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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Metallica: Favorite song #4 "Damage Inc."

This song from "Master of Puppets" starts with a Cliff Burton bass solo.  Before you think that "Damage Inc." is a jazz selection, you'd be hard-pressed to identify the build up as coming from a bass guitar.  But it does!

Cliff was only with Metallica less than four years, but the true-blue hard-core Met fans will always have something to say about Cliff.

I'm no exception.

I remember racing out of the stadium in Largo MD after the Metallica/Ozzy Osbourne concert in 1986 and finding a non-descript tour bus parked at the top of the loading dock ramp.  A few minutes after a few dozen fans swarmed the bus' door, the door kicked open and both James and Cliff poked their heads out to meet the fans.

While the reaction was nothing like the high-pitched shrieking normally heard at any early live appearance by The Beatles, everyone there was just thrilled to see two of the band members acknowledge, let alone give a little face time to all of us teenage metalheads.

James then stuck his paw out and, like metal shavings to an electromagnet, a dozen hands reached up and out to meet his.  Cliff then stepped forward toward the stair well and, with seemingly nothing in the bus to obstruct or brace him, did the same thing.

I grabbed his hand in a full-clasp handshake while others around had to be content with touching the outside of his hand, the wrist or the faded jean jacket wrapped around his arm.

My guess is the handshake lasted all of 30 seconds -- it seemed to last minutes while in the midst of it.  After 23 years, I still remember the firm handshake with the strong (Cliff played bass with his fingers, not with a guitar pick) yet soft palm.

And then, it was over and both James and Cliff had to surrender their hands back into the bus.  We all had places to go that night.

A few months later, I heard then read in Rolling Stone about the bus accident in Sweden that resulted in the death of Cliff Burton.  It was the first time I could recall knowing someone who died. I kept up as much as I could with how the band and its fans were dealing with the loss and the certainty that the band would replace its bass player.

To this day, I cannot listen to the bass with distortion intro to "Damage Inc." and not think of Cliff -- someone I "met" for all of 30 seconds but who helped me start an interesting spiritual journey that would culminate with the passing of one of my grandmothers, one of my aunts and my mother during the 90's.

His biography is still a work in progress, apparently, and this is one of the few interviews with him available on-line. 

With tonight's theme of choice, I offer one again.  There is an audio version of the song from one of the concerts with a long bass solo intro by Cliff.

Below is the studio version of the song with a pretty-well synched set of Anime clips.

Metallica - Damage Inc. - video powered by Metacafe

You pick the story, I'll supply the outrage!

OK, "outrage" may be too strong a word.  Lots of things have popped up from the satellite as I drove home from the Park n Ride today:

Baseball fans were surveyed recently by the Associated Press.  They were asked what the biggest problem with Major League Baseball was.  45%, the largest percentage listed, said the cost of seeing an MLB game live at the ballpark is the biggest problem with MLB.

Fans also mentioned player salaries, steroid scandals and the length of games as other problems.

I'm still somewhat of a novice baseball fan.  I do understand how the game is played.  I have no problem at all with players using steroids.  I imagine fans will be able to spot the tell-tale physical signs of regular steroid use quickly enough (if they don't already see them by now).  Fans can decide if they want to support teams with a large number of steroid users or not.

Vote with your admission tickets.  Which brings me to my other semi-informed opinion.  I wish MLB well with increasing ticket prices.  If prices are a barrier, then there will be more empty seats over which TV cameras may pan as the games are broadcast.  If the trend continues, I would expect to see more "fan appreciation" nights OR "family nights" where kids get in for 1/2 price, etc.

Not that I'm becoming a bigger fan or anything . . .


Fox News' Glenn Beck is either stark raving or just crazy like a . . .well, you know.  I'm having problems thinking of the liberal equivalent of this guy.  So, I'll entertain suggestions as long as you back your suggestion with links to transcripts and/or audio/video.

Here (thanks to C & L), Beck carries on about wind power's impractically.  Mr. Amato kindly posts Wikipedia's write-up on overcoming issues inherent with wind power.  It gets a little technical, but I'm sure that's just fine.  It would be quite presumptuous to insist that Beck, oh, I don't know, research for maybe 10 minutes to see that a method exists to harvest wind power without needing to build more nuclear power plants.

For hammy acting and needless carrying-on, I'm sure a Sci-Fi (or SyFy) made-for-TV schlockfest (I say that with much love) will work just fine for me.


If big-business sports and TV news-ish hosts aren't your cup of tea, try this.  Good article and plenty of pictures to click and view.  Ooh, so pretty !

Monday, March 30, 2009

Metallica: Favorite song #5 "So What"

One of my little joys is belting out this song in my car driving with the windows rolled and the A/C cranked up.  Both the A/C and the lyrics to my favorite song which Metallica has covered, "So What", are decidedly politically incorrect.

The original version, by The Anti-Nowhere League, is actually quite good, though the band is supposed to be punk, they look a little more like a hair band and, for a punk band, the sound is quite slick.

Here's Metallica's slightly more punk version of the tune from about 10 years ago (my best guess).  If you haven't managed a laugh yet this week, try screaming along to the lyrics (just make sure you're someplace soundproofed or far enough away from others)

One more nail in the coffin

I was trying to find text of an essay read on Mike Malloy's radio show this past Wednesday from the point of view of a soldier on guard duty in Iraq in 2004, but I've had no luck finding it!

I have found in the Opinion section of the Washington Post this rather lengthy article once again making the case that torture of prisoners does not turn up any useful intelligence.  Early last month, I posted links to a case of rendition.

And now Spain is putting together a case to try six of Bush 43's administration for war crimes.

An arraignment, Grand Jury indictment, a trial of these six and those above them in the previous administration, needs to start almost immediately here in the U.S.

Enough stalling, posturing and every thing else-ing.  Our country now has an opportunity to reassert ourselves as a leader in human rights and justice.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Problem solved!

We just needed Matt & Trey and their animated paper cut outs to explain!

In last week's "South Park", Stan attempts to return an appliance and gets more than he bargained for:

Just needed a big board behind big closed doors and a little blood shed . . .

Meanwhile, Stan's friend Kyle, having gotten the best charge card ever, handles the town's bills.  Poor Stan's family ends up right back where they started and Kyle's efforts get upstaged.

Politics, economy and religion all poured out of the same frozen yogurt dispenser of comedy.

Don't forget to laugh this week!

Metallica: Favorite song #6 "My Apocalypse"

The "Damage Inc." and "Dyer's Eve" of Metallica's new album "Death Magnetic", "My Apocalypse" always gets my head a'bangin' and gives my car's dashboard a real workout (lyrics here).

The few "Making Of" clips I've seen for "Death Magnetic" have been quite interesting.  A much more mature, calm and professional band is presented (not sure if this is just selective editing or a genuine change in attitude).  And, yes, the "tradition" of scratch lyrics are here in this clip:
For a whole other look at the innards of a very popular rock band in the midst of crisis, check out "Some Kind of Monster".  It was originally going to be a "Making Of' documentary on their last album "St. Anger", but it evolved into a voyeuristic testament to ego out of control and the struggle to find the sprit of a young metal band lost way too many years ago.  Fuse is airing the documentary several times this week, so no excuses for not checking it out, even if you HATED "St. Anger" (the fact that no songs from St. Anger are on my list should tell you something of my opinion).

Interesting interview: President Lula of Brazil

The video from Fareed Zakaria GPS, which aired earlier today, is not yet posted,  However, I just finished watching an interview he did with Brazil's President Lula.

For the first 10 minutes of the interview, I really liked what Pres. Lula had to say regarding his background and, it was easy for me to see just by his body language (Lula doesn't speak English, so it's impossible to glean anything from what he said) how he has maintained enormous popularity in his country.

Then he talked about Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.  The politician in him came out immediately.  Venezuela, like every other country in the continent except two, borders Brazil.  I can appreciate the political-speak, much as we would expect our President to talk about Canada or Mexico.

Lula, along with nineteen other government leaders, are meeting soon in London to talk economics.  A comment that sounded racist to me has been attributed to Lula.  However, it gets a little difficult to judge him based on Lula's working-class background and the distance from which he views the economic goings-on in the U.S.

If you plan on following the news that will come from the G20 economic summit this coming week, keep an eye/ear out for Lula --- I'll do my best to do so.  He may not grab the lion's share of headlines, but if what I have heard/read so far is any indication, Lula will provide the most fascinating news coming from that summit.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Some WTF items

With thanks to my buddy Randy, The New York Times catches something not talked about on TV (hmm.  if it's not talked about on TV . . . oh, that's right, there's a lot of things not talked about on TV).  Seemingly, in preparation for an increase in troops and civilians into Afghanistan, two formerly separated groups are now talking about uniting.  And, no, it's not Male Beauty of The Middle East

You're Welcome !


PepsiCo (which includes Tropicana juice, Quaker Oats and other brands) is being boycotted by a conservative group in response to PepsiCo's donation of half-a-million dollars to "Straight for Equality".

Happily, if it doesn't come out of my kitchen sink's tap, it now comes from PepsiCo.  While I'm at it, I'll take my animated comedy now only from Seth McFarlane and will do my best to not miss any Pepsi commercial from now on.  Ahh, the sacrifices we bloggers demand from our readers.


Speaking of blogs, do you enjoy reading first-person account, opinion adorned writing from your favorite blogs?  Are you enjoying the freedom of movement amongst any crowd anonymous bloggers enjoy by remaining anonymous (like yours truly)?

If so, then what happened to one of my favorite anonymous bloggers yesterday has lit up quite the firestorm amongst political bloggers, their fans and supporters.  In the coming days, their server will be vastly improved, so don't be surprised if it takes a while to load the page on the first link in this paragraph.

I write here because I enjoy it even though I receive no money for any of this.  AKMuckraker has turned a passion into one of the best blogs out there, building a vast network of fans and fellow bloggers.  Once you read the posting linked to above, please offer words of encouragement, write to any one of the links supplied by those who posted comments and/or join the forum, as I did.

Some compare and contrast

As I was reading this week's Presidential Address, something rattled around my head as I read about the efforts to control flooding in Western Minnesota and in North Dakota.

How is our current President handling this natural disaster when compared to our previous one?

Now, in the interest of fairness, here's a local publication talking about the start of the troubles along the Red River.  The post was made five days ago on March 23.  You can read the President's address by clicking on the first link above.

The first natural disaster that comes to mind when thinking about George W. Bush (OK, liberals, stop snickering!) is Hurricane Katrina.  According to the Health and Human Services site, the hurricane swept through southern Louisiana into Mississippi on August 28, 2005.

By September 2, 2005, HHS had issues this press release, listing all of the assistance they were going to or were in the process of providing.  So far, it looks as if the response in terms of helping victims of the hurricane, floods and levee breaks/breaches was appropriate and in line with what Obama's administration would be prepared to dispatch to the Red River area.

So, where's the contrast?  Here is President Bush's Weekly Address text from September 2, 2005 -- just five days after Hurricane Katrina made land.

I'll admit record flooding of a large river which has spread over thousands of square miles is minor compared to " . . a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain . ."

The previous week's radio address (the day before Katrina hit land) does not mention the hurricane at all.  On August 28, Katrina warranted a two-paragraph admonition while the rest of the comments go on about Iraq's new constitution.

At the time of his two-paragraph admonition (11:30 am 8/28/05), Katrina was building up a good head of steam in the Gulf of Mexico, about 24 hours away from New Orleans.

The government site that stores the President's public comments can also be searched for remarks on August 29, 2005.  Ain't technology grand?  I could keep rooting around; however, I run the risk of these tenuous parallels coming off the rails.

The point? My best guess is what is done at the top prior to a crisis plays a big factor in the success of handling the crisis itself.  Ooh, what is that old-timey parable that fits this?

Metallica: Favorite song #8 "Unforgiven III " AND "Holier Than Thou" (#7)

I was having way too much fun yesterday catching up with on-line friends and helping out my partner with (yikes!) his first set of dentures.  I never would have guessed as a teen metal head that I would have ever written the previous sentence as anything but fiction!

So, I've got two more Metallica favorites today.

From the new record, "Death Magnetic", is Unforgiven III.  The title makes me (and probably every other Metallica fan) cringe as the first two "Unforgiven" songs were more like the "muzak" produced by the Moody Blues in the 80's.

Boy, were we all surprised to find the word "Unforgiven" nowhere in this newest song in the series.  "III" also has lyrics that sound more like poetry than cliche and James' singing is some of his best!   

I also like it when fans can synch up music with visuals.  And, the fan-made video below uses some popular movie images and synchs nicely with the words.  Enjoy!


For "Holier Than Thou", I found a cover from Testament.  These guys were well poised in the '80's to be yet another metal band with the chops to keep up with the heaviest of the bunch.  Yahoo has an interesting biography on Testament, and it's an interesting story of what should have been.

In spite of their story, their cover of this tune from the Black Album is pretty good.  And, the dig on the heads of organized religion has always been fun for me to sing out loud (with me, faith is essential -- organized religion should be judged by the men in charge of that religion).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Metallica: Favorite song #9 "Master. . . " AND a bonus tune!

I was listening to Sirius/XM on my way to the public transportation.  Through mid-April, one of their music channels has been changed to  "Mandatory Metallica".

Yes, all Metallica music, all the time with no commercials and with clips of interviews from the band as well as fellow musicians and rabid fans with their favorite Metallica memory.

The channel even plays covers of Metallica original songs . . no matter into what genre the cover was recorded.

For instance, I heard a very unique version of Metallica's biggest hit song, "Enter Sandman".  The original isn't in my list anywhere -- I can appreciate the desire to and success of recording a hit song.  The song is just so "by the numbers" and pop-sounding, I just can't listen to Metallica's version of this song.

I can, though, enjoy The New Morty Show's version.  Hope you enjoy as well! (lyrics here)

I've listed the title track from the album "Master of Puppets" as my 9th favorite 'tallica tune.  Speaking of odd uses and versions of songs, I found a unique "punk" song which samples the main guitar riff from "Master . .".  Big time fans will find the riff easily.

There's just no limit to where Metallica's music reaches.

Better news for my budget / the next step in Afghanistan

Taking a new job that pays 30% less than my last job did, I am always on the hunt for ways to make a smaller paycheck go farther.

Nowadays, it actually becomes cheaper to use public transportation in the Los Angeles area (it wasn't always like this, but with gas prices just over $2 per gallon and my compact SUV getting 18 miles/gallon and a 25 mile one-way drive, a $5 day pass is actually a money saver when I add in less spent for maintenance and insurance).

My new employer is offering to pay for monthly passes in full if I continue to use the public transport.  It is the first time in over 17 years of working full-time that an employer made this much effort to encourage employees to use public transport.  I found out from HR today that about 100 out of 300 of the company's employees use the passes.

For the incredibly low price of $0.00 per month, I'm actually going to spend a little less on the car now than I did when I had to drive 5 miles one way to work.  I'm even getting full-day parking passes for 2 days a month at the employee parking lot and a $20 gift card to a nearby discount department store.


It is tempting to jump the gun regarding tomorrow's scheduled announcement from the President on the increase in troops going to Afghanistan.  

Articles posted today hint at a military/civilian strategy.  I'm pulling for "more civilian, less military' plan, but even I know well enough to leave my rose-colored glasses in the case.

More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Shortest Straw - my 10th favorite Metallica tune

"Ooooh weee Oh.  We Ohhhh Oh!"

Normally a song that starts with the chant uttered by the flying monkey guards in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz" seems doomed to silliness.   Not when Metallica does it (though there are some Metallica songs that are just downright silly.  But, these posts aren't here to complain or degrade).

I found what, I think, is a Japanese band named Thrasher (I'm sure of the name, just not the nation of origin).  A really good instrumental-only version of the song!

If you want to check out some of their original material, check out their My Space page.  They are most definitely Metallica fans and heavily influenced by them.  They then thread through the songs some electronic licks.  Unfortunately, the vocals are "Cookie Monster" style.  And, yes, to me there's a difference to Metallica's Hetfield growling and full-throttle singing style and the demon-styled sludge vocals of most of the newer metal bands.  If that makes me old, then so be it.  

Anderson Cooper To Report Live From US-Mexico Border

I have to say, I could see both sides of the argument pro/con legalizing marijuana & other "recreational" drugs.

When I saw this opinion pieces printed in *gulp* the Arizona Republic (?), it looks like legalization is the only sane and humane thing to do. Here's the link:


And, uh, yeah, Anderson is very easy on the eyes. When can we send him out to cover and participate in the world of Greco-Roman wrestling ?
About Mexico
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Afghanistan: If I can gather this much in 30 minutes. . .

 . . . then, well, I can just imagine how much our country's government must know about Afghanistan and they've had a lot of years and a whole building full of people dedicated to these sorts of things.  Unlike yours truly, who is still rooting around for more Metallica karaoke.

I'll start with an e-mail I got from a friend of mine directing me to Brave New Foundation's rethinkafghanistan.com website featuring a series of interviews (yay! all captioned!!) with professors from outside Afghanistan and representatives from the country itself talking about the futility of continuing our military engagement in Afghanistan.  

Now, I'm more of a lover than a fighter and, having lived for 3 years as a child outside of the U.S., I know first hand what is like to be a guest in someone's country and what sort of role an outsider should play in the host country's affairs.  Though this was 30 years ago, it seems most practical to engage in partnership to resolve problems rather than steamroll through someone else's countryside.

I noticed, though, a lack of military professionals in Part One of the videos (I will get to part two sometime soon).  So, using the search engine of this blog's kind host, I did a couple of simple searches.  Here was what I found:
Hmm.  Come to think of it, while I now have a thumbnail sketch of Afghan culture and two points of view on the military presence there, I only feel marginally smarter about any of this.

A couple of cliches come to mind as ways of coming to some sort of conclusion over our future plans there:
  • Those who fail to read/study history are doomed to repeat it.  Perhaps an overview of previous foreign intervention into Afghanistan/Pakistan and/or that region of Asia would shed more light.
  • Follow the money.  Who stands to benefit profit-wise from continuing the same course of action in Afghanistan?  Or, who stands to be sunk into unending debt?
Good thing others are working hard on this.  It's just about my bedtime here, anyway.

Metallica: Sad But True - (song 11)

The song title works with the lyrics AND the style in which the video clip below was made.

As the album "Metallica" (a.k.a The Black Album) was easily the band's most popular/biggest selling, I suppose it should have been obvious that since the songs have been out over 15 years that folks my age would readily step up to the mic and attempt to croak out the song to a group of ever more drunk bar patrons.

As cornball as this is, even I couldn't resist singing along.  Still, not the most happy/peppy words to warble to the genre's "muzak" style backing.  I defy you to sing this all the way through and not laugh out loud -- it's the visuals that tickled me.  Enjoy !

A new challenge

Starting tomorrow, I'm officially off the unemployment rolls as I begin a new second job!

I began this blog a few weeks after having been laid off.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if I would continue to post after I found a second job.  Almost five months later, I had to admit to a friend recently that I've felt compelled on a daily basis to write something, even if it is just a few sentences.  So, it looks like, for the moment, the postings will continue.

I also have to admit that I was told my new second job will begin tomorrow over a week ago.  However, a background check would first be conducted.  I heard from the agency earlier today letting me know when and where to show up tomorrow and assuring me the background check turned out just fine.

I'm all at once relieved (I had about 2 months of unemployment claim money left) and nervous (starting something new).

Wish me luck !

Monday, March 23, 2009

Metallica: Jump In The Fire - (song 12)

A little story to tell first:

One of the oddball memories of high school is asking one of my best friends one day to write out the lyrics to this song.  The vinyl LP (this was 1984, btw) did not come with lyrics and there were no web sites devoted to song lyrics (or music . . or entertainment.  Well, you get the idea).

He was only too happy to oblige.  If I still have that piece of notebook paper, it's well hidden away.  I also remember seeing a few sketches of the stage setup done by that same friend -- he had seen Metallica with a few other friends in January 1985 (at least as far as this t-shirt says -- he'll have to correct me himself).  It was practically like I had been there myself.

I did finally see Metallica for the first time in April 1986 and again on the Monsters of Rock tour at the L.A. Coliseum in 1989.  Though I'm a bit older now, I'm considering taking out the small loan now likely necessary to see them when they steam through So Cal in December.

I will pack the ear plugs, just in case.

Meanwhile, I found this "demo" version of Jump In The Fire.  Through the years, whenever I found an FM Rock station brave enough to play Metallica, they often would devote the start of an hour to several Metallica tunes at once.  It was there that I started to hear "demo" versions of my favorites.

I don't remember this version; however, the characteristic present in this version is the same I heard in other Metallica "demo" versions:  the music was basically there (just a little post-production and mixing needed), James' vocal style and melody was maybe 70 - 80% there and a couple of lines of chorus can be heard.

Same thing here -- the verses and much of the chorus is "blah blah blah"'d.  And, the final version is more professional.  But, it was just too cool to hear the raw beginnings of the band to pass up posting this version.

Oh, yeah, and METAL UP YOUR A** !!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This is just freakin' neat!

Gorgeous photos from nearly 20 miles above the earth by ingenious students who spent all of $125.00 to get them.  The Telegraph UK has the story (you'll want to read it then click on the link to the photos by clicking on the word photograph in the body of the story).

Lovely way to start off the week!

Metallica: Welcome Home (Sanitarium) - (song 13)

Here's a clip of the band Limp Bizkit performing this song and giving it their own spin.  I absolutely LOVED how Limp Bizkit gave a health shot of testosterone into George Michael's "Faith" and they do much the same here.  It looks like Kirk and Lars are well pleased with the performance (their reactions are edited in).

Now, when Limp Bizkit tries writing their own material, things start to fall apart.  Even with that, enjoy this! (lyrics here)

All around the blogosphere for 3/22/09

A "leftover" from yesterday's events:

In between protesters, police, tourists and residents, pairs of people were quickly hustling in, out and around as part of The Great Urban Race.  Something of a cross between a scavenger hunt and CBS' "The Amazing Race", I kept seeing stranger and stranger costumes from the race's participants.  The walls finally cracked when I saw a young Asian male duo both dressed as Power Rangers (one blue with the hood encasing the head and the other in yellow with the hood down).  I could not stop laughing in the midst of the light rail station and didn't let the odd stares bother me.

On a more serious note:

News from Raw Story:   a woman recovering from surgery related to cancer is suing one of the bailed out banks for wrongful termination.  I liked that her goal seems mostly to create awareness of the needs of employees on disability within the Human Resources department of the bank.

I've known far too many family members who battled with cancer.  I cannot imagine having to wrestle with the physical and emotional challenges of cancer AND having to stress over losing my job which provides my disability income and health insurance.  Shame on this bank!  She seems well on her way to having her day in court based on what is in the article and I cannot wait to see her victorious!

Oh, what a shocker?

In comparison to bonuses paid to the banks' Financial department employees AND the money paid to banks based outside of the U.S., the dollar amounts are miniscule.  Still, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck . .

More grist for the mill: 

The Boston Herald published an Op-Ed from Bill O'Reilly about an article that has not been written yet, only talked about in front of an audience at a university.  So much has been published about so many of the activities of the previous administration (there are more coming this week) -- couldn't O'Reilly have (been fed) formed an opinion on something there?

Well, if nothing else, tomorrow or Tuesday's Countdown airing will give Olbermann a chance to whip out the O'Reilly (bumbling Mary Tyler Moore news buffoon Ted Baxter) impression.  Why is this just so easy to do?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Anti-war rally and march in Los Angeles March 21, 2009

I took a bunch of photos while at yesterday's rally and march in Los Angeles / Hollywood CA.  Click here to go to the photo set on Flickr.

While at the rally, the hundreds in attendance either were taking pictures and/or video of the event, walked around with signs or were passing out literature.  I pulled everything I received today and found three postcards for pslweb.org, four small flyers shaped like currency -- two from livingwaters.com  and two from hopechapel.org (still cannot figure out why the churches needed to prostelytize at this event).

I also got flyers/pamphlets from antiracistaction.us, plp.org, endthefed.us, coalitionforworldpeace.org, and from three other similar groups.  So glad I wore pants with extra large pockets!

During the rally, the most impassioned speakers were Iraq war veterans who, by their very nature, can speak most effectively about the consequences of war.  And, the mother of an Iraq war veteran spoke even more fervently as her son suffered severely emotionally and has had problems ever since his return back to the States.  I could not help but think of my own mother and how she might have handled the same set of circumstances if it was me or my brother who had come back from war, been met with indifference and suffered needlessly due to inadequate psychological care.

My best guess on attendance is somewhere between 500 and 1000.  This was nowhere near the turnout of nearly 10,000 in mid-November last year to protest the passage of Proposition 8; however, the crowd did not lack for passion or strength and we certainly drew attention as we all processed through the streets of Hollywood.

The most significant minutes of today's events occurred shortly after the march toward Hollywood Blvd and La Brea.  The march had just turned a corner passing a trio of "Christian" counter-protesters who were shouting through bullhorns to all of us to repent, see the error of our ways, etc.  

A Middle Eastern woman just a few years older than I and her child asked me what the counter-protesters were trying to communicate.  Having seen similar protests in front of most every Gay Pride parade and festival, I explained that the trio was trying to deliver a message based on fear and hate.  

While most of the march participants were retorting with raised middle fingers and equally vitriolic quips, I now respond to these types of "Christians" by loudly saying "God loves you" or "God bless you" or something just as peaceful and positive.  She asked if the counter-protesters would be considered Evangelicals or Fundamentalists.  I explained that they were neither and comprised of a small ultra-conservative, fear-based faction and the best way to defend ones self against their message was to respond with messages of love and compassion.

She then asked me several times "I do not understand. Are they saying that this is what Jesus would do?" or words to that effect.  My prayer is that her and her family understood what I was trying to communicate and, by my responses, can now separate the fear/hate filled "Christianity" from the true message of love, peace and compassion from Christ.

I laughed, chanted, marched, photographed and witnessed a truly unique event today.  While the events today will likely do little to change the mindset of those in government who set and carry out our nation's foreign policy, it certainly packed a bigger punch than not having these types of events at all.

I also got a business-card shaped handout from a left-wing blogger at http://leftsolutions.wordpress.com.  I wished I had thought to make a few cards of my own to pass out yesterday amongst the protesters, so I'll have to hope that linking to this blogger's site will be another way of getting more of us connected and united.  

Metallica: Ride The Lightning (song 14)

Years ago, there was a bluegrass tribute to Metallica album released.  Is there nowhere Metallica's influence cannot be found?  Well, OK, I can't find a hip-hop nor a tejano tribute to Metallica (nor a song from either genre which covers a Metallica song or even samples from Metallica).

So, with that said, it looks like my music career track should include a stop in the lucrative hip-hop/tejano Metallica cover.  I'll be pefectin' my beats and sharpenin' my rhymes and will let you know when I've got it all worked out.  (Please, don't hold your breath, everyone).

The bluegrass version of "Ride the Lightning" is actually quite good.  Great fun listening to a truly "alternative" version of the lyrics (complete with harmony on the chorus!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Metallica: Blackened (song 15)

More love from the fans!

I have had a lot of fun finding links to all kinds of performances, tributes, etc.  For this song, I even found a site for the lyrics which includes comments from, I'd suppose, fans.  When you get to the site, click on "View Lyrics" to go to the lyrics.

Goings on way up north / preparation

Haven't been reading The Mudflats recently?  Last evening's "Bedtime . . " post was a very interesting collection of tidbits.  For starters, there's a note on a celebration upcoming in Auburn NY that has nothing to do with Alaska but a lot to do with Alaska's current governor, then another gathering scheduled for tomorrow, then yet another ethics scandal brewing -- this time one Republican versus another.

The post wraps with an update on the current hunting wolves from airplanes in Alaska situation, a possible Senatorial match up for next year, the race for Anchorage AK's next governor and a link to a fellow Mudflats follower.

That's a whole lot of news from a state with less than 700,000 citizens.  So, what am I missing living in L.A. County with 14 times the population?

With that in mind, you may have noticed the little badge on the left side of the screen for an event happening tomorrow.  I have seen gatherings like this on C-SPAN in past years and haven't heard of any arrests nor seen any kind of violence at these types of things.  It will be only the 3rd time I have attended a protest march/rally of any sort.  There is, oddly enough, an easy-to-spot organization when I've been in the midst of these rallies/protests, so I'm quite calm about that.

My biggest curiosity is to see how many show up tomorrow and how many will be on the light rail with me as I go in to L.A. (the rally starts at an intersection right next to the light rail - very convenient!).  I'll have a digital camera with me, not that I expect to take many impressive photos (you've seen the photos of mine I have posted . . . I seem to love including the sky in everything).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Metallica: Last Caress/Green Hell (song 16)

Another "Garage" favorite of mine, it's also the only "medley" recorded by the band.  25+ years and no submission to a Vegas lounge-style medley of hits.  If/once that happens, I will truly know then that I have gotten old.

I thought I 'd change this up and give you a compare/contrast video clip.  Below I have Metallica performing "Last Caress" (lyrics here), then the original artist behind both songs, Misfits, performing "Green Hell" (lyrics here).

This is so freakin' cool !

Thanks to MSNBC's website for writing up an article and giving the link to the company named Terrafugia.  So Awesome!  At $20/month now being put into my savings account to pick one of these bad boys up, I need to bump it up to maybe $120 a week so I can enjoy my first flight at age 71!  Sure hope I can still drive then -- it's so gonna be worth it!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Metallica: Disposable Heroes (song 17)

My favorite Metallica album of all time is "Master of Puppets".  It was not the first record they released and not the first one of theirs I heard.  It wasn't even the first album I bought (that honor goes to Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall").

I think I might have heard the album once or twice after I bought it before passing it along to several other of my high school friends for a few play-throughs.  I still have the vinyl copy I bought back in 1986.

I have a few other great memories from those times I tie together with that album that I'll share in the coming days.

Here's the first of 5 (out of the eight songs on the album) favorites from "Master of Puppets".  This one's called "Disposable Heroes".  The lyrics are a little out of step with the military's  current state of affairs, but there's no arguing with the tone.  This fan's keyboard cover of the song does a good job at displaying the tone without the benefit of hearing the lyrics:

Here is what all the fuss is about: AIG

I almost got out of needing to write about the latest "we're all so ticked that the big fat cats at the ailing financial company got paid big time while us taxpayers got the shaft" story.

Then, as I was driving to pick up lunch, I was listening to Nancy Skinner.  (BTW, I REALLY miss Randi Rhodes on the radio.  Though, what I heard from Nancy Skinner today really helped me appreciate how much she has improved as a host in the past couple of months)

She played clips of testimony offered to (a subcommittee) earlier today by AIG CEO Ed Liddy.  The on-line audio/video isn't captioned, but this Op-Ed written by Mr. Liddy in yesterday's Washington Post is a pretty good encapsulation of what I heard on the radio.

Here's the most important part of what Mr. Liddy wrote on 3/17/09 (per the Washington Post) and what he said earlier today:

"Although (AIG has) wound down more than $1 trillion in the portfolio of the AIG Financial Products unit . . ., there remains substantial risk in that portfolio.


To prevent undue risk exposure in the meantime, AIG has made a set of retention payments to employees based on a compensation system that prior management put in place (Mr. Liddy joined AIG in September 2008, well before the contracts were signed).  As has been reported, payments were made to employees in the Financial Products unit.  Make no mistake, had I been chief executive at the time, I would never have approved the retention contracts that were in place more than a year ago.  It was distasteful to have to make these payments. But (AIG) concluded that the risks to the company, and therefore the financial system and the economy, were unacceptably high."
The alternative would have been to tell these employees something like:

 "Look, we lost a heckuva lot of money last year and there's no way we can afford to pay out the retention bonuses now".   

At that point, the employees could have chosen to enforce the terms of the contract by retaining attorneys and suing AIG


they could have worked out an alternate agreement (i.e. pay the same bonus 6 months from now or pay half now and half six months from now or something else).

Somehow, the best thing to do was to write the checks then and there?  There was no one at AIG that could have offered some kind of incentive and/or a higher bonus for having to wait another 6 months or another year for that bonus??

Better questions:

What is going on at AIG that is worse than what is happening now which would lead AIG to think it better to pay the bonus now?  

What might the employees know and cannot say under a standard employee non-disclosure agreement that the retention bonus would help to keep silent?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Metallica: Cyanide (song 18)

The new album, "Death Magnetic", after 25+ years as a band, could have been perfunctory or just an excuse to tour for the next 2 years playing all their greatest hits.

Instead, they brought on producer Rick Rubin who did just what he has done for Linkin Park, the Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers -- gave them permission to be who they are.  In the process, they made an amazing metal record that nearly erases the last 17 years of experimenting and going through all kinds of sturm und drang.

This song, "Cyanide" is now being played heavily (at least on Sirius/XM), so I'll presume other fans are loving the song and is perhaps winning over a few new fans.  My favorite parts of the song are the parts where only the bass and drums are playing.  It's a sound fans likely won't remember hearing since ". . .And Justice For All".

Enjoy this video with a nifty lighting theme in honor of St. Patrick's day:

Just an interesting article Science/Medicine related

Not everything out there is politics, money and/or music!  I have to confess, though, that I did come across this article while scanning through Raw Story.

Very interesting notion developing a tool to measure levels of consciousness and what researchers have and will learn in all of this development may prove even more interesting (just my opinion).

I'll let you insert your favorite media/politician joke regarding conscience here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Metallica: "The Frayed . ." (song # 19)

This one was easy to put on my list of favorite Metallica songs. Strangely enough, I could not find an official video, a tribute/cover performance or a live performance of the song. According to at least one fan site, Metallica never even played the song in concert as they toured to support the album on which the song is included, ". . . And Justice For All".

But, I know I am not alone in loving this song. I found an unusual on-line piece of artwork inspired, I presume, by the song's lyrics. (some of the lyrics are quoted as part of the piece).

The song's intro also features this instantly recognizeable chant from a much beloved movie. IMHO, it's worth the 99 cents to buy a copy of the song from iTunes (look for "The Frayed Ends of Sanity") -- it's a good example of how they transitioned from the progressive-rock style of their '80's music to the gentler, pop-style metal they made in the '90's.

Psychic Business Boom During Weak Economy

Wow! If you thought those working for the big financial company conglomerates were using bailout money for all manner of outrageous, irresponsible behavior, you haven't seen anything like one of these "psychics" fleecing desparate, demoralized people out of money they could be using to buy food, pay rent/mortgage, etc.

If you really want to help someone in trouble, reach out to them so they don't have to reach to one of these confidence scam artists . . uh, I mean psychics.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Metallica: Fight Fire With Fire (song #20)

Having a little over 25 years of music released and soon-to-be recognized Hall of Famers, it was only a matter of time before other artists from various music genres would cover Metallica's songs in their own style.

While in no way, shape or form would anyone consider Apocalyptica a "Metallica cover band", they have easily recorded the largest amount of Metallica's music in a way that honors the original, in some ways improves on the originals and makes Metallica's music their own.

I found a clip of Apocalyptica performing "Fight Fire With Fire" live.  Apocalyptica has since become as famous (if not more so) for performing more of their own material, even breaking into the mainstream a little with the song "I'm Not Jesus" featuring Corey Taylor of Slipknot.

The version below is instrumental only as Apocalyptica is primarily an instrumental string quartet.  Yes, a string quartet.  Here are the lyrics

Mama gets overshadowed by the guy who used to wear bow ties ?

And, by "Mama", I mean the affectionate term fans of Stephanie Miller (like me) use to address her during her daily political/humor radio show.

I recorded CNN's "Reliable Sources" this morning with a short cup of coffee and waited to see Mama set up and knock down the host and pundits with her sharp commentary and goofy humor.

Sadly, all the accounts written talk about Tucker Carlson and all of the shrieking he did about Jon Stewart.  Does he get that the comedy dude should not have to be a news reporter AND that someone who works on an all financial news channel should not mostly be know for the comedy?  I'd safely say that those fans of The Daily Show (like me) are fully aware that Stewart is all about the comedy yet is sharp enough to use the news to create the comedy.

Huffington Post has the transcript of the exchange -- just look for MILLER in the transcript to read what Stephanie contributed.  Again, so very odd to watch this and have the very funny lady have to deliver the most insightful commentary on this guest spot on an all-news channel.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Metallica: Helpless (song #21)

In between albums, Metallica has taken breaks to quickly record what they have called "Garage" music.  These have been cover versions of songs they like and/or by which have been inspired.

Before they recorded the album ". . .And Justice For All", they took then-new bassist Jason Newsted into a studio to record an EP called "The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited".

"Helpless" was originally recorded by Diamond Head.  There are a lot of fan favorites in this Garage album as well as "Garage Inc.", which folded in previous "Garage" covers and a whole new album of covers.  At their best, Metallica's cover versions of songs just bring out the best in the original while keeping true to their roots.

Here's a bluesy version of the tune they recorded for some kind of special on MTV.

Henrik Stenson Plays Last Round Of World Golf Championship In His Underwear

Now this is what I have been talking about. Mr. Stenson was just doing his part to boost morale in a difficult time in our country's history. Some of us volunteer time at a local charity, some of us provide a shoulder to lean on and others of us prey.

At least a polite "golf clap" is necessary here. Perhaps this will encourage others to make the sacrifice!
About Sports
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

A happy start to the weekend

With very rare exception, I have never understood the need to sentence convicted criminals to death.

If sentencing as many people as the U.S. does to death acted as a deterrent to crimes like murder, I could easily support this.  It just doesn't.

One silver lining to this economic mess is that states (like New Mexico just yesterday) are starting to get rid of the death penalty under the reasoning that this sentence just costs the state too much money.  Life imprisonment without parole is more cost effective.

The last few months have been an opportunity as a country to rethink our approach to so many things.  It will be interesting to see how much further changes in the justice / correctional system will go.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The best band EVER -- 22 days 'til induction!

. . or, it would have been 22 if I had posted this about 2 hours ago.  Was having too much fun putting this together.

My favorite band ever is Metallica.  And, just one year after they qualified for induction, they will join all of the other greats in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4.

I have ran through lists of songs on all of their albums and have come up with a list of 22 tunes that I would put on a "Greatest Hits" double CD.  So, at one song a night, I'll share a memory, link to a "making of" story, post a clip of a cover of the song or, as I have done tonight, find a You Tube clip of the band itself performing the song of the night.

Starting this countdown at # 22 is the last song on the original version of their very first full length album "Kill 'em All".  The clip appears to be from 1983 as lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield at one point holds the vinyl LP cover up and tells the crowd what the album was supposed to be titled and why the title was changed.

I've seen Metallica only twice.  My first time was in April 1986 . . and I'll save that story for later.

I remember three of my buddies had seen Metallica during the Kill 'em All tour -- it is likely that show in Northern VA (or D.C or Maryland) looked much like the one below.  Would love to get their story about that night posted somewhere on-line (if I hear from any of them, I'll link to their post).

Why start with this song?  Anyone who was fans of this band from the very beginning (I'll tell the story of my first time hearing Metallica later as well) will readily identify themselves as members of the Metal Militia.

(click here for lyrics, though I'm pretty sure some get forgotten in the performance and the last verse and chorus are dropped)

Corruption! Corruption!

Now, what kind of political blogger would I be if I passed up the opportunity to write something up about corruption in politics?  However, while most bloggers would pick a team and stick with them, I'd like to think I can take a seat in the bleachers and train my binoculars at both the left and right field to get a better idea as to how the game is played.

So, I took a look at a video report filed at Pajamas TV by Jason Mattera of Young America's Foundation (there's a pop-up window I got when I visited - just thought you deserved a warning).  I do look forward to a future report from Jason on corruption in the Republican ranks; however, this report was all about House of Representatives Democrats.

I'm not going to be able to sift through it all here - the report can be viewed for free and you're welcome to catch what I could not and add comments to this blog or start your own.  From the looks of things, practically anyone can start a blog, so why not start one over this issue?

Here's what I'll share:

Charles Rangle (D-NY):  Jason mentions the "17 foot Cadillac DeVille" Mr. Rangle leases at "$800.00 a month".  A local NYC TV station wrote about this in May 2008 and mentioned other U.S Representatives and their car leasing choices.

For a little perspective, the Saturn VUE I have measures 15 feet in length.  I am only 12% off  - - so close to the Corruption! standard.

Accusations of taxes not being paid by Mr. Rangle were also made by Jason and, with a simple Google Search using the words Charles Rangle tax, can easily be confirmed.

John Murtha (D-PA):  Jason confronts Rep. Murtha about "eight Haditha Marines" whom Jason said Mr. Murtha said "killed innocents in cold blood".  A Pittsburgh PA TV station reported that one of the eight U.S Marines who were " . . charged after 24 Iraqi civilians were killed in Haditha (Iraq)" was "planning to file suit in federal court against Murtha on (September 25, 2008)".  The article also reports that, at the time the report was written, seven of the eight Marines had been cleared of those charges.

The bastion of liberal media MSNBC talks about what was said and when in this article from May 2006.  Oh, wait, I must've missed the uber-liberal pinko-commie bias MSNBC injects into practically everything they "report" - - I could only find an account of the incident and what Mr. Murtha said at the time.

Jason seems to not be able to tell the difference between this Pennsylvania Representative and a certain notorious organization based in the Middle East.

Jason also seems to be very proud of rehashing Corruption! today which local TV stations had reported over six months ago.

As a budding blogger myself, I have no business quashing enthusiasm nor attempts to shed new light into old news.  It's usually best to just let us on-line folk speak/write as we choose then fact check on your own.

Oh, what fun!  Ooh, and I've left Nancy Pelosi, William Jefferson (who was not reelected in November 2008 back to the House), Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank to you all to watch Jason's report then make up your own minds.

I have already made up my own mind on this.

The protest outside my door today

Got back from taking my partner to the lab for blood work and saw this display in the neighborhood.

The pink sign on the back of the white SUV reads: 

60 balloons, 60 layoffs

On the far left of my photo is a public school in the neighborhood.  Sadly, 60 of its teachers are facing pink slips (thus, the pink sign and balloons) today due to the struggles of California's state budget.  While it was signed recently, all kinds of cuts were made to it.

At times like this, I wish I had the command of economics, government and budgeting to  find a way to avoid laying off public school teachers and other state employees while not hiking taxes on all of the state's residents.  I am a home health care worker who is paid by a combination of state and county funds.  At $9.00 per hour, my guess is teachers are a little better compensated than I (and, rightly so).  However, laying off people like me puts our clients (seniors and the disabled) into group homes and nursing homes as residents (we do household and para-medical work which helps people maintain their independence in their own homes) at a considerably higher cost.

I cannot even imagine what price we will pay if we do not have enough teachers to educate all of our state's children.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My days of unemployment are (hopefully) over!

I said "Yes!" to a job offer I received earlier today.  The job, pending my passing a background check, starts on 3/25/09.

Like many others who have been unemployed and found a new job recently, I had to take almost a 30% pay cut.  Even with that, the pay is still a little better than continuing to collect Unemployment.  The office is quite close to public transportation, so I should be able to keep my gasoline costs and car insurance costs down.  While my management chops will be sidelined for now, the company is in what appears to be a growth industry.

In this little sliver of the blogosphere, the only concern is that once I start the new job, I'd hate it if the volumne/quantity of writing slows way down or stops altogether.  Last time I wrote for my own pleasure was when I had a job which had several hours of down time during the day.  My hope is that the light rail rides will give me the chance to at least sketch out some ideas I can blog about here.

A whole new adventure awaits !

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Alabama and Baden-Wuerttemberg

Other than both states being in southern part of their respective countries (the U.S and Germany), until a few days ago there was not too much that they had in common.

Sadly, this week, they both experienced brutal and shocking tragedies

For both, according to the articles, their last tragedy occurred in 2002.

When those in the blogosphere attempt to tie these two events together and, inevitably, ask something like "Is this a sign of worse things to come?"

I was compelled on Monday to write a bit about the growing population of unemployed and how, in between job searches and interviews, they are also a growing base of volunteers.  Germany, as well as other European countries, is also experiencing rising unemployment.

It seems to me that the message I wrote on Monday could be applied to those in Germany as well.

Though, unlike in Alabama, the troubled soul in Germany was a teenager, the issue of gun control could find its way back into the news.  As I usually see things from a liberal perspective, I could make a decent argument for further gun control.

However, any gun, entirely on its own, cannot fire itself.  

What could we all do to help those with anger, frustration, fear and a sense of helplessness become convinced that grabbing and using a weapon on family, friends and co-workers is not the way to recover from those negative emotions?

'Great Sex: God's Way' Sermons Cause Stir In Rural Alabama

For those "Christians" who seem to think sex is something embarrassing, shameful, yucky, etc., I invite them to turn in their Bibles to a chapter called Song of Solomon.

Keep your eyes uncovered and pick up your dropped jaws.

Not keen on reading? Here's a link to a devotional/sermon on this chapter: www.songofsolomon.com/devotionalCurrent.asp

The worst thing we do regarding sex is refusing to talk openly and honestly about it. If this starts a conversation about it, then I'm all for it.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to help

I really liked spirit behind this announcement by Tonight Show host Jay Leno.  The execution of the event should be very challenging.  Maybe everyone gets lucky and only those who qualify are the ones let in next month.

With thanks to my partner, I watched the first have of The View today (yes, in every relationship, there is compromise.  This is one way of compromising with one of my partner's favorite shows).  Leno was explaining to the hosts that he wanted to do something to help those who are struggling with unemployment and just don't have the money to spend a night out.  He then told the hosts as he has "no marketable skills but (he knows) how to tell jokes".

In the coming weeks and months, there will be even more opportunities to volunteer time and talent.  Myself included, the growing numbers of unemployed workers are a volunteer-ready population growth.  Besides doing things to boost morale, there will be more opportunities to provide transportation, a set of hands with which to serve meals, clean up spaces, etc. and to be a sounding board and a shoulder to lean on when life begins to feel overwhelming.

With the state of the economy and the optimism evident in the President's job approval numbers, I was quite surprised to read about the results of a survey regarding participation in churches/synagogues/mosques.  They show that self-identification with most organized religions is slowly on the decline with a small increase in the population of atheists, agnostics and "New Religious movements".

It is anyone's guess as to why the changes noted in the survey have occurred.  I was always under the impression that in times of difficulty that people would return to organized religion for support.  In my home church, I see the attendance increasing slightly.

Since it's my blog and opinions being like a-holes, my guess is money is at the root of the decline.  In many traditional Christian churches, tithe and/or monetary gifts are collected as plates or baskets are passed amongst the congregation.  At the non-denominational Christian church my brother attends, nothing is passed amongst the congregation.  Instead, drop boxes that look a little like the stand into which torn movie tickets are dropped at the local multiplex.

No pressure at all for anyone to have to put money in the plate.  I can see the appeal of this when everyone is watching every last dollar and cent.

With all off this, I still see opportunities.  Everyone has the potential to be of help to someone in need, even if it's just sitting with someone, putting on a pot of coffee and listening.  As many of us as possible will need to be ready to pick up the slack from the decline of affiliation with organized religion.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Adventures in job hunting, part 2

I had my first "second interview" earlier today since I began the job search in late October 2008.  All I can say is that for a position with no management responsibilities, I still cannot figure out why I had to spend two and a half hours talking to four different managers.

Even with that, I still appreciated the experience of interviewing.  I finally realized that I spend a lot of time in interviews answering what should be fairly routine interview questions.  My guess is that I either babble when nervous or, because I'm nervous, I use a lot of words when just a few will do.

The last interviewer forced me to answer with two adjectives only on two of her questions.  It was a mirror in to which I needed to "look".


Lots of politics/science/religion news to digest, but I need to detour for tonight.  I found this 80 second clip on BBC's news website about a melee which broke out in Bogota, Columbia.

And it's not what you might expect for a violent outburst in Columbia.  The problem started when fans of the band Iron Maiden busted past temporary barriers before a concert.  Here's the story.

Iron Maiden was the first band I saw live for which I bought a ticket.  I had seen a rock concert a few years earlier; however, my uncle was the drummer in a local band, so I kind of had more of a backstage pass.  That was the same summer I was introduced to one of the best rock albums of all time, Rush's "Moving Pictures" and I seemed to have not stopped trying to find the band that can top them.

I did hear a song released just a few months ago and it is now starting to get some airplay:  The Last Vegas "I'm Bad".  I could have sworn that the singer was the original singer for the '80's hair-metal band Ratt.  I got educated on the band pretty quick.  The sound reminds me a lot of that hair-band sound while mixing in present day rock music (lyrics here).  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Police: Ill. pastor deflected gunshot with Bible

God was, and is, comforting the congregation and staff at the church, giving those who need to cry a shoulder to lean on, strength for those who need to be of help and, because I'm not in charge of this, I'll assume the Pastor is in Heaven.

Like any parent, God gives comfort when we hurt and ask for God's help. Sometimes, God even cries along with us if we need it. Also, like most good parents, God doesn't stay two steps ahead to grab us at the first sign of a stumble. How else to learn to walk but to fall down every now and then?

Any pastor/reverend worth their salt will tell you they have doubted God, gotten angry at God and have been odds with God from time to time, as would any true Christian.

I'm going to visit their website and leave a message of sympathy. I'll then trust that God will guide those who need to read all the messages and, if nothing else, know they are not alone.

I'll also pray that the response to this horrible act is kindness, openness, generosity and an opportunity to let go of anger and pain.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Doing my part to save the nation's economy . . sort of

One of the sunny Southern California shopping malls -- can you see the faint, slightly darker yellow circle inside the rectangular yellow square toward the left?  

There was a time so many years ago where a Saturday visit to the mall was a grand adventure.  Within 40 miles of my home, even now, I have at least a dozen malls from which to choose.  Those malls, like the one I visited yesterday, now have at least one and usually two of their "anchor" department stores now left empty.  Inside these malls, there is a real mix of traditional shops and all other types of uses for all of that empty space.  The one I visited yesterday now includes a Navy recruiter, a large movie house, a gym/sports club and many "mom and pop" type of retailers.

And, yesterday, I stepped out in faith and did something I had not done since early December 2007 - - I went on a shopping spree!

Here comes the "sorta" part:

I went to a large book store and, armed with six book store gift cards, picked up a primer on baseball, a quirky murder mystery novel and a very pretty special edition photo magazine as a birthday gift for my partner (yes, I used a gift card to buy a gift.  12 months ago I would've been a cheapskate.  Now? I'm thrifty!).

Then, I rifled through the clearance racks in a large discount clothing store as well as the two remaining traditional department "anchor" stores in the mall.  For an early Saturday afternoon, though, the mall seemed quite empty.  Most of those there were either sitting around chatting with each other and/or entertaining their kids on those "slide a quarter in" kiddie rides.  Even as I got close to noon, the food park was maybe 20% full.

I was almost grateful for the lower back pain I get after doing a lot of stop-and-start walking so I wouldn't realize how much the atmosphere in the mall has changed in the last few years.  I might well have picked up on subdued mood had I not been listening to my MP3 player (shopping to the beat).

For a couple of hours of buying clothes for $10 or less and taking advantage of all the sales, I checked out "Watchmen" at the moviehouse attached to the mall.  I have not read the graphic novel on which the movie is based.  In spite of this, I really enjoyed the movie.  I got the impression the story is less about the costumed heroes and more about the human condition.  Ambitious subject matter for a movie now showing on thousands of movie screens.  I can well imagine why, no matter who writes/talks about the movie, the opinions are passionate.

Now that I've singlehandedly saved the economy in this part of the country yesterday, I'm taking today off to prepare for a job interview tomorrow.  

Friday, March 6, 2009

A sign of things to come or a reflection of California's current economic state?

A tent city in California's state capitol, Sacramento?

The story has been told on Oprah and a photo version of it is on the MSNBC website.  In the interest of being impartial, here is a version of the story as told from the English point of view.

While the photos and video tell a very dramatic story and February's unemployment figures are like icing on a really lousy cake, here's a little perspective.

As of 2007, the population of Sacramento, CA is just over 460,000.  A close comparison population wise in California is Fresno, roughly in the center of the state, at a population of 470,000.

From the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2007 estimates of the homeless population in Sacramento (city and county) was 2,452.  In Fresno, the number was 4,247

As far as foreclosures, which is likely to generate some percentage of newly homeless, RealtyTrac now lists over 4400 properties in Sacramento as "Pre-foreclosure" and over 7200 properties as "bank owned".  In Fresno, over 2600 properties are listed currently as "Pre-foreclosure" and nearly 3600 as "bank owned"

While the articles I found about Sacramento estimate 1200 live in the tent city at the outskirts of the city, I could not find current estimates for Fresno, if a tent city has even been permitted to stand.  If one exists there, it is likely a couple of hundred people are living in that tent city.

So, what does all of this mean?

First of all, California is one of five states which is experiencing the highest percentage of foreclosures.  Further, our state's unemployment rate is now over 10% (San Diego county is doing better than the rest of the state - - scroll 2/3rds down the article for the entire state's latest unemployment numbers).  With figures like this, residents feeling the need to move into vans, tents, etc., is not as surprising.

While at least one charity has been providing assistance to those living in tent cities, the state is just now getting over the budget drama and is not in the best position to provide help.  The Recovery Act and the U.S's upcoming fiscal year budget will provide some assistance with getting as many as want to return to apartments/houses.  

However, as we all have heard these last few months, do not be surprised if this situation gets worse before it gets better.

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