Saturday, July 28, 2007

But what's 10,000 between friends?...

Is this what we've become?

Are we a people so jaded that the deaths of tens of thousands is something about which we can be glib? Yes, I guess so.

This article talks about the deaths of tens of thousands without shock, without rage - without outrage - Nothing to see here, just another news article.

Is that what we've become?

Friday, July 27, 2007

“I’m James Mason”…

It was on this day in 1984 that James Mason, famous and immensely gifted British actor, died. I don’t normally observe such dates so I figure I should start this segment by telling you why I’m doing it, huh?

Truth be told, I had little to write about. But I have a few minutes so, I figured, why not? The problem about what to say… well, that was still a problem. I hit the 60,000 word mark in the new book. I’ve got my first visit with the head shrink next week. Vicky and I have our first “free” weekend in months coming up… but other than that…

So, I decided to look at Wiki and see what had happened today. Maybe, I suspected, some material might be mined in there.

“I’m James Mason!” Tim and I used to do the most horrible James Mason impressions and laugh our heads off. Just the thought of James Mason brings Tim to mind, which sucks because I miss him terribly. My James Mason impression is of the old James Mason, which is strange because when you think of all the big movies he was in – The Verdict, The Boys From Brazil, Heaven Can Wait, Lord Jim – the movie I immediately connect to James Mason is a little picture titled North By Northwest. A movie inspired by this film, Silver Streak, starred Gene Wilder, whose autobiography, Kiss Me Like A Stranger, I am listening to in my car right now. I’m listening to it rather than reading it because Mr. Wilder reads it himself and his voice is wonderful to listen to.

I guess that’s my way of saying that everything gets connected or jumbled up. Anyway, I miss Tim.

… who is James Mason, by the way.

NOTE: And as soon as I wrote this, I thought, "What about Murphy? I miss Tim Murphy, too!" And, of course, that's right. He might not be James Mason but he is The Jacuzzi Kid. So, come on, Tims! Give me a call!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Reason #71 why I can’t wait for Vicky and I to have a baby…

One day, very soon (I hope), I’ll be able to walk into work with bags under my eyes and, when I’m asked the question, “Didn’t you sleep?” I will be able to reply, “No, the baby was up all night.”

That’s right. Fuck you, insomnia! I can blame it on the kid!

… people are going to think that baby never sleeps…

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Here once a writer stood…

Seriously. I’m not kidding. I used to work as a writer. No shit. I got paid and everything. Now?...

I couldn’t tell you.

My employer knew very well my experience and strength in writing… they just decided to ignore it.

Now, I have writers who work for me. And graphic artists. And web monkeys. And… other people; I’m not entirely sure what they do.

Meanwhile, I’m doing shit that gives me a headache. Today, alone, I’ve had to shut some people down, hurry some people up, and prepare for a celebrity endorsement. The fuck?

For those who don’t know, I work as an interim Assistant Marketing Manager for a school. (That’s vague enough, right?) That “interim” really pisses me off; they keep telling me that it’s temporary. The “interim” is interim. And I still have a job to do.

One of our courses is being altered significantly next year thanks to a government mandate. I’ve been assembling proposal after proposal and pushing hard for our school to be the premium brand in this arena but those above me just want to keep things cheap. Fine, then why’d you ask? Anyway, so much for a premium brand. In another course, one of our licenses will expire soon. So, it’s been up to me to push the urgency in our marketing campaigns. How many different ways can you say, “Hurry up! We goofed!” Finally, I’m about to enter into the world of celebrity… endorsements, that is. Yes, I’m heading up someone else’s pet project of getting some celebrity to endorse our school. Peachy. This “celebrity” is so G-list that he really isn’t a celebrity any more. I suggest, if you’re going to go for celebrity then really go for it, and suddenly I realize my foot’s in my mouth.

Vicky says I have some kind of hidden talent in marketing, like I’m some kind of marketing savant. I am the Rainman of Marketing.

I think some people have been smoking the good stuff.

Seriously, I used to work as a writer. No shit. I got paid and everything.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It’s official. The nightmare has begun…

What do I mean by “nightmare”? Let me tell you. I had to leave work early to start this great adventure and I took the toll road, towards Santiago Canyon Road, something I hardly ever do (because I know it was once someone’s habitat). As I approached the toll booths, I had to decided which one had a live person. I needed to go to the one with a live person because I didn’t know if I had enough change. One lane was empty; the other had a car going through. The one with the car, I thought, had the live person.

…. Um, no.

I pulled up to a meter. The empty one had the live person!

So, I though I'd just reverse and go in that lane. But, just then, someone pulled up behind me. I stood up beside my car and motioned him back but he was too busy listening to something on the radio or whatever. Then, someone pulled up behind him and started to honk, impatiently. Of course. So, I dug through my money and, thankfully, was able to find change.

The whole day was like that.

I was going to Cal State Fullerton to apply for school, something I’d been working on online for months, but nobody had told me that online was absolutely useless. I had to start by getting (yet another) copy of my transcripts from Santiago Canyon College. That wasn’t too hard – easy parking, no lines – but once I got to the counter, the woman started having some kind of breakdown. She’d print on the wrong paper – rip it up – print the wrong thing – rip it up – print on the wrong printer – rip it up… so it took a while. Finally, she had a printout and asked me to check it. “Is it right? Is it right?” she kept asking. I certainly hoped so!

So, off I went to Cal State Fullerton. When I’d called, I was told where to park and where to register. If you imagine the school as a rectangle, I went to one side. One whole side was parking and I was told that was “pay parking” (as opposed to “sticker parking”). Okay, I thought. I’m happy to pay.

… but there were no places to pay.

When I finally found a security guard, he told me, “Yeah, you have to go to the parking building and get a ticket so you can park.” Then, he proceeded to tell me how far inside the campus it was.

“Wouldn’t I have to park my car to get there?” I asked. He didn’t seem to understand my dilemma. So, I went to the drive-up visitor center, which was on the adjacent side of the rectangle, right beside the building where registration was taking place. “Where can I park to register?” I asked. The gent told me about a parking structure on the opposite side of the campus. “But I’m registering right there.” I pointed as I told him, “right there.” “Can’t I park somewhere closer?” He seemed to get it and told me about another parking structure on the next, adjacent side. Okay. So, I drove around to the next side of the campus.

I’d been told that you pay to park at machines but, after circling the structure several times, I could find no machines. And nobody would help me. And, on top of everything else, there were no exit signs! I couldn’t even exit! When someone finally did steer me to the single machine located well outside of the structure, I began to realize I was in for a horrible day.

My first hike was to Admissions. When I walked in, armed with my transcript, I waited in a very short line. The person before me was leaning over the counter to speak with the single person working. Did I mention that I had to be registered yesterday? And that I only found out because the school botched their online admissions? So, I was a tad impatient. The young, asian girl behind the counter kept saying, “But you can alway drop it later. You don’t have to drop it now. I don’t want do that now.” On and on.

Finally, he left – with her phone number, from the looks of it – and I walked up. I explained how many times they’d lost my transcripts online and how I was hand-delivering them.

“You wait until processing to register,” she told me.

“How long will that take?”

“Two to four day.”

“But I’m entering as a junior. This is my only day to register.”

“Oh,” she said. She considered the sealed envelope like her own personal cross. “You do it today, then.”

Now, I had called the school to find out what classes I needed to take (which first, second, and third, for instance) and had been told I’d need to meet with a Department Head to get that information. My Department was Philosophy. I asked the girl, “Where’s the Philosophy department?” I told her why I wanted to go there.

“You want Admission Advisemen. You might not have all your GE.”

GE was General Education. I was almost positive I had my GE, so I told her that. But she was insistent. “You need GE. You go there first.”

“Fine,” I said with a sigh. “where is it?”

“You,” she said. “H-134.”

I thought her speech was just poor. “I should go to H-134?”

“No,” she explained. “You,” she pointed at me. “H-134.”

Maybe I was hearing her wrong. “A-134?”

No!” Now, she was yelling. She even stood up a little. “You.” Again, she pointed at me. “H-134!” She was pausing so much between saying “You” and saying the number, I almost burst out laughing when she wrote in big, bold letters “UH-134” on a piece of paper and pointed. Now, I realized she was pointing behind me. I looked at the building behind me.

“Is that building UH?” I asked.

“No,” she corrected.

I looked at the building next to it. “Is that it?”

“Yes.” Apparently, now I got it – though she had been pointing the other way.

I probably should have expected it. What I didn’t expect was leaving the building, only to find that UH had a fence around it. I started following the fence as it went around and around… Someone left a gate and I asked, “Does this fence encompass the entire building?”

He thought for a minute. “No.”

“Where does it end?” I asked.

“Follow it,” he said. Helpful.

But, yet, it did end. I found UH-134 and it was filled with people in an immense waiting room. “The wait is one hour,” the receptionist told me. Of course, it was. So, I waited. An hour later, sure enough, my name was called, “Kim La Lalle? Le Lelle?” I explained to the poor woman (who had to read my writing) that I just wanted to find out what classes to take. She said, “Well, I can tell you that from your transcripts. Can I see them?”

Patience, Ken. Breathe. “I just gave them to admissions,” I explained.

“Okay,” she said, still expecting something.

I said, “I’ve entered them manually online and had another set sent to you previously, in addition to the one I just provided. Isn’t that enough?”

At this point, she got sore and just started asking me questions. “Did you ever take math? Did you ever take English?” And then, she tried to surmise what I needed.

The way I figure it, they’re bound to enter my transcripts into the system one of these days…

Finally, when we were finished, I asked her where the Philosophy Department was. She said, “Sure. H-421.”

I nearly hit her. “Excuse me?”

“H-421. That’s the Humanities building. You just go out this door, take a right and it’s the first building on your right. You can’t miss it.”

I didn’t believe her for a second. I went out the door. I took a right. There were no buildings ahead of me, no buildings to my right. I turned around and saw an older woman smoking. “Excuse me?” I asked. “Could you tell me where I can find the Humanities building?”

“It’s right there,” she said, pointing straight across from the exit I just took.

“Thank you,” I said, deciding I’d had enough. “And can you do me one more favor?”

“What?”

“If I give you a dollar, can you give me a cigarette?”

After the smoke, I ascended to H-421. Well, I ascended to the fourth floor. There was no H-421. I found a janitor and asked him but he didn’t know where it was. “I think it’s in H-314,” he said.

Okay…. Off I went. But H-314 was the Latino-Studies Department. And it was closed. I tried not to go crazy. I went back to the elevator and, miracle of miracles, saw the directory. There it was: Philosophy H-211. Down I went. But that was the business office. I was told to go back up to the third floor to H-315 (which was on the opposite side of the building from H-314) but assured that no Department Heads were there. They had all gone home, I was told. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I went to H-315…

… and it was empty.

And I turned around to leave, opened the door, and nearly ran over the Department Head.

It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The elephant story…

In all honesty, Vicky should be writing this. After all, it’s about her. But, after not sending me the pictures from Bastille Day, who knows how long it would take her to actually write this! Okay, seriously though, she’s been really busy of late so I’m going to cut her some slack. Anyway, the story’s more about how I feel about Vicky than about Vicky…

So, we went to the OC Fair Saturday night. Vicky was primed because she really wanted to go – I can’t explain why – and, when we stepped past the entrance, Vicky immediately wanted to enter the petting zoo. It was free so why not? Jeff and I decided it was a good time to step out of the gate and partake in a cig.

When we walked back in, we found Vicky looking across from the petting zoo, crying. Across from the petting zoo were the elephant rides. This great elephant trudged around and around in a circle and people boarded her back. This once great creature of the wild was now enslaved strictly for the amusement of those who didn’t know any better – and there were plenty of those people about, smiling and laughing as they subjected this poor elephant to this humiliating enslavement. And Vicky was watching this and she totally got what it meant, and it moved her to tears.

This is one of the reasons I love Vicky so much. When it comes to this planet and the animals we share it with, she gets it. She gets that to harm them is to harm ourselves, destroying their habitat is destroying our own. When we enslave them, we enslave ourselves. She gets it.

Too bad she doesn’t get it about cows… We went to the livestock show and I had to watch her coo at and pet these big, sturdy cattle, the one who would get slaughtered for carne asada, sloppy joes, beef burritos, etc. etc. etc. Vicky likes her steak but, ironically, likes living cows as well. (No, she does not lick them.) I don’t understand how she can rationalize it; I often suggest we go more veggie. I should add that she’s gone more veggie since we met – I have to give her that – but there’s more we can do. I used to have one steak a year so I suggested to her one steak a month. Even that would lower our impact on the earth. I don’t think it took, though.

Okay, so she’s not Ghandi. I told her that I love her as a person, not a project. I’m not out to change her but I see her ethics fighting against her urges and I’m here to help her along.

When we were ready to leave, we took the Skyway – basically an elevated ski lift that took you over the fair and back to the entrance – back instead of walking. Only after we were up did I find out that Vicky did not like the comfort of being suspended a hundred or so feet above concrete by a single cable and, basically, our shoes. Oops. I said to her, trying to sound comforting, “Just enjoy it for what it is, not for what it could be.” Sure, Ken. As if that’s a philosophy you practice. What’s that old saying about advice? “Something nobody wants and everybody gives.”

But, back to the elephant…

Later, Vicky and I were visiting her friend, Julie, as the bar where she tended. Julie laughed at the elephant story and I tried, in my own non-threatening, political, ineffective way, to stand up for my wife. Yeah, I suck at that. Don’t want to come down too hard on Vicky’s friend; Don’t want Vicky to feel hurt. Is there really any winning there? But I said something that solidified my feeling about Vicky, and that is that Vicky has an incredible heart. She’s giving and loving to all kinds of things, sans steak, and it is in those moments when I realize just what compelled me to stay with her from that very first time we met.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The road to happiness is littered with random…

I can’t claim this one. I found this on Nickerblog, through Wil Weaton’s awesome blogification (see right).

So, why not try some randomness in our lives? We never know where it might lead. Writer Shane Nickerson lists a few I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of:

1. Learn early on to enjoy warm soda. Trust me, it comes in handy. While you're at it, learn to drink black coffee.
8. Combine all of your e-mail addresses.
28. Don't be too afraid of "street meat."


While there are some here that should never be overlooked:

2. Let go of your need to make all the choices all of the time. Other people have better ones sometimes.
4. Avoid trends. Go for timeless fashion.
10. Love what you love. Don't trick yourself or others.

11. Cut out people that bum you out.

And a couple that just freak me the fuck out:

15. Learn to play D&D. If you're already laughing this one off, learn it immediately.
15. Learn to play D&D. If you're already laughing this one off, learn it immediately.


Okay, so they’re the same one but HELL! Hey, Tim, how were we to know all those years ago?!

I like how the list, and the lists others submitted, aren’t necessarily your traditional advice. I might not agree with everyone on their lists but I agree with the spirit of finding happiness in randomness. I mean “Love much, Laugh Often, Dance like Ken listening to trance in his car” can only take you so far, you know?

My own entries would be brief this morning (I gotta get out of here and get my car into the shop):

1. Vicky’s pancakes. Never miss an opportunity because you never know when she’ll make them again.
2. Vicky’s smile.
3. Um… Vicky. (That’s obvious, isn’t it?)
4. Daydream.
5. Otter pops.

6.IM your wife when she’s upstairs.

Good, old insomnia…

Sometimes, it’s nice just to not feel like sleeping. That’s what happened to me tonight. I woke up, figured I’d be awake for a while, and leveled my Night Elf Druid in WoW.

It’s all relative, compared to the times when I get really nuts.

I’ve started taking St. John’s Wort again, though. Thankfully, that seems to be helping a bit. (I didn’t want to say anything until I’d been taking them for several days.)

So, last night my legs finally decided they’d had enough of my jogging. Okay, so – yes – I had been increasing the speed, and – yes – I had said I wouldn’t. Starting on Monday, I’ll take it a bit slower.

But not until then, I’m hoping to relax for a couple of days. I suggest you do, too.

I think I’ll start with a little more WoW…

Friday, July 20, 2007

Now I know why I never buy anything…

After writing that last entry, I decided I should buy something for myself. Dag nabbit, I was charged up, too! The only question was, what to buy?

…. What to buy….

It took a while.

Then, it occurred to me that I could stand to invest in some new neckties. I wear a necktie everyday; why shouldn’t they be nice ones? I only have two ties I purchased this century, after all!

So, I was off! Now, the reason I hadn’t bought any ties recently was because of how extremely wide neckties have become. As American men get fatter, their ties have more acreage to cover. Neckties, these days, run 3.75 – all the way up to 4 inches in width. But I like a slightly narrower tie. I think it makes a cleaner line. (No, I’m not talking 1980’s thin.) And I found some ties I liked, too. Hugo Boss sells some nice ties that are only three and a half inches across. That sounded good to me.

In fact, I was ready to call Vicky and suggest we hit the Hugo Boss store at South Coast Plaza…

… until I read up on the company.

Why do I always do this? Why must I make things so difficult? I go out of my way not to buy things made in China (ask Vicky to tell you about my sandals), we buy green, we try to buy local (saves on shipping), I’ve even stopped buying cds since downloading uses fewer resources – must my tie purchases be so difficult, too???

But, I couldn’t avoid it. There it was.

Hugo Boss was the outfitter to the Nazis. They made all of the uniforms for the SS. I’d be wearing clothes kept in business by genocide.

And I couldn’t. Hey, I gotta live with myself, right? Even if I don’t look great.

So, I’ll keep an eye out. You never know. There’s bound to be some local shop nearby that makes green clothing with a terrific line of ties… maybe…

Sounds like the pinnacle of sad...

So, I just realized that the absolute pinnacle of cool in my life has become those times when my wife allows me to sit on the patio with a martini and a cigarette.

How sad is that?

And on the window to your left…

The problem with trance music, which really gets me going, is that it really gets me going.

Vicky has said that the people who drive near me must be very entertained. On top of the singing at the top of my lungs, when I have trance music in I can’t help dancing.

… in my car.

… at 75 miles per hour.

She probably thinks I’m something of a freak. (She’s too late, of course, Tim Murphy called me a “fucking freak” nearly 20 years ago!)

But I can’t help it! The music gets in my veins and I go crazy and then – CAR! I swear to me, I am not to be trusted behind the wheel of any car with trance music. Fortunately, I’m still young enough to switch between driving and dancing in a split second. Once I hit my 60’s… well, they’ll probably keep me out of public view for the dancing alone.

I’m not too worried about Vicky finding out, by the way. She won’t tolerate trance music within 700 yards of her. On top of that, she’s stopped reading the blog (let alone writing in it) so there’s no way she’ll read this. The problem isn’t that I’ve offended her or anything like that but that I write so fucking much! “It’s like a book every day! You ever think about just holding your thoughts inside sometimes??? You know why I get comments every time I post, don’t you?” This is a discussion we’ve had several times, which is to say she’s told me over and over again. She thinks she gets comments and I don’t because she waits for literally years before she posts a single sentence, whereas I’m posting on a nearly hourly basis. The way I figure, I’m the engine that drives that car that pulls the float that the princess rides upon.

But I won’t give her too much grief… not about that…

She gets enough from me in other ways.

When she went out and bought herself something, I complained that I never get to buy myself anything. “Fine,” she said. “Go. Buy yourself whatever you want.”

“Whatever you want” conveniently excludes jetpacks, pot, hookers, fireworks, magic mushrooms, superpowers, and four guys with musical instruments to follow me around playing my theme music… even if I buy them as a set.

But I have everything I need! When was the last time you heard that? I have all the video games I can play – hell, WoW pretty much covers that by itself. I have all the music I can listen to, for the most part. I have tons of DVDs, lots of books, otter pops, and a…. okay, wait. There’s one thing I can use – but Vicky will never hear about this because she doesn’t read the blog. Tomorrow night, Vicky, Jeff and I will be going to the OC Fair. (You can play “Where’s One Path?” at the Fair!) Jeff and I will be hanging out and I – the guy who has been good and has been jogging and has not been smoking – will be able to relax, drink a faux margarita, and enjoy some good tobacco! Cigarettes, baby! It’s not a regular thing, by far, but it is nice to enjoy a few on occasion. So, what can I, the man who has everything, use? Well, I know that Vicky’s going to lay some serious guilt on my doorstep to keep me from smoking; I could use some understanding on her part. It’s just one night. Give me a break!

(BTW, I’m down to 4 miles in less than 70 minutes.)

Recently, I’ve stopped buying stuff… but I haven’t stopped spending money.

“We should donate money to the Ecuadorian Indians,” I tell her.

”We should pledge some money for Jenn’s brother,” I say.

“And don’t forget the Earth Conservation Corps and the Environmental Defense Fund and Friends of the Earth and…”

And Vicky is in the unenviable position of saying, “Yes, but… rent?... food?... bills?”

“Oh, and I want tres leches cake!”

… Vicky accepts condolences in all denominations...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Half a book is better than no book at all…

What does this mean? I haven’t a clue but I am here to tell you I reached the official halfway point in my new novel today. Yep. Fifty large – 50,000 words!

Now, that was originally going to be the halfway point but, as of today, there’s no telling. It could go longer or shorter than a hundred thou – there’s just no telling. This thing has assumed a life of its own; it went off the rails the minute the polar bear started putting teacups on the laps of unconscious people… it’s a long story.

Anyway… where was I? Oh, right! Halfway.

Now, you’re probably wondering how I’m going to finish this in the next month, with school starting a month from now.

Well, here’s your answer… I won’t. It’s just not going to happen. So, I’ll just have to keep working on it as the semester begins. Let’s see how well that works…

But I am very pleased to be halfway done because that means I’m halfway closer to finishing it than I was when I started. It’s a good book and I hope some publishers think so, as well.

And how can a publisher resist a polar bear named Peanut. I ask you!



… oh, and I think I’m figuring out the problem with having a hopeful ending.

We live in a world where our need for survival and our attempts at ethical behavior have become warped by the masses of people fighting every day for life on our planet. Think about this for a moment. In order to drive your car to work, you are forced to kill a great number of people. You don’t do it directly, of course. You do it through wars for oil, and industrial pollution, and good old global warming. But this is the choice you are forced to make. In order to feed your child, other children must starve.

In any sane world, one of similarly limited resources, we would not admire those who squandered resources or killed for a buck but here, on planet Earth, we do.

So, we need to create a system of ethics that makes ethical behavior admirable and preferable, because our present systems do NOT. In fact, to behave in an ethical manner, many of us are cast as weirdos and misfits: those who recycle, re-use, reduce, drive hybrids, ultra-low emission vehicles, ride bikes, purchase with a conscience. We are mocked because, for some reason, our system tells us that we are suckers.

Granted, it’s only a beginning. The system needs to be changed, which will be a breeze, of course. And, we’re going to need a lot fewer people, which can be done peacefully and non-violently, I assure you.

There. Is that enough of a tease?

Car in a trance…

Vicky hates trance.

You know – trance? Techno? Does anyone remember?

One of my guilty pleasures is trance. I don’t own a lot of discs; I’m trying to keep Vicky’s vomiting to a minimum. (Anyway, I think my recent love affair with KT Tunstall ruined any chance of that.) (She makes music?)

So, I’m in my car last night, driving home from work, and I pop in a trance cd. The windows are thudding and the rear-view mirror is vibrating like a glass of water in Jurassic Park. The best thing about trance is it really gets me going – makes me want to move!

And then, traffic stopped.

And I experienced the most frustrating thing: listening to trance while you’re caught in a traffic jam.

… sad, really…

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ecuador, Chevron, and your atrocity of the week…

Actually, this is been going on far longer than one week.

In writing this new book, my goal is to set the record on humanity’s disregard for each other, for the planet, for themselves. It’s easy to say “Look at Prince William Sound”, “Look at Chernobyl”, or “Look at global warming” and conclude that apparency of such a claim is undeniable. The book asks, “Is man truly capable of love”, and the answer would appear to be “No”.

But that’s not enough.

It’s too easy to say that the Exxon Valdez was just an accident or that Chernobyl was the result of a corrupt, Communist regime, or that global warming happened because it took us too long to realize what we were doing wrong. It’s too easy to make excuses for something we had no part of or didn’t do.

I needed something more.

And God damn me, I found it.

It had been there all along. I’d seen signs about oil and the Amazon for the last few months but I just thought it referred to global warming, something I was already trying to help improve. (That is, I was trying to help stop it… not make it warmer…) Then, on Live Earth, I heard about Sting’s wife and the work she was doing to help the tribes of Ecuador. (By the way, how much must that suck, to go through life being known as “Sting’s wife”?) But all of this was steering me in one direction – when you focus your attention to one thing, it’s bound to happen. My attention has been focused on the environment and on the peace movement, on human rights, so I was not surprised to find this…

Sadly, I wasn’t surprised by the discovery or what I’d discovered.

From 1964 to 1992, Chevron Texaco dumped 18.5 million gallons of toxic waste in Ecuador. That’s 4 million gallons each day, 30 times more crude than in the Exxon Valdez disaster. Chevron Texaco violated Ecuadorian law, United States law, and basic, human decency. For nearly 30 years, for most of my life, this went on and I did nothing to stop it. I couldn’t. Nobody ever told me about it. As entire tribes of natives were wiped out by disease and genetic malformation, I was ignorant, buying gas, driving my car.

And so it was with most of you. But there’s no way you can claim innocence in this because, odds are, you used the oil, too. You drove your car. Thousands upon thousands of innocent children have died as a result and the atrocity continues to this day. Chevron Texaco claims they don’t need to clean up the billions of gallons of toxic waste that have killed people, children, animals, rivers, and the Ecuadorian land itself. They consider themselves innocent.

Look at this website. Learn for yourself.

This is what we do. This is what humanity is. You say you love your children? How could you when you allow innocent children to die, when you allow your own children’s planet to be so horribly violated? You say you love your family? How could you when you allow innocent families to die, when you allow your family to drive on the blood of innocents? You say you love your nation? How could you when you allow your nation to ignore such incredible crimes? You say you love yourself…. But do you? How could you?

Now, of course, my problem is in finding an ending to this book that doesn’t make the justified, rational, and necessary call for our own extinction? How do I end this book with a message of hope?

I don’t know.

Truth in writing...

The thing about writing is that you want it to be true. If it's nothing else, this is what it should be.

Ironically, though, you don't want to make it too true.

This excerpt from my new book should show you what happens when writing gets too true...



There was a book they made us read in high school by William Golding, titled Lord of the Flies. In it, a bunch of boys get stranded on an island. The boys turn on each other and violence ensues. My teacher told us that the book addresses what happens when there are no rules. “What do we do without rules? We need rules!” But I stood there, on the roadside beside the looming form of this immense polar bear, and I realized that, even with rules, we humans have done a pretty good job of botching everything up. We have rules that allow us to be selfish. Rules that allow atrocities. Rules that allowed Bhopal and Chernobyl and global warming and Auschwitz. What good are the rules if they meant no one had to help out a guy and his polar bear just make one phone call for help?

Not that I really think about this…

There’s a girl here at work… woman, actually. I don’t know why I still use that work to refer to people my age. I should start saying “old hag”. Anyway…

There’s this woman here at work who laughs at every joke I make. Every quip. Every pun. She’s my perfect audience.

I gotta say, it ain’t bad.

Those who know us know well that Vicky is famous for NOT laughing at my jokes. It was even in my vows, “Do you promise to… even though she’ll never ever laugh at any of your jokes.” It’s true. She doesn’t.

And I have begun to realize that, were I to have an affair, I know what it would be. I’d find a woman who laughed at all my jokes and I’d just spent hours making witty comments. That’s what I need, an audience.

Fortunately, if I ever do want to have an affair, I’ll just need to get back on stage in a comedy. Then, I’ll have my audience. With school starting in about a month, that won’t happen for a while but, when it does, watch out. I’ll be fucking hilarious!

(Now, the irony of this post in comparison to some recent - and soon to come - does not escape me. But, honestly, I'm a very funny guy.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

These are the things you bring with you…

This could be part x in an ongoing series that fills in the back-story of my life. Ready?

Cast your mind back to 1983… summer…

See, I was stopping to get gas this morning and as it pumped I saw a couple riding on a bicycle built for two. That’s what started my trip and fall down memory lane.

Daisy. Daisy. Give me your answer, do.

You see, I was in a show in 1983, my first community theater production. Fountain Valley Community Theater presents Yankee Doodle Dandy, your typical community theater type of production during the summer. Festive. Patriotic. Dumbass. Probably one of the best times of my life. One of my musical numbers had me singing that song with a girl… and I guess my feelings for the girl still exist… and you can tell what they were from how I remembered the song…

Daisy. Daisy. Give me your answer do, you bitch.
I’m half-crazy all for the love of you bitch
It won’t be a stylish marriage, bitch
I can’t afford a carriage, bitch
But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat of a bicycle built for two, you bitch.


This girl was a complete bitch. She always had to upstage me, even when I was doing the singing. When she held hands, she had to have the dominant hand. (You know, the whole thumb thing.) I did not like her.

It’s not surprising that I don’t remember her name.

There are some names I do remember, of course.

Rob Sassone. Best damn nude trailer park manager in all the southwest. He and I became best friends from that show and I miss him greatly. He’s still around but, with 400 children (just about), he and his wife have little time for socializing. I’m hoping that when they retire, when we’re all in our 70’s, when Vicky and I have a teenager, we can hang out once again… do donuts…

Cindy Wilcox.
She was the girl I dated from the show. Pianist, cheerleader… she was a fun girl, very sweet. Before we dated, we used to sit outside the theater and tickle each other like crazy. I loved her… as often as I could… Of course, she’s sadly related to my breakup with Teresa Alaniz but, just as I’m beginning to do with the Cindy from my adult life, I can see that it wasn’t a reflection on her. She was truly special and holds a dear place in my memory.

Rick Habib. Our director. He and I liked to give each other a hard time, though we had a great rapport. One time, I took a toilet roll dispenser, one of the kind they used to sell with scented beads inside, and planted it very carefully deep within his car. Within hours, his car smelled like a toilet and he didn’t know what to do. At that point, being 17 years old, I lost it and the jig was up. But it was fun. He was the older brother I never had and needed at that time, full of great advice, help, and understanding.

Janie Clark. This girl was dynamite. Funny, beautiful, full of potential. I asked her out shortly out of high school and, as it so often happened, though she said she’d like to we never did. Then, sometime in the 90’s, she died while over in Bosnia (or somewhere in that area). It was incredibly sad because we all knew how much she had to give. The good, they do die young.

Kenny McMurphy.
He was younger than the other three male leads but he was far beyond us. His mother was the typical stage mother and had him doing TV, commercials, running for political office in foreign lands, everything! Kenny’s thing was drumming. He’d drum on fucking everything. I never so much as drummed my fingers but Kenny – that contagious son of a bitch – he had me drumming by the end of that summer, let me tell you. Vicky thanks you, Kenny.

Alice. Nope. Don’t remember her last name. Body of Pamela Anderson. Humor of Kathy Griffin. She was phenomenal. And you don’t forget someone who makes out like she did. She’s another who said she’d go out with me but… my follow up skills were lacking. I didn’t have a car. What can I tell you?

There was one more male lead. I don’t remember his name. And that sucks because he was really the coolest guy. I’m sure you’ve had this happen. We lose so many people in our lives that it’s hard to keep track of them all in our mental rolodex. For that matter, there were dozens more that I’ve forgotten, from that show alone. There was a kid who chopped his thumb almost completely off with one of those old paper slicers they had back then. There was a girl whose parents were nudists and who bit my shoulder… I’m not telling. There was the musical director who put Cindy and I in charge of breaking a few of the songs into four-part harmony, as if kids were capable of four-part harmony.

It was an incredible summer and, for all the depression that came of losing Teresa at the end of it, there was some incredible loveliness that I couldn’t appreciate at the time. We marched in the Huntington Beach Independence Day parade. We had dozens of performances. I had moments that would change my life and my direction as a person and I am grateful.

I’m also grateful to the couple on the bike this morning. Without them, I would never have thought about it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Putting things into perspective…

Things have been getting a little crazy around here… and you can call me “things”.

I guess that’s my way of saying that I’m afraid the rubber room is closing in every day and it is freaking me the fuck out. Case in point, last week. One night, Vicky and I were at Costco. I was pushing the cart along, looked down, and saw that my hand had been sliced clean down to the bone. I could feel cool blood (I’m guessing it cooled when it hit the air) dripping down my fingers. Vicky didn’t seem to notice. And that’s about when I realized that my hand was perfectly okay. I looked again and, though it felt sliced open, it was fine. I’d insert a witty remark here except that what happened yesterday was worse. We were driving in Vicky’s car and I had my legs stretched out. I was wearing sandals. Suddenly, I felt a hot knife or acid cut through four of my toes. This time, it hurt like it was real. I yelled and pulled back my foot to see – my foot was fine. I had to explain to Vicky not to worry – that I was only losing my mind.

Last week, I said, “I never thought that hallucinating Rosa would be ‘the good old days’.” How true.

I’m existing in a state of very high paranoia, very much at odds with myself. I don’t know what I’m going to pull next. I’d say it’s driving me crazy but that would sound redundant.

So, let’s change the subject.

Did you know that some people are blaming global warming on the sun? They’re saying that the sun’s getting warmer. Well, I hate to throw cold water on that but, it turns out the sun has actually been cooler, not warmer. Since the 1980’s, the sun’s energy has been lower, not higher, as the earth gets hotter. And thus, goes another excuse as we continue to poison our planet.

Speaking of poison, did you hear about the big, Japanese earthquake? Did you hear about the nuclear reactor that was caught in the middle of it?

It dumped radiation into the sea and lots of other things they’re surely not going to disclose. Keep in mind, no one ever got blamed for Chernobyl and that pattern has applied to man-made disasters across the board in Prince William Sound, Bhopal, and on and on – that’s the way it works. So, when the next nuclear disaster happens, if it hasn’t just occurred, be sure that they’ll keep it all a secret from us and no one will be held responsible.

My favorite quote from this article, by the way, is "About 315 gallons of slightly radioactive water apparently spilled from a tank". I love that they have an exact figure but refer to it as "slightly radioactive" (just a little lethal). But adding "apparently" is what makes it art.

Vicky and I were at a party Saturday afternoon and there was a little boy there. His name was Jack. He was just about a year or two old and I couldn’t help wonder what kind of planet we were giving him. Nuclear waste leaking out to sea, excuses being made about global warming, people not doing their part… can’t we agree that kids deserve better from us than that?

Anyway, we went to another party on Saturday night. It was the Bastille Day celebration at La Vie En Rose. When Vicky sends me all the pictures we took from her camera, I’ll try to post them. (Maybe she’ll post them???) We had a wonderful time and were there for dinner and entertainment for about four hours, if you can believe that. We had a wonderful pinot (2005 Sensation Fournier) and a terrific meal. All was good.

And it got better. On Sunday, Vicky took me to Burke Williams for my first facial. (Get your minds out of the gutter!) It started with me completely out of my element. If there’s one thing I’m no good at, it’s being pampered. I was raised for suffering; it’s how I excel. But this thing… I was brought into this small locker room with ornate benches and provided a robe and slippers. Now, with it being a facial, I figured I should at least take my shirt off, lest anything get on it… and I swapped my sandals for theirs. But I left my shorts on. Vicky asked me why I didn’t take them off and I said, “Because I’m getting a facial… for my face… up here… they shouldn’t need anything down there.”

As I said, out of my element.

Vicky and I talked in BW’s quiet, darkened lounge. Actually, the whole place is quiet and darkened. Kind of weird, to tell you the truth. We were both sitting there, in our robes, but soon Vicky was taken away for her treatment and I was left alone. After feeling my toes being cut of shortly before, I figured it was a good opportunity to relax.

Relax, I told myself. Relax. Relax. Relax, goddammit!

Fortunately, Jill came out, who would be giving me my facial. She led me to the back of the building – and this place is pretty damned big – and into the room where I’d have the treatment. The room was filled with this huge, comfy looking bed. She said, “I’ll leave you in here and go outside. Just take off your robe and slippers and get into the bed and pull the blankets to your chest. I’ll knock in a minute before I return.”

Why was she going outside, I wondered – and it was about then that it hit me. She thinks I’m naked! For a facial! What is with these people?

So, I climbed in, got comfy, and started to doze.

Knock knock – Jill returned. She started by reclining the bed further and, at this point, I would have been happy to take a nap. No such luck. We started talking as she inspected my face (which is fine, thank you). Then, she washed it and massaged it. She dipped my hands in paraffin wax to make them softer, something I’m not a huge fan of. When I was a kid, you judged a man’s “manliness” by the roughness of his hands. She massaged my arms and neck and shoulders and, again, I was ready to drift off. Then, she started to massage my feet. I warned her about the ticklishness but she didn’t believe me – until she touched my feet. “Oh my god,” she said as I giggled at the first touch.

So, she had fun.

Then, she put a mask on my face and massaged me some more. It’s only when another person is touching you, a strange person, that you begin to really focus on your faults. Loose skin, for instance. When I’m suspended slightly upside-down, I have some loose skin around my neck. (It's not as disgusting as it sounds... really...) How do I get rid of that, I wondered. I focused on if my arms were muscular enough and if my shoulders were broad enough… which made me immensely glad to be with Vicky, since she doesn’t seem to mind my high fat, low muscle mass physique. Finally, she washed away the mask, removed the paraffin, cleaned me up, massaged a bit more, and said, “That concludes our service.”

I thought, No nap?

So, Vicky and I treated ourselves a bit this weekend but I try not to feel too guilty about it. Vicky’s being great about being as green as possible, buying organic, not purchasing from manufacturers or retailers that don’t support human rights and sustainability. For all that, she deserves some pampering. And I had a bad week so I needed some relaxation.

Not that it helped all that much.

This morning, shortly after midnight, I was up, removing anything hanging from our door so I could close it off and… and then I woke up. I looked at the door for several minutes. What was I trying to keep out? Was it important? I don’t know.

But you take the good when you can get it. You try to keep things in perspective. So, I went downstairs and try to relax until I was ready to sleep again.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tiger attacks!…

So, I was at the gym today (4 miles in 80 minutes…) and I noticed that ABC was spending this slow-news Sunday reporting on a tiger attack.

Just to recap: Thousands of Americans have been killed, tens of thousands have been maimed, and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been brutally murdered in an act perpetrated by this non-person, this fraction of a man, this felon of historic proportions we have the dishonor of calling our President.

But, apparently, ABC thinks that we should be far more concerned over tigers.

Not to say you're fat but...

Time: Last night
Said by: Vicky to Ken

"This t-shirt should fit you. It's pretty big."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Confession time…

I had a mole removed yesterday…

No, that ain’t it.

I had a mole removed yesterday, a mole that has been on my back for some time and had grown into the size of a small archipelago. Vicky had been telling me to have it removed and, well, I finally did.

No, I said, that ain’t it. Give me a minute.

The doctor shot my back up with lidocaine to dull the pain and then sliced it off like she worked at a meat counter. I didn’t feel that.

I did feel… “Is that blood?”

“Yeah, it looks like your mole had its own blood supply.”

Nice, huh?

But that wasn’t the worst part.

The worst part was when I had to tell her, out loud, when I had to explain to a medical professional that I have been having bouts of insomnia, sleepwalking, nightmares, and hallucinations for nearly eight years running with only intermittent periods of normality.

It sounds a whole lot crazier when you say it out loud.

“What kind of hallucinations?” she asked.

I wondered if she meant having conversations with people who aren’t there or experiencing my own weather patterns.

She explained, “Auditory or visual?”

“Both.”

Both?!” Her expression of shock did little to quell my unease.

She recommended an MRI. She recommended a neurosurgeon. She told me I would definitely need some kind of medication and she gave me a referral to another doctor.

But I lied to her, thinking I would put her at ease. Actually, I was trying to put myself at ease. I told her I was “functional”. Interesting word, that. Functional.

Again, last night, I couldn’t sleep. And I need to be clear about this and I need to say this out loud – in a way – because it doesn’t have quite the same impact in my head. It’s not just the voices or seeing things or sleepwalking that’s the bad part. The bad part is when I stay up all night hardly able to move because I’m too busy twitching and spasming like some kind of mental defective. The bad part is when I take my wife’s car to 7-11 to buy cigarettes because I’m so terrified of my own mind that I need something to calm me down in the middle of the night when everybody else is asleep.

Functional?

I stayed home from work today not just because I’m exhausted from lack of sleep, or exhausted from quietly losing my mind, but because I’m horrified at what might be going on – what has been going on for years now.

I’m no more functional than an alcoholic who can’t admit to his addiction, who pretends to be normal to convince himself that there really isn’t a problem. I’m missing work – from a job I like – and I’m spending days in great discomfort. I am NOT functional. And I need to remind myself of that. I need to tell myself that over and over again. If I don’t, I’ll never get the courage up to do what must be done.

All this time, I’ve been so afraid that a psychiatrist was going to prescribe me drugs that would turn me into a zombie, make me something other than the vibrant, lovable Ken you all – well, some of you – know and love. But what have I been without the drugs? Am I any less of a zombie in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep because of the screaming in my head? And what good has delaying this done me? Yesterday, my doctor emphasized that my psychiatrist/neurosurgeon should be affiliated with a certain hospital just in case surgery needs to be an option. Surgery? Is it any wonder I’m terrified?

And through all of this, the worst thing I’ve done is forget that this isn’t just about me. This affects Vicky as well. She deserves far better than me; I know that. She deserves someone who can give her a normal life, not someone she has to worry about when he’s sleepwalking down stairs or up all night or hearing voices tell him whatever she might be imagining or worse. I’ve done a pretty shitty job taking her into consideration through all of this.

So, today, I’ll make the calls. I’ll set up an appointment with a doctor.

I would much rather be telling you about my new book right now but this is something I had to say. I have to remind myself that it is real and stop ignoring it. Then, later – maybe then I’ll be functional.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pope McFeeeley...

Have you ever taken a good look at Pope Benedict XVI?

I’m not Catholic but doesn’t this guy look creepy?

(If the Bin Laden’s love life is acceptable fodder for a story…)

Mind Fuck…

Readership on the old One Path has been slightly down of late so I’ve decided the thing we need to help boost our ratings is:

GIRLS GONE WILD-ISH (not to tread on any prurient if profitable copyrights)

That’s right! It’s GIRLS GONE WILD-ISH!

Vicky! Quick! Take off your top! It’s GIRLS GONE WILD-ISH! That’s…

… what do you mean, you won’t?

Just one?

Just a nipple?


…… dammit.

Well, how the hell else are we to compete? I mean, seriously, I was reading what passes for the news this morning and I saw this headline “British divorcee weds Bin Laden’s son”.

Ignore for a minute that Shrub went after Saddam’s family… though he didn’t do anything to us.

Ignore for a minute that Bin Laden was probably never a mastermind at anything.

Ignore for a minute that we’re still supposed to be at war with, at least, people who we are told by “very reliable sources” are terrorists.

Can’t we agree that the marriage between two people of zero consequence (ignoring for a minute that Bin Laden’s son is immensely wealthy thanks to the Republican party’s history of doing business with unsavory characters) does not make news and is not worth reading? I mean, if everything is just gossip, if nothing has worth, I’m just going to start posting pictures of tits. That’s it. Because nothing else seems to be of value.

… and I like tits…

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why I can’t watch the final Studio 60…

Last night. Dinner.

Vicky and I are sitting down to dinner at the sofa for our nightly 30-60 minutes of television. We scroll around our DVR menu, looking for something to select.

“What do you want to watch?” Vicky asks.

Well…. Let’s see… there’s Live Earth. There’s the last episode of Studio 60. There’s a new episode of Good Eats. There’s the last episode of Studio 60.



“Let’s watch Good Eats,” I say.

“Why not Studio 60?”

Studio 60 was a very good television program. It gave you hope that, maybe, one day, somehow, there could be more shows like that. It was too good for television, which may have killed it in the end.

I’ve been thinking of watching the final episode of Studio 60 since it aired about a month ago. I’ve been thinking of writing a post-mortem for it. People have talked about how, for a show about a comedy show, the comedy show wasn’t that funny. So? That would make it just like SNL. People have talked about it being too topical, as if that’s possible.

Listen, there were a lot of things that annoyed me about Studio 60 but that wasn’t because it was a bad show. Actually, it was because it was a good show.

… Hmmmm, that doesn’t sound right. It needs more explanation. I think it’s time for:

When Good Isn’t (Lecture 239 in a whole series of more lecture than you’d ever want to hear)

There’s been some talk about the “Friends Curse”. You know what I mean: Friends alumni can’t hold down a show. Joey’s show, Joey, only lasted two seasons. Chandler’s show, not called Chandler but called Studio 60, only lasted one season.

Yes, that’s right. Joey lasted longer than Studio 60.

And this makes a good point.

Joey didn’t last longer because it was a better show. Joey lasted longer because it was NOT a better show. Joey was light, easy, and non-threatening. You never heard anyone call out for Joey to be cancelled. It survived the way concentration camp victims survive: by staying out of sight and out of mind. It never tried to be a great show; it just wanted a paycheck.

Studio 60, on the other hand, was great. As a result, it offended people, it challenged them, and it was sometimes difficult to follow… Actually, it did none of this, but I can imagine it happening to Christians and/or Republicans. It got into people’s faces and some people didn’t like it.

That’s how entertainment works. People don’t go to Broadway to see earth-shattering plays; they go to see Disney. People don’t read novels (and you’ll forgive me as I cry), they watch movies. They don’t even watch good movies. They see Transformers!

The old story in Hollywood is “aim low”… actually, that applies to politics as well… and the biggest loser is you.

Farewell, Studio 60. Be sure that I’ll watch your final episode soon and I’m bound to cry when it’s done.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Environmental Pledges…

Did you see Live Earth this weekend?

Vicky, Jeff, and I hung out Saturday and, in addition to seeing Pirates III (which, in my opinion was just too long even for as good as it was), watched quite a bit of it. I DVR’ed it, also.

At one point in the show, Al Gore stepped out to deliver what I can only call The Live Earth Pledge.

1. I will change four light bulbs to CFL (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) at my home.

That one’s easy. Vicky and I have changed nearly all of our bulbs to CFLs. (Sadly, they don’t make them in all sizes… yet.)

2. I will shop for the most energy efficient electronics and appliances.

Again, no problem. Vicky’s been terrific about this and I am someone fascistic.

3. I will shut off my equipment and lights whenever I’m not using them.

This one has been tough (some people like to leave lights on… but I won’t mention her name…) but we’re working on it.

4. I will ride public transit or carpool one or more times per week.

This one was…. Ummmm…. This one was…. Ummmmm.

See, here’s the thing. I can’t take public transit. There is no public transit from my home to anywhere near work. And I don’t know anyone who works down by where I work.

Now, the way the pledge is worded, you can opt out of one of the selections – and Vicky kept telling me that, after she had taken the pledge online and forwarded it to her friends. “You can just opt out of number four!”

But could I? Really? Wouldn’t that make me something of a hypocrite?

You see, I don’t need anyone telling me I’m not doing enough (no matter how disingenuous they’re being) because I often think I’m not doing enough on my own! It doesn’t matter how fuel efficient my car is; I don’t have the public transit option! And that kind of pisses me off.

And, I’ll tell you something, that wasn’t the only thing about Live Earth that bothered me. Sure, Live Earth was a very good thing. It raised environmental awareness. It taught people what they can do. (For instance, did you know that your phone charger left plugged in – even when it’s not charging anything – still draws power?) It rocked. But it did very little to change the real polluters: corporations. It has been said that recycling is meaningless as long as huge corporations are allowed to pollute with impunity. One horrible side-effect of the Republican’s removal of all regulations and oversight is that corporations are no longer regulated or looked over; they’re free to pull whatever shit they want, for the most part. So, we’re seeing rivers dying once again and all sorts of illegal activities on the part of those who have the most money: corporations.

What bothers me is that someone should go after them as well. Do the things the government once did and should do: regulate, inspect, TAX. Yes, that’s right. All you mother-fuckers who are so against welfare should put your money where your mouth is and abolish corporate welfare – make corporations pay taxes again!

But, in the meantime, I’m stuck without a pledge.

Then, something occurred to me. For all the good Vicky and I try to do, our greatest environmental sin is Vicky’s car. Compact SUV it may be, but it’s still an SUV. New cars are not cheap but we should be willing to make some really worthwhile commitment to help. So, last night, Vicky and I took a pledge. For Vicky’s birthday next year, we’re going to get her a new car. It will be more environmentally friendly and reduce our carbon footprint. It will, of course, have to be one she likes – so we’ll probably pay a pretty penny – but when we’re talking about the future of our future child (with whom I hope Vicky to be pregnant by then) we need to be willing to do that.

Then, I’ll feel a little better.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Doing well…

Four miles. Yep. I did it. And I’m very proud of myself, though that was the minimum job I used to do a long time ago (A LONG TIME AGO) when I was on the high school track team. But I’m in my forties now, so I take what little victories I can get. It did it in under 80 minutes and I plan to work on the time. “Exactly what you said you wouldn’t do,” Vicky made sure to remind me.

“What are you talking about?”

“You said you wouldn’t increase your speed and now you’re doing that.”

“Just a little bit,” I whined. Let’s face it. I’m a speed demon! Even at 4.6 mph, most of the jog is spent walking uphill (15% grade). If I could bump it to 4.7 or 4.8….

So, I spent a great deal of time last time on the sofa… you know, because I couldn’t MOVE! Vicky got the mail and said something like, “You’ll want to be sitting down for this.” Ha ha.

First, she handed me a letter from my doc. It was my blood test results, which turned out far more positive than either my doc or my wife seemed to think. My cholesterol was only a little high and my blood sugar was only a little dangerously maximized. So there – good news, everyone! I’m hoping that jogging, and keeping it up, will help turn that around – really fuck it up! No, wait – lower it! When I see the doc next week, maybe my blood pressure will even have lowered a little.

Then, she handed me the second letter.

There’s a second letter? I’m lucky to get two letters each month (with the exception of rejection letters that shower on our heads like God’s farts). What was this? Ah! It was my letter of acceptance to Cal State Fullerton. It looks like I really am going to be attending college this fall. Soon, I’ll need to register for classes… forget what I said about my blood pressure…

School’s coming awfully fast, too. The first day of class is August 18th! Yikes! Looks like I had better get to finishing this book. Daughter of a One-Armed Man is now one-third complete, having reached 33,000 words yesterday. From here, it’s looking like a mother-fucking sprint. We’ll see…

Just a few reasons we'll be DVR'ing Live Earth tomorrow...

Smashing Pumpkins
The Police
Dave Matthews Band
Roger Waters
Melissa Etheridge
Kanye West
Alicia Keys
Bon Jovi
Ludacris
Crowded House
Jack Johnson
Lenny Kravitz
Macy Grey
Linkin Park
Beastie Boys
Black Eyed Peas
Foo Fighters
Genesis
Keane
Pussycat Dolls
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Spinal Tap


(DVR, for when you absolutely, positively have to take a piss...)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Jogging, Buddhism, and Value…

Just bear with me.

Let’s start with the easiest.

Jogging.

I would really like to jog four miles each day. I think that would be a good limit to set. After I get comfortable with that, I can figure out what to do next. But, for now, four miles would be great. Can you imagine the kind of weight I’d lose if I could stick to four miles each day?

… problem. At 4.6 miles per hour (and hills), I’m not clearing three and a half miles. What to do? Oddly enough, yesterday was a day of breakthroughs (which is what this entry is about). I realized that while I can’t increase my speed, I can still do it. Obviously (to everyone but me, I guess), the equation is speed + time = distance. So, if my speed is a constant 4.6, I only need to increase the time to get to my goal. Duh!

I’ll let you know how tonight goes…

Buddhism.

While Vicky and I were at Borders, I took my active ears (sure, Ken, more like lazy eyes) over to the audio books. There were several books on Buddhism in stock and I considered, momentarily, buying one.

Then, I had another realization. I am never going to experience the Buddhist breakthrough; I will never find enlightenment and inner peace. I’m not that guy. I’ve spent over a decade trying to be that guy but with no luck. I can explain Buddhism; I can understand Buddhist thought. But I’m not wired for the religious experience.

I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. It wasn’t a waste of time trying to be that guy; it probably made me a better person. My ex still labors under the less than honest impression, in her greed-riddled mind, that she is a practicing Buddhist. At least, I know when to move on. I’m not “quitting” or “admitting defeat”. Buddhism taught me a lot of worthwhile things and I will still pursue that line of reasoning. I will, however, cut myself a little more slack in the spirituality department. We’re not all gurus, after all, and knowing you’re not is better than pretending you are.

Values.

This was the big one.

And I don’t even know how to explain it.

Let me start by saying that my writing has traditionally taken two forms. The first form is what I call “event stories”, stories that center on an event. Whatever Happened to Me was about the event of someone’s past self meeting his present self. The Rynia books were about a series of fantasy world events. Revelations was about the event of a common man meeting a religious prophet. The second is “idea stories”, stories that center on an idea. You’d think Revelations would have been an idea story; it probably would have been a better book had it been. Vampire Society was an idea book. Atheists was an idea play. Of course, Climbing Maya was an idea book. So, I’ve been switching back and forth in this way. As I get older, though, the ideas I have are more vital to me than events I can dream up to tell about. Ideas impact another’s life. Events are just stories. (Of course, the two sometimes intermingle but, normally, the work falls into one camp or another.)

My present book, Daughter of a One-Armed Man, is an idea book. It asks the question: Is humanity capable of real love, given our history? It is told against a backdrop of events in which a man searches for a woman who showed him how meaningless his life was without her.

When people have asked me how to write, I always tell them to pack their stories full and never leave any dull spots. Event stories are difficult to fill because you have to have one event after another. Idea stories, on the other hand, become filled with ideas and events. For some reason, a good idea is worth a thousand exciting events in my book. (You’d notice that if you ever saw my DVD collection…)

And that, dear friends, brings us to yesterday.

Vicky and I were talking over lunch about very concrete things, real people, but what it came down to was an inquiry into values (no, not like Zen). I wanted to discuss this inquiry because I think it has universal appeal and could translate very easily into an idea book.

Vicky made the point I’ve heard a lot that charity should only be given with the understanding that it won’t be repeated. In other words, there should be a commitment on the part of those accepting charity to keep off the charity roles in the future. This isn’t a new idea. The Democrats took their biggest step away from their Progressive history with the “Welfare to Workfare” or "Welfare Reform" program Bill Clinton signed (and it was also then that I left the Democratic party).

My argument to Vicky was twofold. First, and easiest I think to understand, is that the quality of mercy is not strained. What this means is that the minute you put conditions on charity, it ceases to be charity. I’m only talking about the giver, now. If you give from a position of pure charity, the results of your gift are meaningless. The giving is simply that. There’s nothing wrong with such giving because there will always be those, be they sick or crippled or whatnot, who will always need help. We express our greatest humanity when we give without expectation. It is unselfish and it is good to be unselfish.

My second point, with regards to those accepting charity may be a little more difficult to understand. Actually, that was one problem we had, that word “understand”. I was being very exacting with my words and did not explain that sufficiently, I don’t think. There is a great difference between “understanding” and “knowing”. (You may break out your dictionaries now.) Understanding includes an essential “grasping of significance”. You can know a million facts but, unless you grasp their significance, you can completely fail to understand them. So, I said to Vicky, “I think that, if someone really understood what charity meant, guarantees of good behavior and not sponging off the system wouldn’t be required.” Again, this is the difference between understanding and knowing. And I truly believe that this lack of understanding, which is a very small thing in itself, is the keystone to many of our difficulties in understanding (there’s that word again) our motivations in charity, incarceration, education, immigration, and so much of living.

If we understood why it is we do things, we would do them very differently.

Now, most of this could be seen as economic philosophy. In fact, I told Vicky that Marx and Engels (who, Vicky was sadly unfamiliar with) dealt with many of these same problems with regards to charity. They were essentially economic philosophers.

I am not an economic philosopher… that takes math… My specialty has been, and seems to continue being, ethical philosophy (which some people erroneously refer to as “moral philosophy”). Once I saw that this issue could be put on an ethical rather than an economic level, I realized that this would make very good fodder for a book.

… which I won’t write, of course, because I’m starting school soon.

… which is why I wrote it here so I’ll have it in mind later… maybe…

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Blue, White, and Pinko…

So, this is how we spent our Independence Day.

… by the way, I really hate how people these days have forgotten the name of the holiday, that they call it “July 4th”. “Happy, July 4th!” they say. If we can’t get them to remember the name, how can we get them to remember the meaning?

Anyway, Vicky woke up late this morning. She slept in. She slept. And she slept some more. She had breakfast. And she slept.

I’m telling you, this is one stressful life we’re talking about here.

Meanwhile, I was up. Vicky had woken me at about five o’clock with threats of death if I kept snoring. Being awake was the safe option. I went downstairs and killed the minions of Azeroth for a while but then, as you may already have read, I went to the gym.

By about noon, Vicky was awake. She decided to take me to see Sicko – nice lady, my wife. So, we left… and returned. She’d forgotten something.

And then, we left.

And returned.

And left…

By 1:30, we were pretty sure we had everything we needed… and left.

We had a patriotic lunch at El Torito, with extra spicy guacamole. Then, we stopped by Border’s and picked up some very patriotic books and some other very patriotic books. Finally, we did what all patriotic Americans do on this very patriotic day… we went to the movies. We didn’t see Transformers – as it appeared the rest of the country was doing. No, we saw SiCKO.

What can I tell you about SiCKO that you haven’t heard elsewhere? Well, it’s good. Beyond that, it possesses a depth of emotion seldom seen in a documentary. The movie is about how we take care of each other and how we take care of ourselves. The irony of this big guy, Mike Moore, telling us about health care probably never escaped the filmmaker but this big guy with a small voice speaks directly to your heart. It is not a film about health care. It is a film about if we care and you really need to ask, at some point, if you do or if apathy has corrupted you as deeply as that. You might say he is preaching to the choir but that presumes no alternative but not to preach at all. The choir needs to be led and I am glad to tell you that Michael Moore does a good job, and he may even make a few converts along the way.

And what did we do after? We bought recyclable batteries to fuel our Wii! (Yes, we've already killed the set the system came with - what can I tell you?)

So, there was our Independence Day. We were just in the living room, sipping Malibu and punch and watching Bridezillas and I’m glad to say it was pretty good.

Hitting the gym…

So, I had the day off today but I didn’t want that to stop me from (insert subject line here).

We have one pretty close to home, so I got ready and drove on over. As I parked, I noticed a fire engine near the front door. This can’t be good. But I walked up, anyway. As I did, a huge 99 Cent Store (is it just me or is the symbol for “cent” inordinately difficult to find in Word?) pulled up in front of me, blocking my path. Fine, I thought, I’ll just walk around. As I approached the gym, an employee told me, “You can’t go in. They’ve evacuated the building.” Seriously, why would anyone evacuate a gym? (Massive fart?)

But I am too stubborn to listen to portents; I went to the next gym near us.

Back on the treadmill, I set the speed for 4.6 mph and began jogging. Is it just me or wouldn’t it make sense to turn all these things into generators? I mean, wouldn’t it at least light up the gym, saving a little juice?

On the bank of TVs (we could power the TVs, for sure!), four out of ten (that’s 50% for those counting) were set to Faux News. If my “24 hour” membership wasn’t so cheap, I’d switch – republican fascist bastards. So, I had no choice but to watch Faux News.

First up, they had Pat Boone on as “Pat Boone: Über Patriot”. Sure, Pat Boone, pitch man for Wal-Mart. That’s some kind of patriotism, Pat… not the good kind, mind you.

They had John Edwards on the beach in California, where the only way to celebrate America’s freedom from the tyranny of Imperialist Robber Barons (as opposed to modern, multi-national, robber barons, which are seemingly A-OK in our book) was to eat beef. And lots of it. Beef and beef and beef – at 9am! Because that’s what we do out here in California when we’re at the beach, we eat beef!

Next, on the Mike & Juliet Show – super whites with their super pure super right-wing patriotism – they brought on last season’s American Idols. Apparently, one just isn’t enough any more. When they got to Sanjaya, I was surprised to see (and I know I shouldn’t have been) that he brought “the crying girl” with him – and she was crying, of course. And he sang to her. And she cried.

No wonder nobody reads any more. This is what passes for entertainment.

Through this all, they reported repeatedly on a story that Al Gore’s son was arrested on a suspected possession of drugs charge. (And isn't that handy during the outrage over Shrub's immoral commutation of Libby's sentence?) No mention was made of what kinds of drugs or how serious this charge is – or how real – but they made sure to tell us that Al Gore cannot be trusted thanks to his no good son. It’s a spin on the “sins of the fathers” metaphor. If you remember your Euripides, he said, “The gods visit the sins of the fathers upon the children.” Well, the people at Faux News think it works the other way in Al Gore’s case. Actually, they think anything they want in Al Gore’s case – they seem to hate him so much. I have to warn you Murdockians, though, that application of such a rule plays out in both directions when you talk about Shrub and his kin. Not only is the President a crook but so is his family, both ways. Do I think the sins of the father or son visit themselves on the parent or child? Do I think that because the Bush family is riddled with lice that Gore’s is as well? No, not at all. Which is why I think they’re crazy to even suggest it.

Anyway, I put in 60 minutes at 4.6 mph – but it’s a hilly course so I only ended up doing 3 1/3 miles. I would really like to reach 3 ½ miles. That would be nice. Let’s see if I can do it without hurting myself…

(More to come, no doubt.)

Keith Olbermann's comment on the Libby Commutation...

It takes a certain bravery to speak out when all the smart people remain silent and it takes a certain wisdom to realize just how deadly the silence can be.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lest we not learn from history

It is I, the silent half of One Path. Usually this is Ken’s arena for denouncing the actions of Shrub, but now it is my turn.

I’m not as far left as Ken. I’ve always thought of myself as a middle of the road type of gal. Yet, the more I see other middle of the road types just stand-by and not do anything, or say anything, about the current lack of integrity in our country’s leadership, the more left I lean.

Tonight, Ken and I watched
Keith Olbermann’s special comment on Shrub’s commutation of Scooter Libby (sounds like a name for dog food).

I am left dumbfounded and amazed that my fellow citizens aren’t demanding impeachment. When President Clinton received oral sex (an issue of fidelity, not national security) many of you demanded his resignation. Yet, Shrub can commit criminal acts and you don’t care. His administration revealed a covert CIA agent, one that was assigned to locate WMDs (you remember those, right?), and once revealed put many lives in possible danger, putting our nation’s security at risk. And yet, this is not enough to get you to take action.

Now he has essentially granted a pardon to Scooter (dog food) Libby, even after promising at the beginning of the investigation that anyone found to have assisted in the outing of this CIA agent would be dismissed from his administration and be brought to justice. He lied to you, and you still don’t care that he has completely disregarded our Constitution (you remember that little document, don’t you?) and has decided that he alone (with help from Darth Cheney) is the judge and jury.

He doesn’t care about what is good of our country, our nation, our people…only for what best serves him and his people (the elitist, ultra rich, extreme right wing people). He is not a good ol’ boy from Texas…he is a criminal and the worst type of person out there, one that will walk on the backs of the rest of us just so his chosen few can have everything they want.

Do you care?

Have an innocuous day…

I've been packing myself some pretty "veggie" lunches lately. I actually like that because, as some of you may recall, I used to be 99.9% vegetarian (except for that one, yearly steak). Now, you can measure my level of vegetarianism right along side Shrub's integrity. So, it's nice to have a couple of meals each day without any meat. Breakfast is an obvious one. After all, who wants a steak in their bowl of Cheerios? What's for lunch, you ask?

1 bag of carrots
1 small bag of radishes
1 apple
1 small bag of cubed pepper-jack cheese
(I said "veggie" not "vegan"), and
1 cup of grapefruit


Listing that reminds me, of course, how much I could go for a burger – but, heck, I'll get that burger soon enough, right? I don't need it now. I'm trying to adopt that attitude in all of my life and…

… you know, as soon as I wrote that I realized that I should probably mention something. Yes, I've been good at being vegetarian and unmaterialistic before. I've been much better. But, at the risk of stating the obvious, we all go through these cycles in life and I go through mine, as well. Right now, I'm trying to get it back down to the essentials again. I've had enough with overeating, carnivorousness, materialism. So, I'm going to tone it down.

I'm not saying I'll never have another cigarette or ice cream cone or steak or never buy myself something nice. I just know that I'll get those things soon enough. So, there's no rush. (Vicky is sure to remind me of this when I do have a cigarette. But accept that I'm aware of it, hon.)

Yesterday, I jogged three miles. It felt terrific. I've always loved running and, very often, just don't. Actually, here's the thing. I start – I love it – I overdue it – I hurt myself – I stop. And then, the cycle repeats. I'll go jogging again tonight. What I really need is a partner who will set the pace, keep my lust for speed in check. Vicky hates jogging, so that's right out.

The day I really learn self-control, we're bound to plunge straight into the sun.

And that's about it. I would write about more but the only thing on my mind is Shrub's unconscionable acts of late. Get this: His administration puts a woman in danger and destroys her career, Valerie Plame. They do it so they can start an illegal war and kill thousands of American citizens. Then, when someone has the temerity to investigate what was done, his administration does everything they can to stop the investigation while making overtures towards respecting the legal process. They are overtures, after all, because once a man (Libby) is tried and found guilty by a Republican judge no less, Shrub gets him off the hook. So, what you basically have is a revolving door, Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free kind of government. Not only are thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqis being killed along with thousands of Americans thanks to this illegal war, which we can't stop because of the pockets it's lining, but the American people don't even have recourse over the event that helped start it.

And I wonder where the outrage is and why so few seem to care. Shrub's polling is the lowest of any modern president but he has learned you don't need it. Polls truly do mean nothing; he can act with impunity and does. And it casts a shameful light upon us all.

And that, my friends, is too sad to write about.

So, what am I going to write about?

Today, in the book I'm working on, I bring you the fruit cup. In a book that questions if human love is really possible, I bring the question to parents and children. The fruit cup. An innovation begun by a parent and co-opted by a corporation. With what started as a way to get kids to eat healthy (called "fruit"), we now have an environmentally-damaging plastic holding a sugar-laden snack with few redeeming qualities. The fruit cup. In summary: Parents would rather give their kids something that's bad for them and the planet than a fucking piece of fruit.

And I wonder why so few people are outraged over Shrub's crimes.

Monday, July 02, 2007

There's no justice, justice, justice for that asshole, asshole, asshole...

There's no news here. Shrub got Libby off... or visa versa... anyway, I've been telling people for months now. If you are expecting this man to respect the law, you're a fool. He's a murderer and a thug and a liar and a terrorist...

... by which, of course, I'm talking about our President. Not Libby. He's just a liar who shit on the Constitution.

I hate when a whole lot happens… and none of it is interesting...

You're going to have to forgive the somewhat scattered nature of this entry… I've been busy.

No, we didn't see any movies. Mike Moore is just going to have to do without my opening-weekend dollars, but we will be seeing Sicko on Wednesday. This weekend, Vicky's high school reunion pretty much gobbled up the whole thing.

Friday night, I hung out with Keith. My brother has recently moved to Washington and, like most ex-Californians, now spends most of his time complaining about California and those hailing from there as if he'd never entered the state. I run into this a lot from people who move out of state and the hypocrisy is just a little rich for my taste. I also run into it with people who move out of Orange County – this egotistical view that, while it might have had some redeeming quality when you were here, not it sucks. Well, tell you what, if you hate it here so much, stay away! Save everyone from the mundane repetitiveness of your complaints and stay at home. There. Problem solved.

Anyway, we headed out to Lancaster yesterday afternoon with a certainty that we did not want to arrive early. Earliness would be for leaving, not arriving. Only after we pulled up in front of the Best Western Inn, where the reunion would be, did we realize that "too early" was any time in our lives. This place looked like it landed pre-fabbed in the middle of the desert, like a bad drug trip or horror film. The front office was dank and our room was… occupied. "Just give me a minute," the maid asked us, cleaning our room very late in the day. Okay, so we waited.

During the 15 minutes or so it took her to clean the room, she also succeeded in spraying it with this horrible smell that permeated everything. The room was small, dank, uncomfortable… we were so happy to be staying for only one night. We would have been happier to stay at home (see above paragraph). It was easy for me to dress. I wore a slimming black slacks, purple dress shirt, and black coat… and looked fat, of course. Vicky wore a very nice, black dress. We were supposed to leave at 5pm… so I told Vicky when it was 6pm. She was totally ready to go and said, "Ummm, just a minute." That turned into a few more minutes. Vicky wasn't exactly excited to be there. But we finally did leave, walking over to the "convention center", which was little more than a few classrooms and meeting rooms with movable walls. Vicky immediately found a few, old friends – and the bar (our best friend of the evening!). We greeted the bar early and often.

I can't tell you what Vicky thought of the whole thing but it made me very glad that I haven't attended mine and I have no plans to start. The most pathetic guy there was someone who had created a CD of '80's memorabilia and, after showing it, he kept trying to sell it to people. That's the only thing all these people are going to remember about him, now: him and his crappy CD. It seems to me that you only take one thing away from you about each person, which is probably all your inebriated mind can hold. I don't want mine to be: wash-out, failure, loser. No thanks. I'll keep mine to myself. (And you…. The entire population of the world!) (I really have to rethink this whole "blogging" thing…) (Good thing nobody reads!)

There were two other things I noticed. Obviously, the first one is: the tits. Man, there were a lot of tits there! Most of them were fake and displayed prominently, like fleshy hood ornaments. There are some very insecure people at class reunions. (Oh, and there are pervs, too…) The other thing was what a bizarre, little time capsule the whole thing was. You had clips from '80's movies and TV shows (sadly) being projected before you, '80's candy on the table, '80's music being played, and people you knew (or didn't know) in the '80's. It was enough to make you curse the '80's… yet again. And I don't think that's indicative of the '80's. I figure all reunions are probably like that, sad dreams of the past that can never, ever come close.

That might explain why Vicky and I kept drinking. In my case, though, it was mostly boredom. We had six or seven drinks before we left and, for some reason, Vicky was staying sober while I was very much not. I wasn't getting embarrassing, I don't think, but I was getting quite the buzz going on. After we left, we hit the resident lounge to cash in our free drink tickets (only one each… dammit!) for even more booze. By the time we got back to our room, I was pretty sloppy. The bed was hard, without enough pillows. I just wanted to get to sleep so we could check out the next morning!

But that wasn't to be. At about 2am, I was standing, trying to figure out who was in the bed. You'd think that sleepwalkers think slowly; you'd be amazed at how much our minds race. And yet, it took me a couple of hours to realize I was with my wife and get back into bed. But I couldn't really sleep. So, I got dressed, accidentally waking Vicky ("I'm just going for a walk, hon."), and went for a walk. This is always a stupid idea. You're up; you're outside. Everyone else in the world is sleeping. On top of that, you're in Lancaster, the world's capital of Nowhere To Go! So, I walked laps around the motel for a while. Then, I saw this tiny kitten on the grounds. He was black and white, with an enormous head (probably the result of being undernourished). One eye was either closed or injured; he wouldn't come anywhere near me but we talked a bit. Then, I went out to lie down by the pool… at 6:30 in the morning…

I should tell you about the books. A new version of A Grand Canyon should be posted on Digital Word pretty soon. Breaking it into parts turned out to be a underwhelming idea – actually, crappy – so the complete book will be posted soon. As for the new book I'm working on, Daughter of a One-Armed Man, I finished the first quarter last week, halfway to halfway!

Vicky and I went home but were both so tired that we didn't want to do too much. I watched a little TV – everything we have is DVR'ed these days so viewing times and air times are never equal. I watched the premier of Burn Notice. It wasn't too bad. Bruce Campbell was there, so points for that, and the star, a young man named Jeffrey Donovan, has the charm of a young James Coburn. It's a little bit too MacGuyver at times and, at other times, it seems to want to be The A-Team. We'll just hope they don't do the same story every week. I'll give it a four out of five: nothing amazing but a good waste of time. Then, we watched one of the last episodes of Studio 60. We've loved this show so much that we're going to hate seeing the final episode. If it's possible for something to be "too good for TV", this was it. Of course, the thing that popped into my head was how come Matt Albie's (Matthew Perry's) ties aren't totally fat, like the ugly ties department stores sell these days. "He had a whole wardrobe department to find him clothes," Vicky contended, to which I replied, "That's what I need!"

But the night went too quickly and, soon, it was Monday morning. I awoke to go to the gym but made the mistake of checking my emails. Someone had sent me one of those completely useless surveys that fills the net these days and I, good little sheep that I am, had to take it. And there went my time to hit the gym. Instead, I decided to do some Tai Chi. Many years ago, I used to practice Tai Chi on a regular basis…. Stop laughing. Here's a good, basic move, if you'd like on. Standing with your feet about shoulder's-length apart, lower your butt a few feet, bending your knees. You should feel like you're sitting on a stool. Now, hold it. Tai Chi isn't about moving around; most of it is about very little movement. In this case, there's none at all. I used to be able to hold this for ten minutes. Not anymore, and it's just a warm up!

I've been thinking that changing things up a bit might help reduce my mental issues. And Tai Chi is something you don't need a whole lot of time, equipment, or a commute to do… it might be time for a change.