Friday, October 27, 2006

Sailor Take Warning

Arthur Hill died this week. Maybe the name doesn't mean anything to you, but the face (to my left) should. He starred in Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law on ABC, a show I have never seen, but I remember seeing ads for. I know I saw Hill in many shows and films, but when I heard that he had died the one part that came to mind was his starring role in The Andromeda Strain. Written by Michael Crichton, directed by Robert Wise and starring Hill, David Wayne, James Olsen and Paula Kelly, Andromeda was a serious science fiction film and in the summer of 1971 I couldn't wait to see it. So I'm writing today about Arthur Hill or The Andromeda Strain, right?


Hill's death brought a totally different film immediately to mind. In the summer of 1971 I was 15 years old and my best friend Jack Halsey and I went to see The Andromeda Strain together. Back in those days you didn't see just one film, they always showed a double-feature. Jack and I went to see Andromeda, but we fell in love with Red Sky At Morning.

How much did we love it? We sat through Andromeda a second time to see Red Sky a second time. Yeah, we watched both films twice that day. And we went back the next week and over the next few months I must have seen Red Sky five or six times.

Red Sky At Morning is base on the novel of the same name by Richard Bradford. It's a coming of age story set in a small New Mexico town during World War II. It starred Richard Thomas, Catherine Burns and Desi Arnaz Jr. as three high-school friends. It was funny, touching, exciting, beautiful and wondrous. It had an amazing supporting cast: Richard Crenna, Claire Bloom, John Colicos, the amazing Harry Guardino, Strother Martin, Nehemiah Persoff, Pepe Serna, and Gregory Sierra.

It's just a wonderful film... and nine out of ten people who read this will never have heard of it. Somewhere, some how this film was forgotten. It has never been released on VHS and never released on DVD. You can't buy it anywhere. And it's a god damned shame. This is a film I will never forget and I haven't seen it in maybe 30 years.

But very soon I'll be seeing Red Sky again. When I bought a TiVo two and a half years ago the first thing I did was input the names of all my favorite films from my childhood. Tonight, for the first time I see that Red Sky At Morning is playing this week, Thursday, November 2 at 7:00 AM on the Sundance Channel. I have very high hopes for the film as the Sundance Channel usually shows only the best of prints letterboxed. I'll love it even if its a bad pan and scan print.

In looking up information for this BLOG, I was surprised at the comments on IMDB regarding Red Sky, surprised at how many people think it is one of the greatest films they have ever seen. I remember how it touched me and was heartened to see that I was not the only one. What I remember vividly about Red Sky At Morning was how wholly and completely it took me to another place and another time, but struck me with how much the problems of the characters then and there were like the problems of me in that here and now of 1971.

Do yourself a huge favor and do not miss this film; you've lived without it for too long.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sweet Home, Jimmy Bama!

I don't remember the first time I saw a James Bama painting, but at some point I became aware of this amazing style showing up across the paperback rack. Most likely it was a western painting but it could have also been a Doc Savage, I don't remember. But once I noticed the style and the signature I started to notice that it was all over the rack, in all genres and I quickly became a James Bama fan.

This was back in the 1960s when you could pick up a paperback for 40 to 60 cents and even though I was just a kid I would sometimes pick up books simply because of the cover. I collected paperbacks with paintings by Frank Frazetta, Jeff Jones and James Bama. When Bama's book of Western art came out in the 1990s I gobbled it up, buying copies for family and friends. I wanted to share this amazing artwork with them and was a little disappointed that the only thing I could share was his fine art. A new book from Flesk Publications, James Bama: American Realist has rectified that problem.

Written by Brian M. Kane with an introduction by Harlan Ellison, this gorgeous tome is 160 pages in color. Interspersed with Kane's biographical text are quotes by some pretty powerful artists, such as Evertt Raymond Kinstler (who has known Bama since they were both 15), Boris Vallejo and Mark Schultz, not to mention dozens of quotes and observations by Bama himself, but it's the color illustrations that this book is really all about.

Laid bare in over 260 illustrations is the full depth and breadth of Bama's career. If you know Bama only from the Docs or the western work, or perhaps the Aurora monster model kit boxes or his hundreds of other paperback covers, if you only know one aspect of his work, this book is for you. You get the whole Bama here. More than 85 of these amazing paintings are shot from the original art and they are augmented with over 30 personal photographs, ranging from family photos to modeling shoots.

If you're a Doc Savage fan you not only get all of Bama's amazing Doc covers, but a number of the Steve Holland photo shoots that inspired them. What I particularly like is that in many cases you can compare the photo to the painting and see what Bama adds to each; his innate sense of color and design, the way the figures in his paintings glow with some inner strength that is not present in the photos. Some people say that Bama just paints reality, this book should remove that notion from their heads.

If you were a fan of the Aurora monster model kit boxes, this book contains them all. A few of these I don't think I've ever seen before. But that is just indicative of the completeness of this book.

Bama abandoned the commercial art world at the height of his career in the 1970s and this book covers both of his careers. It's dominated by his commercial work but there is plenty of his fine art work as well. Like I said, this book is complete.

James Bama: American Realist is broken up into seven portfolios, "Portrait of an Illustrator," "Men's Adventure," "Science Fiction and Horror," "Pop Culture," "Doc Savage," "Westward Ho!," and "American Realist." I learned something new about Bama in every one of them. It might be a painting I knew nothing about or something personal about the man or the model. This is just such a complete retrospective of the artist. It's beautifully printed and interestingly laid out. I like the little touches, like Bama's signature on the header of the even pages and the detailed cross-references from quotes to the pages where a specific illustration can be found.

I have the deluxe edition, which is signed and numbered, with slipcase, and Paul Jilbert’s fascinating one-hour documentary of Bama on DVD, so the first illustration in my book is this wonderful pencil self-portrait signed by Bama. There's something in the looseness of the pencils, in the pensive look on Bama's face, something that makes it a wonderful, personal, almost intimate introduction to the book. It seems to say, "Hi, I'm Jimmy. What follows is my life's work."

You turn the page and you are bowled over by a portrait of Robert Kennedy and I wonder, "How can Bama paint hope?" Maybe it's in the eyes or the gesture of the hand, whatever, it makes an immediate and powerful impact. And it's just the first of the many treasures to be found within.

Look What They Are Reduced To

Last evening I'm at my club doing my time on the cycle, watching Keith Olbermann on MSNBC when I notice that someone in front of me has Fox News and that pumpkin-head BillO on and I can't help but read his stupid "talking point" comment about the war in Iraq and Democrats. I couldn't write it down, so this is not verbatim, but here is the gist of it...

"OK, you can call the Bush Administration incompetent, but to call them evil is unconscionable"

Fox News's latest pro-Bush argument is that the Bush administration... IS INCOMPETENT!

I'll keep my eyes peeled for a screen shot.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Season So Far - Part I

I watch a lot of TV. Some would say I watch "too much" TV, but I say those people should mind their own addictions and stop messing with mine.

Sorry about that... where was I? Oh yeah, TV. More precisely the new 2006 Fall season. Well, I don't watch everything and since they put that atrocious 9/11 political propaganda "movie of the week" on, I don't watch ABC (where it counts anyway), but I have sampled a good number of shows and I thought I might quickly comment on a few. I'll start with...

Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip

Please folks, put down that CSI: Miami crackpipe and watch a show that is more than good, watch a show that is excellent. West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin has created a truly wonderful show about the making of a late-night comedy series. Oddly, NBC has two shows on its schedule this year about the making of a late-night comedy series, this one is the hour-long drama (we'll discuss the other one in a bit). The writing here is simply wonderful, some very subtle funny bits that bite quite a bit at the network hand that feeds it.

In the show, writer Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and producer Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) are brought in by newly appointed network head Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) to save the flagging sketch comedy series, Studio 60. I urge you to watch the show if for no other reason that to learn what an amazing actor Matthew Perry is. If your only exposure to him is Friends, you will be shocked at how good he is as head-writer Albie. I think people expect Bradley Whitford to be good, but I bevieve they will be pleasantly surprised at how good Amanda Peet is as the quirky, high-powered Jordan.

Rounding out the cast are the three stars of the fictitious Studio 60, Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson), Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley) and Tom Jeter (Nathan Corddry), the show's director, Cal Shanley (Timothy Busfield) and supreme network honcho Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber). Of these. only Paulson is a problem; I thinnk she is miscast as the "funniest woman on TV." I don't find her very amusing at all.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Honoring the Series?

I guess if I want to honor Game 2 of the Series I need to paint a smudge onto that palm.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

In Honor of the Series

I give you the first acrylic painting I ever did. Not that I am a big baseball fan, because I am not. I do know who is playing in the World Series, but I will most likely be watching only football this weekend. I find baseball kinda boring. So why did I do a painting of a hand holding a baseball?

A five or six years back I was taking Life Drawing classes at Pasadena City College on Saturday mornings. They only had one Life Drawing class, so I would take the same class over and over. The professor liked me and never really gave me much instruction, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of her class, the use of the models and the way they were starkly lit (being her favorite, I often got to light the models the way I wanted them lit) and so I took it repeatedly. After a while, the homework became a problem. Each time I took the class, the homework was the same.

I think it was the third or fourth week that we did hands. You had to do three pictures of hands as homework. I got tired of drawing hands, so the last time I took the course I did each hand in a different media. My wife and son had given me a set of acrylic paints, a set of nice markers and a set of colored pencils for Christmas, so I decided to put them to use. I did a hand in colored pencils, a hand in markers and this hand in acrylics. To make it even more interesting for me each hand was doing something.

If I don't drag this out during the World Series, I'd never show it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"You Made Not So Great A Deal"

Anyone who has watched Deal or No Deal on NBC knows what those words mean; you sold your briefcase for an amount of cash that looked good, but was no where near the amount in your briefcase. My brother Jack knows what those words mean too. No, he has never appeared on Deal or No Deal, but he did make one very bad deal once upon a time, long ago.

Jack was a Captain in the Army during the Viet Nam War. When his time of service was up, he renewed and was paid a large bonus for doing so. A few months later the Army let him go anyway as they had too many officers and they again paid him a large fee, this time as severance. Bottom line is he left the Army with a lot of money, for late 1960s early 1970s anyway.

He used his money to invest in real estate in which he did poorly and in exotic automobiles, in which he did even worse. Jack first bought a Maserati and spent months looking for someone to insure it. Back in those days automobile insurance was not mandatory like it is today. He finally found a company that would insure exotics and sent them his first payment. A day or so later he crushed the car, slamming it between a number of boulders outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado when, blinded by sunlight, he inadvertently drove the car though a "T" in the road.

When Jack got out of the hospital, his new insurance company paid off and he leaped into action and bought a Ferrari. To be precise he bought a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Scagglietti Berlinetta; a race car. In 1961 the car cost $42,000, but Jack only paid $4,400 for it in 1971. It cost him $1,100 to make the car "street legal."

Jack's car was one of five built for the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans race, though his car did not finish the race. I once had a boss who was a Ferrari nut and I asked Jack for the particulars on his car, so I could pass them along. He wrote:

The car sported a blueprinted 220 bhp (at 8,000 rpms) V-12 with three 4-barrel Weber 38 DCN carburetors and a 9.2:1 compression ratio. It had 4 forward gears with a reverse. The actual maximum speeds (at 8,000 rpms) the car reached in 1973 (I drove and Keith [our brother] watched the tachometer and speedometer) were 61 mph (first gear), 118 mph (second gear), 159 mph (third gear) and 193 mph (fourth gear). It was a hell of a blast to drive.

Jack had bad luck with this car. His first problem was that the windshield was so pitted that it was hard to see out of and over time it just got worse. Eventually he could not see out of the front of the car and called his insurance company and they told him to get it fixed.

Well, if Ferrari only made five cars, how many windshields do you think they made? The answer was, "not enough" because there were none to be found. Finally Jack found a company in Canada that would make him a windshield for $4,000. His insurance company said they would pay for it, but they would also cancel his insurance and he would never get any other as they would have to declare that he totaled two exotic sports cars in a three-year period.

He said "OK" and as they removed his windshield (to make a mold for the new one) it shattered. The car was now undrivable and a new windshield could no longer be manufactured. But Jack caught a break when Ferrari found a windshield in a warehouse in Italy. They shipped it to Colorado and Jack was able to get the car fixed and retain his insurance.

This was about the only break he caught. The engine in the car was not original and had problems. Eventually the engine blew when our brother Keith was driving the car. Jack found a rebuilt engine for the car, but by this time he was out of extra money. If I remember correctly, the engine was somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 and Jack did not have the cash.

He sold the car in 1975 for $5,500 and that owner bought the rebuilt engine which it ended up, was the car's original engine (the serial numbers were the same). That owner turned around and sold the car for $10,800 the same year.

In 1985 the car was sold at auction for $272,000.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Death of Habeas Corpus -- Part II

Keith Olbermann had a Special Comment on the Death of Habeas Corpus last night that pretty much sums up what Americans have lost under this administration. Remember what he says when you go to the polls next month to vote for a senator or a representative; remember which party has stolen from you the rights you were born with and vote the bastards out for good.

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.

-Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Death of Habeas Corpus

Today Bush signed into law The Military Commissions Act, which is nothing like what it sounds. First, it gives the US the legal right to torture people at the President's discretion. As bad as this sounds, it is nothing compared to what it does to Habeas Corpus. Habeas Corpus is the thing that keeps you safe from unlawful imprisonment by the government and The Military Commissions Act basically rescinds this protection. Bush now has the powers of a dictator to take any American and imprison them forever without ever accusing them of anything. I wish to god this was a joke, but it's not. Americans just became a whole lot less freer. Keith Olbermann talked about it tonight on his show and a few weeks ago when the bill passed congress.

If you cherish what this country has stood for for hundreds of years, vote out every Republican you can. They are simply rubber-stamping the destruction of your freedoms, one at a time.

Almost Getting Killed

I hate when that happens!

Yesterday I had to go into work for a brainstorming and project planning session for 2007. It was actually a pretty good meeting and afterward we had a great lunch at the Yard House. Getting to and from work is a 23-mile trek down the 210 freeway into Pasadena, which was surprisingly quick going in yesterday and really slow going back. At one point I had to actually get off the freeway and take side streets due to an accident. My mistake was getting back on the freeway.

As I approached the off ramp to my house I moved over into the slow lane (a place you will rarely find me for sure). With about 3/4 of a mile to go I ended up behind a line of big and small trucks, the one in front of me being a medium-sized truck, like a small moving van. As I took my place at the end of this slow-moving line the truck in front of me slowly made its way over to the shoulder. I couldn't see anything wrong with it, but I figured the guy had some sort of problem.

Now the freeway at this point, and all though La Verne in fact, is in a large ditch. La Verne fought the construction of this part of the freeway (which only opened up four or five years ago) for years, demanding that it be below ground level throughout the entire city limits. The city pretty much got what they wanted and the freeway is sunken through the length of the city in basically a large ditch with steep sloping embankments.

The truck in front of me goes right past the shoulder and up the embankment. pitching over precariously. I am looking in my rear-view mirror and moving into the next lane when the truck driver makes a correction and comes crashing back down onto the freeway in front of me, pitched at an angle and riding on only the left wheels of the truck. I am watching him and the mirror as I move over another lane and the truck falls back down on the right wheels (I would have bet he was too far over to stop from flipping completely) and then tips over in that direction, the left wheels now leaving the ground.

I accelerated past, now in the car pool lane as the truck pitched once again over on it's left tires. In the rear-view mirrors I saw the right wheels crash back to the pavement as the whole front end of the truck buckled into the shoulder and the truck slid to a stop.

Scared the shit out of me (figuratively, not literally).

I hate when that happens!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Cost of Home Ownership - Part I

I like buying new things, but hate replacing something that has broken. First of all, I just hate dealing with it; the hassles of getting someone in just to tell you, "Yeah, buddy, this thing is toast" and then having to find someone to get and install a new one or go find out where you get a new one and, lord help you, pick out a new one. Second of all, you go through all this hassle and you end up basically where you started (you are after all replacing something you already had), only your checking account is missing some funds. So it's a net loss: product-wise you are back where you started (if you are lucky) and you are down some much needed dollars.

We've been in our home for nine years now and it was new when we bought it. Over the past few years all those bright new appliances that came with the home have begun to break. We spent a ton replacing one of our air conditioner units last year and having our oven repaired. So much money in fact that my wife began looking for some relief. She found a place called American Home Shield that basically is an insurance policy for your appliances. The thing we liked is that they handle everything; if anything breaks in the home you call one number and they send someone out, they diagnose, they repair or replace as needed. Yeah, you are still out some bucks, but in smaller increments and over time, but all of the hassles are removed. So, my wife signed us up and two months later our dishwasher goes out.

We are covered, right? Nope, it seems the coverage does not kick in until November, so let the hassles begin. It only takes a few days of doing dishes by hand to know that we need a new dishwasher and we need one now. Our dead dishwasher (and all of the appliances that came with our house) was a KitchenAid and my wife wanted to stay with the same brand. Other than that, we had no real requirements. Nor, in my stupidity, did I think there should be any other requirements.

I check on-line for stores that carry KitchenAid and it looks like Lowe's is our best bet, so off to the nearest Lowe's we go. They carry in the store a selection of maybe thirty different dishwashers, five or six of them are indeed made by KitchenAid and none of them look anything like ours because, well hell, ours is nine years old. So, we start checking number of cycles and how quiet they are. Now we notice that the least expensive ones are said to be "Whisper Quiet®" which sounded pretty damn quiet to me, but maybe not because the more expensive ones are "Whisper Quiet® Plus." Our old dishwasher was really quiet, but I never checked what it was called before driving to Lowe's, but I'm sure it must have been "Whisper Quiet® Plus" since it was so damn quiet.

Once we settle on "Whisper Quiet® Plus" our only real choice is color and where the controls are located. The more expensive models have the controls in the top edge of the door, so they don't show at all. I like this idea but my wife doesn't. I'm married so we go with the controls that show and since all our other appliances are white, we go with white. So we're done; all they have to do is tell us when they are going to install this puppy. Only, they don't know. They don't actually have any KitchenAid dishwashers in this gigantic warehouse, only the models. They will order it and when they get it, they'll give us a call. They guarantee it won't take more the six weeks!

It took two and a half.

The first thing we noticed when we got home was that our old machine was "Whisper Quiet Ultima™," surely some long abandoned designator since Lowe's didn't carry any models with that option. Well the Lowe's people installed the new dishwasher and it seemed quiet enough, so we were satisfied and back to where we used to be and the hassles were over and we were out about a grand. All in all a normal session of "fix/replace the broken product."

Then we saw the DVD.

Our dishwasher came with a DVD and like fools we played it! That's when we found out that or top-of-the-line dishwasher not so top-of-the-line. In fact, none of the dishwashers we saw at Lowe's were the top-of-the-line model. Now the DVD was informative; we learned a lot about the great features of our really wonderful dishwasher. Unfortunately we also learned all of the wonderful features of the dishwashers we never knew existed; and we liked those features (like the aforementioned "Whisper Quiet Ultima™") more than the ones in our dishwasher. We went from satisfied and happy to unfullfilled and irked.

As a marketing tool I think KitchenAid ought to rethink their DVDs.

I'm beginning to see that the Cost of Home Ownership is a lot more than just money.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Sneak Attack!

So I'm working from home this afternoon and the plane crash in New York happens and I follow a lead to ABC-TV live video. What a hoot! I guess they don't think that they are "on the air" so they say all kinds of stupid, inappropriate things. First of all, their copter picture is really bad, hazy and lacking in details and you hear them complaining that they are not being allowed close enough to the crash site to take really good video (the CBS photo shown here is much better than what we were getting from ABC).

At one point the helicopter pilot gives out the phone number of the agency to call for clearance and the name of the guy they need to yell at. He says something like "Take down this number Ed. Call xxx-xxx-xxx and ask for Bob Jones. Yeah, tell him we need to get in closer."

Later on we start hearing what sounds like a local anchor person who is watching the video feed and she is constantly complaining about the picture. "Is that smoke or fog? Is this from a chimney or is this the crash? I can't tell." At one point she is told that the reason they are not letting them in closer is that the radar in the area is down and she says, "What? We can't go in because the radar is down? Well if they can't see us tell them we're not there. Tell them we left then go in closer."

It would have been a sneak attack by the local ABC affiliate.

Joke of the Day

"The Democrats' approach to cutting the deficit is taking more of your money to pay for their spending," Bush said. "The Republican approach is to restrain spending."

This from the guy who has presided over the largest increase in government spending in history. If there were not people out there stupid enough to believe this creep, this would be funny.

George W. Bush, Republican turd of the day!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Blame Game

Another in a long line of useless Republican politicians. I think we should be able to build some sort of graph or chart here that would signify the degree to which Republicans are to blame for shit and the degree to which the public will no longer believe them all based on which tactic they use as an excuse for their incompetence.

The first excuse is no excuse at all; just look into the camera and lie your ass off. This is the George Bush/Dick Cheney stance on just about everything they have fucked up. "There were weapons of mass destruction and we found 'em." "We had to attack Saddam because he refused to let inspectors in." "I'll fire anyone who had anything to do with the Plame leak." They use this tactic when they have the media wrapped around their fingers, when they know that no one would dare challenge their bald-faced lies.

Now when they have really fucked up and are caught with their pants down their excuse is that it's Bill Clinton's fault. "Naw, the problems in North Korea couldn't possibly have anything to do with Bush lumping Iraq and Iran and North Korea together as the Axis of Evil and then invading Iraq for no reason. Why would anyone think this would drive a madman into building atomic bombs to keep us at bay? It's obvious that the real cause of the problem was over six years ago, when Bill Clinton was running this country." John McCain has proven himself to be just another pathetic Republican hack. He sickens me. Maybe the Bush people were right when they said all the torture he sustained in Viet Nam had addled his brain functions.

The truth is this opportunistic hack knows that the problems with North Korea spiraled out of control when Bush declared them "evil" and cut off all communication with them. It was two years after Bush had taken office and declared them a pariah that North Korea kicked the IAEA out and restarted its main reactors. It was more than two years after that that they removed rods from the reactor in preparation for harvesting the plutonium and all during this time Bush and his croney thugs did nothing. They were too busy searching for nonexistent weapons in Iraq. They sat back and watched it happen and now they want to blame someone, anyone, as long as they have a "D" following their name and not an "R." Pathetic.

John McCain, Republican turd of the day.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Lyin' King

The things you have to overlook to be a Republican these days make me so very happy I don't belong to that most worthless of political entities. I mean you have to overlook that your leader is an habitual liar, a man whose words can never be believed. A man who will just make stuff up when the polls begin to show he is on the way out. A bald-face, low-down, good-for-nothing liar. The lyin' king.

Keith Olbermann of MSNBC put it so eloquently last week:

The president of the United States — unbowed, undeterred and unconnected to reality — has continued his extraordinary trek through our country rooting out the enemies of freedom: the Democrats.

Yesterday at a fundraiser for an Arizona congressman, Mr. Bush claimed, quote, “177 of the opposition party said, ‘You know, we don’t think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists.’”

The hell they did.

One hundred seventy-seven Democrats opposed the president’s seizure of another part of the Constitution.

Not even the White House press office could actually name a single Democrat who had ever said the government shouldn’t be listening to the conversations of terrorists.

President Bush hears what he wants.

Tuesday, at another fundraiser in California, he had said, “Democrats take a law enforcement approach to terrorism. That means America will wait until we’re attacked again before we respond.”

Mr. Bush fabricated that, too.

And evidently he has begun to fancy himself as a mind reader.

“If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party,” the president said at another fundraiser Monday in Nevada, “it sounds like they think the best way to protect the American people is — wait until we’re attacked again.”

The president doesn’t just hear what he wants.

He hears things that only he can hear.

It defies belief that this president and his administration could continue to find new unexplored political gutters into which they could wallow.

Yet they do.

It is startling enough that such things could be said out loud by any president of this nation.

Rhetorically, it is about an inch short of Mr. Bush accusing Democratic leaders, Democrats, the majority of Americans who disagree with his policies of treason.

I am sick to death of this worthless, lying fraud. It's time for an impeachment.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

I Doughnut Know What All The Fuss Is About!

As I’ve mentioned a few times here, I go to the Los Angeles Country Fair every year. Well, this isn’t a life-long habit, but more one that started when I moved to La Verne ten years ago. La Verne is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just a few miles from Pomona where the fair is held. I love the county fair environment I think that is from my upbringing.

I was raised in Muscoy, an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County, just outside of the city of San Bernardino. Berdoo, as those who live there have been known to call it, is celebrated for only a few things: Frank Zappa wrote a song about it; the Hells Angels motorcycle gang was founded there; it has been the drug-trafficking capital of Southern California more times than anyone would like to admit; the first McDonald’s was built there by the McDonald brothers; and each year the National Orange Show is held there. I grew up going to the Orange Show every year; it was a part of my life.

My brother Keith scared me shitless on the double Ferris Wheel at the Orange Show. Keith and I spent hours looking at the model cars at the hobby show at the Orange Show, I went down my first Giant Slide at the Orange Show, drank my first Orange Julius, saw my first stock car race, saw the Circus of the Fantastic (a sideshow with sword swallowers and fire eaters and the human pin cushion), spent hours watching the caricature artists, road my first roller coaster all at the Orange Show.

My brother Keith and I were in the 4H club; Keith raised a lamb and grew vegetables and I baked cookies and made lamps and all of our endeavors were entered into competition at the Orange Show. My lamp was so good it won a special award (a set of socket screwdrivers that I had for years). Like I said, I love the county fair environment (though the Orange Show was not the County Fair, it was the same breed of animal).

I don’t make it back to San Bernardino for the Orange Show anymore, but I do go to the LA County Fair. This may sound odd, but one of the reasons I love going to LA County Fair each year is to eat something strange.

This started two years ago when I tried deep-fried Twinkies and deep-fried Oreo Cookies. Neither impressed me much; the Twinkie was mushier than I expected with a heavy sauce that detracted from the taste of the Twinkie and the Oreo was even worse. But they whetted my appetite for the next strange food. Last year we tried deep-fried Snickers Bars. Now this is a winner! It looks like a corn dog sprinkled with powered sugar, but the batter is much sweeter. The Snickers is a molten mass of chocolate and caramel and nuts. They are heavenly. This year I tried the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich. I kid you not.

The Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich is a fried chicken patty with a slice of cheese wrapped by a large Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. In concept, this should be a winner, but the reality leaves something to be desired. I think the idea is great. I have a theory that really great, addicting food can be made with the combination of sugar and fat (think chocolate) and a fried chicken sandwich in a doughnut fits quite well with my theory. The problem the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich has is that the chicken sandwich is horrible. It's a small, flat clump of flaked-and-formed chicken dipped in batter and deep fried. It needs real chicken, or at least better chicken, 'cause the idea works for me just like chicken and waffles.

Years ago my brother-in-law and his wife lived in Hollywood, just northeast of the intersection of Sunset and Gower. On Gower, just a half block above Sunset was a little place called Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. It took them a few years to get up the nerve to go there, but one night they saw Los Angeles Laker basketball stars leaving the place with huge bags of food and climbing into a limousine and they thought, "Ah, what the heck, if it's good enough for Kareem we ought to give it a try." They became addicted.

Roscoe's serves amazing fried chicken and extraordinary waffles, and they serve them on the same plate, together. And they are a wonderful treat for your taste buds and as addictive as chocolate. Once you bite into the sweet waffle, drenched in maple syrup and the hot seasoned chicken, the fat juices dripping off and coating your fingers, you will be hooked too. It's fat and it's sugar together, the two things your body craves in one tasty meal. It is also some of the best fried chicken I have ever eaten and that is where the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich falls flat on its face.

Maybe by next year they will have perfected the sandwich by using a decent piece of chicken. I will be looking for it. Oh, the guy in the picture is Charlie Boghosian, creator of the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich and the Deep-Fried Twinkie and the Deep-Fried Oreo.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Dreamer of Muscoy

My childhood was not exactly normal (which may explain a few things about how I turned out). In fact, I can with great assurance say that I did things during my childhood that very, very few other children ever did.

I grew up in the community of Muscoy California, an unincorporated section of San Bernardino County, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles and in that community there was a barber, but not your average barber. Douglas Q. McMasters was one of a kind. He seemed rather bohemian: he had a beard and smoked a pipe and he played guitar. Doug swore that he could astral project and taught by older brother Jack how to do it (I'll go into this in detail at a later time, I promise). Doug was also a hypnotist and a damn good one. But the thing Doug liked to do most was solve problems.

You give Doug a problem and he would come up with a solution for it. He designed a phone that could only make local calls, an emergency big rig braking system that could stop a runaway truck on an icy road in a perfect straight line. He invented packing foam that he sold to a national moving company (I remember we used to play football with a cut-open ball that had a raw egg inside incased in Doug's foam). He designed a jump suit that you could wear to survive jumping out of a plane without a parachute. The more he thought about airplane crashes the more Doug thought the airplane was poorly designed, so he came up with his own design for an aircraft, one that could not be crashed.

Doug’s initial prototype was a square cardboard box set in the center of a hula hoop. He wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap creating a saucer shape and then spent the afternoon up on his roof throwing the thing at the ground. No matter how hard he threw it, he could not crash it into the ground; it would swoop back and forth falling gently like a leaf.

Next Doug built a toy model of his flying saucer using an engine from a gas-propelled Stuka that my brother and I had. It flew like a bat out of hell!

Doug talked people in the neighborhood into putting money into his “saucer” craft and formed a corporation. My family was poor and we could not put up any money, so for a stake in the company my Dad offered to build the saucer. My Dad would take me at night to a barn where the saucer was being built and while he and Doug went over blueprints and modifications, I would climb up into the cockpit, grab a hold of the joystick and let my fantasies run wild. The cockpit sat directly on top of the airplane engine, the prop aimed down at the ground. The body of the craft was made of aluminum tubing and the skin was made of parachute silk, painted silver.

Doug's Saucer
Once construction of the “craft” was completed, Doug kept the saucer at his home, sometimes in his back yard and sometimes in a lot next door. He had to chain the thing to the ground, not only for security, but because the thing had a tendency to take off during the Santa Ana winds. The first time this happened the saucer was in Doug’s backyard and by morning was in his front yard, having flown over the house during the night. That's me by the way standing to the left of the saucer; my brother Larry is manning the cockpit.

I remember the day that NASA came out to Doug’s house to see the saucer fly. It had a few bugs in it still and got no more than a foot or two off the ground. That was the only time I saw the craft fly at all. There is a lot more to this story, but I think I will save it for a later date. I'll leave you with a page from Doug's patent.

Doug's Saucer Patent

Monday, October 02, 2006

Peron! Peron! Peron!

Watching the news lately and remembering things from the recent past that some seem to have forgotten, I am astounded at how much Bush and his party sound like Juan Peron from the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice opera Evita. It's almost like Tim Rice was writing Bush speeches these days...

We can start with this video clip of Herr Bush.

It's annoying that we have to fight elections for our cause
The inconvenience, having to get a majority

Add to that Bush's demand that he be allowed to torture "enemy combatants," which could just as easily be me and you as Al Qaeda terrorists

If normal methods of persuasion fail to win us applause
There are other ways of establishing authority

There are the Diebold voting machines which are so easily rigged...

We have ways of making you vote for us

Then there are the voter ID cards...

Or at least of making you abstain

All I can say is this November vote like your life and all the freedoms you hold dear are at stake, because the just might be.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not To Be Missed!

On Friday night I took my son Brian to see Grand Funk Railroad and the Doobie Brothers at the L.A. County Fair. I was supposed to take my wife, but Dayle is in Phoenix where her brother had surgery last week for a massive subdural hematoma that nearly killed him. I really wanted my wife to see the bands, but it was not to be... or was it?

Yesterday her brother's friend Steve shows up in Phoenix and someone mentions that Dayle has missed seeing Grand Funk and the Doobies. Steve says, "Hey, the Doobies are playing in town tonight and I'm very good friends with their manager." A quick phone call later and he has two free tickets for the show.

On Friday night I called my wife from the concert as the Doobies were playing Listen to the Music. Last night she called me as they were playing Long Train Running. The current DBs have their original lead singer Tom Johnson back with the band and they sound great!

They have three original members: Drummer Michael Hossack, guitarist Tom Johnston and guitarist Pat Simmons. But John McFee (guitar and strings) is also with the band and though not "original," he joined in the late seventies, he is definitely one of the guys I remember from the Doobies.

I wanted to take my wife to see them; their show is not to be missed, and she didn't!