Friday, May 31, 2013

Go Frack Yourself


 
It was recently announced that California has shale oil reserves that are larger than the Bakken Field. Cali has been producing oil since the 1860’s. Drive on 101 or the 5 and you can see the pumps, the tanks and the pipe lines. Oil has been part of the California economy for a long, long time. Because of that we don’t buy the oil company bullshit like the rubes in other parts of the country do.
 
That's a photo of Long Beach's Signal Hill rigs, Beverley Hills high school has an active rig on the campus, drive from north of Santa Barbara to Ventura on the Pacific Coast Highway and you'll see off shore rigs. We have plenty of experience with oil company behavior.
 
To get the shale oil out of the ground, fracking is required. Our legislature wants the oil companies to let the people of California know just exactly what is in the fracking fluid used to extract the oil. The oilmen shit their drawers and scream, “It’s a trade secret! If other companies know what’s in our fracking fluid we’ll lose our competitive edge.” Ahh, bullshit.
 
In addition to being an oil producer, California is the number one ag state in the nation. Growing food requires water. There is a good case to made that fracking fluid just might screw up our already limited supplies of water. Hey, you don’t want fresh fruit in the winter, how about lettuce and tomatoes, you can do without salads in the winter, can’t you? You don’t like asparagus anyway. The problem is oil and gas producers are exempt from EPA regulations as far as water testing is concerned. Gee, i wonder how they got that done?

Big Oil’s position is easily explained by this quote from Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon-Mobil addressing the companies’ shareholders

                                     "What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?"
Hey, Rex! Go fuck yourself, you entitled prick. You don’t think humanity, what’s left of it, won’t suffer when the average temp notches up a few more degrees and most of the SW US is unable to support life? Of course your future dependents will be living in air conditioned domes or underground while the average shithead will baking in the unrelenting heat and all of those mansions in Miami will be artificial reefs. Of course the entire eco-system of the ocean will be so fucked up we’ll be lucky if the many 6500 sq foot artificial reefs have any fish swimming the god damned home theaters, 9 bathrooms or 5 car garages.
This is what happens when big oil operates without rules, this is a spill in the Niger Delta:
 
The United Nations figures this will take 30 years to clean up. If you think that wouldn't happen here without oversight, your either as crooked as the Nigerian oligarchs or as naive as a North Dakota state legislator!
There's good reason that so many science fiction villains are corporate pricks like Rex!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day with the Greatest Generation


Memorial Day Weekend, my memories are the opening of the lake place, the Indy 500 on the radio and the sound of the rotisserie on the grill going er-whine, er-whine, er-whine as the chicken turned over the coals, and of course, my mom, my dad and their friends having a party, drinking and eating, laughing and telling stories.

We are losing about a thousand WWII vets a day. Called by Tom Brokaw, the “Greatest Generation”, these men and women all in their 80s and 90s are coming to the end of their long journey.
My parents were members of this generation, so were all their friends. They were the adults I watched and learned from when I was a kid. I learned plenty from them, good and bad.
They were part of and benefited from the greatest growth this country or any other has ever experienced. The post WWII years created the middle class in this country, economic demand, rising wages, worker protections, leisure time and of course, job security. They had no qualms about investing in schools, good roads and the space program. They wanted nothing but good for their children. For every body's children.

With Memorial Day this weekend we’ll see all the images again of the “Good War” and the well-deserved paeans to my parent’s generation. I lived it and I saw it.

For my dad and his fellow vets, there was no PTSD treatment. Most of them wouldn’t admit it if they had it. It was “manly” to ignore any problem you may have suffered from the war. My dad was a Glider pilot, the 2nd glider across the Rhine during Operation Varsity. Varsity was the largest airborne operation in history. It was also the first time the pilots had to form up in Infantry Companies and fight on the ground after they landed. Dad participated in a battle called Burp Gun Corner in a small German town’s crossroads. They held off a panzer tank company for over 30 hours. Dad had a shrapnel wound in his leg from the landing zone and he had the heel shot off his boot during the fight at the crossroads. They prevailed in the fight. Dad was awarded the Bronze Star, one of his fellow pilots won the Silver Star.

One of my dad’s best friends was a tank commander who fought all the way across Europe, another was a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne and another was a submariner. Tough guys, good friends and overall good people, what they had in common, as well as the war, is that they self-medicated. I believe they all had PTSD.

Dad was pretty wild when he was first home, without telling my mother, he and a buddy flew from North Dakota to Guatemala in a single engine plane. He called her from Arizona. He did buy her a gift, a couple of feather pictures of exotic birds. She wasn’t happy. When he wanted to go out with his friends he did. That’s what all the “guys” did. The wives, bitched about it but, didn’t say much to their husbands.

My father and his friends worked hard, played hard and loved their families, but it was all on their terms. If my mom didn’t want to go where my dad wanted to go, she never said much and went along. That’s what women did. Years later, long after my dad was gone, my mother let loose about how angry she was at him, she was really mad. I imagine she wasn’t the only woman carrying years of anger around with her.

I had friends whose fathers beat them, not spankings, beatings. Some guys beat their wives as well. My dad wasn’t one of them, but he knew who they were and never said anything. Neither did my mother, or their friends. They just didn’t talk about it. The kids didn’t either. When it arrived in my family, dad acted. My aunt showed up at a family barbecue wearing sunglasses, she kept them on after the sun went down. My dad lifted them off her face and she had two black eyes, dad hauled my uncle off to the other side of the garage and kicked the living shit out of him. The beatings stopped for a while and then started again later. Nothing more was said. I was 8 years old at the time, I loved my aunt and I never had much of a relationship with my uncle after that. When I was in high school I got his attention by throwing him off the dock into the lake and I didn’t do it gently. I got in a few punches that I’d been saving since that Sunday night when I was 8 years old.

Couples, who should have divorced, didn’t. My mom’s best friend was divorced and worked in her father’s business; she was a rarity in the 50’s. One of my good friend’s mother was divorced, two divorcees, two kids and I knew them both. Most kids my age never even knew of a divorced couple or knew any kids from a divorce.

My dad was a misogynist like his friends. (One of them called his wife “It” to her face and in front of their kids.) In retrospect; my dad should have known better since his mother was a very strong woman who participated in all aspects of running their farm and handled all the money.  My dad ran everything, my mother got an allowance, a car and she had charge accounts for food, gasoline and at several clothing stores. Dad took care of the rest.

I knew dad loved mom, but he seldom expressed it. He called me when mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer and the first thing I noticed was how he talked about her using words I’d never heard him use before, he told me how much he loved her and how much he needed her and how special she was. He was frightened to be alone. When she recovered, he went back to his old ways. Several years later I called him out on it and he was stunned. He didn’t have any idea that his treatment of my mom was out of line. Once again, he never roughed her up but he didn’t treat with the respect she deserved and after her recovery he just went back to his old ways.

Kids in my generation, the Boomers, grew up listening to our parents, mostly the fathers, calling people, spics, wops, kikes, rag heads, sand niggers, chili shitters, niggers, polacks, bohunks, chinks and nips. I heard my dad’s friends say things like, “Jack’s a good nigger.” Or “He’s a pretty good guy for a god damned kike.” Or “My old lady has that chink woman cut her hair, does a nice job for a slant eye.” They grew up with that language and more from their fathers, the additional slurs they heard as kids were all of the above layered with religious slurs like, “Cat lickers, holy rollers, asshole Mormons, papists and more.” I don't hear that much anymore, I’m glad, for the most part, my generation stopped that kind of talk. My parents never said anything to me about dating, but I’m sure there would have been hell to pay if I’d have brought home a 60’s version of Halle Berry for dinner.

The more I’ve learned about PTSD and the problems today’s vets encounter, I wonder how much of the truly bad behavior, sexism and drinking among the “Greatest Generation” was caused by unresolved issues from the Good War.

I loved my mom and dad. I loved many of their friends, especially Bobby, Margret, Bert and Betty among others. I’m okay with their weaknesses and attitudes and I’m glad I can understand that as good as they were, they weren’t perfect.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

LADIES and GENTLEMEN, THE ROLLING STONES


My pal Ray turned to me and said, "Charlie Watts is a metronome!" And he is. The Cakes who doesn't like to go to concerts was over the moon. Barbara lost her mind. And the old white haired guy never sat down. THE. ENTIRE. CONCERT. I was jumping around so much, I was stiff when I got up this morning.

Staples Center was packed last night for the 3rd of three Stones shows in LA. The two women in front of us had been at all three. This was my 12th or 13th Stones show, Ray, Jan and Barbara had never seen them. The show kicked ass, big time.

I've been listening to Stones music for 50 years, Actually longer than that, since the radio stations in Winnipeg played them before the US stations did. They did the same with the Beatles.

The band was formed in '62 and this is an interesting fact from the far distant past:

The Rolling Stones first signed manager was Andrew Loog Oldham, a publicist who was directed to the band by previous clients, the Beatles. Because Oldham had not reached majority - he was nineteen and younger than any of the band, he could not get an agent's license, or sign any contracts without his mother also signing for her son . By necessity he joined with booking agent Eric Easton. Oldham made several changes to the band. He changed the spelling of the band name from "the Rollin' Stones" to "the Rolling Stones". He removed the "s" from Richards last name saying it "looked more pop". (from wikipedia)


Concert sound has improved so much, it’s not as loud as it was in the old days, it doesn’t have to be because the sound is clean and distortion free and the ability to equalize and mix the sound for various venues is a science. My friend Vaughn, a sound guy, could explain this to you but he is on the road doing systems for theaters.

Its strange to watch the Stones in 2013, from a distance they look the same. Jagger still has all his energy, Ron Wood, skinny as a rail still plays with verve and Keith, other than white hair is still a massive presence. Charlie Watts, the oldest member of the band looks great. I’m sure up close they look like hell, but…

In the mid 60’s Stones songs were the soundtracks for milestones in my life; underlining some monumental changes I was going through, “Paint it Black” fit a nasty breakup with a longtime girlfriend perfectly. “Satisfaction” described my situation one year. Later, “Start Me Up” was the catalyst to make a change that was a long time coming.

I told the Cakes, I’ve never met a black woman who didn’t know every word to “Brown Sugar”. I remember watching Linda Battle put on a dance floor performance to “Brown Sugar” one night at radio station party that would put Tina Turner in her seat for good. Another black woman I worked with told me, the song in her mind was a celebration of the strength of black women, moving from being “sold in a market place in New Orleans”, to the celebration of and liberation of black women. She added, “and we dance and taste so good.” Hear, hear.

I got my daughter and her friends tickets to see the Steel Wheels tour when she was in school in California. She sang along with every song, her friends, all 80’s kids, asked her how she knew all the words. She said, “My Dad.” I provided her with all facets of education.

I’ve never walked into a dive bar in my life when I didn’t hear the opening of “Honky Tonk Woman” in my head. I hear the opening of “Gimme Shelter” I can see the Vietnam War.

Good memories ran through my mind as the Cakes and I wiggled and danced on Monday night for more than two hours, she has said over and over since we got home, “we had a good time, didn’t we!”

That we did!

 


 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Boyz were Back In Town!


We had my grandsons with us all last week, great kids; they make me proud and a big salute to their Mom Kristen for doing a great job with them.
Of course there were interesting observations to be made during the week.

We go to bed about 10:30 or 11. Nova, the 14 year old, slept on the daybed in our home office/den. He used to sleep in the guest room with his little brother, not anymore. On Monday night my allergies were killing me and I was coughing and hacking and the Cakes gave me the boot at about 1:30. Not having the guest bed to go to, I went down stairs to the living room sofa with my Kindle in hand. I noticed light under the office door. Nova was watching a movie on the computer, I looked in and said, “’Hi.” I went to the sofa. He slept until noon on Tuesday; I haven’t any idea what time he went to sleep. I didn’t say anything to him, because my grandparents let me read as long as I wanted when I stayed with them.

One night we had filet mignon, mashed potatoes, sweet corn and a massive salad for dinner followed a half hour later by strawberries over angel food cake with whipped cream. Less than an hour later Nova made himself 2 slices of whole wheat toast and peanut butter. They’d eat breakfast, an hour later have a snack, I’d take them to lunch, another snack midafternoon, a big dinner, desert and another snack before bed. When I’d get up in the morning I’d find dishes in the sink. If I ate like they eat, I’d weigh 300 lbs. Growing boys. They consumed 4 gallons of 2% milk in 5 days, 3 ½ gallons of juice, a dozen bananas, a couple of pounds of organic hamburger, steaks, chicken, pasta, bacon, eggs plus a bag of forbidden Oreo cookies. They also ate $100 dollars’ worth of Thai food, a couple of pizzas and picked out a bunch more stuff to eat at Costco and some new t-shirts.

Both their teachers asked them to keep a journal of the week with their grandparents in addition to the normal homework. I’d check their work and kept a running commentary with them about it. Dorey, the 10 year old, said in answering my questions on his journal, “I’m working on it every day.” On Saturday, while we were on our way to Cambria, Jan checked and found he only finished through Wednesday. He had the headings for Thursday and Friday done. His answer, “I said I was working on my journal, I didn’t say I finished.” I always thought he’d be an engineer, now I think he’ll be a high priced lawyer. I asked him if he knew what parsing language meant, he said he didn’t. I said “Yes, you do.”

Both of them know more about computers, I Pads and phones than any random group of 100 adults, including a few IT guys I know. They both scored passing grades on my driving simulators. It’s impossible to get them out of their beanies unless the temp is over 90. They do not like new clothes unless the new clothes look like old clothes. We bought Dorey new shoes twice and had to return them. The 2nd time, I made him tell the cashier himself and apologize to Jan for having to buy them and return them in one 5 minute span. I thought the black Nike high tops with the red Swoosh looked cool; he did too, until he didn’t. I guess he is going to wear his ratty hiking boots until they are too small. I offered to send him to cobbler’s school so he could make his own shoes, he declined. Shopping with them is a nightmare. I’d ask if they liked something they were looking at and I’d get a shrug. Their mother didn’t have that problem.

We looked at a 45 foot motorhome on a MCI bus chassis. It was very nice. They liked it for the same reason I did. It didn’t look like it was decorated for a woman who didn’t want to be traveling in a motorhome. Black leather, 50 inch TV, a power system that would run Ardoch, North Dakota without missing a beat. 500 Horse power Detroit diesel, six speed Cummins transmission, etc. We planned a fantasy trip in it and they want to go for a year and a half. In the trailer behind it, they want the Jeep, two sea kayaks, a canoe, an ATV and private sleeping quarters with 2 bunks and their own head. They thought the built in TV and kitchen on the outside of the motorhome was a little silly but after they thought more about it, it was a pretty cool idea. Dorey said, “We could watch Myth Busters with a fire going.”

All in all, it was a good week and interesting as always. They loved the pool and hot tub at the Sea Otter Inn in Cambria on the way home, they loved it a lot. So did grandpa! They are old enough and responsible enough to stay at the motel (with warnings not to open the door for anyone, including cops) while Cakes and I had dinner with Lana and Tom Cochrun.

Jan and I love my grandsons, we’d like to see what they’d look like in Polo shirts, khakis, blue blazers and penny loafers, but that isn’t going to happen unless they want it to. Good for them!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dateline Los Angeles



“Radio’s Young Turks”

                      “A morning show co-host with a better idea and the numbers show it!”
 

When I interviewed MB for this story, she asked that I not disclose her market, her station or the identities of her co-workers or her real name. I agreed.
“MB” has a master’s degree in English Literature with a specialization in 18th century female poets. She graduated from a prestigious university and like most of today’s liberal arts grads; she couldn’t seem to find the right job. Unemployed after college, MB drifted into food service jobs, hostess, waitress and then cocktail waitress. 6 months ago in a Midwestern market she exploded on the scene in radio. I met her at a coffee shop in the market where she works. MB had on a baseball cap, her hair in a ponytail, no makeup and was wearing a pair of painter’s pants and a washed out sweatshirt, she had a pair of well-worn Chuck Taylors on her feet. In her words this is the story of her radio career.

“After I got my MA, I just couldn’t find a decent job, I had an offer from a community college in a small southern town, part time with no contract. A friend of mine helped me get a job at a cafeteria, mindless, minimum wage and no tips, I moved to small local cafĂ©, I got tips, but the wage for tipped workers is ridiculous, I was broke, broke, broke. My roommate Denise suggested I start cocktailing, it was better, but I noticed the girls with big boobs were doing better than I was. I was flatter than a pancake, something I’d never thought much about to tell you the truth.”

I said, “You certainly don’t look like a pancake now, even with that big sweatshirt on.”

“Well, my great aunt died and left me a few bucks, so I took part of the money and bought myself new boobs. When I went back to work the money started rolling in, I’d bend over to serve a drink for 12 dollars and the guy would leave me a ten dollar tip. They’re idiots. Ten bucks for peek at the tops of a set of double D’s. Frankly, I couldn’t believe it.”

“Tell me how you got into radio?” I asked MB.

“Frank XXXXX, the GM of the station started coming in on a regular basis, the station had a trade at the bar and so he was a giant tipper, he’d leave me 30-40 dollars after one or two rounds of drinks. Over time, Frank started to hit on me and I’d put him off. It continued for months and months, finally out of frustration he offered me 200 dollars for a peek at my boobs. He paid and I showed them to him in the parking lot. After that he was worse than ever, he was trying to get me to sleep with him, so I lead him on a little and he offered me a job on the morning show as a sidekick. "I took it and its been great for me." MB said.

“You’d never been on the air before, right?” I asked.

“Right, but the two morons I work with didn’t care. All they wanted to do was tell dick jokes and talk about my boobs. Those idiots even wanted me to use Dee Dee Cupp as my air name. These morons would ask me questions like if I had ever kissed a girl. I’d answer, "why haven’t you? They didn’t know what to say." After a couple of weeks, I realized that the on line numbers were going through the roof because the pimple faced geeks who listen to the station were watching on line and were crazy to see my chest. If I wore a tank top the on line ratings would spike up 25-30 per cent. So I came up with a plan to capitalize on the rating increases. The idiots had never been better than 9th in the morning. After I joined the show, we were fifth in the book and the on line numbers were the best in the market, so I cut a new deal with Frank and I couldn’t be happier.”

“You do your show from home now, how’s that working out?” I asked her.

“My friend Denise studied video production in college and she helped me wire my apartment for HD video and sound. She produces and we feed it to the station.”

“How does a typical morning go?” I asked.

“Denise turns on the camera and I’m usually sleeping in bed and the idiots from the studio call and I answer the phone at 6. I may have on a bra and panties, sometimes a station t-shirt, sometimes I sleep naked. I pretend I’m talking to them on the phone and answering their moronic questions while I roll around, showing the geeks as little as possible. Then I just go through a girl’s normal routine, coffee, juice, a piece of fruit, taking a shower, the audience loves that even though they see nothing. They go nuts when I put on lotion. They love it when I cook breakfast and do a routine about them sitting at the table with me. Frank wants to do a promotion where some jerk would actually come to my place and I’d make him breakfast. No way I’d do that.”

“What show got the biggest response so far?” I asked MB.

“The one where Denise and I were in bed together when the camera came on.”

“Wow!” How big were the numbers,” I asked.

“Through the freaking roof, Frank gave me a raise. Then Howard Stern called and wanted me to do his TV show, I told him to find somebody else to ride a sybian and hung up on him.”

“How do you get along with the guys on the morning show?” I asked MB.

She smiled and said, “Frank cut their pay to give me my last raise.”

I want to thank “MB” for her candid interview for our series. It was announced last week that her co-workers were being let go and the entire morning show would be broadcast from her apartment. MB is being paid the salaries of her former co-hosts as well as her own. Look for her show in syndication soon. She feels she’ll bigger than Stern ever was on the air. Her plans for the future, getting her PhD. Then , in her words “getting out of radio as quickly as possible.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Some More Shit Off My Chest


Been a long time, but, I’ve been busy. WORKING! In fact I paid over 6.5k in Social Security in 2012, dammit. I’ve been paying into Social Security since I was 13, 55 years and now I’m collecting it, paying taxes on it and since I’m working I’m still paying in. Hell of an “Entitlement” I hope you kids enjoy this old Boomers investment in you and yours and I’m happy to do it.

Speaking of “Entitlements” I’ve been paying Medicare taxes since 1965; I still am, even though I’m on it. The first year I had the supplement from AARP, it was $115 a month plus co-pays, plus, plus, plus. My Doctor neighbor, who works for Kaiser Permanente, during one of our driveway chats told me I was fucking nuts and suggested I join Kaiser. I did, the Medicare Advantage plan from Kaiser is thus: $4.98 a month and 20 Bucks for any and all tests. Echocardiogram, 20 bucks, blood test, 20 bucks, colonoscopy, 20 bucks and on it goes. Here is the fucking deal with Kaiser: THEY ARE NON-PROFIT! Got the goddamned picture, Bucko? The AARP plan where the monthly was so damned high it would have paid for almost 2 years of the Kaiser Plan was from United Health care a FOR PROFIT COMPANY! Any question why our health care costs in this country are so high now? By the way, my last health insurance (non) provider was California Anthem Blue Cross, a truly fucked up organization. My drug co-pay was 20 a script, they wouldn’t allow the doc to write a script for longer than 30 days and so like clockwork I went to CVS and paid $20 a month for a generic medicine that cost 7 dollars. Once again I was tipped off by a medical professional, this time the pharmacist at CVS who also implied that I was fucking nuts. My doc wrote me 3 month scripts and I went from paying $240 a year to paying $84. I paid Blue Cross personally for 60% of the $940 monthly premium, the company paid 40%. $11,280 a year paid by somebody who consumed a physical with tests yearly, costing $855 of which Blue Fucking Cross paid 80% or $684. They made a profit of $10,596 yearly on this old, broken down but fairly healthy old bastard. If I had anything seriously wrong I told my wife to just let me die rather than be put through Anthem Blue Cross hell. Anthem Blue Cross looks for “lower medical utilization and more memberships” thats code for lots of paying “members” and low delivery of services. That’s probably the reason the CEOs of the various “Blue” units of WellPoint (the corporate owner) divided up 93 million in pay last year. One last thing on these dicks in suits and ties (skirts) they brag that they deliver 74% of premiums in care. Kaiser delivers 93%. Anthem Blue Cross of California shipped over $750 million off to WellPoint’s Indiana headquarters last year…Angela Braly who is the WellPoint CEO only made 13.9 million last year living in Indianapolis.

An interesting sidebar the guy they had running the California operation a few years ago was a piece of work. When he moved out here he left his wife and kids in Indy. He started dating a woman and had her move in with him. Then he started dating her sister. It got too hot and he bought one sister a house and got engaged to the other all while his little Hoosier housewife was living the good life back in Carmel. It all blew up when the sisters started to compare notes.

If you leave your kids in the car while you run into 7-11 to get a 6 pack of Mountain Dew you can get arrested for child endangerment, if they aren’t in a car seat you can get arrested for child endangerment. Are fucking guns so sacrosanct that you buy a five year old their own gun? Or leave your gun lying around loaded so a kid can pick it up and shoot a sibling and you have no responsibility? For fucks sake people, it isn’t a god damned accident when your gun is available to a toddler and no matter how many times you say the dead kid is in a better place up there with Jeebus it doesn’t make you innocent of being a reckless dipshit.
It must be nice to be a certain kind of Christian where the magical big guy absolves you of all your fuck ups in life!

James Porter Jr. the fat, redneck bastard who is the new president of the NRA likes to talk about the "War of Northern Aggression". Hey shit head, you guys guys fired on Fort Sumter which was a Federal property, manned by US troops, seems to me that that you assholes started it.