Sunday, November 25, 2018

Fear and Loathing

Fear and Loathing in Redondo Beach
When Elko just ain't enough

In all my years as an Animal Control Officer, I have never experienced anything as terrifying as the night of May 26th, 1988. I was responding to a call of strange animals underneath the Redondo Beach Pier when I came upon a scene of such unspeakable carnage that it has taken me 30 trembling years to even begin to describe what happened that night.

The station had gotten a call about raccoons under the pier and I radioed in that I would check it out. Parking the containment van, I made my way to where the sand met the surf. Faintly an Amber glow trickled from the pilings. Punk kids, I thought. The wet earth crunched under my boots as I rounded the corner.

There was the Fire Department Chief perched, teetering on an obsidian stone. I recognized his weathered sooty face from the newspapers; youngest Battalion Captain in Redondo's history. He struck a match and watched it burn.

Without so much as giving me a glance he spoke, "Can I help you?"

A bit jarred I replied, "Oh I'm sorry I thought you were... I mean, we got a call about some wild animals..."

He twirled the match in his yellowed thumb and pointer. "What type of... wild animals?" He asked in a lecherously somber tone.

"raccoons," I answered.

The light was waning between his fingers. His voice cracked and reached a frequency only struck by the half mad.

"Raccoons... Huh? Ain't seen none of this them... however, if you're looking for a wild animal... you've come to the right place."

With that the Chief threw back his head and began to howl. I didn't know what to make of it. Is he serious? Could this all be some savage acid flashback? Abruptly he halted his barking and lit another match amongst the pier pilings. And another. And another. The Chief peered at me above the fire.

"... Creosote..."


"I said, What do they call you? What's your name?"

"Seamus, sir. They call me Seamus."

The Chief turned his attention back to the dancing flame in front of him. "Yeah, that's a great story... Hey Seamus... Seamus, have you ever held onto a thought for so long, Seamus, that that thought became you… a thought that absorbed you, your ego like an amoeba who sucks up the whole pond, drop by drop, until it is the lake? A big slimy gelatinous lake.'

I leaned against a piling for a moment and finally muttered, "no."

"Yeah? Well, fuck you, Seamus."

With that, the Chief let out a roaring laugh that threatened to tear apart the Pier and bury us alive. His voice bounced across the ocean's crests.

Pivoting, I was about to leave, get away from this madhouse, when the Chief beckoned for me to come back.

"Hey, Seamus? Seamus? Listen. I'll let you in on a little secret. C'mere. C'mon, c'mere..."

Reluctantly I shuffled to meet the Chief on his rock throne. When I got closer I realized his face looked as if it were carved from clay. Heavily it weighed on his face. This monster wore a cheap skin suit, merely a husk. 

He rolled his head, looked up at me like a lizard and spoke, "Tomorrow will be the Anniversary of one of the worst fires in Redondo's history... I was there. First on the scene. Apartment fire. Beryl and Prospect. I remember seeing the purple-tinged flames shooting up from the building, the mark of an accelerant..."

The Chief stuck his meaty claw deep into the wet earth and produced a hand full of mud. 

He continued, "Later the investigation showed that the fire was an act of revenge taken against a man who'd made enemies of some high school football players... like anyone'd believe that. Ho ho."

Soon the Chief's mug was covered in mud. The Chief drew a line down his forehead and across his cheeks, like a Native American preparing for war, while he prattled on, "the man made it out alive, but others... others weren't so lucky. Two flight attendants and a boat captain in the apartment above... they were screaming... trapped up there... I watched them cook..."

The mud monster lit another match.  The light waltzed across his twisting face.

"They can't get saved if there ain't no fire. No fire... no hero. That's the part they don't tell you."

This was too much. I had had enough. I turned to leave and that's when his words struck me... first on the scene... Whipping back around the Chief lingered in my peripheral, he had put on the pelt of an animal. On top of the Chief's head was a skinned raccoon snout. Blood ran down the Chief's face mixing with mud. The beast snarled gleaming in the moonlight. Demonic laughing flooded my eardrums and threatened to detach my brain from its tether. It was at that moment I passed out from fright.

The last thing I heard him say was something like, "stay out of Borneo, buster. Stay out of Borneo!"  And I recall his purple lips flapping awfully.

I awoke some hours later. The tide had come in. The Chief was gone. The raccoon's pelt was nowhere to be found. It was almost as if the whole thing was a dream. I went home and went to bed.

The next day, May 27th, the Pier burned. 

This is what the newspaper read:

At 1:40 pm, the Redondo Beach Fire Department received its first call: “Station 1. Structural response. Breakers restaurant, 400 Fisherman’s Wharf. This is called in from Tony’s. They state there is  lot of smoke coming from under the building.”
Diners at Tony’s restaurant had seen wisps of smoke rising from beneath the Breakers Seafood Restaurant and notified the fire department.
The smoke came from a fire that had broken out underneath the Breakers from an unknown cause. The heat of the ensuing conflagration was so great that most clues as to its origin were destroyed, leaving the exact cause of the fire undetermined to this day.
Investigators later would theorize that electrical equipment and wiring knocked loose from high waves that had pounded the pier twice earlier in 1988 probably short-circuited beneath the restaurant and ignited the wooden pilings.
The pilings had been coated with creosote to make them water-resistant, but the substance also made the pilings burn easily and rapidly. 

I will never know if Pat Aust was responsible, but I'll tell ya one thing, that night was one night where we both actually almost went completely insane and I'm glad I survived it, albeit just barely.



Reference Source:

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Essay from College


By: Eric Coleman  4/6/01

JFK, our last real President, was gunned down in the street like a rabid dog for assuming so

 In America we are told we have choice between Pepsi and Coke, McDonalds or Burger King, Democrats or Republicans. In 2000 a Toshiba commercial referring to its laptop computer capabilities made this advertising pitch; ‘what if they made a freedom machine.’ The fast and silent death of democracy is upon us.
            Begun as a noble experiment, democracy was envisioned by the founding fathers to be the last phase in the evolution of government. It was thought that the masses would finally have a voice in their collective destinies. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time until the ruling class discovered how to use this new political machinery for their own short-sighted interests.


Democracy is based on the concept that a contract exists between the government and the people. Power structures in a free nation must be continually legitimized. If the government ever becomes tyrannical and oppressive the people have not only the right, but also the duty to cast off the corrupt regime and restore a new order. However, if the Boston Tea party were to take place today the authorities would quickly be dispatched, delinquents rounded up, and in a couple months, the offenders would stand behind many other victimless criminals in line for the ATM of justice.
            From Masons to Soccer Moms, special interests have long played a part in the political arena. They now have a stranglehold on our democracy. The people are so disillusioned and disaffected by their political system that over 50% choice apathy as the standard. At this point, there is no consent of the people and no true democracy. Democracy’s status was upgraded to critical during the November 7th  2000 elections and diagnosis made terminal on December 9th when the Supreme Court did what many saw as installing a president. George W. Bush’s ascension to power mimicked that of a legal coup.


At the time of the constitutional convention corporations only existed because of a charter which stated their purpose and how it was beneficial to the public good. The cancerous mutation of the corporate mission has progressed with the rise of the globalized marketplace. The tumor was visible from the surface in the Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad decision in which private tyrannies were granted the same rights as a ‘natural person’ protected by the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. Corporations, with their armies of lawyers, greater access to resources, and seemingly unlimited funds are far from equal with the individual. And yet in 1886 a new entity was born. Another force took root in democracy. A government for, by, and of the people could no longer be defined. Basic enlightenment ideas like Hume’s, Touqueville’s, and Descartes' that people have the right to control their own work are relics today.


Human beings are incredibly malleable. Nature shows us that we are a tribal animal. Early man had to work together to preserve themselves. Industrialization brought a price with it. New technology can produce a syrupy carbonated beverage for 65 cents but clean water must be bottled and sold for a buck. Man may belong to the corporate tribe but he remains distant from his fellow man. The worst of men have subdued nature in the interest of profits. Historically the divisions among humanity can be traced back to an effort by the ruling class to distract from their practices. Why have we not been taught in schools that an alternate reality is possible? We must be told what we want which is evident when 1 in every 6 dollars spent in our economy is on marketing. The corporate branch off of the public relations industry emerged parallel with mass communication devices capable of molding the thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs of man.
During the bitter labor union struggle of the 19th and 20th century, the perverse science of leading public opinion evolved into a high art. Of the information gathered on the psyche much of it has been devoted to instilling wants and desires where they previously didn’t exist. The tax-free marketing industry furthered the warping of culture by painting the business community as heroic fighters for the American way of life we all enjoy. If anyone mentioned that the masses only get to enjoy the brief portion of their day when they are not under wage-slavery they were instantly discredited as a communist. Corporate America coerced government into forming senate subcommittees, modern day witch hunts to investigate and denounce these threats to elite. Radicals will eat your family read the propaganda. Few found the truth that corporations through monopolies, conglomerations, price fixing, and other uncompetitive market practices are actually huge communist structures.
Regardless if you consider the television media overly leftist or if you find the AM radio media rampantly conservative one thing must be obvious, media in general is disgustingly corporate. With quiet passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by a Republican-dominated Senate the publicly built institution was to be privatized. With nothing more than a whimper from the public watchdogs that interpreted the world for us every night at 6:30. Corporations as large as states had been given the green light at gobbling up enormous chunks of Americans connection to anything else outside themselves. The TV talking heads and pundit fluffsters never muttered the question; can free speech be maintained without a free press.
Four conglomerate corporations have seized 90% of the media. The current popularity of viewing the world with your head up your own ass is a conscious manipulation of the franchise culture. The public has been marginalized and sold a version of reality with a laugh track. Witnessing mindless commercialism cannot even be avoided on the drive to work. Every election cycle quasi-sincere attempts are made by celebrities and other modern gods to register people to vote with little success. The masses have been turned off to politics, probably because beer does more to help the average Americans life.
There are still politicians who care more about the people’s concerns than where their next re-election campaign contribution is coming from. The problem is unless someone is watching C-SPAN at 3 in the morning on a Sunday night will a dissenting voice be heard. Not until we find the time between the commute home and evening classes to pick up a copy of an independent publication at only the rarest of newsstands will we ever break the duopoly extending the curtain call on our political stage.


There are many incidents in America's past that would make our government null and void. After WWII the U.S. government was driven underground. In the 1980’s the people were completely separated from many of the agencies erected for the public's protection. These secret institutions have done much more than deny access to knowledge of their activities. The CIA (Completely Illegal Agency) actually circumvented democracy in Italy after WWII. Italy had a strong labor party and when the allied troops liberated the region in 1943-44 they found Northern Italy had already been freed by the resistance. Worker control of the factories was in place. The elections of 1948 looked to popularly elect the worker and peasant-based organization. The CIA (Crack Importing Agency) could not believe that the traditional power hierarchy had fallen, worthless workers were being kept and bosses were being arbitrarily dismissed. In 1947 food was withheld, police restored to fascist control, and documents like NSC1 were produced. The CIA states in NSC1 that if ‘the communists’ come to power through a legal vote the United States will declare a national emergency and support military activities inside Italy to overthrow the democratically elected government. Similar situations have been seen in Greece, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cuba.


Where we stand today is grim. And the prospects for a future seem even bleaker. As long as Americans remain egocentric and continue collecting toys to prove their freedom the world will only slip deeper into an unannounced oligarchy. Corporations will exhaust the earth’s resources and destroy the environment in the name of capitalism and the free-market. More people will realize their vote really doesn’t matter. This is the point in the essay where I could offer some encouraging words on how democracy could be revived but I think we’ve been lied to for far too long. There is always hope, but when one examines how probable a sobering effect occurs. The bastards have succeeded in pre-packaging humanity. 


     After reading this collection of ideas if you consider me in any way un-American, first think about that term. Since at one time slavery and the systematic slaughter of the Indians was very American. There is no such thing as common sense, war has been used throughout history to revitalize the economy, and in 200 years we’ll all be proven wrong. Just give a homeless person a buck, even if it does go to booze. 

P.S. I think I got a C- on this paper and basically wrote it to spite my conservative Political Science teacher at El Camino College, who always referred to China as 'Red China'.
2001 was also the year where my College newspaper 'The Union' (formerly 'The Warhoop' or 'The Warwhoop')  refused to print my cartoon and went with the other staff cartoonist. I opened the September 21st issue of the paper to find David Pham's cartoon instead of mine. Pham's call for blood depicted a duck-faced Statue of Liberty crying as helicopters flew off over the ocean to indiscriminately kill brown people. Here it was poignantly reprinted by the Legendary 'Ad Infinitum Magazine'.

Ha ha.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

On Teaching ESL

Teaching, while not the highest paying job, can be an incredibly rewarding profession.

The zookeeper thanked me for bringing them back.
The idea was had while visiting Shakun Batra in India. Soon after returning to the States, I waltzed into EF Redondo and climbed a flight of stairs to the second story. The reception desk gals were no where to be found. So I was traipsed my way down the hall, past the teachers' break room and right into the Academic Director's office. All in a serendipitous Buddhist happy accident. Bahut achchha.

I spooked the Director a bit, standing in his doorway wearing a shirt with Gandhi's face on it.

"Can I help you?" This head-haired fellow spoke.

"I don't know, are you a licensed psychologist," I replied.


"Nothing," I said. "What does it take to be a teacher at this school?"

" B.A. and a T.E.F.L certificate," he answered matter of factly.

"What's a TEFL?" I blurted. 

He responded, "Teaching English as a Foreign Langauge." 

"Right I'll be back in a month," I said.

And I was. That was back in 2008

Man cannot live on bread alone and a classroom ought to be more than a place where students sit and do worksheets. A good classroom wants to be a laboratory and everyday an adventure. Not that I always hit my mark and they can't all be winners; still, I have some experiments in my back of tricks to ensure the entire class isn't a Snoozefest.
One of my signature moves is Baking Soda an Vinegar Rockets.

Which here became the Lemon Juice and Baking Soda Rockets when the Dollar Store down the street ran out of Vinegar. Go figure. But they’re both acidic, right? Figured… … Isn’t it strange how we capitalize Corporations... like people... Corporations are people!

Drive Through as if texted by a 13 year old girl
Advertising and the business (busyness) culture are the number one driving force in changing the English Language at this moment. For example, with one single advertising campaign, McDonald's was able to change the English language forever. Words such as like, love, and hate are verbs of strong emotion and have a timeless quality and, up until the 'i'm lovin' it' commercials, were not typically put in the continuous tense. Think about it, you really only love something or you don't. Using love in the continuous sense and tense is kind of goofy. It causes our ears to perk up and our head to cock to one side like a terrier who's just heard the mailman. 

Advertising execs broke a grammar rule to sell hamburgers and now everyone walks around saying rubbish like this. Make mine an unhappy meal, poleaze.

Don't get me started on dangling modifiers!
A hands-on approach to learning is the future of education as we move more and more into the Experience Economy. Einstein was right. And the natural conversation that springs between partners in building and problem solving is priceless and perhaps gives us insight into  the very origin of language itself.
Whether it be Homemade Rockets, the Great Egg Drop, or stress tests of Spaghetti Bridges, learning can also be fun.

Stress test activity 
(activity sounds a lot better than a game.)

This competition is to see who can build the sturdiest bridge utilizing only spaghetti noodles and hot glue to strengthen the design (turning adjectives and nouns into verbs with an -en suffix as well as superlatives are the grammar points for this lesson btw).

Even the grandest of designs can easily overlook some key detail. Such was the case with Galloping Girtie featured above, the Tacoma Washington bridge that collapsed due to 40mph winds. Yikes and yeesh.

In a nutshell, teams get one hour and as much Spaghetti and as many glue sticks as they wish. After building Teams present on their designs' influence(s), the bridge's history, and similar world bridges of the same sort. Then, much as Shiva unleashes Kali to do the dance of destruction, the other side of creation is realized, on with the the stress test.

Time to load the bridges up with books and let her rip. 


Public School has a different story...
Clearly, many people consider the public education system to be a sacred cow of sorts. But almost none have any concept of the origins, the history, or the goals of public education in America. Few Americans understand that our government-controlled school system was founded upon authoritarian ambitions.

State-directed schools find their roots in the Prussian schools of the early 19th Century. In the 1840s, Horace Mann, then secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, traveled to Europe to study the Prussian model of public education. He was seeking a way to change what he deemed the “unruly” (meaning independent) children into disciplined citizens.

To that end, the Prussian educational system sought to take education out of the hands of family and church with five key goals in mind. It was to create:
  1. Obedient workers for the mines.
  2. Obedient soldiers for the army.
  3. Well-subordinated civil servants to government.
  4. Well-subordinated clerks to industry.
  5. Citizens who thought alike about major issues.
The reasoning behind such a system is easy to understand, since independently educated masses could not be always counted on to submit to their government’s objectives. Tyrants like Prussia’s Frederick William I and France’s Napoleon each used this system to build a powerful, controlling state apparatus. Other despots followed in their footsteps.

                                                                                   - Excerpt from Bryan Hyde


Ditch the Prussian Model?!

Special Thanks to my students, who tolerate my rants!