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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in mewelke's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
8:39 am
A Season In Carcosa
When I heard there was a new anthology of stories based on The King In Yellow stories, A Season In Carcosa became the book I was looking forward to the most this year, and it did not disappoint one bit.

I was looking forward to this for a number of reasons, mainly though I think it’s that I’ve always thought that what is scary about the King in Yellow is the best sort of scary. It’s not that a scary monster is about to eat you, it’s that your own imagination is about to destroy you. It’s that reality is not what you believe it to be. And that reality can change utterly, the reality of fiction can impose itself on your world. This is why I love reading, particularly reading Lovecraft or Philip K Dick and others that give the reader that eerie moment of “wait a second, how do I know my own reality is what I think is?”

I had read Lovecraft before I played Call of Cthulhu, but it was a Call of Cthulhu campaign where I first heard about the King In Yellow. When we as players first encountered the Yellow Sign, our Keeper brilliantly gave us our first explanation by first telling about Robert Chambers book. In the way in which he would normally describe a book that exists only in fiction, such as the Necronomicon, he instead tells us about a book that exists in reality, but is about a fictional play, and when people in the book learn about the play they start to go insane and the events in the reality of the play start to assert itself in our reality. (Tangent: I love stories about these self creating meta fictions: Borges “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” and the opening of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol are great examples.) At this point in the game, our characters encountered cultists who believed the play to be real and believed that a character in the play, the man in the pallid mask, was an avatar of Hastur. None of our characters knew exactly what that meant, but we had a pretty good idea it was bad news. In a follow up adventure, the play starts to infect our dreams. We see signs of the events and characters from the play in our dreams and it starts to affect reality. I don’t remember how we put a stop to that, but we did, and the next couple of adventures were more standard fight the monsters type scenarios, not related to the King In Yellow. We were brought back to twisted changing reality when we discovered an object up for auction, which turned out to be the Pallid mask. I think it was about that time that I, not my character in the game but me in reality, started to have repeating dreams about the King In Yellow. It had that much effect on me. Other games I’ve been afraid in a sense for my character or something, but I’ve never dreamt about it like that before or since.

A few years later I read the excellent anthology from Chaosium, The Hastur Cycle, and in doing so read one of my all time favorite short stories “The River of Night’s Dreaming” by Karl Edward Wagner. When the Wagner story was mentioned prevalently in the introduction to A Season In Carcosa, I knew I was in for a treat.

And the anthology is a treat. Each story seems to recreate that wonderful dreamy quality that I remember from playing the game years ago. I think that the King In Yellow lends itself to moody pieces, which might be why the poetry selections in the anthology are so effective, where establishing mood and evoking emotion are held over concrete story. While there wasn’t one story that effected me so much as “The River of Night’s Dreaming,” the anthology was consistently good and every story in the last third felt close to approaching that very high bar.

Nitpicking, I could point out a greater number of proofreading errors than I normally find (why it is I’m cursed to have the ability to spot these errors in everyone else’s writing, but miss them in my own, I’ll never know), but these hardly detracted from the greatness of the storytelling. I thought all of the stories were high quality, but “My Voice Is Dead” by Joel Lane, “it sees me when I’m not looking” by Gary McMahon, “Wishing Well” by Cody Goodfellow, and “D T” by Laird Baron were all superb.
Thursday, September 27th, 2012
9:25 pm
Dr. Who 1963
We’ve been watching the early Dr. Who starting with the first 1963 episodes, and it’s been a bit of a shock.

I have great memories of the episodes I saw when I was a kid and my formative nerd years. These were the Tom Baker and a few mixed in Jon Pertwee episodes. From there I somehow missed the next couple of Doctors, but when I returned to watching the show I remember enjoying most of the Sylvester McCoy episodes.

And I love the modern show. The show I loved as a kid was very hit or miss, but always had interesting ideas. The new show has those ideas, but is more hit than miss. In the new show the characters learn and grow from episode to episode. The new show combines humor, action, and sentiment to create stories that make me laugh and cry. This is supported by a tremendous soundtrack, which I’ve bought, and there are tracks on that CD that bring tears to my eyes every time they come on.

One thing the show from my childhood and the new show have in common is that the Doctor is smart. He is good. He is a force for chaotic goodness. He shows up unarmed and defeats a heavily armed enemy while smooching him in the face. He is Bugs Bunny versus Elmer Fudd. A trickster god of an alien. And Craig Fergusson is right, it’s all about intellect and romance overcoming brute force and cynicism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9P4SxtphJ4 .

On the 1963 show this is not so. Not only can the Doctor not outsmart his enemies, his enemies frequently trick him in the easiest ways. It’s as though he has “rube” painted across his forehead. And this stupidity isn’t limited to just him, his companions are often equally dumb. Often it’s like in order for the plot to work all of the characters have to stumble through it like they’ve just sustained a serious head injury. Seriously. Far from growing from episode to episode, the original cast can’t remember events that happened to them a minute ago, sometimes only remembering these things after whatever calamity has resulted that would have been prevented if they possessed the memory and basic reasoning skills of a five year old.

The pacing is terrible. I think as much happens in one hour of the modern show as happens in the sum total of six half hour episodes of the old show. Part of this is because the writers don’t seem to trust the viewers to understand what they’ve seen, and need the characters to see it and then discuss and explain it. Another part of it is that it seems like they’re killing time very deliberately going over everything more than once and shooting lots of scenes of people moving, often needlessly slowly, from point A to B with nothing happening.

We just watched the episode (the combination of half hour episodes) The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964). In this episode, all characters perceptions are limited to events taking place less than three feet directly in front of them. They have zero peripheral vision. Must be that head injury. They begin by staggering out of the Tardis and not noticing the warning poster on the wall right next to them until fifteen minutes in and they’ve already started to explore and break things.

This episode was written by Terry Nation, who created the Daleks and went on to create Blake’s 7. I’ve also seen episodes of the Avengers he wrote. I know he could write. So what’s wrong here? And how did the early sixties Dr. Who ever last to become such a success? Was television just terrible during the early sixties and the bar was set really low? Were people actually as stupid as the characters on the show during the sixties? Did the writing have to be this way because people couldn’t keep up?

I think that Barbara is the most interesting of the characters in the ’63 show. At times she shows some thought and initiative. When she’s separated from the group anyway. If there’s a man around she’s apparently not allowed to think for herself. Actually if I remember correctly this was also mostly true of the show in the 70s and 80s as well. Happily on the modern show there are female characters who are strong and intelligent.

Special effects were always bad of course. But those aren’t a big deal to me if the story and characters are there, and they aren’t yet. And while special effects aren’t a big deal, I would like to see some level of caring in the production. Actors, usually the Doctor, often flub a line and repeat it a couple times until they get it right. Was editing something that hadn’t occurred to the BBC in 1963?

But unfortunately most of the time, none of the characters are very bright. So now I’m wondering, when does the show start to get better? Does it ever get good with the first Doctor? If so, what episodes? How about the second Doctor? I know there are good episodes with Jon Pertwee, assuming that I remember correctly and it’s not just nostalgia making me think that. I’d like to see this because I’m interested in the history, but at the moment I don’t look forward to watching it, and if more than two of the half hour installments are watched at a time, it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll fall asleep.

Perhaps a drinking game is in order. Just do enough shots until my brain is as impaired as the characters on the show. Now that’s an idea. Though I wouldn’t want to drink enough to be as impaired as Susan. I never want to be that drunk.
9:38 am
Why I would not vote 3rd party
I’m talking to my fellow lefties here, but if you’re right wing and want to read along, by all means be my guest.

There’s an argument being made to vote third party in the presidential election as a protest vote. The argument goes something like Barack Obama has done many things you find intolerable as President, how can you vote for him. An article recently ran in the Atlantic with this opinion: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/262861/ . I heard a similar opinion shared by Walter Mosley when I saw him speak at the LA Times book fair a couple of years ago. And then there’s the thinking that you should really vote for the person who most represents your views, in my case this would be Jill Stein.

Here is why I am not voting third party. There are two reasons. One is simply realism, and the other is trickier.

I’ll start with Realism. The reality is that a third party candidate will not win. Without major problems with the front runners, a third party candidate will not get the 5% required to get matching funds in the next election. They won’t even come close to that 5%. Some might say this is a self fulfilling prophecy, people won’t vote for third party candidates because they won’t win, so they can’t win. I’d say those people are not thinking about how the constitution and the nature of the presidential election work. As much as I agree with Jill Stein, were she one of only two candidates running, she would still be unelectable. Hell, a candidate that actually represented what I think should be done, would effectively be many of the things FOX News claims about Obama. Having one person who represents the country as a whole is always going to mean electing someone who doesn’t represent many of our individual views.

Then there’s the thing not mentioned in the Atlantic article and rarely thought of by the protest-vote-arguers: the Supreme Court. That third branch of government. The one with the lifetime appointees. Don’t like the money in politics? Citizens United got put through by a 5-4 vote. How brazen could things get if that one vote majority turns to two or three? Think about what happens if Justice Ginsburg is replaced with another Scalia. You might find fault in the policies of Obama, but you can’t tell me that he’d appoint a Scalia type Supreme Court Justice. Romney on the other hand has made it clear he does whatever he’s told to satisfy the extreme base of his party.

Don’t like the two party system? Neither do I. But like the Supreme Court with it’s lifetime appointees, I think there are critical flaws in our form of government. Without a change in that form of government, I’m voting the party with the chance of winning that comes closest to my views, because that’s what’s going to make the most difference in the reality I live in.

Accepting that the third party won’t win the election, then what? The Atlantic article mentions some things that trouble me greatly about the President. But would these things get better under a Romney presidency? I highly doubt it. If anything I suspect that these same powers are expanded upon and extended to more countries. War with Iran seems likely under a Romney presidency. So instead of a failure to reign in the wrong, it would be expanded.

Walter Mosley mentioned some of the same things as the Atlantic article. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something like “is there a difference between Obama and Bush to a family bombed in Pakistan?” And he’s right. To a family in Pakistan that’s lost their child to a drone missile strike, there’s no difference. On the other hand, to an American family whose child will live because they have healthcare now, there’s a great big difference.

This gets me into the trickier question, how do you weigh the good and bad of a presidency?

The Atlantic article did get me thinking. What President by the article’s standards is worthy of reelection? Lincoln? With all the deplorable things that happened in the civil war? With suspending Habeas Corpus and a host of civil rights issues? My own favorite President was FDR. I think FDR was the best president for how he handled the crises of his time, and for the legacy he left us with (much of which has been torn down in the last thirty years but that’s another essay). That said, FDR was also president when we rounded up citizens of Japanese heritage and threw them in concentration camps. That’s pretty awful. Not to mention the terrible things that happened in the war. I think Eisenhower was a great President, but it’s not like he didn’t have his faults. The CIA was up to all manner of evil during his administration. And his mideast policy essentially led to our trouble there now. But the Civil Rights Act, continuing and expanding on New Deal programs (despite the fact that he was a Republican) … these things make me think of him as a great President.

Another thing that bothers me about the Atlantic article is its discounting of the importance of domestic issues and economics. How can one complain about Romney being a Plutocrat when Obama is a killer, the article suggests. First of all, I believe as I’ve suggested above that every President weighed by this standard will be a killer. Second, economics are more important that people seem to realize. Sure the language might be loftier. But economics are also whether or not people eat. Whether or not they end up in debtors prison. Whether or not they ever have hope or a chance to make things better in their lives.

And as for the foreign policy issues the Atlantic article mentions, I think these things will change for the better in an Obama second term. In the first term, he got us out of military operations in Iraq. Forces are supposed to be withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2013. Do I think this will mean the end forever to drone strikes? Probably not. But I’m betting there will be fewer. Possibly none. And I’m certain that will not be the case in a Romney administration.

At the end of the day that’s the trickier thing to say, but I believe it’s true: under Obama I think there’s the chance that things will get better for more people, and I don't see that happening under any other possible outcome in this election.
Thursday, August 16th, 2012
4:33 pm
An open letter to Mitt Romney
Mr. Romney,

I see today that you’re insisting that you’ve paid at least 13% taxes every year, but that you’re still not releasing your tax returns.

Let’s just skip past the part where you think that 13% is acceptable. While we’re at it, let’s skip how it is you can possibly have any interest in the general public good if you believe that 13% is acceptable for someone in your position. This post isn’t about policy, or arguing that persons who make money in investment income should pay the same rate as those of us that work for our money. This post is about your argument. This post is about why you need to see how your argument appears to the rest of us. And maybe if you can see your argument through our eyes, maybe you can begin to relate to the rest of us a little better, and that will go a long way to making you closer to likable.

My problem here isn’t even that I don’t trust you at your word, we’re moving right past that too.

The problem is this, if it is true that you’ve paid what you’ve said, why wouldn’t you release your returns? What do you have to lose? You have a lot to gain, right? I mean a) it would shut up everyone that’s been calling you out on these if you just released them, and b) if it is as you say, you can catch Harry Reid in a lie. Both of those have got to be good for a bump in the polls.

That you’ve come out and said “13%” but are still unwilling to release the forms just makes it look like either a) you are lying or b) there’s something in your returns that makes you look worse than merely having paid only 13%. Something so bad that it’s more damaging than the gain you’d get from showing up Reid.

Here’s the thing though, you’re now leaving whatever badness this is to our imaginations. So instead of confronting us with whatever’s wrong, you’re letting our imaginations run wild. And the longer you go without releasing these, the worse it’s going to get. We’re capable of imagining things far worse than whatever the reality likely is. Trust me, you don’t want that.

Oh, and while I don’t like that candidates spouses get asked questions as though they’re running too, you should probably ask Ann to put a lid on the “you people” crap.

If we can just get past this, maybe then we can focus on how you’re wrong on every single issue, or at least your party is. Your flip-flopping makes it difficult to tell, but it seems like you stand with your party, so yeah.

Really I’d rather there be focus on the issues as that could help sink GOP Congressional candidates as well.

Ian Welke
Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
1:38 pm
The southwest roadtrip
Roadtripzilla

On Monday, July 9th, Amy and I started off on a road trip of the southwest. Why would someone go on a road trip of the southwest in July, you might well ask? Especially me, the guy who once moved to Seattle for the weather. Well, July is the only time we could block out the time.

Right away I thought I was in a lot of trouble. We stopped in Needles for gas. The temperature was well over a hundred degrees. I started filling the tank, and my body sent this message to my brain: Drop what you are doing now and get us out of here or we will die.

Returned to the safety of the air conditioned car, we made our way to the El Tovar lodge at the Grand Canyon. I should start out by saying, I differ greatly from most people when I travel. I do not like hiking, boating, biking, or even being outside. Especially if it’s hot. I also don’t like crowds. So the Grand Canyon was pretty much not my cup of tea.

The El Tovar lodge was strange. It was the first of many places we stayed on our tour with a weird problem in the bathroom, like someone has been designing hotel bathrooms throughout the Southwest without any concept that someone might come along and actually try and use them. The bathroom here had a number of weird problems. The most significant was that the toilet paper roll hung over the seat in such a way that it shared space with my leg. Without getting into what one does on the toilet too much, the last thing one wants to do when… doing one’s business… is clench one’s legs together.

The food at El Tovar, pricey and highly touted, was not good. Maybe it’s just the vegetarian menu. Maybe they do better with meat. But I hate when I travel when I’m served something that I would cook better, especially if they’re charging $20 for an entrée. Amy ordered a pasta that I would have been mad at myself if I’d cooked, but then I would have shrugged had I cooked it because it wouldn’t have felt like a great loss for a couple bucks of ingredients. She also ordered tofu to be added to it. This wasn’t cooked with the sauce, or flavored in any way, so it was just bland tofu, that seemed strange… foamy… maybe microwaved.

The next day we drove to Flagstaff. We had lunch at the Beaver Street Brew Pub which was tasty, and the beer was good. Flagstaff seemed interesting. Lots of restaurants and pubs, though seemingly they don’t want anyone to be able to park there.

Near Flagstaff we went to the Lowell Observatory, the site where they discovered Pluto. This was the first of the science stops on the trip. Despite being buzzbombed by insects (why do I ever have to go outside?) it was an enjoyable stop. Though towards the end of it, we found ourselves questioning again, why our country has stopped looking forward, stopped being interested in research and investigation, instead preferring to protect the assets of multimillionaires and perpetuating the idiocy of supply side economics. As if this question weren’t on our minds enough, when we returned to the hotel I was stunned by the campaign ad of raging imbecile, Ben Quayle. Yes, the son of the former Vice President. And the dipshit acorn doesn’t fall far from the moron tree apparently. This commercial was so odious and obnoxious that it presented a bit of a blow to our journey. One of the things that stood in our way planning the trip, was we weren’t sure we wanted to go to Arizona, we didn’t want to support the dipshittery that is that state’s politics. But then we rationalized that Sheriff Joe and that mummified Governor are probably just extreme examples. Ben Quayle’s ad was a glass of cold water on that dream that people might not be all that bad after all. We resolved that we’d see all we needed to of Arizona on that trip, and not come back, not until they’d rid themselves of such fuckwittery.

Leaving Flagstaff we drove to the giant meteor crater. At this point I started to wonder about Arizona’s economy. Can you have a “holes in the ground” dominated economy?

And so began a lot of driving across a lot of desert. We crossed a large amount of reservation land. The a/c in my car isn’t strong. Not strong enough to deal with that level of heat. It was able to keep the worst of it off of me, but if I sat still sweat would start to run down my back or wherever surfaces touched.

Apart from strange hallucinations of amalgam creatures in the reservation, one of the strangers things we stopped for was the four corners site, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all touch.

AZ CO NM 057

I was thankful with when we came to Mesa Verde national park in Colorado and things cooled off a bit. This lodge was much better. The meal is the first ever meal I had at a lodge where I can say I couldn’t or wouldn’t think to cook the meal I had. I ordered the chile relleno, and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, a sort of fine dining take on the dish.

Our room at the Longview lodge had a great view. So I sat out on the deck, drinking rye and watching the critters below. The only problem with the room, was the bathroom, which again was weird. The raised basin had a little sign saying to close the basin to shave, but I found no means of stopping the water. The fan in the bathroom sounded like a plane taking off, and rattled the walls. Otherwise though, I highly recommend the Longview Lodge at Mesa Verde.

The next day we took a tour to look at the cliff dwellings. I’d like to say that I felt something here, experienced something important, but honestly, I was mostly annoyed. Our group was slow. This is because one woman kept asking the most useless questions. I thought at first it was just me being grumpy here, and that maybe I should give her the benefit of the doubt, but even super nice Amy whispered to me, “That woman needs to check a book out of a library.”

Durango ended up being a bit of a disappointment. I thought I’d drank enough water on the tour, and the drive from Mesa Verde, but I don’t know if I was dehydrated or what, but I had a terrible headache. The town itself looked like it might have been enjoyable otherwise. We had a good lunch at the Steamworks brewery. The Victorian decorated room at the hotel though, was clearly not meant for us. There was no desk or table space, clearly they assumed that people would stay there to go out on the town or do outdoorsy things. Despite the sadness at missing other brewery potential, I was happy to move on.

Los Alamos was interesting. The Bradbury Science Museum filled me with ideas for stories, most of which are probably already happening in the excellent comic series “Manhattan Projects” from Image Comics, but I’ll keep my notes to see what they don’t cover.

Santa Fe was probably my favorite place on the trip. We stayed at the Old Santa Fe Inn, and had a great room. First it had the first bathroom of any room on the trip without some weird usage issue. Next, and this will seem strange to people that aren’t like me I guess, but I loved the desk. It had something that I think every hotel room should have: a station of plugs on the desk so that I can plug in my laptop, Amy can plug in her laptop, and all our chargers. I know. I’m not raving about a view of a sunset or proximity to a hiking trail or whatever people want. I’m trilled by access to electricity.

The location of the hotel is also quite good. Easy walking distance to the plaza.

We had dinner at the Shed, which I really liked, though Amy was a bit overwhelmed by the spice. Still better than the people next to us, discussing their preference for using “Fritos” in cooking. I noticed this throughout our two days in Santa Fe, that with all the good food available, the place seemed filled with people that would prefer crap. On our walking tour the next day we walked by a group discussing going to Denny’s. I actually overhear one of them stating his preference for Denny’s over the local fare.

On our walking tour we also saw the oldest house in North America and the Georgia O’Keefe museum, which was neat, though I think, personally, I admire her spirit more than her art.

Albuquerque was interesting. First on the drive in, I couldn’t help but feel that the location scout for Breaking Bad has the cushiest job in the world, as every bit of desert north of Albuquerque looks like a spot one would expect to see the Winnebago and people cooking up a batch of meth.

On the way to Albuquerque, we stopped and saw the petroglyphs which were neat, though I couldn’t help but think “what if someone’s just grabbed some chalk and is fucking with us?”

In Albuquerque we had two really nice meals. Stuffed sopapillas at Stufys for lunch, and then I had the best veggie burger I’ve ever had at the Flying Star Café, before we headed to the ballpark for the Isotopes game. I think this might be my favorite ballpark I’ve been to. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a baseball game before where there seemed to be such a concerted effort to make sure everyone at the game got plastered. Hard liquor was available throughout the park as well as beer, so thumbs up from this drunkard! Someday I’d like to go back for a game when I’m there to drink, and just sit on the bench with Homer Simpson until I’ve drank enough that I think he’s real.

NM AZ part II 012

NM AZ part II 020

Roswell was a bit of a surprise. We had no idea the town would be that big. I expected the alien museum and some places around it, but it’s apparently the county seat and it has a military academy and other business, so it’s built up more. This doesn’t stop the museum and surrounding businesses from being depressing however. The museum has exhibits that could be good, though they’re in need of copy editing, but it looks beat up, dirty. Next to the museum we ate at a Mexican food place that seemed just as dreary. At one point Amy said something about the service being a little slow, and all I could think was of course it’s slow, they’re too depressed to be quick, it’s a wonder they got out of bed today. I think maybe it’s just because it was so quiet. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a library as quiet as that museum, or that restaurant for that matter. It’s like there’s a mirth sucking vampire somewhere there… that this downward spiral of despair starts as you enter the museum and you need time to recover afterward.

At Almagordo we stopped for the next of our science visits, seeing the museum of Space History. This was pretty cool, getting a lot of history and more story ideas, as well as seeing the final resting place of HAM, the first ape in space.

NM AZ part II 039

We drove down to El Paso. I’m not sure why I thought this would be a good idea, but it was a bit bleak, though we did have some good Mexican food at the L&J Café, which looks like a dive bar, but there’s good food in there. It’s also across the street from a cemetery, so if I wasn’t already having ideas for western stories, zombie-dive bar-modern western ideas were flying through my head.

Maintaining the western theme, we drove on to Tombstone. The best part of Tombstone I thought was Boot Hill. It’s been restored, so the graves and markers are modern, but the booklet detailing how people died is a treasure trove of dark humor.

We made a mistake here. We thought we’d go into the town a bit later when it might be cooler. What we didn’t realize was, the town, and much of Arizona I later learned, closes early during the summer. I could see summer not being a peak tourist season, but I’m surprised that they don’t do more in the cooler evening rather than the hot afternoons. The result of this was we went into a mostly closed town. It was like a tourist trap that had given up on trying to trap the tourists. I’m guessing a different time of year and it might be different. At Big Nosed Kate’s, I had a few drinks and we ate. Amy found this place to be more depressing then Roswell. While I thought the town was depressing, the bar seemed okay to me… maybe that was the whiskey talking, but with a drink in my hand I’m pretty happy to sit back and people watch.

The next day we had lunch in Tucson at the Tucson Tamale Factory. Along with Stufy’s from Albuquerque, if this place was near my house I’d eat there at least twice a week. They do basically nothing but tamales, but the tamale options are fantastic. My favorite was the Tucson. They also had Indian (east) tamales, stuffed with curried potatoes and vegetables. Really it all tasted good.

That night we part of a Tucson Padres game, before heading out to meet up with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen since I left Blizzard way back in 2004. It was a nice, if brief visit. Amy and I were pretty much running on fumes by that point, having decided earlier that day to go home the next day rather than spend the planned night in Phoenix and seeing the Diamondbacks play.

Before heading home, we did stop off to see my aunt, cousin, and grandfather, who all live just north of Phoenix. It was good to get to see them all, and to meet my cousin’s children.

The drive home was fairly miserable. I don’t think it was the longest drive of the trip, but it might have been the hottest, and having spent so much time in the car over the past weeks, it seemed longer than it probably was.

We stopped for gas and to use the restroom in Blythe. Blythe is a hard town to describe. It’s hot, miserable, and dirty. I got a sense that everyone there had given up, and I can’t say I blame them. Yes, it would only take a moment to make some small part of it a bit less disgusting, but expending energy in that heat for even a moment must be a monumental effort.

As we approached Indio, I realized I’d never been that far east on the 10 before. Well, obviously since we were coming west, I’d been further east that week, as far as El Paso, even. What I mean is, living in California the majority of my life, having had a grandmother that lived in Palm Desert, I’d been to Indio a number of times, Coachella once, but if you told me before this trip that the map actually ended there and a few miles to the east the world ended, I would have believed you. Not rationally. In my mind I’d say, clearly the world doesn’t end, I’ve seen maps. It goes on past there. But in my heart I’d have said, yes, thar be monsters. I still think I might believe that. It had a feel like we were climbing out of Hell… in a Toyota econobox.

On a more serious and dour note, just before the split for the 60 we passed a motorcyclist laying in the second lane of the freeway with a bloody sheet covering the body. I’ve seen corpses before, but for some reason this really stuck with me. It had that sort of unrealness to it. I had to look a few times to verify I was really seeing it. (I wasn’t driving, before you accuse me of being a bad driver for looking.) I felt vaguely nauseous for the rest of the drive.

The odd thing about getting home: I would have thought that with the relative drop in temperature I’d feel cool, but I’ve felt like my skin is on fire ever since the trip. I suppose when you get out of the oven, it takes a while to cool back down.
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
3:05 pm
webcomic
For those people not on Facebook, or maybe missed it when I posted it there earlier, the webcomic my sister and I are doing is now up with its first post: http://www.nightmaresbyday.com/ .

We'll be updating it each Friday.

Brain so drained now... I think it's time to drown the brain in whiskey.
Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
9:57 am
Another summer, another volcano
Last week Amy and I flew up to Portland to visit some friends and complete our checklist of the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest.

The trip did not begin well. First we were mistaken which hotel we were staying at (we were meant to be at the airport Holiday Inn not the Express), which meant that we got in a bit late and not seeing any restaurants close by, ate at the Portland Airport Holiday Inn. DO NOT do this. DO NOT eat at the Portland Holiday Inn. We ordered a mushroom appetizer that tasted suspiciously like someone had chopped up mushrooms and drizzled microwaved brown sauce over them. Amy ordered a stuffed bell pepper. I can think, off the top of my head without trying, of better ways to prepare this. (Begin tangent: (Mexican: stuff the pepper with cheese, beans, rice, onions, tomato) (Mediterranean: garlic, chickpeas, feta, olives, either dill or oregano, couscous) there are a lot more, but that's the first two. End Tangent). Holiday Inn's cook just went with some sad vegetable remnants and a whole block of cheese. I love cheese, even I thought this was a disgusting amount of cheese. But even if it had been good, it still would have been slighted by the fact that the cook had not bothered to remove the sticker from the bell pepper before cooking it. I've done this at home, but then I'm not charging $15+ for a stuffed bell pepper at home.

The problems with the first night's hotel did not end with the restaurant. The cable went out in the room, and I don't know if the hotel had one of those bundles, but we lost internet and the phone didn't work. Fortunately the hotel was gracious the next morning and offered us a slew of "points". Hopefully these "points" convert to airline miles or can be used at the Holiday Inn Express... I can't say I'm in a hurry to stay at a Holiday Inn again.

The previous evening we'd driven away from the airport in a rental car. A brand new GMC... I want to say it was the Acadia. It had been dry when we arrived. When we left the hotel it was pouring rain. I opened the door to the Acadia, and it was full of water. Someone, apparently, had neglected to put a part in or something, because the light consul on the ceiling was leaking water into the vehicle, to the point that the overhead lights and cup holders beneath were full of water. Fortunately we were still close to the Hertz so we drove the car back to Hertz, for a new car (the Chevy model of the exact same vehicle), and to collect Hertz points for our trouble. At this point I was starting to feel like I was in some sort of bizarre traveling video game, where instead of quests you experience inconveniences and return to the quest givers for rewards which will enable you to experience more inconveniences at another date.

With our new, non leaky SUV, we drove to Mount Hood where it was snowing. A lot. Fortunately it was not sticking on the road, but let's see if I can load the pictures:

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The rest of the trip was just fun. Got to go drinking with friends in Seattle on Friday. Played Small World (excellent board game) with friends on the East Side on Saturday. Met up with more friends on the East Side for lunch on Sunday. And my good friend Bob was kind enough to put us up, which meant getting to spend time with him.

And that's it for the volcanoes in the PNW. Now it's Hawaii and Iceland to travel to.
Thursday, May 24th, 2012
8:06 am
One of the nice things about living in L.A. is having a large and diverse area where I can quickly (relatively) research story settings. Pictures from yesterday's research trip below:







Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
10:41 pm
The Danger In Between
Apologies to anyone feeling like they're getting spammed with this, but it's hard to tell where and when people are reading posts to the million different social media, so if you've already read this on the Facebooks, the Twitters, and the Google Plusses, I'm sorry.

But if you haven't already seen it: A supernatural noir story I wrote has appeared in this month's issue of KZine: http://www.amazon.com/Kzine-Issue-3-ebook/dp/B0085KA9E4/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337837679&sr=1-3 .
Monday, May 7th, 2012
11:44 am
Home Again
It occurs to me that when I returned to California from living in Seattle I should've realized how often I'd be staying in hotels and started a hotel blog. I suppose there's still time. The room from this weekend certainly would have been blog worthy.

The big thing was that it was on an incline, and I don't mean you ask "Is this on an incline? I don't know. Let's put a pen on the table and see if it rolls." I mean a significant... maybe 3%... grade. The tilt was significant enough that I'd gain momentum walking towards the bed. Trying to get out of bed and leave on the other hand, made all the more difficult by the climb. This also added to the difficulties in trying to get anything done while in the room, being in a hotel can be strange enough, but when you're sitting at a desk that's tilted 10 degrees down to the left, it's an extra blow to the concentration.

Another weirdness was the cellphone reception. I'm not someone that's always on my cellphone, but there's something strange about my wife texting me while she's at her conference and I don't get the text until she's back in the room and in the bathroom at that. For a disturbing moment I though she was texting me from the toilet.

Of course the hotel can't do anything about the incline. The interior design of the room on the other hand was a victory of form over function, and whoever chose the design wasn't going to have it jeopardized by pesky things like "do the customers have access to electrical outlets." The only outlets at the desk were at the base of the oddly shaped lamp, which didn't allow for me to plugin the adapter for my MacBook until I put a notebook under the lamp to tilt it upwards, putting something else at a weird angle in a room of odd angles. Despite being a huge room (we'd gotten an upgrade to this suite), I'd say it was almost as large square footagewise as the condo I'd lived at in Washington, the use of space was strange. The bathroom, the part of it with the toilet and shower, was tiny, so much so that I had to change clothes outside of it. There were two rooms with sinks and mirrors, but one of these was on the other side of the suite, next to the door. Oddly this other sink room had a fan whereas the room with the shower did not. I wonder if when they put the room together they had a list of things that go in a hotel room but chose to put them in at random.

Speaking of design over function, the television was far away from the bed, and had to be re-angled to be seen from the bed. I don't sleep well in hotels generally, and like to fall asleep to the television, so that was a bit of a negative, or would've been if I hadn't taken the precaution to pack a bottle of Trader Joe's Single Malt Whisky.

My other complaints, was that cigarette smoke from somewhere nearby kept making it into the room. I don't mind the smell of smoke, but my wife does, so I wasn't thrilled about that either. Not that it's the hotel's fault, but our neighbors had kids, and these were running up and down the halls shrieking all Saturday afternoon.

On the plus side, I could see across the bay and had a nice view of the San Francisco cityscape. And the hotel did bring us a complimentary wine and cheese platter, and one reason I couldn't be a hotel blogger, I think I'd be far too easily bribeable with booze.

So there you go, the DoubleDay Berkeley Marina: Tolerable with Booze.
Thursday, April 12th, 2012
10:01 am
comics
After getting back from comicbook Wednesday yesterday I started thinking about how it seems like my interest has had its peaks and valleys over the years.

For me the first valley came back when the XMen had their "Mutant Massacre" storyline and got rid of all my favorite characters, replacing them with characters that seemed like they were out of a marketing focus group, like the Simpsons Poochy. After that I abandoned reading comics for years, convinced that it was just part of growing up.

Years later someone kindly showed me that not only were there grown up stories being told in comics, but I was missing out on some of the best story telling by not reading them, and there was the Sandman and why hadn't I been reading it all along? I got into Sandman a little after DC switched its adult line over to Vertigo, and here there was a great peak for my interest: a whole line of books that seemed geared to my interests, and so I got to not only go back and read all the Sandman I'd missed, but also The Invisibles came out, and if I liked the Invisibles, I could go back and read Doom Patrol and Animal Man.

But at some point the writers I liked at Vertigo stopped writing for Vertigo. Most I think went to Marvel and started telling well written versions of more standard superhero comics. While these were well done, I wasn't real interested in these characters, and eventually I realized I was just spending money on books I wasn't even reading.

But now definitely seems to be a peak time. There's just so many good titles now, and really a lot of different and imaginative thinking behind them.

If I had to pick just two comics, I'd take Fatale and Saga. Fatale seems to combine my two favorite genres: Loveraftish horror and noirish hardboiled stories. Whereas Saga is a mesh of what I think is best about fantasy/specfic. It's like imagination stew, and I mean that in the best of ways, it's one of the most unique things I've seen.

Chew is a great mix of humor and genre storytelling. Manhattan Projects is just starting, but it seems to be doing this well also.

A few months ago I wrote about giving DCs "New 52" a shot. Here are the titles I'm still reading from these.

I, Vampire. Without a doubt my favorite of the line. It's set in the DC universe, but doesn't compromise the storytelling, telling a great horror story while picking and choosing the elements of DC's world to best utilize. This reminds me of early Sandman, Animal Man, or Swamp Thing when they were still more a part of the DC world.

Justice League Dark. I suspected initially that someone had looked at my purchasing habits before putting this together, throwing the characters I like together for a team. This recently did a crossover with I, Vampire that reminded me of why crossovers are good, instead of the more usual forced tie ins.

Wonder Woman. I wouldn't have suspected that I'd be reading this, but I like the use of Greek myth, and it makes sense with her background.

Animal Man and Swamp Thing. With these I like the concepts a lot, but I kind of think the execution on the writing has fallen off or the writers have been rushed in the last few issues. If I think about what happened in these, I think it's a great story, but if I go back reread them they don't seem as well told as when they started.

Along with these I've been reading Buffy Season 9 and Angel and Faith. I'm liking Buffy Season 9 for the most part, as with the show it seems to be the side characters I like the most, thrilled to see Andrew get more time in the recent issue. As for Angel and Faith, I like this a lot, though it did suffer somewhat at its start from beginning with stories told "From the Journal of Rupert Giles" and I couldn't help but think, Why isn't there a "From the Journal of Rupert Giles" comic? I want that story more than the ones being told in the actual comic I'm getting.

Hopefully this new peak is just the beginning with so many of these titles being relatively new. It's too nice to have the imagination rekindled every Wednesday, while it would be easier on the pocketbook, I'd prefer not to run into another valley.
Monday, March 26th, 2012
3:07 pm
If you're looking for a Realtor in the Seattle area
Now that the sale of my condo is complete, I wanted to take a moment to endorse my Realtor. Through what was, in this case, an arduous process, she stuck with the sale despite the bad market, despite having to deal with outside difficulties well beyond the norm, and she did this for what was a smaller sale and therefore lesser commission.

I have also worked with her before, on an easier sale when markets were still thriving, and on two purchases. In every instance she went beyond the call of duty to get the process completed.

If you are looking for a Seattle area Realtor: http://www.rhonafeldman.com/
Saturday, March 10th, 2012
9:56 am
John Carter of Mars
I've seen some of the negative reviews, and I've had a hard time reconciling those reviews with my experience yesterday, which was that the movie is some of the most fun I've had at the movie theater since I was a kid.

The movie had a lot to overcome. I'm not a fan of 3D, and our theater only had 3D showings. Through the 3D previews I was already growing annoyed with the glasses, the barrier between the two lenses was just thick enough that I kept catching it in my vision making me a bit crosseyed but mostly cross.

Despite that I would've preferred a 2D version, the movie was just solid fun. It establishes a sense of mystery early, before ever going to Mars. It's well paced. I love that they told some of his backstory in flashbacks with emphasis on "flash". This is where I think some of the reviewers had a problem. Many of them said that they were confused by the plot, and it took me just about a whole day to put my finger on how anyone could be confused by this plot, and then it hit me that part of why I loved this movie is that the filmmakers didn't feel the need to explain every last thing in detail, they just put it out there and allowed me to think for myself and keep up.

I also loved that very conceptually different SciFi of the Burroughs material being portrayed on film. I wondered if that might have been difficult for the reviewers, that it is more fantasy than Science Fiction, I wonder if some of the reviewers just thought "well this can't happen." And indeed if you're concerned about the science in your SciFi, than John Carter being able to leap hundreds of meters at a time because he grew up on a world with a slightly higher gravity is probably going to bother you. Me? I'm happy to enjoy the world. I loved the aliens with the eight arms. The white apes were awesome. And of course Woolah is the most wonderful alien dog creature ever and I want one.

I do agree with the critics that the lead role could have been played by a better actor, but I disagree with how much that matters. In my opinion he pulls off what is needed of the role. He is bewildered by his change in surroundings, learns what he needs for us to understand the new world through his eyes (I understood anyway, not sure what's wrong with some of the critics learny bits), he clearly falls in love with the princess (and I love this because it's not an easy story, his backstory makes this difficult for him and pulls that off as well), his character grows from the refusal of the call "I've fought for causes before, I'm done with that" to finding the cause important and fighting for it. And of course he looks very pretty. Some of this pretty contributes to thinking he's not the brightest bulb, and one of my favorite lines is when the evil alien that's apparently manipulating all worlds to go to crap (explains a lot really) is judging Carter he notes the increased strength and agility and then adds "though not an increased intellect."

Another thing that might have contributed to the confusion of some, but I liked, was that they didn't take extra time to explain the language they just use it as though it's their normal everyday vocabulary. Personally I much preferred this, and I think they did a good job of not stringing too many of these words together and using visual clues to help you figure this out without stopping to hand you a dictionary. Hell, even before he drinks the magical Babble-fish smoothie and can understand them, enough words are repeated while they're speaking to him and we get subtitles that one starts to pick up on a few words here and there, and they do some nice plays on the confusion with the two cultures meeting.

So, overall, I guess I'm confused by the critics' confusion. But what's important is I left that theater overwhelmed with a giddy feeling of joy.
Friday, March 2nd, 2012
3:26 pm
Horrorscope
From today's Los Angeles Times: "There's something wonderful about doing exactly what you expected to be doing. Feeling like you are in control will bring you great happiness."

Not even close to the mark today, Holiday Mathis, unless you are a Pisces and pissing me off is exactly what you expected to be doing, and it makes you happy. But this here Pisces, not having a banner day. I want my happy day, you fucker.

As for being in control, I don't think I can remember a time in my life where I felt like I was in control of anything. Well, maybe playing Civilization or something, but in real life?

Heh, the title of this post made more sense when I was originally going to write about a fantasy of tracking down this alleged happy, in control, Pisces, and axe murdering him, a fantasy which I will admit made me sort of happy, for a fleeting moment. Then I remembered from watching thousands of episodes of Perry Mason to never ever say you wish someone dead, so I decided to edit that out. See. It's edited out now. Ugh.
Saturday, February 11th, 2012
10:43 am
Top 5 songs for CPAC
These five songs came on my ITUNES DJ while I made the horrible mistake of reading some of the CPAC coverage.

1. Greedy and Pathetic by MDC. Should be dedicated to Mitt Romney.
2. Kill The Poor by The Dead Kennedys. Ann Coulter's speech is the chorus.
3. Let's Have A War by Fear. Could be about any foreign policy speech from CPAC.
4. Paid Vacation by the Circle Jerks. How did the Circle Jerks predict the endless Afghani war thirty years ago?
5. Kids of the black hole by the Adolescents.

Yes I did have my playlist on the "punk" list, as I'm writing a story right now with a punkish character, but still I'm stunned by how appropriately all of these songs that were written in the early 1980s fit the current political and economic climate now. Then it struck me that the party that's really been in power is the one that seems use dystopian scifis as their playbooks.

At least Black Flag's Rise Above came on after all that. So I do feel a bit more positive. Until I read the next article.
Thursday, February 9th, 2012
3:00 pm
Long Beach Writers Group Anthology
I have a short story in this anthology. Also my fellow editors went with my choice of order to put the stories and poems in, which I'm pretty proud of. Check it out. I think you can read Thomas Riordan's excellent story, Deuda Perdita in the free sample. (I like a lot of these stories, but his was my favorite.) http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/124219
Saturday, February 4th, 2012
1:44 pm
The Superbowl, the drinking game.
I may need to add a few, but here are my rules for tomorrow:

Drink (Beer)whenever:

One of the announcers say "In the National Football League..."

One of the announcers starts a sentence with "I'll tell you what"

During any pregame show musical act.

During any human interest story.

Anytime there's ad that no one in your house can identify what they're selling.

Drink a shot of whiskey whenever:

Tebow is mentioned. Especially since he's not playing but somehow is still a story confirming his status as the Sarah Palin of quarterbacks.

During the halftime, each time a new song is started. (Trust me, I'm doing you a favor with this rule).

Any political ads. Two shots if there's a Focus on the Family ad. Two shots + the Tebow shot if he's involved with the ad.
Friday, January 20th, 2012
9:17 am
In the last 24 hours...
Newt Gingrich, the same man who went after Clinton for his affairs, claimed the media shouldn't ask him, a candidate for president, a question about an affair he had. Sometimes I think people aren't running for president, so much as acting as setup men for Jon Stewart.

Mitt Romney complained President Obama is practicing crony capitalism. His example of this was the Obama administration asking for more time to study the Keystone Pipeline instead of rubber stamping it the way Romney would. That rubber stamping it would actually be crony capitalism and not caving to the corporate interests is sort of the opposite, apparently doesn't matter here.

MPAA head, and colossal gobshite, Chris Dodd, claimed that people protesting the SOPA bill by blacking out their own websites were abusing their power. He followed this up today by adding that the bill failed, not because it goes to far, contains ambiguous wording that suggests it could be misused to go after more than pirates, or people's beliefs that it goes too far in punishing these miscreants, but because people attacked his right to free speech.

The sad thing is, this use of Orwellian doublethink has become the norm, and this hasn't been that abnormal a news cycle (especially with a GOP debate every six hours).
Friday, November 11th, 2011
9:57 am
The Irish Rover
For the few people reading this that are not also on the Facebooks or the Twitters, a story I wrote it appearing in the Winter 2011 issue of Big Pulp, which I believe is out next month.

Preorder info is here: http://www.indiegogo.com/Big-Pulp-Winter-2011

My story, Last of the Irish Rover, is partially based on the Deep One monsters from HP Lovecrafts Innsmouth stories, and partially based on the pub song the Irish Rover. If you're familiar with either, you're probably thinking things don't go real well for people on the boat in the story, and you're right.

You can now read the story here: http://www.bigpulp.com/issues/2011_12/welke_irishrover.html
Updated ordering info is on that link as well.
Thursday, October 27th, 2011
10:34 am
The Occupy Movement
This is long and rambling. You may want to spare yourself.

I wasn’t going to write anything about this. I was going to keep my mouth shut and remain focused on my fiction writing, which has actually been going pretty recently (for about the length of time I’ve kept focused on it instead of seething about the state of the world). But I feel like things have come to a point where I have to get these things off my chest, and if the four or five people who actually read this feel similarly, who knows maybe the word will spread and help somewhere.

First I need to get this out of the way. I really don’t believe in street protest. Under the normal run of things, I think street protest is counterproductive. You don’t win people over to your side by making their commutes even more hellish. Also protests tend to bring out the Protesters with the capital “P”, those that live up to the most concentrated stereotypes of a protester, those that will be most likely interviewed by the media (if the media bother to show up), and those least equipped to answer the questions.

But this movement is also attracting protesters that are not the Protesters, and here is why: this is not the normal run of things. Things are so far out of hand economically that regular people feel compelled to get off of their sofas and attend these protests.

Having a history degree, I am overly fond of historical comparisons. The one that’s been sitting on my brain like a thought crippling cranial hippo is the end of the Roman Republic. Not the end of the Roman Empire. I’m talking about the period leading up to the civil wars that ended the Republic. Under the normal run of things, Pan Et Circenses, kept the people mollified. Sure they might have bitched in graffiti scrawls on the walls (early blogging), but they had food, entertainment, and a feeling that they had a chance for things to improve for them. But then things got out of hand. Things became very much not the normal run of things. The owners of the Latifundia (early megacorporations) started to own too much of the wealth. Plus the Latifundia relied on slave labor (deplorable ethics aside, the economic effect could translate to automation in our society), which meant that unemployment was high and growing ever higher. The Republic deteriorated into social unrest and a series of civil wars that led to the rise of the Caesars and the end of the Republic.

Do I think we’re headed to the end of our republic? I sort of doubt it, but I do believe we’ve entered into a dangerous period where the corporate greed has gotten out of hand, and the ability of those corporations to control everything, including stop or neuter any checks or balances from the government, has made it so that the people feel like there is no other recourse than street protest.

By their ability to buy congressman, their control of the media, and the fear they wield with their financial control, the financial establishment has turned this country into pure corporatocracy. People feel that voting is pointless since their representatives do not represent them, and any one who would represent them and not giant corporations is unelectable.

So people have taken to the streets.

The question being asked now is: what do they hope to achieve?

That’s probably honestly unanswerable because there seems to be no one in charge. This is as close to democracy, not a republic, as you’re likely to see without replacing the legislative branch with internet voting. And I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing. As far as a protest movement goes, it has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance: It has the advantage that the powers that be can’t just arrest the leaders. It has the disadvantage that it’s hard for the movement to articulate its goals.

Regardless of goals, I think one thing that has been achieved is it has altered the national discussion to some degree. Before the protests it seemed like there was no one in the mainstream world taking unemployment seriously, every public discussion was focused on debt reduction, regardless of how many economists shouted that the debt was not the problem. (I still don’t see why Paul Krugman and other Keyensians don’t stop trying to help, why it is they continue to present rational and supported articles instead of just automating their jobs to post “I TOLD YOU SO” every three weeks is beyond me.)

So here, for what it’s worth, is what I think the movement should try to achieve, and some wishful thinking:

DOABLE GOALS

1)Make the problem part of the national conversation. Like I say above, they’ve done this, to a degree. Now I think this needs some focus. I think it needs to be made clear that it’s not that corporation are experiencing record profits that is a problem. It’s not even that they’re doing it at a time when they’re paying record low taxes. It’s that they’re doing it at a time when they’re paying record low taxes and unemployment is high.

There needs to be a counter to this “can’t tax the job creators” statement that goes unchallenged every time it’s spoken in the media. People need to point out that lower taxes have not led to job creation. Times with higher upper income taxes have been some of the most productive times in history for the nation’s economy. In fact, with less regulation and less taxes, corporations hire fewer people. They instead ship jobs oversees, or work the existing workforce longer hours and with fewer benefits and less pay.

2)Create a voting block that won’t stand for bought out representatives. This goes to item one above. But I think if enough people can come together as one and say “we’re on to your shit” some representation in congress can be found to stand up and put the brakes on our slide into some horrible spec-fic dystopia.

3)Make it clear that this isn’t going to go away. I think part of the problem with media and also mainstream thinking right now, is in the back of our heads we really think that the economy will at some point correct itself. Every now and then there’s an article or news story where you get that sense of confusion from someone, why hasn’t this gotten better yet? The reason is that we have a legislative branch that for whatever reason, -cough- bought out by corporate interests –cough-, has stood in the way of any attempts to fix the situation. That people have adopted the insane logic that the government can’t help to right the economy, despite countless examples in history where it has, and that the market will correct on its own. A protest movement can at least counter that argument.

WISHFUL THINKING AND OTHER PROBLEMS

This may be just me rambling. But I think some of this is really important. We have an opportunity for the country to be a better place. And I really think it’s going to slip us by and things will just get worse because of a combination of greed, ignorance, and apathy.

So here are some things, I think we, as a people should demand.

Safety net for displaced workers. I’ve known people who have been out of work for lengthy periods. Some of them have worked in the games industry, and I hear people say “it’s not like we need games to survive.” The crassness of that statement or an argument on what we do consider necessary or worth preserving aside, it got me thinking. All the jobs that used to exist that we’d consider essential have been replaced or at least reduced by automation. Not that any of my computer games making former cohorts are going to be out on the farm, but our food is now produced largely on giant corporate owned megafarms (Latifundia really) and the labor is all automated or poorly paid to the point it’s practically slavery. The garbage men… when I was a kid there were three of these per truck, now there’s one. The grocery store: you want the convenience of the self checkout, fine, but why does this mean they’re not going to hire as many people? And if that’s simple capitalism, I’ll point out that the stores with these self checkouts, cost more than the store I shop at that’s packed with workers. I’m sure there’s someone at the top making the difference. These are just a few examples, I’m sure it’s worse in what’s left of the manufacturing sector. Something needs to be done for people who lose their whole line of employment.

Moving forward. We have entire towns where property values have crashed, unemployment is through the roof, and interest rates are super low. We should be investing in these towns by creating research facilities and universities. We should be encouraging education for its own sake right now. I loved hearing about Steve Jobs taking calligraphy at Reed, the importance of taking classes that weren’t obviously and directly career oriented. Sometimes it’s the indirect learning that leads to the most important innovation. And speaking of which…

NASA. I saw a figure the other day, I didn’t research if it’s true or not… this diversionary journal post is already taking twice the time I’d thought and it’s not done yet… But the figure stated that the Bank Bailout has cost more than the entire NASA budget combined from NASA’s inception. And then you think of all the technologies and products that came out of NASA indirectly positively affecting our economy while trying to better our future. We should be investing in our future and that means exploring space. As Warren Ellis put it “having the entire breeding stock in one place is a bloody stupid way to run a species.”

Health care and housing. Part of my problem with the way the world has become is it’s the things you actually need that are unaffordable.

Property Costs: It used to be that someone making minimum wage could save up and buy a house. Even with crashed prices that’s never going to happen again. Rents remain high. This is a problem both for people finding a place they can afford to live… I forget what the percentage of what you make is supposed to go to rent, unless you are really well paid forget about it… and it’s also a problem for people trying to run a business. Why is it hard to run a brick and mortar retail business? Because the people who own the property would rather see it empty than rent it at an affordable rate.

Health Care: Our system is broken. And I don’t just mean for the people that go bankrupt because they get sick. Even when you have insurance through your employer the insurance companies dick you around with changing your doctors, telling your doctors they can’t run tests, and sending you bills that they may or may not actually cover, just to see if you’ll pay them. I really think insurance is an example where things have gotten so egregious, the greed so out of hand, that it’s time for the government or a mob with pitchforks and torches to step in and right things.

Water and Power. It just came out recently that PG&E knew that the gas lines that exploded were unsafe and lied about it, but what do you expect? Things we need to survive should not be on a for profit system. We need to fix the electric grid. And we should be building wind farms and investing in solar energy until we have more than enough electricity. The problem is that while it’s a commodity the people that produce it are financially motivated to keep it scarce. As for water, this is a southern Californian thing, but we need to build a series of cisterns and water collection devices so that we don’t waste what water we get.

“No one makes anything anymore.” This is something my very conservative Fox news watching friend said to me. And I think he’s right. I’m sure he’s convinced it’s because the Mexicans and Socialists are out to make him get gay married. I’m convinced it’s because our market system, specifically our stock market system has gotten so absurd, that a large business makes less money on services rendered or products produced than it does convincing stock holders that its stock price will go up. Now that would be fine if that stock price were better tied to the business’ production and sales, but instead it’s tied to the things that people have been told increase a stock price: a hotshot CEO, acquisitions, and layoffs of the workforce. Thus American business doesn’t make money by making something, it makes money by paying someone at the top a lot of money (including a giant payout if they leave, rewarding failure), taking debt in order to buy out smaller companies that might actually make something, but then firing the workforce of the smaller company so that they can no longer actually makes anything. The logic of this is like a demented and depressing Lewis Carroll story. The stock market needs to be well regulated. Also, the capital gains tax needs to be just as high as income tax.

No reductions in government spending until cost cutting can be properly targeted. This goes for defense spending as well. The reason I’m not in favor of reducing defense spending is I am certain that instead of cutting costly and unnecessary programs, the cuts will go straight to military families, the V.A., soldier’s equipment, etc. Just as cuts to education don’t go to reducing the costs of the highly paid administration, they result in teacher layoffs.

Some people might read this and go back to that worry about the debt and the deficit. There’s this wrongheaded thinking you see in these man in the streets interviews: “when you’re in debt you reduce your spending and pay off the debt.” And if the government’s revenue were a constant, that could work, but it’s not. There is a circular affect. In this case a downwards spiral down the toilet bowl, where the government cuts spending, people lose jobs, spend less, so private sector people lose their jobs, so the next year there’s less revenue and the circle starts again further down the bowl. The best way to fix the debt is to tackle the deficit by creating jobs, closing tax loopholes, and returning the upper tax incomes to their pre George W Bush rates.

Speaking of taxes, let me stress again that the loopholes need to be closed or the whole code needs revision. Without fixing the loopholes, any attempt to use taxes to really fix anything, only amounts to a stimulus package for tax attorneys and CPAs.

Well that’s 2500 words and not what I would have liked to have written on today, but like I say this is not the normal run of things.
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