Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Client List

"Capitalist globalization today involves an unprecedented "commodification" of human beings. In the last 30 years, the rapidly growing sex trade has been massively "industrialized" worldwide. This process of industrialization, in both its legal and illegal forms, generate profits amounting to billions of dollars. It has created a market of sexual exchanges in which millions of women and children have been converted into sexual commodities. This sex market has been generated through the massive deployment of prostitution (one of the effects of the presence of military forces engaged in wars and/or territorial occupation in particular in the emerging economies, the unprecedented expansion of the tourist industry, the growth and normalization of pornography, and the internationalization of arranged marriages.

The sex industry, previously considered marginal, has come to occupy a strategic and central position in the development of international capitalism. For this reason it is increasingly taking on the guise of an ordinary sector of the economy. This particular aspect of globalization involves an entire range of issues crucial to understanding the world we live in. These include such processes as economic exploitation, sexual oppression, capital accumulation, international migration, and unequal development and such related conditions as racism and poverty."
- Globalization and the Sex Trade: Trafficking and the Commodification of Women and Children, by Richard Poulin

I love Love, love her!
I've always been a fan of Jennifer Love Hewitt, or at least for the last 32 years or so, which come to think of it is very odd as she's only 31 years old.
Oh yes, she's pretty and all, but who cares about that. Lots of girls are pretty. As a matter of fact I think they secretly strive to be pretty! (a little known fact: the more a woman's face does not look like a man's, the more beautiful she tends to be).
No I've always liked Jennifer because she seems to be such a nice person and all, she's very talented, and I think she was very cute when confronted with a snake on the Tonight Show. Oh yeah, she put up with Jackie Chan in "The Tuxedo" (she would be the one and only reason to watch that particular film). And she has come down to visit us here on Skid Row at times, notably on Thanksgiving, but other times as well (see the short story "Love").
From the beginning of her career on the Disney Channel, throughout all of the films and television shows, she's turned into a very accomplished and talented actress (and she can cry on cue... very difficult) in both comedy and drama.
And she's very cute too (yes, yes, I know, but I can't help it)... for a girl.
It wasn't too long ago as I recall, that she longed to be called something other than "cute," as many child actresses do.
Well I think we can safely say she moved on from the "cute" stage, and on to full fledged femme fatal.
As is demonstrated in the new Lifetime Channel movie, "The Client List," which I had the pleasure of watching Sunday (the 25th). The pleasure was watching her performance. The actual story, which was based on a true 2004 incident, was exceptionally sad really, a cautionary tale dealing with the realities of maintaining an economic certitude in the reality of the Bush era.
Remember when some lady complained to Bush during one of his fake Town Hall Meetings in Omaha, that she had to work three jobs just to make ends meet, and he looked at he and smiled that asshole smile of his, and said, "Uniquely American, isn't it?" What a dick.
"For a quarter of a century, from 1980 to 2004, while U.S. gross domestic product per person rose by almost two-thirds, the wages of the average worker fell after adjusting for inflation. Over the three decades from 1972 to 2001, the wages and salaries of even those Americans at the 90th percentile (those doing better than 90 percent of their fellow citizens) experienced income gains of only 1 percent a year on average. Those at the 99.9th percentile saw their income rise by 181 percent over these years (to an income averaging almost $1.7 million). Those at the 99.99th percentile had income growth of 497 percent." - Monthly Review.
Yes there seems to be a sharp disparity in the in the ability of the average Middle Class wage earner being able to make a living, and the ability of the top earners to hold on to and maintain their wealth. It is not a big surprise that during the period mentioned above (1972 to 2004), the Republicans held the presidency 22 years to the Democrats 12.
Anyway, in "The Client List," Jennifer goes back to her Texas roots (she was born in Waco) to play Samantha Horton, a former beauty pageant winner (Miss Texas), and mother of 3, who comes to some pretty hard times. Her Husband becomes disabled and is unable to find work. She is an unemployed physical therapist, and faced with no income and the mortgage on their home about to foreclose, she seeks employment, is offered a job at a message parlor and discovers it is a front for prostitution. At first she refuses to work there, but when faced with the economic realities she and her family faced, she takes the job, becomes very good at it, gets involved with drugs, and eventually gets busted by the police who are following the bidding of a local prosecutor up for re-election. She and her husband split up after he finds out what was going on. She is offered a reduced sentence if she provides the names of her prominent clients, which she does. She spends a little time in jail, and after awhile the possibility of getting back with her family is presented.
Love, as always, was wonderful in the role. She's got that Texas accent down... I don't know why, and she is a very attractive lady, not so much cute anymore (although she still is cute too... for a girl)
She's gone on television to discuss the role, talked about what her mother thought about her portraying a prostitute, and she spoke of the hard times this country faced in 2004, and faces today, economically, that did not force, but provided the impetus for her character doing what she did.
And today, more and more women are turning to this kind of lifestyle, or are human trafficked and through virtual slavery forced into prostitution. Children too. As this is not just an American problem, it is a global one.
I at one time used to be very familiar with pornography and that business (I no longer use or consume its products, as it seems to be a great big waste of time, among other considerations... besides, Erin wouldn't approve). I've gone to A.A. meetings with female porn stars, and have heard them speak of the industry. I sometimes celebrate the birthdays of some of my favorite ladies who worked in that field during the 1980s, because, well, they actually acted back then, some of them being very talented, and they meant a lot to me at the time.
But that was a different era. True, some of those ladies got into the business due to drugs, some were coerced, many entered to find a few moments of fame, excitement, and fortune.
Today, and one can't help notice this if one owns a computer, the pornography business takes in thousands of new girls annually, and chews them up, uses them mercilessly, and then spits them out as fast as possible to make way for the next pretty face. I think a significant reason why so many of these ladies enter this dubious industry is simply due to the bad economy that free trade, de-regulation, and Wall Street greed has placed upon the country as a whole.
Not only the porn business, but prostitution in general, child porn, sexual slavery, and human trafficking for sexual purposes.
Both Republicans and Democrats are responsible (Clinton signed NAFTA into law), but the majority of causes of the current economic downturn, the stagnation of wages, the destruction of labor, the disparity between the richest of us and the poorest and the amount of resources the wealthiest control, have all came about behind Republican policies (or lack thereof), their world view, and their sociopathology.
Take the former House Majority Leader, Tom Delay for instance. This guy proclaimed he was a Born Again Christian, giving his life over to Christ to help end his alcoholism, and wicked amorous ways. And then this guy championed and advocated in the House of Representatives, sweatshops in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. Territory.
Conservative Senator Frank Murkowski (at the time) "Moved by the sworn testimony of U.S. officials and human-rights advocates that the 91 percent of the workforce who were immigrants -- from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- were being paid barely half the U.S. minimum hourly wage and were forced to live behind barbed wire in squalid shacks minus plumbing, work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, without any of the legal protections U.S. workers are guaranteed, Murkowski wrote a bill to extend the protection of U.S. labor and minimum-wage laws to the workers in the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas.
But one man primarily stopped the U.S. House from even considering that worker-reform bill: then-House Republican Whip Tom DeLay.
DeLay fully approved of the working and living conditions. The Texan's salute to the owners and (Jack) Abramoff's government clients was recorded by ABC-TV News: 'You are a shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America and leading the world in the free-market system'" - Mark Shields.
"When asked about reports of forced prostitution and labor abuses, DeLay told the Galveston County Daily News in May 2005: “Sure, when you get this number of people, there are stories of sexual exploitation. But in interviewing these employees one-on-one, there was no evidence of any of that going on. No evidence of sweatshops as portrayed by the national media. It’s a beautiful island with beautiful people who are happy about what’s happening.”
No evidence? DeLay’s support persisted even when a Department of Interior report documented that workers in Saipan’s garment factories were coerced into having unwanted abortions. The damage continues to this day, even though both men have been stripped of their power." - Rebecca Clarren
Tom Delay, the Republican Christian warrior for good, and traditional family ideals.
This is just one flagrant example of the hypocrisy of the Republicans. The pretend to care so much for the word of God and Christian traditions, anti-abortion and anti-pornography, abstinence sex education. However their actions, and the policies they promote facilitate just the opposite in the real world. More abortions and unwanted pregnancies due to abstinence only sex education, economic stagnation due to their lack of regulatory control over the runaway greed obsessed business community, mass poverty and homelessness, an explosion of the sex trade, an economic downturn that has turned global causing the same, or probably more aggravated circumstances just listed above around the world. This is the Republican legacy.
I'm not kidding. This is serious business. The Republicans would have us return to the same old Bush era policies of 2001 -2009, that promulgate global misery. We can not allow that to happen.
I do my part. I vote for Democrats in every election. I attend my case manager's Support Group, Cooking Club, Garden Club, and Yoga Class, so she won't lose her job and become a crack whore. And I try to keep myself well informed, so I am aware of what is going on in the country and the world.
Because I don't want you to take my word for any of the above, dear readers. You need to find out for yourselves and make up your own minds.
Just stay away from the Fox Propaganda Network and Rush, and you'll be okay.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Birthday April!

Happy birthday wishes go out today for one of my favorite actresses, Ms April Bowlby. A northern California girl, she studied ballet and French at nearby Moorpark College in Ventura, before deciding to take up acting. She secured her most famous role to date just months after her first audition, as the loveable (and I mean that in every sense of the word) Kandi on "Two and a Half Men," the program Shannon and I like so much (and which another of my favorite actresses also has a recurring role, Ms. Melanie Lynskey, whose birthday we've already celebrated. It's such a small world). April has since played on many other television shows, the 2007 film "All Roads Lead Home," and is currently working on the Lifetime series "Drop Dead Diva." All of us here at Joyce's Take wish the lovely Ms. Bowlby continued success, and a very happy birthday! Happy Birthday April!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


On July 18 I got up off my lazy ass and out of my box long enough to take the Red Line subway to North Hollywood, and Universal City's CityWalk.
I went there to go to the movies, which I hadn't done since "Avatar," came out last December. Not having a car, or desiring one, CityWalk is relatively easy for me to get to. All I need to do is take one of several Metro buses that are available to get downtown, to Broadway and 5th, let's say, to the Red Line Station at Pershing Square, then taking the actual Red Line subway under Los Angeles, under Hollywood, under the Hollywood Hills, to North Hollywood on the north side. The first stop (there are only two) is at Lankershim Blvd. near the Hollywood Freeway (101).
By the way, did you know, dear readers, that when they were building the Red Line subway they found over 2,000 fossils of creatures that lived a long time ago, including 64 extinct species of fish, the tusk of an Ice Age elephant and the bones of an ancient longhorn bison. Fossil evidence showed that tens of thousands of years ago, sloths, horses, elephants, and camels walked around among redwood trees in Los Angeles. Redwood trees! I don't know what kind of redwood trees were growing in L.A., there are many kinds of the Cupressaceae or cypress family, but they do include the sequoias, or coast redwoods, which I find very interesting, and which goes a long way in maintaining my argument that we should actually plant a sequoia in our garden in the back. Now I can no longer be laughed at and ridiculed for my vast forward vision. Now there is a precedent, by God!
The scientists also found evidence of a great flood in the San Fernando Valley, where I grew up, 9,000 years ago that swept away the sequoias.
So that's what happened to them!
Anyway, once at the Universal City station all one has to do is go up to the street, cross Lankershim, and wait for a shuttle bus to take you up the hill they have there to CityWalk, which is a thoroughfare actually, with restaurants, shops, games, concert theaters, bars, movie theaters, a bowling alley, and a spanking brand new Taco Bell.
I like Taco Bell. They have good soft tacos and cheese quesadillas there. They closed the Taco Bell in downtown L.A. about two years ago, and there aren't any close by so I've had to do without.
I hate that.
But I digress.
I go to CityWalk to get to the AMC movie theaters they have up there. They have about 14 different screens, and about 10 different movies you can watch. Inside they have enormously expensive popcorn and soda you can buy. It's like $12.50 for a large popcorn and soda! $12.50! You know how much it costs them to provide that popcorn and soda. About a dollar, including overhead.
I brought my own freaking popcorn, and I'm sorry to say, spent $5.25 on a large Coke.
I was there to see the new Christopher Nolan film, "Inception," of course. I saw it in theater number 3, which was one of their smaller theaters, but it was alright. I was there for the 12:40PM show, and the theater filled to about three quarters full.
The movie is 2 hours and 28 minutes long, and I would be there until about 3:30, after which I would go to the new Taco Bell and pig out. Uuuuummmmm. I wish I had one of their tacos right now.
The film itself was very good, very unusual. The vast majority of movie critics liked it to. As I write this "Inception," has been #1 at the box office in this country two weekends in a row, and might make a third considering what is debuting this Friday.
"Inception," stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page (she's so cute. I just saw "Juno," again over the weekend and she's just wonderful. Watch out for her in "Hard Candy," though), Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, and Pete Postlethwaite.
The film has been billed as a sci-fi heist thriller, which pretty well sums it up. Leonardo plays Dom Cobb, a man who makes his living entering others dreams and stealing secrets. He has been accused of murdering his wife (Cotillard. How she is murdered is not made clear in the film), and is unable to return to the United States, and to his children for fear of arrest. Watanabe's character offers him a deal that if he can plant an idea into the mind of a business rival, which is called inception, rather than stealing one, he will make it possible for Cobb to come back to the U.S. Gordon-Levitt, the kid from "3rd Rock from the Sun," all grown up, gave a terrific performance as one of Cobb's crew, which also consists of Page's and and Hardy's characters.
Digital effects are used sparingly but with amazing efficency, which along with the striking musical score serves to make a unique and lasting impression.
"Dreams within Dreams within Dreams."
And that's where Cobb and his cohorts go to get the job done... maybe.
Or maybe it's all a dream...
Or just a movie...
Apparently Nolan really really liked the 1969 James Bond film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," as there is a significant scene involving a battle at a snowy mountain top fortress, which gets blown up, just like in the Bond film.
As for myself the only thing I liked about that movie was Diana Rigg.
And I always liked Donald Pleasence as Blofeld, Bond's arch nemesis. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," had Telly Savalas for God's sake.
Anyway, the picture above is of all the major cast members hanging around the intersection of Hope and 7th Street (what's Erin doing up there!?), right here in downtown Los Angeles. My lovely case manager, Erin, Paul, Hardy and I drove through that very intersection this very morning (last Monday morning) when returning from Home Depot to buy some rakes for the Garden Club (Erin has her very own rake now, which we affectionately call, "Erin's Rake") .
Didn't see Leo though.
Anyway, they had a big car chase scene here in the downtown area. They filmed this sometime around August or September of last year. I didn't know anything about it. They're always filming stuff around here.
There was a cool scene where a freight train comes out of nowhere (it's a dream, remember), and runs into and over a bunch of traffic. That would have been fun to watch.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and was glad to come out of my box to see it. It's probably the most unique motion picture of the year, and will certainly be a huge success for Christopher Nolan and the cast.
There is some controversy as to whether Cobb is still dreaming at the end when he is reunited with his children. The little spinning top he uses to tell if he is dreaming or not is spun, but Cobb becomes distracted by his kids, and the camera blacks out before the top falls over which would ensure he is not dreaming.
Erin assures me, insists actually (she saw the movie too) that Cobb was not dreaming.
For me, well I'm not so...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reticence - Why are the Democrats So Nice to Republicans?

"Reticence" Hannah Stevens
Lawrence High School, Kansas

Reticent: Standards of modesty (also called demureness or reticence) are aspects of the culture of a country or people, at a given point in time, and is a measure against which an individual in society may be judged. Wikipedia.

Temperamentally disinclined to talk
Restrained: cool and formal in manner
Reluctant to draw attention to yourself.

Republicans in the United States House of Representatives think they will win back the leadership come the midterm elections in November. I don't know why. They've done nothing but try to impede the progress the President is desperately attempting to set into place, have in fact earned the moniker: "The Party of No," by obstructing at every turn advances Obama and the Democratic Congress have proposed. They have even stomped on the faces of their own constituents while doing so by blocking extended unemployment benefits to their own people, when it was they themselves who promoted those polices, or lack thereof, that lost these jobs, and got this country on the road to recession, or even depression, to begin with. And as the true sociopaths that they are, they continue to blame Obama and the Democrats for not doing enough, not improving the economy enough, not creating jobs fast enough, when it is themselves who are always obstructing progress.
Republicans must win 39 seats in November to take back the House, which White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs states may be possible.
I suppose that mathematically it is, but I see no other evidence for that statement. Congressional Democrats insist it will not happen. I don't believe the Republicans have a chance in Hell to win back the House, or Senate, which the Republicans also believe they will take back. I sure wish I knew what it is these Republicans are smoking so I could make sure to avoid it because I tend to want to be firmly entrenched in reality these days, rather than wishful fantasy.
It is true that historically if the country is facing uncertain times, or faced with continuing high unemployment such as we are now, that the party out in power traditionally wins the majority of Congressional seats during the mid-term elections. It makes no sense but this remains an historical fact. The populace is dissatisfied with those in power, who they feel are responsible for continuing the countries woes, and strike back by voting the opposition party back into power, or as close to it as possible.
That would make sense if the opposition party hadn't done everything in its power to obstruct the progress of the party who is in power, and their polices from taking effect, such as the Republicans have done. The Republicans are counting on their constituents being stupid, or uninformed, or low information voters, which is the polite way of describing it. They wish to trick their voters into placing them back in power so they can continue the very same policies that got us in this mess to begin with. Unfortunately, voters have short memories and attention spans, and they may gain a significant number of seats. It still makes no sense, just the opposite should happen. The party in power which is attempting to affect change for the better; affordable health care, financial reform that protects the consumer rather than leaving them at the mercy of exploitive capitalism, stopping the recession, ending hostilities in Iraq, etc., etc., etc., in this case the Democrats should be given the tools it needs to continue these policies unimpeded. They should be given more power, not less.
But we have all of these uninformed voters, and the so called Tea Partiers, who will cast their ballots based on their emotions rather than their intellect (whatever intellect they have after being giving their marching orders from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh), and what seems to be complacent Democratic base, who appear to be upset that Obama isn't progressive enough, or fulfilling his campaign promises fast enough, ignoring the political realities he faces with the obstructionist Republicans.
That makes no sense either. The left should be more energized than ever, insuring the Democrats gain more seats, not lose them.
Well, we shall see. I think my Republican friends may be in store for a nasty awakening. We shall see.
In the mean time some Republicans are already mouthing off about what they will do when they regain power: House Tea Party Caucus leader crazy Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) and House Minority Leader (The Red One) John Boehner (R-Ohio) agree: If Republicans win back control the House in November, they'll start issuing subpoenas, repealing legislation, and holding hearings to investigate the Obama administration.
"I think all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another and expose all the nonsense that has gone on," Bachmann said last Thursday at the GOP Youth Convention in Washington.
Boehner said last Wednesday that if he became Speaker of the House he would immediately repeal health care reform (which, by the way, he wouldn't have the power to do) as it "not only ruined the best health care system in the world (which it hasn't), it'll bankrupt the country (which it won't. Here once again the Republicans display a shocking lack of logic and morals. In the same statement Boehner implies the US has the "best health care system in the world," which is laughable, it has been rated 37th by the World Health Organization in 2000, the last time the list was made, and only may be true if one is rich enough to afford it. But he also states that health care reform, which has not even been fully implemented, has already "ruined the best health care system in the world," which it couldn't have done because it's not even in place yet. But he also states it will "bankrupt the country," sometime in the future, so now he's stating he's a fortune teller, and he knows all things past, present, and future, and he's very willing to bet your, and your families health and financial stability on his omniscience, as he does not offer a speck, not even a tiny little particle of evidence for his claim)." And last week, minutes after the Wall Street reform bill passed, Boehner said, "it ought to be repealed."
Well, I'll say this for them, they aren't shy about making their intentions known.
Liz Cheney, the Dick's daughter, who appears regularly on Fox News as an... well I don't really have any idea why she appears on Fox News, or any other news program as she has no qualifications other than once working in the Bush State Department in some capacity, and of course being the Dick's daughter. Well she recently demanded an independent investigation of a job offer the White House made to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) to get him out of the Pennsylvania Senate race. She demands! This is the same lady who was the biggest opponent of the idea of investigating the Bush administration's authorization of torture on terrorist suspects. She stated that an independent counsel looking into the matter would cripple (cripple) the intelligence community and be a big waste of time and money. And of course, she says, the harsh interrogation techniques used during the Bush years worked, so everything is just fine (again, no evidence for this statement has been presented by Liz, or anyone else).
Like most Republicans Liz feels it's okay to investigate Democrats for anything, no matter how minor, but when the investigative lens points in their direction, all of the sudden it's a big waste of time, money, and certain to send the country down the toilet.
My point is here that Republicans time and again have clearly demonstrated they are brutal hypocrites, willing to sacrifice the country for the sake of political gain, they only favor the richest among us, and the most powerful corporations, and will do anything in their power to promote the interests of these entities. They admit it! If not in word (which they quite often do), then in deed.
And what do the Democrats do? Nothing. They do nothing in the name of justice when we the people have given them the power to do so. The Obama Administration has steadfastly refused to investigate or prosecute members of the Bush Administration for obvious war crimes, including the former President himself, and Liz's dad. Investigations have not been held for Bush and Cheney lying us into at least one unnecessary war (Iraq), the use of torture which Cheney has openly admitted to and which is a crime of war (and which John Yoo has been exonerated by Obama's Attorney General), the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes, US attorney firings (which just got a pass from the Department of Justice), the outing of a CIA covert operative, domestic wiretapping (something the Obama Administration may be guilty of as well). I could go on and on.
And the Obama Administration's reticence to investigate and prosecute does not end with former presidents and their cronies. Recently ten so-called Russian spies where arrested in the US to great fanfare, brought to trial, and deported within a virtual blink of an eye, but when it comes to those responsible for the financial malfeasance demonstrated on Wall Street during the latest meltdown, has anyone been held accountable? The answer is quite simply no, they haven't. 1,500 bankers went to jail after the S&L crisis of the 70's, but the Obama Administration and the Democrats have held no one responsible for bringing the country to it's knees in the worst financial crisis since the 1920s.
Despite Obama's campaign promises to the contrary, their does seem to be two sets of law in his world, one for the rich and powerful, even formerly powerful, and another for the rest of us ordinary citizens. Even when those rich and powerful are devoted enemies of the current administration and Congress, they get the most flagrant passes from the Democrats and Obama's Department of Non-Justice.
That is why despite whatever advances Barrack Obama makes during his presidency, no matter what good he does for this country, and he is doing a great deal of good, I feel his is a failed presidency because he has not acted swiftly to bring justice to those responsible for the greatest crimes this century will probably witness. I hold him personally responsible for this, and if there is a viable alternative Democratic candidate who will challenge Obama in 2012, I will certainly give them my vote.
There can only be one law in this country, one law for everyone, and if Obama has broken the law by not investigating Bush and Cheney, then he should be prosecuted as well.
We shall see.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Banquet at 5th and Towne

Okay, time to get back to work now. Sorry for the lapses in posting, but I was caught up with the pre-release promotional tour of "Inception," and haven't got off until now.
But more about that later.
Locally though, things have been fairly quiet here at the Las Americas. Saturday morning (when I wrote this) I strolled over the 6th Street bridge at daybreak to start things off on an even keel. Stood in line for about half an hour to get some donuts and Ramen soup (and I don't really know why I did this. I went and got donuts the day before, which I hadn't eaten, although I did partake of a nice buttermilk donut Friday morning at our monthly Resident Meeting, where the staff gets to do all of the talking. I guess I just wanted the soup). And already that morning I'd been in contact with my lovely friend, Shannon, in Alabama, and my un-lovely friend, John Clark, who currently resides in Costa Rica. Ah the marvels of the Internet, Facebook, and Email.
And as I sat and wrote this I also watched this lovely little movie, "Across the Universe," which was chalk filled with Beatles songs, which I listened to with a great sense of nostalgia. (and it was only 8:48 in the morning, so I looked forward with great excitement to what would happen during the rest of the day).
The Beatles songs prompted me to find a nice Paul McCartney tune to sing for my lovely case manager at her next birthday party. We've already sang her a John Lennon song (Hey, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away), and one from George Harrison ("Here Comes The Sun"), so it had been bothering me that I couldn't come up with a McCartney song from memory to choose, and there's so many! But I soon found one after looking at a list which I think will work just fine. I'm sorry dear readers, but you'll have to wait until next May to find out which one.
My gosh, I'm not looking forward to 2012 when it will be time to pick one from Ringo (how is case manager Paul going to manage "Octopus's Garden?")
Anyway, it was hot here in LA last week, hitting the low 90s (my poor sister is facing much dire temperatures in Bullhead City, which should reach a high of 113 today... but she has air conditioning). I complain about the heat during the summers here because I am not allowed air conditioning in my box, and temperatures in it typically reach approximately 20 degrees more than the ambient temperature outside due to the bricks holding this hotel together. Why am I not allowed air conditioning? Funny you should ask. Something to do with the electrical wiring I'm told. Electrical wiring that does not seem to affect the case manager's or property manager's office, for they do have air conditioning. What does this imply, dear readers? That the case managers and the property manager are better, and need to be more comfortable than the residents they are here to serve? It would seem so, or at least that would seem to be what the top SRHT management believes. Well FUCK YOU SRHT TOP MANGEMENT!
And I say that with total love and sympathy.
Here's an idea Mike Alvidrez and JoAnne Cohen, stop building new hotels with central air, and fix the wiring in this one so we can have air conditioning!
As it is I have three fans going non-stop (one just for my computer), and a swamp cooler. How do they figure they're saving on electrical draw with all of these fans running 24/7?
But me thinks I protest too much.
My friend Michelle believes I use this blog to bitch about petty things and people, and therefore I'm petty. Do you think so too, dear readers... do I, and am I?
Yes! And delightedly so. I not only bitch about petty things and people... I bitch about everything that I don't like.
But that's not what this post is about. No this post is about the banquet at 5th and Towne that was held last Friday afternoon, and presented by something called The Origins Project (, and the Fred Jordan Mission (
I didn't know anything about until after the Movie Club. We had started the movie early, at eleven, so Paul and Erin could go to their SRHT staff picnic... HEY, Mike Alvidrez and JoAnne Cohen, stop building new hotels with central air, and fix the wiring in this one so we can have air conditioning! But I digress.
We watched George Roy Hill's 1972 adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," one of my favorite movies based on one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors.
After assuring Erin that it was not a horror movie, and getting the okay from Paul to watch it, I think we all thoroughly enjoyed the film. I've been trying to get Paul to read "Slaughterhouse Five," for over a year now. A copy of the novel I lent to him rests on a shelf in his office at this very moment, just as a copy of James Clavell's masterpiece, "Shōgun," used to for Erin (I gave that copy to Erin for her birthday (see, "Erin's Birthday Party 2)). Now after seeing most of the movie (he needed to leave early) he is inclined to read the book. Very good.
Anyway, one of my neighbors, Yolanda, told me that they were having a banquet at the Fred Jordan Mission at 4:00. It was 3:30 when she told me that. I grabbed my sunglasses and backpack and we were on our way.
I figured since SRHT trust was having as picnic I might as well go to a freaking banquet.
And this will be the absolute last one this writer will be reporting on, at least from the Fred Jordan Mission.
Yolanda and I got there in time, and another neighbor, a skinny Hispanic gentleman nicknamed Taco, who was working security at the affair, let us in at the front of the line, something I usually have moral objections about, which I put aside for convenience sake that day.
5th street had been blocked off and tables set up, 8 chairs to a table. At 4:00 staff allowed us to take seats where we found nice diet Cherry Cokes waiting for us. There were about a hundred tables to fill, but after they were a line still stretched around the block toward 6th Street.
Not to worry, we were told from the makeshift stage sitting west of us on Crocker Street, everyone would be fed.
Well you might think we were there to get a nice free meal. I have no idea why they were giving this banquet at this particular time, and still don't, but I'll tell you, everyone one of us paid dearly for that chicken leg, rice, green beans, and piece of cake we eventually received. Very dearly.
For we all sat and sat and sat, while a band played music, then a Christian rapper did his thing, more music with an evangelical flair. then we were preached to for what seemed like hours. Hours and hours. We were seated at 4:00, at 5:00 we were told we would eat at 5:30, and we were still waiting at 6:00. The people just would not shut the hell up. Most of us in the audience were enduring this, elbows on table with hands on our foreheads. It was always "One more prayer," "One more prayer." I felt sorry for the people still in line waiting for them to feed those who were already seated.
Like I said, this will be the last one of these things I'll ever attend. If you're going to have a banquet then have a banquet. If you're going to have a church service, then advertise it as such and have a church service.
The food was nice. I like chicken. But it sure wasn't worth sitting around for two hours to get. I would have been better off having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home.
But that's just me. I'm sure there were many there who thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the experience, or actually needed the food. I wasn't one of them.
Oh yes, everyone was told they'd receive a nice gift bag upon leaving. I got one. Apparently everyone did. I took it home without opening it. When I did open it I found a ten pound sack of potatoes in there, 5 onions, and a sack of dry beans. Just what your average street homeless person needs, some raw potatoes, onions, and beans.
I hear they give away the same things at the Academy Awards.
God what a pathetic, petty little bitch I am.
Yes! And delightedly so.
By the way... HEY, Mike Alvidrez and JoAnne Cohen, stop building new hotels with central air, and fix the wiring in this one so we can have air conditioning!
But I digress.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Helen!

Hot Then

Still Hot Now

Happy birthday wishes also go out today for one of my favorite actresses, Ms Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov, better known today as Dame Helen Mirrin. Her father was of Russian heritage (her grandfather on her dad's side was a Russian diplomate who got stuck in England during the 1917 Russian Revolution and stayed there... I don't blame him), and her mum English. She has been acting on stage since she was 20, and films since she was 22, and is going stronger today than ever. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2007 for her performance in 2006's "The Queen," which I just saw again the other day. She was nominated one other time for Best Actress, and twice for Best Supporting Actress. She's also won 4 SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards, 4 BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards, 4 Emmy Awards (American television), 3 Golden Globes, and 2 Cannes Film Festival. One day she might get the hang of this business.
On the 5th of December in 2003, she was invested as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), which is kind of a big thing in England, actually a female Knight. In 1997 she married the American Director, Taylor Hackford, who directed her in the 1985 film, "White Knights." She lives in Los Angeles sometimes, and you can even rent her house for $5000 a month! (I assume that she's not there at the time)
Anyway, I have to admit that I own a copy of one of Helen's early movies entitled, "Age of Consent," which is one of my favorite movies... I don't know why. But at that age she was like the most exquisite, sexy, perfect ideal of British (or any other nationality) beauty I've ever seen, and today at a young 65, she's still hot, and often told so (and she's about the only 65 year old woman I can say that about... except of course Ann Margaret, Shirley Jones, and Stephanie Powers... but I digress... or do I? Please excuse my boyish enthusiasm). And she and I are both atheists, which I think is pretty cool.
Anyway, all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her a very happy birthday. Happy Birthday Helen!

Happy Birthday Shannon!

Lovely Shannon

Happy birthday wishes go out this morning for one of my dearest family friends, Mrs. Shannon of Mobile Alabama. She is the granddaughter of my parents best friends, and I've told her story a little bit in the past post entitled, appropriately enough, "Shannon."
Shannon and I have always been separated by age and geography. For only one year (2000) did I live in the same city when she did, and we didn't see each other all that much then. But we do have the following in common it seems: we both like the television shows "Two and a Half Men," (which I watch quite often directly after the Rachel Maddow program, 7:00PM my time), and "Burn Notice," although the lead actor's character (Jeffrey Donovan as agent Michael Westen) can really get on your nerves sometimes... he's such a know it all. We both like the Star Wars movies (she was all of one year old when the first film came out, which gives away her advanced age... sorry), and Lucas's and Spielberg's Indiana Jones films. And she labels herself as a "Conservative," as many of my friends from the south do, and I absolutely hate conservatives! They're so... conservative. However, I love Shannon and her parents and uncle, and in their cases disregard politics altogether.
Currently I'll let Shannon tell her own story:
"Not much to tell... I'm the blessed mom of two beautiful children, Kelci and Jake. They are 13 and 8 in June... and the lights of my life. I'm happily married to my 2nd husband, Phillip and we just celebrated our 2nd anniversary in June. I've recently accepted Jesus into my heart, although I believe he's been there all along... I'm a new member at our church, Grace Lutheran where we have a wonderful pastor as well as congregation. I'm loving life right now and counting the blessings that have been bestowed upon me!!"
Happy Birthday Shannon!!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Salvation Diary 36

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

June 12 Wednesday Day 274

Oh boy!
Nine months tomorrow! Nine months ago today I quit drinking, and nine months ago tomorrow I somewhat reluctantly walked into the office of the Pasadena Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center looking like a turd.
I'll tell you this, I feel a lot better now than I did then! Smell a lot better too!
This will be a chip taking affair. But I shall have to work all day, so Rockoff and I decided to take our chips on Monday night. Kevin has over eleven months, but never picked up his nine month chip. He's lazier than I am.
Speaking of Rockoff, I keep finding him sitting on my office chair, leaning back, hands clasped behind his head, singing, "Lord It's Hard to be Humble... When Your Perfect in Every Way."
He's also trying to date my sister.
Rockoff is trying to date anything that moves.
I made the mistake of mentioning that my sister had just broken up with her boyfriend, and Kevin asked for her address so he could write to her. I gave it to him. She'll probably kill me or something for doing this, but Rockoff's a good guy, and maybe this will be the start of something big. Although the idea of Kevin as my borther-in-law is somewhat frightening, he's a hell of a lot better than any of the gentlemen (jerks) she's picked.
Women just don't know what's good for them.
Kevin is one of those rare, genuinely nice guys.
Not like me.
The Lakers, having won the first game of the playoffs, proceeded to lose the next four straight, tonight's game being the last of those four. Chicago thus won the NBA Championship for the first time in the franchise's history.
Dennis Smith came over to watch the game. We talked for a while in my office, where I found out he was now in Union Station, so at least he has a roof over his head, and is getting three meals a day. Union Station's only requirement of him is that he attend their three A.A. meetings a day. Other than that he's free to do whatever he wishes, so he came over to watch the game. Others who have left here do that occasionally. Curtis Carter, Ruben Perez (who's living on the streets now, in the Park). Robert, or the Major were not around to object to his presence, so I let him stay. We didn't talk all that much. He said he would be back tomorrow to go through his things, maybe I can get the full story of what happened then.
I think I'm falling in love with Kathy, the new counselor. She's so cute! I must remember to actually talk to this one.
I must have Ron Collins find out if she's married though. It doesn't pay to fall in love with married women.
After work I went to bed and slept.

June 13 Thursday Day 275

Mr. Vasquez took off yesterday morning and hasn't been back since. This morning I found out that 20 or more Salvation Army command officers, the administrators of all of the Southern California A.R.C.s, are coming to visit us at 2:00, for an informal get together.
Now maybe Robert knew about this, and maybe he didn't. All I'm saying is that a lot of major social functions occur around here on his days off, and I get left holding the bag, having to make sure that the residence is neat and tidy, up to specifications, or the wrath of Johnson falls upon my sorry head.
No biggie though. The residence is almost in good shape, and ready for inspection everyday. All that it usually needs is a bit of polishing up.
Despite the fact that it was Schimmele's day off, and the rest of the janitor's were out sick, we did all right.
The officers began to drift in between 1:00 and 2:00. Major Engel (from Van Nuys) was the first to arrive. I recalled my last ("man to man") conversation I had with him, with me pleading my case, denying the two empty whiskey bottles found in my locker were mine, him not believing me, and him telling me I was terminated from the center. I thought about the relapse that transpired directly after that conversation, the month and a half in the Park, and jail, then my coming here.
He looked at me and I stared into his eyes. He turned away and went about his business.
Good old Capt. Strickland and his lovely wife were here as well. Her name is Pamala, and she is very nice. While at the Canoga Park A.R.C. I often wondered what kind of person she was really like, beyond the Salvation Army officer (and administrator's wife) facade. I wondered if she was happy, because she didn't seem that way at times. She appears to be the kind of woman I am often attracted to (possessing a quiet intelligence and grace, and very pretty). I hope one day I have the chance to find out more about her.
I'm not in love with Mrs. Strickland however. It doesn't pay to fall in love with married women. He's okay too, I guess. An idealist who refuses to let reality get in his way.
I'm not in love with him either.
After the last of the officers arrived coffee and donuts were served in the small dinning room, after which they migrated across the street to the warehouse. I thought that would be the last I would see of them, and I took off my dress shoes and put on my sneakers. However, they came bouncing back at 4:00, just as the men got off work. I made sure to stay behind the desk so my shoes would not be noticed.
Then they all went out to dinner, leaving me here. And Ron Collins. He had the privilege (got stuck) of babysitting two young boys, children of one of the visiting Captains. That kept him suitably busy.
I was kept suitably busy with Dennis Smith coming over to look at his stuff. We didn't have the time to sit and chat.
Kathy Simonson, the vocational counselor, came to talk to Rockoff. She's very sexy, and has great legs, but I believe she's married.
She kept giving me the eye anyway.
Richard Bennett, for reasons only known to him, could not be here for the Substance Abuse, so I canceled it.
I also canceled the A.A. panel, as they didn't show up either.
The only ones who did show up tonight were our trustworthy and reliable friends from Cocaine Anonymous. Four of our residents did not show for that meeting, however, so I wrote them up.
Business as usual on a Thursday night here at the Pasadena A.R.C.

June 14 Friday Day 276

I moseyed on down to the lobby by 1:35PM. I had indulged in sleep up until that point.
Robert Vasquez called me into his office to inform me that do to a cancellation my name had been drawn at random as a winner of a Dodger game ticket to be played this Sunday. Presumably this game would be played in Los Angeles. Kevin Rockoff and Ron Collins are also going. Russell Burke as well. It should be fun, but I must remember not to be tempted by baseball beer.
Robert and I also discussed the mysterious disappearance of two six packs of diet Shasta cola from the canteen during the chapel service last Wednesday.
Very Mysterious.
At work I handed out gratuity when the boys came home, did a lot of paperwork, issued six canteen cards to myself (part of my extra hours pay), which I would sell pocketing the proceeds (almost legal), gave new client orientation, argued with Raushemplat, and put up the damn bar in the thrift store parking lot.
Robert was checking the back of the building and caught a whiff of what smelled like marijuana. He espied two probable culprits who were sitting at the side of the residence near one of the standing ashtrays. Robert ordered me to collect urine samples from all of the occupants of dorm 43, where these two guys lived, which I did.
One of them had a cannabinoid level of 28.7, risen from 7.5 taken the last day of May. I had him come to the office to discuss this. He denied everything, but didn't make much of a fuss when I let him know he would have to leave, which indicated to me that he knew damn well he was guilty.
This was a guy we tested every week for opiates, who knew we would continue to do so, but smoked a joint anyway. Perhaps he thought we couldn't test him for cannabinoids as well.
We can.
I wish him well.

June 15 Saturday Day 277

I got up for breakfast this morning so I could talk to Robert about last night's urine tests and expulsions. After we finished eating I helped him take down the stupid bar in the thrift store parking lot. We saw the guy I had thrown out last night while doing it. He had spent the night sleeping on the sidewalk across the street, near the entrance to the warehouse. He used most of the morning telling his buddies who came out to smoke, how unfair it was, he being thrown out and all. He went away eventually, after he discovered no one really sympathized with him, or was going to give him any money.
I walked to the gas station to buy some cigarettes for myself (having forgotten all about quitting on the 7th) and Schimmele. Upon returning I went to my lonely room and took a nap.
Up in time for lunch of course (beef ribs). Clarence (The Flash) Bliss was chowing down, honoring us with his presence.
Just as the discussion concerning the formation of a new Salvation Army Bomb Squad was getting heated, I was called to the telephone.
My dear sweet sister was calling from Bullhead City to say hello. We had exchanged letters within the last week, and she had written that she wished to hear my voice. Wasn't that nice of her? These days I'm beginning to feel I can really become friends with her. I never was before. While drinking and drugging I was too preoccupied to be a friend to her. Too preoccupied to be a friend to my girlfriend, or my friends, or even my cat.
I was a preoccupied guy.
Even though I'm still pretty busy these days I feel I'm more mentally and emotionally available to others now. I hope so.
Cheryl told me our Uncle Lester is very, very sick, and in the hospital. Cancer. Leukemia. It's not expected that he'll last much longer. It's so sad.
On a brighter note, I got to talk to my beautiful and precocious little niece, Keri Lynn. She assured me that she was being a good girl and not causing her mother any problems. She told me she was now in the second grade. How sweet.
"She told me she was a good girl," I told my sister when she came back on the line.
"Well, what did you expect her to say? Of Course she's going to tell you she's a good girl! But she's a brat."
"I can't imagine her lying to me." That's not entirely true. Actually, I can imagine it quite easily. My love for my darling niece is all encompassing, but fraught with little illusion. My niece is a blonde, blue-eyed, seven year old tiny devil person.
"Oh brother!" my sister replied.
My sister related to me a recent event involving Keri and the television program "911," hosted by Captain Kirk's alter ego, William Shatner. It seems that this is Keri's favorite program. She doesn't move a muscle while watching it. One morning, Keri (an early riser) took it upon herself to dial 911 on her mom's phone. My sister, who had been sleeping peacefully, was woke by several burly policemen wanting to know what the trouble was.
Isn't Keri adorable?! She's going to go a long way when she grows up. She's got spunk! I never would have done anything like that when I was her age. My mother would have knocked me into the next state.

June 16 Sunday Day 278

I woke at 6:30 to the soft, sweet melodies of early Jethro Tull wafting through my radio alarm clock.
After the song was over I got up and turned the radio off. I got up again at 8:00, showered and dressed for chapel.
Mr. Vasquez was seated on the front stage during the service. I had to nudge him awake as I passed by with the collection plate. He looked at me, reached into one jacket pocket, then another, to find a small manilla envelope which he dropped into my plate, muttering, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."
All the men who were going to the Dodger game ate lunch at 11:00. Then we took off. Half of us went in Red Shield 4, and half in Ed Reitz's van.
By 1:00 we were seated high up along the first base line. Today was Old Timers Day, which meant that former Dodger players would come out and play a few innings against each other. Don Drysdale threw two pitches, Tommy Lasorda pitched an entire inning. Good fun.
I had myself a Dodger Dog and large coke. Very expensive.
As I later exclaimed to my fellow passengers on the way home, "We opened up a can of whoop ass on St. Louis!" The Cardinals lost 7 to 2.
Tom Rotsch was driving Red Shield 4, which I was in. As we passed Ed's van while exiting the parking lot, he called to us, "Well Tom, do you want to follow me back or take your chances on your own?"
"I think I'll be alright," Tom replied.
We made it back to the residence in twenty minutes. I waited around the parking lot for about an hour waiting for Ed to get back, smoking cigarettes, then went in for dinner.
While I was eating my late dinner in the canteen area the Sunday night bingo game commenced. I took this as a sign from God that it was meant for me to play. Lucky me, I won the final blackout game between mouthfuls. 5 big canteen cards! These I will later sell for enormous profit.
I kicked back in my room for the rest of the evening. I was a little tired and all from the game. I read from 3 different books while watching Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn in the Norman Jewsion film, "Best Friends." A very well written and realized work. Sad and funny all at the same time.
Just like real life.

June 17 Monday Day 279

My friend and ex-supervisor, Victor Johnson, did not make it back by curfew last night. This is not the first time that this has happened. Quite often he'll give us a call thirty minutes before curfew to tell us he's in some emergency room, in some hospital, presumably dying or something, and would not be able to make it in. We usually tell him okay, bring the paperwork in the morning and we'll take it from there. And he does. This time he had been on an overnight pass, and called to tell us he might be a few minutes late. A few minutes past curfew. Unfortunately for Victor, Mr. Vasquez was on duty, and when 11:00 came, the doors were closed and locked.
Mr. Vasquez can be very prompt when he wishes to be.
Victor was indeed late.
He was also A.W.O.L./A.C.O.
I wish him well.
Eugene White was A.W.O.L. as well.
I wish him well too.
I spent most of the day writing. I did get away to the park for an hour, to bask in the glorious rays of the noontime sun. Then back to my little desk in the library to write, write, write.
But I did take a break now and then. During one of them I sat outside in the front parking lot, on one of the benches they have out there, when Ed Reitz walked up carrying a small package.
"Hi Ed," I said as way of greeting.
"Hi Rick," he said as way of reply.
"How are you?" I asked.
"Fine, fine," Ed said.
"Good game yesterday," I said.
"Yes it was. Good for the Dodgers at least."
"I heard you had a little problem getting out of the parking lot yesterday," I began to giggle.
"That's one way of describing it," he said. I started to laugh.
"I was finished eating dinner, played a few games of bingo, and had time to read "Moby Dick, before you guys showed up." My laughter continued unabated.
"You think that's funny, do you?"
"Well... ha, ha, especially... he he he... when you consider that part... ha ha ha ha ha ha, about you asking Tom if he wanted to follow you or take a chance on his own... ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!...
He looked down at the package he held. "Some new assays came in from UPS today. The first part of that word comes easily to mind right now."
Robert Vasquez seemed to be suffering from some kind of throat infection. He couldn't talk above a whisper.
I teased him.
"Well," I said, "It's nice and peaceful around here tonight."
"What do you mean?" he croaked.
"Oh nothing... nothing."
Later I began to watch a television movie, "Seeds of Tragedy," concerning a shipment of cocaine. Sort of like the film, "The Yellow Rolls Royce," of the drug industry. The story depicted the lives and deaths of all those who came into contact with one particular shipment of cocaine, starting from the jungles of Peru, and ending, I presume, on the streets of some American city. I turned it off about half way through. Too many people were getting killed. Even women. For some reason I hate to see women getting killed, shot, or beat up. Not that I've ever seen a woman get killed, shot, or beat up. Not in real life anyway. I just don't particularly like to see it in movies, where it seems a disproportionate amount of women get terrorized. I don't even like to think about women in combat position in the military. I'm not saying they shouldn't be there, all I'm saying is that it gives me the creeps to think about it. I don't know why I feel that way. I guess I have some misbegotten beliefs that women are too good to get shot and killed. That they're above all of that nonsense, and when it happens to them it seems so unfair and sad.
Kurt Vonnegut feels the same way I believe.
Women should be excluded and protected from any forms of violence so they may freely continue with their sacred mission in life... befuddling the minds of men.
I don't seem to mind men getting blown away. It almost seems fitting.
I've read that most of, and the best assassins in the world are women. What better time to kill a man than when he's in bed asleep.
Anyway, I turned the movie off. I can't figure out why anyone would wish to get into a business where the chances of either getting killed, ripped off, or arrested, were so high.
The answer of course is money.
I strolled through the residence with Robert, a little after 10:00PM. I asked him if there was anything special I should know about before returning to work in the morning.
There wasn't.
We were in the basement looking at a wall where some unknown person had tried to bore a hole to crawl through into the baggage room, probably in an attempt to steal whatever they could find of value in there. Whoever it was had run into some boards embedded into the drywall thwarting their attempt.
"Have to have Pandolfi keep an eye out down here, "Robert whispered.
As we were walking out I noticed a big brown cockroach positioned near the exit door, sitting still, trying not to be noticed. I pointed it out to Robert, who looked at it a moment, then slowly inched the toe of his shoe toward the insect to see if it was alive. It was. It took off like a shot, scurrying this way and that. It first headed straight back toward Robert, who jumped up and down trying to stomp it, looking like he was dancing a jig. The bug made a right turn in my direction, at which time I started to jump to, although I was trying to get away from it.
Robert shouted, "Get it! Get it!"
So I stomped on the little critter, no doubt ruining any planes it may have had for the rest of the evening.
I don't like to kill things. Even bugs. But this was a case of self defense. It attacked.
As we rode the elevator to the first floor I reminisced about some Philippine cockroaches I have met. "You step on one of those suckers," I said, "and the damn thing is liable to kidnap you."
He said he had met some lizards in Vietnam that made sounds like singing birds.
Back in my room I watched a movie starring Mare Winningham. It was about a homeless mother on the streets with her young daughter.
A very good movie. It made me think about what life is really like for many, many people, right here in our own country. I felt ashamed as I watched it. That we allow homelessness in this, the richest country in the world.
It also reminded me, once again, of how close we all are to being back in the Park.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day!

Sick Erin

I was very sad a few days ago. You see my lovely case manager, Erin, wasn't feeling very well. She had a tummy ache, and had to leave work early on Monday, and take Tuesday off as well.
It makes me feel bad when she doesn't feel good, and affects me to such a degree that I often eat rancid tuna and mold laden Limburger cheese (which I keep in my refrigerator for occasions such as these) to make myself sympathetically sick with Erin, so she knows she isn't suffering alone.
I didn't do that this time however, and do you know why dear readers? Well I'll tell you why, it's because sometimes she calls in sick... and she isn't sick at all! I know, it's hard to believe isn't it! And you know how stupid I feel when I get all sick, puking my guts out all over the place, and I find out she wasn't sick at all, but out partying with her friends or something (going to those "Twilight," movies no doubt... vampires 90210 (I stole that 90210 joke from somebody. I forget who, but it certainly is appropriate, "Oh look at my skin... it's so sparkily!")? Well I can tell you I feel pretty darn stupid, that's how I feel.
So I thought I'd be wise to her tricks this time and did not eat my tuna and cheese (letting it get more rancid and moldy).
But on Tuesday morning she sent me an emergency Email stating she would not be able to make our usual Tuesday morning breakfast appointment because her tummy wasn't feeling well, and she was going to lay down for awhile, and maybe make it to work in time for Yoga Class, and then Drama Free Support Group.
So I thought to myself, Rick I thought, she must really be sick because Erin doesn't usually miss breakfast if she can help it (not being an alcoholic or drug addict, or any kind of addict, all she has left is food to obsess about... and "Twilight" movies. I feel sorry for her sometimes).
She didn't make it to yoga though, so Paul and I went, and the other guy from some other hotel, I don't know which one, and he brought a friend. So our esteemed teacher, the lovely Beth, had four guys to contend with, and no Erin. Accordingly Beth worked us like beaten dogs. We were sweating, huffing and puffing throughout. "Don't give me a dirty look," she told one of the guys from the other hotel while exercising us vigorously (I'd never give Beth a dirty look. I know better). I almost passed out from extreme yoga exertion, but managed to make it through to the end, and now I'm proud to say, I'm in tip top shape.
I taught Paul how to play Texas Hold'em at Drama Free, which is a popular form of the card game poker. I learned how to play just that morning, learning from Wikipedia. Paul caught on very quickly and pretty much kicked my ass. I hate him.
I am thrilled to report that Paul has just moved, and is now a "Downtowner," like me. He lives now in his own apartment on the other side of Broadway, near Macy's department store. He said he is now very happy about the move, but wasn't quite sure about it at first, when his mom, the lovely Kathy, talked him into it. He had been living in a small house, in a very small room, with a roommate who played loud music all of the time. It would be hard to study there, he told me. Paul will be attending USC next year, or semester, or whatever, and his new place is literally just down the street from the college. For that matter so is his work, and he can take the bus to either one if he so desires (and save himself $400 for a freaking USC parking lot pass). He could even walk to work if he choose to do so.
So we're all very excited for him.
Erin came to work the next morning. She didn't seem like a happy camper as her belly was still giving her problems, but she had missed a day and a half of work so came in anyway. What a trooper.
Her illness had forced her to spend the previous day in her room in bed, sleeping. When she wasn't sleeping she was watching the movies "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," and "Twister ("Cow")," on her VCR machine. Her roommates let her out into the family room later, where she watched "Twilight, New Moon," a DVD I had given her.
"Why didn't you watch "The Lobsterman from Mars?" I asked her (I had also given her a VCR copy of that classic starring Patrick MacNee and Tony Curtis.
"Maybe next time," she told me.
She would continue to feel lousy... and tired. At one point I saw her yawn, the biggest yawn I've ever seen on a human being... amazing.
I offered to make her some nice chicken soup. See what a wonderful friend I am! But she declined saying it would just make her sicker. Poor Erin.
She felt much better the next day at the Cooking Club. Or that's what she said, and I had no reason to doubt her. She looked much better.
I had been enlisted (shanghaied) into making that famous A&W Coney Island hot dog sauce again by Tianna, my lovely hotel manager. It would be used the next day, Friday July 2nd, at the annual 4th of July celebration on the 2nd. She gave me 3 1/2 pounds of hamburger which I took to the Cooking Club at the Olympia. Erin and Paul brought me 10 more pounds, giving me a total of... let's see, one carry the 12, times 56, minus 92... 13 1/2 pounds of ground meat to play with. Tianna and Erin gave me all of the other stuff I needed and after a couple of hours we had 2 big pots full of the stuff. Erin and Paul had made some nice Rice Crispy Treats (melt some butter and marshmallows, throw in some rice crispys, shape into a big square, and there you go!) They were good. I wish I had one right now.
Friday I ran important errands all morning, but made it back for the festivities by noon. As chance would have it, that's when the festivities began. I stuffed myself silly with hot dogs, chicken and ribs, potatoes salad, escargot, truffles, caviar, and Rice Crispy Treats. Very good.
Saturday I spent assembling my firework for the 4th of July. I planned on launching it Sunday night near the Los Angeles Coliseum which is right here in Los Angeles, and which was hosting a fireworks show of their very own.
Independence Day seems to always fall on the 4th of July. I don't know why. John Adams, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence (which declared the 13 American colonies independence from the British crown back in 1776), and our second President, thought the 2nd of July would be remembered. "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival," he wrote to his lovely wife, Abigail. He thought that because that was the day when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. On the 4th they approved the Declaration of Independence which had already been drafted by Thomas Jefferson and four other guys, and the Declaration had that date on it, and Americans have celebrated on the 4th ever since, even though most delegates actually signed the Declaration on August 2nd.
An interesting historical note here, both Adams and Jefferson, the only two men to sign the Declaration of Independence who became Presidents (Jefferson was the third) both died on the same day: July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the United States.
Anyway, July 4th is the one holiday which is uniquely American (the Ethiopians tried to steal it in 1967, but we caught them before they could get away).
Sunday evening I took my new firework to the south lawn outside the Coliseum by 8:00. I was very excited to see if it would work.
I had learned from Wikipedia how to make it. All you need are two half globes of plutonium-239, which I had left over from the last Arbor Day, some conventional chemical explosives, which I got from tearing apart a "Boss" assortment of Red Devil fireworks, and fitting it all into a container set up to slam the two pieces of plutonium together as fast as possible. Sounds easy, huh? It was! Thank you Wikipedia.
Right now let me project a few hours into the future: I'm writing in real time. It's 9:02PM, and I'm sitting on the lawn next to the huge Coliseum, and their show has just begun. Now for my own firework. I bet everybody here will sure be surprised... and impressed. All I have to do is flip this little detonator switch, and...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Lindsay!

Happy birthday wishes go out today for one of my favorite Disney actresses (she's also a model and singer... I've seen two of her photos, but I've never heard her sing), Ms. Lindsay Denise Lohan, who turns a whopping 24 years old today. An Irish girl on her mother's side, (Italian on her dad's, what a combo), unfortunately she comes from New York. Lindsay started out at age 3 as a child model, and her movie career in a remake of "The Parent Trap," reprising the double role first played by the very first love of my life (really), Miss Hayley Mills.
She was voted tenth on the list of "100 Sexiest Women" by readers of FHM in 2005, while Maxim placed her third on its "Hot 100" list in 2006, and first in 2007. In a poll by The Daily Mirror last February, Lindsay was voted tenth on a list of "Sexiest Redheads Ever" (that means in the entire history of women with red hair, going back at least 100,000 years or so!). Usually I don't concern myself with such mundane matters as these, but in this instance I can't disagree. She's still pretty hot today... for a girl.
Like me we're fans of Marilyn Monroe, and we both voted for Obama.
I've heard rumors that Lindsay at one time liked to party a bit. Well, I can't blame her for that. I have no idea what it must be like to have people with cameras following you around where ever you go, hounding you day and night (that's why I've consistently, and successfully, tried to fail at everything I do). Must be a lot of pressure, especially for one who is so young. I do hope that someone takes her aside and smacks some sense into her head, and she comes out of this on top, because she really is a wonderful actress, and I hope for her sake everything turns out okay. I certainly wish her the best of luck in life, in whatever she decides to do, and everyone here at Joyce's Take wishes her a very happy birthday. Happy Birthday Lindsay!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Venus Express

Venus Express in Orbit

Venus on the Half Shell

Venus With Clouds

And Without Clouds

Astronaut on the Surface

"Fly me to the moon, Let me sing among those stars, Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars... In other words, hold my hand... In other words, baby kiss me."

Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty (Greek: Aphrodite; Babylonian: Ishtar (which actually wasn't that bad a movie)), and her name was given to the planet that was closest to us, the second from the Sun, maybe because it was so bright and shiny and cute. Ancient people thought it might actually be two planets, because it was so easy to see in the early evenings, and the early mornings, which is why it was sometimes called both The Evening Star, and The Morning Star. I don't know why they called it that because it wasn't a star at all... and still isn't, although it is the brightest natural object in the sky (besides the Sun and the Moon).
Venus is also often referred to as the Earth's sister planet (and Jupiter is our big brother), because both planets are very similar in size (Venus is just 404 miles smaller than the Earth at the equator, and has 81.5% of the mass), density, and volume. And both have relatively young surfaces, about 100 million years for the Earth, and 500 million for Venus.
Other than that though Venus is very, very, different than the Earth. Very different. In many respects this beautiful jewel of the sky is the physical embodiment of the Abrahamic version of Hell (that's why so many souls of passed Republicans can be found there).
Venus is the second planet from the Sun (Mercury being the closest, and the Earth the third), which means it receives much more solar energy than we do here on Earth. It is anywhere from 66,000,000 to 67,500,00 miles from it (it's orbit is elliptical, like all of the planets, but the closest to being circular than any other. The Earth's orbit is more elliptical, hence its distance from the Sun varies more, from 91,300,000 to 94,400,000 million miles). And the distance between the Earth and Venus varies to large degrees depending on where they are in their respective orbits. 23,700,000 million miles at is closest, to 162,000,000 when Venus is furthest away, when it is hiding behind the Sun. In comparison Earth can be anywhere from 36,000,000 to 250,000,000 million miles apart from Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun. The point being here that Venus gets hotter because it is closer to the Sun, which also means its year is shorter than ours because the distance to circle the sun is less. Venus's year is 224.65 Earth days long.
Its day is much longer though. I don't know why. Nobody does, that's just the way it is and we must learn to accept it. A day on Venus is 243 Earth days long, which means two things; Its day is longer than its freaking year, and a 243 day long day makes for a tiresome work week.
Also, Venus revolves around its axis in a retrograde fashion. In other words it spins clockwise, when the rest of the planets (except Uranus) spin counter-clockwise, making the Sun rise in the west, and set in the east.
Now the Hell thing. Venus is very hot at its surface, and not just because it is closer to the Sun. Something happened a few billion years ago when it was thought to have similar surface conditions as the Earth, with liquid water. But what is called a Runaway Greenhouse Effect evaporated all of the water, the atmosphere became more dense. The water dissociated, meaning the sunlight, or solar wind broke up the water into its oxygen and hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms, being very light (and there is hardly any magnetic fields protecting Venus, and holding hydrogen in), were lost forever to space, so almost all of the planet's water was gone. That sucked for Venus.
The greenhouse effect continued, and today Venus has 93 times more atmosphere than we do on Earth. That's our entire atmosphere, which gives us enough trouble as it is, times 93. The surface pressure on Venus is about 92 times what it is here. 92 times! Walking around on Venus would be like walking around under the ocean a little more than half a mile down. 0.621371 miles to be exact. It's crushing.
And what is that atmosphere made of? Funny you should ask, dear readers. It's certainly not made of good old air like we have on Earth. Oh no, it's made almost entirely of carbon dioxide, the stuff we breath out, not in. There are no plants on Venus, or oceans, so all of that carbon stays in the atmosphere rather than being able to be absorbed by rocks, biomass, and water.
Above all that carbon dioxide are clouds of mostly sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid droplets. Yeah, that means it can rain freaking acid (it does here on Earth as well, but due to air pollution caused by humans)! These clouds reflect about 60% of the sunlight that falls on them back into space, and prevents the direct observation of Venus's surface in the visible spectrum of light (picture above with all of the clouds). We didn't know what was down there, on the surface of Venus, until a short while ago.
With that dense of an atmosphere Venus retains a great deal of the Sun's radiation via that greenhouse effect. As a matter of fact at the surface the temperature is about 860% Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt lead. Venus is even hotter than Mercury, which is much closer to the sun, all because of that greenhouse effect.
So if you were to be standing on the surface of Venus somehow we would be hard pressed (excuse the pun) to see which would kill you first... the lack of oxygen, the atmospheric pressure, or the great amount of heat (it's a good thing I have my thermal, ectoskeleton, scuba tanked spacesuit on (pictured above))
That greenhouse effect is one good reason to study Venus, to make sure something like that doesn't happen here (it won't, but many bad things can, and will happen if we don't take care), so we've sent many spaceships there to see what was going on.
The very first space probe to another planet (the moon not being a planet) was Venera 1, sent by the Ruskies, or back then, the Soviet Ruskies. It was supposed to crash into Venus back in 1961 but it missed. Our own first attempt the next year, Mariner 1, ended badly as well, being self destructed moments after launch due to a fault in the guidance system. Mariner 2 was much more successful, and flew by Venus on December 14, 1962, becoming the first interplanetary mission that worked. That was when Dr. Carl Sagan's theory of a hot Venus was confirmed, ending hopes that conventional forms of life might be plentiful on the planets surface.
The Soviet's Venera 7 probe became the first spacecraft to land on another planet in 1970. It returned a weak signal supplying temperature data for 23 minutes, the first telemetry received from the surface of another planet.
Radar mapping of Venus was carried out by both the United States and the Soviet Union throughout the 1980's. The U.S. with its Pioneer Venus Orbiter and Magellan probe, and Russia with Venera 15 and 16.
And in 2005 those wily Europeans at the European Space Agency (ESA) sent the Venus Express, which established a polar orbit around the planet in April of 2006. It's mission is to study the atmosphere until it runs out of gas (the Venus Express, not the atmosphere) in December of next year. It is the craft that has found evidence of large amounts of water (probably atmospheric) on Venus in it's distant past. It has also confirmed the presence of lightning on Venus, and that it is more common there than it is here on Earth. It also discovered a huge double atmospheric vortex (a form of cyclone) exists at the south pole of the planet. Isn't that wonderful!?
The Venus Express is giving us vital information on the structure of the intricate Venusian atmosphere, sifting out more clues of how the runaway greenhouse effect came into being, which provides a better understanding of how our own atmosphere evolves, which is extremely important considering the activity of humans is interacting with it in ways that are most likely hazardous for our continued existence.
That is why space exploration is important. That is why we must continue funding it (Congressional budget considerations are always a major concern regarding continued space exploration), especially robotic missions that are far less costly and safer than maned missions, and provide just as much valuable information.
The answers to questions regarding man's (and woman's) survival are out there. We need to keep looking.
And that's all I've got to say about Venus right now (Forrest Gump).
Maybe more later... be patient.