Archive for May, 2009

The Internet as a Super-Sales Tool

May 31, 2009

In Australia tourism is promoted by the Australian National Travel Association which publishes a magazine called Walkabout or Walkabout Australia.

We tried to look them up via Google.

We get all kinds of suggested site where all kinds of things for sale are featured such as rare posters from teh Australian National Travel Association.  I don’t want to buy a poster.  I want to find their web site and write them an e-mail. 

I’ve got a book with a snail mail address for them.  The information is about 45 years old, but it is better than I can do on the Internet(s).  I thought the Internets were supposed to be the information highway and not a sales tool.

It’s like Ned Kelly said:  “Such is life.”  Forget about learning useful information; buy something! ! !

If you see their web site please post the URL in a comment.  Thank you.

Hunter S. Thompson Action Figure

May 30, 2009

In trying to think up ways to get some new $ $ $, we asked the folks in a comic book store if there was (or will be) a Hunter S. Thompson action figure doll.  They said not to the best of their knowledge.  If Ernie Pyle was immortalized by an action figure, why can’t HST be too?

We found a book titled

Action Figure: The Life and Times Of Doonesbury’s Uncle Duke (Paperback)

by Gary Trudeau

which is about the charater in the Doonsbury comic strip named Raul Duke, who is (some suspect) based upon Hunter Thompson.

Getting the rights and permissions and all that seems like it will be a great deal (too much?) work.

To be continued . . .

Spin for fun and profit

May 29, 2009

Most folks get so emotionally involved with political issues that they can not calmly and quietly have any discussion about spin while using examples from the contemporary world of “elected” (via stealing) officials, so we will write a bit about some recent travel adventures and point out how spin can, very unobtrusively, be inserted.

Every city in Australia is very anxious to help convince Americans to travel to their country and then select their particular location as the ultimate destination.  The smorgasbord of interesting places can overwhelm an American by sheer dint of numbers.  Should you select the country music festival in Tamworth?  Should you see the rock wave?  Do you really need to see Uhrlur (whatever)?   Should car fans go all the way to Australia just to soak up the beer, boobs and burn-outs at the SummerNats?  (Why does Australia always try to lure tourists to their country’s pet rock and always ignore car enthusiasts?)  How many right hand drive <a href =>deuces (1932 Fords)</a> have you seen in your lifetime?

One of the Australian cities this columnist was enthusiastic about seeing was Kalgoorlie, which is a gold mining town in a remote area of Western Australia (called WA by the locals).  How accurate and spin free would an enthusiastic recounting of the visit be?

Since this columnist’s nominee for best movie of all times is “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” and since this particular traveler has gone panning for gold in California, heading for Kalgoorlie (named by as one of Australis’s top 100 cities) seemed like a good idea.. While in the Kalgoorlie – Boulder City area, he kept bumping into the same three other tourists who arrived at the same time, on the same train, as he did.

The four of us (a German guy and two young ladies from Japan) went to the Big Pit together and toured a railroad museum together.  We resisted the temptation to introduce ourselves as “this week’s mob of tourists.”  A visit to the Super Pit reminded the columnist of a line in a Waylon Jennings song about how all guys like things that make loud noises.  Waylon neglected to mention that there are bonus points if that thing happens to be <a href =>a big explosion</a>.

The columnist went (solo) to the Gold Prospector’s Hall of Fame and enjoyed it immensely.  We did some gold panning there.  Bought and some postcards.  We also registered our complaint that there wasn’t one single solitary mention of  “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” movie or Fred C. Dobbs.

Now, if, in our opinion, we only know one person who might enjoy a tirp to Kalgoorlie, is it honest reporting to write an very enthusiastic column about our visit there? 

Skimpy’s bar had two swinging doors at the entrance and the only other time we have seen that in real life was at a joint in Santa Monica (was it 14th and Olympic or 11th and Olympic?).  Since we figured we’d always have the option to go into the one in Santa Monica, we put it off until it was too late and we missed the chance to go inside for a look-see.  Going into Shimpy’s for a diet soda (the only time we’ve ever really had a drink of Sarsaparilla was at a bar in Pennsylvania) was a total hoot (subjective reaction unable to be fact checked.)  Is there an objective way to rate taverns?

We met some folks who were in the gold mining business. 

One guy wanted our advice because he believes his uncle’s children’s book had been plagiarized by folks who made a movie with Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie.  We put him in touch with someone who is a member of the Writers Guild because all members of that group take a dim view of people who might have committed plagiarism. 

Two of the guys in the hostel, where we were staying, were normally good friends, but late on Saturday night they were heard having fisticuffs in the hallway.  If there had been any chance to give the brawl some advance publicity it would have been touted as “The Bishop takes on the Falcon” because one guy was known as “the Bishop” and the other as “the Falcon.”  When asked about it on Sunday morning, neither one of them could remember being in a fight or explain how they had gotten some minor cuts and scrapes on their faces.

How did it go when different groups invited the columnist to go to a local bar for a drink at Judd’s and discovered that he would stick to diet soda?  None of the rough and tumble crowd had the least bit of trouble with it.

How could a person grow up in Scranton and not learn that St. Barbara is the patron saint of miners?  Dunno how, but it did happen.  There is a statue of St. Barabara in Kalgoorlie.  What’s wrong with Scranton?  Why doesn’t she rate a statue in Western Australia, but not “the Electric City?  An online search for a picture of the St. Barbara’s statue in Kalgoorlie was inconclusive.  We knew we should have taken the time to pout our picture of that statue when we had the chance.  Now its in our storage unit and there’s no way it will get posted in time to illustrate this column.

If the columnist had a blast (15 yard penalty bad pun!) in Kalgoorlie and Boulder City, and if he has only one of his friends who might possibly have any fun in that same city (Jersey Bill might love seeing old cars and trucks if he could find where they were hidden away) how can he write a “fair and balanced” account of a visit to the city that was home to “the golden mile”?  Langtree’s offers tours of a working bordello.  Don’t expect to find that fact in a tourist brochure.

Recently while waiting for a bus in Santa Monica, a discussion with a gentleman from London England revealed that he had a brother living in Kalgoorlie.  Do you think he e-mailed his brother that night and told him about meeting a guy near the Venice beach who was enthusiastic about a visit to that mining town in WA?

We loved our daily visit to Jesster’s Pies.  Krispe Kreme Doughnuts are very popular in the eastern part of Australia but folks in Western Australia have to request a favor from traveling friends, if they want to satisfy their craving for that brand of doughnuts. 

If this columnist was hired by any airline to blog (very enthusiastically) about his trip to that part of the Southern Hemisphere, convincing some of his fellow Americans that they “must see” certain parts of Australia might be a blatant example of oversell (“That’s spin if I’ve ever seen it!”), but subjectively the reaction is that since we never went on a day trip from Kalgoorlie to Koolgarde (Even Word’s spell check challenges the names of those two cities) for a one day excursion in the desert with a metal detector, then “Bob’s your uncle,” eventually we will have to go back and correct that omission.  In 1986 when we visited Paris (France, not Texas); we didn’t even bother to drop off a resume at the International Edition of the Herald Tribune, but maybe we should have looked into the possibility of an opening at the Miner?

In a past Internet incarnation as a movie reviewer, this columnist has castigated a nationally known movie reviewer for giving “this is a movie everyone must see!” quotes for the print ads because this columnist has never ever seen one movie that he thinks everyone else will love. 

[Evidence exhibit A and B would be two women who are very much alike but one likes porn and hates violence and the other hates violence and enjoys porn.  It seems very unlikely that they could ever share a mutual admiration for one movie.]

In a similar vein (Again with the bad mining puns!  That’s another 15 yard penalty), this columnist enjoyed meeting and was very impressed with Malcolm X.  Not everyone who met that particular person had the same reaction.  Was it “wrong” to be very impressed with the guy?  Gee, wouldn’t ya love to hear what Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to such a face to face encounter would be?

Is the concept of “one size fits all” really valid or is it just a stealth bit of salesmanship and therefore a lot like “spin”?

Has there really ever been a movie that “everyone must see!”?  Are travel articles completely truthful?  Can political punditry honestly claim to be “fair and balanced”?

V-Australia can get you from L. A. or San Francisco to Australia’s East Coast.  United Airlines can also, but Qantas (it’s an acronym that means Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service) can get you to Australia’s East coast, Perth, and a  bunch of cities in-between, but not direct service into Kalgoorlie.

At this point we probably haven’t help those airlines sell  beaucoup tickets (if you love New York City, you’re gonna like Sydney and be sure to visit Harry’s Hot Dogs!) but by now you should get what we mean when we say spin can be very subtle and misleading. .  . especially if the reader and the writer aren’t working in close coordination like a pitcher and catcher do.

If you read travel magazines be aware that the writer probably never has to wait in a line and gets ushered to good seats and that restaurants make a concerted effort to please the writer. 

Reading only conservative pundits, who gush about the talents and accomplishments of Republican candidates, is going get you something that is more salesmanship than journalistic reporting.

Most Americans say that they think very highly of Melbourne.  We’ll be fine if we never see that city again.  That is a very subjective reaction but you won’t find statemnts like that in a travel magazine story.  On the other hand, don’t be very surprised if one of our future columns is datelined Kalgoorlie.  There’s always the possibility of a rematch for the Bishop and the Falcon,.

Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) said:  “I think I’ll go to sleep and dream about piles of gold getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Kalgoorlie has a statue of St. Barbara and so the disk jockey will play Tennessee Ernie Ford’s hit “Sixteen Tons.”  We gotta get going to dig up something for our next column.  Have a pure gold type week.

Inventing a new word

May 29, 2009

The Urban dictionary online lists the word that I invented:  Promobabble.

But then again, just bdcause I submitted the word to the Urban dictionary doesn’t mean I didn’t invent it.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

May 28, 2009

The expression keep your eye on the ball is reported by folks who live in Fremantle (Western Australia) to have originated with a local ceremony. 

At 1 p.m. every day they fire a cannon as a time signal.  Navigators on the ships, in the old days, used that signal to synchronize their clocks.  When the cannon is fired a ball drops (just like in Times Square at New Years) above the cannon.  If folks on the various ships wait untilthey hear the cannon that happens (because sound travels slower than light) a few seconds after the shot is fired and the ball begins to drop.  No biggie you say?  Well if a clock is a few seconds off on the return trip to Australia (coming East from Africa) that few seconds difference will make a big deference in the ship’s location.  It could mean that the ship can be as much as 200 miles off-course and instead of sailing into Fremantle, they could wind up on the rocks in another area.  Hence the advice to navigators to keep their eye on the ball and use the visual of the ball beginning to drop and  not the sound of the cannon, as the time signal for synchronizing their clocks.  So now you know.

Propagating a Bogus Prediction

May 26, 2009

It is widely accepted as common knowledge that the blogging phenomenon will kill off the newspapers.  That axiom has been rolling around the Internets since day 1.  There’s only one thing wrong with unquestioning adherence to that old saw:  it doesn’t make one damn bit of sense.  Anyone who has ever watched the staff of a newspaper work furiously to cover a breaking story knows that thinking that one lone eagle blogger can match the effort of a team of professionals is an example of daft thinking raied to the tenth power.  

Let’s use the example of . . . oh, let’s say that Santa Monica has a newspaper called the Outlook and let’s say that a two engine private airplane on landing  approach to the local airport has an accident and slams into a home and a fire is started.  Some people get killed, and ambulances take others to a nearby emergency room..

A photographer will be sent to the scene to get some photo coverage.  A reporter will go along with him to talk to witnesses.  Another reporter will be sent to get a statement and some damage estimates from the spokesperson from the Santa Monica Fire Department.  Yet another reporter will try to get a statement and some facts and damage estimates from the top policeman at the scene of the accident.  A reporter will call the local FAA tower to see if they can find out just exactly what kind of airplane it was that crashed.  Another reporter calls around to the local hospitals to find out where precisely the injured were taken and how many were there and how badly were they injured.

The city desk will coordinate the scheduling of getting the pages ready and to the press on time.  Perhaps, they can arrange to send the business and comics pages out earlier than usual and shuffle the items on the production line in “the shop.”

While all that is going on they send word to the guy in the newspaper library (AKA “the morgue”) that they want clips about any similar accidents that may have happened in the past.

The city desk will coordinate all these efforts into one big story or one news story and a few side-bar stories plus the photos, and redo the front page layout.  The story will include the time it happened, the kind of plane it was, the names of those killed, the number and description of  injuries of those taken to the hospital, an estimation of the dollar amount for the fire damage and  perhaps the summer inter will churn out a quick sidebar about a similar accident that happened in the area, ten years ago. Oh –  did someone take a moment to call the AP and advise them about what was happening and what photo coverage will be available? 

Sometimes police officials seem a bit reluctant to give information to reporters with an LAPD issued press pass, but the wide eyed optimists think that somehow, they will, in the future, be more than glad to tell some blogger the name of a person who got killed.  They are also assuming that fire department and hospital spokespersons will follow suit.

There may be a time when some blogger posts a scoop about such an airplane accident on L. A.’s Westside, but this “replace” misconception also assumes that when a blog posts something, the whole world sees it.  If a well read, news oriented, L. A blog (such as <a href =>L. A. Observed</a>) were to post such an item, it would be widely known very quickly, but if a blog that gets very little readership scores a scoop, won’t the people in the area who want to know the details about what happened, have to go to a newspaper or a radio station or a TV news report? 

What about the times when people with an LAPD press credential have to apply several days ahead of time with the Secret Service to get approval to cover a scheduled appearance by either the President or the Vice-President?  Do you really foresee bloggers getting clearance to cover such an event?  If bloggers are going to replace newspapers, isn’t that going to be how things will be done in the future?

Not bloody well likely you say?  If you do not believe this wonderful “triumph of the underdog” scenario, then shouldn’t you skedaddle over to your computer and type up a skeptical debunking of “Bloggers Revolutionizing Journalism” misconception and send it off to the Oped Editor of the New York Times?  Wouldn’t they just love to turn the tide and reverse the commonly held perception that such amazing online efforts are being churned out routinely and have put the management of the various big newspapers in a tizzy?  Heck, if you can turn the tide for this misconception, maybe the Newspaper Publishers Association will make you the guest of honor at their next convention.

If someone used an extremely sincere voice and tried to convince this columnist that he could do better than the staff of the local daily newspaper, it would seem to indicate one of two possibilities:  either the person was trying to use flattery to manipulate the columnist (how much money did you want to “borrow”?) or that the person was very, very stupid. 

If you think that the effort done by a professional team can outscore an amateur’s best attempts almost every time, then why are you repeating the crap about bloggers hammering the nails into (a collective) coffin for newspapers?

If the odds for the bloggers dominating next year’s Pulitzer Prize competition seem anemic to you, then your next offering to the Oped Page Editor should be your conjecture about who is spreading that misconception and why are they doing it?  Aren’t they always looking for a logical, eloquent, well reasoned, rebuttal of a common misperception? 

Once the skeptical voices of Bush bashing newspaper pundits disappear from contemporary American culture, won’t Fox New TV be very happy to fill the void?  Could they “sell” America on the idea of restoring the Bush dynasty and giving Jeb a win in the following Presidential election?  We won’t know unless they give it their best try. 

When the founding fathers were working to establish a king-less democracy weren’t they adamant about providing the voters with concise, accurate information about political issues?  Who (other than one particular TV news network) would want to disseminate bogus information?  Who would want to stifle the process of duplicating the miracle of the loaves and fishes with a commodity called “the truth”?  Do the conservatives seem fanatical about eliminating “pro-liberal” newspapers from the cultural scene?  Why do you suppose they would want to do that?  Do they really care about “accuracy” in journalism or are they just seeking control over what you know before an election is held?

If you do write a myth-busting outrageous freelance effort to send off to the New York Times Oped Page Editor, please wear a flack jacket because, if it gets accepted and printed, the conservatives are going to fill the airwaves with the assertion that you are a “conspiracy theory lunatic” and that your assertion is unworthy of any amount of attention at all. 

So you better pepper your effort with plenty of quotes and experts’ opinions (one trouble – if they back a liberals’ contention then automatically, for the conservatives, they become unacceptable as a scholarly source) but what the heck, if a lone blogger can put the city desk of (hypothetically) the Santa Monica Outlook to shame, after an airplane crashes in Mar Vista, then you can write an Oped piece and get a wonderful check for your effort with no problems. 

What if “they” have infiltrated the ranks of management at the New York Times and “they” refuse to accept your efforts because “they” don’t want to refute the assertion that bloggers will put them out of business some day soon.

Yes, bloggers will keep newspaper reporters “on their toes” by catching fact checking errors, and while they may occasionally scoop news organizations with a brief about a breaking story, a one man operation will never be able to outperform a team effort.

The freelance fact checking will not replace the criticism (it may augment it) done by folks such as the Columbia Review of Journalism, because the CRJ folks know much more about quality journalism than most bloggers and so the CRJ people will be able to criticize reporters job performances much more knowledgably than Joe the Blogger.  One or two good gotcha examples of fact-checking don’t make someone a journalism critic.

Ken Kesey wrote:  “You get your visions through whatever gate you’re granted.” 

Now, the disk jockey will have the Mills Brothers urge blogers to “be sure it’s true when you say . . .” and we will do our imitation of the Cheshire Cat.  Have a “Blogger scoops the New York Times!” type week.

Barf Bag Collection

May 24, 2009

It seems that there is an online site for almost everything.  Does anyone else, other than this guy

collect the sick bags used on airlines?

For old gas pump collectors

May 24, 2009

For our other blog where we post photos that are mostly car-spotting and car-oriented,

we used a photo of an old gas station that has old Gimore Gas Pumps.  When we looked around online, we found a site for folks who are interested in collecting and restoring old gas pumps.

Growing up in Scranotn, PA, there was a store (plumbing supply?) with a gas pump out in front.  It was just “there.”  It was old and unused back in the late Fifties.  It was (as best as we can recall) very close to the corner of Washington and New York Street.  Is that old gas pump still there?


May 23, 2009

The German news magazine Der Spiegel features  a story about collusion and the Holocaust  (here is a link to the online English language version),1518,625824,00.html

and that story is immediately followed by another story about Abu Ghraib prison in their German Language edition.

It must be a great example of a co-inky-dink, eh?

A Shiny, Brand-new Conspiracy Theory

May 22, 2009

In trying to concoct a new and original conspiracy theory that is astounding in its brilliance and unbeatable in the clever insight category, we collected our relevant facts.

(Evidence Exhibit A)  According to extensive evidence enumerated on the <a href =>Brad Blog</a>, it seems as if the Republicans can use the new paperless voting machines to preselect the winners of the election.

(Evidence Exhibit B) In 2004, the Republicans had an extensive array of legal entities and strategies ready to do combat with John Kerry.  After Howard Dean surprised everyone with unexpected strength in the early part of the selection process, the mainstream media (including many distinguished Pro-Liberal publications) conveniently spread the meme that Howard Dean had suffered a mental breakdown during a victory speech, and anointed Senator John Kerry, the official “frontrunner” and, after getting the nomination, the aforementioned legal entities and strategies did not go to waste during George W. Bush’s successful campaign for reelection.

(Evidence Exhibit C)  After becoming the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi disappointed supporters and anti-war Democrats from outside her district, by blithely dismissing any suggestions that President George W. Bush had done “something” more deserving of impeachment than prevarications and blow jobs.  She became the first woman Speaker of the House, but she didn’t have the backing of a filibuster-proof majority and was rendered rather impotent.

(Evidence Exhibit D)  In 2008, the Republicans were very wary of the prospect of waging a campaign battle against Senator Hillary Clinton.  Again, luck came to the Republicans’ rescue and the voters again astounded expectations and pollsters by selecting Senator Obama. 

(Evidence Exhibit E)  After becoming the first Negro President, Barrack Obama suddenly embraced all most all of the Bush War on Terror methodology and strategies and disappointed some of his supporters from outside Illinois.

The people who would strenuously object to the assertion that the Republicans may have “given” the 2008 Presidential “win” to Senator Obama, apparently do not realize that sometimes in chess, when the conditions are just right, an experienced player may seem to “loose” a queen in order to precipitate an exchange that will ultimate assist in his long range strategy to win the game.

For those who can’t accept that the Republicans strategy might call for letting the Democrats win the 2008 Presidential election and get a majority in Congress and the Senate, we’ll offer this possible explanation:  If the Republicans know that they have run up a massive deficit, wouldn’t it be diabolical fun to stick the Democrats with the task of cleaning up the mess?  Can’t you see it in terms of a post Civil War era Southern family having a gigantic party and then when looking at all the work that will be required to put things back in shipshape, Rhett turns to Scarlett and says:  “Don’t worry, dear, that’s why we have servants.”

The Los Angeles Time edition for Friday, May 22, 2009, carried the headline:  “Poor would be hard hit by state cuts.”  Gee do you think that story might make some Republicans feel just as bad as they do when they see assertions that the number of inadvertent civilian casualties in Iraq may actually reach the “several dozens” number?

A recent item online hinting that the amount of money in the Social Security funds account may be perilously low, prompts us to think it may be time to write a column that posits the idea that President Bush has successfully dismantled almost all of the vestiges of the “New Deal.”?  There is only one item left on the agenda.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if it fell to a Democratic President to have to be the one to eliminate Social Security?  Social Security has been a thorn in the side of the rich since the day it was signed into law, and if the first Negro President is the one who ends it, the Republicans might get a very deep level of satisfaction seeing that happen.

Without more than the circumstantial evidence outlined above, it seems unlikely that this new conspiracy theory will gain much traction.  It’s like our long held belief that George W. Bush worked out a “gentleman’s agreement” with Osama bin Laden the consisted of the American President letting Osama slip away in the Tora Bora region in return for Osama’s word of honor that he wouldn’t sanction a retaliation Terrorist strike inside the United States, while Bush remained in office.  It all boils down to the old American folk axiom:  “Difference of opinion is what makes a horse race,” so we should find something else for a column topic.

If this columnist “plagiarizes” an entire sentence from Josh Marshall will that catapult the world’s laziest journalist to extensive coverage by the Drudge Report and the Huffingtonpost?

Many moons ago, while reading a translation of one of the classics of Russian literature, we discovered that the copy we had had a gap of missing material which had been filled with a duplication of a previous section.  We toddled off to the Santa Monica Public Library to get a different copy of the aforementioned Russian novel to be able to “fill in the gap of missing prose.

In the process of trying to find the gap section in the new copy of that old novel, there was a frenzy of jumping back and forth between the two competing translations because the chapters weren’t titled let alone numbered.  In the process of comparing two passages from the two different translations, we noted that there weren’t just a few similar phrasings; it seemed that the two different versions were identical. 

Since this occurred long before the Internets came into contemporary culture, the prospect of “ratting out” the questionable translating abilities of the more recent version seemed insurmountable and we filed the co-inky-dink away for possible future use and let the matter drop. 

As a matter of fact, after doing all that work, we even let reading to the end of that particular story drop.  Didn’t someone once say that all great Russian novels are alike?   Can anyone tell us what happened?  How did it end?  How did  the Karamatzov Brothers escape their dreary existence and catapult themselves to fame and fortune (in show biz?)?

Could we use this bit of personal history as the basis for a defense of a well known pundit who is in hot water for using one single solitary identical sentence?

Are there any other possibilities for use in the newest Saturday morning column to be issued from the World’s Laziest Journalist headquarters?  Maybe we could help a fellow columnist get to the <a href =>Netroots National Convention in Pittsburg</a>?

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists (are online columnists now eligible for membership?) will hold their <a href =>convention in Ventura</a> in June.

For the closing quote we’ll resort to one of the very best (In my own humble opinion) sentences this columnist has ever written:  “The days crawled by like wounded worms on their way to the elephants’ graveyard.”  Gosh, I hope some famous columnist plagiarizes that sentence and brings fame and fortune my way.

Now, for those who wonder just how long the perpetual war in Afghanistan will last, the disk jockey will play “<a href =>Till the Sands of the Desert Grow Cold</a>, by Peter Dawson.
We’re going to click over to the <a href =>Crooks and Liars</a> site to see if we can find any good sentences worth stealing.  Have a “day like any other day, but a day filled with those events which alter and illuminate our times” type week.