Friday, October 31, 2008

The dead pool... more than 6 1/2 years here, I have not once been in the building's pool. Partly because it's unheated and partly because it has not always appeared particularly sanitary. Recent visits from city inspectors have, I believe, induced the owner to get someone in to service it who knows what the hell they're doing.

Now, it looks like I'll never use it.

But on Halloween night, you never know what will go for a dip....

The annual Halloween cat photo...


She's still around, this spooky feline, and is the sweetest cat in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I wasn't going to post this...

...but the best antidote to absurdity is laughter, and I find this damn funny.

Pretty sharp on the satire front, too. Good symbolism all around.

I'm not a Glenn Beck fan (not sure he's even on here in L.A.), but he nailed this.

Barack Obama needs to lighten up on the "Messiah" act, and since he won't, people will zing him for it.

Besides, I know this little piece really irritates the hell out of the True Believers in his campaign....

I'm voting for...

...John McCain.

To be very honest, it wasn't exactly a difficult decision.

I supported McCain when he ran against George Bush in 2000, urged him -- as did many others -- to oppose Bush in 2004.

I thought he was a good choice then. I believe he is the only choice now.

Part of the reason is very simple: at heart, I'm what you'd call an old-fashioned American patriot. I believe in this country, in its Constitution and the essential goodness of its people.

The same is true of McCain, and he has given the country more than I (or most people) ever could. He has served its best interests for many years, helping to defend it at fearful cost to himself.

His instincts are good; he is honest and decent. The latter is a vanishing characteristic among the political class.

And he understands the need to defend the United States, knows that peaceful resolutions of conflict are best, but not always possible. If -- when -- we are attacked again, I trust him him to put our safety and security ahead of all else.

I support most of his ideas and positions. I disagree with him -- strongly -- on what should be done about illegal immigrants, those already here and those to come; I disagree with him on the monumentally stupid financial bailout.

And yet, I trust him to do what's right.

What of Barack Obama? I do not trust him at all. He has spent the last two years or more running for president; in that time, thanks to his own evasiveness and the subservient willingness of the media to support him without question, we know very little about his life and achievements. We do not even know for certain that he is legally qualified to assume the office he seeks.

The latter I consider unimportant, except that he chose to obscure the truth, whatever it may be, rather than to produce a genuine birth certificate attesting to his U.S. birth (as the Constitution demands). I would take him at his word if he didn't, in my view, follow a pattern of withholding much information that would be sought from any other presidential candidate.

I find his policies abhorrent. "Spreading the wealth?" Taking money from the rich to give to the poor? Government-run health care? Making Washington the central source of aid for the people, and the master of how businesses are run?

Those are the policies of -- to use the kindest word -- a socialist. And I do not believe in socialism.

Obama has no idea of what he's talking about when it comes to national defense. He will talk endlessly to our enemies, and has already made it clear he plans to weaken our military. His policies are naive at best.

But there is one overriding issue that makes Obama unsuitable in my view, and that is his lifelong pattern of associating with (and being influenced by) people who do not have America's best interests at heart.

A few of the worst: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Antoin "Tony" Rezko. Rashid Khalid. Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Research them.

Of them -- and others -- Ayers, Dohrn and Wright bother me most. Ayers and Dohrn because they are admitted Communists and inactive domestic terrorists; innocent people died because they and their Weather Underground made bombs; children continue to be indoctrinated through Ayers's efforts.

Tell me Ayers is "respected" today, was even named Chicago Man of the Year, and I will answer you with a word I wouldn't use here. Tell me Obama did not have a close relationship with Ayers because he says so, and I will tell you, based on research, that he lies.

Rev. Wright? In my view, no man who preaches racial hatred, who claims the CIA created AIDS to kill black people, who calls upon God to damn America, is fit to occupy a pulpit. Tell me, as he claims, that Obama didn't hear Wright's scurrilous rantings, though he attended Wright's church for 20 years and once called him a "mentor," and I will tell you Obama lies.

I lived through the time when the Weather Underground was in full operation, and I lived through times of racial unrest in this country. Neither are tolerable here in the 21st Century.

I do not want to live through a time when Communist terrorists and racist agitators are welcome anywhere near the White House. In an Obama Presidency, I fear we will see them there.

Inevitably, the question of race comes up. While Obama's origins should not matter, his character does. So does his lack of qualifications. In fact, I believe that if it weren't for his race, Obama wouldn't even have made it as far as he did in Illinois, and certainly would not have been chosen as a presidential candidate by any major political party.

(Yes, I -- and many others -- have been branded "racist" for opposing him, for questioning his suitability for high office. I can't help that. The label has been applied to the point of absurdity, and much of the invective has come directly from Obama and his campaign.)

Beyond that, I find the quasi-religious frenzy that surrounds Obama deeply disturbing. Worse, the venom his most ardent supporters spew, the very irrationality of their responses when challenged has nothing to do with what is good for the nation; they would follow him without hesitation into the abyss, I fear.

Not all of them, of course. I know some extremely intelligent and decent people who support Obama. And I respect them and their views. They are, however, in the minority.

For all these reasons and more, I have chosen the way I will vote. My hope is that enough Americans will see things as I do to defeat a man who, in many ways, would be a dangerous choice and vote instead for a man of patriotism, honor and principle.

A FINAL NOTE: If you're going to disagree, and I'm sure some of you will, it'd be nice if you did so in a civil way. I've already been called all the names the rabid Obama supporters like to use...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Not a bird...

...but it is a crane! Or, rather, a whole mess of cranes, lifting cargo containers off the ships that bring 'em here from China....

This, however, is a bird. It didn't seem to like me...

See, Doug, it's not all pelicans around here....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Today at the harbor...

...the Sea Angler's crew and passengers (some of whom tagged along without buying tickets) were getting ready to go on a fishing expedition...

One enterprising pelican grabbed a last-minute snack from the bait well before the crew took in the lines lines and the boat set out...

Pelicans fascinate me...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tonight's conflict... simple: on one hand, I need to be working. On the other, I'd much rather be drinking.

And I don't mean the hot tea I'm currently contenting myself with, oh, no. We're talking serious bourbon (or scotch) whiskeyage here, friends. One nice stiff shot, followed by as many others as are required to achieve the desired state of numbness.

It's not that anything truly awful happened today. Rather, I'm feeling the weight of accumulated problems, and we're just one or two straws from snapping the pachyderm's spine.

To know that difficult times lie ahead, particularly when I've been dealing with difficult times for some good long stretch already, is disheartening, to put it very mildly. So is the knowledge -- which I should be used to by now, but never am or have been -- that the work I do tonight (and next week, comes to that) will pay off in three months. Or four months. Or six.

If there was some way to ensure that what must happen in the next month happens without me while I curl up, unconscious, in some dark corner, I'd take it. You can bet on that.

And I don't need the countless minor irritations and disappointments that are my current daily fare to continue, thank you very much.

Part -- a small part, but definitely there -- of my problem is that at times like this, having no one to whine to directly (as opposed to whining here) allows everything to build up. Some things seem worse than they are, maybe, while others that might be solved if I had someone to discuss them with just go on and on.

What the hell. I'm bringing me down just by writing this. I'll shut up and go away now.

But I won't drink. I've been damn good about that since last February.*

And no, so-called virtuous behavior -- such as it is -- doesn't make me feel better.

Back to work. The perfect occupation for a Saturday night. Not.

* Not that I have totally abandoned adult beverages. I find it enough to avoid them when I'm alone. The occasional martini or shot of tequila on social occasions stops where it is, and I'm grateful for that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I had to get away today...

...and so I did, hopping into the car and heading off with no direction in mind.

I have spent so much time recently with my head and mind buried in each moment's new problems that, frankly, I couldn't take any more.

After a couple hours' driving, I ended up in the High Desert (as opposed, I guess, to the nearby Low Desert). Might seem strange that someone who has been feeling frighteningly lonely would crave a solitary road trip, looking through a windshield at miles and miles of, well, miles and miles, but it felt good...

The best part, I think, was that I was totally unreachable. No bad news could be heard. No good news, either, but as there was none of the latter, that didn't matter.

At one point, I saw a sign noting that I was only 250 or so miles away from one of my favorite areas. For a moment, the thought that I had just deposited a check and could actually afford to drive up there and survive for maybe a month in what is to me one of the most beautiful regions within reasonable distance tempted me.

Then, of course, I realized that the money in my account is more than spoken for. Ten times as much would be. So the fear of what might come after those lovely thirty days kept me on my more-or-less chosen path.

All was pretty much okay until I got back to the city. Traffic being what it was, I ditched the freeway and headed for some short-cuts I've learned over the years.

The route took me past several places I worked in the dim past. The first was a shack of a building less than a block from the Samuel Goldwyn Studios (at least it was called that then) and the mildly famous Formosa Cafe. Not much later, I passed another former workplace, a couple of blocks away from the last place where Edward D. Wood lived. I might even have seen him a time or two as I walked from work to the Pla-Boy liquor store (his source for cheap booze) to get a Coke during breaks. Finally, I drove by a place just down the street from Pink's Hot Dogs. I survived many a long night shift on the heartburn generated by their chili dogs....

I also drove past neighborhoods that held good memories of short but intense relationships (in days when any affliction one might pick up in the process could be cured by pills or, at worst, shots) and other kinds of exuberant behavior that just don't fit with the program these days.

Today, I am on a maximum-austerity program, which means no social life of any kind.

My mind filled with memories during this last part of the drive. I grew steadily more depressed, and remain so tonight.

Would I go back to those days? You damn betcha I would. I wasn't as nice a guy then; nor was I particularly concerned with much more than what Raymond Chandler and other writers of gritty detective fiction back in the 1930s sometimes referred to as booze and broads.

But that seemed enough. And, with hindsight, I sometimes wonder if, in fact, it really was more enough than I knew.

What I have now, what I do now, certainly isn't.

At this moment, I wish I had given in to the urge to keep on driving North today, not stopping until I got to Bridgeport, where I could eat at the Sportsman Cafe and stay in a dingy room at what used to be called "Slick's Court" until the money ran out.

Seems pointless to worry about what the day after that would bring....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Not the photos I intended to post...

...but when I went to prepare the last set of shots from the air museum, I found them too dark to use. Sheesh.

So instead, I offer some shots from the adjoining museum, which is currently hosting a temporary Ferrari exhibit. This is primarily for my friend Scott, though I hope others will at least like the bright colors!

First off, a 1957 Ferrari 250 TR ("Testrossa"), a fine racer in its day and frighteningly valuable today. "Testarossa" means "redhead" in Italian; the car was so named because the engine's cam covers were painted red, not the traditional black...

Two delightful Ferrari coupes. The yellow car is a 1967 275 GTB4, next to a 1958 250 "Tour de France" (yes, there is/was such an event for cars, too)...

Another famous Ferrari racer (and namesake for a Pontiac model that appeared shortly afterwards), the 1963 250 GTO. Also hugely valuable; very few were made, and only a few more than the original number built exist today...

The engine of a 1967 BB 512 LM racer under (plexi)glass. Twelve cylinders arranged horizontally, like three VW Beetle engines in a line...

My favorite car in the show? This 1932 Alfa-Romeo P2, on display because Alfa-Romeo's racing team in those days was run by one Enzo Ferrari...

I would have preferred to show aircraft, but I hope these are acceptable substitutes. I will go back one day to the Air and Space Museum and do better!

More from the air museum...

...into areas that were a little more problematic photographically.

Putting aircraft into enclosed spaces makes close-up viewing easy, but good photography difficult. Next time, I'll take better camera equipment!

We're all used to seeing aircraft in more "natural" settings: in the air or on runways. Here, because of walls and the sheer number of displays, you can't step back enough to take them in.

This "Gee Bee" R-1 racing plane (one of a series of 11 or so built in 1932-33) was almost small enough to fit in the picture frame from any angle. This was a radical and ultra-fast airplane in its day, but was -- shall we say -- a bit rough on its pilots. It won races easily when piloted by aces like Jimmy Doolitlle, but bit back at those with less skill in a simple way: it killed them...

This Fleet Model 2 was almost as small, but was packed into its space so tightly that I couldn't get it all. I was fascinated by it, because I have flown in a near-identical plane of similar vintage (that one was called an Aero Commuter) and it was one of the best flying experiences of my life. Behind and above, a Curtiss "Robin," one of the earliest commercially available planes with a fully-enclosed cockpit...

The museum has plenty of early aircraft from World War I and thereafter (and a few built before that). Many are originals, although some, such as this 1917 Fokker Dr-1 triplane are painstakingly created replicas...

Others, like the Curtiss JN4-D "Jenny," built to train WWI pilots and later used for "barnstorming" stunt shows, mail delivery and other purposes, are suspended from the museum's high ceilings, giving a view that seems unusual, yet is somehow "right," though only the truly dedicated (or truly crazy) fan would stand directly under one flying over at that altitude!...

More in a while.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It could have been worse...

...when photographer D. and I went down to San Diego this morning to cover a story. The story itself both irritated and depressed me, as I knew it would, but after getting more than our fill of that, we both realized that we were only a few steps from the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

I had never been in the place, though I've been outside it many times. I love aircraft -- more, even, than I despise what we were there to see -- so we went in.

It was wonderful.

Never mind that there was a big "Star Trek" exhibition going on. I don't care. But there were museum volunteers everywhere, and we stopped to talk to one elderly gentleman who was a World War II vet and was explaining some photographs he had there. I looked at one, and it stirred memories. "Is that a PBY?" I asked. "My father flew one in submarine patrols out of Coronado [just a few miles away] during the early part of the war."

He, too, had flown PBYs and we had a wonderful chat. He was stationed in the Eastern Pacific giving aerial support to the Marines. Thus, he knew how many cases of beer a PBY could carry -- a closely held military secret -- and we had a nice talk.

I mentioned that I regretted not having seen a real PBY, and he pointed toward the building's rotunda area.

We walked in and, lo and behold, there was a Consolidated PBY (built in San Diego)...

Nearby, a 1928 Ford Trimotor, once known as the "Tin Goose." I've flown in one (no, I'm not that old; it was only four years ago)...

Also in this area, a MIG-17, the second-generation Soviet jet fighter...

And a McDonnell-Douglas F-4J/5 Phantom II (built in Long Beach, near where I live at present)*...

Naturally, one of the most prominent displays is of San Diego's first truly famous aircraft, the Ryan monoplane that Charles Lidbergh used to become the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic in 1927. This is a replica of the original (created with the aid of some of the men who built the "real" one), and is fully flyable...

There will be more pictures. The place fascinated me, made me feel the trip was worth taking, and we didn't leave until the museum was ready to close for the day....

* The fountain and pool seen in a couple of shots here are a clue to the building's history. It was built by the Ford Motor Company in 1935 as part of San Diego's California Pacific International Exposition to showcase the company's cars. The pool, if seen from above and at a slight distance, replicates the famous art-deco "V8" badge many Ford cars of the period carried.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My sample ballot...

...came in the mail yesterday. It was, as so many things are these days, depressing.

The city and state propositions were, as is normal, pleas for more money to hand over to the government. A quick skim put the total at some $23 billion in “general obligation” (we pay) bonds, plus tax hikes for “programs” and “initiatives” that have repeatedly failed to do what was promised.

And then there’s the “gay marriage” initiative. Will the people of California decide to refuse gay couples the right to marry? I’m sure those who think I’m some kind of dust-covered conservative would expect me to be all for it. I’m not. Mainly because it’s none of my damn business who someone else marries.

The current situation here is that gay couples can marry if they wish to. That doesn’t mean you have to marry a gay person. It simply means you may do so. That’s logical.

Like many other cases of social engineering, I see this as a “tip-of-the-iceberg” thing. If we tell gay couples they cannot legalize their unions, the next step could be that I will be refused the right to take out a marriage license because the intended bride is not of my race, or religion, or national origin. Or political affiliation.

Who is hurt by gay marriage? Those who want to be hurt. Those who go out of their way to impose their views on others.

If you tell me your religion “forbids” such unions, I can only reply that my religion – a self-compiled mish-mash, but mine nonetheless – doesn’t say a damn thing about it.

The mere fact that this, like abortion, has become a political issue, sickens me. And it makes no sense; why would “conservatives” (I am supposedly one) yearn to have laws mandating how others live? The whole premise of conservatism is – or used to be – that government should butt out of our lives as much as possible.

The position of so-called “liberals” strikes me as equally flawed. They appear to demand that there should be no hindrances on human behavior at all – as long as they approve of it – and, more, that those who engage in certain practices and hold certain beliefs – again, the ones on their own list – should have government funding and preferential treatment so they don’t feel “marginalized.”

Both groups are totally out to lunch, if you ask me.

So far, a big bunch of “no” votes. Several are “NO!!!!!!!” votes.

Picking my Congressman and state reps was easy. My Congressman voted against the Big Giveaway last week – twice – so supporting him again is a slam dunk. The seekers of state office, though unfamiliar, were easy: I looked at their self-provided current job descriptions. Easy enough to see who inflated their resumes....

That leaves only the first page of the ballot: the choice for President.

I’ll write about that later. Right now, I've just listened to the news and am too angry to get into it.

Plans, scuttled... in yeah, I was going to write an entry, despite ever-deepening depression. I thought it might be therapeutic or, at least, informative in case anyone cares about my descent into yet another level of Hell.

PARENTHETICAL YES-I'M-BITTER THOUGHT: I know people care. Really. But the past few days, in which I've faced the demons alone, have not been good for my sense of perspective. About anything.

But I received an email at about 9:17 tonight that threw my plans off. It was the finished layout for a story I did rush-rush for my newest client. "Please check it over to see that everything's okay," the editor wrote. "And while you're at it, will you please write cutlines [captions] for the photos?"

He did the same thing last week. And, in fact, he emailed me with a really off-the-wall request for information to fit into yet another story I've written for his magazine that took a good chunk of time to chase down. These "favors" turn out to be freebies; we have no agreement about such things, and I can't reach him at this hour to negotiate.

Well, I wrote the cutlines, and now my brain is essentially worthless. Captions are, in a sense, miniature articles; in 40-60 words (the size left in the layout) they have to explain things not necessarily found in the main text. For me, they are harder than the original stories.

Damn, I hate this "just one more thing" stuff. It's often difficult for me to ask for -- much less get -- one thing; asking two things (or more) seems somehow excessive.

I suppose it's good for the image. As in, I have an image of having the work "sucker" tattooed on my forehead.

Pay no attention. I'm tired, dispirited and angry.

I'm going to bed.

And, oh, yeah: I had to inform the editor he put someone else's name on the article's byline. The ultimate insult.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

How bad a day was it?

It was bad enough that I'll post two pictures to keep myself from writing about how angry I am, and what a worthless piece of dung I think I am.

Both shots were taken during this afternoon's walk. Four miles, and it was the best thing I did today, simply because I managed not to screw anything else up along the way!

I'm always a sucker for orange cats...

It rained, briefly, while I was out. Sorry to say I felt no surge of hope that there'd be a pot o' gold at the end of this rainbow....

Consider these a substitute for the enraged, foaming-at-the-mouth post I came this close to putting up.

Big boulders and bigger boulders

Just when I'm looking up expecting to be skooshed at any moment (no, I'm not exaggerating) by the boulder of personal debt and uncertain income, I can look a little farther and see an even bigger boulder teetering on its own precipice.

I'm not alone in the latter instance. Almost all of us are about to get hit, and hit big.

And we can thank our own government for that one.

See, there's this little matter of what's called a "$700 billion" government bailout of finance and investment firms that have, for years, skirted the law and rewarded their management with incomprehensible sums of money for making bad investments and giving loams that simply cannot be paid off.

With George Bush as their principal cheerleader, these reckless jerks have informed us that the United States will face a major meltdown if the government -- that means us, since it's our money -- unless we simply fork over the big bucks. And no, despite what some misguided Congressional fools say about so-called accountability, there is no "oversight." It's a handout, pure and simple.

The "crisis" appears to have been manufactured in the first place. Companies go out of business all the time. Unless they are run by politicians' big campaign contributors, that is. Wall Street knows well how to manipulate the stock market. It dived on cue as if to underscore Bush's cries of "Wolf! Wolf!"

Two little problems here. One, we don't have that kind of money. The bailout is coming from borrowed and invented money. It will eventually have to be paid for.

Problem #2? It's not just a paltry $700 billion. Mixed in with other bailouts and "loan guarantees" already made, it goes into the trillions. I've seen one reasonable estimate that puts the hit on every U.S. houshold at over $12,000 for just the most recent giveaways.

And other entities -- makers of loans, even some states (such as California) -- have indicated that the money already committed isn't enough; they need some too.

I try not to worry about this stuff. My own worries already overwhelm me.

But this one affects me, too. Tight credit will impact my business badly, as it will all legitimate businesses. My business is already deep in the hole, anyway.

Being at the bottom of the food chain, each of the bigger fish will line up to take their piece from me. Each has a stake in the government giveaway, directly or indirectly, so they will survive.

Don't think for a moment that it won't/can't happen to you.

With the deck stacked so neatly against me, I'm at the end of my tether as it is. I don't know how to fix my life.

Now, if a miracle happens and I do get through the immediate crises (something I don't, at the moment, believe is possible), I have to also help ensure that a large bunch of predatory zillionaires don't have to miss their continuing multiple-millions in "compensation." That's in addition to the usual handouts to government drones and people who have gamed the system, in addition to the relatively small number of people who have genuinely run out of luck (like me) but who have a claim to various kinds of help.

I'm about to give up. Not only do I not know how I can carry the burdens, current and future, but I am bewildered at the changes to society and government that make it somehow necessary to destroy my life to support people who have never, ever done anything for me.

This is, of course, a nonpartisan -- or bipartisan -- mess. I think I know who the culprits are, but they have been joined by so many others in this foolish activity that it no longer matters.

They, of course, don't give a damn what I think.

I'm too small to be missed when I've gone under. I guess there's some consolation in that, even if I can't see it.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I was gonna complain...

...because today has been a very crappy day, thanks to the combined efforts of D., the photographer and an editor who sandbagged me in a big way and made me commit to two things I really do not want to do tomorrow.

Instead, I'll show you a beautiful cat from the neighborhood...

When in doubt, show a picture....

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The brain is a grab-bag...

...and tonight I'm just pulling stuff out at random.

There was an earthquake 10 miles or so away from here tonight. Not a big one; it was a benign 3.0. I think I felt it, but am not sure.

What was strange about the 'quake is that we're having what many people -- including me -- consider "earthquake weather." It's warm, and the air has an odd soft quality to it. The wind is coming from the East (180 degrees from normal) and bears a mild taste of desert. If weather can seem calming and unsettling all at once, this is it.

Therefore, the shaker didn't surprise me. Nor did it surprise a caller into George Noory's radio show tonight.

* * *

The radio has been full of ads for some new internet-based get-rich scheme. The usual testimonials from people who have "tried this amazing, no-selling program" and are now cashing in big-time. The voice-over -- which I presume is the guy shown on the web page lying in a hammock at the beach tapping away on a laptop -- is annoying as hell, and sounds as if it was recorded in a large, reverberant room. Of course the details of the scheme aren't apparent; you have to sign up to get the secret. Me, I'll stick to Nigerians who email me with money to place in my account, thank you. I'm sure they are just as honest.

* * *

I'm feeling particularly alone tonight. Everyone has times in their lives when the right words -- in the right voice -- would wash away a multitude of frustrations and mental discomforts. I'm in one of those times, and the magic words are not forthcoming. I can't really complain, under the circumstances; I'm just sayin'.

* * *

So I've buried myself in work and trivia. Wrote one article this morning, started another tonight. That doesn't help all that much, and I seem about to face a night of insomnia. Not good, as I have an early, early doctor's appointment tomorrow for a blood test.

* * *

I've been avoiding writing about politics in here lately, as the whole subject leaves a most sour taste in my mouth. I don't remember a time when there was more rancor, more divisiveness, more spreading of outright lies in a presidential campaign. And don't start me on local ballot issues, all designed, like tomorrow's blood test, to drain me dry.

But a friend sent me a photo of the new Wall Street Bail-Out Dollar, and it's too good not to share...

I'd laugh if it wasn't so damn accurate.

* * *

And now, off to bed, in search of the sleep I'm afraid will elude me.

UPDATE, 6:18 A.M.: No sleep....