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I’m Freaking Out…
posted: January 7, 2014

mom

When I was growing up, we had a cheap Kodak Pocket Instamatic 20 camera (I’ve included a commercial at the bottom of the blog so you can see the camera). We didn’t take a lot of pictures, because - frankly - we were poor as hell, and couldn’t afford the film.

Likewise, when my Mom would develop the pictures, she would only get prints of some of the images. This little nugget of information is something I did not know until about an hour ago.

For some reason, tonight I decided to start scanning the master Kodak 126 format color negatives. Luckily, even though my Mom did not get full prints, she did keep the negatives.

I am fucking freaking out right now.

That top picture is my Mom. I have never seen it before. It is from the same film that has images of me opening Christmas presents in 1974 (which I used on my 2012 Holiday Mix CD). I always assumed there was just the image of me opening the gift. I was wrong…

There is very little in the way of pictures of me as I grew up. It is something that has always made me sad.

If you’ll excuse me, I have some film scanning to do…

Final Destination Two…
posted: August 13, 2013

I was driving down Moorpark Street this afternoon, and listening to a mp3 of the TED talk from Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs). I passed Colfax Avenue, enjoying the words of Mr. Rowe, when my car decided to die. When I say “die”, it was as if I had turned the key off on the car while in drive (and going ever so slightly above the speed limit). One minute I am fine, then the “Check Engine” light goes “BING” and the car just turns off. I immediately lost steering and brakes. So…there I am, driving “a little” over the speed limit, the car is dead, and I am veering into oncoming traffic. Fun times.

After scaring the hell out of a lady in a Mercedes — and myself — as I am entering her side of the road, I grab hard onto the wheel, and finally manage to get the car to go to the right, pulling over to the safety of the curb. The car isn’t turning over, and steering is near impossible, but I managed to avoid a bad head-on collision.

I then spend almost an hour with Shaniqua from Mercury Insurance Roadside Assistance. An hour. 60 fucking minutes, waiting for this lady to simply pull up my info, see where I am on a map, and get me a tow truck. Side note: go back to using AAA for roadside assistance. This is part of the phone exchange:

“Is that veen-tee-ru?”
“Seriously? VENTURA BOULEVARD! VEN-TU-RA! And, no, I am not on Ventura Boulevard! Your GPS info is wrong!”
“Oh…sorry sir. So you are on VEN-tura?”
“NO! I said Morella and Moorpark! UGH!”

During my wait, something happened that never happens in Los Angeles. A friend drove by me. Los Angeles is not a small town. You almost never bump into people in L.A., so it was really a bit of a luck that Chris drove by. I yelled as him as he drove by, he turned around, and I had some company while I lost patience with Shaniqua.

Chris on the scene...

Eventually (about 80 minutes after almost plowing head-first into a Mercedes at a high rate of speed), the tow truck came, and my baby had her first tow truck ride (boooo!). The car got towed to the dealership. Sadly, no one at the dealership ever looked at my car. It was there for three hours (from around 3pm to close at 6pm), and they just let it sit. So…now I am without a car, without a clue on what the hell happened to my car, and without any idea of how much it is going to cost to fix my car.

Veronica being towed...

I’m happy to be alive, but - fuck. I really need the bad luck to fucking end. I’ve had enough. Sorry to whine, but just in the last few months: A kidney stone, a desperate need to go to a dentist (with no money to actually go), lying promoters costing me money and time, a bank account that regularly goes down to single digits, and now my car almost kills me. Fuck. And, no, I have no cheese to go with the “whine”, but I could really use some cheddar right now.

Veronica being neglected...or...sitting, waiting, anticipating...

FYI, Final Destination One was when Asif crashed us into a 18 wheeler at 94 mph. Walked away without a scratch.

How To Be Rude To Your Local Customers: A Lesson In Bad Business From Smart & Final
posted: April 18, 2013


This video was shot April 4th, 2013 at 5am, far earlier than any city allows businesses to make excessive noise

I live next to a Smart & Final. Before Smart & Final, It was an Aaron Brothers, and a Thriftymart. As I have been stuck in this apartment for nearly 40 years now, I have seen businesses come and go from this location. Never, in that time, have I had to endure so much daily noise as I do from Smart & Final.

My girlfriend Nora works days. She goes to sleep early, but thanks to Smart & Final constantly making noise, she now needs to take a sleeping pill every night in order to get some sleep. I work nights, and sit at my desk and hear the constant talking / slamming / moving / beeping / et cetera of employees who don’t give a damn just how much noise they make (the video above was just me getting annoyed with all the noise, and deciding to document the crap). When I try to sleep in the days, it’s pointless. Huge 18 wheeler trucks hissing their brakes, dollies loading and unloading palettes of merchandise, shopping carts being pushed (and slammed) to and from. I get very little sleep, and it’s taking a toll.

Why put up with this? Well, first, I can not afford to move. Second, I tolerated the racket because I could safely park my car in their lot…until a few weeks ago.

Smart & Final put notices on all cars in their lot, saying the lot was for two hour parking while shopping in their business. Fair enough, but I do shop at their business. It’s literally feet from my apartment. If I need something, I can cross a parking lot and get it.

The bigger issue is that it is not just the local residents (who do shop at Smart & Final) that park in the lot. The local car wash, bar, motorcycle shop and chinese restaurant all have their employees and patrons park in the lot (and fill up the street parking as well, crippling the amount of spaces available for residents). The other local businesses essentially ruined it for everyone…and they don’t shop at the store!

A note: Our building does not have “Garages”. We have storage areas. You can pull a car into the garages if you really tried, but you’d never be able to open the door to get out. In addition, as the one bedroom apartments are occupied with couples, that is two cars per apartment. We need that Smart & Final lot to safely park in. Smart & Final has three parking lots. We park in the furthest lot from the business, and only take six (out of 44) spots. As I look out the window now, there are only three cars in the lot. Since everyone was kicked out of the lot, there’s rarely ever a car in the lot. It just sits there…empty. No matter how important Smart & Final think they are, they simply do not generate enough business to fill the lot. Easter just came and went. You could have played frisbee in the lot, and not hit any cars!

I tried reaching out to Smart & Final corporate, in the Citadel complex (that thing off the 5 freeway no one shops at). Summary of those phone calls: they do not care that they make noise, and don’t care about the fact that their local neighbors are being inconvenienced.

If they would just put up a sign saying “parking for customers only. No parking for (local businesses)”, this could be resolved. Instead, now no one can park their cars. The limited street parking that is around here is being taken up by the other local businesses, leaving the residents basically screwed.

I have reached out to the City Of Burbank, but have not had any sort of resolution yet.

Just another fun day of drama, caused by yet another business that just doesn’t care.

I Am So Tired Of Having To Deal With The USPS!
posted: February 7, 2013

f***ing USPS

I have (a few) mailmen. They all seem to enjoy doing the same thing. Instead of actually bringing me my package, they simply deliver one of these fucking pink slips. “Oops…sorry. We missed you.”…except, they didn’t! On more than one occasion, I have caught these guys just walking up with the slip to my door, instead of my package. When I call them on it, they act as if I am causing them some sort of painful chore.

IT’S YOUR FUCKING JOB! YOU ARE A POSTAL DELIVERY PERSON!

Seriously, it doesn’t get more basic that that. You are a mailman. Deliver the fucking mail.

I (pointlessly) went to complain (again) abut this today. The small, old pre-angry lady clearly didn’t have any fucks left to give. “Oh, you have to complain to the supervisor.” “Fine. I’m here. Where’s the supervisor?” “Oh, no. They leave by 9am. You’d have to call.” (as if the idea of phone communication would turn me away…it did not).

Frustrated, I go to check my P.O. Box. When I come back, the small, old pre-angry lady is having a rather loud laugh at my expense. “Oh, you just missed it. This guy was complaining about not getting his package. Ha ha ha ha…” As she is laughing, she makes direct eye contact with me, and CONTINUES LAUGHING!

I have complained before to supervisors. As with the small, old pre-angry lady, they also have no fucks left to give.

Why the hell should I have to keep wasting my gas money to go to the post office because some idiot couldn’t bother to deliver some vinyl? How does this fuck still have a job?

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go set my alarm so I can wake up super early to call the post office…like they ever answer the damn phone!

Educate Yourself…Preferably Before Tuesday!
posted: October 30, 2012

xxx

As people seem to have lost the ability to read long rants, I am reducing this down to the most simple fact: Mitt Romney is a fucking liar. Please, please FUCKING PLEASE do not vote for this asshat.

Spread this image around. Get all your bible thumping, too-FUCKING-stubborn-to-extract-their-head-out-their-ass, uninformed friends to vote for Obama. C’mon…Bush was bad enough. Don’t get us stuck with fucking Romney.

Something People Forget…
posted: August 22, 2012

From the video above, it might appear I might go on a rant about the older generation using computers.

Not quite.

Today’s rant: marketing people, and the people who like to push internet statistics.

Here’s a lovely infographic from Ad Age, showing how Obama and Romney use social media. Hey, that’s great, and I am sure many media outlets will pick up on it, but it misses something significant. Despite all the commercials, television shows and movies that show the wondrous world of the internet, not everyone uses it.

Do you want a more accurate picture? Go survey poor people who have no computer or smart phone. Go survey older people who might have a computer, but have no idea how to actually use it (see above video). Go talk to people who have no access to the internet (either due to lack of money to afford the service, or due to no access to public services like a library or a recreation center). Hell…go talk to the people who just don’t want to be on the internet at all.

For me, living in Los Angeles, I am surrounded by a rather skewed version of “the world”. No-talent people (and I mean true no-talents, like “I-took-it-in-the-ass, so-give-me-a-reality-show Kim Kardashian) who are idolized by equally clueless people. “Entitled” (in both their mind, and their wallet) people who don’t go to events (movies, concerts, et cetera) unless they can get a free all-access pass. Snobs who must have the latest music release on vinyl, because that is “the way the artist meant it to sound” (yeah…right…the “artist” wanted surface noise, wow and flutter in their recording - shut up already, and get the CD…if you can find a copy). People of questionable financial backgrounds who violate every traffic law in their late-model (and older) BMWs and Mercedes, who treat being pulled over and fined as nothing, because they can afford it.

My focus right now though, in this rant, is “the world” outside of the internet.

When local TV news says “for more information, log onto our website at…”, there’s a decent sized part of their audience that can not do that. When music acts offer free downloads of their latest songs, there are fans who will not be able to hear those songs. Hell…look at theaters. People still wait in line for tickets. Kiosks exist for tickets. Fandango and other sites exist online for buying tickets. Still, go to a theater, and you will see people in line. You will see people not using technology, and simply waiting in line.

As a person who makes a living using the internet, I see the potential for what it can be used for, but I also see that there are a lot of people who can not use it (for various reasons). It’s all fine and good to talk about “social media” success, but you still have to learn to think outside of the internet. The world is not just the net. You can not just make an internet marketing blitz, and expect success. Your Instagram promotion was cute. Your Facebook “like us” gimmick got you a few likes. That’s great, but don’t forget that there are people in this world who you are not reaching. You can not forget these people. Saying “oh, they are too old to matter” or “who cares about people who can not afford net access” will come back and bite you in the ass real hard.

(end rant)

Well, not quite the end…

Along with remembering that there is a world outside of the net, we need to work on a way to inform people in general. When I say inform, I mean to share accurate news, and to get people blinded by prejudice, racism and strong religious beliefs to actually listen to (and learn from) what is said. If I have to witness any more ignorant* people spreading lies about birth certificates, past history of candidates, or just vomiting from the mouth every key word that will get the attention of people who don’t know better, I am going to explode. No more Palin. No more Bachmann. No more evangelical influence on politics. No more lying about people in public forums when you know what you are doing is hurtful, wrong and (worst of all) will be believed by ignorant people. Can we do that? Please? Can we just have a better way of doing things? Between (far from) “reality” television, talking head idiots who lie and pander on 24 hour news channels, paying the price for an ex-president that almost bankrupt the U.S.A. over an unnecessary war, wingnut bible thumpers, and an ever increasing level of apathy, it’s bringing us all down. To quote the late Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?”

*translation of “ignorant” in the context of that sentence: blinded by a false belief that is so large that a person not only refuses to listen when people point out their errors, but go forth and spread their ignorance to other people so misinformed that they will believe anything they hear.

When You Know More Than Tech Support…
posted: July 8, 2012

grrr....

When I got my dedicated server for my latest web project, I was encouraged by the Sales Department of my web host to get an “Unmanaged Server”. “Oh, sir, you’ll be fine. You do web sites. You’ll be fine.”

Liar!

Take today’s drama as an example. I was updating SQL, through the cPanel (which I call c(rap)Panel, due to the absolutely horrible performance of said panel). I logged out for a second, then decided to log back in. “Your password is invalid.” Huh?

The overly sensitive hacker protection software kicked in on ONE login, which had the correct password! It locked me out of EVERYTHING.

I call tech support. I had to literally beg for them to reboot the machine (when shit dies, reboot first). Reboot then kills EVERYTHING, including the site for web visitors. BAD!

I spent six hours in phone calls, trying to get the site back up. The tech on duty had to keep contacting the senior tech for help (who was at home, assumably enjoying some Doritos while playing X-Box). “Well, I can get in. I don’t see the problem.” Seriously, that was the extent of the senior tech help.

I finally gave up. I gave the junior tech my cell number, and told him to call me if anyone figured out the issue, and hung up. Running to Google, *I* found the solution. The “senior tech” didn’t find it. *I DID!*

I call back, and tell the junior tech guy “do (solution found on Google)”, and sure enough, I was back up.

Six hours locked out of my own system, and the only answers I am getting is “well, we can get in” and “I don’t now what the problem could be.”

A tip to businesses: If you sell a product, KNOW HOW TO FUCKING FIX IT!

#ModeMay Photo Challenge!
posted: April 22, 2012

mode_may

Photo Challenge Time!

As the graphic above states, every day in May, you are challenged to take a picture related to the Depeche Mode theme of the day. Be sure to put the #ModeMay hashtag when you post your pics!

Have fun with this. Some examples:
A picture of a clock for “A Question Of Time…
A photo of the Rose Bowl for “101″
A scan of a ticket stub from a Broken Frame-era concert for “A Broken Frame”…

Let’s see how creative you can get. There is no prize, other than people retweeting your pics. :)

Spread the word! Copy/paste this link on your Twitter feed:
http://bratproductions.com/bratblog/archives/179

Not Going To Coachella This Weekend?
posted: April 13, 2012

20120413_coachella

So, you couldn’t make it out to Coachella this year? Well, let’s look at ways you can recreate the experience…

* Play four songs from different bands at the same time.

* Throw piles of dirt all over your car.

* Lock away all your bottled water, put a large number of mannequins in a line near a water hose, and stand in line for free water.

* Go to the gas station, and pour 25 gallons of gas from the pump on the ground.

* Go sit in your car for three-plus hours with the engine off (twice…once for going there, and once for driving back), complaining about how the traffic is ass and you are not moving.

* Play a live concert video on your TV, and stand 500 feet away from it, or…

* Play a live concert video of multiple bands who you do not like, stand in front of it, and complain how if you move you will not be front row for the band you REALLY want to see, or…

* Play a live concert video on your TV, and have a friend constantly stand in front of your TV taking blurry pictures on their mobile phone.

* Turn off your cell phone, and complain about the lack of service.

* Play most of a live album, shut it off a few songs before the end, and then complain about how the sets at Coachella are always shorter than normal concerts.

* Go to your bathroom, and do a “number one” and a “number two”….everywhere but in the toilet. Now, go eat a lot of bad food, then wait outside your bathroom. While waiting for the imaginary line to move, debate the pros and cons of trying to squat over previously laid “waste”, or the medical problems that will arise from popping Imodium.

* Go to a Hot Topic and offer then four times the prices for the shirts they have in stock.

* Stand for eleven hours.

* Put a live album on your iPod, and go find some stoners to stand too close to, or…

* Put a live album on your iPod, go to a bar in a college town and stand too close to people. Extra points for them spilling their drinks on you.

* Go to any crowded mall, and try to listen to the mall music as people who don’t care about the music you are trying to enjoy walk into you and talk around you. It’s just like being there!

You’re Damned If You Do, And…Well…Yeah…You’re Just Damned.
posted: March 26, 2012

20120326_tooth

Backstory: I am not healthy. I grew up with Colitis, and a load of allergies (including dairy). This affected the way I eat (obviously), but also how things like vitamins were ingested into my body. Due to not being able to drink milk (or have a calcium pill have a chance to digest into my body due to my stomach issues), I had a lot of decalcification in my teeth. Not necessarily cavities, but my teeth were just a bit weak. Ok…that should do for backstory…

So, I decided a few months back to go on a bit of a health kick. Well, it wasn’t a “health kick” as much as an attempt to start being a bit more health smart. I found an apple peeler on Amazon, and started eating an apple a day. Yay health. Good for me.

Thanks to my lack-of-calcium, one day about a month ago I was eating an apple, and suddenly felt a bit of the apple get stuck between my teeth. As I peeled the apples, I could not figure how I got apple peel jammed between my teeth. Turns out, I actually broke my tooth…on a small sliced piece of apple. I have that kind of luck.

I went to my normal dentist, and had the tooth fixed. After we were done, he said I had to come in for a cleaning. Now…for a person who has brittle teeth, cleanings always translate into “The dentist will now break a tooth or two, and cost your insurance-less ass a lot of money…and pain”.

Sure enough, I went back for my cleaning and he “found” a hole in two back teeth (my upper right wisdom tooth, and “tooth #2″ next to it). I did not have any pain there before, but he insisted on drilling them. Great.

Jump ahead a week, and now I am getting teeth that WERE fine drilled. Due to me being a wuss and having a bad gag reflex, taking dental x-rays is a pain in the ass. The dentist, instead, was using a rather outdated x-ray to judge where to drill. Either that, or he was using “The Force”. I did not bother to ask. I just let him do his job. After he struck oil, he filled the teeth, and I went on my way.

About 3 hours later, the pain started…hard! Apparently he hit the nerve, and just filled the tooth anyway. After two trips back to the dentist (in which he - without novocaine - drilled down my teeth with the excuse of “I am fixing your bite”, and on the second trip actually hit ANOTHER nerve), he recommended I just have the wisdom tooth pulled that was causing the pain.

The drilling of the two teeth and subsequent trips back were all over the span of the last two weeks. Two weeks of taking a huge amount of Ibuprofen to block the pain, and stress. Now (March 26th), I am an hour away from going to an oral surgeon to get the tooth yanked.

Cleaning, plus drilling / fillings, plus a tooth extraction = over $1000 (and two weeks of constant oral pain). Money I can not really afford to spend (during tax hell), all due to me attempting to be healthy and eat an apple.

Fuck it. In-N-Out seven days a week, and no more dentists. I’ll die sooner, but happier!