Friday, November 30, 2007

Because Minnesotta Sucks In The Winter

Minneapolis, MN

Frank Girardot over at the San Gabriel Valley News brings us new information on the case of Isaac Campbell and Liya "Jesse" Lu, whose body was found stuffed in a fifty gallon drum and covered with kitty litter. Mr. Campbell allegedly did the stuffing.

Seems an extradition hearing is scheduled for December 6th. Bring out your pitchforks, folks. He's a-comin' home.

What Happens If It Comes Up Positive?

Los Angeles, CA

The mayor is getting an AIDS test.

As with most things regarding our first Latino mayor, it's a publicity stunt. The city has a goal of getting a million people tested with a new rapid HIV test that grabs results within 20 minutes by 2011 and he's there to show the city's colors.

Could you start with Porn Valley, please? Or the hookers on Sepulveda in Van Nuys? Or how about the ones on Santa Monica (and Colombian Neckties for their pimps, while we're at it)? Oh, wait. That would imply that these people are actually human beings and deserve assistance. We can't have that.

Sorry. Side rant there.

Anyway, Villaraigosa's very good at looking pretty at the right places, and, except for banging a Telemundo news anchor (who, admittedly, is actually pretty hot), he's been largely scandal free.

So, on the one hand, I'm very glad this is happening. On the other hand, the city fucks everything else up so badly that I'm sure this is just going to be one more failed initiative.

I hope it's not. The city has almost 22,000 infected people, and there are 15,000 suspected of having it and not knowing. It's a huge problem, and it would be nice to see things work for a change.

Now if they could just pay the teachers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated

Teh Intarwebs

The Spinetingler Awards Shortlist has been announced. Yours truly is on it.

Yeah, I don't get it either. Especially when you read the competition. if I were smart I'd bow out gracefully.

But as I am neither smart, nor graceful, and, as they say, the fat lady's still puttin' on her makeup, I'll stick it for the long haul.

So, here are the rules.
Voting is open. ONE E-MAIL PER PERSON ONLY. You cannot send another vote in, even for a different category – multiple votes from the same sender will not be counted. Take the time to consider your votes carefully. E-mails must be received by December 30, 2007 - authors, if you're putting this in your newsletter make sure you are clear about the deadline for voting. Many recommendations were not considered in the first round because they were sent late.

You may vote for one winner in each category as long as all votes are submitted in one e-mail. Simply state the category and your chosen winner for each of the eight categories. Any votes that contain more than one selection per category may be removed from consideration completely. No ties.

Send your e-mail to sandra.ruttan@spinetinglermag.com with AWARD NOMINATIONS in the subject line. It is not necessary to explain the reason for your vote.
And as a friend of mine once said. Loudly. And drunk. "Hey, I'm a fuckin' nominee."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Indeed, She Is

Los Angeles, CA

Come on out to the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood for a signing of A Hell of A Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir at 2:00 this Saturday, December 1st.

It's a group thang with editor Megan Abbott and contributors Christa Faust, Naomi Hirahara, Charlie Huston, Eddie Muller, Cornelia Read, Theresa Schwegel, Kevin Burton Smith, and Robert Ward coming out to sign.

I've been looking forward to this one since I heard about it. I can't say enough about the incredible talent this anthology brings together. At least not without sounding like a babbling fanboy, which I'm sure I'll do plenty of on Saturday.

If you can't make it out to Westwood, they're also signing at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks at 10:30 a.m. and on Sunday at Book'em Mysteries in South Pasadena at 1 p.m.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Holiday Tradition

Los Angeles, CA

Thanksgiving is a time for bonding with family. Or, in some cases, shooting them.

Mario Gutierrez, 37, was shot and killed, allegedly by his brother in law, Thursday night while leaving a family gathering in El Sereno.

The gunman, whose name hasn't been released yet, turned himself in to the police around 2am Friday morning.

For once, people, can we just have a goddamn holiday where we're not trying to fucking kill each other? A time where we can actually be nice to each other? Is that really too much to ask?

Apparently so.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Things To Be Thankful For

Los Angeles, CA

  • That you're on the side of the tracks that can read this post, rather than the other, and that places exist for those who aren't.

Be well, stay safe and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Maybe He's Just A Method Actor?

Glendale, CA

Lowell John Rottenberg was charged yesterday for impersonating an FBI agent after being arrested last Thursday at a 7-11 in Glendale.

He pulled up to the store in a Mercedes with the obligatory flashing lights. Really, things should have just stopped right there. What FBI office is going to assign agents a Mercedes?

Then there's this.
"He was wearing an FBI hat, and a (protective) vest, and had a badge," Lorenz said. "He pulled out a replica handgun, dropped it, and then picked it up and aimed it at the victims and ordered them over to his car."
Now that's slick. Pity it was a replica. If he'd shot himself in the foot this would have been a whole lot funnier.

He's being held on $240,000.00 bail.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What Happens In Vegas Gets Extradited Later

Las Vegas, CA

Sad news, today.  The Newlywed Bandits have been captured.  I was going to say something about the honeymoon being over (Hah!  I crack myself up.) but then I'd have to shoot myself in the head.

Rayceana Rachael Rocha, 22 and Paul Harlen Meyercamp, Jr., 26, wanted for five bank robberies in the San Gabriel Valley, allegedly robbed a pedestrian, then jacked a car in Las Vegas.  After a police pursuit, Rocha crashed the car.  She was captured on scene and Meyercamp was caught after a foot chase.

So, let me get this straight.  They're young, and in love.  Maybe they were going to finally get hitched.  Or try knocking over a casino.  And wouldn't that have been brilliant?  I'd have paid money to see that.

Then, when things get tough, he just throws her to the wolves.  "Thanks, for the blowjobs, honey.  Have fun in jail."

Who says romance is dead?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

You'd Think By Now I'd Have Run Out of Things To Say

Los Angeles, CA

L.A. Noir is two years old today.

That's really not as big an achievement as one might think. It's not like I'm working with a dearth of material here. 77th Street alone cold keep this blog running day and night without a break.

November has always been a time for me to reflect. And there have been some good and not so good things that have come about because of this blog in the last two years. I hope that the positives have outweighed the negatives. But then, you could say that about anything.

Overall, I'm proud of it. Not three million dollar book deal proud. Maybe sniveling child in a school production of O Calcutta! proud. Sort of a proudly disturbed kind of feel if that makes any sense.

I hope that I've been able to bring some humor, no matter how dark, to an otherwise depressing subject. If you can't laugh at the gangland shootings, home invasions, and random bank robberies, you might as well as just shoot yourself now.

Whether I've added to the public discourse or devolved it to the level of caveman grunting, I couldn't say. I'd like to think that I've had something intelligent to say from time to time. Then again, just because you can give a monkey a vocabulary, doesn't make it any less a monkey.

So, for the handful of you who pop by, either just to look at a train wreck or to comment and throw in your two cents, I'd like to say thank you.

And for those of you who have come by to tell me how much of an asshat I am in ALL CAPS and colorful abbreviations, I'd just like to say, "Yeah, and?" At least you stuck around long enough to read.

And can any writer really ask for anything more?

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Couple That Robs Together...

San Gabriel Valley, CA

Paul Harlen Meyercamp, Jr., 26 and Rayceana Racheal Rocha, 20, have been identified as the Newlywed Bandits, believed responsible for at least three bank robberies in the San Gabriel Valley together and one each separately since mid-October.

Meyercamp is on parole for burglary and assault. Rocha is a Whittier Community College student. Somehow, I don't think she'll be back at class any time soon.

So, five banks in less than a month. Keep that up and eventually they'll get gunned down on a side road in Louisiana.

But at least they'll have each other.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Big, Dumb And On The Lam

Inglewood, CA

Back in September, two people were murdered in an Inglewood insurance office. Two suspects, Osman Canales, 26, and Juan Maldonado Jr., 16, have been apprehended. The third suspect, a 350-pound Samoan named Big Wahine Julius Laulu, 24, is thought to be hiding out in Utah.

"[Laulu] was over 300 pounds, six-foot-six. My mother was only four-10," said Daniel Valenzuela. "There was no excuse."
Not beyond the excuse that he's a psycho asshole, no.

Now, I make a point of not fucking with Samoans. I don't care if the Girl Scouts named a cookie after them. They scare me.

My uncle's girlfriend is a Samoan cop on the Big Island. Great woman. Sweet, nice, and she can slam your head through three inches of concrete if she wants too.

We're talking about a woman who was the only cop on her shift for a big chunk of the Puna district in the 90's. That's like saying you're THE cop for Palmdale. Shit hits the fan I want her on my side.

Which makes me wonder, how do you take down a guy who's twice your size, who may very well be a murderer? Without shooting him, I mean.

Oh, and side question, what is it with Pacific Islanders and the Mormons? Half my family in Hawaii is Mormon, and I just don't get it. Are we just unusually susceptible to religion? I know I'm not, but still. We're certainly not pacifists, the 1893 overthrow notwithstanding. We had shark's teeth knives for hamstringing people. We ate Captain Cook for chrissakes.

Probably should have eaten more missionaries.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Changing Face of Crime

Los Angeles, CA

John Schieffer stands accused of running a botnet. If you're not a geek, you might not care. At least, not yet.

A botnet is a series of computers that have all been compromised to do things the users aren't intending, or as is often the case, even aware of. Somehow (usually via a trojan contained in an email attachment), a computer gets infected. Then it sends a message back to the person who put the trojan into the wild, giving that person control of the computer.

Besides being able to pull data, like passwords and keystrokes, off of the computer, all the compromised computers can then be used in conjunction to do other things (fake clicks to steal from ad companies, DDOS attacks, etc.)

This is bad.

Now, back to John. He has agreed to plead guilty to four felonies. Accessing protected computers to conduct fraud, disclosing illegally intercepted electronic communications, wire fraud and bank fraud. All of which he did through his botnet.

If he's pleading guilty to four felonies without a trial, I can only imagine what else they've got on him. Or what he's got on other guys like him. When the possibility of 60 years in the can and almost 2 million in fines is the better option, you know he's fucked.

This is the first prosecution of a botherder ( a guy who runs a botnet ) in the nation. There are going to be many more like it. A lot of people are going to go to jail.

Probably a lot of John's friends.

This Is So Not Going To Help Your Image

Los Angeles, CA

The LAPD has always been on the forefront of technology. Part of the force's strength, as well as its weakness, is its heavy reliance on squad cars and helicopters over walking a beat. What they gain in mobility over an increased landscape, a necessity in the sprawl that is Los Angeles, they lose in face to face community presence.

Bridging that gap is difficult at best. It's not that they don't try, it's that, sometimes, they try too hard.

"Is this a Segway?" a man asked Breegle. No, it's a T3 personal mobility vehicle, he responded. "How fast can you go?" another asked Rodriguez. About 25 mph, he answered.
Oh, come on. Scooters? What, are we French all of a sudden? That's just what we need. Kevlar and Vespas.
Los Angeles police say the bicycle helmets they must wear while driving the T3 are a turnoff, adding a dorky look to an otherwise sleek machine.
No. No no no no no. It is not the helmet that is dorky. It is the John Deere lawnmower you're standing on. Amp up the speed, make it remote controlled, stick a .50 cal turret on it and then it will be cool. Maybe. If you add a grenade launcher. You know, for beanbags and tear gas. And tasers. Fore and aft.

This is why I'm not in charge of the LAPD's community outreach program.

It's not all bad, though. In the Times article on the LAPD's use of emerging tech, they outline some of the new squad car equipment being tested. Some of the tech has been around for a while, some of it is just now being rolled out.

License plate recognition systems (impressive), a GPS dart gun to tag fleeing vehicles (okay, that one's cool), receivers to grab video feeds from street cameras (creepy and slightly suspect), in-car fingerprint matching (useful), facial recognition (a lawsuit waiting to happen) and windshield and back seat cameras (the best idea so far).

Impressive, ain't it? Too bad it tacks on an extra $100K per car. Considering that we're short on police and the money to pay them, this is a bit of a turnoff.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Criminal Tip #695,202: If Your Victim Can Drive Away, He Will

Murietta, CA

Three teens, 16 and 17 year old boys and an 18 year old girl, have been arrested for the attempted robbery of a man they allegedly tasered at a drive-through ATM.

There are two key words here; "attempted" and "drive-through". Yes, the gentleman in question was behind the wheel of his car at the time and, after being punched in the face and hit with the taser he did what anyone with half a brain and a twitchy foot would do.

He hit the gas.

The hell are kids learning these days? Good christ, people. You're supposed to have the getaway car, not him.

I'm sure they'll have plenty of time to learn that in prison.

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

San Diego, CA

Some things are just made for each other. Chocolate and peanut butter. Brazilians and waxing. Pot and television.

Border patrol agents found 9 tons of marijuana stuffed into a shipment of flat panel televisions, Friday afternoon.

God, that's brilliant. It's like one stop shopping. What's next? TV's with bongs attached, or will they just start including bags of Doritos? No more stuffing that pipe while you drool during the commercials of Dancing With The Stars. The TV will do it for you.

Ain't technology grand?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Well, He's Just An Excitable Boy

Los Angeles, CA

Timothy McGhee was captured back in February of 2003. Wanted for 12 murders, he was finally convicted last month for three; Ronnie Martin, 25, a gang rival shot 27 times in 1997, Ryan Gonzales, 17, from another gang, in 2000; and Marjorie Mendoza, 25, whose crime seems to have been driving through the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time back in 2001.

He's a winner, our Timmy, ain't he? He also got tagged for four attempted murders. He's been in and out of the can. Really, no one is surprised he's going back.

The only question now has been death or life in prison.

Seems some folks can't decide between the two. The jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of execution today.
"There were two people who disagreed and who felt there were some redeeming qualities of the defendant that deserves a verdict other than death," Peters said. He cited testimony that McGhee has raised three children and five stepchildren.
Redeeming qualities. I'm sorry, but eight kids doesn't sound like a redeeming quality, it sounds like he can't keep his dick in his pants. And really, does raising eight make up for the three people he murdered? Or just the one he pumped 27 rounds into? Or the one he hit by random happenstance just because?

At the trial his defense attorney said,
"The only question is 'How will he die?' Will his heart be stopped by lethal injection or poison or will he die at his appointed hour?"
The fuck are you talking about?

I think a better question is how his attorney managed to keep him from getting the death penalty right out of the gate. He's going to die at his appointed hour whether it's by lethal injection or a shank in the kidneys. The sooner the better.

Wait. No, I'm being too harsh. If he gets locked up, I'm sure he'll be a model citizen. Just like all those other times he was locked up.
While behind bars, McGhee punched and kicked a guard at the California Youth Authority, incited two riots in jail and was caught possessing a razor blade and other potential weapons, according to the prosecutor.
Well, it was a nice theory.
[Deputy District Attorney Hoon Chun] called McGhee a "man who's shown you that he's dangerous -- out of custody and in custody."

One of McGhee's attorneys, Franklin Peters Jr., countered that the defense had tried to show jurors "the complete Timothy McGhee."

"... Over and over again, you were told that he's a wonderful father ... a wonderful stepfather," Peters said about a number of relatives who gave glowing accounts of McGhee's interactions with the children. "That tells you something about the heart of the man."
Yeah, it tells you he's in good company. Hitler was a big hit with the kids, too.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kind Of Like The Stagecoach Coming To Town

The new Spinetingler is out.

No, it's not a sex toy. Sounds like one, though, doesn't it? Something French and frilly that takes D cells.

Anyway, the new issue is out and chock full o' the usual goodness; reviews, interviews and stories, including ones by friends Patti Abbott, Patrick Shawn Bagley and Daniel Hatadi.

Read. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Not Just A Detective, But A Thrilling Detective

The latest issue of Thrilling Detective is up and my short story, Sumo, graces its hallowed pages.

As usual there's some great stuff in there, including an excerpt from Mickey Spillane's Dead Street.

Enjoy.

I Have A Soapbox, I Might As Well Use It

Los Angeles, CA

Like many people in this town, I know folks who are, either now or in the future if it goes on too long, going to be affected by the WGA strike. Not just writers. Actors, directors, technicians, agents. If the strike goes on too long, the whole magilla is going to come crashing down and put a lot of people, a lot of people who are living hand to mouth, out of work.

My friends broke and out of work makes me unhappy. Mostly because I'm expecting an invitation to a poker game where they can take all my money (again) any day now.

For the record, I'm not a member, have never been a member, will probably never be a member. In fact I'm not a big fan of unions in general.

That said, the problem here is NOT the WGA. They are trying to create something resembling security for the future of their members. Right now, writers (except in the case of animation and reality - they get nothing) get a small fraction of the profits from syndicated television and film, but not from any of the sales of DVDs or, and this is crucial, ANYTHING ON THE INTERNET.

That $1.99 episode of Lost you've been watching on iTunes? Yeah, they get nothing for that. Normally, they'd get, what not even a cent? Hope you lubed up, Mr. Writer Man, because it's time to grab your ankles.

The internet is the future and the AMPTP knows this. They would like nothing more than to reduce the writers to mere cogs in a wheel that they can hire and fire at will. This is not speculation. If you look at animation and reality, this is exactly what has happened to Micah Wright.

So, Nickelodeon quickly filed suit against our petition for an election, and set about trying to ferret out who the "ringleaders" were. In the meantime, they canceled the show that I had created 4 episodes into an order of 26. Then they fired the 3 writers who'd been working on my show. Then they fired 20 more of my fellow writers and shut down three more shows, kicking almost their entire primetime lineup for 2002 to the curb, and laying off 250 artists.
***
And why did Nickelodeon do this? Why were they so eager to decimate their own 2002 schedule, fire 24 writers, break multiple federal labor laws, sign a union deal, and to even bring back the fucking blacklist? They did all of that to prevent us from getting the same whopping $5 residual that the actors & composers of our shows get.
Five dollars. But wait, there's more.
Ahh, but my episodes run about 400 times a year worldwide, though, so obviously Sumner Redstone (Salary in 2001: $65 million dollars) and Tom Freston (2001 salary: $55 million) were right to do what they did... myself and those other 23 writers might have broken the bank, what with each of us going to cost them another TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS each! OH NO! That... that's... FORTY EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS!

A YEAR!

Oh, and in case you don't want to do the math, that comes out to about 96 cents an hour (40 hours a week, 52 weeks, 24 people)

Now, for television writers, that 96 cents an hour can be crucial. Most of the writers (and actors, techs, etc.) are living on pretty narrow margins. It's not like you're getting a steady paycheck. When a show is over, it's over. Time to move onto the next gig. When it comes down to it, the people who are really getting screwed here are the techs, but that's a different topic.

So, 96 cents an hour to keep you going through those lean times while you're looking for another job. And it's not like you're getting that 96 cents every week, like a regular paycheck (which would be a whopping $38.40, anyway). The studios are notorious for not paying on time.

Hope you don't get sick, or your car breaks down. What? Kids? Boy, you are screwed.

And don't fucking tell me they should just go and get a "regular" job. Aside from the fact that some people are really not wired to function well in any other vocation, how would you feel if you found out that you couldn't afford to continue in your chosen career, the one you went to school for and invested thousands of dollars in, or spent the last ten years honing and growing into?

When it comes down to it, the WGA is asking for the same deal with internet video that they've been getting with syndicated television. No one is more crucial to a production than the writer. If you don't have a script, you don't have a show. Period.

I have no hope that some member of the AMPTP is going to look at this and say, "Hey, you're right. What the hell have we been thinking? Jeeves, pull this ingenue off my distended cock and take away my mountain of blow. I need a writer! Stat!"

But I do hope that someone in the WGA will read this and know that there are people, amid all the noise and bullshit, who support you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

If There Was Such A Thing As Chandlerland

Los Angeles, CA

Few cities are as fluid as Los Angeles. It redefines itself, as its people redefine themselves. Who you are today isn't who you were yesterday. New names, new faces, new bodies. This is where you go to be the person you aren't.

It is a city changed by outsiders. Few people are from here, even the ones who are. It has a sad disregard for its own history, chewing up real estate and legends in its never ending search for The Next Big Thing. Everyone has their own dream of the place.

Mine is stuck some time in the mid 40's. After the war, but before the freeways. When the L.A. River wasn't just some concrete trough. Before Bunker Hill turned to steel. I like to think of Los Angeles when Raymond Chandler wrote about it.

I ran into this article (Hat tip to Sarah Weinman for the link) in LAObserved by Denise Hamilton with historian Judith Freeman on Chandler's Los Angeles.

In her book, The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler And The Woman He Loved, Freeman writes,

"If there was such a thing as Chandlerland this was it, and each day I felt surrounded by a kind of shabbier version of that era, a strangely eviscerated ghost of the world I was trying to imagine. When you constantly change a landscape, you erase the collective memory of a city. How can you live without memory?"
And that's the question, isn't it? It's amazing to me that, even now, Chandler's L.A. is still around. I run into it, happily, in unexpected ways. A theater near MacArthur Park, a bar in Los Feliz, a posh hotel on Sunset. But it's dwindling amid the developments and high rises, the Starbucks and Pinkberries.

In twenty more years there won't even be that much. L.A. continues to redefine itself. Who it is today isn't who it was yesterday. But that's Los Angeles. Like being upset with a bear for trying to eat you. That's what it does, like it or not. It doesn't stop moving. It can't stop moving.

And sometimes I hate it for that.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Time Management

Los Angeles, CA

So, it's Saturday night. And there are these five, let's call 'em kids, though so far only one of them is a minor. And, I dunno, maybe they get bored. Maybe they're doing some nihilistic Sid and Nancy routine. Fuck, I don't know. Anyway, by the time the evening ends for them they've managed to rob, assault, kidnap, and carjack eight people.

All in the space of an hour.

Now that's a productive use of time. Give me an hour and I might be able to figure out what I want for dinner. But to carjack two cars, rob eight people, kidnap three of them? Goddamn. Now that is time management. Maybe they can give seminars on Getting Things Done.