Archive for December, 2012

The case of the crying banker

December 31, 2012

After posting a column on Friday December 28, 2012, in which we criticized the CBS Evening News for relying heavily on videos of people crying, we tuned in that night to the broadcast and saw a crying man who went out and actually begged for a kidney for his wife, a crying woman who lost her house to the bankers (banks don’t foreclose homes people working for those banks do [?]), and a crying man who was part of a couple whose effort to adopt a Russian orphan had come to a halt because of a new Russian law.  On the NBC Nightly News broadcast for Saturday December 29th, we saw a feature story with a video of a fellow who plays soccer and might get an offer from an American Football team to come and work in the USA.  The video had gone viral on the Internets and we wondered if a video of a crying pundit would “go viral” if it was posted on Youtube.  Did we just sabotage all (and we do mean all) our chances for becoming a late addition to the list of famous journalists known as “Murrow’s Boys”?

Slightly after four p.m. on the day we published the column criticizing CBS for tarnishing their legacy that was established by Edward R. Murrow, we heard Norm Goldman criticize, on his radio broadcast, a brand of banks (think of a 1939 movie that was a career breakthrough for John Wayne) because a recent decision by the Ninth Superior Court seemed to legitimize some unscrupulous accounting practices that always favored the bank and screwed the public.

While preparing to write a new column, we suddenly remembered the old oriental parable that ends with the punch line:  “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet (those damn drones at it again?).”  Voila!  We had a Sutter’s Mill Moment.  An epiphany, as it were.

We didn’t need to envy CBS their ability to send a reporter and (union) camera crew out to video a person who was having tough times during post financial cliff period of uncertainty, if we wanted to get a video that would go viral on the Internets, we needed to get a video of a bank official who, wracked by guilt, was crying while contemplating the damage he had wrought.

Then what?

Everybody would see it.

Then what?

One thing seems certain.  If we get a video of a banker crying because of his complicity in a business practice that destroys hundreds of lives, CBS Evening News sure as hell ain’t gonna do a feature about how the World’s Laziest Journalist made a video that went viral on the Internets.  Dang!  It’s a tad late in the game to start searching for a new career . . . but . . . it will be a new year soon.  It will be a new year in some places when this column is posted.

Whatever happened to the guy who was America’s oldest porn actor?  Did he retire?  Could we do some Gonzo style reporting about walking a mile in his moccasins?

Speaking of the cinema, since we do love movies and since a goodly number of young folks like the movies made by Quentin Tarantino and since he has a new film just out, perhaps we could go see it and write a review as a way to rekindle our career as a film reviewer.  (Google Richard Ebert’s review of “Van Wilder” and read the last two paragraphs.)

Perhaps since we are not fully versed on the Facebook fad, we can just designate everything the World’s Laziest Journalist posts as “open to the public” and give George Takei (of Stark Trek fame) a run for the title of the most popular guy on that website.

We have heard of one woman in L. A. who went to a director to ask for a loan and was told:  “Write a sentence on this sheet of paper.”  She was totally perplexed but did as she was asked.  He threw the results in a drawer and jumped on the intercom and instructed his secretary to draw up a standard amount check for buying the film rights (to that sentence).  There are people in Hollywood who make a decent living just by selling ideas (known as “a pitch”) for films.

Didn’t one of those specialists become a director with offices on Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica?  Hmmm.  If he is busy maybe we could track him down and start a new career in pitching and sell him an idea for a new film?

Hey, bro, do you want to buy the story (with a few more specific details supplied) of a nurse who successfully escaped from a POW camp?  Yeah, yeah, yeah we know about the guy who used a motorcycle to escape from a POW camp in WWII but this is another “based on a true story” adventure with a chick as the protagonist.  What actress could turn down a chance to walk a mile in Steve McQueen’s moccasins?

Our columns rarely get comments but isn’t the topic of which young actress could evoke favorable comparisons to Steve McQueen rich with the potential for astute suggestions?

On the same program that he castigated bankers, Norm Goldman proceeded to tackle the legalize pot issue.  Back in the Seventies there was a novel, titled “Acapulco Gold,” that hypothesized what American culture would be like when (not “if”) marijuana became legal.

Wouldn’t it be odd if Washington’s repressive attitude forced the NRA and the legalize pot advocates to agree to a mutual assistance/defense treaty and seek refuge as a coalition group in a third part such as the Pirate Party?

Maybe after the bankers repent and ask forgiveness and the gun control issue is settled once and for all, maybe then the lobbyists representing America’s pharmaceutical companies will permit the politicians to address the legalize pot issue but in Thirteen the chances for that happening fall below the “slim and none” level down to the Australian category labeled “not bloody well likely, mate!”

In our efforts to select a photo to accompany this column, we remembered an image we acquired while doing some fact checking for a possible trend spotting story about snapshot collecting.  It showed a woman on a ship and carried the cryptic caption “Spring 1942.”  In the Spring of that year, the world was in turmoil but someone was making an effort to improve their lot in life.  Aren’t all journeys manifestations of optimism?  Couldn’t that woman be a metaphor for the USA at the start of 2013?

Maybe in an effort to achieve “fair and balanced” news coverage, CBS will hire a pundit to criticize the efforts of mainstream media in the USA?  They could feature a televised version of the media criticism made popular by A. J. Liebling.  Maybe not.  Maybe we could get a job at the American Studies Center at the University of Sydney helping them understand contemporary culture in the USA?  Maybe not.  Maybe now that Wolfman Jack has gone to the great sound booth in the sky, XERF needs a replacement announcer on the night side?  Maybe not.

All three of our writing heroes, Hemingway, Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson, seemed to find the obligations accompanying fame very disagreeable so maybe we can reconfigure  the old F. Scott Fitzgerald wisdom to read “Living well (in obscurity) is the best revenge.”?  If you don’t believe us, then ask author William Kotzwinkle if there is any truth in that amended quote.

Isn’t it amazing that the political commentators are making the assertion that the congressional representatives and the Senators are feeling pressure for the members of the 112th  Congress to reach a fiscal cliff agreement now because of concerns about possible resentment for not getting a bipartisan plan to avoid the cliff, playing  a role in their reelection as members of the 113th Congress.  Isn’t there an old political adage that states that American voters have a short memory?
Winston Churchill may have predicted the fiscal cliff political stalemate when he said:  “We conferred endlessly and futilely and arrived at the place from whence we began. Then we did what we knew we had to do in the first place, and we failed as we knew we would.”

Now the disk jockey will play “As Time goes by,” “the Alabama song,” and the Eagles song about James Dean.  We have to go post a link to this column on Facebook.  Have a “good night and good luck” type of new year.

December 28, 2012

The woman who said “I don’t pay taxes; the little people do” may have inadvertently undercut the level of seriousness that some people will give to the looming prospect of a theoretically higher tax rate for the one percenters in return for giving them a chance to see how people addicted to consumerism handle austerity.  A thirty-nine percent tax rate that won’t be paid does sound more devastating than an irrelevant thirty-five percent tax rate, doesn’t it?

Wasn’t it established that Mitt Romney only pays about 15% in income tax?  If so, how serious of a threat would it be to tell him that if the USA goes off the financial cliff the theoretical rate he should be paying will be increased and life will get grim for the people who get government benefits.  Didn’t he dub them the 47 percenters?

Wealthy folks (like Mitt), after the first of the year, will be able to turn on the evening news, tune in to the nightly images of misery and drop out of the ranks of caring Christians.  Those with cash register hearts will see going off the financial cliff as the starting gun for a race to exploit the rest of society in a time of hardship and suffering.  Wasn’t there a Country song about chilling beers by holding it next to a cad’s heart?  Did he get a job as a CBS TV reporter?

Looking forward to an apocalyptic event that coincided with the end of the Mayan calendar because it would provide excellent material for use in a column may have been just a tad immature and illogical and now that it hasn’t happened writing about how CBS Evening News has morphed from a televised version of the World News Roundup into a contest to see which reporter can be the first to get an interviewee to cry on camera seems a bit anticlimactic and mundane.  If you had a buck for every time a person cried on camera this week and next on the Evening News, would you have a fistful of dollars or not?

After walking away unscathed from a rendezvous with certain death, it seems concomitant upon this columnist to inject a high level of joie d’vivre into our attempts to ridicule the arena of politics and perhaps in an year when not even Congressional representatives have to face the rigors of reelection to just focus on the other aspects of contemporary pop culture that are fun to observe.

Isn’t the yell that Wile E. Coyote gives when he goes sailing into the void a trademarked item that can’t be used without getting permission from a movie studio’s legal department?

When the fiscal cliff chapter of the political history of the USA started to unfold, didn’t Nancy Pelosi reassured Americans that she would bring up a measure in the House that had passed in the Senate last summer and thus avert a crisis?  Did she forget her solution to the problem?  Do the mainstream media journalists consider it rude to remind her of her promise?

How many skeptical commentators asked about how many Trevon Martin type incidents would occur in the schools if armed people are put in every school?  Is it realistic to expect that the armed guards will provide the law enforcement example of baseball’s unassisted triple play with a Rambo reaction to a school shooter?

If Fox News reported that its viewers were exceptionally well informed and that the concept of “the dumbing down of America” was part of a bogus Liberal conspiracy theory, and their viewers believed them; would that be an example of the Epimenides paradox?  Why is it that every time we hear the expression “I saw it on Fox News,” we think of the title of Ross Thomas’ mystery novel “The Fools in Town are on our side”?

Traditionally Ann Coulter used to use crazy talk to divert attention away from George W. Bush when the liberal criticism of him was getting intense.  Apparently the Republicans asked Wayne Lapierre to substitute for her recently when they wanted to turn a discussion on gun control into ideological gridlock.

When we heard of the investigation into the incident on TV that involved David Gregory holding up an extra capacity ammo clip, we were reminded of the time back in the Sixties when a New York City local news anchorman (Jeraldo Rivera?) was arrested on camera by someone dressed like a NYPD cop for holding up a roach (ie a marijuana cigarette) while he was on the air.  Who was that journalist?  What happened to that case?  Maybe if that on air personality is still serving time for that stunt, he can truly report that (for him) the Sixties still have consequences and aren’t over yet.

On one episode of the popular Sixties TV series Star Trek, the crew of the Enterprise was told that when the 21st century arrived massive land wars would be obsolete and that wars would be limited local struggles called Bush Wars.  Is that sound byte on Youtube?  If so we could write a column about that sometime during 2013.

If the World’s Laziest Journalist is going to relegate politics in the USA to the back burner, we could concentrate on other topics.  We might even shift our tendency to post on early Friday morning (PST in the USA) to a different day and time.  Maybe that would permit more readers an opportunity to skim our offerings?

Some cynics might suspect that a shift in emphasis away from politics to more of the “let the good times roll” reports might just be an excuse for this columnist to make the task of writing the columns more like an excuse to go out and have fun.  Watching a lava lamp and being inspired to write heavy philosophical think pieces might have been appropriate before the arrival of the last day on the Mayan Calendar, but now that we have cheated death isn’t every sandwich going to be a treat?  Didn’t a famous musician, after he learned he had a very serious health problem, advise people to “enjoy every sandwich!”?

Perhaps we should write a column about the old movie serials where a Hero (such as The Shadow as played by Victor Jory in the 1940 serial series) shrugs off a brush with certain death and plunges ahead with life in next week’s installment.  Will the saga of the post economic cliff America be a similar story line?

If a person rolls his car and winds up lying on a remote highway with a bunch of broken bones there are two ways to react.  One can either say:  “Oh dear, this means a long stay in the hospital” or he can exuberantly exclaim: “I’m still alive!”  We think that T-shirts that say “I survived the Mayan Apocalypse!” might sell well.  With or without an augmentation to the bank account, this columnist thinks that all the members of the  Mayan Apocalypse Survivors Association should make a concerted effort to make 2013 an enjoyable experience.

Yes, we realize that the suspension of unemployment checks is a serious economic situation, but if people who encounter that problem overcome the challenge just think of how baffled and aggravated the rich people, who expected to see soap opera existential crises every night on the evening news, will be.  It will be just like in the movie serials.  When 2012 ended it looked like “curtains” for sure, but when 2013 begins the financial cliff (except on Fox) will be No Big Thing (NBT).

If, somehow, the unemployed workers, manage to adopt a Zen existence that isn’t dependent on a weekly paycheck, just think how incensed that will make the capitalists who are counting on seeing the victims of their strategy suffer extensively.  It would almost be as if the victims refused to suffer just out of spite.

Back in the Eighties there was a spate of self help books that advised people to cut back on their standard of living and retire at a young age.  Perhaps some of the people getting their last unemployment check next week, should buy some used copies of those books this week?

After a few moments of contemplating what would make a good topic for a more feature oriented column, we realized that it might require a great deal of fact finding to produce a good trend-spotting column.  On the other hand, the obvious absurdities in politics are so readily available and the mainstream media makes no effort to point them out and so such columns full of “these columns practically write themselves” material need very little effort to produce, so maybe we will just slowly transition into some of the alternative topics.

Do the places that sell marijuana for medicinal purposes make extra profits by selling such periphery items as lava lamps?  Are T-shirts featuring a famous rolling paper logo still being sold?  Do the pot clubs sell those rolling papers?  Do rock concerts still include light shows?  When is the Jefferson Airplane going to release a new album?

Was it George Carlin who first said:  “If you can remember the Sixties; you weren’t really there.”?  Shouldn’t the closing quote for this column be something more intellectual such as Nietsche’s quote:  “ . . . when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”  (We preferred to use the Wile C. Coyote howl of despair, but, alas, it was not to be.)

Now the disk jockey will play “Rescue me,” “Cry me a river,” and “Sea of heartbreak.”  We have to go find a good VHS tape to play on New Year’s Eve.  Have a “ . . . but what if an armed guard had been there” type week.

Ontology, Santa, and Guns

December 21, 2012

Could the Republicans be missing an excellent opportunity to make new inroads in the gun debate by politicizing Santa Claus and advocating that the only safe and sane way to prevent an invasion robbery at Santa’s toy factory, which would spoil an incalculable number of children’s Christmas celebrations, is to provide the elves with guns and give them firearms training and require them to spend time on the firing range every month.

 

Would it be politicizing freedom of speech to maintain that no topic on God’s Green Earth is so sacred that it merits an automatic exemption from the tendency of politicians to turn every possible subject of conversation at the local pub to their own advantage?

 

When hundreds (thousands?) of Santa’s Elves turned out on a cold rainy day in San Francisco to participate in the 2012 Santacon pub crawl, wasn’t the absence of any political activists supporting their about to become illegal right to be naked in public just a matter of common sense and not a verdict on the issue itself?

 

Theoretically freedom of speech is a good thing, but there are (as the Supreme Court decreed) limits.  People are not free to disseminate misinformation (as Mike Malloy pointed out on his radio show for December 17, 2012) such as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater where there is no blaze.

 

Fox News, however, has used a case in Florida to establish their right to broadcast falsehoods as news.  Is there a difference between yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater where there is no blaze and pretending that fibs are news?

 

Does Fox’s right to tell fibs in newscasts override the United Supreme Court’s “Fire!” ruling about misinformation?  If so, does that mean it is OK to slip some fabricated facts into the gun control debate?

 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, dontcha know that opens up a new can of worms and now the lawyers will insinuate themselves into the fookin’ debate and the issue will get sidetracked (and completely bogged down) with defining words such as trying to establish what the meaning of “is” is?  Isn’t it best to just ignore certain things?

 

In the mid Sixties, in Stroudsburg Pa., on Christmas day a fellow stressed out, killed his family, set the house on fire, and walked off into the sunset.  He was put on the FBI’s ten most wanted list but after a decade of remaining there, he was quietly and surreptitiously removed from that version of the Criminal Hall of Fame.  It is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to find his name on the Internets.  Did he use a gun?  Who knows?

 

The movie “Rare Export” provided a scientific explanation for several of the Christmas myths (such as flying reindeer) but it was ignored by the pop culture radar and was relegated to the “cult movie” category and is given the silent treatment by political pundits.  For connoisseurs of esoteric entertainment, it is a treasure to be cherished.

 

Speaking of Norway, Simo Häyhäy used a rifle to kill 542 men and became a national hero.  He was a sniper helping fend off an attack from Russia.

 

United States Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hathcock used a rifle to take out a Viet Cong general from more than a mile away.  He had one confirmed kill from 2,500 (no typo) yards out.  For a time he held the record for a sniper kill record from the longest distance.  Do gun critics want to establish 2,500 yards as the radius for gun free zones around schools?

 

Hathcock used one bullet carefully aimed to achieve precision with each of his shots rating rather than sending a “Hail Mary” style fusillade of ammunition towards his target. Critics of the large capacity magazines might want to emphasize Hathcock’s enviable skill and efficiency and disparage the use of a rapid burst of bullets with results that illustrate the law of averages.  Stressing quality rather than quantity when it comes to displays of marksmanship might get gun enthusiasts to listen to the opposing point of view.  Unfortunately that line of argumentation doesn’t apply in the Lanza case.

 

Some people have wondered why this particular mass shooting has provoked such a universal interest and emotional response.  Has any pundit pointed out the fact that usually such incidents involve a massive number of shots fired and the law of averages.  The shooter in the Connecticut school killed 26 people and was reported to have fired a hundred rounds.  The numbers make him sound more like some one using the execution style rather than randomness and perhaps that subconsciously disturbs the public more than the other killers who use the law of averages to do their dirty work. He was a one man firing squad and not a man unleashing a fusillade of random shots.

 

The contrast of the One Percenters vs. everyone else is especially sad this year when TV ads challenge the fat cats to buy luxury cars for those on their Christmas gift list while some of the unemployed have to face the possibility that their unemployment checks will be terminated on New Year’s day.

 

Pop culture scholars tend to credit some pre-war (WWII for those of you who want to know which particular war is being referenced) magazine ads for a popular brand of soda pop for being the source of the Santa image as being the incarnation of the Christmas spirit.

 

Let’s imagine that a privately owned item was secretly done on assignment several decades ago.  How valuable would a (hypothetical) Norman Rockwell painting be if it depicted an exhausted but happy Santa late on December 26 relaxing by cleaning some of the items in his gun collection?  ([Gun control advocates can never understand why one gun is never enough.]  The thought of being killed by an intruder whilst cleaning your weapon can only be assuaged by always having another loaded gun available when cleaning pistols or rifles.)

 

Yahoo highlighted the story about the one woman who took an item her father had brought back from WWII to a police gun buy back program and was advised to keep it.  It was a Sturmgewehr worth approximately $40,000 to discerning gun collectors.

http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/valuable-wwii-gun-police-buy-back-022155231–abc-news-topstories.html

 

If American pop culture could include Lenny Bruce’s humor and Stan Freberg’s sarcastic criticism regarding the capitalistic aspect of Christmas, then surely it must be ready, willing, and eager to add something new to the gun control debate.

 

Speaking of Stan Freberg, in Berkeley CA, <a href =http://www.caroldenney.com>Carol Denney</a> led some local carolers in a singing protest against the continuing efforts by advocates of a sit-lie law in “bear country.”  Recently the citizens of Berkeley voted against a sit-lie ordinance, but the friends of the homeless expect a renewed attack on the poor sometime in the future.

 

Blame it on the Kellys?  Speaking of Australia, there is a sidewalk plaque in (if memory serves) the Kings Cross Section of Sydney (NSW), that offers up the idea that space is a mark of wealth.  Some wealthy playboys might own several houses but a poor (but honest?) working man might have to crowd his entire family into a one room apartment close to his work place.  (Have you read Upton Sinclair’s “Jungle”?)

 

The concept of a poor but honest working man trying very hard to cram a happy holiday into a tight living space might be useful at a time when news stories about exceedingly small apartments are getting good play.  (Didn’t Dave Ross [or was it Charles Osgood?] feature that very topic on one of his recent radio reports?)  Examples of conspicuous consumption can not be shoehorned into a micro apartment.  Suppose that a fellow with a tiny apartment wins a giant screen TV.  It would be incompatible with his life style and cause an existential crisis.

 

Have you noticed how none (that we could find) of the high priced journalists have explained how the shooter’s mother could afford such a fine big home nor have they mentioned her place of employment.  We can’t imagine that the managing editors we have dealt with in the past would let such a gaping hole in the narritive slide, but this is the era of Murdock style news.  Did she inherit some of movie star Mario Lanza’s money?

 

What if (hypothetically speaking) a fellow were temporarily operating out of a hostel in Paris or Perth and there was no room in the suitcase for any additional material possessions?  What if such a person had a truly enjoyable Christmas without getting or giving anything physical?  What kind of craziness is it to think that good conversations with new friends, delicious food, and a trip to Cottesloe Beach makes for a wonderful holiday?

 

Wouldn’t that tend to validate the Apache philosophy that if you can’t take it with you on your pony when you move on, then you don’t need it and thereby invalidate the American compulsion to buy, buy, buy right up to the time when Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve begins?

 

What if some emotionally unstable person where to think that God gave him the assignment to assassinate Santa Claus and his helpers?  Shouldn’t Santa arm the Elves and require them to have firearms training just in case?

 

The Republican philosophy about the true meaning of Christmas may best be epitomized in a quote that is often attributed to Collis P. Huntington:  “Whatever is Not Nailed Down is Mine and Whatever I Can Pry Loose is Not Nailed Down.”

 

The World’s Laziest Journalist disk jockey agrees that poverty sucks and is assessing the possibility of composing a song that becomes a perennial holiday standard because that, he assures us, means a large royalties check every January.  Do we need to provide readers with a long list of examples?

 

Now the disk jockey will play the song “Santa’s in a wheelchair” by the Kids from Widney (not a typo) High, John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison” (there are several songs titled “Christmas in Jail”) and Stan Freberg’s “Green Christmas.”  We have to go see if the world has ended and we just didn’t notice.  Have a “no chains can hold me” type week.

 

Remebering “The Fugs”

December 14, 2012

We thought we posted this but it seems we did not.  Hence we will post it now (and hope it isn’t a double posting.)

“Fug You,” the 2011 book written by Ed Sanders, had completely gone stealth on the pop culture radar screen at the headquarters of the World’s Laziest Journalist until we noticed a remaindered copy for sale in the Half-Price Bookstore in downtown Berkeley CA, last week.  The snob appeal of being able to write about Sanders Sixties Rock group, the Fugs, and casually saying “we saw them perform in the Village in 1966” overpowered our usual tightwad tendency to avoid spending money just to be able to write a column <I>mit</I> book review.

 

When we got the book home and leaned that the cover was a visual pun that referred to the time the Fugs were featured on the cover of LIFE magazine, we had a breakthrough moment that solved a conundrum that has been baffling us for a long time:  “What makes the Bush era different from the Vietnam War era?”

 

The first time we read Albert Camus’ book, “The Rebel,” we thought we encountered a passage that asserted that the Establishment, as Society was called in the Sixties, would defuse rebels by absorbing them into high society.  (Subsequent rereadings of the Camus’ book failed to produce that particular passage for quoting purposes.)  That Camus insight, real or imagined, helped us immensely in our various subsequent excursions into pop culture analysis.  Didn’t a rebellious band from England eventually become The Rolling Stones Inc.?  Aren’t the rights to the Beatles songs still earning royalties?  Will new rock bands raise funds by selling stock?

 

As we started to read “Fug You,” we were delighted to see that a bunch of the references to the counterculture evoked some personal memories to add to our enjoyment level of Sanders recounting of the Sixties.  (Was the Psychedelicatessen NYC’s first “head shop”?  [It was featured in a Time magazine story dated February 24, 1967.])

 

Then we had our breakthrough insight while staring at the information that the Fugs were featured on the cover of the February 17, 1967 issue of LIFE magazine.  In the Bush era, underground cult heroes have zero chance of getting mainstream media exposure.  No corporation in its right mind (pun?) will give free publicity to a movie maker, novelist, or band that isn’t a shining example of the capitalist philosophy and (even better) part of that very corporation’s “extended family” of subsidiaries.

 

It wasn’t always like that.

 

When a book expert was asked to authenticate the validity of a hardback copy of the first edition of Jack Kerouac’s book, “On the Road,” which was autographed and inscribed to Marilyn Monroe, his research revealed that both the actress and the pioneer Beatnik novelist appeared on the Tonight TV show on the same night, so he verified the authenticity of the item.

 

Sanders says (on page 230) that the Fugs were invited to perform on the Johnny Carson version of the Tonight Show but that a dispute over which song was to be performed caused the cancellation of that potential milestone in pop culture history.

 

On November 5, 1965, the Fugs added an extremely unusual accomplishment to their resume (page 170).  Allen Ginsberg, the Fugs, and Country Joe and the Fish gave a concert performance in a chemistry lecture room on the University of California Berkeley campus.

 

In the Bush era, the mainstream media does not feature stories on the counterculture and thus bestow legitimacy on the rebel artists and their anti-establishment philosophy.  In the Sixties, underground celebrities were almost automatically given a ticket to fame by the mainstream media.

 

During 1969 while we lived in San Francisco, we were totally oblivious to the fact that a co-worker from our college yearbook and newspaper, John Walsh, was struggling with a counterculture venture in the very same city.  (Woulda/coulda/shoulda)  It wasn’t until about two years later that Newsweek magazine drew national attention to the feisty rock’n’roll magazine being published in the city slightly to the East of Berkeley CA.  That publishing venture called itself by the same name that O. Henry had used years before when he attempted to publish a magazine:  “Rolling Stone.”

 

San Francisco’s band of rogues called the Merry Pranksters weren’t the first people in the United States to buy an old bus and then go tearing around the country seeking fun and adventure, but the Pranksters were the first to have their escapades chronicled by a mainstream writer (from New York City) who just happened to be in the process of forming the Gonzo branch of Journalism, Tom Wolfe.

 

Hunter S. Thompson chronicled the exploits of the Hell’s Angles Motorcycle Club in the mid-Sixties in a book and then became a staff writer for the previously mentioned Rolling Stone magazine.

 

Comedian Flip Wilson did a routine about keeping up with the latest news that included “The Church of What’s Happening Now.”  Trend-spotting in the news media wasn’t just a fad in the Sixties, it was an obsession.

 

George Carlin skewered the Sixties penchant for fast moves in the pop culture arena when he suggested that a song could be “last week’s pick-hit of the week, this week number one, and next week’s ‘golden oldies’ selection.”

 

Was the band The Who trying to make a confession when they titled an album “The Who Sells Out” or were they just making a feeble attempt to be ironical?

 

In the Sixties, bands would get a career boost by appearing on the Ed Sullivan TV show.  TV talk shows were not reluctant to feature rising talent.  Saunders includes (pages 227 to 230) a partial transcript of the Fugs 1967 appearance on the David Susskind TV show.

 

In the early seventies, when a young unknown singer, named Bruce Springsteen, with a hard working publicity agent, wound up on the covers of both Time and Newsweek in the same week, the two rival magazines agreed to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.

 

When the “Sounds of Our Lives” radio format featured music from the big band era, rock fans might clandestinely listen to Glenn Miller but the roster of ads featuring denture adhesives, Depends, and cures for denture breath, would cause a young listener to recoil in horror exclaiming:  “Hell’s Bells, forty years from now will we become old farts who wax nostalgic listening to stations that only feature music from the British Invasion?”  Do Vietnam era veterans still utter the phrase “Roger that!”?

 

These days free publicity is too precious a commodity to be wasted on unknowns.

 

In the era of shrinking news staffs, journalism relies more and more on prepackaged material known as HO’s (hand outs).  Why pay a reporter when you can run a professionally done segment provided free from a large corporation (such as a pharmaceutical company?)?  We have recently learned that the United States and Switzerland are the only two countries that permit TV ads for medicines.

 

News from the underground provided fertile ground for the growth of alternative newspapers.  The Village Voice helped prepare the way for The L. A. Free Press, the Berkley Barb, and Al Goldstein’s Screw.  These days the San Francisco area sustains three weekly newspapers, the Guardian, San Francisco Weekly, and the East Bay Express.

 

Unfortunately the underground press no longer functions as a scout for the troops in the mainstream media.  Does Fox Views do trend spotting stories other than noting the rising stars in the Republican Party?  Wouldn’t it be a hoot if this column inspires the establishing of a late night talk show on Fox?  Would Disco Tex and the Sexoletts have a snowball’s chance in hell of being invited on that show?  Are stars from the underground this era’s missing media darlings?

 

Who is on the roster of the new angry young men?  What new band owns the rights to wear the <I>enfant terrible</I> label?  Can you name a contemporary poet, let alone say who is today’s most outspoken poet/critic of the military adventure in Afghanistan?  Is there any novelist working today who isn’t a corporate approved source of entertainment rather than a rogue who provides the voice of conscience for the USA?

 

Does the web site that is the leading source of links to contemporary Liberal Lite voices feature any content that can be considered “edgy”?  What ever happened to that word that was ubiquitous when the Internets was in the “new fad” phase?

 

Supposedly the Internets was going to give alternate voices a chance to get their messages out to the world, but ultimately many new voices and trends may be getting lost in a digital information dump.

 

Do Tweets provide the basis for trend spotting stories?  Really?  If a thousand people tweet their approval of some new music, do the friends of those thousand people run out and listen to the recommended music or are the tweets of approval lost among thousands of other tweets about thousands of other pop culture items?  If a Tweet is posted on the Internets and no one reads it, will it make a noise?  If a Tweeter touts a hundred new items this week, will a music recommendation carry any clout or will it get lost in the digital information dump?  Do Tweeters have fans who will follow up on all of this week’s one hundred recommendations?

 

Which will gather more media attention:  The Pope’s unsuccessful attempt to post his first Tweet, or a blog, called <a href =http://mediadarlings.net/> Media Darlings</a>, which is being done by a fellow from New Zealand named Rory MacKinnon.  His blog is aimed at journalists and journalism students and it recounts his adventures in Great Britain.

 

Fame has become America’s answer to British Royalty.  Yes, occasionally some brash young upstart can break into the ranks of the usual suspects, but for the most part hasn’t fame in the USA become a matter of “carrying on a family tradition”?

 

Reading about all the causes that Ed Saunders promoted (legalize pot, stop the war in Vietnam, providing advice for young men facing the draft, free speech) one is forced to stop and ask:  “Where did he get the energy to do all that?”  For those who didn’t become quite active in all those causes, it seems natural to ask if it was worth all the effort.  Some of the early anti-Vietnam activities Sanders describes will soon be marking their half century anniversary.  Will there be any sentimental laden 50th anniversary events in 2013?  If so, will they get any mainstream media news coverage?  Would such a hypothetical event inspire a Fugs reunion?

 

[Note from the Photo Editor:  The World’s Laziest Journalist Legal Department was very reluctant to approve a shot of just the cover of the Ed Sanders book and so a file shot of a West Coast location that was also famous for spawning successful music careers at the same time the Fugs were hitting it big in New York City was used.]

 

On page 206, Sanders quotes a 1966 review in the New York Times in which Robert Shelton wrote:  “The Fugs might be considered the musical children of Lenny Bruce, the angry satirist. . . . While obviously far out by most accepted standards of popular music, the Fugs are clever, biting and effective satirists.”

 

Now the disk jockey will play the Fugs’ “Kill for Peace,” Country Joe’s song “Dark Clouds” (from his new “Time Flies By” album), and Seasick Steve’s song “Dog House Boogie.”  We have to go see if the Berkeley Barb has any relationship to Malibu Barbie.   Have a “meteoric rise to fame” type week.

The Two Santas = Jekyll and Hyde?

December 7, 2012

Nota Bene</I>:  The following column contains irony.  Proceed with caution.

Democratic and Republican politicians, pundits both conservative and liberal, and voters from both parties want this columnist to believe that both sides in the fiscal cliff negotiations are participating in a difficult and nerve-wracking process of finding a suitable compromise that will avoid the dreaded denouement of: “what we have here is failure to communicate.”  A nagging doubt that the Republicans are negotiating in good faith continues to plague any attempt by the World’s Laziest Journalist to handicap this struggle and when we take a look at what the Republicans have been trying to do since the day the Social Security law was signed by FDR, we come up with a bleak evaluation of the prospects for any Happy New Year celebrations in the homes of the poor and middle class this year.

If the January first deadline passes without a compromise solution the 113 Congress which will be sworn in on January 3, 2013, will be busy performing necessary preliminary Parliamentary procedures and will be very pleased to let any public dissatisfaction with the results be linked to their predecessors and President Obama.

If the January first deadline passes without a compromise, how will the American Journalism community (with Fox News as point man?) react?  If Fox Television advocates a non-stop rush to hysteria as the only possible reaction to a post financial cliff crisis, will a handful of liberal radio personalities be able to stem the tide?

Haven’t the Republicans racked up a track record that indicates they might secretly want to let see President Obama take the USA over the fiscal cliff?

When St. Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President, a part of his program was to start union busting with the Air Controllers Union being the first group to suffer the consequences. Didn’t Michigan just pass a “right to work” law?  Doesn’t the San Francisco radio station that carries progressive talk shows just start airing commercials from the National Right to Work (<a href =www.nrtw.org>www.nrtw.org</a>) organization?

Later in the eighties the Los Angeles Times ran one or two stories advancing not only the possibility that computers would bring time saving and unquestioned results to the task of counting election ballots but that some (publicity seeking?) science based college teachers (them again?) were making the wild baseless assertion that such an innovation in the democratic process would include an inherent risk in the form of possibilities that the final results could be subject to tampering by some unscrupulous fiends.

Such completely unrealistic prognostications were quickly dismissed as the work of demented professors who had lost touch with reality and quietly slipped into the twilight zone now known as Conspiracy Theory.

Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and when the voting counting in Florida in the Presidential election of 2000 got a tad gnarly, electronic voting machines and the laws mandating the use of that method of letting the accountants furnish the final results were conveniently written and waiting for the chance to get an “up or down” vote from previously elected Senators and Congressmen.

Liberals who don’t see how eliminating “likely” Democratic voters from the registration rolls prevents voter fraud are the same ones who don’t realize that outsourcing jobs to other countries increases the profit margin and that more profits are, by definition, the  essential ingredient in the strategy for economic recovery.

The farsighted Republicans had (in a 1996 PNAC white paper) foreseen the possibility of the country facing the challenge of “another Pearl Harbor,” and quickly implemented several variations of the “double standard” concept after 9/11 occurred.

Democrats would be held to a very strict level of accountability while any Republican (it was well understood) would get an automatic exemption from confining ideology such as the precepts of war established by the lead council for America at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, which held that any invasion was a crime against peace.

Increases in the debt ceiling were automatic when George W. Bush was in the Oval Office and the cost of the military adventures in Iran and Afghanistan were exempt from concerns about the deficit.  Now that President Obama is the commander-in-chief, the main concern of Republicans is deficit reduction.

Meanwhile, the Republicans when they were in the majority in Congress had initiated a policy for the filibuster rule which would put the Democrats in a straight jacket if and when the loyal opposition leadership cadre ever became obstreperous.

The Liberals who see a conspiracy hiding behind every Bush would have Patriotic red-blooded Americans believe that the rules change which helped one particular media mogul acquire more outlets than the law previously permitted was some kind of ominous “plot.”  Now instead of a diverse group of Republican conservative publishers owning newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations, one fellow from “down under” does.  Do they think that it makes a difference if the media is owned by one man rather than a group of like minded fellows?  (These doubters probably take the concepts in Jonathan Kwitny’s book, “The Crimes of Patriots:  A True tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA,” as “gospel.”)  These narrow minded liberals would have everyone believe that Plato was predicting Fox’s high ratings when he said:  “Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.”

The Republicans have forced the Post Office to provide pre-paid funding for employee retirement programs thus forcing that government agency to contend with almost certain bankruptcy and subsequently the need to become privatized to continue to provide their services to the public.

Can the battle pitting the Republican majority Congress against President Obama be compared to the Alamo?

In his novel “Texas,” James Michener (who is noted for the quality of the factual background for his stories) stated that when the state of Texas agreed to join the United States, it specifically had as part of the deal, an option of separating into five individual states.  Wouldn’t rambunctious Republicans be more anxious to invoke that option and get ten Senators rather than succeed from the union and have none?

The beginning of the Great Depression is pinpointed as being Black Friday in October of 1929 and exuberant Republicans, who enthusiastically make the assertion that the country could have been better served by Republican leadership during the Depression, conveniently forget that the low point of the era was reached later in President Hoover’s term in office and that the recovery began with FDR’s inauguration.

During St. Ronald Reagan’s two terms in the oval office, some extremists voiced the opinion that what America needed was another Depression with the implication being that bad times would be better with a Republican in the White House.

Obviously Liberals who believes that any Republican would seriously consider the “advantages” of a Great Depression 2.0 won’t have any need to use a laxative during the duration of the fiscal cliff stare down.

Speaking of the Thirties, why doesn’t the Jon Stewart Show feature a W. C. Fields impersonator and a replica of the Charlie McCarthy dummy (now in the Smithsonian Institute) having a modern political debate?  Didn’t Fields provide the Republican Party with their unofficial motto when he said:  “If a thing is worth having; it’s worth cheating to get it!”?

To some cynical Liberals, the fact that the implication of austerity budgets, which demand cutting many social programs as part of coping with hard times, will be a chance for Conservatives to break out the Champaign and caviar might seem to be an oxymoron but for connoisseurs of schadenfreude this year’s Christmas celebrations will ring with rich people singing about the rich getting rich being part of God’s divine plan for humanity and the cry of “please, sir, may I have some more porridge” being mimicked throughout the one particular home (out of many, of course!) where they have gone to celebrate the holiday.

Are Republicans postulating a Santa with a Jekyll and Hyde personality?  Could there be one Santa to bring joy, tax cuts, and happiness to the rich and another one who deals out tax increase and social service cuts to the middle class and poor?  Do the Republicans believe in a two Santa world?

Some folks prone towards manufacturing new and improved conspiracy theories have asked us if Berkeley City Mayor Tom Bates deliberately postpones contentious items until well past mid-night when many concerned citizens have gone home.  To which we respond:  Not bloody well likely, mate!”

Some of Berkeley’s famous panhandlers are asserting that the new Berkeley Public Library policy of turning away visitors carrying a large back pack is part of a concerted and coordinated policy of harassing them and is a new facet of the sit-lie controversy.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed (seventy one years ago on the day this column will be posted), the Republicans quickly proposed that the newly instituted laws mandating overtime pay be revoked so that workers could not be tainted by the suspicion of being war profiteers.  There were some very lucrative contracts going to come their way but in the country’s darkest hour, they still found time to be concerned about protecting their workers from the possibility of having their reputations tarnished by allegations of war profiteering.  The FDR administration (which had been suspected of being pro socialist when the Social Security Act was signed into law) thought that everyone including workers should share in the bounty that WWII was sure to bestow.

The Democrats seem very reluctant to admit that the Republicans have been relentless in the defense of Veterans benefits and programs.

When we look at all these separate examples of Republican political philosophy in action together, we can not conceive of a sudden “Christmas Carol” moment that puts a “God bless us one and all” sentiment in the mouths of the Republicans who see their mission as making a goal line defense to keep the Bush tax cuts in place.

[Photo Editor’s note:  Statues of newspaper owners (Rupert Murdoch?) such as this one of the publisher who founded Culver City CA (where about four decades ago we learned the fundamentals of covering city council meetings) are more likely to be erected than ones to well informed voters or Fox viewers and so we used a shot of the statue of Harry Culver in downtown Culver City, CA as this week’s column illustration.]

United States Senator Joe McCarthy is quoted online as having said:  “McCarthyism is Americanism with sleeves rolled.”

The disk jockey will now (for obvious reasons) play Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five, the Beach Boys song “Heroes and Villains,” and the theme music from “Cool Hand Luke.”  Now we have to go replay our VHS tape of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” because we may soon do a reassessment review for the 50th anniversary of its release in 1963.  Have a “can you spare a peso for a fellow American” (from Treasure of the Sierra Madre”) type week.