Friday, December 24, 2010

A Note From December 24

As the last few hours of December 24th fall away, a terrible Christmas movie is on the TV, the wine and margaritas are flowing into the adults' glasses, and the dogs are wandering around, getting underfoot and being loved. 

I'm in the kitchen of my parents' house in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to where they recently retired.  My girl is here with me, as is one of my brothers and his family.  Tomorrow morning we'll call my other brother, and all of us will call other friends and check in with them.  We won't text them or Facebook them, but we'll call.

As I sip my third chilirita - a margarita made with blackberry/habanero sauce - I feel a slipping of negativity from my shoulders and a blissful sense of peace taking its place.  Right now, there is nothing I wish to bash, no one I want to see imprisoned, no cause I wish to take up.

Except this one: to wish each and every person who reads this a happy, peaceful Christmas with the ones they love.  And if you can't be with them this year, I suggest picking them up and giving them a call on Christmas morning.  Don't text them or Facebook them, because after all, what they want to hear is your voice.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Report on the Whereabouts of One Raj K. Chopra

I received a piece of information last week that caused me to laugh out loud – then made me want to throw up a little bit. It’s regarding the former superintendent at Southwestern College, Raj K. Chopra.


What I was told – and it was from an unimpeachable source – is that Raj Chopra has apparently decided to stick around California a while.

Why is this both funny and disgusting? Because the smart money would have had Chopra hightailing it India after his resignation from SWC, or attempting to find new work somewhere on the East Coast, as far from California, Arizona, and Kansas as he could get.

But no. Chopra is apparently spending some quality time in East County (that’s the sparsely-populated central/eastern San Diego County for you non-locals) trying to convince someone to hire him as a school superintendent.

That was the laughy part. Chopra needed to retreat to conservative East County to try to find someone to help him grab a short-term or interim position. When his best possible chance at a career – and coincidentally, the most dignified thing he could do, is to go elsewhere and seek a position, he’s wandering So Cal, hat in hand, looking for an eighteen-month long bit of work.

Because, you see, eighteen months as a superintendent in California is all he needs to become vested in the state’s pension system. If he acquires even an interim position, all he has to do is rest his butt in a chair for eighteen months, say nothing, do nothing, and the people of California will pay for his quite-large pension.

Which he will have earned by turning Southwestern College into an oppressive, frightened shell of itself.

That’s the whole throwy-uppy thing.

It’s imperative that Chopra not be allowed this opportunity. If it’s the work he wants, let him take his carcass somewhere else and find it. Do not let this man game the system. Do not let him earn his pension on the backs of those students who were unceremoniously abandoned or the faculty and staff who were laid off and let go – all do to his butcher’s work to the budget.

He doesn’t want the work; he wants that pension.

Chopra’s biggest supporter, the San Diego Union-Tribune, has long complained about the unions and their “abuses” of the state pension system. But it’s not a union member attempting to abuse the system now; it’s management. Kind of makes you wonder if this makes the U-T reconsider their position on Chopra, or if they’ll unfurl their hypocrisy flag and keep supporting him.

Consider this your Distant Early Warning. Raj Chopra is trying to slip back into the system, all to collect that unearned pension. Don’t let it happen. He’s already left one school in tatters and a nationwide laughingstock.

Don’t let it happen to your school.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thinking of Scoundrels, Deals, and the Possibilities of the Future

I’m going to muse a bit. Right here, to myself. Just a bit. And while I muse, I’m going to think about scoundrels.

If I was a scoundrel – let’s say I was in a position of some considerable authority at a large institution of some sort…

…and let’s not think too hard about which kind…

…and I had been involved in some truly shady dealing – the kinds of dealings that might lead to a quick appearance in public wearing handcuffs, then I might truly consider what options I had.

I might seriously consider the fact that these shady dealings must have involved others. I might come to the conclusion that people from law enforcement, or even other civil parties, would much rather get those people than me.

And by that, I mean that if a scoundrel had some information, good information that could cause serious legal issues to others involved with these shady deals, that scoundrel would be pretty smart to make a deal.

If that scoundrel were to do that, I know that I, here on these blogs, would surely feel a stirring of warmth in my soul that might cause me to get rid of most or all of this public information.

Of course, this offered information should bring Hell raining down upon people of importance – a Salcido or a Williams, a Hom or a Chopra, perhaps. The more people, the more importance, the warmer that feeling in my soul becomes. And a scoundrel could surely guess how much I’d feel like making that happen.

A lot. A whole damn lot.

Me. This guy writing the blog – I’m not the scoundrel. But I know who is, and he knows I know. He’ll be reading this, and he’ll know I’m talking about him.

And if I were that scoundrel, I’d wonder what any deadline might be for this possibility to happen.

I’d hate to ruin a man’s Christmas, but I don’t think he should ring in a Happy New Year’s before making that decision. In fact, I’m quite certain of that.

Call this my version of flexibility. Call this my willingness to cooperate. Call this my desire to look past things to see a bigger justice done.

Personally, if I was you, I’d call it my best chance at getting rid of some truly distressing baggage and moving onto better things somewhere else.

Call it whatever you want, but you better make that call soon.

My email is on the page.

You know, these blog posts get harder and harder to cover up the longer they’re up…

Thursday, December 2, 2010

San Diego Union-Tribune Blasts "Pro-Labor" Forces - McCarthyists Applaud

So, yeah, the San Diego Union-Tribune is at it again. On Wednesday, December 1, the U-T editorial board dumped their latest pro-Chopra screed onto their Sign on San Diego boards.

This comes as no surprise. The U-T’s violently anti-union shtick has helped turn them into a So Cal newspaper punch line again and again. But a quick glance over this newest bit – found here – demonstrates a truly petty, almost lurid sort of pathetic-ness.

Painting the non-related elections at Palomar and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Colleges with the same brush as the one used on Southwestern College is insulting to SWC – and to Palomar and Grossmont-Cuyamaca. Each of these schools did what they did and ran who they ran for the sake of their school, not some fictional pro-labor attack on San Diego County.

Now-former Superintendent Raj Chopra has long been a U-T paragon of all that is good and wonderful in education – a man who “brought hardheaded financial management and no-nonsense leadership at a time when the district needed it,” and like a combination Chuck Norris and John Wayne, fought the teachers’ unions that “enjoyed unfettered freedoms”.

Of course, that’s all crap.

Chopra took his budget machete to classes, adjunct professors, and classified staff in a time when the school had a surplus approaching $15 million – more than it had in years, and more than almost any other school in the state. Yet the U-T continued to defend Chopra, based on his (and the Governing Board’s) claim of ‘coming financial disaster.’ That was an outright lie, and the U-T helped perpetrate it.

Why does the Union-Tribune bother to take these continuing shots at the school? Why do they shriek and point and howl “Pro-Labor Forces are Coming! Pro-Labor Forces are Coming!” like a deranged 50’s era Commie-spotter who doesn’t like the look of his next door neighbor?

(I mean, besides the fact that they’re violently anti-union, and their buddy-chums at the Lincoln Club* might start yanking their advertising if they didn’t?)

Online page views. They don’t care what they have to say to get those views; it matters not one bit to them. You know what does matter? How many times you hit that link and make that comment.

Send that link out to your friends, encourage them to get over there and make another comment; what does that do? It justifies what the U-T has to say. It’s getting readers, you see, and they’ve got proof of it.

Go back and look at it now. More than a day after it was posted, and not a single pro-Chopra comment has been made. All the ones who have spoken up are anti-Chopra, anti-U-T types. That is basically playing into their hands.

They don’t care what you’ve got to say. And not to put too fine a point on it, no one cares what the U-T has to say about Raj Chopra. They’ve done it for so long, so loudly, and so vitriolically that no one actually has to read what they have to say. This piece – and any others that follow it will sway no one. And given how their pet (read: endorsed) candidates performed last month, they didn’t sway a whole lot of folks then, either.

Let it go. It’s time to let the U-T spew their own crap to whoever wants to read it. There are some good reporters there, and a few excellent writers, but they’re overshadowed by an editorial board that can’t see past their own preferences. And though this board doesn’t care what you say, but they’re delighted that you’re taking the time to say it.

*To those who don't know, the Lincoln Club is SD County's hardcore right-wing batch of movers and shakers.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Raj Chopra is OUT at Southwestern College

It appears that all the hard work has paid off. This afternoon, embattled, embittered Superintendent Raj K. Chopra resigned from his position at Southwestern College, taking with him only six months' severance.

This was the second big victory for SWC's pro-student, pro-education, pro-faculty contingent, following the November elections that brought Norma Hernandez and Tim Nader to the Governing Board - along with a 3-member majority.

In fact, it was the former Board's insistence on standing by Raj Chopra that all costs - particularly when supporting his appalling short-sighted budget measures and ham-handed disciplinary actions against the faculty - that turned the election of the board from a formality into a crusade.

The public cannot fire the superintendent, you see; only the Governing Board can. But the public can - and did - fire the Board.

Things are looking up at Southwestern College.

I've included the press release from the school's resident PR flack, Chris "Truth-bender" Bender.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

CONTACT:
Chris Bender, Southwestern College
(619) 482 – 6564

CHOPRA ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE FROM SOUTHWESTERN COLLEGE

CHULA VISTA, CA – Southwestern College today released the following statement on the departure of Superintendent/President Dr. Raj K. Chopra:

Dr. Raj K. Chopra is resigning from his current position as Southwestern College’s Superintendent/President effective Tuesday, November 30, 2010. Dr. Chopra’s Employment Contract was to expire on June 30, 2012, but the Governing Board and Dr. Chopra have agreed to end that Contract approximately 20 months early. This will permit the new Governing Board – which will be seated next month – to select a new leader to help the College build for ongoing success. As part of the written agreement between the Board and Dr. Chopra, signed by him today, Dr. Chopra will receive the equivalent of six months’ salary.

“I believe some important objectives have been achieved,” Chopra said. “The College, in spite of unprecedented financial problems at the state level, remains in good financial standing. With the accreditation visit completed this month, construction of the new facilities on the corner lot, the central HVAC and Field House well underway, and Proposition AA projects almost completed, it is the right time.” Chopra expressed his appreciation to the Governing Board for the opportunity to serve the students and community of Southwestern College.

The Governing Board greatly appreciates Dr. Chopra’s hard work, leadership and commitment to the College and his many significant accomplishments. The Board and College wish Dr. Chopra all the best for the future.

# # #

Friday, November 26, 2010

To the Prospective Employers of Nick Alioto


A couple of weeks ago, it was brought to my attention that a certain Vice-President of Business and Finance at Southwestern College is really quite upset that some blogs have said relatively mean-spirited things about him.

By some blogs, I mean mine. By mean-spirited, I mean the ugly truth.

You see, it appears that Nick Alioto is looking for work. Apparently he’s had his Road to Damascus epiphany and realizes that his future at SWC is as shiny as a gallon of Mississippi Mud. But while he’s still got his job, he’s looking to find another.

And he’s afraid that the ugly truth is going to make it hard to get another cushy job where he can move piles of money from one place to another. Apparently he’d like it if I made it possible for him to find that cushy job by taking down all the blog posts and links I have up.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don’t want Nick Alioto to get that cushy job.

So here are a few things you prospective employers might want to read:

"College VP Raised Money from Contractors He Oversees" [San Diego Union-Tribune]

"Southwestern Suitors" [San Diego Reader] [San Diego Union-Tribune]
"Gala Prize was Napa Weekend with Contracting Official"

"Nick Alioto Under Fire for Financial Shenanigans – Again! And There’s More the U-T Didn’t Know!" [SWC Board Must Go - my related blog]

"Firm Overbills Racine Schools" [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

"Director Left Last District in a Hole" [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

"Racine: The Travesty of Smoke and Mirrors Savings" [FoxPolitics.net]

"An Interesting Story about PBCG Head Nick Alioto" [Real Debate Wisconsin blog]

“Is Southwestern College’s Nick Alioto Racine USD’s Nick Alioto?" [This blog]

"The Plot Thickens" [Save Our Southwestern College blog]

"“Sun” Newspaper Earns More National Kudos; Raj and the Governing Board Still Hate It" [SWC Board Must Go]

"The Human Chord: November Elections Call for Change" [Southwestern College Sun]

"Why You Should Come to Wednesday’s Governing Board Meeting" [SWC Board Must Go]

Besides a chance to gather up these tasty links and repost them for all to see, my reason for this post is simple: I want to spare some other school district the pain that Southwestern College went through.

I have been told by two separate governing board members (one of whom is now an ex-board member) that Alioto was presented to the board to vote on by member Yolanda Salcido - who said he was good for the job. They did no background check on him. (I suppose it's possible that they did, and they were even worse judges of character than anyone considered.)

Out of curiosity, I did the research that found the information on his Wisconsin shenanigans. On Google. In about three minutes.

I hope that whoever is considering hiring him reads this, follows the links, and thanks their lucky stars that they're able to take a pass on him.

And if some board member or upper-level administrator does choose to hire him, this post will remain in cyberspace for eternity, as proof that they chose to ignore the warnings.

With the right blogger or researcher opposing you, it can cost you dearly; trust me on that.

I have a few more posts from an earlier version of SWC Board Must Go that are currently inaccessible. As soon as I can get them up, I'll post those links, too. And if and when Alioto is indicted for his shady actions, I'll be sure and post that, too.

You're welcome.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"In the Closet, On the Shelf"

This was my Halloween short story, initially written for David Hunter's "The Campfire Pages" All-Hallows Eve writing blog.  This is the same story, with no edits.

“When we are children, it’s not the unknown that scares us; it’s the unknown corners of the known that terrify us. We bury our heads under blankets when the oak tree outside blows in the wind and ghouls appear in the branches. We ride past empty houses and down deserted streets on our bikes and we never are anxious. Yet we pass the dark rooms of our own house with quick steps, afraid of what will pull us in with them.

Closets frighten us. Clothes, shoes, toys, coats – they shift and form boogeymen and skeletons, zombies and devils. We would cross the room and push the door closed, but we’re afraid to touch the floor.

Things under the bed also frighten us.

One of my earliest memories is of the closet in my parents’ house. It was room-length, and the doors were sliding mirrored ones. It was nearly impossible to keep them closed. When the air conditioner or the heater came on, they’d sway slightly, and the reflections of the room and windows behind the bed would jump and jitter. In the cracks between the doors, I’d see it watching me.

From high up on the shelves, where the dress slacks and sweaters were stacked, it would squat, waiting for me to sleep.

As I grew older, I realized that there was no monster on the shelf, no little goblin looking down at me. There were just patterns on sweaters and the shine from my church shoes. I never told anyone about the shelf-creature, but then children never told anyone about the horrors they saw. If we cried loud enough to wake mother or father, all they would say is:

“There, there… everything will be all right. There are no such things as monsters.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

SWC Governing Board to Southwestern College Sun: "Stop the Press" - Sun to GB: "To Hell With That!"

[I first posted this at SWC Board Must Go! a few hours ago.]

It's no secret to anyone that the Governing Board of SWC has major issues with its school newspaper, the Southwestern College Sun. The Sun, which is unquestionably one of the finest student-run newspapers in the country, has received numerous awards for its writers, its advisor, Max Branscomb, and for the paper itself.

Why does the Board have problems with it? Because the Sun insists on printing the truth.

This time, the board and the administration have gone several steps over the line past just complaining about it, to...

I'll let the following letter speak for itself. As a person highly interested in the Sun, I received a copy of this letter today and have spoken with the writer.

As usual, I have edited it only to remove the writer's phone number.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who Wants to Review a Short Film?

Today, for no good reason whatsoever, I popped over to IMDb - the Internet Movie Data Base - where I have a tiny, tiny entry. I then checked out the short film project with which I was involved, and realized that we were suffering from the vary thing that affects most litle homemade films.

No one gets to see it. And those that do, don't get to make their opinions known.

A few years, I wrote a short film. Then with director Monte Kraus, Philip Scarborough (an occasional visitor here), Tom Beck (a frequent houseguest here), Sam Morris IV, Diego Velasco, Sam Watson, Matthew Beall, and others (stay for the credits!), we put together the short film and entered it into a small film festival. It won. This made us happy.

Not long after, we entered it to IMDb and were delighted when it was accepted.

So, it is with just a little shameless interest, that I am going to point here - The Pop-Up Prophecy.

Then, if you feel the muse upon you, pop over to our IMDb page here and leave a review, or even just a vote on the site's 1-10 scale. None of us have ever tried getting anyone to the site, so it would be interesting to see what people think of the short. (You can also read the script here.)

Then, if you're a high-powered Hollywood type and you'd like to offer any/all of us a job, just drop us a line here.

Smirk if you want. But I'll bet you smile first.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fiction: "Ploughman"

I have no real comment to make for this one, except to thank you in advance for any feedback you might give. I have published it in its entirety on this page.

**This is the version that I have edited for submission. It is quite a bit different in phrasing, rhythm, and style than the first.

Ploughman

Somewhere overhead, flies buzzed and a hawk called. Tall grass swayed in the breeze, tickling his face and arms. He breathed raggedly, open-mouthed, the only human sound around. Beyond the smell of blood and death, the scent of wheat still lingered, drifting to his nose, his mind. The smell of good earth and green grass; it was the smell of life to a ploughman.

He touched again the blade that pinned him to the earth. Slick with oil and his own blood, it had resisted his attempts to pull it from his belly. He’d lacerated his fingers trying; now he was too weak to do anything but try to push it away.

He had never meant to be a soldier. He’d never wanted to wear the leather for his king, never wanted to go into battle with an axe in hand. An axe was meant for trees and stumps. It wasn’t meant to be used on another. His axe was steel and oak, and lay just out of reach. He had always planned to use it until the grave, never knowing how close that would be.

His king had called him, and he, a man of the plough, had come.

The king was not a bad man. He taxed his subjects at the same rate. It was steep, but it was fair. The taxes paid for the wardens who patrolled the lands, the roads that carried the goods, the priests in the city, the walls of the stronghold, and the men that stood upon them. They paid the price of civilization.

They paid the price of protection.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Southwestern College Board Must Go!

As of just a couple days ago, I have started running a website dedicated to defeating our corrupt Governing Board at Southwestern College, by voting the bums out in November. The site is not a Writer's Washroom site, but it is certainly related to the work I did last year to trash the Board at every opportunity.

The site is located at: http://www.swcboardmustgo/ - and I'd love some visitors familiar with the situation over there. If things go right, we'll have essays from students, members of the faculty, and me; a video or two; maybe some nifty evidence of corruption; and more surprises than you can shake a stick at.

If you'd like to write something for the site, email me here at my usual address, or visit the SWC Board Must Go! website and join in.

This does also mean that I will be keeping most, if not all, of my new anti-Board work over there, and not here. For my South County-based readers, this may be a hassle. For those of you who come from elsewhere and just like reading the drivel that I post, this will probably be a blessing.

One last thought: I still get a buttload of hits from people searching for "Nick Alioto" or some combination of his name on this site.

(Some real recent searches: "Nick Alioto Wisconsin Criminal", "Nick Alioto Wisconsin School Corruption", "Nick Alioto Southwestern Corrupt", "Nick Alioto Kenosha Wisconsin Rip-Off", and "Nick Alioto Thief". I'm not saying any of that; I'm just saying what searches brought you to me.)

If you know Nick Alioto from the past - people of Wisconsin, I'm talking to you, then I would love to hear from you. I'd like to know every stinking thing he did in the Midwest to rip off all those school districts. Anyone want to drop some knowledge on me, do so. Send me an email. If you want to remain confidential, I'll respect that. If you want to trash him publicly, I'll respect that even more.

Thanks for visiting everyone, and remember: SWC Board Must Go!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Conduit" - Prologue/Chapter 1

Howdy, readers. I'm going to be honest about this bit of fiction: it's fairly long. It is both the prologue and the first chapter of a completely different thing I've been working on. Which means I had the idea about two years ago, started it, stopped, started again, stopped again, rebooted it, rethought it, regurgitated, reduced it, enlarged it, and got enraged with it. Then I just started over and am much happier with it.

Should you choose to read on, you'll notice that the prologue is an entirely different flavor that the first chapter. That is correct. Don't think you stumbled into two different works.

As always, I thank you for reading, and I'd like any feedback you have to give.

And as always, I've only put the first few chapter of each on this page. I've also made it so you can read either the prologue and Chapter 1, or just Chapter 1 - for those of you who skip the prologue (which I don't understand).

Conduit Prologue – “Obelisks

The hermit stepped out of his shack and into the sun. He covered his eyes with a leathery hand, squinted up into the sky. The sun seemed to be closer to day than usual – and moving quicker. The day would shorten if it was. Walking onto the hardpan dirt, he hurried around to the side of his shack where a split-rail fence surrounded his little garden. Rooted more in sand and loose dirt than in real soil, it was difficult to maintain, but not impossible. The straw-man propped in the corner helped keep the crows away, and they were as destructive on the few green plants as the sun was. He pulled a wide-brimmed hat off the straw-man and slipped it onto his own head. His eyes not yet adjusted to the sun and unable to see, he turned and stumbled over a rough patch of ground. He dropped to one knee. He rubbed the knee for a minute before standing and gathering his robes around him.

Glancing back up at the sun again, he blinked his eyes and struck out down the slight hill, away from the shack and toward the pen where he kept his goats. Tending the goats was at least a thrice-a-day venture: milking and feeding the morning, feeding in the evening, and watering them early in the afternoon. But it was a necessary thing. It took him only a few minutes to shuffle down the bare hill to the pen and check the trough. It wasn’t empty, but would be within the hour. He sighed as he always did, and reached for the nearby pump handle. Faded by sun and time, the once-blue handle was now barely gray. He used both hands to loosen it. When most of the shrill squeaking stopped, he pumped using only one hand. He rested his other arm atop the short fence and leaned against it. As he waited for the trickle of water to appear, he looked north toward the horizon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Revisiting an Old Friend: "Melbourn's Storm" (the re-edit)

This WIP is down. In September 2012, Lore magazine will publish a much better version of "Melbourn's Storm." As such, any version of the story is unavailable except through them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"The Wyrd Magnet/Meet Martin Black" Chapter 3 - Regret (Urban Fantasy)

[This has been cross-posted to the Writer's Washroom Annex.]

This is the next bit in our still-as-yet-unnamed saga. If you want more information than that, you should check out the first two chapters. I am still interested in any other idea for a title. All suggestions are welcome!

Let me know what you think; I genuinely do enjoy hearing from you readers!

Chapter Three – Regret

I left the cab, pulled up my collar to keep the rain off my neck. If serendipity provided, Mari might already be here. The city’s semi-famous shopping district, with its bookstores and cafes, coffee shops and boutiques, was one of her favorite haunts. She read every word she could get her hands on and loved to sit and watch the passersby on the sidewalks. Her passion for watching and reading was matched only by her love of coffee; it was as if she lived on it. Fact is she might actually be living on it. I could never be sure. In so many ways we were exactly alike, except for that one thing.

I passed the fountain in the center of the square, pockmarked with precipitation. I thought about dropping a coin while making a wish, but I didn’t know what to wish for. Besides, those things rarely came true.

Hidden speakers played jazz near Banagon’s side door, something from the Blue Note catalog, perhaps. I slipped inside; Dean was behind the counter. He apologized, explaining that Charlie had been called away. I asked where he was.

“Off to see a manuscript, he said! I’m sorry!”

He didn’t seem to be lying and I didn’t press him.

“I’m going over to Brew Mountain. Can I get you anything?” I asked. It also paid to be polite to bookstore employees. You never knew what they knew.

“Why thank you! But no, sir, I picked up a chai latte earlier!”

“Okay. When Charlie comes back, tell him Martin Black stopped by.”

“Happy to, Mr. Black! Is there a message?”

“That should do it.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fiction: Urban Fantasy - "The Wyrd Magnet/Meet Martin Black" - Chapters 1 and 2

(This has been cross-posted to the Writer's Washroom Annex.)

About a year or so ago, I posted a much earlier version of this. I wasn't happy with it, and even a couple of (very tolerant) friends of mine critiqued the bejeezus out of it. I decided to overhaul much of it, and try it out again.

This is not part of the Heroes... universe; it stands in an urban fantasy world of its own. I'm interested in your thoughts on the first two chapters - both of which are posted here.

Furthermore, this will fall somewhere between novella and short novel length. I've bounced a few names around, but haven't decided on one. So far, I've gone with "The Wyrd Magnet" and "Meet Martin Black." Like one? Have a better one? I'm interested in your thoughts, your criticism, and quite possibly your title idea.

Feel free to post your comments below. If you want, I'm also happy to take your thoughts via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Beware... there are some adult ideas below, and a smattering of naughty words. It's also got a bit of a post-'80s vibe, and that may be even more frightening...

Chapter 1 – Sub-Culture

Rain spattered the windshield as my cab driver pulled up into the garish light of Club Houngan, the city’s momentary it-spot. A Wednesday-night crowd snaked around the corner; the vanguard shuffled impatiently under the canopy protecting the velvet rope. Friday or Saturday lines would reach another block or two. The cab eased alongside a row of limousines, and the driver slammed the shifter into park.

“Thirty-one forty,” he said, turning down the pounding tech-metal music. “Make it thirty-one. I don’t need your forty cents.”

“Keep it.” A pair of twenties – a decent tip, not enough to be extravagant, but enough to ensure the next time I needed him, I’d get him.

He thanked me and thumbed the button to unlock the doors. I glanced through rain-dappled glass at the red and white light reflected on the pavement. Atop the three-story building shone the gaudy neon image of a smiling voodoo priest. Charmless, it looked as threatening as a fast food sign. I pushed open the door, jogged past the limos and their lurking drivers and went straight to the canopy. The damp patrons not yet close enough to the front, those sheltered under umbrellas, coats, or fashion magazines, glared as I pushed forward. Two bouncers, eyes like gun turrets atop the walls of their bodies, turned to watch me approach. I squeezed between the velvet rope and a scrum of young females.

I’d buffed and shined myself the best I could; I’d shaved, shampooed, styled, and suited up in my finest. Even with that, I was a decade beyond the club’s freshness date.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I've Learned, While I've Been Busy


TIM FERRISS is the guy who wrote a book about living the good life by working only 4 hours a week. I find that no matter how hard I try, I still don’t care to know anything else about him.

ON THE OTHER HAND, Tim Farriss is the chief guitar-slinger for INXS, those guys that ruled the airwaves for much of the 80s and 90s. Him I care about.

INXS STAYED RELEVANT by writing songs that seemed both immediate and timeless. Not many current artists do that, and those that did have been around, doing what they do, for quite some time.

THAT SAID; I STILL BELIEVE that “Don’t Change” from 1982’s Shabooh Shoobah album remains INXS’s high-water mark. Probably because of Farriss’ jangly, fierce guitar and Michael Hutchence’s bold, yet plaintive voice – a sweet merger of one of rock’s best voices with one of its great underrated guitar gods.

I ALSO FIND THAT I’m listening to a lot of Bob Mould lately, in all his forms – with Hüsker Dü, Sugar, and solo. He’s yet another artist of the era that wrote both immediate and timeless songs and music; and he’s a guitar god of his own. He’s still recording; he’s been around, doing what he does for quite some time.

I’D BET THAT neither Tim Farriss nor Bob Mould work only 4 hours a week. Now, they could, and they’ve earned the right to. After twenty-odd years of creative work, it’s expected. Pimping out a book that supposedly tells you how to score the good life without really trying isn’t quite the same thing. It’s shameless pandering to the easily-led.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Southwestern College Earns Prestigious Award from the Thomas Jefferson Center - the "Muzzle" Award!


Yes, folks, it is official. Our own little campus corner of the world has received one of the most perfectly representational awards that could be given us. The prestigious Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has awarded one of its ten annual "Muzzle" awards to "The Administration of Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California."

Please, oh please, use this link to check it out.

It takes a brain-dead administration to try to hide from this "honor" bestowed by a non-partisan organization affiliated with the University of Virginia. Having heard no rumbles of response from any member of the administration or board, we can assume they either haven't been informed yet, or they simply don't care.

I feel certain that we can assume that they know, which means that they don't care. Remember, this is an administration that, when confronted with the actual financial status of the school* basically used that first-grade response, "nuh-uh."

After watching President Raj K. Chopra, Vice-President Nick Alioto, and the board spend a couple semester stomping on the students' and professors' civil rights, it feels good to see them called out by the folks who actually keep tabs on situations like these. I feel delighted in knowing that we've drawn enough attention here that attention will remain focused on the college.

I have to admit it does give me a bit of a thrill to see myself name-checked in the award presentation; I'd be lying to say it didn't**. But that doesn't mean I agree with the way it was written. If anyone should have been mentioned, it should have been the four professors who were originally and illegally suspended - Andrew Rempt, Dinorah Guadiana-Costa, Janet Mazzarella, and Phil Lopez. These are the ones who were initially attacked by the administration, and they are the ones who should have been named.

As a final thought, let me suggest that every time you see one of our fair-and-balanced board members in public, or have an opportunity to say "hi" to a member of the administration, you take a moment to congratulate them on this huge honor. After all, it takes someone special to stand with previous winners like FEMA, the FCC, the Bush Administration, the MPAA, CBS, and the Texas Democratic Party.

Who knows? You might get even more out of them than "nuh-uh."

-----------------------------------------------

*Remember their statement, "The Worst Fiscal Crisis Evar!" being smacked aside by Phil Lopez's, "Thirteen million in the bank and we're making money!" argument? Yeah, we do, too.

**And does that photo over there look familiar? Does to me, too. But I like it over there just fine.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Wildflowers and the Anza-Borrego Desert


--Indigo Bush

[Click on any photo to link to this Picasa album - many more photos!]

Last weekend, my girl and I went out into the desert, looking for the blooming wildflowers and doing a big circuit through the Anza-Borrego Desert. We headed out Interstate 8 from San Diego to the bustling metropolis of Ocotillo. From there we headed north to Borrego Springs, and after dinner at Carlee's Place, we headed home.


--Engelmann's hedgehog flower

It wasn't enough. We went Sunday, too, taking the same route to Borrego Springs, and eating at Pablito's that night. We also headed home a slightly different direction, too. Instead of going out over the Yaqui Pass and through Julian, we took the S22 up the side of the mountain and through Ranchita and Santa Ysabel instead.


--Location north of Butterfield Ranch on S2 (San Diego County Route 2).

Need I add that it was a highly pleasant weekend? I thought not.


--Desert lily

[All photo credits? Me. Click on a photo to link to this Picasa album.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sometimes a Story Needs No Point

--This has been cross-posted to the Writer's Washroom Annex.

I collect stories. Not short stories; those I don't collect. Not books either, though I have about 30 moving boxes packed full of books that came with me to California – and that was after I sold about two-thirds of the ones I owned.

Not books, not the written word. I collect stories – the spoken and remembered tales that happened to me or someone else.

Many of those stories, it must be said, don't have a point. I've noticed a certain tendency among both readers and writers to desire a writer – or a storyteller – to get to the point now! This has always smacked of someone needing their hand held to understand what the writer is trying to say.

Sometimes the writer is just telling a story. Like this one. Until last night, when I told my girl about this, there were maybe three or four people on the planet that knew it. I can't say why this came to mind last night, but it did. Enough time has passed, I guess, that I feel like sharing this story.

This is a true story.

I drove a Yellow Cab in Jackson, Mississippi for a time. One afternoon I took a call from the dispatcher asking me to pick up a fare in western Jackson. I was closest; I took the call. When I arrived, there was a man who said he needed to get to the farthest southeastern part of our metro area as soon as possible.

“My wife is sick,” he said. “I need to get her to a doctor.” He asked what it would cost, and I gave him a ballpark figure. He then said what cab drivers hear once or twice a day:

“I don't have any money on me.” He said when we got there, he could run inside and get his money to pay me. Cab drivers don't do this. I usually didn't do it. I'd been ripped off many times after someone had tugged my heartstrings a bit too hard.

But there was something about him. I can't say what it is, because to this day I don't know what it was, but I told him to get in.

There are two ways to get there, I told him. Geographically, the shortest way was cheaper, but would take a little longer. The longer way would save him some time, but would cost him quite a bit more. When he asked how much faster the longer route would get him home, I said it would save him two or three minutes, tops.

He chose the geographically short route. We had a pleasant conversation as the meter ran. He said he'd gotten a call from his wife to come pick her up. She was sick and needed to get to the doctor. The problem was that she had their car, and she felt unable to drive. He said he'd get home and take her to the doctor and all would be good. He seemed concerned, but not overly worried.

It was afternoon in Jackson and traffic was a little problematic, but not much. I got him to his house and he jumped out, saying he'd be right back. A few minutes later, he ran outside and paid me.

“I had to check on her first,” he said. “She is sick.” He thanked me, and I wished his lady well: “Hope she gets better!” or something like that. I drove away.

Two or three weeks later, I got a call on my cell phone from the dispatcher; a customer had called him and wanted to talk to me personally. Would I take the number and call the customer?

Sure.

A man answered and introduced himself. I didn't know his name, didn't know who he was until he said that I had picked him up a few weeks back and ran him home to pick up his wife.

Oh, yeah! I remember, I told him. How's your wife doing?

“She died. She died that afternoon.”

I slammed on the brakes and nearly wrecked getting to the curb. Stammering my words, I asked him what happened.

“She was alive when I came outside to pay you. When I got back inside, she had just died.”

In my life, I've felt bad many times, and I've felt horrible, sick, a few times. But never in my life have I felt as sick and horrified as I did then. I could barely breathe, my heart pounded. My mouth dried up, and of course I told him how very, very sorry I was.

He told me that it was okay, but he had needed to call me.

I could think of reasons why – he blamed me, he hated me, he wished that he and I had died in a flaming wreck on the way, if only so he didn't have to see her pass. He could wish that he'd never come back outside. I wished that. I wished that so, so much.

Why? Why did you need to call me?

“I needed to thank you.”

I actually burst into tears; I won't lie. There's an old trope of writing that says you can actually feel your heart break. Mine did then, for him and his wife. I wasn't clear; I know that. But I managed to ask – maybe it was a demand to know why he would thank me for that.

I could've raced him home! I should've taken the longer, faster route! I've broken hundreds of speeding laws in the past, ran more red lights and stop signs than I've had hot meals. Why on Earth would he thank me?

“Because you picked me up.”

I went silent. He told me that there was no one else that could have gotten him home any faster. When he got home and went inside, she was still conscious, but not really lucid. But she knew he was there. He spoke to her then came back outside to pay me. By the time he got back inside, she had passed. He told me that he was grateful that he had been outside when it happened; he didn't think he could've handled being with her when it happened. He said that two or three minutes more could not have helped, and he didn't think he would have lived if he had watched her die.

He thanked me for getting him there in time to see her, to speak with her one last time.

I was in knots, felt crushed. Tears ran down my face as he told me that his wife had never taken her health as seriously as she should have. He pointed out that she should have called 911 instead of him. He said that I was not to blame for this any more than he was. And he didn't blame her, either. It was just one of those terrible things that happened to people who didn't deserve it.

Should have. Could have. Would have.

I've never spoken to him again; I don't want to. I hope he never thinks of me. I hope he remembers more of her than just that afternoon.

Until last night, I'd forgotten this story. I had done my best to forget it.

What's the point of this story? One Should Take Better Care of Their Health? Bad Things Happen to People Who Don't Deserve It? When a Man Says His Wife is Sick, Break the Speed Limit to Get Him Home? Sometimes It Pays to Trust Someone?

No story I've collected has ever affected me the way this one has. To me, I still tighten up when I think about it; I still feel sick. I write this outside, on the porch, and I can still feel the claustrophobic crushing sensation I felt then, when he told me.

What does this mean to me? So much. What does it mean to him? It meant the world. What does it mean to you? Who knows.

What's the point of this story? There is none. Sometimes, often, the point of a story is the story itself.

--Edited for a few typos.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 2


It never occurred to me that the previous post would have a sequel, but real life intruded, and here we are. Given that "A Voice in the Wilderness Says "Hi!" was all about technical difficulties and the delays that go hand-in-hand with them, there was really nothing else I could do.

My previous laptop, my happy, bright shiny Toshiba Satellite bought the farm. The motherboard blew up last Saturday and I was left bereft - sans computer. It stood me in good stead for a little more than 2 years - 7 years less than the previous Toshiba Satellite I owned, which still runs.*

The other reason to make this post a sequel was it gave me a chance to make an oblique reference to Babylon 5 - one of my favorite geek shows ever.** The two-part "A Voice in the Wilderness" episode was all about Our Heroes trying to deal with a secretive, powerful entity hidden on a heavily-armed planet out in the wilderness. Given how similar that was to dealing with Best Buy's Geek Squad, it seemed apropo.

After a few days of frantically trying to figure out what happened to it, a local store - Best Computers in Chula Vista - did a full case-cracking diagnostic (for $55 - no joke!), and gave me the bad news.

A new motherboard for the Toshiba would have cost me about $75 less than the new HP Pavilion I'm using now - which I picked up at Office Depot, and not Best Buy. I thought seriously about repairing it, but when I realized for $75 I would get out from under Windows Vista, well... that was the final reason to bail on the Toshiba.

It's going to take me a little bit more time to get all my ducks in a row. I've still got to yank the hard drive from the Toshiba and transfer all my data to this one. I could get it done at Best Buy, but I'll be dipped if I'm going to pay them $99 for about 90 seconds worth of work. Without the data, this thing is still very much a tabula rasa.

So, yeah. I'm coming out of the wilderness and back to cybilization. And as soon as I can find those landing thrusters, I'll be back in action.

------------------------------------

*Well, not so much runs as walks...with a walker and arthritis.
**I miss Babylon 5. In particular I miss the wisdom of G'Kar*** and the words of Londo Mollari.****
***"We all believe in something... greater than ourselves, even if it's just the blind forces of chance."
****"What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?" and "Now, landing thrusters. Landing thrusters, hmm... Now if I were a landing thruster, which one of these would I be?" The last is from "A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 2." It's all about the circles.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Voice in the Wilderness Says "Hi"

Howdy, folks. I've been completely absent from the Washroom for a couple of weeks now. Technical problems plagued this site for some time; no one was able to load the page. I couldn't, and I received a few notes from others that couldn't.

I didn't fix it. It simply started working again. After it did, I simply haven't had time to come on and address the problem with you.

My apologies. I don't know what happened, and I'm sorry for any inconvenience it caused you.

On the up side, I'd like to say how good it is to see new visitors who have been able to pop in, and are doing so with some regularity. If you feel like it, drop a comment here and let me know who you are, and just say "Howdy!" I've seen quite a bit of traffic from some new places, like Moscow, and the Philippines, and even that little funky spot southwest of here, Imperial Beach - which is one of my favorite spots around here.

I'll do my best to respond (cross my heart). And, yes, I'll do my best to get some more stuff up - both related to Southwestern College, and not.

Glad to be back!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chapter 8 - "The Shining Way" is in the Annex!

Yep, the long-delayed, and somewhat long-awaited Chapter 8 "The Shining Way," from Heroes... is finally posted on the Annex and ready to go. Pop on over; I've included a quick summary of What Has Come Before, along with links to each previous chapter, the prologue, and the not-quite-unrelated short story, "Melbourn's Storm."

Visit the Annex for Heroes... Chapter 8 - "The Shining Way."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Looks Like Them Folks in Kansas Also Know Our Friend Raj

Just a very quick note to all and sundry: I am getting several hits a day from folks from one particular bit of Kansas - the Shawnee Mission School District. Encompassing a huge swath of suburban Kansas City (including Overland Park and Lenexa), it was the place where, some time ago, our friend Raj K. Chopra ruled supreme.

As you know, Raj is currently the President of Southwestern College, here in Chula Vista. He's as qualified for the job as a rat terrier is to be a 911 dispatcher. One can only guess what a damn fine job he did out there on the plains.

I have to admit that I was a student in the SMSD years ago. My family moved before my first year at Northwest; and when my dear, sweet mother heard the name "Raj Chopra," it took her all of about fifteen seconds to remember him.

She didn't remember anything good.

So, this is addressed to all those recent visitors from Kansas... Say hi. Tell us why you're searching for Raj Chopra here, and let us know what he meant to you. Believe it or not, if you've got something good to say, we'd like to hear it.

We don't expect you to, mind you. So bring your horror stories to the table and tell us what he means to you. We'll take notes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Southwestern College Students Open Up on "Voice of San Diego"

I rarely do this. But rarely am I as impressed by a piece as I am by this.

Sean Campbell and Lyndsay Winkley are two Southwestern College students who write for the magnificent (and nationally-recognized) Southwestern College Sun. In a blistering article for Voice of San Diego.org, they summarize the constant, ongoing problems with President Raj Chopra from the time he was hired until today. They also very neatly summarize the timeline of the catastrophic events since the administration's bogus "riot" last October.

Please visit the article at Voice of San Diego.org and read it. It's necessary. No, more that - it's crucial to those who haven't been able to follow every cut, thrust, and riposte of this administration-fueled nonsense.

I will also say this (I do not say "In My Humble Opinion," because my opinion ain't): I have written two or three really good pieces on this whole mess, and some others have written several more. This is probably the best piece I've read yet on SWC's troubles. It is magnificent.

...And they got their journalism education at Southwestern College. Go figure.

It's Time for a Meet and Greet! (Board Candidates, and a Possible New Direction for Southwestern College)

For those of you just tuning in, many members of the community (yours truly included) are gathering signatures for petitions to recall SWC Governing Board members Yolanda Salcido, Terri Valladolid, and Jean Roesch. We believe that their blanket support of SWC's President Raj Chopra and his blatant anti-student, anti-faculty, anti-learning policies are destructive not only to the school, but to the entirety of the South Bay region.

In the past year or so, several respected members of the community have considered running for one of the Governing Board seats which are up for election in November of this year. And now with the recall petitions out, a few more have expressed interest in running against them for any recall election.

To shine a brighter light on these issues and to introduce some of the candidates, the Southwestern College Association PAC is holding a Meet-and-Greet on Thursday, February 11, at the Romesca Baja Med Bistro in Bonita. The Meet-and-Greet starts at 4:30 p.m., with candidate presentations following at 5:30.

Suggested minimum donations (since we are fundraising for the elections, don't forget) are $25 advance, and $30 at the door.

I strongly suggest that anyone with an interest in the future of Southwestern College, Chula Vista, or the South Bay region come out and meet some of these candidates. Southwestern College is one of the biggest employers in the region. With its accreditation now in jeopardy and its continued unstable administration, it has the potential to harm both Chula Vista and the South Bay.

Come out and meet the candidates. Chances are that by fall, three of them will be on the school's Governing Board. Meet 'em early, and avoid the rush.

Please visit our good friends at the Save Our SWC blog for more information about the Meet-and-Greet, and for a PDF copy of the event flier.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cowardice Defined - Southwestern College Governing Board and Raj Chopra's Evaluation



On Thursday evening, January 28, the more and more ill-named Governing Board reached quite possibly its newest low. It held an emergency meeting to let the public know that they were about to begin evaluating Dr. Raj Chopra's job as Chancellor-President of Southwestern College.

The evaluations, of course, would be done behind closed doors - as is right. What's wrong is how the board is doing it. They are shoving through this evaluation to get it done as quickly as possible; it is being treated as an emergency - hence the reason for this sudden meeting.

You see, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), are expected to release their accreditation report on SWC tomorrow - Monday, February 1. It is believed by all that the school will be blasted for several failures (most of them rooted in the administration and its inability to work with any non-administration types, i.e. faculty, contract staff, students...)

Go here for more on WASC and the reasons accreditation may be at risk. (From the November 14 Washroom post.)

By ramming Chopra's evaluation through before the accreditation report comes out, the members of the Governing Board who continue to prop him up - Pres. Yolanda Salcido, Vice-Pres Terri Valladolid, and recent President Jean Roesch - are attempting to clear him from having to shoulder any responsibility for WASC's findings. With the evaluation done and complete, they don't have to address any failings that WASC shines a spotlight on, and they, in their warped minds, are in the clear.

As far as I'm concerned these actions have redefined cowardice at the upper echelons of higher education. I'm calling that the Example of Cowardice Number One.




Example of Cowardice Number Two: Raj Chopra's evaluation was actually due in October 09. But whenever board member Nick Aguilar tried to get his evaluation put on the monthly board meetings, it never made it.

Who is the gatekeeper for the agenda? Who decides what goes on it? Raj Chopra does.

Yes, you're reading this right. Raj Chopra was able to prevent the board from evaluating him, simply by not putting Nick Aguilar's request to do so on the agenda. And of course Trustees Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch stood behind that every time, because he's their boy, yo.

With his evaluation clearly not important enough to have been done for months (I've been told that Trustee Aguilar attempted to put it on the agenda for seven months, but I don't know that for certain), it is an act of gross cowardice to try to sneak one through the goal moments before a report appears that must affect that evaluation.

What was unimportant enough to be blown off for months suddenly becomes an emergency only if Raj Chopra might look bad. That's your Governing Board at work, folks.

Cowardice Example Three: Had the members of the Board who decided to host this charade chosen to, they could have given written notice to the members of the staff, faculty, students, and the public; and given plenty of time for people to respond.

You may now laugh.

Of course they don't want the public, the faculty, and the students to respond. They know how disgusted the lot is with them, and with Dr. Chopra. So instead of doing anything close to "the right thing," they announced the meeting at around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, only about 25 hours before the actual "emergency" meeting was held.

You saw the photo at the top. People simply couldn't come. It was a near-empty room. Many people didn't know, and many others simply couldn't make arrangements. One instructor who did come brought his children. Besides Phil Lopez, the Union President, and Valerie Goodwin-Colbert, the Academic Senate President, there was a mere handful of instructors, two children, and yours truly.

Why, even one member of the Governing Board failed to show up...

Cowardice Example Four: Trustee Terri Valladolid chose not to show up at the public meeting, but according to a witness standing outside the closed-door session, she "slipped in the back door just as it started."

She could do this. She helped set events in motion before the public meeting. When Trustees Aguilar and Jorge Dominguez attempted to slow the process, they were unable to. To do so required a majority of five, and a tie vote of 2-2 does nothing. Valladolid knew this, and she is fully aware of the petition drive to recall her, so she played the coward card.

By not arriving at the public meeting, she has set herself up to deny fast-tracking Raj Chopra's evaluation. She can say, "I didn't vote against Nick and Jorge! I wasn't even there!" Of course she wasn't. She didn't have to be. But she did have to be there to actually discuss the evaluation. So it's no surprise that she had to skulk in the back to take part in this sham she helped create.

Cowardice Example Five: For the first time in known history, the Governing Board has decided to evaluate its Chancellor-President with no input from the faculty. This is quite simply unheard of. Again, this is as egregious as it is because the board members doing this know that the faculty has voted Raj Chopra no-confidence in the past, and because his grasp of leadership continues to slide.

I could go into this much deeper, but someone else has already done so. Please visit our chums at Save Our SWC for much more on this issue - then hurry back!

It also has to be added that the Board has created an evaluation that is impossible to grade. In the words of Trustee Dominguez: "It's all 'I think,' 'I feel,' 'I wish' statements. You should see it."

But we can't. The Board has decided that not only is the evaluation process a closed-door issue, but that the evaluation form is, also.

I asked Trustee Dominguez this: "Is there any way to quantify it?" He answered, "There's no way."

In other words, no matter what they say about Raj Chopra, there is nothing to measure it against; there is no quantifiable data being gathered. It's a series of "I think he's doing okay" statements. This is another egregious decision - and another transparent attempt to prop up his position.

Cowardice Example Six: With the expected sanctions that WASC will likely levy against SWC, it should be expected that the Governing Board and its administration would try to find some way to spin this so it's not entirely negative.

You're going to love this.

After the sham public information meeting, I was told that Our Good Friend Nick Alioto was heard saying - earlier that day - that the members of the faculty wanted those coming sanctions.

Yes. He's claiming that the professors want WASC to levy sanctions against their school and their programs.

I believe this (and I'm on the record before WASC's report is due), that Chopra's administration is going to try to spin his failures, and his administration's failures, as the fault of the faculty. I believe he is so disgustingly desperate to hold onto his job that he would go so far as to do this. He will likely say it was the professors who wanted those sanctions as a way of making him look bad.

He doesn't need the professors to look bad. He's got himself, and Alioto, and his pocket Board members to do that.

Don't be fooled. This will fall on him, but much of the damage will miss him. Board members Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch will have seen to that. They have twisted and warped the system to shine up a man who will only ever be known for destroying the reputation of a good school. This man, who is so incapable of admitting his errors and faults, that he will attempt to blame his own victimized professors for errors and faults that the accreditation committee will lay at his doorstep.

The public wants Chopra gone. The staff, the faculty, and the students want him gone. Two members of the board want him gone. Only three want him to stay.

This is just another reason why we're going to have to work to force Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch out of office. This concerned majority can't touch Chopra, but we can touch them.

Recall them. Give them a reason to be cowards. It's no better than they deserve.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photos: El Camino Motel, Imperial Beach ("John From Cincinnati's" Snug Harbor)


One of my favorite TV shows in recent years was HBO's brilliant, criminally-unwatched "John From Cincinnati." Set in Imperial Beach, California, much of it was actually also shot there. The exterior of the Snug Harbor Motel, hands down the show's most important set was filmed in IB's El Camino Motel.

(Click on a picture to see more photos of the El Camino.)


Run down, abandoned, and left to rot off Palm Avenue, I finally decided to get a few shots there. I spoke with neighbors at two different businesses; no one claimed to know who owned it.
-
I've read that the cabins on the grounds where Butchie lived were built by the production company. I suspect that's true, but even now they look as if they've been there all along.


As an avid fan of David Milch's looping, baroque "Milchspeak," I loved the show dialogue, particularly the reflective, swirling way that John himself usually spoke. This is just a little taste from John's famous "Sermon at the Motel" - and yes, it's just a bit, and it's clean.
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"Joe is a Doubting Thomas. Joe will save Not-Aleman. Joe will bring his buddies home. This is how Freddie relaxes: cup-of-Joe and Winchell's variety dozen...
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...Fur is big, mud is big, the stick is big. The Word is big. Fire is huge. The wheel is huge. The line and circle are big. On the wall, the line and circle are huge. On the wall, the man at the wall makes a man from the circle and line. The man at the wall makes a Word on the wall from the circle and line. The Word on the wall hears my Father."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Photos: San Diego Waterfront at Night


These shots were all taken on December 28, along the waterfront just north of downtown San Diego. None of them are the "best snaps ever!" that I'd like them to be, but they were one of my first low-light practice sessions with my new Panasonic Lumix fz-35.


These were (obviously) shot with no flash, only the ambient light - which is more than ample, and were done handheld. There was no tripod used, or any measures taken to keep the pictures stationary. Except for me standing very, very still.




If the links work right, you should be able to click through on any of the pictures to see the full gallery.
Let me know what you think.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Our New Year Awaits (And a Bit of Music Sees the Light)

I hope everyone had a happy Christmas, and a safe and festive New Year's. 2009 will certainly be written into the history books as a year of worldwide tumult and instability. I suspect that many of you had years like mine - full of as many downs as ups. I'm not the type to trot all my confessions out for public viewing, so I won't go into too many details. Suffice it to say, I would venture a guess that we're pretty much all in the same boat.

It's with a mixture of hope and anxiety that I look forward to 2010. Just a few days in, and nothing seems different; but I still look into the future with the same upward gaze that we use to watch the sun rise.

I started this blog just about a year ago, and at the time I was focused on getting my manuscript published. I submitted it, and it was rejected, and I was okay with that. It needed work. It hasn't gotten enough of it. The past several months have been a desert of creativity, as far as the novel went. I fell victim to a crippling bout of selective writer's block, one that seemed only to affect the Heroes... manuscript. After several chapters, which were read and reviewed here - and by my friends in the North County Writers of Speculative Fiction - I came to a screeching halt.

I call that a serious down.

However, during that time I've written several things - some pieces, some openings, a few chapters, and two short stories. I posted both "A Chilling Wind" and "Melbourn's Storm" here, and submitted both to my writer's group. The response for both was quite positive, though both are vastly different (and Melbourn is one of the protagonists from Heroes...). Following advice from some of my writerly friends, I decided to submit both of them to L. Ron Hubbard's "Writers of the Future" contest.

"A Chilling Wind" went in just before the end-of-December deadline for the quarter. I plan to submit "Melbourn's Storm" during the next quarter. Receiving positive feedback for both from the readers and writers who visit here...I call that a serious up.

With that, I have to digress a moment and describe one of the absolute high points of my year. In October, I received a message from one of my Twitter friends. He said he had read "A Chilling Wind" and was motivated to do some work of his own - because of that story. Early in November, I received an email from the same gentleman which contained a piece of music.

The writer - my online friend - is Brian Travers, the monster horn player and one of the founders of reggae giants UB40. Brian and his writing partner, Martin Meredith, composed a major-minor nocturne for my short story - which still hasn't seen publication.

Brian and I have discussed art, writing, and music a few times, and we are both rock-solid believers in "Art for Art's Sake." When he described feeling inspired to write a piece of music for it, I was filled with a surge of ego and a sense of humility at the same time. I've thanked Brian, but I've never known exactly how to demonstrate it.

This is it. According to his email, this is a version that would probably be tweaked and edited sometime down the line. It is a nocturne, and reflects the sounds of the sky and the city after the last line is read.

In a year of both ups and downs, this was one of my strongest ups - and now I feel comfortable sharing it with you. Feel free to listen. Music unheard is as big a loss as words unread.

If you're on Twitter and you like it, you should let Brian know; he is @btub40. I suspect he enjoys feedback almost as much as I do.

Thank you, all. Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Martin. I'll let you know how it all turns out. Oh, one last thing: I'm back to rewriting Heroes... again. Just wanted you to know.

If you haven't, read "A Chilling Wind."

EDIT:

To hear "Major Minor Nocturne (A Chilling Wind) by Brian Travers & Martin Meredith, please use the player at the top left of this page. I have tried, tried, and tried some more, but simply can't get any audio player to embed and play in this post. Sorry for the technical difficulties.