Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Back to the Future

Let's wander into the darkness for a while, meandering through the canyons of both the past and the future. Movie goers were introduced to the lovely Natasha Henstridge back in 1995 with the release of her first film, Species. She played the part of a hideous, murderous alien who shapeshifted into a beautiful wench lustfully seeking a mate. Much like John Carpenter's 1982 movie, The Thing, Natasha's movie debut foreshadowed the coming of a monster deeply concealed within the imaginations of modern Americans. The real monster was born simultaneously with the founding of our once great nation, the same nation that now only casts a shadow of its former greatness.

The monster is not racism, although that concept is its close first cousin. Democrats see money as the root of all evil and Republicans see sex as the root instead, and this difference has divided us all at a level that is probably beyond repair. The only hope we have is for the Democrats to cease playing the race card. Calling the other side names will never bring any converts to our side. The Democratic platform should be based on the 99% vs. the 1% above all else, but I have long ago given up on that happening. The race card is too benign to their controllers, the power brokers of The Left, the same people who put a little known and little experienced Barack Obama on that DNC stage in 2004. Soon after 9 a.m. on Monday, October 22, you will find me pushing the electronic voting button for all Democrats, including President Chickennuts, but I refuse to watch the debate tonight, or the upcoming other three debates. The debates are simply the media's great financial reward. Any citizen who does not know who he or she is voting for by now is truly a moron, politely known as a low-information voter. The monster is the civil war in the minds of Americans that never seems to end. We shall meet our demise like two tomcats fighting in a street full of traffic while our economic power and our earthly environment crumble into oblivion.

Fox News did not birth The Tea Party. Sarah Palin and CNN did. There is a photo in my files of President Obama stepping out of an airplane with his pal Steve Case. I have often considered writing a political post about that photo, but at this late date I am certain that I would only be crucified as the messenger if I did. Steve Case is surely one of the most despicable Wall Street-type characters that has ever been born. He is a multimillionaire from Obama's home state of Hawaii. He is the a-hole who our President put in charge of his jobs program. He is the same a-hole who conspired with Jerry Levin in 2000 to merge his AOL with Levin's Time Warner and oust Ted Turner from power in the process. If you have ever wondered why CNN has become such an immoral, trashy news network, you should look no further than the actions of Levin and Case back in 2000-2001. Everything they did they did solely for power and money. Morality had absolutely nothing to do with it. Ted Turner is one of the very few morally compassionate billionaires left in this wretchedly corrupt nation. He may have been a fool for letting Little Ted lead him outside Jane Fonda's marriage bed, but his views and actions toward overpopulation and the environment have been quietly commendable. Aside from the very few with minimal power to make changes, such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alan Grayson, our entire political field represent little more than shills for the corporate 1%.

Sarah Palin herself is not the monster. The real monster is concealed within the minds of the people she represents. Much of America knows why we cannot seem to remove Bristol Palin from our faces on television, printed news, or the Internet. Her celebrity was bought in exchange for her cooperation in the biggest political scam of our lifetimes. Many individuals who have held the power in their typing fingers to rid us of this arrogant monster have deliberately failed to do so. They have fumbled the ball at every obvious opportunity. I have tried numerous times using every approach I can muster to enlighten my readers of this truth, but few seem willing to listen. Too many are listening to the devious whisperings in their ears from the enablers of the monster. Just as those who envisioned what sex would be like with Natasha's character Sil in Species until they were consumed by the monster concealed within lovely skin, hair, and T &A, the Babygators of today have become nothing more than the sycophants of the secret monster within. They heed no warnings because the warnings do not emanate from their masters. Joining the Tea Party morons on the other side, it takes two parties to make a civil war.

"Are you going to the game, huh, huh, are you going to the big game?" I remember being asked this question repeatedly in college at a time when the Bulldogs were at the bottom of their historical record. It was a repeatedly losing team and I rarely answered the question in the affirmative. I feel the same way about the upcoming debates. I already know the expected outcome, so why should I waste my time? Life is too short. Four debates will soon be history and nothing will have changed. Although Chickennuts will most likely get a second term, the direction of the nation will continue to head down the drain. No one has the guts to do the right thing anymore. The Ted Turners have all been deposed from their positions of power. The moral compass of America has been lost in space.

What does the future hold? We may never be rid of Sarah or Bristol Palin in our current lifetimes. In this cultural sewer we have created for ourselves, the gradoo is rarely flushed down the drainpipe. It just floats endlessly on our television screens until it dissolves into something even stinkier. The Tea Party asylum residents and their Wall Street enablers are completely beyond hope for a realm of sanity. They will take not only the country, but eventually the entire planet, down with them, while screaming obscenities at The Left and mumbling platitudes to themselves. Unfortunately for us all, The Left lacks the guts to do the right thing. Like most of the Babygate bloggers, they will never pull the trigger. The monster that appears to be a beautiful woman on the outside will eventually devour us all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Double Upchuck

I have been following the release of the newest book by the highly acclaimed authors, Chuck Heath Sr. & Jr., for several weeks. You can apply the title of this story however you wish. Here are a few examples to get you started: (a) the two clowns pictured at left, (b) what the person who made this deal at the publisher has been doing with his time since the book's release, (c) what anyone who has scheduled a book signing for this bomb is doing about now, or (d) what you will feel like if you read even the Look Inside parts of Our Sarah at Amazon.

Our Sarah was first offered at Amazon in a pre-release mode several months ago. From April until yesterday, the official release date, the sales of Our Sarah dribbled. Twenty-five copies of the book were sold at Amazon on the 25th, its opening day. It is now the 26th and the last copy was sold from Amazon sixteen hours ago (and counting). The lowest Amazon ranking I have seen is 505. It might have been 585; I did not look closely enough to verify it. Currently the ranking is 1108. The total Amazon sales according to NovelRank is 104, including one at Amazon UK, the only copy sold outside the U.S. so far.

For contrast, let's look at another book released on the same day, September 25, and marketed to almost the exactly the same right-wing delusional readership. Ann Coulter's Mugged has sold 53 since late yesterday. I was not aware of the book until then so I do not have any tracking numbers throughout its pre-release period, however long that might have been. From watching the figures since yesterday evening, I can ascertain that the sales of Mugged were far beyond those of Our Sarah, as in out in the stratosfear! The NovelRank charts clearly show, for instance, that Ann's book has sold 28 copies since midnight while Chuckie & Chuckie's has bombed with a goose egg over the same time period. Mugged is currently ranked at #39, and I saw it as low as #25 yesterday.

As Bob Dylan once said, "Everybody must get mugged!" Whoever set up the publishing deal for Our Sarah must not have looked too closely at the sales charts of the many pro-Palin books as they have slid slowly down the drain. From the explosive boom of Going Rogue to the stumbling mumbles of Bristlebutt's pack of lies to Levi's ghostwritten nonsense, the downhill slide of the sales figures of each release has been inevitable. If I remember correctly, Going Rogue sold 2.3 million and Sarah's book signing at the Mall of America was a stupendous success. Two years later the signing of Not Afraid of Life and America by Heart by both Palin celebrities at the same venue was a bust with a couple hundred diehard fans showing up for signatures. Maybe someone should have kept her mouth shut after the Gabby Giffords shooting, you think?

Watching this dud slowly grind to a screeching halt has been a lot of fun. The dud is Our Sarah, the whole Palin phenomenon, and of course Sarah herself. I did read most of the Look Inside portions of Our Sarah, and it really is a dud. The font is large and the margins wide, so it is not a book with a high word count. Most of the words that are present are just one big baloney sandwich, anyway. A good example is Chuck Jr. complaining about the media questioning Sarah's college career. He spins the question off into something that it never was, as if we care that Sarah did not attend a fancy Ivy League school. Pass the baloney sandwich, please. Why did she return to the dipshit MatSu Valley college between two semesters at the University of Idaho? Just before that bit of horse puckey, he stated that she left the first Hawaii location because it rained too much. He claimed that she wanted to enjoy the sun and surf of Hawaii, and that's why she and her friends went there in the first place. But then he does a one-eighty and claims that she left the fun and sun for the snow of Idaho after only one semester. Does this make any sense to anyone?

Aside from this bit of balogna sandwich making, much of the book seems to suddenly and repeatedly veer off into an oblivion of anecdotes about various friends and family of the Palins. If you are a Palin fan at the depth of lunacy you might enjoy these little side trips, but I seriously doubt the mass appeal of such a book. Chuckie & Chuckie appeared on Fox & Friends early yesterday morning to promote this tale of nonsense, but it seems to have had minimal effect on the buying audience. I am waiting with bated breath to see what happens with the book tour planned for the next few weeks. My best guess is that the most likely sound we will hear from it is SPLAT!!   

Monday, September 24, 2012

Digital Aquarium

Long-range plans are one of my specialties. Sometimes I wait years for the technology to catch up to my ideas at an affordable cost. A few examples of these have been the audio and video collages I created from 1972 through about 1998. The book projects I began to publish in late 2000 began more examples. My Tiddlerosis website is yet another one. Now there is finally a new kid on the block in the form of computer aquarium programs now on the market at affordable prices.

These latest programs are actually quite stupendous in their capabilities. A few very primitive such programs were first marketed more than a decade ago. These were quite disappointing to me from many angles, from the limitations of the fish to the simplicity of the tank layouts. In the early 2000's, Encore Software first released its Marine Aquarium. The program was developed through several versions and the latest one is called Serene Screen Marine Aquarium Version 3. This latest version of a saltwater tank is three years old, but its visual impact is stunning! Soon after the saltwater program hit the marketplace, a competing firm developed a freshwater system called Dream Aquarium. Both of these magnificent programs offer many ways and styles to develop a beautiful aquarium. You can buy the CD-ROM of Marine Aquarium from Office Depot or other sources, but the Dream Aquarium is available only via direct download. You will need a decently modern computer to power either of these programs more than adequately. At least two GB of RAM with XP, as well as a significant level of Video RAM, would be a good start. I am running 8 GB of RAM and 1 GB of VRAM on a 64-bit Windows 7 and the fifty tanks I have set up run flawlessly.

Yes, I said fifty tanks! There is no official limit on the number of tanks you can develop in Dream Aquarium. You can choose 23 fish species and several backgrounds and other details. An additional ten fish have just recently been added as an upgrade for about $10. The most interesting choice to me is the camera angle. You can view a tank in a standard widescreen format or one that slowly pans through the tank as if you were following fish with your eyes with your nose pressed against the glass! You can add a free downloadable Size Editor that allows you to create baby fish or large examples of the species. Another free download allows you to add more backgrounds than the basic four that come in the original program. Here is yet another group of backgrounds. This second batch of twenty-one backgrounds is composed of zipped files of approximately 1.5 MB each. You save each file to your computer, unzip it to its full size, and add it to your Dream Aquarium program files. Right now I am still running the free demo version of Marine Aquarium. It is considerably more usable as a basic tank than is the free version of Dream Aquarium. I intend to buy the full version of Marine Aquarium after I get bored with playing with all the freshwater tanks.

A neighbor gave me three Guppies in a fish bowl back about 1961 and that began my aquarium hobby. Over the years I progressed up through a 2.5-gallon tank, a three-gallon, and then wowie zowie a ten-gallon! Since moving into my present location, I have never set up any of my multiple aquariums, a twenty-wide, a thirteen-tall, and various smaller tanks. Now that my computer is doing the job, I have already put the whole array of tanks and equipment for sale on Craigs List.

No matter how many years and tank setups I stumbled my way through, I never was very good at keeping fish healthy and happy. The well-read books are still on my library shelf. I read and I practiced, but I still sucked at it! I have never had a green thumb and I suppose I do not have a wet, soggy one either, except out on a boat. The disgusting, disappointing fact is that any aquarium in my care, much less that of the average kid in Walmart begging his mom for fish, is nothing much above fish torture! I have wanted for years to finally get out of the fish torturing hobby and now I am completely cured of my addiction. No tropical fish will ever suffer under my care again. I am going Cold Turkey Digital!

When I mentioned audio and video collages, these included many hours of experimenting with videography of my various fish tank setups. I have hours of tape edited and set to music. The problem is that you cannot videotape tropical fish in a tank in any manner that exudes a quality product. The fish are too small, they swim wherever they damn well please when you are trying to photograph them, and the lighting available leaves a lot to be desired. None of my camcorder tapes look even remotely as beautiful as these computer-generated fish!

There is a bit of bad news with these programs. My favorite species are totally unavailable in the freshwater Dream Aquarium. There are no Guppies, Bettas, or catfish species! The photo above is of real Guppies, although this is about how good the computer-generated fish look. I would also like to have even more variety in the backgrounds available. As for the saltwater program, I have no complaints yet. Since all my familiarity lies with freshwater species, I am more easily amused by the beauty of most saltwater species, even while understanding very little of their real-life characteristics.

Both programs are set up from quickly downloadable free samples of each. The free version of Marine Aquarium is quite usable as it arrives, but you will want to graduate to the full $20 version of Dream Aquarium soon after viewing the free sample version. The free Dream Aquarium goes to a blank background and only two fish after a few minutes, but the Marine Aquarium continues indefinitely until you stop it. Click the Dream Aquarium link and download the free version. When you are ready, purchase the full version and DA will send you a long code that you can copy and paste into the appropriate box on the free version to fully expand it. The Marine Aquarium can currently be downloaded like the free version or purchased on a disc from Amazon or Office Depot. Notice that the downloadable MA is Version 3.2, but the most recent CD version seems to be Version 3.0. Both the free and full version of the freshwater tanks can be downloaded at Dream Aquarium. No CD-ROM version of DA is available.

Please stop the tropical fish torture and set up these programs on your computers. They are everything you would like fish tanks to be except heavy, messy, noisy, stinky, deadly (for the plants and fish) and generally troublesome. Let's free the enslaved and tortured tropical fish forever!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Progressive Middle

Always Looking Forward... 
                         ...Never Backward

The Platform:

1. Support all forms of birth control as a right of all Americans and provide the necessary funding.
2. Legalize marijuana and begin a downsizing of the effects and funding of the War on Drugs.
3. Downsize the overseas military empire in peaceful locations.
4. Begin a retraction of troops involved in all current wars and don't start any more.
5. Put a cap on ethanol production for fuel.
6. Decrease agricultural subsidies.
7. No increases in drilling for oil or gas will be allowed in national parks, offshore, or other sensitive areas.
8. Overturn Citizens United.
9. Close Guantanamo Bay and cease all uses of torture of prisoners anywhere.
10. Delete the death penalty for any and all prisoners.
11. Remove all tax breaks from corporations who shelter income offshore.
12. Give tax credits to employers who hire Americans and retract any applicable tax credits from those who seek labor from outside the U.S.
13. Encourage all forms of green building and infrastructure replenishment with proper funding and tax breaks wherever appropriate.
14. Raise the national minimum wage and enforce it vigorously, and this includes all agricultural, seasonal, and undocumented workers.
15. Levy a small federal tax on all securities transactions.
16. Allow an unlimited Mortgage Interest Deduction on any single main residence of any taxpayer with no income level restrictions outside the already established Schedule A limitations.
17. Remove the cap on Social Security and Medicare Tax calculations.
18. Remove the distinction of Earned and Unearned Income from the IRS rules in all applications, including changing the Earned  Income Credit to a simple Income Child Care Credit based on all income of all types.
19. Repeal the special capital gains rate and tax all income at the same level.
20. Increase the income tax rate on all income from the $250,000 to $1,000,000 Taxable Income Level to 40%.
21. Increase the income tax rate on all income above the $1,000,000 Taxable Income Level to 50%.

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Interpretation of Reality

Sarah Palin is not a stupid person. She may be angrier than a swarm of killer bees and mad as a hatter, yet she remains about as smart as the average bear. Within the depth of her innermost thoughts, if not outright verbally with whatever management team she still employs, she must currently be facing a political and economic reality that haunts her dreams. She must hope like hell that President Obama remains in The White House until 2016! Any alternative future leads inevitably to a painfully slow demise of her special gift for either making large sums of money or influencing a significant number of voters.

Let's review how her particular dilemma reached this impasse. I covered most of the wide-reaching details and motivations concerning her rise to power in The Palin Matrix. Dr. Brad Scharlott has presented a particularly concise, and most likely accurate, description of exactly how she orchestrated the beginning of Babygate. As anyone who reads my work knows, I have been influenced in my opinion of the origins of Babygate particularly by Mrs, Palin's unprecedented athleticism as a considerably pregnant woman. Few people in the general public may have recognized John Heilemann's cameo in Game Change, but my perception is that this was another dog whistle message to the viewers that the insiders, such as the authors of the book, do indeed know. No telling how many others know, too. The truth is out there and too many influential Republicans know it for Sarah to ever sleep truly soundly again.

At this point Republicans are the people who concern Sarah the most. Democrats like me are cheering her on! Go, Sarah, go! The only thing you can do to me is make a few more people interested in my book about you. All you can do to the Democrats in general is to make them all look more sane and rational than the Republicans. You want to start a third party and lead it to victory in either 2012 or 2016? Go ahead, be my guest. There is no prayer strong enough to get you or anyone else in a third party elected. So what else might you do? You can throw tacky bombshells full of fighting words and salad dressing at the politicians who are winning and you are not. Let's see, who could that be? You better hope in the deepest depth of your black heart that our President stays in his chair! I am sure that Fox News will renew your contract and continue to pay you next year to continue bashing President Romney. Yeah, that's the ticket! Everybody knows that Fox News was created to bash Republican politicians.

Your daddy's biography of you isn't selling too well so far, is it?  The figures I have been tracking at Novel Rank show 36 sales so far at Amazon. Yes, I know that the book will not be released for another ten days, but how many copies of Going Rogue had sold by the same equivalent time? By my calculation, the only book on a similar subject that possibly sold less was Levi's Deer in the Headlights. Bristol's book stomped the sales record so far of Our Sarah, even with that disastrous book signing event at the Mall of America where only a few hundred fans showed up to meet both you and Bristol. I guess you might expect at least 20,000 copies to be printed and shipped to Wal-Mart, Target, and B&N stores at the wholesale level, but how many million did your first book sell? Methinks somebody's popularity is swirling the drain!

Sarah can run for President in 2016. She can try to talk Ryan or whatever other candidate the Republican establishment actually likes to add her to the VP slot one more time... or she can crown herself Queen of the Tea Party and run against the massive Republican machine. There is little stopping her from running anything she chooses to run. The dilemma is that she knows she cannot win at any of it. She can only try to stay relevant enough to continue expanding her bank balance. She can risk Fox News not renewing her lucrative contract and continue to toss her verbal brickbats from whatever backwater network or AM radio host will have her. She could even swallow her relentless pride with a big gulp of ego drain and appear on channels that are at least pretending to be something other than Republican propaganda outlets.

If President Obama wins, I am afraid that we shall not have the screechy one out of our ears or faces for at least four more years. If Romney wins, Sarah may face the biggest decision of her career, or at least what's left of it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Psychotic Nation

Call it America's Hitler, call it The American Taliban. It really doesn't matter much. We're all trapped on the same Titanic. America is just stupid enough, America is just mean enough, and America is just selfish and greedy enough to put this abomination in the White House in 2016... and I think that is exactly what they will do.

I used the third person pronoun above because I am certainly not going to help this horror happen! President Chickennuts may clearly be no better than the lesser of two evils, but pushing the voting button for All Democrats is the only viable alternative we have left to us at this point. There is no hope for any third party until hell freezes over, and global warming will see that that never happens.

The problem with the Democratic Party is that it refuses to give up the identity politics it adopted so fully back in the Sixties. The Southern Strategy from the other side was nothing more than a backlash against the identity politics so totally embraced by the Left. You know something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones? What is happening is that all the right wing media is lying to you because of The Southern Strategy and all of the left wing media is lying to you because of identity politics. Neither side has any intention of telling the truth because the greater truth is that all of them are paid too damn much! The psychotic culture we live in cares about only three things: money, sex, and celebrity, in that order. The Democrats are lying because it pays too well to throw the game! All the issues of identity politics are just noise and nothing more. What Mr. Jones cannot seem to figure out is that we as a nation have desperately needed class warfare, and not identity politics, for forty years now!

There are two ways to (possibly) fix the economy and banish the national madness from our psyches. The Republicans would not be able to win a national election for some time to come if either tactic was utilized. The first is to simply make voting mandatory. Since no one seems to like that idea, that leaves only one other alternative. The Democratic power brokers and their media sycophants must quietly phase out their relentless support and usage of identity politics. They must slowly but firmly convince the more sane members of the voting bloc on the right that we are no longer the party of minorities. We are the Party of the People, the party of the 99%, the party of all average and low-income Americans. The Left does not have to change any of its policies, but we MUST stop engaging in the endless slap-fight that continually pushes members of a huge voting bloc to the political dark side. We must leave some of our fantasies of idealism outside the political realm and begin to vote and act in a more tactical, successful manner. The peak of liberalism in America occurred way back in 1969. We have been sliding ever so slowly into a right-wing oblivion of selfishness and greed ever since. It is way past time for the Left to realize that it has become the Mr. Jones. It was a far different nation and world back when Bob Dylan wrote the refrain to "Ballad of a Thin Man" back in 1965!

I am going to switch gears for just a moment. You will see that at the top of the left column, I have added a link to my fourth book, Timeline of America: Sound Bytes from the Consumer Culture. Recent thoughts about this book inspired this article. Timeline has always been my weakest selling book, even though it should be the one with far the most widespread appeal! Of course I realize the high price of the print version is one of the problems, but I had no control over that issue. The Kindle and Nook versions are well under $5, so what are you waiting for? I have often considered releasing an updated print version, now that I have control of the cover price, but there has always been a great big monster that has stifled that idea whenever it pops up for consideration. The timelines of wonderful, nostalgic memories of American culture stop at 2006 because that is where they stopped in real life! Timeline was an enormous project to create. The parade of delightful memories identified and elevated in the book were clearly running out of steam by the middle of the last decade. Even as I approached that final year six years ago, positive creations and events in America were quickly losing momentum. To be honest, it was something of a struggle to take the book even as far as I did.

Then came Paradigm Shift, which for decades was referred to as The Hyde Papers, as in the Jekyll and Hyde of American culture. Timeline was the Jekyll and Paradigm was the Hyde. I have seen or experienced nothing since to give me hope that this is not the whole, final, complete truth. America is clearly on a suicide mission. Obviously, far too few Americans are able to see the Mr. Jones reflecting back at them in the mirrors of their insanity.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ambient Politics

I have not posted here at NIAFS in just over a month. This has been for two reasons: one, I am working on another book project, and two, I have completely had it with American politics and with American voters in particular. This post is about Reason #2.

My wife is one of those people who was prescribed Ambien as a sleeping aid many years ago. I discovered about a decade back that she was occasionally exhibiting strange, semi-conscious behaviors after taking this drug. My conclusion after observing several such instances of sleepwalking-like behavior was that Ambien was truly one of the most dangerous drugs I had ever encountered. Although my wife never tried to drive a car under the mysterious influence of this drug, she did try cooking and other household tasks numerous times. Being the psychologically oriented person that I am, I tried several tactics to show my wife the dangerous behavior of which she was completely oblivious at the time, but none actually worked, at least not in the real time in which the strange behaviors were occurring. Gentle persuasion never registered in her conscious brain. I tried getting in her face with strong words and emphatic language. I tried taking her by the hand or arms and physically guiding her back to bed. I ordered her to cease what she was doing and return to bed in the most insistent manner I could muster. Nothing worked, at least not to her conscious mind at the time. Of course I was able to shut off the range or whatever other hazardous equipment she was operating and guide her belligerent body back to bed, but not once did she ever recall a conscious memory of the event the next morning. She continued to think that I was just exaggerating or overreacting to her use of the drug. I repeated the stories every time there was an incident, but her conscious memory remained blank.

Ambien works beautifully as a sleep-enhancing drug. There are two common over the counter drugs that are marketed as Ambien competitors. Simply Sleep seems to have little effect on some people, such as myself, and Sominex can have a full twenty-four-hour hangover effect on some people, also such as myself. Ambien seems to work without either negative. After several years of forbidding my wife to use Ambien for obvious risk to her health, I discovered the simple truth. Ambien affects people who feel driven to accomplish a certain task, whether that is cooking breakfast or driving to the supermarket. Obsessive-compulsive personalities should stay far away! If you are not one of these people, or if you are, but you are certain at the specific time you wish to take the drug that you are completely relaxed and not subconsciously compelled to complete a certain task within a given timeline, Ambien will help you sleep without its dangerous side effect.

The Ambien example is a state of mind, a psychological determination appropriate for each individual. The drug company controlling and distributing the drug will never tell you the truth about it because the truth is inconvenient for them, specifically for their financial income. The company cannot control lawsuits effectively if the truth is stated on the bottle, that the danger applies to certain personality types or to particular mood swings of any potential user. The whole concept is entirely too messy for an entity who cares only about the money. My wife and I no longer have any trepidations concerning her use of Ambien. The answer is simply to always have a person present who is aware of the potential side effect, a person who has the wherewithal to stop the ingestion of Ambien by a user who is wired up at the time of potential usage. If sleep is desperately sought during such a state of mind, take Sominex or Simply Sleep instead.

Our political leaders and their media henchmen have become like the producers of Ambien. They have no intention whatsoever of telling us the truth or acting in our best interests. The key to this nightmare does not lie with the politicians or the media personalities. The real culprit is the American voter. The politicians, no matter how despicably you may see the issues of  individual ones, are doing nothing more than chasing the big numbers in the voting booths of America. If anything, the media personalities are probably even more guilty than the politicians themselves. It is the media who benefits the most financially from close races and endless slap-fights between political correctness and racial religion. The last thing they are interested in telling the voters is how patently absurd these issues are, particularly in the relentless faces of global warming, exploding population, demographic nightmares, and most of all, extreme income inequality.

The Republicans took over America with a long-range plan that began in the '70's. Their plan centered around the population sectors that were growing, the Southern states. They took voters from the Democratic side and moved them to their side. Here we are nearly forty years later and the Democrats are still acting as if elections are won in America by simple vote count. They are acting as if population shifts to the Southern and Western sections of the country mean nothing. Ditto for the many Republican redistricting plans. I have a news flash for the Democratic leadership. You are either idiots or assholes; which is it? It will be a cold day in a global warming hell before you overpower the Republican juggernaut with minorities of race, religion, or sexual orientation! You must at least begin a long-range plan to take our country back from the nuts. You must make the pendulum swing back to sanity, and there is only one way you are going to do it. You must start a long-range plan to recover the Southern and Western voters you began to lose with your support of the civil rights legislation of the '60's. I am not saying that you must change any of your essential policies, but I am saying that you must change the perceptual attitude toward those issues. You must build a coalition of the 99% around the central cause of all our misery, poverty and income inequality, and you must begin by publicly telling the truth concerning the driving force behind this cause, population.

Class warfare is precisely what America needs most. Class has been hammering us all into the ground since The Reagan Revolution and it is far past time to start doing something about it. Elizabeth Warren has been awarded the warmup speech for Bill Clinton at the upcoming convention. That's not good enough. She should have the same keynote speech opportunity that Barry got in 2004. Yes, of course I know they are giving this opportunity to an Hispanic mayor. We already got America's first African-American President. How's that working out for you? Of course he's a hell of a speech maker, and obviously an intelligent, compassionate man, but his relentless sellout to Wall Street should have already shown you that he is not exactly what America needs to overpower the Republican madness and at least begin to address global warming and income inequality in a meaningful manner. As always, my wife and I shall be the first in line to cast our votes for Barry's second term, as well as punching the button for all Democrats. The problem is that this is simply not good enough.

The whole circus is depressingly predictable. Just because I live in Texas, I nearly always vote for the eventual loser. President Obama may well secure a second term of do-nothing actions against the Republican juggernaut, but every other Democrat I shall vote for in 2012 will be the usual lost cause. I used to live in Mississippi, where the result was the same. I lived briefly in Tennessee as a young adult, and you can guess the result in that state, too. The same can be said of most states in which the voters from large expanses of small and medium-sized towns outnumber those in central cities. Outsiders may think of Austin as being solidly blue, but that is not the whole story. Only the central city in Travis County is blue. The highly populous suburbs and exurbs located in several surrounding counties are as red as Mitt's face whenever his tax returns are mentioned. The two monstrous populations of Texas, the DFW Metroplex and the Houston metro area are much the same way. What is Sarah Palin's favorite place in Texas? The Woodlands, a very rich suburb of Houston, is where she has made several key speeches to her faithful power brokers.

Democrats, I have a little advice for you. Shut up about Chick-fil-A! Shut up about gay marriage. Stop the bashing of churchgoers in particular and religion in general. Stop calling everyone from the South racists. Cease the relentless promotion of diversity at all political cost. Stop calling all Republican voters idiots. As I stated previously, I am not asking that you change any of your policies on the issues. I am simply asking that you cease participating in the endless slap-fight! It takes two to fight a relentless war. You cannot continue to call yourselves the rational, intelligent ones as you continually trade epithets with the really crazy ones! You cannot take our country back from the crazies without swinging a substantial number of white, rural and Southern voters back to our side. You must take voters from your opponent. They have the organization. They have the media. They are the juggernaut. To move this nation forward, we must disable the effectiveness of The Southern Strategy. We must convince a substantial portion of their voters to switch sides. They did it to us and we can do it back to them, but not by antagonizing their voting bloc.

The media is making far too much money off the slap-fight of relentlessly close elections. As with the Big Pharma that distributes Ambien, Big Media will never tell us the truth. What people think is true is often a more powerful persuader than the truth itself. Millions of Republican voters of various flavors observe the actions of the Democratic media, politicians, and voters. They do not see the similarities of the 99%. They see the Democrats as the party of minorities of many sorts, while they are the majority. The key is that although we may be the majority of potential voters, they are the majority of actual voters. These are the people we need on our side. We can explain the intricacies of political issues to them after we have secured their votes on a consistent basis. The real truths about Ambien and most political issues cannot be explained in a sound bite. We all need a dose of responsibility for our own actions, both private and political.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Room Full of Mirrors

I had been planning to use this title from the classic Jimi Hendrix tune to describe the current state of television news media, but due to the recent posts and comments at Brad Scharlott's blog, I think it is time to explain a few issues. Many of the readers of other blogs have repeatedly attacked the messenger (me) every time I have tried to clarify the situation, so here I am sticking my neck out once again. Unlike most of my anonymous and pseudo-named accusers, I am who I am, as always. I never post or comment on other blogs anonymously. I am always either Floyd M. Orr or 77TA66 on any Disqus-equipped blogs. Anyone who has claimed that any comment by Anonymous on other blogs is me is mistaken. Let's get down to business.

The obvious big secret is that some bloggers, and you know who they are, have been surreptitiously trying to control the message, the issues, and whatever possible fame and fortune they can ensnare in their traps. This has been going on since 2008, and it was time years ago to stop this behavior that restrains the truth! Many of the commenters on the various blogs know a lot more than they indicate in their comments. Amy1 is one of these. She knows much more because I told her. She is absolutely right in her most recent comment on Brad's blog that we must stop this keeping of secrets! What do you think I have been screaming for years? As I have told you all repeatedly, I am not the one keeping secrets from you. Yes, there is a boatload of information that I know that I shall not publish because in order to present the documented evidence that Amy1 and others so dearly want, I would have to include a lot of personal information about some people who are particularly innocent of the entire affair. Why would I have to include this information? Some of the people who have been hiding secrets have been doing it professionally for many years and they have become very good at it. The only way to present the facts as many of you want to read is to include the personal information of people who have nothing to do with Babygate or its investigation. These ancillary people are necessary to paint the complete picture, filling in all the blanks of the story. I have tried several times to bluff some of the perpetrators into doing the right thing and make the necessary adjustments so that the Babygate investigation can proceed in a broader public forum. My conscience is clear. I have done everything I can ethically do to expose Babygate.

The problem with the publishing of any Babygate book is not the writing and publishing; it is the marketing of the book to a large audience. I figured out a long time ago that (a) any major publisher would stumble and falter in telling the whole truth, (b) the pressure from the CNP above and the Palinbots below was way too strong back when the subject was hot in 2008-09, and (c) there had to be some hidden reason why none of the obvious bloggers did not self-publish the story a long time ago. If you put these three together, you will see that you cannot add two and two and get five, which is precisely what certain unnamed bloggers have been trying to pull off. Let's say that each one wants a big payoff to publish the book. That would be fine except that the time to secure such success was two years ago or more. Very few people care now what the 2008 VP loser did or did not do to get that nomination. They care even less that the loser's husband did a little political pimping on the side. Aside from SP suddenly running for President, the only thing that would make anyone give a rat's ass right now is if she or one of her minions said something incriminating on TV that could not be ignored. I tried to help that concept along, but I have seemingly failed. Palin supposedly hates my book, but there have yet to be enough sales to make her mad and say something stupid.

Let's continue onward with the 2+2=5 scenario. I know that most of you really want to see certain photos released in a book, either Fred's or otherwise. As I have explained to you before, it ain't gonna happen. The law is very clear about the ownership and publishing of photos. Two of my books have featured photos and my next project includes many more. I know what I am talking about here. All Palin has to do is state that she does not approve of the use of any of those key photos. Maybe a license can be secured from the actual photographer for one or more of them, as was done with a particular cluster of pictures published on the blogs. If that happens, great! You have my blessing. The problem is that I am not holding my breath. How much are you going to pay for the photos and how many books are you going to sell? Do you see the dilemma?

The next issue deals with the Fred book specifically. The problem here is that Fred is a published author, but he did not write The Wild Ride. Since when has an actual author ever used a ghostwriter to write one of his or her own books? Both the ghostwriter and the named author need to step away from The Wild Ride. From the information I have, I doubt that Fred has any intention of going through with such a devious plan, anyway. When I have been speaking of behind the scenes deceptions in the past, this is a prime example of what I mean. I do not know why Gryphen has simply not written The Wild Ride and boldly put the name Jesse Griffin on the cover in the first place. You tell me the answer to that and then we'll both know, as we used to say as kids. There has been a related con going on about Levi publishing the story, too, but that is not the subject of this post. I have never expected Levi to tell any significant truth until his mom is free of her persecutors, and of course I knew that when I published my most recent post prior to this one. That whole idea was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Recently an Anonymous that was either Morgan Rouch or the other Morgan or Audrey (and yes, I know her real name and tons of other personal information) posted an interesting comment or two at The Immoral Minority and Gryphen shut her up as promptly as he could. In so many words, he said that if anyone got too close to the truth, he would not release the comments. Remember Media Insider? Remember Me Again? What part don't you understand? Have I not tried numerous times to tell you that he censors the comments so that certain information is never shown to the readers? For the record one more time, I support most of Gryphen's Babygate theories, including the two babies, but I do feel that he harbors a personal agenda. For that matter, so do his competitors on the other side, and I think their theories are way too limiting to actually be the whole truth of Babygate.

Maybe now that Amy1 has said it, you will listen to me. The secrets need to stop!! We are all going to pass into oblivion before the hoax is revealed to the general public, and the keeping of these secrets and the stifling of information and the refusal of cooperation among the Power Bloggers is a key to this sad, sad failure. Now I return you to your regularly scheduled discussion of which e-mail or which photograph is the ultimate key to Babygate. I am going back to my newest book project, in which the readers outnumber the messenger annihilators. My conscience is clear because I have told the world practically everything I know about Babygate in The Palin Matrix. I cannot help it if few care to read it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

No Horse Hockey, No Bull Puckey, No Games

... Dear Levi, as I am sure you have learned by now, I have followed your public career since August 2008. I realize that you have been absorbed into a world that you did not create. You accidentally stumbled onto a public stage that has increased your public visibility a hundredfold, yet all you ever wanted from life is to be a quiet young man in the northern wilderness.

Unlike most of the millions who are fascinated by your life story and what you might reveal to the world, I am not that far from your viewpoint on life. My dad taught me his favorite skills of hunting and fishing when I was not yet in high school. I sent my lure off the small fishing skiff from my green casting reel with my dad thousands of times when I was a kid. I got my first .22 rifle for Christmas when I was ten, a bolt action from the Sears catalog. My mom used it to keep the squirrels out of her pecan trees decades after I was grown and out of the house. My more modern .22 semi-automatic Remington with a ten-shot clip and scope waits silently in my bedroom closet. I don't get to use it nearly as much as I would like now that I live in the city. You probably even know a few displaced Southerners personally. We may live in the city as adults, but we have always relished the simple joys of country life.

Come home to me, Levi. Tell me your story in confidence. I am not in the game for money. I never have been. I could have written a book about your nemesis for a fraction of the cost in time and effort, and sold a lot more copies for profit. But you know I didn't do that. I told the story of America's sad downfall, its weakness of heart and soul. You know I have little trust of the same people that have repeatedly deceived you. I am an outsider just like you. I want you to tell your story, not for the satisfaction of all the I-told-you-sos that you are so weary of meeting. I want you to tell your story for the deep truth that it holds, for the release of the burden on your soul and your future. You are probably too young to realize it now, but you still have your whole life in front of you.

Your mom was framed, set up, sent to a life of public disgrace solely for the purpose of protecting some very bad people. Her crime was pathetically minimal, but we both know the punishment was meted out to the fullest extent of a very misguided law. There is nothing we can do about that situation now except to move you and your family to another state far away. From my perspective, you should have done that even before your mom was entrapped, but we cannot alter a fate that has already been sealed. We can only do the right thing now. Pick a town and a state far from Alaska and move there, and take Sherry and Mercede with you. Begin a new life for the sake of all of you. No other choice will offer you such hope.

Tell me your story, Levi. Tell me the truth, the whole truth without any games of deception or even accidentally-on-purpose deceit. By all means read Paradigm Shift first. If you do not have a copy, just tell me an address where to send one. Most of what I know about your story is contained in the book, however I know a lot that is not in the book, particularly about the people who have tried to lead you down their many misleading pathways. I can tell you all of it. All you have to do is to trust me and tell me the whole truth as you know it to be. I seriously doubt that we both know the same details. In fact I expect that our knowledge of the subject spans a wide chasm between us. After all, I am about three times your age, so I do not expect you to have an understanding of The Southern Strategy or the Council for National Policy or the severe divisiveness your nemesis has brought to our once great nation. I understand that your viewpoint is much more up close and personal, that you have  a child caught in the crossfire.

Bring your conscience home to me, Levi. I can tell your story without the conflicting motives of your fellow Alaskans. I can publish it in book form so that it remains alive forever. You tell me the truth and I can make it real for your children. They will always have the truth in print, regardless of all the hurtful, shallow dreck published by the blogs and tabloids that have haunted your story since the beginning. Come home to the truth, Levi. We both have been blackballed by those who seek only to control us for the acquisition of personal fame and fortune. Please come home, Levi. Let me tell your story. Let's tell the truth as only we can.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Twelve Seasons of Austin

As we rapidly approach vacation season, I would like to offer a little tourist information about my hometown of Austin and the nearby Texas Hill Country. This candid insider’s viewpoint includes a few places and activities of interest, including a few details traditional sources may accidentally on purpose neglect to mention. You can find the latest commercial hotspots in several print and online publications, most notably The Austin Chronicle. All of these things have been part of the landscape for years, some for decades. The Highland Lakes are emphasized because it’s that time of year, but as the title implies, Austin and The Hill Country offer many fine year-round getaways. All choices and descriptions are solely the opinion of the author. Your mileage may vary, and I mean that literally.

The best thing about Austin is the weather and the worst is the traffic. This was true the first night I drove into Austin in 1977 and it is still true today. Some people, particularly those who do not enjoy 100-degree days and occasional floods and hailstorms, may disagree with my opinion of the best of Austin, but I seriously doubt that anyone who has visited or lived here will question the source of the area’s Achilles heel. The reason for the weather is that I-35 seems to be a dividing line between the East and the West, not only of Austin or of Texas, but of the whole country. East of I-35, all the way to Beaumont, is little different geographically from Alabama or Mississippi. Bastrop, the town you might consider to be the easternmost exurb of Austin, experienced one of the worst wildfires in U.S. history during the Draught of 2011. What was burning was the tall pine forest that begins on the northeast side of Bastrop, similar to the pines that populate the Southeastern U.S. West of I-35 begins to look more and more like West Texas with every mile you travel westward. The Texas Hill Country includes most of the terrain west of Austin and north of San Antonio. The Highland Lakes chain is composed of a series of dams on the Colorado River, from the huge Lake Buchanan located in the sparsely populated area far northwest of the city to the tiny Lady Bird Lake that lazily cuts the city in half. South Austin is generally the diverse section that brought the city its nickname of The Live Music Capitol of the World, while North Austin has boomed toward Dallas with the relatively conservative corporatism of Round Rock and Cedar Park. Technically most of the live music has always been played on Sixth Street, a few blocks north of the river, but who cares? The image of each part of town has stuck tightly over the decades. The temperature ranges between 60 and 90 more often than not throughout most of the year. Twenty-degree changes throughout the day are very common; 50-70 in winter and 80-100 in the summer. Yes, Maybelle, that’s an overnight low of 80, but remember the humidity is relatively low, too. It may not be at Phoenix levels, but it is much drier than Houston only 150 miles eastward. Although ice storms occasionally freeze the city like a Popsicle covered in fender-bent cars, this occurs only about once every third or fourth winter. The possible months for continuous 100-degree days are June, July, August, and September. Believe it or not, this is more likely to occur in September than in June. Cloudy or rainy days are few and far between year round. Snow? Whazzat?

Austin is a town of the car culture. There is a commuter train line that runs north-south, and there are various buses and cabs available, but overall, this is very much a town in which most everyone does his or her own driving. If you are flying into town and renting a car, consider a convertible. Unless you happen to hit one of our rare periods of inclement weather, you will probably have plenty of opportunity to enjoy topless motoring. If you are driving your own wheels you will be cursing the traffic before you even hit your first destination. The problem is that the metro area is humongous and it continually outgrows its road system. More specifically, my opinion has always been that the city fathers continually sell out to the developers. In other words, they allow the corporatism to go hog wild, and then they decide more or wider roads are needed! By the time they get around to doing something about the problem, the traffic in the afflicted area invariably is already clogged up like an old drain. Then the flow of traffic becomes obstructed even further while seemingly endless road development projects are underway. Lanes are added and toll roads are constructed, but new freeways are never built. Austin is probably the largest single-interstate metro area in the USA! Here is the sum total of Austin’s major highways. I-35 is the busiest freeway 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week that I have ever seen. Loop 1/Mopac, which is not a loop but a straight north-south strip with three lanes in each direction, runs from far South Austin to far North Austin. U.S. 183 curves through the city from Cedar Park in the northwest down to Bergstrom International Airport in the southeast portion of the city, and finally, the new Toll Road 130/45 follows a similar path as 183 and features toll prices some would call high. The distance totally across the metro area approaches one hundred miles without an inch of east-west freeway! You can go across the center portion of town on 183 or Highway 71 in the southern part of the city, but these are your only choices. The key phrase here is center portion. Highway 71 connects at Mopac with U.S. 290 West a few miles out to Dripping Springs, but the freeway portion of 71 East turns into an endless parade of traffic lights east of I-35. With only a handful of flyovers connecting the few freeway interchanges, massively backed-up left turns to enter the major roads at many points are very common. Do you see why the worst thing about Austin is its traffic congestion? Now let’s move on to the fun stuff, the reasons people have been coming to Austin for decades.

January is a relatively quiet month for boating, golf, or sightseeing without the crowds. The annual Boat Show in the Austin Convention Center is usually held in January. One of the issues that makes the boat show useful if you are even considering a boat purchase is that most of the boat dealers are scattered far and wide throughout the lakeside areas. You can put a lot of miles through the nauseating traffic just going from one dealer to another, many of which are located along Ranch Road 620 on the northern edge of the city proper. Even with its congestion and seemingly endless traffic lights, you will want to cruise this road at least once for its scenic views of Lake Travis and pathway over Mansfield Dam.

February is about as quiet as January, but possibly with a little warmer weather, combined with a lesser likelihood of sporadic inclement weather. This would be a good month for a cruise out to the Horseshoe Bay Resort on Lake LBJ for a few rounds of golf. There are several courses in the area and some are particularly elegant and scenic. Golf packages are offered with weekend stays at the resort, however the prices are not cheap.

March is when the Mexican Freetail Bats begin to arrive from Mexico, usually in the latter part of the month. Since global warming kicked in, it has become difficult to predict the exact dates the bats, the floods, or the draughts might arrive. The South by Southwest festival has taken over the month of March in recent years. This monster just gets bigger and bigger every year. Unlike the bats or the weather events, SXSW explodes all over town every March. The most important advice I can offer if you want to attend next year’s SXSW is to lock down your lodging and transportation (particularly lodging) as soon as possible. Everything books solid way in advance for all the days of SXSW. That means not only downtown hotels, but suburban motels, local apartments, and even rental houses.

April is the most reliable month to take a Bluebonnet Tour in The Hill Country or visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. Marble Falls and the surrounding areas show an increase in motorcycle traffic every year about this time. The weather is nearly perfect in the early spring for motorcycle touring. The top eatery in Marble Falls is the Blue Bonnet Cafe, established in 1929, where breakfast is served all day. Stop there anytime, but the Southern Pigout Breakfast is the specialty. (I just made up that name. It’s all good at the Blue Bonnet Cafe.)

May is a time when you can still visit the Wildflower Center in Austin or possibly still see wildflowers in The Hill Country, depending on the year, but mainly it’s a time to hit the lakes before the boom begins Memorial Day Weekend. With any luck, the rains have already arrived and Lake Travis has enough water to launch a boat from its many ramps. In draught years, the only ramps open may be the multiple lanes at Mansfield Dam. If that is the case, I would prefer to just stare at the wildflowers, but if you don’t mind crowds, let ‘er rip! You can follow the lake levels at the LCRA website. Anything less than 660 feet in elevation for Lake Travis and you may as well go watch the wildflowers or got to Schlitterbahn. Most boats can barely be launched at that level on the upper areas of Lake Travis. Even when you get in the water, you have to watch out for a submerged rock taking out your propeller. (I knew jet boats were good for something!) If you like cold water, you can launch onto Lake Austin, but you are likely to find a crowd there, too. Lake Marble Falls is a small, rather quiet lake, but watch out for low levels there, too. The only boating done on Lady Bird Lake in the middle of the city is kayaking and an occasional nighttime boat parade for spectators. Lake LBJ an hour northwest of the city offers no-hassle constant levels year round, although there are few public ramps and only one major one on the Austin side. Granite Beach at the edge of Cottonwood Shores, just east of Horseshoe Bay, offers a public ramp, boat and personal watercraft rentals, dry-dock boat storage, a full-service marina, a boat dealership, and a waterpark in a quiet cove of the lake. The only negative I can say about Lake LBJ is that you can ski on very little of it only some of the time. There is not a tall bluff on the south side, as there is along most of Lake Travis, and the southern breeze keeps the lake somewhat choppy most of the time. Most of the boating activity on LBJ consists of towing tubes, cruising near the shoreline and drooling over the many vacation homes of millionaires, or just roaring up and down the lake on jet skis or in various types of boats. These include fishing boats in the lower LBJ area, but the more serious fishing is upstream a few miles near Kingsland. On most any weekday that is not a holiday, even in midsummer, you can just float with the current, which most of the time seems to be overcome by the stiff breeze that blows unanchored boats upstream, and just moo through the quiet like a contented cow.

June usually offers a good swimming and boating season before the water gets bathwater warm and the Fourth of July hordes swarm the lakes. June is often the best month for tubing in the area, since this is when the rivers might be flowing the fastest before the long summer dry months slow them down. Slow, gentle tubing is offered in San Marcos, but the hot action is in the New Braunfels area on the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. If you visit San Marcos, be sure to allow a little time to tour the beautiful campus of Texas State University. If you are going for the serious tubing near New Braunfels, expect serious crowds, and possibly a bit of rowdiness. The ever larger crowds have made the local news in recent years, mostly over noise and alcohol issues. However, if you have never been tubing before, you owe it to yourself to try it at least once and New Braunfels is the place. Be sure you have sunscreen, water to drink, and appropriate shoes. I highly recommend slip-on deck shoes since you can easily take them off after the initial launching and they offer adequate protection from the rocks. This advice applies to all boating and water activities in the area. These clear waters come at a price: most of the bottoms are quite rocky.

July is the time for midsummer crowds and hot, hot suntan action, but multiple fireworks displays on Town Lake and Lake LBJ offer a once a year thrill. Austin has traditionally presented a big fireworks extravaganza over Town Lake, not far from the bat show emitting from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. The Austin Symphony generally adds the soundtrack. Far fewer people are aware of another display happening an hour west of the city in Horseshoe Bay. This one is actually at least two separate shows, sometimes on the same night, but on consecutive nights in other years, mostly depending on the day of the week the holiday falls. The more spectacular of the two is presented by the Blue Lake subdivision of Horseshoe Bay and the lesser one is done near the HSB Resort. The Blue Lake show is shot from the edge of the lake and can be seen from many different vantage points from the hilltops common to the area. Although the HSB show is not placed quite as perfectly for hilltop viewing, both or either can be viewed from the water, and this is one unique advantage if you have access to a boat. The second advantage is that there are so few crowds and so many viewing locations available. Sometimes even a third, smaller display is going on at the same time! For a quiet, uncrowded vacation spot, Horseshoe Bay is a fun place!

August is the peak season for seeing the most bats fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. The little winged moms have their babies in June and July, so by August everybody is ready to fly out to catch his own bugs. You may not fully believe that this is the largest metropolitan colony of these bats on this continent until you watch them fly out from underneath the bridge at sunset. The event can continue for nearly an hour, and we’re not talking a few bats a minute, either! There can be up to 1.5 million of them during peak season! The Boat Drag Races on Lake Marble Falls are the second reason to thumb your nose at the heat and visit Austin in August. Book yourself a room way ahead of time in one of the hotels along the waterside or up on the bluff overlooking the lake. All the rooms of the LaQuinta on the hill, for instance, face the lake. Marble Falls is one of the central hubs for the many motorcycle tourists that flock to the area for its curvy roads and pleasant scenery.

September is a good time to visit Schlitterbahn with smaller swarms of kids than during the official summer months. We don’t have a Six Flags or a Disney park in Central Texas, but what we do have are thousands and thousands of large inner tubes. Schlitterbahn is a tubing-based water park in New Braunfels, 45 miles southwest of Austin, down I-35. Schlitterbahn is usually open from May through September, but only on weekends at the beginning and end of each annual schedule. As with Six Flags, unless you enjoy standing around a lot between rides, try to avoid the prime dates such as holiday and midsummer weekends. The most unusual ride at Schlitterbahn is the namesake, in which a person sits on a board suspended in midair until at the blast of a horn a mechanism suddenly drops it to the water and the rider rapidly slides across a pool like a skipped rock. Although there are numerous high-speed tube slides at the park, most adults will particularly enjoy the long, more leisurely inner tube floats.

October is usually the last month for swimming and boating on the lakes. Reliably one of the best adult Halloween celebrations in the country is held annually in the extensive bar scene on Sixth Street. It may not be San Francisco, New York or New Orleans, but neither is the weather! In some years The Texas Book Festival is presented on the last weekend in October. Laura Bush founded the annual event in 1995 and it seems to get bigger every year. The festival in tents set up on streets near the state capitol draws 40,000 visitors annually, according to the TBF website. Senator Obama spoke to a standing room only crowd in The Capitol and signed his book The Audacity of Hope at the 2006 TBF.

November sometimes hosts The Texas Book Festival on the first weekend of the month. The best time to visit is Saturday morning while the weather is cool and the crowds are sparse. November is usually the last month on the lakes, and a nice quiet one at that. Some Yankees may actually enjoy the slight chill in the air. Boats go up and down the lake, even after the time of comfortable swimming has passed. The time to enjoy Austin for its mild winter weather and many indoor entertainments is on the way. The new Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 track debuts its first race this November. With a current expectation of 120,000 visitors, the first F1 race is expected to become Austin's #1 tourist event.

December’s legendary Austin events include the huge Christmas Tree in Zilker Park and the Trail of Lights just across the street. Kids of all ages enjoy getting falling down drunk under the tree at least once! Leave the alcohol at home where it belongs, kiddies. Just hold out your arms, stare upward at the yellow swirls of lights that intertwine with the multi-colors, and spin around slowly until you fall down. The Trail of Lights used to be drive-through entertainment until the event became such a big deal that it had to be turned into a strictly pedestrian affair. If you don’t like traffic congestion, avoid the whole area whenever you see the lights on. These days much of the crowd is even shuttled in like cattle from a remote parking area, yet it is still Traffic Congestion Central on Barton Springs Road every Christmas season.

Although Austin is known as a town of hot sun, warm nights, live music, and its progressive tech culture of what I call Silicon Valley South, the area appeals to those with  wide-ranging tastes, and varied entertainment pursuits year-round. The proximity of its lakes and the unexpected (for Texas) beauty of the nearby Hill Country open up vistas of imagination. Classic and muscle car owners and enthusiasts informally meet in several large parking lots throughout the metro area, most along I-35, on weekend nights of fair weather. Check the schedules for more details. All the shopping, bars and eateries you might seek can be found in Austin. There is so much more to Austin than bragging about its current job market boomtown status!

Dudley & Bob on KLBJ-FM 93.7 will entertain you 6-10 a.m. weekdays. KLBJ is the classic rock FM station that has been serenading the legendary city of music for decades, but the mornings are reserved for a little homegrown Austin humor. Hint: if you are a right-winger whose drawers are a little snug, you might prefer the usual conservative rants emanating from KLBJ-AM talk radio right down the hall.

If the good old boy in your party is whining about too many foo-fooey drives and too much hippy-dippy music, just drop him off at Cabela’s in Buda with a credit card and return to retrieve him in a few hours. He will be entertained. I know it’s just an outdoor sporting goods store, but you have to experience it to believe it. Huge aquariums of local game fish and exorbitant, museum-quality animal displays enrich the 185,000-square-foot store. Take the Niederwald exit off I-35 South in Buda. You can’t miss it. You can tell you are approaching something big by the size of the parking lot.

Threadgill’s represents the heart of traditional Southern specialties with a unique Austin history. Think chicken fried steak or a platter of catfish with black-eyed peas and mashed potatoes… umm-umm good. The menu is varied, but these are my favorites. Threadgill’s is not the place to start a new diet! The original Threadgill’s on North Lamar once hosted Janis Joplin in the early days of her all-too-brief career. The walls are covered with photos and mementos of Threadgill’s extensive history as one of the earliest successful Austin honky-tonks, dating back to the 1930’s. There have never been but two Threadgill’s restaurants, and in this case, I even prefer the newer one on West Riverside. The north location is a treat to experience the first time, but it is located a little distance out of the action of most Austin entertainment and the line to get a table can be long. The South location is an excellent choice when you are planning to visit the bats who fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue bridge practically next door or Zilker Park just a little distance west.

The Salt Lick represents the traditional family-style Southern barbeque as well as any I have ever experienced - in any state or locale. Located out in the sticks near Driftwood, southwest of the city, The Salt Lick is always worth the drive! The original Salt Lick is located near the intersection of FM 1826 and RR 967, quite distinctly out in the middle of nowhere, about thirty minutes west of Buda or south of Dripping Springs. New branches have recently been opened in Round Rock and Bergstrom Airport, but the Driftwood location still has all the charisma. The Salt Lick serves its authentic Texas BBQ in several rambling, rustic, country buildings with no frills. Alcohol is not served and you must pay in cash, but even a simple meal of purely meat and bread will put a broad smile on your face!

The County Line barely makes this list because this is not a restaurant guide and BBQ is already represented by The Salt Lick. However, The County Line is the original, high-quality sit-down barbeque purveyor actually in the city. Although the company has recently branched out to several locations in far away cities, the original County Line is on Bee Caves Road with gorgeous Hill Country views on the north side. The second Austin location is near Lake Austin with a large deck over Bull Creek. Of course if you can score a table with a view, that’s a plus. The County Line menu is more varied and a bit more expensive than that of The Salt Lick. If you really must experience Texas BBQ, I strongly recommend visiting at least one or the other, and I prefer the original locations of both, although my favorite is clearly The Salt Lick.

Conan’s Pizza was the original deep dish pizza parlor on The Drag, the nickname for the commercial district that borders the UT campus with a few blocks of Guadalupe Street that strongly cater to UT students. Conan’s is now located on West 29th Street, just a few blocks northwest of The Drag. Two other locations in North and South Austin serve up much the same ambience. Unlike a few other classic eateries mentioned here, the branch locations are equally recommended in all respects. Frank Frazetta’s classic paintings, as in Conan the Barbarian, line the walls at all locations. Go in with a big appetite and try the Veggie Supreme or the Savage. Although I am deeply a Southern boy who doesn’t care much for Chicago snow or traffic, I have never eaten a better pizza than a Conan’s. Of course your tastes may vary.

El Mercado has been chosen to represent the multitude of Mexican restaurants in Austin because it has been a fixture of South Austin for more than twenty years, its prices and service are reasonable, and its extensive menu is delicious. The original location is still on South First Street and branches are now available in Central and North Austin.

The Kerbey Lane Cafe is the established premier sensitive-and-aware breakfast restaurant. This quaint little restaurant has been a fixture of the weekend late breakfast crowd since 1980. Although the small chain of five outlets serves appropriate meals all day, its claim to fame is clearly its deliciously innovative breakfast menu. The four newer locations each have a design and decor unique to itself, but the little old converted house on the actual Kerbey Lane holds all the charisma. Expect a line at prime time.

A few attractions in the Austin area are obvious and some are unusual. Barton Springs Pool maintains a temperature of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, but don’t kid yourself, that water is cold, even in July! I’ve seen visitors from Yankeeland revel in the contrast of hot air and cold water, but once was enough for me. There are numerous outdoor concerts annually in Zilker Park, and many are huge events. Attendees are usually shuttled in from designated parking areas. The University of Texas campus has been attracting tourists for decades. The legendary library and infamous tower are notable. As you might expect, free parking spaces are as elusive as snowflakes in Austin. The local IMAX theater is located within the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum just south of UT. A few miles south down I-35, you can take an informal tour of the St. Edwards University campus for a gander at some elegant old architecture. Another sight to see is the reportedly haunted Pemberton Castle, at 1415 Wooldridge Drive in the Pemberton Heights neighborhood just northwest of the UT campus. Built in 1926, Pemberton Castle was featured in the forgettable 1994 Disney romp, Blank Check. The $2 million property was purchased in 2006 by famed Austin movie director Robert Rodriguez.

Mount Bonnell is one of the scenic highpoints of Austin. If you would like just a nice view of the city, try the Barton Creek Mall parking lot overlooking South Austin from just below Bee Caves Road. This is a good cityscape, day or night. One of the most scenic drives that every visitor should take is Lake Austin Boulevard from Mopac west to Scenic Drive along Lake Austin, and on up Mount Bonnell Road. The small mountaintop has steps running up the north side, but the views are on the south, facing Lake Austin far below and the television broadcast towers on the far side. You can take in the view in the daylight, but this is an opportunity to follow Scenic Drive along Lake Austin in the late afternoon so that you arrive at Mount Bonnell just before sunset. (Carefully examine a map to see how to make the connection from Lake Austin Blvd. to Scenic Drive via several short hops on small streets, and then repeat the process on the north end to connect with Mount Bonnell Drive. Just follow your nose, staying as close to the lake as possible. It’s easier than it looks on a map.) Then you climb the steps and watch the sunset. Just sit down on a rock and take in the ambience. Remember that if you have children with you, you may want to visit earlier in the day, before the young adults stake out a rock on which to smoke dope or make out. Otherwise, the sunset time is the best time to go. There is nothing wrong with visiting late at night for an intimate conversation in a cool breeze, either, but you will miss the captivating scenery of the Lake Austin area, where the stars live. You can take a much shorter, quicker route back if you want. Mount Bonnell is actually only about ten minutes west of Loop 1 at approximately 45th Street. I just sent you on the scenic route. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Many routes through The Hill Country provide panoramic views of Lake Travis. These are generally much longer trips further out into the hill country west of Austin. The major roads involved are Ranch Roads 620, 2222, and 2244. Loop 360, which is actually more of a north-south major highway with traffic lights, features the elegant bridge over Lake Austin. Although a tourist should enjoy this view, I strongly recommend the most off hour you can muster, such as 8 a.m. Sunday morning! The three ranch roads host a lot of traffic during primetime, too, but if you simply avoid the common rush hours, the driving will not be unpleasant. The best scenery on RR 2244 (Bee Caves Road) is west of 360 until it dead ends into Highway 71. You may wish to cruise out Bee Caves, turn right on 71, and connect with RR 620 a few blocks away. You can then return back to the heart of the city via Highway 183, Loop 1, or I-35, in that order. Here is a hint: all the good scenery will be over before you reach 183. Are you driving in circles? Good. You are experiencing some of the Austin area’s best scenery. All you really have to remember is that most of that scenery is found on Scenic Drive, Mount Bonnell Road, RR 2222, RR2244, RR 620, and Loop 360.

Floyd M. Orr is the author of Ker-Splash 2: The High Performance Powerboat Book and Timeline of America: Sound Bytes from the Consumer Culture, among others. He has resided in the area for more than three decades. Since he has not left the Austin metro area even once since 2000, he must like it.. except for the traffic.

See Also: Circuit of the Americas by Floyd M. Orr

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fifty Faces

Hunter S. Thompson Cat has his eyes wide open watching out for the fifty faces I never want to see on TV again. No celebrity should be allowed to deface my television set as much or as often as the members of this rogues' gallery have done over the past few years. Some of these are on the screen multiple times a day, 365 days a year. Some have just been on the public stage too damn long, and some have been nauseating from their very first appearance. It's way past time to save my sanity and bring the hook. You may say that I can always turn off the TV or change the channel. That's why I watch with my finger on the channel or mute buttons. Hold your nose. Here comes the parade of stinkers.

50. Anderson Cooper - Of course I know you are not as bad as many on this list, but how many hours a day do we have to get our supposed news from only one person?

49. Larry King - Finally, one of these clowns has already left the stage. He was becoming quite the parody of himself.

48. Ray Barone & the Rest of His Family - Of course you created a decent sitcom, but enough is enough! You are on multiple channels umpteen times a day! I've seen 'em all already!

47. Kevin James - Some of your movies are quite good, but your sitcom earns a C+ on its best day. If it was on only once a week, that would be tolerable. As it is, I am sick of it!

46. Steven Tyler - I have always liked your outfits and persona as America's answer to Mick Jagger, but dude, you are embarrassing yourself!

45. Paul Teutul, Sr. - Does everybody on reality TV have to be covered in tattoos and build ridiculously expensive, but practically useless, products?

44. Will Ferrell - Some of your movies are good, but too many of them are silly trash that are rerun endlessly on numerous cable channels.

43. Dr. Drew - An occasional appearance on MTV was interesting. Now you are just in our faces way too many times a week on way too many channels.

42. Jabbering Sluts on MTV & VH-1 - What happened to the music videos, or at least stories about musicians?

41. Toothless, Tattooed Hicks - Why does every outdoor reality show have to showcase the morons of America?

40. Geraldo Rivera - You were more mentally stable before you joined Fox News.

39. Dennis Miller - You can speak quite intelligently, but how can you stand Bill O'Reilly?

38. Erin Burnett - You are just too damn cute to be taken seriously. Of course I have never taken you seriously in the first place because you came to CNN from The Wall Street Channel.

37. Lou Dobbs - Just go home to your Hispanic wife and shut up. You're a hypocrite!

36. Bill O'Reilly - If you had only stayed with the gossip reporting of your early career, you might still be tolerable. You are lower on the list than you deserve because your trivia quizzes are at least entertaining.

35. Ben Stiller - I am SO sick of your one-trick-pony act in movies endlessly rerun on TV. You may think you are the next generation's Woody Allen, but trust me, one movie released every five years would be plenty.

34. The cast of Hot in Cleveland - Yes, you have assembled a competent cast of famous comediennes, but the canned laughter and endless promotion are overbearing, and most of all, the show is STUPID!

33. Ted Nugent - You once were a rock star and decent guitar player. Get your ass out of politics and go back to screwing as many groupies as possible.

32. Janine Turner - Just because you once played an Alaskan does not make you a political expert.

31. Victoria Jackson - You are a stupid traitor to the sensibilities of Saturday Night Live!

30. Gene Simmons - Just because you washed off your makeup doesn't make you a TV star.

29. Sharon Osbourne - You married a rocker, but that doesn't make you worth watching on TV.

28. Piers Morgan - Take your Bristish snotass back to England, you turd. There are plenty of real Americans who could do a more honest job of interviewing politicians and celebrities.

27. Gloria Borger - You are one of the biggest sellout traitors to the Republican media. You once represented the voice of reason on PBS. Now you are just another CNN right-wing shill.

26. Bay Buchanan - You have always been a nut. Now you are just an old nut.

25. Mary Matalin - Thank your lucky stars that you live in New Orleans and are married to a sane person.

24. Dana Bash - You are married to another Republican on the same damn network. Could you be any less impartial in your reporting?

23. Elisabeth Hasselbeck - You may be easy on the eyes, but your mouth is hard on the ears.

22. Mika Brzezinski - See Hasselbeck above.

21. Mitt Romney - You were boring the first ten minutes you were on. Isn't paint drying somewhere?

20. Ari Fleischer - Can you add anything to the conversation other than Republican talking points?

19. Dana Perino - See Hasselbeck and Brzezinski above. Just because Ari Fleischer is on CNN does not mean that Fox News needs yet another blonde bimbo.

18. Neil Cavuto - You are a Republican supposedly reporting the financial news on Fox. Could you be any more biased, predictable or boring?

17. Joan Rivers - I used to like your humor, but you are on television way too much these days, and like Larry King, your expiration date was up long ago.

16. Mitch McConnell - You may not be on TV that much, but every time you are, you are a certified horse's ass.

15. John Boehner - You are just as big a jerk as McConnell; however, your orange pallor and boo-hooing add an element of entertainment.

14. Greta van Susteren - Get off my TV and take the Church of Scientology with you.

13. Laura Ingraham - You are a bad enough hate monger on AM radio. Do you have to disgrace television, too?

12. Dana Loesch - Who taught you manners, Adolf Hitler?

11. Michelle Malkin - Are you sure you are not a white KKK Southern Baptist in disguise?

10. Grover Norquist - You are doing so much political damage to America that no further explanation is necessary!

9. Wolfe Blitzer - Retire already, you old jackass Republican shill!

8. Barbara Walters - You used to be an intelligent interviewer. Now you are just a hackweasel for Sarah Palin and her family of grifters.

7. Stephanie Courtney (The Progressive Insurance lady) - You may be a talented comedian, but get off every channel of my TV! I am so sick of your stupid face, I could barf!

6. Jerry Stiller - Ditto Stephanie Courtney above!!!

5. Nancy Grace - Isn't there a pretty little white girl missing somewhere? Maybe you could find her sooner if you joined the search and got your snarling mug off the TV!

4. Herman Cain - Only Fox News would have the unmitigated gall to still give a has-been clown like you a microphone.

3. Sean Hannity - You are probably the biggest right-wing blowhard of them all.

2. Bristol Palin - Has there ever been a more worthless, talentless celebrity undeserving of fame in all of American history?

1. Sarah Palin, -  Of course you are #1. Your first screech of code words and sneering expressions back in 2008 was enough for anyone with a brain.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Karma Denial

A story on one of my local news channels a few days ago reminded me of an issue I consider quite relevant as an example of precisely why America is stuck in a morass of indecisive and illogical behavior patterns. The car pictured here is the Fisker Karma, a long, heavy, expensive model built in Finland and first sold in the U.S. last November. The Karma is powered by a pair of 161-hp electric motors that can be supplemented by a 260-hp, turbocharged, 2-liter, gasoline engine. The Karma sits on a 124-inch wheelbase, weighs 5300 pounds, and costs $102,000 for the base model or $116,000 for the deluxe version. The EPA rates the total range available at 230 miles if the battery system is fully charged and the gas tank is full. Due to the car's small interior volume, the EPA rates it as a subcompact. If you want more information on the Karma, Wikipedia describes many facets of the car's development history, specifications, and technical capabilities such as range and miles-per-gallon under various conditions and power modes.

The news story concerned the fact that the Delaware facility that was supposed to produce the Fisker Atlantic, a slightly smaller, cheaper, plug-in electric sedan, is apparently at a stalemate. VP Joe Biden had facilitated a plan that would offer a heavy influx of cash from a government loan to bring the project to Wilmington. Now there seems little hope that the plant will be finished and the car produced there. The Atlantic was slated to begin production next year, but at this point the car's future is open to interpretation.

I find this whole idea not only ludicrous, but a glaring symbol of Americans' deep denial of reality! America doesn't need another silly toy for the one-percenters. It needs a hybrid car for the masses, built in the U.S. and providing jobs with decent wages to Americans! Like the ridiculous Chevrolet Volt, the Fisker models are nothing more than a sham to disguise the fact that Americans have totally lost their minds in a sea of denial! America does not need another overpriced car, no matter how it is powered. America needs its own new Volkswagen Beetle. We need another Mustang, Eurosport, Caravan, Taurus, or whatever. We need a car that requires a lot of expensive pre-production tooling for a line that utilizes established mechanical components, but with a new concept in marketing. We need a new model line of hybrids that will sell hundreds of thousands of units. We need hybrid vehicles the middle class can afford and wants to buy.

President Carter changed our political nation for the worse when he made his legendary "tighten our belts" speech. It was not his fault at all. He absolutely did the brave and right thing. What hurt us was that this speech provided the launching pad for the Reagan Revolution of "greed is good" that has brought our once great nation to its financial knees. Our current Commander in Chief is too paranoid for his own political future to tell us the truth we so desperately need to hear.

Rover invented the SUV is England, but the first U.S. model was the Jeep Wagoneer launched in the 1963 model year. Back in the '60's, International Harvester (yes, Maybelle, the tractor company) was building its Scout. Ford introduced its small Jeep (as in CJ) competitor in 1966. The original Bronco was a more modern and comfortable type of off-road recreational vehicle, with a sleek body offering many options and colors. Chevrolet has been producing its Suburban model for decades. All of these vehicles were purchased by buyers with a specific off-road activity in mind, whether it was slinging mud through the boondocks from the exposed tires of a CJ or Scout, or pulling a boat or camper behind a large Suburban loaded with passengers and cargo.

This all changed when Ford introduced its Explorer in 1990. The Explorer unleashed a monster in America that has been almost as devastating to our national sanity as The War on Drugs. The modern SUV Revolution is nothing less than the automotive symbol of Reagan's greed is good concept. The Explorer was specifically designed to appeal to women, not to drive to the boonies, but to city jobs via long daily commutes on the freeway. The higher seating position allowed women to better see above the many overly aggressive pickup truck drivers who constantly cut in front of them. When these arrogant buttheads are not blocking the ladies' view, they are tailgating. Ask many women what they wanted to drive on their everyday suburban trek and they would say a tank! The new type of SUV was designed to give these ladies all the amenities of a comfortable car enclosed in a big, heavy truck-like package with a high level of outward visibility in traffic. The problem is that these tanks get less mileage than a comparable conventional sedan. Yes, of course with advances in technology they get considerably better mileage than the Wagoneers and Suburbans of old. The problem is that those SUV's were used mostly for their intended recreational purposes, and that meant by a very small percentage of the overall car buying public. The modern monsters of our freeways are mostly carrying no passengers and towing no boats. The accessory most often observed being used inside the cabin is a cell phone! Like The War on Drugs, a little of it is not so bad, but a massive explosion of it is very harmful to the future of our culture.

We do not actually need hybrid or electric cars to lessen our fuel consumption. The same advances that have allowed the Explorer to get much better mileage than you might expect have also been applied to small sedans. Most of the virtual swarm of econoboxes manufactured today get twice the mileage of their ancestors of only thirty years ago. These modern marvels of economy produce far higher levels of performance, comfort, style, and overall driving quality than their ancestors did. The problem is simply that far too few Americans are choosing to drive these fuel-efficient vehicles.

What can we as a culture do to improve our plight? The first step is ridiculously simple. We can demand that our political and media leaders tell us the truth. We can face the obvious fact that population is our problem. The population is causing the fuel supplies to dwindle faster than necessary. The population is bringing global warming sooner than expected. Other nations of the world have a different set of problems caused by overpopulation, but that is no excuse for us not to be the leader in addressing the problem in our own backyard. The second problem is The War on Drugs. What a despicably wasteful use of resources and destruction of an otherwise productive citizenry! This nonsense needed to stop long before the Ford Explorer was even launched to clog our freeways. The third problem is The SUV Revolution and the despicable little man who spawned it, Ronald Reagan. All President Obama has to do is tell us the truth, to tighten our belts.