Monday, August 31, 2009

Spider-Man swings with Mickey and Minnie!

I heard today that Disney bought up Marvel Entertainment, which includes the Spider-Man franchise.

I don't think we'll be seeing mouse ears on any of the Marvel Comics, but you never know. Mickey Mouse swinging from buildings. Hey, I'd pay to see that. NOT.

When I was in junior high school my friend Ronnie and I read monster magazines and comic books. This would be in 1959, 1960 or thereabouts. One day Ronnie told me that there was a new Marvel comic out called The Fantastic Four. I was curious and pedaled my bike to the Millcreek Pharmacy where I picked up The Fantastic Four #1. I sold it along with my other Marvel Comics after I got married in 1969, so I could start my first checking account.

In 1961 or '62 I picked up the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, and I read it for a couple of years. I think it had a lot to do with the adolescent power fantasy. Peter Parker, who is Spider-Man, is just a teenage nerd--like me. But unlike me he has special powers, gets to dress up in a costume and gets to kick butt. That appealed to me at that time of my life. I'm sure a lot of other boys felt the same way.

I have seen the movies and they brought back memories. They also brought back memories of selling the first issue of Spider-Man for 25¢. When the first Spider-Man movie came out I read that a copy of that same comic had been sold for $180,000.

Like a lot of things in my life, that one slipped through my fingers. I didn't feel too bad, though. Easy come, easy go.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Parade of perverts

In past entries to this blog I've mentioned adult women having sex with underage boys, and I've mentioned adult men, mostly teachers, with young girls. I had a story ready to go the other day when, like everyone else, I was knocked off my feet by the story of Phillip Garrido and his backyard tent city. For the three people who haven't heard this, Jaycee Dugard, at age 11, was kidnapped and had not been seen for 18 years. The other day she surfaced, now 29-years-old. Garrido and his wife had been holding her and the two children she had given birth to, fathered by Garrido, in tents with a makeshift shower and outhouse.

Alert people at the University of California, Berkeley, alerted authorities when they talked to Garrido, who was there with his two children. The whole thing looked wrong to them. After checking on Garrido they found he was on the sex offender registry and they contacted police. Good citizens! Garrido's neighbor had contacted police three years earlier, but the police officer did not check in the back yard or house, just talked to Garrido on his front porch and satisfied himself everything was all right.

In hindsight, probably not a good thing. But necessary. We don't live in a police state where police are able to just enter our homes and look under the beds and in closets for no reason other than suspicion. There's got to be probable cause, and that officer needed that.

It's an amazing story, still unfolding. The latest is that Garrido is being looked at as a "person of interest" in the murders of prostitutes.

In my home state, Utah, we still have our parade of perverts. The story I alluded to above has elements of the Garrido story. A St. George woman, Krista Leanne Wertenberger-Moss, 38, entered a tent at 2:30 a.m. where three boys, age 11 and younger, were having a sleepover. She wouldn't let them leave the tent for five hours, and when she did they told their parents. She was sentenced to a year in jail and four years probation.

I'm not sure of her motivation. No one has said. She did make them play a game that included sexually explicit questions.

Also in St. George a 42-year-old male teacher, Douglas Bullock, was charged with having sex with a 17-year-old boy. Despite the age difference, I just wonder when a kid is 17 how "underage" he or she really is. Anybody over 16 usually has enough smarts to know what's going on. The arbitrary law that says someone is under the age of consent if they're not 18 seems unrealistic in most cases. If a kid is 17 years and 364 days old when the sex occurs then it's a crime; the next day he or she is 18 years old and then has sex with an older person it's not a crime. Sheesh.

But then we have the case of the sexually naïve teacher. Christopher Page, a 20-year-old substitute teacher at a junior high was caught in his car with a 13-year-old girl, both of them with their shirts off. The evaluation of the teacher explained the guy is "immature with limited sexual experience." Page knew the girl and her family before he became a substitute teacher so he wasn't "a person in a position of trust," as the law reads; teachers can get socked extra hard for having sex with students. So the D.A. doesn't want him jailed or put on the sex offender registry. "A good person who made a bad decision," said she.

OK, the kid who is 17 is still a child in the eyes of the law, but the guy three years older is an adult, but not a sex offender, even though he's with a 13-year-old, because he's "immature."

Sheesh again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Honey, wake up."

I heard the words, "Honey, wake up."

I jolted awake, sat up. I was on the couch, and according to the cable TV box, it was 2:30 a.m.

I listened, but didn't hear anything. I thought I'd been dreaming. It was one of my better nights, which means no insomnia. I went back to sleep. The next morning I told Sally about my dream of her telling me to wake up. She told me a story:

That night she had been lying awake and thinking. That's deadly if you want to sleep. I know all about it. Anyway, she reached for a little recorder she has by her bed. When a button is pressed you get thirty seconds to say what you need to. She said, and I'm transcribing because I just listened to it, "Jon," "Rockapella," "girls," and "Glen Campbell."

Jon is her hairdresser, so she probably needed to make or change an appointment. "Rockapella" is a group that sings without instruments, a capella, rock songs, hence the name. Maybe looking for a CD, or a ticket to a concert? "Girls" means our granddaughters, so most likely she needed to send them something. She said "Glen Campbell" because the evening before we went to bed we'd watched a YouTube video of Glen singing the Paul McCartney song, "Mull of Kintyre." Sally may have been thinking of getting a Glen Campbell CD with that song.

So did I hear Sally talking into her recorder? Her voice in the recording is very low, and sounds sleepy, foggy. Would I have heard her in the living room, and translated it into, "Honey, wake up"? I don't know. Maybe if she'd yelled "Fire!" at the top of her lungs I wouldn't have woken.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You guys

We got close to the door of the Mexican restaurant when a young woman with a handful of paper came up to us. "Are you guys going into Rubio's?"

"We are," said Sally.

"Would you guys mind giving the guy at the counter one of these?" It appeared to be some sort of flyer for a sorority. "If you give them this then they give some money to us for a fundraiser."

"Sure, we can do that," said Sally.

"Great, thanks, you guys!"

We went into the restaurant and to the counter. The counterman, a young Latino, said, "What can I get you guys tonight?" We both put in our orders. He handed us one of those electronic pagers to let us know when our order was ready for pickup. "Here you go, guys."

We sat down and there was another young Latino with a broom, sweeping under the tables. "Hello, you guys," he said. We nodded and returned his hello. "If you need anything just ask." Great, we said we'd do that.

Since we were at the time the only customers in the restaurant we got our food delivered to our table rather than having the vibrator go off (much to my disappointment). "Here you go, you guys," said our server.

We ate and noticed some other customers come into the place, including a young Latina with a baby. The young man with the broom knew her, and he was talking to her when we got up to leave. "Thanks, you guys," he said to us with a friendly smile. "Come again!"

We stepped outside and the young woman with the flyers hailed us, "Thanks, you guys!" she said. We got in my car.

"When did this 'you guys' thing become the thing that young people call older people?" I asked rhetorically. Sally and I have had this conversation before.

When I thought about it there just doesn't seem to be anything that I can accept being called from young people. When they say "sir" to me I feel patronized. "Folks" seems, well, folksy, but "you guys" just sounds too familiar. I don't think the kids are thinking that, though. It's just how our language works; different greetings evolve in different places and at different times. I guess considering the age difference--I was old enough to be any of those youngsters' grandfather, and most kids think older people are retarded or at worst, fenceposts to be ignored--I guess I was lucky that their term for us, "you guys," was said with a friendly tone. As much as it chafes me, I guess there are worse things than young people calling older people "you guys."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"I bought it on eBay!"

Every once in a while I haul out some books and put them up for bid on eBay. I've been doing eBay business off and on--mostly off for the past couple of years--since 1999.

Back then I had a pretty good little business going, and I made enough every week for extra spending money, which sometimes I spent on eBay. But like a lot of novelties, eBay wore off for me and I stopped looking at the listings.

In those days it was easy for someone to win with a high bid and then not pay. Buyer's remorse was a real possibility with every transaction. The only real power sellers had over non-payers was to threaten negative feedback. Some people just didn't care about their feedback, but I did. I never got anything but positive feedback and I'm proud of that. I wish my customers would have been as conscientious about completing the transaction as I was.

Nowadays that threat to the buyer has been removed by eBay. A seller can't give a customer negative feedback, only positive or no feedback. How fair is that? A buyer who stiffs a seller loses nothing, but the seller has to go through the process of contacting eBay so they can get their seller fees back.

And that's another thing, the fees. In one way I think eBay is the most brilliant business idea of all time. They have a large staff, but they don't have to have any warehouses, unless you count all the bandwidth it takes for the listings as storage space. They don't handle anything directly. But they take, hooooo, Lordy, do they take! It costs a seller to place a listing, and the kind of listing can make it escalate in price; the seller is charged a percentage of the winning bid; if the seller gets paid through Paypal--owned by eBay--then a fee is assessed on the transaction. It's a triple whammy.

eBay doesn't have to do one damn thing except provide the means, and then they rake in the cash.

There's another thing that bothers me, and that's how easy it is for an unscrupulous seller to manipulate an auction. All he has to do is have a friend join in the bidding to inflate the price. The winning bidder wins, but who knows how much he's paying extra because of chicanery on the selling end?

Looking around my house I can see a couple of things I bought on eBay that I am happy I got, but I can also look around and see things I should just send to a thrift store or put out for the garbage pickup. I must've been caught up in the thrill of an auction. I wouldn't have bought the crap if I had seen it in a store.

Here's Weird Al Yankovic's take on eBay:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Funeral for a friend

Sally and I drove to Bountiful, Utah, last night to say goodbye to our old coworker, Rand. Rand died on Thursday when his wife decided he'd had enough, and his doctors said there was no hope. The previous Thursday he had a stroke, and never fully came out of a coma. Sunday night was a viewing, the funeral is today.

Rand had been diagnosed with diabetes as a child, but when I met him in the early 1980s he hadn't been to a doctor in years. I suspect it was because he had no medical insurance. He and his wife, Judy, had four children, all of them now grown up. When Rand went to work for the school district he was suddenly insured and then he sought treatment.

None of us knew how much Rand's disease had progressed until the December day a few years ago we found out he wouldn't be at work for at least a month. Some time before he'd stepped on a nail. Some versions of the story said it was days, some said weeks, but he couldn't feel the nail in his foot, and when he found it his surgeon put him right in for an operation.

Things just got worse from that point, and then there came a point where he could no longer feel his feet. That's dangerous on a job that required him to climb stairs several times a day.

The last time I saw Rand alive was in April at the retirement party of another coworker, Norm. He was supported by a cane, his face was chalk white, and he was nearly blind. Behind his back a couple of us said we thought he didn't look long for this world.

When I walked up to see him in his casket he looked great. He even had the little smirk you can see in his obituary picture on top. His wife marveled, "I wonder how they got that look on his face? It's so Rand."

I thought, but didn't say, that he looked healthier dead than when he was alive.

Rand had been married four times to three different women. He was married to Judy, with whom he had four children. She divorced him. He married Chris, who already had ten children. He divorced her. He married his son's former girlfriend, Allison, a girl decades younger than him. She divorced him. Then he and Chris got back together, and she is his widow.

At the viewing everyone looked happy because they knew that the terrible disease that had ravaged him his entire life was now gone. I guess sometimes the only way you beat a condition like that is to die, and then it dies with you.

S'long, Rand, old buddy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My good luck

Tuesday I looked online at my public library account. I use the library a lot. It's a good idea to make sure I'm current, don't have any overdue books, CDs or DVDs.

A couple of months ago I neglected to put a booklet back in a DVD case. I figure it was out of the case and I read it, then I piled the daily newspaper on top of it and put it in the recycling bin. That little action cost me $10.00 for a lost booklet. My county library does not mess around. They go for maximum fines to make an impression and they have made that impression on me. I am very careful about returning items in the same condition I got them.

So imagine how I felt when I learned that a book I knew I had returned the week before showed up as still being checked out to me. It was due on Friday, August 21, so I went to the library on Wednesday to tell them I didn't have the book. A kindly middle-aged librarian said to me, "You can renew it and see if you can find it."

"I tried to renew it online and it said the book had been requested, so it wouldn't renew. Also, I know I brought it back." (Excuse #1 for a librarian, and although she didn't roll her eyes I could tell she was mentally doing just that.)

"Once I thought I had returned a book, and I found out it was under the seat in my car. Maybe that's what happened to this book...?"

"I've looked in my car."

"Perhaps it's somewhere in your house you don't expect it to be, another bedroom or family room perhaps?"

"Those are all good suggestions, but really, I'm a very conscientious person..."

"Oh yes, I'm sure you are."

"...and I know I brought it back. It's one of a series, it's a 9 x 12 trade paperback, white covers, I had two from the series and I brought them back together..."

I knew I was whistling into the wind because she'd heard all that stuff a million times, so I said, "Look, I'll go home and look again and in the meantime please conduct a shelf search and see if you can find the book, please. I don't want to owe fines, don't want to buy the book, don't want to lose my library privileges."

So on Saturday morning I again checked online and sure enough the book was still there, still not renewable. It also said OVERDUE next to it. Underneath there was an odd notation I hadn't seen before: (credit -25.00) I didn't pay it much attention, concentrating on what to do next.

I went back to the library and told my tale of woe to yet another librarian, as my original lady wasn't there. She had someone conduct a shelf search while I waited and they found nothing. So I was back to square one. She looked in their database and said, "The book will cost $17.95, and $5.00 for a processing fee." I had my checkbook ready, and had the check filled out except for the amount.

"Oh wait," she said. "Don't write the check. You have a credit of $25.00 which will more than cover the fine."

Instantly I remembered that odd notation (credit -25.00). "Let me see how we do this..." she said, calling over another librarian. I held my breath. I didn't know how the credit got there, or why, but I was sure the other librarian would say, "Wait! This is a BIG MISTAKE. There's something FISHY ABOUT THIS. Are you trying to pull some TRICK?" while giving me the librarian gimlet eyeball.

But she didn't say that. She tapped the keys, then told the lady at the computer what to do and then they both said, "OK, you're good. Slate is clean."

I said, "So you're telling me I don't owe anything, nothing at all?"

"Nope, you're now all paid up."

I walked out with my head spinning. As I reconstructed it during the day I thought one of two things had happened: Divine intervention, God had slipped $25.00 onto my library card, or more likely, the lady I originally talked to had made some sort of mistake and I benefited from her computer error.

I don't want to think too much about this, and I probably shouldn't even write about it. I'm watching out the windows right now to make sure there's no armored car with an armed SWAT team, librarians in body armor with assault rifles, here to pound down my door and demand a check.

All I can say is, despite my puzzlement it happened. I didn't have to pay for a book I wouldn't have bought for myself, wouldn't have wanted except for a one-time reading. That's why I borrowed it from the library, and I didn't want to have to pay for a book I don't have. So I left the library thinking that whatever did happen it was an unexpected stroke of excellent fortune, and I whistled all the way to my car. I would have danced a little jig of joy but didn't want to rub it in or jinx myself. They could have still hollered at me from the door, "WAIT! THERE'S BEEN A MISTAKE..."

Friday, August 21, 2009

How bad is bad?

Click on the above so you can see how bad bad really is.

When you read an article like the one above a certain sense of disbelief sets in. I'm not disputing it happened, but since there's no motive listed for such an awful attack, it makes me wonder what in the world could have caused such atrocious, hateful behavior.

A 66-year-old grandma. Taking a shower. Two grandsons break into the bathroom. Beat her. Urinate on her.

Drugs? Alcohol? They lived with her. What could Granny have done to these cretins to set them off in such a deadly and despicable fashion? Did she not give them money for dope, so they beat her and heaped on a double helping of scorn by peeing on her?

Good God. If there's any justice maybe when these guys die they'll be in hell's bathroom, being beaten and pissed on by imps with tails and horns.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Your home business: being paid for getting laid

On Demand shows some of HBO's late night specials. I watched Pornucopia 2 the other day. Filmed in 2004, it covers the field of pornographic movies, people who star in them, and in this episode a segment on a couple who make money having sex on their webcam for paid subscribers.

I have no idea whether James and Seska are still at it five years after this show aired. I don't care, but I was interested in the money they said they earned. Seska said before they set up their Internet business they both made about $20,000 a year at their jobs, and at the time of filming Pornucopia they claim they are making "six figures." The graphic here says it all. You pay your $16.95, you get to see a couple you wouldn't look at twice in the grocery store have hot sex on your computer monitor.

What do James and Seska put down on their tax returns? "Internet business" is technically correct, but "expose our genitalia while performing multiple sex acts for strangers over the Internet" has much more of a ring to it, don't you think?

Internet porn can originate anywhere, so it's true entrepreneurship. This other graphic says that 5000 couples do this sort of mom and pop business online. Did someone actually count them, or is that just an estimate?

A farm couple in Iowa can be boffing just as easily as a couple of sophisticates from Manhattan. The web cam and global Internet access levels the playing field.

I don't have anything against free enterprise, but I wonder about people who have sex for a living, whether they are on the Internet getting paid, or in movies getting paid. If they're paid to get laid why isn't it prostitution? Isn't prostitution sex for hire? Apparently there's a fine point of law I'm missing here, otherwise all these people would be having their orgies in jail.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dropping the f-bomb

A television columnist for my local newspaper told of hearing John Landgraf, president of FX Network, speak of the famous f-word. He said they don't use it because FX goes out to 92 million homes, not 33 million like HBO, and FX is advertiser driven.

That's scary to me. Advertisers can dictate what it is shown or said on commercial television. We pay for cable TV; if you're like me you're paying over $100 a month, which includes HBO, and yet we're inundated with commercials, at least 16 minutes per hour.

Apparently the recession hasn't hurt the pharmaceutical businesses because they're advertising all over the place, just like usual. You'd think everyone had erectile dysfunction or clogged arteries. They can talk about erectile dysfunction and yet they can tell the network not to use certain words in the programs.

Personally, I like what the creator of one of my favorite shows, Breaking Bad said about the f-bomb. He uses it and bleeps it out. He doesn't believe in using words like "freaking" or "frigging" or other euphemisms. When it's bleeped our minds provide it, whereas it seems jarring to hear a word like "freaking" when you know what they mean but aren't saying.

Years ago I had a boss who never used the f-word, but various euphemisms which made us laugh. We liked his use of "fetching" to mean "fucking." Once I told him if he was worried about offending us by using the real word he wasn't, and he self-righteously proclaimed that "the f-word won't ever come out of my mouth." I told him that by using the substitute word he had the same meaning and as far as I was concerned when he said it I just heard the word "fucking." He said, "Yeah, but you're weird."

Well, maybe. He was my boss, and I was smart enough not to yell after him, "Oh yeah? Fetch you!"

Here's George Carlin and his famous funny rant about words that can't be used on television. He meant broadcast television, of course. Any cable channel can use that language, but then the advertisers would desert them, and we all know that money is more important than free speech.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Do I have to explain to you why this is so wrong?"

We've been talking lately here at Insomnia Notebook about female teachers putting their hooks into young boys. But statistically 90% of the relationships between teachers and students are between men and young girls, which is what makes the stories of adult females going after boys of 13 and 14 for sex seem so startling.

The male teacher-female student thing has been going on since the first school bell rang, I'm sure. Here's a story I came across online. It's from an old comic, Love Secrets, from 1953. At one time love comics were the best selling comics of all, and here's one that seems to stray into forbidden territory, that uncomfortable place where teacher meets student for purposes of romance. Maybe that's why they sold well to female readers; it's a hot dream for only a dime!

The girl in the story is 18--legal age--and the young teacher is 24, so setting the story in college would seem to have been more appropriate. But it takes place in high school, not college, and that makes it morally dubious. The whole amoral premise is compounded by the girl, who lies to her principal to cover up, and her lie is rewarded by getting a proposal of marriage from her teacher! A great lesson for the young readers of this comic.

I worked for a school district for three decades and occasionally I heard a story that sounded like this one, but it always involved the teacher being fired for improper behavior. In this story Mr. Dryden got away with something. This time, anyway.

Click on the pictures to see full size all of the emotion and passion of this heart-throbbing tale!

Friday, August 14, 2009

More overage female teachers and underage boys

The other day I asked if other states had the problem of female teachers having sex with underage males and sure enough, it seems to be happening everywhere.

This an edited article from the May 30, 2009 Time magazine, telling us that Florida seems to have more problems with this phenomenon than other states. I'm kind of relieved to know that despite all of the local reports of this behavior this year Utah is not the female pervert-teacher capitol of the U.S.

The third item, and really most interesting, is a link to World Net Daily and their Big List of the cases of females who have been busted for sex with underage boys. I didn't count, but there must be a hundred or more, including some of the cases I've mentioned in my own state of Utah.

Time on the Florida cases (I edited this down for space):

Florida Epidemic: Teachers Sleeping with Students

By Tim Padgett / Miami Saturday, May. 30, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Time, Inc.

If you're the parent of a teenage boy in Florida, you probably muttered "Not again" while reading your morning newspaper this week. There on the front page was yet another case of an adult female teacher being arrested for admitting to having had sex with an underage male student. This time the alleged perp was Maria Guzman Hernandez, a 32-year-old instructor at the private Our Lady of Charity school in Hialeah; her victim was 15. But she just as well could have been the 34-year-old Jacksonville public-school science teacher arrested last month for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student, once in her SUV; the 32-year-old St. Petersburg teacher collared in March for allegedly "sexting" nude pictures of herself to an eighth-grade boy; or the 45-year-old teacher at a private Christian academy in South Daytona who was arrested days before for allegedly having sex with a boy from her class in various

Other female teachers in Florida have been booked for the same crime this year — and scores of others have been arrested or disciplined in the past few years for sexual misconduct with students, according to a recent investigation by the Orlando Sentinel, which noted the problem is rising in the state "among female educators in particular." A 2004 Education Department study found that about 10% of the nation's 50 million public-school students had experienced some kind of improper sexual attention from teachers and other school employees, and a 2007 Associated Press report indicated that men were involved almost 90% of the time.

But parents and prosecutors alike are nonetheless asking why the female version of pedagogue perversion seems more common on their peninsula compared with other places. "It certainly seems more prevalent, although we can't say for sure if it's worse than other large states," says Michael Sinacore, the Hillsborough County assistant state attorney. "None of us can really say why at this point."

After the principal at Our Lady of Charity (a private Catholic school that is not formally affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church) heard of the illicit relationship last week, she reported it to the state's Department of Children and Family Services. Police questioned Hernandez last weekend — after she returned from a trip to Disney World with the boy — and she made a taped confession, they say. She was charged with sexual battery on a minor, akin to statutory rape, but has not yet been arraigned.

One theory for the growing number of cases like these, says Sinacore, is what he calls "the more relaxed if not blurred boundary lines between teachers and students as teachers try to communicate with kids in this day and age." Today's kids, as the media have reported recently, are far less shy about innocent physical contact like hugging than their parents were as teens. That can be exploited by any male pervert overseeing a classroom. But it can also embolden predatory female teachers, whom experts say are often in emotionally needy states. "The trend with female offenders, more than males, is that they have emotional turmoil going on in their lives," says Sinacore.

It's no surprise that a Florida Congressman, U.S. Representative Adam Putnam, recently co-introduced a bill, the Student Protection Act, to set up a scholastic version of the national sex-offender database and prevent teachers like Lafave from getting classroom jobs in other districts or states. Whether or not the legislation passes, it's a sign of the emotional turmoil that women like her have wrought in their communities.

World Net Daily: The Big List
Click here

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Heart attack hill

Sally and I have been exercise walking since 1987. The best walks we ever took were up a steep hill and around Alta View Hospital, just a quarter mile or so east of our suburban house in Sandy, Utah. We were really in shape in those days.

Because the hospital is on the high ground we especially loved that walk during what I called the summer of Pinatubo. You may recall--and if you don't I'm here to tell you about it--that Mt. Pinatubo, in the Philippines, blew June 12-15, 1991. It sent ash into the air, and it colored the sunsets for months. Sally and I would walk when the sun was setting so we could see the brilliant reds over our western mountains. I wish I had a picture to share with you, but in those days we didn't have digital photography and the little pictures we could have taken wouldn't have been worth it.

We hadn't done the hospital walk for a long time but lately we have decided we want to try to hospital walk again. The other night we did it and I felt like I was going to die. My heart slammed in my chest, I was puffing audibly as we went up the hill. Luckily when we reached what I felt was the pinnacle of Mt. Everest I was able to make a quick recovery, which is a sign that I'm still in reasonable shape. I told Sally I'm glad we were walking to a hospital in case I collapsed of a heart attack.

But this morning we walked and we hardly puffed or felt a strain at all. We didn't suddenly get into shape, we just did it early in the morning. The other night, as I explained to her, everything I'd eaten that day, all the laying around I did watching TV, or working at my computer, put about 100 pounds of lead into my ass. No wonder I couldn't make it up the hill.

Here's Sally, in front of our neighbor's house, saying, "So, are you coming or what?" This is the first of the hills we walk. Sorry about the dark picture; we were walking into the sun, so I had to keep it out of the pictures.

The second hill is north on Flint Drive to 9400 South Street. Little bit steeper. You can see the city put in a nice new set of bricks in the parkstrips next to the new sidewalks. They tried growing trees along this route for years, finally just tearing out their corpses. For some reason nothing grew here.

We've turned the corner and are heading east on 9400. You see that retaining wall next to Sally? It used to be a regular chainlink fence, and there are houses on the other side which belong to a cul-de-sac about 15-20 feet below the street. A car jumped the curb and slammed into the old chainlink, nearly going over the hill. The next time we walked we noticed the hole in the fence and a neighbor below stood on his back deck and excitedly told us the story of the careening car. Now the retaining wall will protect someone from going through the fence and plunging 20 feet by killing them when they hit the wall.

Yay! Top of the hill. The construction on our left is for a new medical arts building.

This picture is from the top of the hill looking west to the Oquirrh mountains. You can see the tailings from over 100 years of digging at the Kennecott Copper Mine, which was once known as the biggest open pit mine in the world. Wow, what a distinction, huh? I think they lost that honor of being biggest to a mine in Peru. You also don't see many trees on the mountains because the emissions from the ore smelter killed them all. To their credit Kennecott is trying to replant, and they have cleaned up their emissions, but because we live in a valley the cars and industries make a brown haze that is ugly and dangerous. Luckily today was a breezy day so I could show you our valley.

Here's the Women's Center of Alta View hospital. In September, 1991 a man planted dynamite outside the building, then held hostages in the Center. He wanted to shoot a doctor who had performed a tubal ligation on his wife. The doctor hid and called police. The man killed a nurse. You can read the story here. A TV movie was made of the incident with Harry Hamlin and Teri Garr, but it was filmed at an old vacated hospital in Salt Lake City and not the real Alta View.
The morning after the incident I turned on CNN to see "my" hospital on national TV.

Here we are after walking around the whole hospital complex. We've exited on the north side. I estimate the hospital is about half a block long.

We're heading back down 9400 South Street. The steepest hill. Quite a grade; 9400 South is a major artery to ski resorts, but on real snowy days I have seen the police block it off. Too dangerous.

Back on Flint Drive heading for our street, eager to get inside and start a day full of sitting at the computer, watching TV, eating and growing the daily 100 pounds of lead in my ass.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Outside looking in

Sunday night I watched an NBC Dateline program about the Woodstock Peace & Music Festival, which happened 40 years ago this month. How did I miss out on it the first time around? I didn't hear about it, is how. Even if I had, if I wanted to attend, to go would have meant traveling 2000 miles. I hate crowds, and man, they had crowds. I first became aware of Woodstock as a festival when it was almost over. I thought I was hip, in tune with the scene, but as with many other things I thought, I was wrong. The Dick Cavett Show, broadcast live from New York, had Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as guest performers. They had just come from Woodstock and were covered with mud.

OK, mud would be another good reason not to go. Mud. Ugh. Unlike some of the other young folks of that era I was very particular about personal hygiene. Some of it was because of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I had to bathe or take a shower every day, had to wash my hair every day, did not want any skanks on my teeth so brushed often. In other words, not what the Woodstockers were going through, as they reveled in garbage and mud for three days.

Not only did I not know about Woodstock when it was happening, I have never seen the documentary, Woodstock, which was wildly popular on its first release, and is apparently a big seller on DVD. I moved on the periphery of the hippie culture without actually joining in. Many of my friends did, but I didn't like the drugs, didn't like the casual attitudes toward everything. I know I was uptight, man, hung up, man, but I just couldn't loosen up and go with the flow. I could not get into where it was at!

The only thing I would have enjoyed at Woodstock would be watching nubile hippie chicks taking it all off to jump in the lake. That might have made it worthwhile to me. As it was, that summer I hung out in a local park with a friend every Saturday, and watched the hippies congregate. We saw a few half-naked girls, smelled a lot of burning pot, saw long-haired guys playing Frisbee with their dogs. It was the era, and like the pictures from the documentaries on Woodstock, it seems a long time ago and yet not so long ago. I remember the era vividly, standing on the outside looking in. The music still sounds good to me after all these years. It's seeing what the hippies became that makes it seem a long time ago. From "Don't trust anyone over 30" to "Don't trust anyone under 60" signals a major change in the hippie dynamic.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Leave the driving to us!"

In 1973 I took a Greyhound Bus ride from Salt Lake City to San José, California, to spend a couple of days with a friend and to clear my head of a crippling bout of depression. I'd lost my job a couple of months earlier and needed to collect my thoughts. I got a job right after getting back from San José, so the trip must've done something, broken my self-destructive routine or upended my downward spiral.

At the time there was a program called Ameripass, where European students and travelers could pay to travel across the USA on a Greyhound bus. I met a couple of young people from England who told me they never realized America was so huge until they had been on the bus for five days. I was depressed, and spending 16 hours on a bus was bad enough, but five When the lights were turned out in the bus one of the English girls, who was hanging out with an American lad from Washington, D.C. immediately climbed onto the young man. They began a procedure I'd loosely call making out, although dry-humping is also a phrase that comes to mind.

I sat for much of the trip next to a woman from Oroville, CA. She was a large woman who crowded me a bit. She said, "If I fall asleep and snore just nudge me." That night after falling asleep she opened her mouth and while her lips flapped with a loud smacking sound, she also emitted the sound of a chainsaw. The passengers around us looked at us uncomfortably, and, as per her request, I gently nudged her. She sat bolt upright and at the top of her lungs shouted, "IT WASN'T ME!"

After a few days in California I rode back to Salt Lake with a bullshit liar sitting next to me. He told me he was a custodian in an elementary school, and that seemed reasonable, but he also told me his wife was, "Oliphant, the editorial cartoonist." I let that go unchallenged but he told the wrong person, because I knew she wasn't. Pat Oliphant is a man, for one thing, and does not live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the man did.

The only other thing I can say is that riding 55 mph across Nevada is a quick way to understand that there are parts of America that are uninhabitable. Nevada along Interstate 80 is best seen in the rearview mirror.

Here are a couple of other stories I got when I googled Greyhound Bus:


From News of the Weird: Another one rides a bus

The normal way that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons transfers "low-risk" inmates between institutions is to buy them bus tickets and release them unescorted with an arrival deadline. In the past three years, reported the Las Vegas Sun in May, 90,000 inmates were transferred this way, and only about 180 absconded. Although supposedly carefully prescreened for risk, one man still on the loose is Dwayne Fitzen, a gang-member/biker who was halfway through a 24-year sentence for cocaine-dealing. Because the traveling inmates are never identified as prisoners, Greyhound is especially alarmed at the policy.


Greyhound scraps ‘bus rage’ ads after murder;
Canadian passenger allegedly beheaded, ate fellow traveler

TORONTO - Greyhound has scrapped an ad campaign that extolled the relaxing upside of bus travel after one of its passengers was accused of beheading and cannibalizing another traveler.

The ad's tag line was "There's a reason you've never heard of 'bus rage.'"

Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said Wednesday a billboard and some tunnel posters near a bus terminal in Toronto are still up and would be removed later in the day.

"Greyhound knows how important it is to get these removed and we are doing everything possible," Wambaugh said. "This is something that we immediately asked to be done last week, realizing that these could be offensive."

Vince Weiguang Li, who immigrated to Canada from China in 2004, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old carnival worker Tim McLean. He has yet to enter a plea.

Thirty-seven passengers were aboard the Greyhound from Edmonton, Alberta, to Winnipeg, Manitoba, as it traveled at night along a desolate stretch of the TransCanada Highway about 12 miles from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Witnesses said Li attacked McLean unprovoked, stabbing him dozens of times.

As horrified passengers fled the bus, Li severed McLean's head, displaying it to some of the passengers outside the bus, witnesses said.

A police officer at the scene reported seeing the attacker hacking off pieces of the victim's body and eating them, according to a police report.

Wambaugh said the ads only appeared in Canada and that some in Ontario and western Canada have already been removed. About 20,000 inserts of the Greyhound ads were scheduled to be put into an Alberta Summer Games handbook but they stopped the presses.


Despite some negative publicity in those stories--and unguarded prison inmates or a guy hacking pieces off a fellow traveler and eating them is what I'd call negative--traveling by bus is a safe and economical way to go. I wouldn't recommend it for cross-country travel unless you want to spend hours in a seat next to people you probably wouldn't normally talk to. Local travel would seem the best bet. Like all travel, the shorter the ride the better.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Julie & Julia

Sally and I saw Julie & Julia yesterday. I found one of the stories it tells good, the other great. While Julia Child's story of her time in France after World War II is compelling, Julie Powell's story of her obsession with Child, and with completing all of the recipes in Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days is slightly less so.

Julie Powell is one of those people who stumbled into a gimmick, in this case a blog detailing her progress with her project, and then wrote a book about it. There isn't anything wrong with that, but some of the drama involved with her life that year is pale compared to the Julia Child story.

On the other hand, Julia Child was almost a force of nature, about whom drama swirled. Tall for a woman, or even a man, at 6'2", and with a voice unique from every other English-speaking person, she used her distinctive personality and physical presence to sell herself. Her Public Broadcasting program, The French Chef, was wildly popular, and I wonder if it wasn't more her than what she was doing. I liken her to Rachael Ray, or Emeril, where the program is not really about cooking, but about the person doing the cooking. If we are attracted to them then the cooking show is secondary. How many people actually complete the recipes they see done on TV? C'mon, raise your hands. Aha. I thought so. There's a woman in the back and one guy in the middle section waving at me, and maybe one of them is lying.

Julia Child stood out, literally, in a crowd and I believe she was destined for greatness.

Director/writer Nora Ephron was wise to combine the two books, My Life In France by Child and her nephew, Alex Prud'Homme, and Powell's Julie and Julia, which together make a complete story. Powell's story alone would not have been enough to make a movie, or if it had been it would have probably been tepid. Ephron could have just filmed Child's story. It would have been enough, especially with Meryl Streep's Oscar®-worthy performance.

But as Ephron chose to tell it, the hook is the story of two women, displaced in time by a generation, connected by food. As good as Streep is, and both Sally and I wanted to see the movie as soon as we saw the teaser with her as Child, I also like Amy Adams, who has a real appeal.

She was without her sexy long red hair in Julie and Julia, wearing a brunette hair style my wife wore in 1972, but despite the hair her expressive eyes and face make her the center of attention during a scene. She's a true movie star, but whether she's another Meryl Streep will probably take a few years to determine. The thing I liked most about Powell's story was that she was portrayed by Amy Adams.

The thought struck me that Adams physically resembles Nicole Kidman. Adams has taken the roles that Kidman would have been offered when she was Adams' age. It's like I mentioned a week or so ago when I talked about Kyra Sedgwick in the TV series, The Closer, there's a shelf life for pretty young actresses, and they really need to have something else going for them when their expiration date is due, about age 40. I hope that years from now I'll be seeing Amy Adams because it isn't just her youth that makes her so beguiling, it's her wide-eyed and open face, and that won't fade with age.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"...nor iron bars a cage..."

There's a consultant for everything. An Associated Press article by Samantha Henry, which I read in my local newspaper last Sunday, tells of consultants who advise celebrity and convicted white collar clients what to expect in prison. Clients of these consultants have included Martha Stewart, Michael Vick, and some names from the past, Leona Helmsley, Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken. The most famous current convict is Bernard Madoff, whose name tells his story: He made off with billions of dollars of his clients' money, leaving pension funds, foundations, charities and especially individuals, broke.

The advice a prison consultant would give to a guy like Madoff is that despite running a huge empire for decades, in prison he can't order people around. Big no-no there. A shy guy might be told to learn how to play cards or versed in the art of small talk ("So how's your cell? Did you sleep? Man, I think we need air conditioning in this joint. I laid awake all night sweating it was so hot...")

One rule from consultants was not to let anyone cut in front of you in the chow line. I guess that shows you're weak and if you show weakness you will become a victim. Future inmates are also told to stick with their own race, no matter how egalitarian or open-minded they were on the outside. On the inside people gang up in racial groups for mutual protection.

I'd advise new convicts, when taking a shower with other men don't drop the soap.

Madoff got 150 years, which will give him a lot of practice in how to get along in prison.

Personally I couldn't do one day in prison, or jail either, for that matter.

Last night I watched a show on Current TV, where reporter Lisa Ling and her photographer/producer Euna Lee followed some convicts who had been released. (This was obviously taped before Ling and Lee became guests of the North Korean government, convicted to many years at hard labor for straying over the line into that communist paradise. I don't believe they had the benefit of a consultant on what to expect in a North Korean prison, and I'm sure it was terrifying not knowing what was going to happen.) Most of the inmates on the Ling documentary were happy to be out, but they walk a fine line, subject to random drug testing, parole officers checking up on their whereabouts, because for the slightest infraction they can be sent back.

The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the free world. I don't know about prisons in totalitarian countries, and I wouldn't trust their statistics. But American prisons are bursting with inmates. One man on the Lisa Ling program had been released from Pelican Bay in California, which is where the worst inmates of all go. They are locked down 23 hours a day. About 70% of parolees in California end up back in prison, and there are various reasons: one, they're institutionalized and they're used to prison; two, the outside world makes demands on them and it's easier to have someone else make the decisions; three, they're stupid criminals and they continue to get caught for stupid criminal activities. There's always free advice from counselors, parole officers, etc., on what to expect in the outside world, but it's up to the individual to put it into practice. To a guy who has spent a couple of decades behind bars, being out in the real world might be scarier to him than prison would be to me. The man who had been in Pelican Bay was in the process of having his tattoos lasered off, because they'd preclude him from employment and would identify him as a gang member. I thought in his case that was a positive step.

One woman parolee was a former meth addict in a halfway house, hoping to stay there long enough to become a counselor to other parolees. She had a problem with anger and had been kicked out of more than one group therapy session for blowing up. Someone like her would have a hard time not getting violated for a parole violation unless she was serious about managing that anger.

Did Martha Stewart listen to her consultant? I understand that she was as bossy in prison as she is on the outside. She also said on her release she was devoted to helping the women in prison. If she's done any of that I haven't heard of it. I hope she's kept her word, since she'd be in a position to be both a consultant to those coming out, and to those going in. A prison consulting business could be a whole new career for Martha. I guess no one would know better than the person who's spent time in the Hotel d'Crowbar.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

64 years ago today

History, it's said, is written by the victors, so in the United States we won our fight with Japan in 1945, and we like to tell our version of events. It's been told so often it seems correct; we were attacked by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941, and over a couple of years fought them island by island to get close enough to Japan to launch an assault. Thousands upon thousands of people from all sides died. The military government of Japan was obstinate, not in any mood to surrender. Indeed, it seemed they would have let their population disappear from the earth rather than give up. So, we dropped a couple of big bombs on them to convince them that total annihilation would indeed be their fate.

We weren't the first nation to target civilian populations; Japan had done it in China, Germany had done it to England, but we were first with the most awful weapon of all time. This Wikipedia article explains what the American government did to end the war.

I don't debate the rightness or wrongness. It happened two years before I was born, it's a fact and the world moves on. We just hope we all learned a lesson.

Americans were kept from the the most gruesome images of the bombings and their aftermath, because our government knew, and rightly so, we couldn't handle it. In movies at the time people were killed in wars and had clean deaths. A soldier got shot, clutched his chest and fell over. He didn't have half his head missing or his intestines on the outside of his body. Likewise we were shielded from pictures of Nagasaki and Hiroshima survivors looking like charred pieces of meat, or walking with flesh falling away from their bodies. We were also kept from pictures of radiation survivors, although they weren't any secrets to medical teams sent to study the effects.

If you've got the stomach go to Google, type in Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombs, then click on images at the upper left. There are some pictures I wish I hadn't seen, but I looked at them anyway because I thought they were necessary to understand what these weapons can do.

The nuclear bombs now are so much more deadly than the bombs dropped on Japan that there's probably no comparison. My hope is that the reason they haven't been used, and won't be used, is because of what happened in Hiroshima, Japan, 64 years ago today.

In my morning paper there is a mention of the bombing of Hiroshima on page 2, buried with other international news The mayor of that city is asking that the world be nuke free by 2020. Nice goal, and unattainable.

The events of August 6 and August 9, 1945, are in the history books and have become just part of that vague and vast area of our past that we just don't think a lot about. In our attention-deficient society if it's not on our TV screens, in front of us every day, we tend to forget about it. The war is just something we see in old movies or documentaries. The footage is in black and white, boring to younger audiences, for whom everything nowadays has to be vivid, colorful and in their faces to get their attention. I'll bet you could talk to anyone under 40 and they couldn't tell you what city the bomb was dropped on, when it happened, why it happened. They heard about it in school, but it had no relevance to them now.

On this day I remember the day technology changed the world forever, not for better. The biggest war in the history of the human race spawned the biggest and most deadly weapon of all time.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

See the U.S.A. in your Shiverlay

At age five I was singing, "Hell, hell, the gang's all here," when my mother gently corrected me. She told me that I had turned a long a sound into a short e. She corrected me often in my speech and set me off on the correct path, but she couldn't ever change my dad. Both Dad and Mom came from a rural area in the center of Utah and Mom did not want to talk like the "hicks," as she called them.

Dad had a pronounced Utah accent, where he turned long vowels into short. He also had a strange Utah way of turning an "or" sound into an "ar," examples being harse, sharts, and the one that tickled me, fartunate. I've heard some people with that speech habit turn the "ar" into "or" as in "I drove my cor." And speaking of cars, my dad also called a Chevrolet a Shiverlay.

Watching some local television commercials recently I heard a furniture store manager refer to his "knowledgable sellspeople," and a car dealer loudly exhorting us to get in and test drive a Shiverlay.

Many of my fellow Utahns communicate through Utahspeak, with expressions understood by locals but puzzling to outsiders. We in Utah know the exclamations, "Oh, my heck!" and "good hell." "Good hell" rather than "good heavens" because it's apparently disrespectful to use "heaven" in an oath. Local folks who use these terms often don't realize they are indigenous to our society.

Jeff Foxworthy made a living out of Southern dialects that sound funny to us non-Southerners, but only in Utah can you hear someone who mangles the word "ignorant" to sound like "ignernt" and means rude, "sluffing" to mean playing hookey, or "baby tending" when babysitting. It's too regionalized, unfartunately.

I realized at some point that Dad couldn't be corrected because he couldn't hear what he said. It sounded correct to his ear. He asked me once, "How do you pronounce s-h-o-r-t-s?"

I said, "Shorts."

He exclaimed, "I was talking to this New York guy and he was making fun of the way I said that word! But I say it just like you, sharts!"

Monday, August 03, 2009

Kyra the Closer

Far be it from me to call 40 old, but apparently it's retirement age in Hollywood. Women in Hollywood are just about relegated to the boneyard when they reach that age. Not everyone is Meryl Streep.

Some women over 40 have landed good TV gigs that keep them working and also earning. Kyra Sedgwick, a beautiful and talented actress, is over 40 and stars in her own series on TNT, The Closer. I love Kyra's looks, including that incredible wide mouth with the great lips.

The Closer, based on just its premise, probably isn't something that would have drawn me to spend Monday nights in front of the tube unless it was to see Kyra. A year or so ago I found the first season DVD and watched it in a weekend. I was so taken by the character of Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson that I decided to make it part of my weekly routine. Hey, I'm not the first guy to watch a show because he likes looking at a woman. I happen to know that women like looking at women, too, and while I might be looking at the curves underneath her clothes, my wife is looking at what she's wearing, and how well she wears it.

Even I think Kyra is killer in a slouch hat with the brim pushed up in front, and her trenchcoat.

The supporting cast of The Closer is top notch. It contains two of my favorite "initials" actors, J.K. Simmons and G.W. Bailey. Simmons is especially in demand. I saw him first in Law and Order as Dr. Emil Skoda, and now I see him all over the place in character roles, keeping busy.

The word is that Kyra Sedgwick and husband Kevin Bacon were snookered by Ponzi schemer and villain Bernard Madoff. Estimates vary on their losses, with some saying up to 50 million. I have no idea how much they lost, but they are both still working and at the tops of their games right now so I won't be sending them a donation. I just read that Kyra makes $300,000 an episode of The Closer. She's also the producer. I'm sure she and her hubby are not living under a freeway viaduct in a cardboard box.

It seems that when a woman is young and beautiful all sorts of doors swing open in Hollywood, but at age 40 the doors get locked. I think it depends on the woman, too. Kyra Sedgwick is extremely talented as an actress--my first exposure to her was a Shakespeare play she was in--and she plays Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson as tough and yet vulnerable. On the one hand she can interrogate the toughest, most murderous criminals (she's called The Closer because of her ability to elicit confessions), but on the other become a blubbering basket case over her dying cat.

I like The Closer and tonight I'll be in front of the set watching it, and of course, Kyra Sedgwick.