Friday, January 30, 2009


That's the name a local radio station has given a woman who gave birth to eight babies this week.


Ah, the wonders of fertility drugs, IVF and other tricks of the trade....

The initial stories all covered the "miracle of birth," of course. The medical team that delivered the eight tiny reindeer babies was all smiles and kootchy-koo. The reporters were fawning. It all seemed a miracle, particularly since all eight survived birth and are still alive (and apparently holding their own) as I write this.

But some unkind souls began to ask questions, and a few answers emerged. First, it seems the woman is unmarried and lives with her parents in an 1800 square-foot house, after losing a larger house last year in a foreclosure action;

The three of them live with the woman's six other very young children;

There is no father. Well, there is a father, of course, but he is an anonymous sperm donor. At least his name hasn't come out so far, though some people seem to know who he is. Some say the same man was also responsible for the other six tots, who also were the result of fertility treatments;

Though the recent multiple births took place in a hospital run by a major HMO, the woman has no insurance, and has been hospitalized there for several months, since the doctors advised her that she was running a fairly sizable health risk;

The babies, having been born roughly three months premature, will remain in intensive care at the hospital for another three months.

Apparently, everyone in Southern California (except me) knows the woman's name, but she is keeping the lowest of profiles at the moment. I can understand that; people are expressing rather unkind thoughts about someone would decide -- would, in fact, go out of her way -- to have eight kids when she is barely able to afford the six she already has.

Rumors swirl. The word "scam" appears often in those rumors. Sadly, I tend to believe most of them.

As time goes by, this looks more and more like a "your tax dollars at work" scenario. Many people are not amused, do not see this as a "miracle;" count me as one of them.

There goes the neighborhood.... our quiet little part of town -- quiet except for bikers, buses, trash trucks and lowriders, that is -- had its first shooting in what I'd guess has been five or six years.

This morning, a young woman was driving down an alley just over a block from here when she was shot. Some reports say she was killed, others say she was severely injured. By the time I came back from an errand, the police K-9 unit was sniffing around for the perp in the neighborhood (unsuccessfully), and detectives were "processing" the car, which remains in the alley right now.

While I realize two murders in six years is a stunningly good record for Los Angeles as a whole, it's not especially comforting to have such things happen in your own backyard, so to speak.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Times are tough when...

...a business columnist for the local news-rag says, in an interview, that the state could lessen its financial woes if it legalized -- and thus regulated and taxed -- marijuana and prostitution.

Ummmm, yeah.

I'm the farthest thing from a prude, in most respects. While I've never employed the services of a noffka, I have smoked a little gage in my time. Not recently, I hasten to admit; I am certainly not without sin in any event.

But the idea of government stores selling doobs, and government brothels dispensing -- shall we say -- intimate companionship, leaves me cold.

It might appeal to the political hacks. They are almost invariably stoned, though their drugs of choice are public money and the ability to pass obnoxious laws. And they certainly know about selling themselves for money....

Would making these "pleasures" legal actually raise money? Probably, but I don't want either state or national governments to have more money; I want them to have less and act sensibly with what they get.

But the revenues wouldn't be as great as they think. Put enough tax burden on weed-puffers and those engaging in the world's oldest profession, and they'll go right back underground. They'll roll their own in private, so to speak.

As far as I'm concerned, the current hideous state of our economy should suggest only one thing: our government has no business running itself so deeply into debt and expecting us to pick up the tab. The crisis is, to me, absolute proof that government waste and interference in private business must always fail.

The politicians screw us and feed us too much distorted reality as it is.. Let's not give them yet another way to do it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yes, I'm whining about work again... with it!

I have an article to finish this evening. It has three strikes against it in front:

1. It concerns a subject I find interesting "in person" when I am able to take something of a "hands-on" role, but which I have come to despise putting on paper. The reasons are simple enough: the fanatics who will read my words are as anal-retentive as any bunch of people on the planet who need to get real lives. Show the slightest error and they will pounce like hungry jackals, deluging the editor with corrections, generally written in pure venom. My sense is that they enjoy being told what they already know, and deviations or words not in the lexicon of unstinting praise are, as the Germans say, strengst verboten*;

2. The publisher of this magazine, and of three others I work for, makes Ebenezer Scrooge look like Diamond Jim Brady. And the person who writes out the firm's checks -- by no coincidence a relative of his -- has a nasty habit of taking time off when we freelancers expect our alms. In fact, I am waiting hungrily (Almost literally so) for checks at this moment;

3. The editor I'm dealing with is a dweeb among dweebs. I'm sure he must have his good points -- I've never met him -- but communication is not among them: no returning of phone calls. Or relaying any post-submission criticism. Or praise, for that matter.

In short, each story for this particular magazine is an exercise in blind flying. I don't know how much space is being allotted for the story, have no guidance on any particular facets that might profitably be emphasized or downplayed.

So I write until I've exhausted what I have learned about the subject, hit the "." key one last time, and send the result off.

I dislike working this way. It has become the norm.

I'm the one who needs to "get a life," I suppose. It's been so long since I had one.

Or maybe a new job. The only fun I've had recently as a writer/editor came when I was able to give some advice to a dear friend on a story assignment. The result was good beyond my fondest hopes, even given my already high opinion of said friend's writing talent. In fact, my help was both minor and invisible in the finished product, as it should have been.

That felt good. It is the kind of collaboration I hoped for when I began writing for a "living" almost 23 years ago and have now enjoyed for the first time.

This does not.

Yes, I have become a grouchy bastard. Grouchier than ever, as those who know me will tell you.

I've earned it.

* Not that Germans have anything else to do with what I'm working on. Therefore, no Germans were harmed in the making of this story.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Okay... I know I haven't been posting lately. I'm sorry -- and maybe you will be, too -- that what finally drove me out of my funk is that basic emotion: anger.

I made myself a promise I wouldn't write anything political for a long time. After all, gotta give "Hope and Change" a chance, right?


What is infuriating me is this notion of "sacrifice," which is being touted by everyone from the New Guy in the White House on down to local political hacks. It seems we are supposed to suck it up and share our bounty -- and more -- with those less fortunate, even, apparently, if some of the less fortunate are paper-shuffling multimillionaires who have seen their incomes drop in the last year from eight or nine digits to a mere six or seven.

Well, I'm sorry. Yes, I have a roof over my head (for the moment), and actually went out to the grocery store today, buying what may, with some stretching, be a week's worth of groceries. I guess that makes me "rich" enough that government wants to drain me of my excess wealth.

I heard a California legislator on the radio today. He is supposedly a "conservative" -- a tag I would have applied to myself until recently, when I realized that it fits me no better than "liberal" -- who wants to raise taxes because my state government is "going broke."

Let's look at this: California already has the highest income, sales and gas taxes in the nation. Under the Governator (supposedly "conservative") the cost of government has risen 40% in the past few years. Much of this increase has gone to welfare for illegals, raises for unionized state workers and useless "public works" projects.

When this legislator was asked why the state didn't cut the juicy wages and benefits of state employees, he was shocked: "We can't do that!," he said.

Excuse me, hot-shot, but I have seen my income cut a substantial amount in the last two years. I have seen the cost of mere existence rise to the point where I'm barely able to manage it.

If the state doesn't get much more money, he says, schools will be closed! People will be on the streets! Roads will collapse!


Our school system has wasted billions on new schools -- while the number of students enrolled has actually decreased -- and hiring thousands of "administrative" people.

Our government continues to add employees, most of whom do nothing. Their salaries rise, and their perks increase.

But we "can't do anything about that."

Washington operates exactly the same way, despite the new President's superficial "wage freezes" for his staff, most of whom are making well into six figures, getting health care and retirement benefits most of us can only dream about, and putting themselves in line for big-dollar gigs when they leave the White House.

We can't cut legislators' salaries or perks, either. Need a plane to fly you across the country to do "the people's business?" No problem, buckaroo. Don't fly commercial, grab a government jet.

When you and I are out of money, we can't simply order people to give us more. We have to cut back. I haven't had a damn vacation in more years than I can count; nor do I have the paid holidays government workers get.

These are rough times, and the turnips have little blood left to give.

If the country suffers a financial collapse, it is not my fault, or yours. Nor is it entirely the fault of businesses that haven't "grown with the times" while the government gave preferential treatment to cheap products made overseas by slave laborers.

It is the fault of government, past and current, and their insane desire to coddle their pals (and themselves) because they knew they can always lay the bill on us.

That has to change, and it has to change now.

Don't save some billionaire who suddenly can't buy his fourth vacation home or order another Ferrari. Worry about saving yourself. No one, in Washington D.C. or your state capital, will worry about saving you. You are invisible to them.

I no longer care about those who are considered "needy" because they have blocs of votes for the political hacks or clever lobbyists who know how to spread money around. I care about me, and you.

I'm sick of "sacrifice." It's a mantra that has been chanted too long by people who do not worry about where their next meal is coming from.

It's time we started looking out for ourselves, for our own children and our own futures.

As if what we citizens think matters any longer. It's all unicorns and rainbows now, and if a few -- or a few million -- of us have to starve so we can spread the wealth while those who live on our money thrive, that's a small price to pay, right?


Somehow, we need to let our so-called "leaders" know that we will no longer tolerate their free ride, their insane desire to redistribute what they call "wealth" to others.

As they say in Noo Yawk: "skroom."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Temporary... in: the page design you see here is temporary.

I loved the layout beloved Whatsername made for me. It was perfect.

But Blogspot has changed, and in order to use certain useful features, I had to take one of their pet templates.

I will get it to the point where it looks like the old one, even though I'm an absolute duffer with coding. I can compare the codes, and maybe replace/adjust the elements I don't like. I will get back the colors and look I love.

If I can get hold of Whatser and enlist her help, it'll happen sooner.

If all else fails, I'll grab the old template out of storage and put it back.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Falling in love...

...but maybe not the way most of us would prefer it!

What seemed like half the L.A. City Fire Department descended on the local park at dusk on Sunday. The reason was obvious to residents who have seen it all too often: someone took a dive off the cliffs. Again.

This time, according to sources at the scene, there was a twist. A man took his 50 year-old love to the park to propose marriage. Some say intoxicating beverages were consumed. To maximize the romance, he took her right to the edge of a pretty steep drop which leads -- after you do a bit of a high-wire balancing act around a fence -- to the famous/notorious "Sunken City."

Inevitably, she slipped. And took a header onto the rocks below. A Fire Department helicopter was called in and, after a paramedic was winched down to her, she was strapped to a litter and flown off to the local emergency hospital...

The wind from the helicopter's rotor set the basket to spinning (that's why it's blurred); I'm not sure the victim was in a position to complain at the moment.

Last word is that she received serious but not life-threatening injuries.

I wonder if the wedding is still on?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tonight... the first night after the largest, brightest moon we'll see in all of 2009...

The weather is great here right now. Thanks to the infamous Santa Ana winds, it has been warm all day and remains comfortable tonight.

A few clouds -- plus the considerable amount of dust and smoke always in the air around here -- gave the moon a bright orange color as it rose.

It was a pretty sight, even considering the reasons.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wanna see a movie?

Well, you can' least not at these theaters.

I love old movie houses. Most fascinating to me are the extravagant palaces built in the 1920s. But some architects and theater owners showed plenty of flair and imagination even up through the late 1930s.

Here are three examples I spotted while on the road the other day. There aren't many like them left, as they are nearly impossible to convert to multiple screens. All three of these Moderne beauties showed their last films many years ago.

Now a medical building, the Loyola Theatre (Westchester, CA, right near LA Airport), is a prime example of flamboyant shapes on the exterior...

The Loyola's box office, in stainless steel and painted metal, remains, though it hasn't sold a ticket in maybe 40 years...

The Academy Theatre (Inglewood, CA), is more restrained, but still looks cool. It has been converted into a church...

A couple blocks away from the Academy, the 5th Avenue Theatre is almost plain by standards of the time, though when all its neon tubing was lit, it must have looked pretty spectacular. I liked some of the details, as much as they could be seen through all the wear and tear. A church group apparently owns this theater, too, but its sign has been up for years and nothing has been done. I suspect it will in time become a vacant lot...

I really enjoy finding such treasures, even if it often saddens me to see what has become of them. I'll admit it's not an interest too many people have shared with me, but there isn't anything to be done about that, except perhaps to quit looking for new examples and devote myself to television....

Friday, January 09, 2009

Where will it all end?

Anyone who knows me can tell you I love animals. Really. Particularly cats and dogs, of course, but I also have an affinity for raccoons, skunks -- at least deodorized skunks -- and various birds and assorted other critters.

Of course I have been known to eat a few animals, too. Cows, pigs, sheep, reindeer and doubtless a few others I can't recall off the top of my head. Birds, too.

This makes me the Enemy according to PETA. But my leather shoes and belts would do that even if I limited my grazing to fruits, grains and vegetables. So would the hood of my parka, which is lined with coyote fur.

So why do I bring this up, particularly when the majority of you share the same vices? It's because PETA, not content to protect the rights of kittycats, doggies, horsies and other pets animal companions, has launched a new campaign.

They are up in arms about the mistreatment of fish -- as exemplified by fishing -- and have decided the best way to get our yoots in tune with the true goodness of our finned, gilled and scaled friends is to give them a new name:

Sea Kittens.

Yup. Who could be mean to a cute, cuddly sea kitten?

A website has been launched to extol the virtues of these lovable beings.

Here are the first lines from their explanation: "People don't seem to like fish. They're slithery and slimy, and they have eyes on either side of their pointy little heads—which is weird, to say the least. Plus, the small ones nibble at your feet when you're swimming, and the big ones—well, the big ones will bite your face off if Jaws is anything to go by.

Of course, if you look at it another way, what all this really means is that fish need to fire their PR guy—stat."

To quote the immortal Redd Foxx: "You expect me to believe this sh*t?"

The site goes on to deliver some "Sea Kitten Facts," including: "Like their surface-dwelling cousins, the land kittens, sea kittens enjoy being petted."

There are cute drawings, cute stories, cute "sea kitten" paraphernalia for kids' mommies and daddies to buy, actions they can take (like teaching sea kittens to sing "Kumbayah"?) to stop the depredations visited on out little underwater buddies.


I hardly know what to say, except I'm beginning to jones for a tuna sandwich* right about now....

No matter what, I'm not petting any damn sea kitten fish. No way.

* Dolphin-safe tuna, of course, preferably free-range raised!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Anyone for a donut?

Two of these stands survive here in L.A. I used to live near this one; the other is maybe five miles away.

In any case, Randy's -- the other is currently known as "Dale's" -- is in better condition, and seems to be doing business...

I'm surprised there are pigeons congregating on top of the "donut." There can't be many crumbs up there to nibble after all these years, as the structure was, as I recall, built in the late 1930s.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Easily amused, part 54, 017... the instructions I saw on a dryer at the laundromat today...

Yeah, I did what it said.

I'm editing... links list, after the death of blog-site Journalspace. Finally.

Since Blogspot allows one to "follow" various journals, I'm doing that with some who have relocated here. When I find out how to display that -- which I understand means making changes to my template, which I am incredibly unenthusiastic about -- I will, but you know who you are anyway.

It's all very confusing and, to some extent, disheartening. I lost contact with some interesting people.

But I'll find as many as I can. I'm just kinda slow about all this computer-stuff.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Mr Domestic, me...

...sort of.

Spent part of today cleaning up the pad.

You may now all say "big deal!" in unison.

It makes me appreciate my new, smaller quarters that much more: with less space, it takes less time to clean!

Strange, though, how a small place really emphasizes any dirt. Every little speck seems bigger. So it has become something of a weekly ritual for me, though this day I did more than usual, such as scrubbing the floors and washing some of the windows. I've never lived in a carpet-free place before; I brought a rug, but the rest is hardwood or synthetic tile, and therefore must be scrubbed. After, that is, everything else was dusted.

In contrast to my previous quarters next door, this one doesn't seem to get the black filth that drifts this way from the port. And I don't have to deal with numerous dirt-catching features that place had, like carpet that was used when I moved in, nooks and crannies that never looked neat and a heater that disgorged dirt no matter how often I changed the filter.

To tell the truth, I was not enthusiastic about keeping the old place neat, and in some ways didn't have to be. I had closets galore, good hiding places for crap I didn't need but couldn't bring myself to get rid of.

All that stuff's gone, now. No spare room for anything that isn't necessary or at least useful. Even so, it's a bit cramped, and when finances allow, I'll get a smaller desk and perhaps a few other items that don't take up more space than they absolutely have to.

Doesn't matter. I'm here, and I like it in most respects.

And it's clean. At least for a few days.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Looking back...

...a whole three days!

At one point on New Year's Eve, I straightened my spine, mastered my most determined facial expression, looked in the mirror and said "Damnit, I'm not going to let next year be as miserable as this one!"

I quickly came to my senses. I was getting perilously close to actually making a New Year's resolution. Or, worse, more than one.

We all know how well most of those work, don't we?

I can tell you right now that if I had resolved to do certain things -- all of which would be Good For Me -- I would already be moaning about having messed up at least one or two.

Sure, I could have promised myself all sorts of great things, and goodness knows I wish I could deliver. If it was that easy, I'd simply decide to earn a million dollars in the next twelve months, and that would solve one heckuva lot of problems.

I'd need some serious help with that one, Jim. Maybe a mask and weapon, too. Or a job with the government.

Even the simple stuff is a potential minefield. And once a resolution is broken, it just lies there, inert, and mocks you.

So I decided to look at things in a slightly different way. I'm not stupid -- not all the time, that is -- so I do know what needs to be done. I even know how to accomplish some of my unstated goals. Thus, the Big Plan for 2009:

I'm going to give dealing with all the not-so-swell stuff in my life a pretty good shot, and if I actually succeed at fixing anything I'll look around in surprise and say, "whoa, did I do that?"

What I will not do is set up any expectations that I am going to make any great strides toward perfection. That way, any missteps along the way won't be as irritating; things I do get done will bring pleasant, unexpected feelings of fulfillment, and I'll permit me to pat myself on the back.

I'd really like to arrive at next December 31st and not have to say "Damnit, I'm not going to let next year be as miserable as this one!" all over again.

But that sounds too much like a New Year's resolution, so I'm not going to think about it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


...Polar Bears! That's what the people call themselves who leap into the ocean first thing on New Year's Day.

There is a local "Polar Bear" group that has been doing this for more than 50 years, and today was no exception...

The object is to swim out to a lifeguard boat moored in the bay. At a guess, I'd say it was about a quarter-mile each way. Some actually made it, though I wonder if they weren't hoping for hot coffee and doughnuts out there; I would have been expecting that, at least...

But many either stopped in a state of frozen immobility or turned around and hustled back to shore as soon as that first wave of 57-degree water hit 'em....

I heard a couple of people at my vantage point talking about doing this next year. The guy in the Santa hat was one...

Me? You couldn't pay me enough! Well, maybe if the price was really right....

But these people do it because they "enjoy" it, a pleasure that's certainly lost on me. You see me in that water, it's because a boat sank with me on it. A polar bear I am not!