation (the guard tower). Their videotapes had been confiscated.

While this was being reported, two guys whose faces were as red as their own red (name withheld) station wagon were trying not to burst into hysterical laughter. This was noted, and we were asked if we happened to know anything about this.

Two voices in unison: "Who, us?"

PARENTHETICAL POST-SCRIPT THING: The videotapes were returned the next morning, and the Norwegian flatfeet were as nice as could be to them. Several years later, I confessed to my part in this to the TV guys (who laughed, thank God) and to one of the company people who was on the trip. And, surprisingly, that same company has continued to invite me to its events....

I never did get copies of the photos, though.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I said I would... I will.

A good friend decided to involve me in the bizarre "tagging" ritual, in which one answers questions/reveals deep, dark secrets about oneself and then picks five other victims to do likewise. The instruction is this: name five annoying, weird, surprising or different things about you and then tag five others.

PARENTHETICAL PRE-CONFESSION WARNING: Don't expect anything that can and will be used against me in a court of law, or any revelations useful for extorting money from me (as if I had any). Nor will I name names; I still believe in protecting both the innocent and the guilty.

1. I have owned three Kaiser automobiles. Most of you have never seen one. I had two 1953 models, and one '52, all of which had different grilles than this '54-'55...

Wish I still had one. They were neat cars, very comfortable and reliable.

2. I have met famous people without knowing it. For example: when I was quite young, I was taken to visit Stan Laurel, and later met Frank Sinatra in a hallway at Capitol Records in Hollywood. Neither encounter left any impression on me for many years; in fact, when I finally recalled the visit to Stan's apartment, I had to ask my sister to confirm that we had actually met him and not some other nice elderly man with a Scots burr in his voice.

3. In a true case of self-annoyance, I have been cursed with a mind like a dumpster. If I learn something wacky and useless, it's stuck in there and will come out at the strangest times. While this is good for playing trivia games, it sometimes cheeses off editors who don't understand truly obscure references when I drop 'em into articles. It's like having google in your head, without the really helpful stuff.

4. I am one of two people (I doubt there are any others) who actually crawled under a border fence to get into Russia. I was there for perhaps two minutes, before crawling back into Norway. There were consequences, but that's another story....

5. (My one serious "confession") I am disgustingly, almost self-destructively loyal. My friends know I can't say "no" to them when asked for favors large or small, regardless of my schedule or personal priorities. The truly bad part is that the loyalty extends to people who, to be blunt, no longer deserve it. I'm thinking of a couple of individuals in particular for whom I would still go down the line, even though they have done me some damage.

Okay. There's your five, Scott.

I am not going to "tag" anyone, however. If any of y'all want to do this, just let me know and I'll enjoy reading your answers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Those wild & crazy Brits...

...have really gone over the edge this time.

As the Financial Times reports in this article, it will be advisable -- on moral grounds! -- to worry about the treatment of robots.


We humans won't want to cause them pain, or let them go into old age without pensions and care...hell, we may even want to give them a vote, according to a study commissioned by H.M. Government in London.

Of course the "scientists" who prepared the report for about future conditions were presuming that robots capable of independent thought will be developed at some point, which I suppose they will.

PARENTHETICAL BIT OF WONDERMENT: What idiot commissioned this study? And why isn't said idiot out on his or her butt for wasting the taxpayers' hard-earned cash?

But the notion of adding mechanical devices, no matter how clever, to the ranks of old-age pensioners, protected social classes and voters makes me want to suggest that we simply stop developing robots now, before it's too late.

The ramifications are simply frightening, particularly if this lunatic idea crosses the Atlantic. Picture this: clever political operatives getting involved with the programming of robots to create, say, millions of new Democrat voters. Or assembly-line robots going out on strike to protest low-cost Mexican and Chinese robots. And what, God help us, if a robot has one of its motors burn out? You won't be able to simply call a technician; hell, no, it will have the right to go on welfare!

No doubt the first thing some enterprising manufacturer will do is create an Al Sharpton robot.

Presented without comment...

...except a big "Right on, David Zucker!"

"Forgiveness" and "second chances"

So the magnanimous Donald Trump, owner of the "Miss Universe" franchise, has forgiven "Miss USA" for her supposed misdeeds and will not be taking her title away. "I've always been a believer in second chances," he said. The "second chance" apparently includes entering a rehab program and signing a contract that specifies acceptable behavior for the 21 year-old woman.

What a load of hypocritical, publicity-seeking horsecrap.

Not the "forgiveness" part, but the way it was handled.

I consider forgiveness an essential part of life. I have forgiven, and will always do my best to forgive, behavior I consider wrong or hurtful. Since I am an incredibly imperfect person, I can't expect anyone else to be perfect. And I don't.

When I do forgive, neither you nor anyone else save the other person involved will know about it. That person simply reappears in my life. True forgiveness is a private matter, not an opportunity to stand up in front of a crowd and boast that you have given someone a second chance.

By the same token, true forgiveness is only possible when the "forgivee" not only expresses regret for their misdeeds but also makes a conscious effort not to repeat them.

But when a big fuss is made about it, the past actions stick in everyone's mind, and the spotlight falls on the one who forgives. That's simply wrong.

SEMI-PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: Obviously, there are limits. Some acts are simply too permanent to allow for an unrestricted second chance. Murder, for example, and crimes that leave the victims permanently scarred in one way or another. But most human failings can indeed be turned around, and should be forgiven.

Genuine forgiveness is difficult. It's not easy to forget the behavior that hurt, not easy to overcome the fear that it could happen again. Nor is it easy to avoid the all-too-human temptation to bring up the past in times of stress.

But it's what human beings need to do.

Like everything else I do, I may not be all that good at forgiving, but I do put a lot of effort into it. It's worth it.

I may be giving Trump less credit than he deserves, but I reckon his decision had as much to do with the public-relations value of giving Miss USA a second chance as it did with any true human feelings. Otherwise, he could simply have handled it in private and, at most, issued a short statement saying no change was being considered, or would be made.

I admire people who can honestly forgive others. Hell, I admire people who can see their mistakes, ask forgiveness for them and make sincere amends.

Those involved in this morning's Trump-Miss USA farce don't strike me as admirable.

Monday, December 18, 2006


...and wishing I could find some sign that it's not a lost cause.

There was a bright moment this morning thanks to a sweet, sweet lady who has long been a kind friend.

Sadly, what I hoped would be a good start to a good day turned out to be its best moment.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: Comes to think of it, she would have been the high point of a great day.

I won't bore you with the details of work; you've heard them, and can probably imagine how this season adds some additional difficulties in making contact with people, getting paid in a timely fashion, and so on.

And I won't tell you about what continues to do the most damage. I have reasons for keeping silent, but in explaining them I'd have to tell you what is is I'm not going to tell you.

I don't seem to have anything to say, do I?

Guess it's time for a drink, then.

Something that makes me smile...

...and will make you smile as well, is only a click away.

I've seen it on several other sites in the last couple of days, so maybe you have too.

Don't know why, but I can't stop watching it....

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I'm going to shut the hell up now... least for tonight.

I have come perilously close to plain speaking; only quick use of the "delete" option saved me. If I let myself start in again, I might not be able to click the right button next time.

Fortunately, the cat is hungry -- again -- and I need to go give him some food.

What am I, stupid?

Don't answer that.

I heard today that a nearby community has been running a "Gifts For Guns" campaign. Bring in a piece and get a $50 gift certificate to a local store.

SHORT PARENTHETICAL PAUSE...while we all hold hands and sing "Kumbayah."

Uh-huh. Yup. All those gangbangers are going to hand over their weapons for a chance to blow half-a-C at the Target Store. I know the authorities are saying this was a big success, with 479 guns turned in.

Somehow, I don't expect to see a big pile of Uzis, TEC-9s and similar lethal hardware. I'd be willing to bet what they got was a bunch of rusted-out .25-caliber handguns that haven't been fired since Eisenhower was president.

ANOTHER PARENTHETICAL NOTE FOR THE GUN-SAVVY: you don't have to tell me all guns are lethal. Lee Harvey Oswald used an old and relatively cruddy Mannlicher-Carcano rifle and, if my memory's right, Sirhan B. Sirhan did his thing with a cheap-o Iver Johnson pistol. If one truly wants to off someone, anything with a trigger, barrel and bullets will work. If the damn thing doesn't jam, that is.

Sorry, all you peace-and-love types over there in Compton -- I do not feel any safer as a result of your well-meaning bit of liberal holiday spirit.

I used to live in The 'Hood. I recognized the sound of some of the guns I heard fired on New Year's Eve and other festive occasions. They were not Saturday-Night Specials, no siree. Think M-16, think Colt .45 Military, think big, nasty stuff smuggled home from The "Nam. And the weapons have gotten far more sophisticated -- and deadly -- since then.

If the good people in the --shall we say -- crime-heavy neighborhoods want to slow down the continual escalation in violence, there is one way only: let the police come in and do sweeps. Let them deal harshly with the gangbangers, drug-runners and other low-lifes who reach for a gun at the slightest provocation.

It's "use a gun in a crime, go away forever" time, baby.

I know the NRA will consider me a traitor, but though I do not want the Feds to know what weapons I have, how many rounds are in chambers/clips and when I fired them last -- especially after the recent election -- I see no earthly reason for collectors or shooters to have weapons designed to rock-and-roll through a full clip of hollow-points in a matter of seconds.

Unless you like your deer meat shredded and/or really cannot see a target 25 yards away, you do not need such devices.

Unless, that is, you are one of the "misguided, underprivileged youths" who deals with life by blowing rival gang members and innocent bystanders away.

I am sick and tired of the professional apologists who believe -- or at least profit from -- the notion that enough tax money spent on "Community Centers" and "Gang Outreach Programs" will make the problem go away. They are wrong, and all the good will in the world won't change that.

There are certain basic laws in a civilized society, and the first is this: those who deal in violence must be dealt with accordingly.

And "the way" does not involve $50 gift cards. It involves demanding responsibility and civilized behavior.


...was a beautiful day Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea...."

I'm getting a cold, I think. Drastic changes in temperature and humidity over the last few days, not enough sleep and just plain old ennui seem to have left me vulnerable. I hope it doesn't get any worse than it is right now.

Currently, I'm trying to get the little cold-bugs drunk enough to forget what they're there for.

More later. I feel a strong need to yelp about stuff coming on.

Return of the GCotW!

The neighborhood is still dripping with cats, but in recent times none have crossed in front of my camera lens. Until today, that is, when I spied this guy enjoying the warmth of a cement wall....


Strangers in the night...

It's going to be a long night...

I'm tired as can be, having awakened at 4:45 am today -- it's now roughly 11:00 pm -- but sleep seems out of the question. I'm listening to Art Bell, who seems to slip a little deeper into paranoia with each new broadcast from his current base in Manila. I know his listeners live for his conspiracy revelations -- especially those long-haul truckers making that endless trek across the Midwest and, for some reason, Canadians -- but he now sounds less entertaining than slightly mad.

Or maybe it's just me.

I dare not fall asleep with the radio still on. There have been times in the past when Bell's show has generated strange dreams. Much better to have no dreams tonight, whether born of what I hear on the radio or other sources.

But for now, I'm far from sleep, and odd old Art is my only companion. Art, his guests and callers, that is. A strange crowd, we are.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My mood

I've been trying to think of a way to express my mood and, thanks to reading (and leaving comments, then reading more comments) here, I suddenly knew how I could describe it to you.

Think of me as ED-209...

image snitched from here

For those who don't remember, ED-209 was the law-enforcement robot with a fatal programming flaw in the 1987 movie RoboCop
Thanks to a "small glitch" or two, ED-209 ended up as a modern, machine-gun totin', transistors-and-servo-motors version of Judge Roy Bean. One might say he/it "shot first -- and second, and third -- and asked questions later." Clearly, ED-209 was a gunslingin' warrior with a bad headache and a low tolerance for taking crap from anyone.

Yeah. That's me.

And I definitely think Nancy Allen should have run off with ED-209 instead of falling in love with that virtuous wimp, RoboCop.

Well, wasn't that special...


So I went down to add my pathetic wee handful of toys to a monster pile of Christmas goodies this morning. Obviously the rest of the givers had (a) more to spend and (b) different childhoods than mine. There were plenty of gigantic dolls, monster trucks near large enough for a Doberman to drive and (yes!) numerous examples of toys that emulate real things (computers, cell phones, Blackberries, etc.) kids will have to deal with soon enough. I felt a proper fool for choosing the simple, no-batteries-required things I used to like, and still do.

This may be a good reason for women to avoid me. If my recent torpedoed relationship had actually worked out, I probably would have bought her kids Etch-a-Sketches and wind-up sushi that clatter across the table when what they really wanted was high-tech toys that entertain without requiring involvement or imagination.

PARENTHETICAL TOY-GIVING NOTE: One memorable year I brought a truly bizarre talking alarm clock back from Japan as a present for my then-girlfriend's son. He loved it; she -- who was already too familiar with my own talking alarm clock -- threatened him with serious harm should he actually use it. He did anyway. Good kid.

If I had money, I'd just bah-humbug it with everyone else and buy one of these for myself...

It's a 1956 Austin-Healey 100, which may well be my favorite car on the whole planet.

(Actually, I wouldn't necessarily want this particular example, as the owner made some changes while restoring it that aren't authentic. But one very similar would do just fine.)

Never mind. This goes in the same never-never file as my mythical "Christmas with family and friends."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Why is this man... a very obvious, very visible state of (shall we say) distress?

Since you're here, I'll tell you, though I'm wavering between saying "it's been that kind of day," which it has...

...and just yammering on, and on, and on in a slightly choked voice, punctuated by frequent eye-wipings.

It's mainly because I started my Christmas shopping today. Finished it, too.

I realized that two places I'll be this weekend will have Marines (God bless them) working their annual toy drive. This is a cool thing, and I would sooner be savaged by a squadron of demented marmosets than show up toy-less.

So I set off for the nearest toy emporium in a pretty good mood, even though I am somewhat budgetarily challenged right now and couldn't go overboard with the purchases.

And I was quite enjoying myself as I went down the aisles. I'm not the type who would buy any kid "Little Miss's First PDA," or "My First Cell Phone," or any of that crap. No way. I was determined to buy the kind of toys that grabbed me when I was a Tiny Yoot: things that do silly stuff, that let you weave webs of imagination around them, that cause your basic little-kid belly laughs.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: I'm not advocating "educational" toys. The closest thing to that I remember from childhood was the Colorforms set one of my sisters was given one year. I'm talking about Slinky toys, Etch-a-Sketches, weird-looking animal toys that feel good when you cuddle them and make stupid noises when you squeeze 'em. The kind of stuff I dug playing with at Age Six and, when no one's looking, still dig.

One nice side benefit of such goodies is that they're inexpensive. So instead of buying one of the latest Elmo dolls (which are clever enough but, once you've pushed in the right spot, aren't interactive at all), I could stock up on several of your basic hey-it's-for-a-little-kid-so-let-him/her-be-a-little-kid-damnit! toys.

And I did.

I walked out of the store smiling, dropped a few bucks -- there goes the single-malt -- in the Salvation Army kettle, and almost made it back to my car before depression hit me like a full clip of 9mm hollow-points.

That, friends and neighbors, is the extent of my Christmas shopping for 2006. And I won't even be there when the gifts are given/opened

There are several people to whom I would love to give gifts. Some might be slightly embarrassed by such a display of friendship/affection, at least one would throw whatever I gave right back in my face, and the rest are people who would, I suspect, feel guilty because they didn't get me anything.

Which isn't the point.

Nor, let me me hasten to explain, is money the issue. Granted, gifts that people need can be pricey. So, too, can gifts of intangibles such as love and safety. I'd do my best, in any case.

The big issue for me is that I love to give, and this is the season for really getting with the program. The last time I cared if I got fancy presents was more than 40 years ago; since then, it has not mattered to me if I received anything.

I just want to give.

A year ago, I envisioned a much different Christmas, 2006. I won't bore you with the details; suffice it to say I would have had plenty of opportunity to exercise this particular perversion. Whether the budget allowed for gifts that were massive and expensive or funny items from the 99-Cent Store, they would have been given in a loving, warm environment. The whole "family and friends" bit.

Didn't happen. Isn't going to happen.

I hope I've recovered in time to face the Marines tomorrow. I hope the kids they take the toys to get some pleasure from them, too. I know they will. They're kids, and they respond to even the smallest expressions of love.

And I hope the rest of you have a holiday filled with all the love, warmth, joy and sharing I thought I'd be enjoying (and, yes, was promised, but let's not go there) this year.

I don't belong here. The pelicans are flying West for the winter. What's up with that?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I should go into politics full-time...

...because I've found the preceding rants useful in distracting myself from all the other, more important, crap. At least crap that is more important to me.

Do you suppose that's a motivation for politicians in general? A lack of satisfaction in the personal life, the frustrations of surviving in the normal world, a feeling that what one wants doesn't matter allied to a wish that people would listen when one speaks...these issues could account for Hillary Clinton, Tom De Lay, the late Mr Nixon, et. al. It sure as hell could explain John Kerry and Teddy ("Splash") Kennedy.

I bless the "caller ID" feature of my phone service today. Some people -- marginally, "friends" -- have been trying to get in touch, because they want me to do something that will help them make their charmed lives even more so, in the form of latching on to a sizable inheritance. So I am avoiding them, shamelessly.

What I know and could testify to would certainly work to their favor but, as one who is struggling to keep my proverbial head above the proverbial water, I'm not terribly interested in helping them ratchet up their lifestyle right now. Especially when they feign indifference, and then start calling regularly to see if I'm ready to go to bat for them.

How mean of me. Especially at Christmas time.

Oddly enough, this morning started out rather well. I was quite certain I had a couple of new assignments to work on. Since then, the editor involved has reverted to regular form -- he's a jerk and is being one again, in other words -- and is throwing up roadblocks as fast as he can peck out email messages.

Another article has been postponed until after Christmas, because the people involved are "too busy."

Since my computer's CD drive has decided to give up -- I guess burning a dozen CDs was more than it could handle -- I'm forced to listen to the radio as I sit at my desk. I'm not hearing things that improve my mood.

As bad as the morons that hog mikes on the airwaves are, they're sweet music indeed compared to the commercials. I've mentioned the ones done by the late Chris Farley's brother that proclaim his drug-fueled death was "not his fault" and could have been avoided if Chris had used a miracle pill that some drug company has come up with; I am also tired of hearing heartfelt testimonials from people who were at Death's Door until some big-hearted drug company stepped in and "cured" them.

Hell, when I die it's going to be entirely my fault, and I'm not expecting some company with a fancy, meaningless, made-up name to hand me free pills (also with a fancy, meaningless, made-up name) to pull my ass out of the fire.

PARENTHETICAL NOTE: All bets are off if I get nined by some gangbanger. If that happens, it's his fault.

This is the point of the day when most of you would turn to your Significant Other and say, "it hasn't been a swell day," and the S.O. would at least sympathize, if not actually take steps to distract you from all the nasty stuff. I actually remember a time when I could do that.

But I can't do it now, and haven't been able to for nine interminable months.

Since I don't have "Erosive Acid Reflux Disease" (does anyone have any idea what the hell that is?), a dose of "Protonix" (also advertised heavily on the radio) isn't going to help me.

Nope. I have "Erosive ****-Dumped-Me Disease," and there's no pill that can cure that.

Don't you wish I'd stuck to politics?

Another little tid-bit for the rant...

...from the pages of the Denver Post, concerning the "Homeland Security" raids of Swift meat-packing plants:

"Swift had been told that immigration agents were going to raid the packing plants on Dec. 4. Swift's lawyers went to court to stop the raid, arguing it would cause "substantial and irreparable injury" to the company. A federal judge denied the request last Thursday."

Oh, darn. If Swift had gotten its way, the potential would have been limitless!

Imagine walking into a bank with a gun and knowing you can rob it with impunity, because the bank's guards would cause you "substantial and irreparable injury" if they try to stop you....

PARENTHETICAL FOOTNOTE-Y THING: Not to make Swift out as a totally evil company; they apparently were reviewing the documentation of some workers before the raid, but were told to stop doing so by the government.

We can't violate the "rights" of law-breakers by doing something awful like arresting/deporting them, can we?

Michael Chertoff needs to be fired. So does his boss. So does congress.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A small addition to the previous rant...

...courtesy of Michael Chertoff, the director of the hideously misnamed "Department of Homeland Security."

In speaking of the crackdowns yesterday at various meat-packing plants that rounded up scores of illegal aliens, Chertoff said "The [immigration] problem is everyone's problem, and we can fix it with comprehensive immigration reform."

Wrong, you pathetic fool.

Out-of-control illegal immigration is the problem of George Bush and the congress, working hand-in-hand with city officials around the country that have caved in to the wack-job left and are agitating to just throw the damn borders wide open.

It is not "everyone's" problem.

The government is "everyone's" problem.

Oh, and the illegals who were rounded up? They are under suspicion of "identity theft," because they used fraudulent Social Security numbers to get jobs. Since the government has agreed with Mexico that its citizens will get their S.S. benefits from Uncle Sugar regardless of the legality of their status and no matter whether their I.D. numbers were legal, it's a pretty minor rap.

They'll be all right, anyway. Inevitably, they will be freed pending a court appearance they'll never show up to, and will simply come back to the packing plants with new names.

It's time for comprehensive politician reform.

What are "they" doing?

Part of a message from a friend this morning: " makes one wonder if conspiracy theorists might, at times, be right."

The exact subject of his musings doesn't matter, but the sentiment caught my attention. I have long been, at a minimum, dismissive of conspiracy theories. I've heard 'em all, from the "JFK Assassination Plot" and the Bilderberger Meetings to the secret files of UFO visits. I've listened to people who are convinced that there are plots to destroy (or at least subjugate) various racial and religious groups, gays and the guy who invented the 100 mile-per-gallon carburetor; I've scoffed at all of them.

But I am beginning to believe in the possibility that a couple of conspiracy theories might actually have some basis in fact, and that bothers me. A lot.

The most immediately worrisome is the "American Union Conspiracy." In this scenario, borders are opened, people and goods move about freely, laws and currency are unified, and the balance of economic power shifts South to the source of cheap, exploitable labor. A few wealthy Americans and Canadians will get wealthier still, while the middle classes will essentially be wiped out, forced to accept a much-reduced style of living.

One asks "Qui bono?" ("who benefits?") and the answers are clear enough: perhaps 50,000 people, including extremely rich business leaders, large financial institutions and a number of stockholders will do very well if this idea comes to pass. Mexico's ultra-poor will be helped, too, if far less than they imagine.

But economics is, at the end of the day, a zero-sum game: for each winner, there's a loser. Or, in this case, for every winner, tens of thousands of losers.

I'm forced to imagine a conspiracy at work simply because of the forces behind this mad scheme: Democrats and Republicans who, on almost any other issue would be at odds if only out of spite, are lining up side-by-side to promote "free trade," "amnesty" for those in this country illegally and a general softening of the laws to give virtual slave-laborers (and their cheap products made in Mexico and elsewhere) free entry.

In the ultimate scenario (which I am not making up), goods from factories full of slave-labor in Asia will be unloaded off ships docked in Mexico, driven (by Mexican drivers) up a new superhighway into the heart of the USA, and then sold to whichever Americans can still afford them.

No doubt there are also plans afoot to create a new layer of government (EU-style) to run the whole thing, and it seems certain there are plenty of career politicians smacking their lips at the possibility of more loot to plunder.

None of this is being presented to the voters. In fact, much of the work being done on the "AU" isn't even given much publicity. Not only is there a conspiracy to make it happen, but also a conspiracy to make sure citizens don't know what's going on until it's too late to stop the steamroller.

The whole thing (at least as much as is generally known) is being wrapped in happy-talk. From George Bush down, from Republicans and Democrats, we hear that it is our duty to make things easy for those "willing to work," that the new pool of illegal (for the moment) laborers must be "matched with business that will employ them." It's for everyone's good, our humanitarian duty to our brothers and sisters South of the Border.


I don't imagine Bush, his advisers or members of congress really believe all that crap. What they do believe in is self-preservation; they know which side their bread is buttered on, and when Wall Street and other members of the exclusive club of "World Leaders" speak, it drowns out the voices of millions of Americans. at least I hope the politicos don't believe what they're saying; I would hate to think they are idiotic as well as greedy.

We certainly don't know who is sending out the orders in this conspiracy. I suspect a tie exists to those who want to put the USA under UN control as a step to a one-world government. A single government their control.

At the bottom, it's all a game of grabbing unearned riches, and it's our turn to face the big holdup.

It may well be that this particular conspiracy has been underway for decades, but the perpetrators have only recently found a way to make it happen.

Either we will be buried by this inhuman juggernaut or we will have to rise up against it. Neither option is a happy one.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I'm feeling peevish...

...and the subject, as so often happens, is the news media.

In this case, it's the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper only slightly less rabidly partisan than its partner-in-slime in New York City.

Today, the Times is doing a search and destroy mission on a local member of congress, one Gary Miller.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: Though I once lived in his district, I know less than nothing about Miller. But since the Times, which is slavishly devoted to its Limousine Liberal and Non-White-Lefty constituencies, chooses to go after him, my knee-jerk response is to go to his defense.

The article contains a long litany of malfeasance, ranging from sending a request for Rolling Stones tickets on his office letterhead to raking in money from shady deals. If half the allegations were true, Miller should be peering at Christmas trees through steel bars right now.

As is almost always the case these days, Miller's accusers ("four former members of his staff") are anonymous. According to the article, they are "concerned for their current political jobs."

Whatever happened to the accused's right to face his accusers? Ummm, well, forget that; we're talking freedom of the press here.

Knowing the Times -- a paper I have despised since its days as a mouthpiece for right-wing wackos, right up through its current days as a mouthpiece for left-wing wackos -- I would surmise Miller's primary crime is Governing While Republican.

In this respect, the L.A. and N.Y. Times are remarkably alike: when it comes to supporting the left-wing agenda, they will not let truth or common decency stand in their way.

Whatever happened to the First Law of Journalism?

ANOTHER PARENTHETICAL ASIDE: When I began a year-long tenure as editor of a college newspaper, I gathered my staff and said "forget the First Law. The new First Law of Journalism around here is to get people to read the damn paper!" Neither Times is good at that; both papers are seeing significant looses of readership, due -- at least in my view -- to their shrill partisanship even on the "news" pages.

According to Miller, the Times reporter asked him about one accusation before going to press, and didn't bother to check out his response to that. I believe it.

YET ANOTHER PARENTHETICAL ASIDE: The Times pulled the same stunt when Arnold Schwarzenegger made his first run for governor, dredging up several unnamed female "victims" of Arnold's uncontrolled lechery. Immediately after the election, the issue died; no investigations, no lawsuits (as the Times had promised), no follow-up.

Since the Times on the Other Coast is continuing with similar attacks on various D.C. Republicans -- George Bush, of course, is always Target #1 -- I'm beginning to smell a Rat.

And the Rat's name is: Democrats.

Anyone who is even marginally rational will note that the biggest drawback to the Democrats' promise to "restore integrity in government" is Democrats themselves. When the chosen head of the House Intelligence Committee (personally anointed by Her Highness, Nancy "Attack Dog" Pelosi) can't tell his Sunnis from his Shi'as, when the Congressional Black Caucus is clamoring for William Jefferson, a congressman who was caught with $90,000 in illegal bribes -- apparently part of the $240K that a "fixer" copped to giving him in a plea deal -- to be given back his comfy committee post, when Harry Reid -- whose questionable real-estate dealings barely caused a ripple in the Mainstream Media -- is urging that a Republican who won a very close election not be seated until a new election is held, when a congressman who is also a disbarred judge is even considered for a top post, you know some damage control is essential.

The party that has managed to slip Ted Kennedy, Lyin' John Kerry, Jimmy ("the Jew-hater") Carter and Al ("I invented the Internet") Gore through the cracks is afraid of the spotlight hitting its latest roster of crooks and ne'er-do-wells. Therefore, the lapdog media has to go hunting for Republicans who can be smeared.

Granted, there are crooks on both sides of the party spectrum. I would no sooner call Republicans the Party of Probity than I would advocate an attractive young woman accepting a ride from Ted Kennedy.

But, just once before I die, I'd like to see the focus of both politicians and the media be on what's best for American citizens, regardless of their race, gender, religion or party affiliation.

Forget it. It's too much to ask.

What I want to know is... one basic element came to be inserted in a story reported by a Miami TV station.

According to the report, the apartment of a "South Florida couple" was invaded by three million bees. Eventually, this bugged them (so to speak) enough to force them to call in the exterminators. And the TV station, apparently.

Who, I want to know, counted the damn bees?

I guess the story would have been less airworthy if there were, say, a mere 179,650 bees buzzing around in the pad.

Waiting, wondering, worrying

Waiting for my laundry to finish drying so I can go to the store for more cat food.

Wondering if anything I'm expecting -- yes, it's mainly money -- will show up in the mailbox.

Worrying about a strange phenomenon: There are plenty of things upsetting me today -- mostly a continuation of the same old stuff -- and a lot of news items and other bits of life's detritus that are irritating. That's all normal; what bugs me is that I can't seem to muster any energy to resist. respond or otherwise react.

It's as if someone has dumped a restaurant-size tin of Whup-Ass on me.

Good feelings have been in short supply lately, but now I seem to be headed toward no feelings. From where I sit, that would not appear to be a good direction to follow.

It bugs me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I have the solution!

So now we're finally hearing the truth about global warming.

Forget Al Gore and his merry band of wackos. Forget all the Concerned Scientists, Hopeful Mothers For a Wonderful World, and all the other dimwits who want to penalize SUV drivers while China continues to pour pollutants into the atmosphere.

Now we know: it's not the hideous waste of dead dinosaur juice that is destroying the planet.

Nope. It's cows.

Yup. Bessie and her pals are doing more damage to the environment that Man (or, for you politically correct types, persons) could do in their most rapacious fantasies. Their crime: pooting out vast quantities of gaseous emissions.

What a conundrum! Vegetarians want to let the cows roam free, and the rest of us want to turn them into steaks and burritos.

I, however, being the caring-for-the-planet guy I am, have a solution!

And I offer it for free....

Global warming, at least as it is understood by the scientists, can be overcome. All they need to do is click here for the Ultimate Solution.

I should be the Secretary-General of the UN. At least.

Trying not to write... what I've been doing all day. As a favor to all of you, you understand.

Nothing terribly bad has happened, and I suppose I should be grateful for that.

But I am in a strange, dislocated mood. And the things that could pull me back into a useful and worthwhile reality right now aren't happening either.

I am so tired of putting on a happy, positive and supportive face for the rest of the world when my own world is pretty damn grim. I know it could be a lot worse; what is it now is bad enough.

I don't ask for much, believe me.

But I guess I'm asking for too much.

I may sound like the proverbial broken record (do you remember records?) but the more I have to keep on without some simple needs being met, the more they become the sole focus of my thoughts.

That's the way it goes.

And that's the way it is.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Wet streets, alla time wet streets..." a favorite quote from a long-ago parody in MAD magazine. Tonight, it even fits....

I wanted to shoot some pictures tonight. Had a theme picked out and everything. But then, it began to rain. Even worse, my back, which has been hurting all day, finally decided to go completely wacko on me. I barely managed to crawl back into the car and make it home.

But I did get two shots which, minus any sort of theme, I'll post simply because I kinda like "em.

First, the "Indian Room," one of the city's finest seedy dives, has restored its neon sign....

And I had one last shot -- so to speak -- at furthering the "New Art Form" I "invented" yesterday....

That's it. You may resume your regularly scheduled routine now.

Attention, spammers!

Since too many humans have complained about the "verification" process I have been using here, I have turned it off.

Real humans may still say what they want.

Spammers will be tracked down and subjected to vicious attacks by an army of rabid weasels.

Or at least their comments will be deleted.

When blogger comes up with a spam-blocker that doesn't mess with people who want to leave comments -- sometimes including, alas, me -- I will enable it again.

It's Christmas time, damnit...

...and I, for one, am getting as sick and tired of people who try to turn it into an anonymous "holiday" as I am of those who over-commercialize it.

PARENTHETICAL DISCLAIMER-STYLE THOUGHT: I am not one who believes in the essential religious tenets of Christmas. Sorry about that. I am grateful that it has, to some extent, come to include a less-sectarian holiday meant for peace, love, sharing and giving. But just because I don't embrace the total package, don't think for a second that my "merry Christmas" greetings and associated good wishes to those who do believe aren't entirely genuine.

So this whole notion of "holiday trees," "holiday cards" and all the rest at the expense of Christmas makes me want to vomit. It is political correctness run amok.

The latest example comes from Seattle-Tacoma Airport, where the Christmas trees have been removed because some misguided rabbi whined to the authorities that he needed to see a nice big menorah there, too, or he would make a major fuss.

If any of the many rabbis I've known, all of whom have been quick to push for "tolerance" in so many areas of life, pulled a stunt like this, I'd be tempted to kick them in the baytzim. The same applies to Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and atheists.

We have become so selfish, so fearful that one group is gaining ascendancy over another, that we encourage various kinds of Thought Police to dumb everything down so no one can possibly be offended.

And our so-called "leaders" are quick to kowtow to "inclusion." Some idiots now talk about the "National Holiday Tree;" they are the ones who send best wishes on Muslim holidays to let all "good" Muslims know we don't equate them with the murderous Islamic thugs who want to destroy us.

PARENTHETICAL PERSONAL ASIDE: I don't equate the two groups either, though I admit I sometimes have trouble telling one from the other. But I know good people when I see them, regardless of their religion. I simply sense a strong element of hypocrisy in our political leaders handing out greetings for Ramadan. Especially when they will engage in all sorts of tortured syntax to avoid saying "merry Christmas."

Sadly, it seems my Christmas gift-giving this year -- something that brings me considerable joy -- will be restricted to contributing a couple of items to the Marine Corps' "Toys For Tots" drive. That's nothing like what I had hoped for, but it gives me some solace to know I can spread a tiny bit of happiness.

My take on the whole thing is this: even if one does not believe in the religion that brought us Christmas, the ten basic beliefs of that religion -- well, nine of the ten, anyway -- are so universal that they are well worth celebrating.

So. Take whatever good parts of Christmas you can apply to your life, whether it includes the full-bore, Midnight-Mass and praying-in-front-of-the-manger bit or is just an excuse to spread a little happiness by being nice to others.

The blessings of the season apply to everyone, whether they dig Jesus's gig or not.