Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merle, Tequila, New Glasses, the Car Wash, Mutts, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan

The Little Woman is working on some new country songs. She's in a Merle Haggard phase just now. Listening o a lot of Merle these days. I knew he was Outlaw Country, but had forgotten he was in San Quentin for three of Johnny Cash's appearances. So the story goes, when Merle was finally out, pursuing a music career he met Cash and told him: "I certainly enjoyed your show at San Quentin." Cash said "Merle, I don't remember you bein' in that show." Merle said, "Johnny, I wasn't in that show, I was in the audience."

My son is 18 years old Monday. Got him a bottle of Tequila. He wanted a bottle of Tequila. He's not even legally allowed to drink, but I trust this kid not to be foolish around booze. We don't keep much liquor around in the house. There may be a bottle of Canadian or some Bourbon in a kitchen cabinet, but no one around here uncorks any of it much.

We also got him a couple of Mutts books. Mutts is his favorite comic of all time. He gets all grins at Mutts. We don't have a dog or a cat. He's doing some volunteer work at the local animal shelter.

Finally getting new glasses tomorrow. I have been using a pair of my old glasses to see to read or write this, but one of the lenses fell out. So I taped that side up and I have been looking out just the right side lens. I don't have my regular old glasses because I turned the frame over to the optometrist to put new lenses in. It's the frames that cost big bucks. Screw that. Use the old frames.

Washed the car. Two dollars and a quarter tonight down at the Wash it Yourself Place. I used to spend seven or eight bucks, but discovered I can get a pretty good wash, rinse, wax and second rinse all for two bucks if I'm speedy. Saving a few bucks here and there wherever I can. I suspect I am not the only one around here pinching pennies.

Have not been keeping up with the news much. Some scary stuff going on in Iran. You have to wonder if police brutality can continue to work. Those dissidents have got some real cajones to continue to fight after the cops gunned down at least nine of them this weekend. Fired into the crowd. The question is, will that stir up the dissidents even more or will it shut them down? Somehow I think it will energize them. I wish Obama would come out against the violence as a human rights issue. Iran has not been a backward Islamic Republic for decades. It is an Islamic country, not backward, and women didn't have to walk around imprisoned in a black sheet and they didn't cut your hands off for stealing a candy bar. But it has a repressive religious government now, and that is unacceptable to people who want to join the 21st Century.

Do something to help Stop the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even if it's only no more than writing Obama at and telling him how foolish it is to continue to get our troops killed over there, and how stupid it is to continue spending money on wars that cannot be won. You would think Obama would have learned something from the British and Russian defeats in Afghanistan. And Iraq is a lost cause. We should never have been in either war ever, except to grab Osama which we could have done when we had him trapped at Tora Bora. But my theory is we didn't really want to catch him. Bush needed him to be the boogy man to keep us all scared and docile. We ought to declare victory in Iraq and Afghanistan and leave. Now.

Write a note to Barry O. I write notes all the time. I'm probably on some kind of list by now.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas day. Bright and Sunny in Southern California, with barely a hint of a chill in the air. We watched some movies, I leafed through a couple of gift books, R. Crumbs Genesis was one of them. Crumb is an absolutely brilliant artist that I have admired since the hippie days of the 60s. Love the guy's work. I have one of his original comic books around here somewhere. There are no limits to his imagination and no borders on taboos. He did an episode years ago featuring Jesus Christ in a modern setting and some of it I am sure would be totally offensive to Evangelical Christians. But in my view, the work reflected the true spirit of the Revolutionary Hippie Radical Jesus. Screw the Evangelicals.

My Republican Sister in Law sent a big coffee table book featuring the headlines of newspapers from WWII. I am kind of a WWII freak, having been a little child during that era. I am also a Civil War freak. They kid me around here with my interest in Adolph Hitler. Hitler was a fascinating guy, a seriously mentally ill individual who got hold of the levers of power of a country with a dangerous military. The result was the deaths of some 15 million people. Who wouldn't be fascinated by that? Or it could be argued he was never mentally ill, just thoroughly evil. Or both. Mentally ill and evil. What a combination.


We had one of those spiral cut hams from Trader Joes. And some wonderful whole wheat bread from the La Brea Bakery. Great Christmas day sandwiches. And hard cider. And some chocolates. My son spent part of the day watching some new horror flicks. We began watching War of the Roses on cable, but then the cable went out, so we did other things, listened to music and the like. It was a good Christmas day. We sitll have some tamales we got from a legendary East L.A. Mexican restaurant where every Christmas, crowds gather for their great Christmas tamales. You have to stand in line for 20 minutes or more just to get a few tamales to take home. We do that every Christmas.

I haven't been paying a lot of attention to the news. I guess it's good that we got a health bill in the Senate. Now it remains to be seen what the reconciliation will be like. I hope we get a decent bill. Those Republican bastards ought to be ashamed of themselves. I have this theory that some part of the Neanderthal DNA remains in some Homo Sapiens individuals even today. And those who have it are Republican knuckle draggers. Republicans are simply stupid and mean. They ignore facts and their own delusionary reality leads to a mean-spirited result for the rest of us. A perfect example is the health care debate. How could anyone in his right mind oppose measures to assure that people have access to good health care? Really, you have to be stupid to believe that good health care is a bad thing. And you have to be mean to want to deny it to everyone.

But it remains to be seen just how good the final health care bill will be. If it is just a giveaway to the insurance companies, then a pox on the House and the Senate for caving in to the Neanderthals.

I mentioned at the beginning of this piece that it was a beautiful day. So peaceful and quiet outside. It was as if some kind of peace blanket had fallen over all the world. I just stood for a while on our little street on the hill and zoned out on the silence. It was a trancendental moment. Christmas day is always a special day.

Gotta go.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Well, it's Christmas Eve, really late. I should be taking a shower and brushing my teeth and going to bed. But first:

The Little Woman had her yard sale. She collected 70 or 80 bucks and got rid of some stuff. And we met some neighbors we hadn't met before. That was the best part.

And I collected half my fee for the Banner project. That made for a Merry Christmas because we were almost broke. As it was, we were able to celebrate the way Americans always celebrate, by going out and shopping and giving a shot in the arm to the economy. I had to accompany my (almost) 18 year old son to places like Best Buy and Toys R Us. It amazed me the stuff people were buying and carrying out of the store. All of it made in China. A lot of it in big cardboard boxes. Guitar Hero and big Barbie Doll sets and flat screen TVs and Blu Ray DVD players. All stuff I neither could afford, nor did I actually want any of it. I wondered where all the money was coming from to buy all this stuff. After all, this is the Great Recession, the younger brother to the Great Depression. Who has a job to pay for all this stuff?

I think I saw a lot of credit cards coming out of wallets at the checkout counters. The economy is structured with low wages and lots of available credit. But I think the available credit is coming to an end for a lot of people. I predict 2010 is going to bring a major hangover to the spending spree people have been on even in this serious economic downturn. Especially in the downturn, because people don't want to face reality, and they use their credit cards like a security blanket. I think a lot of people are finding out the blanket is shredded.

We actually had a rather modest shopping trip -- a few DVDs and books for my son and a relatively inexpensive pair of speakers for The Little Woman's audio setup in the studio. After all, an aspiring country singer needs a decent pair of speakers.

Oh, I mentioned I collected half my fee for that Big Project. It was a PDF project with images and text, an annual report for a non profit financial institution that does good work in the Inner City, funding minority and women-owned business and the like. It has some connections to City Hall through its president and CEO is a smart and savvy banker who was born in Watts, an African American section of L.A. at the time. Now it is turning majority Latino. Most bank presidents, I bet 95% are old White Guys. Not this gentleman; he is African American, and he has managed to reach his status by getting a good education in the world of business and being really shrewd. He's also just a really good guy. Unusual, I think, in the world of banking. Look how those crooks acted with our bailout money. But I digress.

I had this PDF project, and I began by building the pages in an HTML editor and converting to PDF. I worked for weeks on the thing. And it looked pretty good, but because I had to use tables, nothing really lined up quite right and the client didn't like it. So I did it over. And this time it looked worse. But the client showed me what he really wanted and gave me half the fee. THEN I learned last night in just an hour or two how to use Adobe InDesign CS2. I have had it on the desktop for a couple of years or more and never used it. What a wonderful program! You can drop images in anywhere, no tables. And text, no tables. Move stuff around. And then automatically save it all as a PDF and it looks great! It's all compatible because it is all in the Adobe family. Now I will be able to put the rest of the project together in a day or two and collect the rest of my fee before the New Year. Whew!

It's a good omen for 2010, starting out with some money in the bank. Happy Christmas, Have a wonderful Winter Solstice Season. My best wishes to both of my readers, (or all three or four) for a Great New Year.

Gotta go.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday, Four More Shopping Days

THe Little Woman is determined to do this yard sale. I put up a poster on the bulletin board at the school. She wants an ad in the L.A. Times.

Last night we finally bought a Christmas tree. I was looking for one for around $20, but no such luck. We went to one big tree lot in South Pasadena, where they showed a pathetic little bush of a tree for $25. Three feet tall. Then we drove to a lot on York where the guy had a noisy generator going to power his string of lights, and he had maybe 15 trees. That place sure looked lonesome. No luck there either. Finally we stopped at the big lot at York and Figueroa and looked at a tree with a price tag of $40. I asked if they'd take $35 and they would. So they tied that on top of the car, And I bought a package of mistletoe for a couple of bucks and gave the tree tyer boys a couple of bucks and off we went. I should have known trees wold be cheaper in Highland Park than South Pas.

A guy at Trader Joe's told me Home Depot sells trees really cheap. He said he got a 7 footer for $25. I'll look at Home Depot next year.

I heard that some homeowner in Northern California did a diorama depicting Jesus with a shotgun standing in front of a mortally wounded Santa Claus. That's the American way. Tired of Santa Claus dominating Christmas?Tired of the frenzied shoppers forgetting that Christmas is supposed to be about the Birth of Christ and peace and love? THen put up a scene in your front yard showing Christ murdering Santa with a shotgun. Bam! Problem solved.

Gotta go.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


The Little Woman has been planning a garage sale with her singing partner, but I think it's too late. The plan was to do it Sunday, but we don't have the stuff collected yet. She hasn't priced anything. She was going to put a classified ad in the L.A. Times. Time is running out for this project. We don't have the thing organized at all.

And I still have the Banner project to finish. Hope to finish it today. That check will make a nice Christmas present if I can get the thing finished and off to the client.

The Little Woman still has a bad cough, a residue of the flu she had. It's making her tired. She needs rest after that grueling session she had teaching art to the little nose pickers in the L.A. public schools. I have a bad cough, too. It's a seasonal thing. I expect this to happen just about every winter.

We don't even have a Christmas tree. We have always have a tree. Finances are tight this year. All season I have only seen one car with a tree tied on the roof.

Speaking of Christmas, here's a shot of the life-size creche my dad used to put up every year in our front yard in Lowell, Indiana. This was probably from around 1947. Dad bought the Mary and Joseph mannequins from a Chicago department store. The mule was, of course, our family mule. Doesn't every family have a mule? His name was Long Ears. Out of frame of the shot was a lighted star on a pole, and dad would put a record player on the porch playing Christmas music. It was really quite touching. Cars would stream past our house in an endless parade. Dad won the Lowell Christmas Decoration Contest every year for several years and finally they just phased the contest out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On the Gold Line

I was on the Gold Line, our light rail line that runs from Union Station all the way out to deep in the heart of East L.A.

A teenage girl was telling her friend what happened a few nights ago when a big thunder and rain storm interrupted the electricity in her house. Everything went dark in part of the house. It gets dark here in the winter around 5:00. She said they stumbled around and found some candles and lit those. And then she said her mom panicked. Her grow room lights were out.

Grow room? This was getting interesting. It wasn't hard to gather from the conversation that her mom was growing pot indoors, and now she was worried because her crop was in the dark.

Somehow, because the lights were out in only part of the house, it must have been a tripped GFI or a blown fuse. That's my guess. So her mom managed to get an extension cord and a light strip to the grow room and fire up the lights again.

Whew! American entrepreneurial ingenuity to the rescue. The grow room was once again lighted and all was right with the world.

Turns out it was all legal, as the girl explained to her friend. Her mom has a medical marijuana card, she said, and she was growing for one of the pot co-ops we have all over Los Angeles. We have more pot dispensaries in L.A. than Starbucks, in fact there are about 1,000 medical marijuana co-ops n Los Angeles, and not nearly as many Starbucks.

This is driving the City Council nuts, trying to put most of them out of business with one regulation or another. Problem is, medical marijuana is legal, and the cops can't just bust in and arrest pot dealers like they could in the old days, although the City Attorney claims he is about to do just that. City Council has warned him not to, and he threatens to ignore City Council.

A voter initiative has just qualified for the November 2010 ballot to tax and legalize marijuana in California. Polls show a majority of locals might just vote for it. Heaven knows the state could use the revenue.


OK, started the day with a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat toast. Peanut butter, mayonnaise and fresh lettuce. It's the kind of sandwich my mom used to make me back in Indiana when I was a kid. Only she used white Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip, which Barbara will not allow in the house. She has a point there. Actually she will allow Wonder Bread in the house, but she wads up the slices and uses them to clean paintings. Works great. And she doesn't like Miracle Whip because it has canola oil or something in it that she considers poison. She's probably right.

We are all so disgusted with Obama. Here's a note I left for him at

Dear Mr. President.
I am so disappointed in your performance for the past year. We worked hard to get you elected. We gave money. We had hope for change we could believe in.

Instead, we got a major Wall Street bailout that gave our tax dollars to big banks and their rapacious credit cards which are screwing us to the wall in this economy AND giving their CEOs huge bonuses. With our money.

Where are the kinds of jobs programs that FDR created with the WPA? Mr. President, you talk a good game, but we see few results.

And this health insurance reform. A disaster. A boondoggle for the insurance companies. In my view and in the view of many who voted for you, you have shown NO leadership. And Harry Reid hasn't been much better.

I am telling you, I am a lifelong FDR Democrat. But I am not voting in the midterms if things don't improve.

Happy Holidays to you and your family.

I would encourage everyone, all three of my readers to email President Obama. It probably won't do any good, but wait, does he want a second term or not? If he gets the idea he could actually be endangering his political prospects maybe we could turn him around.

It's going to be a bleak Christmas for a lot of folks. We don't have a tree yet. The damn things cost too much. No one in the family has bought a present for anyone else. We are holding off on the traditional order of Christmas tamales that we usually get from an East L.A. Mexican restaurant each year. And we haven't ordered the chocolate cherry bread we usually buy from the LaBrea Bakery.

I have a good story about a conversation I heard on a bus. I don't have time to leave it here just now. Have to finish the Banner project. I'll try to get to the story tomorrow or Friday.

Doesn't Senator Joe Lieberman look like an evil elf? I think so.

Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Finally got some sleep. This job of Barbara's has been keeping ME up late. She's an art teacher. Three different South Central schools in rotation. Five classes each school. It's a marathon challenge for her at the schools, a major job for me doing the planning and creating samples of the hands-on work in the lesson plan weeknights for the kids to look at in class. Been keeping me up past midnight sometimes. Have to find art examples on the Web. Download. Print on 8X10 transparencies. Organize all the classes.

I have a job Monday. Nothing the rest of the week. Maybe I'll get a couple of days or more. Maybe nothing but Monday. Still have the Banner project, a major PDF project for promoting an inner city financial institution that funds small businesses and real estate. It's basically a small non-profit bank. If I don't get more work this week, I can finish up that project and collect a check.

Barbara's singing partner came over as usual on Sunday morning. She is not only talented, she is organized, and she wants to help organize my office space. Cool. The place looks better already.

Sudden thought: People who deny evolution seems to me don't really appreciate the awesome amount of time it took for life to develop and for us to emerge finally from the amino acid slime that began all life. Billions and billions of years. That's a lot more impressive, I think, than some big invisible guy with a beard in the sky going ZAP! and creating Adam all formed and ready to go. Nope, seems to the the billions and billions of years it took to create all the animals and us is far more awe inspiring than the Bible story.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday Got Some Work

Got two days of work this week. Entertained a bunch of second graders today. They were all helpful and cooperative. That's what I write to the teacher at the end of the day whether they were or not. They mostly are. Even the xixth grade class I managed yesterday. In this business you gotta be an entertainer. That's why there are so many actors and other showbiz types doing substitute teaching. They don't want real jobs so they can go on auditions. Or maybe they just don't like the idea of being tied down to a job they just have to go to every morning five days a week. Of course that's the kind of job I had during my news career.

I had another one of those jobs when I taught a high school class for three years. I taught video production. Bunch of all spoiled white kids, second-generation Armenian kids in a magnet high school. One kid told me he was never going to work in my class because his dad had lots of money which he planned to inherit. One kid in that class pulled a knife on me. I got him kicked out of school and all his friends said I should be ashamed of myself.

To do list:

Finish Banner project. That one is going to net me a nice check.
Do the California agency paperwork and get that project on track
Pay SAG dues if I can ever get back on the furslugginer Web site. I swear SAG changes their password requirements about once every month. Or so it seems. I doubt that Jack Nicholson or Sean Penn has ever bothered to sign in to a page on the SAG Web site. Mostly it is for actors looking for work. I doubt that Nicholson or Penn ever have to look for work.

I just heard on the radio that young African American people are out of work at least three times the national average, which is said to be about 10%. That makes the number among African American youth about 30%, yet I don't see Obama doing much about it. He talks about unemployment and the number has retreated some in this last report, but why doesn't he just recreate the WPA, the way FDR did back in the 30s? There's plenty the Feds could do to create work for people, fixing up roads and schools and national parks.

And there should be a special program for writers and artists, too, the way FDR did. That program produced some invaluable work. I remember a little theatre at Indiana University that had murals on the walls inside that were done by WPA artists. It was a classic. I bet it is still there. I love the sort of art the WPA produced during those years, a sort of Socialist Realism. There is a movie theatre in Glendale that has the same kind of art updated on its domed lobby ceiling. It depicts the Hollywood movie industry, the stars, the crews, etc. It is beautifully done and worth going to the Americana just to see the mural on the ceiling of this massive theatre lobby.

Why is this reminding me of the Sistine Chapel?

Speaking of, has it come to your attention that lots of priests wear dresses? I mean they just appear in church in a dress and no one thinks anything of it. It would be kind of weird if an auto mechanic showed up wearing a dress down at Highland Park Auto Repair. Or if some teenage boy showed up at his Burger King job wearing a frilly frock. But for priests it raises no eyebrows. And the Pope always wears a dress all the time. Can you imagine the Pope wearing jeans and a t-shirt? They might be an improvement.

Gotta go.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Work is scarce these days in the LAUSD classrooms. I have one job lined up next week. None this week so far.

To do list: Apply to autism contract companies for work. Autism workers are hired to go into the classrooms and tend to just ONE kid all day. It's got to be steadier work than substitute teaching these days. Last year I worked every school day both semesters and into the summer. This year, since our union screwed us by giving our jobs away to regular teachers hired right out of college, jobs have dwindled. But I digress.

More to do: a PDF Annual Report project for a nonprofit financial institution that funds inner city businesses. This is a good project, but it has taken months to do, partly because I had to learn how to do a PDF project and partly because the bank president has been distracted by other business and not available to approve my work and offer revisions. Finally got the revision instructions. Onward. Should be able to finish it within a week or two.

Pay property tax. Eccccccchhhh.

Check all bills. Make sure you're not late on a credit card, otherwise those bloodsuckers will jack up the interest rates to criminal levels.

Damn Joe Biden. When he was a Delaware senator he led the fight on behalf of the credit card companies, allowing them to do whatever they liked to screw cardholders. Face it, this country is run by money. It is common knowledge that the Congress is bought and paid for. I liked that idea that Robin Williams had: Make all Senators and Congressional Representatives wear jackets with the logos of the corporations that bribe them. Like NASCAR. So you'd see these guys with jackets decorated with logos from Blue Cross and General Electric and Bank of America and on and on.

One more thing, while I'm on a rant. Why doesn't the federal government send all high school graduates to college for free, if they want to go. It would be the best investment in the future of this country we could ever make. No, that's a suggestion that makes too much sense. Better to spend the money on bombs and guns so we can go overseas somewhere to kill people. Much better use of our tax money than spending it on educating people. California used to send all California high school graduates to college for free. Then Ronald Reagan came along and ended that. Gotta love Republicans. If it's good for the country, they're against it. Consistently.

Have to order prescriptions, and find out why Medicare won't pay for some minor treatment by a doctor because I happen to also have Kaiser coverage.

What a screwy health care system we have here in the United States. I hope this latest Senate proposal to expand Medicare to people over 55 works. I think the age ought to be dropped to ZERO. Eventually, it will, and to hell with Republicans and those Democrats who have stood in the way of Health Care Reform. They remind me of George Wallace standing in the doorway at the University of Alabama to prevent racial integration. The politicos who opposed health care during this Congressional Session are on the wrong side of history, no doubt about that. Progress will prevail, even if it takes longer than most of us would like.

Boy, my office is a mess. Got to get it organized.

Friday, December 4, 2009


After all these years it still seems strange that I can walk outside in December weather wearing just a t-shirt and jeans. When I worked in Buffalo, NY, that kind of outfit would have instantly frozen a body stiff, the way a physics professor would stick a fresh rose n a vial of liquid nitrogen, take it out and shatter it like glass on the lab table.

Today I worked a first grade. There was one kid wearing a sweater, who would pulli it up all the way over his face so only the top of his head would be showing and then he'd stick a finger out a hole in the sweater. And he did this for a half hour or forty minutes. He cracked up the class. It was kind of funny and weird.

Don't forget to look at one of my latest Web sites, < >. Erin and my wife Barbara are singing partners. My wfe, the country singer.

Are these idiots in Congress going to pass a decent health care bill? I sure hope so. It's up to us to email and phone them. The Republicans are complete brain dead morons. Along with about four Democrats. My theory is they were deprived of oxygen at birt.

Sure glad it's the weekend.