Archive for October, 2012

Those were the days my friends . . .

October 26, 2012

On Monday night, watching the NLCS’s final playoff game with the sound turned down so that we could hear the Presidential debate was one of those epiphany moments that life serves up occasionally.

The World’s Laziest Journalist is suffering from a case of Propaganda Gridlock.  We know that the fate of the free world rides on the outcome of the rapidly approaching American Presidential Election but lately TV is outrageously infantile and radio seems to be a tsunami of political propaganda, but the saturation point has been reached, so we have been desperately searching for better quality diversions and entertainment as a change of pace to get away from the relentless onslaught of “important” news.

The prospect of watching the Presidential debate in the hopes of being given a possible column topic seemed very unlikely.  Both candidates have their script and will stick to their main talking points very rigidly.

The last time we were interested in baseball’s annual pennant race, Gene Woodling, Hank Bauer, and Allie Reynolds were providing depth for a team that featured a boy wonder batting star in the outfield.

Watching the playoff game while pondering the question “who will win this year’s World Series,” we were reminded of the title of a 1971 movie:  “They Might Be Giants.”

In an introduction to a book titled “The New Journalism,” Tom Wolfe informed readers of the 1973 copyrighted anthology that one of the branches of literature that preceded the era of writer involvement was “The Literary Gentleman with a seat in the grandstand.”

The calm, cool, detached observer seems like such a quaint old fashioned idea now that the golden age of propaganda in America has arrived.

One prominent political pundit in Germany proclaimed:  “It (propaganda) must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”  He also warned politicians to never concede any point:  “As soon as our own propaganda admits so much as a glimmer of right on the other side, the foundation for doubt in our own right has been laid.”

Does that sound like an accurate assessment of the “dialogue” surrounding this year’s Presidential election?   To any columnist who thinks that sounds like an accurate description of the quality of debate in the current American political arena, the task facing political pundits is not to provide eloquent journalism but to offer some sensational cheerleading support.

The Literary Gentleman with a seat in the grandstands has become completely irrelevant in the contemporary American Political scene and, in many cases, even in the realm of sports reporters.

The fans are becoming quite ferocious in their blind enthusiasm.  If you doubt this, would you be afraid to attend a World Series Game wearing a T-shirt sold by a non-participating team?  Heck, even wearing a T-shirt that was obviously intended to proclaim neutrality (such as a West Coast Eagles T-shirt) would probably draw some animosity from some enthusiastic supporters of the home team.

“New Journalism” quickly became known as “Gonzo Journalism” and San Francisco was the place where Rolling Stone magazine raised it from being a fad to the level of being a strong and vibrant branch of the news reporting industry.

In the Introduction to the 1973 anthology (on page 27) Wolfe noted:  “But the all time free lance writer’s Brass Stud award went that year to an obscure California journalist named Hunter Thompson who ‘ran’ with the Hell’s Angels for eighteen months – as a reporter and not a member.”

Inadvertently Hunter Thompson also pioneered the possibility that Gonzo Journalism can be used as a disguise for the old fashioned “convenient excuse for having a good time” tradition relished by writers seeking ways for getting their enjoyment of living subsidized by gullible accounting departments at various news media organizations and publications.

Over the years, the World’s Laziest Journalist, who has covered the Oscars™, the Emmys, the Grammies, been a passenger in a B-17 G, the Goodyear blimp, and given his autograph to Paul Newman, may have adopted a rather cavalier attitude about mixing fun and job performance.  (Isn’t that a rather common personality trait among folks with Irish heritage?)

Hence the challenge of post election column topics is beginning to take on all the ominous potential for becoming an identity crisis.

If Mitt Romney becomes President of the United States will it be worth the time and effort of someone, who has provided content for liberal (or progressive or “lefty”) websites since before George W. Bush was named President by the U. S. Supreme Court, to continue the efforts to tell Americans:  “Wake up!”?  That will be hard work and not much fun.

If, on the other hand, the President is reelected, he will be lucky to get a Democratic majority in Congress and if he doesn’t the Republicans will continue their “sit down strike” level of job performance and prolong the political gridlock.

If the President is reelected and gets a Democratic majority in Congress, is it very realistic to think that he will get some new ideas by reading the World’s Laziest Journalist’s columns?  Ridiculing politicians is easy but after doing it for a number of years, the fun quotient evaporates completely.

On Wednesday, October 24, 2012, the World’s Laziest Journalist reconnoitered the outside of AT&T Park just before Game One of the World Series was scheduled to begin.  That was a good photo op and fun to see.

We intended to go back the next day for more, but on Thursday October 26, 2012, Occupy Oakland scheduled a protest and march at Frank Ogawa Plaza to mark the one year anniversary of a mêlée that had made headlines when it occurred.  We felt duty bound to go check it out rather than hang out at AT&T Park.

It became obvious to this columnist that the unlimited supply of energy and enthusiasm that was accessible approximately 38 years ago, when the opportunity to attend the Oscar™ was offered, is no longer available to sustain a long wait and a long walk to cover protesters in the fall of 2012 at an event which ultimately did not make big headlines.

A new generation of firebrands will have ample opportunity to criticize the winner of the November election, but more and more it is becoming obvious that is a young man’s game and it may be time to throttle back and let the political chips fall where they may.

The few reviews of Tom Wolfe’s new novel, Back to Blood, we’ve seen have sounded rather dismissive in tones hinting that one of the founding fathers of Gonzo Journalism has lost his magic touch.

When a high school and college classmate was recovering from some wounds received in the Tet Offensive, we found that he would get very annoyed if we prefaced any comments on contemporary culture with:  “Back in 1968 . . . .”  He would address me in the same way that my family used and say:  “Goddamn it, Robbie, it is 1968.  Knock that shit off!”  As we used to say back in the Sixties:  “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

The New Journalism is celebrating the start of the second half of its first century and that perhaps is a signal that, if nothing else, it is time for some new stars in journalism to be anointed and for some new labels to be coined.

On Wednesday October 24, in the San Francisco Chronicle’s World Series Preview section Scott Ostler wrote (on page E-6):  “I’m a reporter.  I’m not here to root.”

Now the disk jockey will play The Who’s “My Generation,” the Stones “Mother’s Little Helper,” and Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Someday Never Comes.”  We have to go dig out our Nikon F and relive some past glories.  Have a groovy week.

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What? Romeny lie?

October 19, 2012

At the next debate, President Obama should be accompanied by a guy in a full fire fighting outfit like George W. Bush was when he spoke at the World Trade Center because if the challenger, Bishop Romney, tells any more lies in the next debate than he did in the last one, surely his pants will catch on fire.  The President should announce the reason for have that unusual escort before the debate begins.  Is there an incongruous aspect to watching a bishop tell lies non-stop?

When Republicans ask their own children:  “Do you use dope?” do they really want to see an example that their offspring can fib as blithely as the bishop does?  Shouldn’t they just look for needle tracks on the inside of the elbow area of the kids’ bodies?

Did Mitt really win a Medal of Honor in Vietnam while serving a tour of duty under an assumed identity?

What’s not to love about a California ballot proposition that does the exact opposite of what it sounds like it will accomplish?

Charles E. Willeford’s novel “The High Priest of California,” was about a used car saleman.

Is it true that if he is elected, Mitt Romney will be the only President ever to have previous experience as a congressman, a Senator, and a governor?

After all the conflicting stories about polls, will the results from the electronic voting machines have any credibility?  Hell’s bells if the news readers announced on the programs for the election results that JEB Bush had gathered enough write-in votes to be named President, would there be any recourse for skeptics?

Would it be ironic if Mitt Romney is proclaimed the election winner via electronic voting machines results that are one monumental lie?

Speaking of credibility will the arrest of the assessor in Los Angeles county have a direct affect on the (approximately) thirty-five year old effort of the Marina (del Rey) Tenants Association’s call for an investigation into the relationship between the Los Angeles County board of supervisors campaign funds and some real estate developers who provide large amounts of money for those re-election bids?  Will this case revive the concept of “influence peddling”?   For more on the assessor’s arrest,  click this link:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-assessor-20121019,0,2209709.story

Who is better at proclaiming his innocence Gerry Sandusky or Lance Armstrong?

Arlen Specter, who died recently, was the author of “the single bullet theory.”  Did you know that some of the crucial findings of the Warren Commission were contradicted by a second, less well known, Congressional investigation?

Oscar Wild may have set a standard for American politics when he wrote:  “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”

Now the disk jockey will play the Mills brothers’ song “Be sure its true,” Johnny Cash’s version of “Rock Island Line,” and Ronnie and the Daytonas’ song “Antique ’32 Studebaker Dictator Coup.”  We have to go find the Liars’ Hall of Fame.  Have a “testify to that under oath” type of week.

“Such is life.”

October 5, 2012

In contemporary American Society fact checking has become passé and so this column has not been fact checked.

Attempting to write a column that adds new and perceptive insights to a discourse that has already disintegrated into BS gridlock is a fool’s errand, but at 0530 hrs on a Friday morning in Berkeley CA, there ain’t much else to do.  You can make some coffee and start writing or you can go back to sleep, which sometimes is something you can’t do by sheer force of will.

Sometimes after a middle of the night trip to the bathroom, we turn on the radio to see what Mike Malloy is saying on XERB, where his show follows the Wolfman Jack show.  On the broadcast for Thursday October 2, 2012, heard in the San Francisco Bay area between 1 and 3 a.m. PDT on Friday monring, Mike was offering the opinion that perhaps President Obama had to make a concerted effort to not look like an angry black man.

Norm Goldman reminded his listeners of a similar situation and noted that President Obama’s personality is one of being a quiet and thoughtful person who does not get drawn into any brawls verbal or physical.  Norm pointed out that the President has earned his nickname “no drama Obama.”  He suggested that perhaps the President should have done an imitation of St. Ronald Reagan and said something like: “there you go . . . fibbing again.”

News media reported that several different instant polls had given a decisive win to Mitt Romney.  Last week polls that showed the President had an impressive lead in swing states were loudly denounced for being slipshod and unreliable, but the ones that made Mitt look good were apparently and suddenly impeccable examples of what the polling industry is capable of producing.

Norm criticized the fact that many people were closely analyzing the body language of the debaters and not paying close attention to the substance of the dialogue.  All the body English criticisms seem to be directed against only one of the participants in the boring debacle.  How, we wondered, did Mitt earn a pass?

Long ago a political pundit in Germany wrote:  “All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to.  Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.”

President Obama seems to have assumed that the folks watching the TV show had a policy wonk level of comprehension of tax policy.  Mitt seems to not want to bother his listeners with information that reaches the “pick the fly excrement out of the salad” level of preciseness.

The people, who insisted on evaluating the speakers’ body English as a method of judging the debate itself, seem to have focused exclusively on the President.  The World’s Laziest Journalist noted during the split screen segments that quite often Mitt seemed to be exhibiting the nervous frantic mode of operation.  Would Mitt’s jittery behavior have aroused any suspicion if it was observed by a policeman during a traffic stop?  It’s not that he appeared to have been inebriated.  Quite the opposite.  His extreme animation couldn’t possibly have been chemically induced . . . could it?

(Didn’t the aforementioned German political pundit use some performance enhancing substances?)

What was with the black spot on his American Flag lapel pin?  We looked online and found some speculation but we did not find a plausible explanation of it.  (Could it have been a tribute to the oil industry?)

Many years ago, a Military Police Officer casually mentioned that when he and his fellow officers were, during off hours, playing a friendly game of mind-fuck with each other, the most devastating criticism they could offer was:  “you are acting like a hysterical old lady.”

We were reminded of that nostalgic bit of advice on Wednesday night as we watched Mitt’s lightening fast jerky movements and wondered if the old disconcerting assertion was relevant to the debater’s demeanor.

Many years ago novelist Norman Mailer made the assertion that the most damaging thing a celebrity (or politician?) can do is to go against type and that might explain why “no drama Obama” didn’t unload a verbal knockout punch but sometime an unexpected reaction can be very effective.

In a different galaxy many moons ago, we knew a young lady who we had never once heard use the word “fuck.”  When we heard her say “Fuck off, Bob,” it was very effective oratory and it got its intended result immediately.

The trouble with the 2012 Presidential election snapped into focus when we heard Merle Haggard sing “Drink up and be somebody” while writing the column on a “crash cloes” basis.

There are two candidates trying desperately to win the votes of guys who wouldn’t touch either one of them with a ten-foot pole.

Can anyone really imagine either candidate going into a honky-tonk bar to do some campaigning?

The two lawyers from the Harvard-Yale axis back east are trying to convince the good ole boys to vote for either one of the two who would be called “slick” in a bar that plays C&W music on the jukebox.

Do you really think that a guy with a horse that participates in dressage competitions can sing the lyrics to “I turned 21 in prison doing life without parole”?

The other guy tries to debate as if it is an exercise in etiquette.  He should listen to the words of “Colorado Kool-Aid” and then tell Mitt that he should wear his knife-proof earmuffs to the next debate.

Seeing Harvard-Yale lawyers trying to mix with just plain folks in the local diner is theater of the absurd cubed.

Either one of them would do better to imitate the English poet who was regarded as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” than to pretend they might qualify for votes from the “Ladies Love Outlaws” crowd.

In a bar with Waylon and Willie’s song “Clean Shirt” on the jukebox, could Bishop Romney really carry it off if he ordered sarsaparilla?  That would be fun to watch.

When will either the Romney or the Obama campaigns release the tie-breaking photos of the candidate clearing brush on his ranch?

Luckily the electronic voting machines can take all these various factors into consideration before awarding an indisputable result to the eagerly waiting journalists around the globe.

In “Kingdom of Fear,” Hunter S. Thompson wrote:  “On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”

Now, the disk jockey will crank up the volume and play:  Tony and the Bandits’ song “I can’t lose,” the Partridge Family’s song “Something’s wrong,” and the Grateful Dead’s song “Throwing Stones.”  We have to go be one of the million and a half visitors in San Francisco this weekend.  Have a “this must be bat country” type week.