Archive for April, 2013

Bombs, Bullets, and Books

April 26, 2013

“The Third Bullet” (Simon & Schuster New York © 2013) by Stephen Hunter is a fictional account of an investigation by a former U. S. Marine Corps sniper named Bob Lee Swagger into the murder of President John F. Kennedy.  Since this is the year of all gun chat all the time on talk radio and since this year will be the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy in Dallas Texas on November 22, we were pleasantly surprised to learn of the existence of this new installment in a series of mystery-adventure novels about a fellow who is loosely based on the legendary Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock because it seemed that none of the trolls who dominate the national discussion on guns has mentioned this new book.  We have read several of the preceding installments in the series and were aware that the book would contain some very detailed technical information about guns and bullets.  Suffice it to say that this new book blends accurate details of known American history with some speculation in a manor that is both entertaining and thought provoking. 

 

Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent,” which describes the anarchy caused by bomb throwing Bolsheviks and was published in 1907, is based on a true life incident that occurred in London in 1894 but it still has that “ripped from today’s headlines” aura of relevancy to it.  We wonder if teachers will urge their students to read this example of American Literature.  Conrad’s novel “Under Western Eyes,” is an almost century old look at the world of political fanatics in Russia.  What’s old is new and these two old books may start selling again.

 

“Twilight at the World of Tomorrow,” (Ballantine Books New York © 2010) by James Mauro tells the story of the use of a bomb by terrorists at the Great Britain Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair on July 4, 1940.  There had been other bomb incidents at that time in the New York City which were caused by a union dispute.   This bit of New York City terrorism remains an unsolved mystery.

 

“Live Fast, Die Young (The Wild Ride of Making ‘Rebel without a Cause’)” by Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel (Touchstone © 2005) just happened to be the next book on our recreational “in” pile as pundits around the world faced the task of doing a weekend wrap-up for the week that included the Boston Marathon Bombing.  In that book, we learned (on page 79) that on the G. E. Theater episode titled “The Dark, Dark Hour,” James Dean worked with Ronald Reagan.    

 

In a world where folks can see hundreds of cops standing around (on OT?) doing nothing, while the air traffic controllers are taught the pragmatic reasoning behind the move that destroyed their union, some cynics think that it may just be the latest installment in the long history of the anarchy caused by bomb throwers.

 

Did the folks on all Gun Chat radio all the time notice that while the police searched for the bombers, Sen. Harry Reid was saying “gun control legislation is dead for this year.”

 

Will the capitalist business owners in Boston charge employees who missed work on the day of the lockdown with a vacation day or will they cry “sequester cuts!” and declare that it was a one day sequester event and they need not pay for it?  How many will be magnanimous and pay regular salary for the missed work day?

 

Boston dominated the news but KPFA reported that something bad may have happened at Guantanamo the Saturday before Patriots’ Day.  Naturally the mainstream media ignored that and other important stories. 

 

A fellow who was arrested for sending poison to politicians was released and can resume his career as the most famous Elvis impersonator alive.

 

If the Butthead and Bevis duo used cell phone technology to detonate the backpacks, did they also learn how to do that from material they found on the Internets?  If not who mentored them?  If the two brothers were enrolled in Terrorism 101, will President Obama pull a Dubya and invade the campus and destroy the school?  If the American military is spread too thin, then does it not follow that the investigation must conclude that the older brother, Lee Harvey Tsarnaev duped his younger brother into being part of the gang of two and that they acted alone?

Now that the story is out that Syria has used poison gas after President Obama warned them not to do that, he seems to be caught in a classic binary choice familiar to barroom brawlers:  “Throw a punch or shut up and go away.”  Will President Obama and the Syrian leader now do a political version of the “chickie run” sequence in “Rebel without a Cause”?

If Obama sends American troops to get involved in that country’s Civil War, will Kim Jung Un get bolder thinking that Obama has run out of troops to send abroad?

Will Obama back up former President Bush’s threat to deal severely with any country that provided a training ground for any terrorists who would subsequently attack the USA or will he find out that the military is stretch too thin to back up that old warning with the promised action?

After seeing the spectacle of Boston being brought to a complete halt for a day by two young bomb throwers, cynics are asking:  “Will their quick apprehension serve as an effective deterrent or will it act as a catalyst inspiring copycats to make many more well publicized political statements with bombs?”  Will historians say that the boys from Chechnya opened the flood gates for a hoard of Mongol copy cats?

Has one other news item, the slipped past most of the mainstream media?  According to the Los Angeles Times, more charges have been filed against the County Assessor.

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/23/local/la-me-assessor-20130424

Since Dubya was notorious for not putting anything on paper we have always wondered what will be displayed at the Bush Presidential Library.  Apparently all the e-mails from fans will be one of the major attractions.

In the recently published book, “Ayn Rand Explained,” (Open Court Chicago © 3013) readers are informed (on page 17):  “Ideas, values, and behavior which we would reasonably think were wrong because they lead to the destruction of life are considered as acceptable as any others.”  What will conservatives do if it turns out that Tamerlin Tsarnaev was an avid Ayn Rand fan?  Could it be that he wore a WWJGD (What Would John Gault Do?) bracelet?

The guy, A. J. Clemente, who dropped the “F-bomb” on his debut as a news anchor in Bismarck, North Dakota, got invited onto the Letterman and Today TV shows, but our attempts to just find the name of his co-host, who remained composed and continued doing her job, were inconclusive.  Did A. J. read “Atlas Shrugged”?  Have American kids learned yet that “Incompetence Rules!” and that the old philosophy “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” would make a better motto for use on the money use by the USA.

Did the debate over “Miranda Rights” precipitate a situation where the prosecution’s case in the trial of the Boston Bomber is compromised before the opening statements are made?

Is an online pundit, who lives in Berkeley CA, being facetious and critical of the Democrat in the White House when he sports a 1940 Wendell Wilkie political button that proclaims:  “No Third Term”?

Speaking of the New Deal, we are working on getting more details about an effort to establish a <a href =www.livingnewdeal.org>New Deal Museum</a>.  With our luck the assignment editor for the features desk at the New York Times will read this column, scoop us, and save us a bunch of work.

According to “Live Fast, Die Young,” in early 1955, after being inured in a car wreck, actress Natalie Wood summoned movie director Nicolas Ray to her hospital room.  A Hollywood legend was born (page 40) when she (allegedly) whispered in his ear:  “They called me a goddamn juvenile delinquent.  Now do I get the part?”

Now the disk jockey will play the new Boston anthem, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” a memorial playing of Ritchie Havens’ “Freedom,” and a memorial playing of George Jones’ “He stopped loving her today.”  We have to go find a good Walpurgis Night Party to crash.  Have a “Why do we do this, Buzz” type week.

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Herb Caen or Ernie Pyle?

April 18, 2013

Image

San Francisco named a street for a famous columnist

[Note: The annual task of writing something to be posted honoring National Columnists’ Day on April 18, which was the day that war correspondent/columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action on the island of Ie Shima in the Pacific Theater of  WWII, is always a challenge because the intention is to keep the tone lighthearted and upbeat but this year, because it falls at a time when the national mood is very somber, we will, after a moment of silence, proceed with this year’s installment, for the same reasons that Boston will hold their marathon again next year.]

 

A hint of scandal for this year’s America’s Cup Races in the San Francisco Bay area will provide us with a chance to examine how two of our favorite columnists might take different approaches displaying their unique styles to the task of informing their readers of the looming potential for an economic blunder with dire implications for the taxpayers in the town Herb Caen dubbed “Baghdad by the Bay.”

 

While preparing to write this year’s installment of our annual National Columnists Day posting to mark the day which honors both war correspondent Ernie Pyle and the vocation of being a columnist, we decided to focus this year’s effort on legendary San Francisco scribe Herb Caen who served in the Army Air Force during WWII.

 

Pyle wrote from the point of view of the G. I. in the foxhole, while Caen, in his civilian phase, preferred to let his audience participate vicariously in his life as a flâneur, a boulevardier, and a bon vivant, who hung out with and traded gossip with “the swells.”  Caen’s first effort was published on July 5, 1938, and ended with his last column in 1997.

 

Obviously if both of them were still alive and churning out words, they would both take very different approaches to the growing grumbling about the Americas’ Cup races scheduled to be held later this year on San Francisco Bay.

 

The race’s lawyers seem to have outwitted the ones working for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and so the two parties signed a deal that, upon closer reading, will leave the citizens liable for a large financial shortfall.

 

We assume that Caen would look forward to rubbing elbows with the “swells” who will conduct the races and hold the accompanying “invitation only” parties and maybe he would also describe the spectacle as seen from a private airplane flying overhead.  Isn’t it logical to conclude that Pyle would side with the taxpayers who can only use binoculars to see some (three?) sailboats on the bay?

 

Caen’s pioneering approach to celebrity journalism made him a star in the ranks of columnists.  He coined the word “beatnik” and quite often his witty way with words won him a mention in the monthly “towards more picturesque speech” feature in the Readers’ Digest. 

 

Caen was a staunch supporter of iconoclastic wit and provided a continuing source of publicity to Lenny Bruce for his pioneering efforts in the realm of “sick” humor.

 

In addition to honoring and remembering Ernie Pyle each year, the day is also intended to draw attention to the career of being a columnist, which in the Facebook era should make Pyle the Patron Saint of Facebook, since the mission statement for a columnist is essentially the same motivation for churning out the keystrokes for a Facebook page, i.e. tell the world what you are doing and thinking.  Ernie Pyle, Herb Caen, and Bill Mauldin all have a Facebook page.

 

Can a Facebook blurb make or break a restaurant?  Once, many moons ago, Caen wrote a blind item blurb about a restaurant that incurred his wrath.  After it was published, the owner of another restaurant that fit the vague description of the offending culprit, contacted Caen’s office and begged him to explain that their restaurant, which had suffered a consequent crippling of their usual business level, was not the one that folks should boycott.  He immediately cleared up the misperception.  Can a Facebook writer have that big of an impact on a community? 

 

The fact that Caen’s style of quick verbal jabs was dubbed “thee dot journalism,” because he used the punctuation of three dots (called an ellipse) to separate items, preceded the Internet phenomenon of catering to an audience with an attention span that demanded items with the complexity level of a bumper sticker and that should endear him to the new generation that operates with a self imposed 130 word limit.  For example, isn’t just the fact that Anthony Grafton wrote a scholarly book, title “The Footnote a Curious History,” enough information for a great Herb Caen-ish column item? 

 

A fellow who went AWAL from a military hospital, three weeks after the liberation, and went into Paris with a nurse who spoke French told us about going into a fine restaurant and ordering a “once in a lifetime” meal.  When the fellow asked for the bill, management considered it a matter of honor to refuse to let the sergeant pay for the meal.  We like to think that Ernie Pyle, if he heard about it, would have devoted a full column to that incident.  He would (we assume) have compared and contrasted the best that Paris had to offer with the famed K-ration that the GI’s often disparaged with very salty language.  (If the disk jockey is alert he will play “Moose Turd Pie” as part of the “outro” music at the end of this column.)  Herb Caen, who served in WWII, was a gourmet who savored fine meals and shared his enthusiasm with his readers. 

 

Many Facebook entries include a snapshot of a meal.  Would young folks appreciate the subtlety if an Ernie Pyle wannabe posted a photo of a K-ration being served?

 

Once, according to an anecdote provided by one of Caen’s contemporary rivals in the realm of column writing, the two competitors for the right to the title of “Mr. San Francisco,” were out cavorting in some fog city bars after WWII.  They became a bit rowdy and a rookie policeman started to arrest them.  They simultaneously asked if the youngster knew who he was trying to arrest.  He didn’t know and didn’t care.  He led them down to the local station.  When the trio entered, the desk sergeant began to laugh boisterously and asked the newcomer:  “Do you know who you are trying to arrest?”  Case dismissed!

 

The San Francisco Chronicle would, when Caen was on vacation, run a box on the front page above the fold saying “Herb Caen is on vacation” to cut down on the number of complaints from people who would call and bitch about not being able to find that day’s installment of the column simply titled “Herb Caen.”

 

Once, back in the season when the Oakland Raiders won games when George Blanda would kick a last second field goal, a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune rushing a “starter” copy of the day’s publication, noticed that at the beginning of the lead story, the words indicated that the story was about the will a local celebrity had written “after” he died.  The ME had a “Stop the presses!” moment and the word was quickly changed to “after” and one of the typesetters was given a stern lecture about the rule that only editors could change copy.  The incident was quickly forgotten until the next week when the secret goof-up was prominently mentioned in Herb Caen’s column.

 

According to Barnaby Conrad, in his book “The World of Herb Caen,” the Frisco phenomenon produced enough columns of approximately 1,000 words (about three takes) that Caen’s lifetime total would verify this boast: “If laid end to end, his columns would stretch 5.6 miles from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

 

At the height of his popularity Ernie Pyle was read by approximately 3 million readers nationwide.

 

Facebook posters might note with extreme envy that in his prime, Caen received 45,000 letters a year.  Isn’t a fan letter better than a quick “like” click?

 

Herb Caen wrote:  “If I do go to heaven, I’m going to do what every San Franciscan does who goes to heaven. He looks around and says, It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.

 

Now the disk jockey will play the “Vertigo” soundtrack album, the “Moby Grape” album, and the Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealist Pillow” album.  We have to go reread Ernie Pyle’s very gruesome and lugubrious columns written on the Normandy Beach (as foud in the Random House book “Ernie’s War: the Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Dispatches” edited by David Nichols) immediately after the D-Day Invasion.  Have a “soldier on” type week.

Marking National Columnists’ Day

April 17, 2013

[Note: The annual task of writing something to be posted honoring National Columnists’ Day on April 18, which was the day that war correspondent/columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action on the island of Ie Shima in the Pacific Theater of  WWII, is always a challenge because the intention is to keep the tone lighthearted and upbeat but this year, because it falls at a time when the national mood is very somber, we will, after a moment of silence, proceed with this year’s installment, for the same reasons that Boston will hold their marathon again next year.]

 

A hint of scandal for this year’s America’s Cup Races in the San Francisco Bay area will provide us with a chance to examine how two of our favorite columnists might take different approaches displaying their unique styles to the task of informing their readers of the looming potential for an economic blunder with dire implications for the taxpayers in the town Herb Caen dubbed “Baghdad by the Bay.”

 

While preparing to write this year’s installment of our annual National Columnists Day posting to mark the day which honors both war correspondent Ernie Pyle and the vocation of being a columnist, we decided to focus this year’s effort on legendary San Francisco scribe Herb Caen who served in the Army Air Force during WWII.

 

Pyle wrote from the point of view of the G. I. in the foxhole, while Caen, in his civilian phase, preferred to let his audience participate vicariously in his life as a flâneur, a boulevardier, and a bon vivant, who hung out with and traded gossip with “the swells.”  Caen’s first effort was published on July 5, 1938, and ended with his last column in 1997.

 

Obviously if both of them were still alive and churning out words, they would both take very different approaches to the growing grumbling about the Americas’ Cup races scheduled to be held later this year on San Francisco Bay.

 

The race’s lawyers seem to have outwitted the ones working for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and so the two parties signed a deal that, upon closer reading, will leave the citizens liable for a large financial shortfall.

 

We assume that Caen would look forward to rubbing elbows with the “swells” who will conduct the races and hold the accompanying “invitation only” parties and maybe he would also describe the spectacle as seen from a private airplane flying overhead.  Isn’t it logical to conclude that Pyle would side with the taxpayers who can only use binoculars to see some (three?) sailboats on the bay?

 

Caen’s pioneering approach to celebrity journalism made him a star in the ranks of columnists.  He coined the word “beatnik” and quite often his witty way with words won him a mention in the monthly “towards more picturesque speech” feature in the Readers’ Digest. 

 

Caen was a staunch supporter of iconoclastic wit and provided a continuing source of publicity to Lenny Bruce for his pioneering efforts in the realm of “sick” humor.

 

In addition to honoring and remembering Ernie Pyle each year, the day is also intended to draw attention to the career of being a columnist, which in the Facebook era should make Pyle the Patron Saint of Facebook, since the mission statement for a columnist is essentially the same motivation for churning out the keystrokes for a Facebook page, i.e. tell the world what you are doing and thinking.  Ernie Pyle, Herb Caen, and Bill Mauldin all have a Facebook page.

 

Can a Facebook blurb make or break a restaurant?  Once, many moons ago, Caen wrote a blind item blurb about a restaurant that incurred his wrath.  After it was published, the owner of another restaurant that fit the vague description of the offending culprit, contacted Caen’s office and begged him to explain that their restaurant, which had suffered a consequent crippling of their usual business level, was not the one that folks should boycott.  He immediately cleared up the misperception.  Can a Facebook writer have that big of an impact on a community? 

 

The fact that Caen’s style of quick verbal jabs was dubbed “thee dot journalism,” because he used the punctuation of three dots (called an ellipse) to separate items, preceded the Internet phenomenon of catering to an audience with an attention span that demanded items with the complexity level of a bumper sticker and that should endear him to the new generation that operates with a self imposed 130 word limit.  For example, isn’t just the fact that Anthony Grafton wrote a scholarly book, title “The Footnote a Curious History,” enough information for a great Herb Caen-ish column item? 

 

A fellow who went AWAL from a military hospital, three weeks after the liberation, and went into Paris with a nurse who spoke French told us about going into a fine restaurant and ordering a “once in a lifetime” meal.  When the fellow asked for the bill, management considered it a matter of honor to refuse to let the sergeant pay for the meal.  We like to think that Ernie Pyle, if he heard about it, would have devoted a full column to that incident.  He would (we assume) have compared and contrasted the best that Paris had to offer with the famed K-ration that the GI’s often disparaged with very salty language.  (If the disk jockey is alert he will play “Moose Turd Pie” as part of the “outro” music at the end of this column.)  Herb Caen, who served in WWII, was a gourmet who savored fine meals and shared his enthusiasm with his readers. 

 

Many Facebook entries include a snapshot of a meal.  Would young folks appreciate the subtlety if an Ernie Pyle wannabe posted a photo of a K-ration being served?

 

Once, according to an anecdote provided by one of Caen’s contemporary rivals in the realm of column writing, the two competitors for the right to the title of “Mr. San Francisco,” were out cavorting in some fog city bars after WWII.  They became a bit rowdy and a rookie policeman started to arrest them.  They simultaneously asked if the youngster knew who he was trying to arrest.  He didn’t know and didn’t care.  He led them down to the local station.  When the trio entered, the desk sergeant began to laugh boisterously and asked the newcomer:  “Do you know who you are trying to arrest?”  Case dismissed!

 

The San Francisco Chronicle would, when Caen was on vacation, run a box on the front page above the fold saying “Herb Caen is on vacation” to cut down on the number of complaints from people who would call and bitch about not being able to find that day’s installment of the column simply titled “Herb Caen.”

 

Once, back in the season when the Oakland Raiders won games when George Blanda would kick a last second field goal, a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune rushing a “starter” copy of the day’s publication, noticed that at the beginning of the lead story, the words indicated that the story was about the will a local celebrity had written “after” he died.  The ME had a “Stop the presses!” moment and the word was quickly changed to “after” and one of the typesetters was given a stern lecture about the rule that only editors could change copy.  The incident was quickly forgotten until the next week when the secret goof-up was prominently mentioned in Herb Caen’s column.

 

According to Barnaby Conrad, in his book “The World of Herb Caen,” the Frisco phenomenon produced enough columns of approximately 1,000 words (about three takes) that Caen’s lifetime total would verify this boast: “If laid end to end, his columns would stretch 5.6 miles from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

 

At the height of his popularity Ernie Pyle was read by approximately 3 million readers nationwide.

 

Facebook posters might note with extreme envy that in his prime, Caen received 45,000 letters a year.  Isn’t a fan letter better than a quick “like” click?

 

Herb Caen wrote:  “If I do go to heaven, I’m going to do what every San Franciscan does who goes to heaven. He looks around and says, It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.

 

Now the disk jockey will play the “Vertigo” soundtrack album, the “Moby Grape” album, and the Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealist Pillow” album.  We have to go reread Ernie Pyle’s very gruesome and lugubrious columns written on the Normandy Beach (as foud in the Random House book “Ernie’s War: the Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Dispatches” edited by David Nichols) immediately after the D-Day Invasion.  Have a “soldier on” type week.

Try again

April 12, 2013

Did Karl Rove suggest that to get some dirt out on a potential opponent without giving the impression that they were trying to launch a smear campaign, some top Republicans could supply a “clandestinely recorded” tape to a member of the liberal media and then accuse the Democrats of stealing the material . . . or . . . did the Democrats hire some crafty old burglars (are any of the old JM Wave team still alive?) to come out of retirement and pull off a new version of the Watergate caper?  Will a full, complete, and impartial investigation of this “outrage” be any more successful than the attempts to look into the short sales of airline stock before 9-11, the anthrax attacks via the Post Office, or possible vulnerability of the unhackable electronic voting machines?  Such a cover story for delivering a tape full of smears, jeers, and leers could not only avert attention from the source of the news story, but would also help divert attention away from the mean spirit of the Republicans.  For a big payoff what would prevent the McConnell team from making the recording themselves and engineering a stealth handoff of the item that was sure to stir up news coverage of the potential opponents mental health history?

 

A columnist with a cynical attitude might just as well do the keystrokes for a totally innocuous effort as try to make sensible points about the contemporary political atmosphere in a country that is mired in a stalemated debate and so we will take the path of least resistance (and effort) this week.

 

How old is disappointment in America’s free press?  Upton Sinclair’s attack on the newspaper industry, titled “Brass Check,” was first printed in 1920.  Over the past weekend, the reference library at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory obtained a copy of George Seldes’ “Lords of the Press,” which was copyrighted in 1938.

 

A month ago, we had never seen the word “privishing,” but since then we obtained a copy of “History as Mystery,” by Berkeley based writer Michael Parenti, and “Into the Buzzsaw,” edited by Kristina Borjesson, which both explained that the word can be used to refer to a book that is published but then essentially quashed or left to languish unpublicized by book companies that want to extend some “interline courtesy” to some capitalist entities that would prefer folks don’t learn what those books have to say.

 

Did you know that up until Harry Truman ran for re-election the Depression was called “the Republican Depression,” but that in 1948, the conservative spin masters decided that the phrase “Great Depression,” sounded less partisan?

 

We had never heard the expression “hobo nickel,” until we ran across a young troubadour in a local Laundromat recently who hipped us to the topic of that collectable item.  We did a Google image search and were astounded to see what a fascinating item we had missed.  The young musician also was carrying an example of moldovite and was showing what makes it collectable.  It is a semi-transparent rock.

 

In the last week we also got a news tip that fans of Jim Lehrer might like to know that he has contributed a blurb to help Roy Zimmer draw attention to his political humor available on Youtube.  (What ever happened to Vaughn Meter?)

 

Recently we were delighted to stumble upon the book, “Hell above Earth,” by Stephen Frater, which tells the story of Herman Goering’s nephew, who became a B-17 pilot flying bombing missions over Germany in WWII.

 

The challenge of including unique bits of political commentary has become much easier than it used to be since America’s “Free Press” has become Fox-ified.  (See the “The Fox, the Hounds, and the Sacred Cows” chapter starting on page 37 in the book “Into the Buzzsaw.”) 

 

For example, has any pundit pointed out the chilling potential for the hypothetical possibility that if North Korea makes an aggressive move against South Korea, a response by the United States might be a strategic time for hackers in China or Iran to cripple the American Military’s computer network.  If (subjunctive mood) that were to happen, would that, in turn, have a deleterious effect on America’s assertion that “all options are on the table” regarding a move to cripple or delay Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear device? 

 

Most of the American based commentary we have encountered regarding Kim Jung Un is rather immature name calling and not at all like a calm evaluation of the possible repercussions of a new military adventure in Asia.  If Americans can handle very convoluted and intricate speculation about the rules and game strategy used in football, why do networks tend to resort to little or no expert analysis regarding International Politics?  Could that be an example of Fox-ified thinking at the headquarters of CBS and/or NBC?

 

Spending time and money inspecting bookstores to purchase obscure items such as Thomas Byrne and Tom Cassidy’s 2009 book titled “The Electric Toilet Virgin Death Lottery . . . and other outrageous Logic problems” may seem a tad foolish to most folks, but to someone who gets to feel like they “belong” when April 18 rolls around and National Columnists’ Day is celebrated, it makes sense.

 

Getting up early and turning on the computer, at 0600, to write about finding Stephen Clarke’s book, “ A Year in the Merde,” can be a bit of an ego-boost for someone who is aware that Hemingway urged wannabes to “write at first light.”

 

Would anyone else except a columnist enjoy learning (on page 161 of the book Time Capsule 1941 [A history of the year condensed from the pages of Time]) that Hitler’s Irish born sister-in-law, Bridget Elizabeth Hitler, was, before Pearl Harbor was bombed, working in New York City for British War Relief?

 

Only a columnist could use the fact that the Rolling Stones are about to start their new tour of “the colonies” in Oakland and that Willie Neslson is going to celebrate his 80th birthday later this month, to urge the two singers (who are both known for a vast array of duet recordings) to join together for a new example of their dueting abilities.  What song should they sing?  How about Bob Marley’s “Legalize it!”?  As the Stones tour begins, who wouldn’t want to hear Mick help Willie sing “On the Road Again!”?  Could those two rascals get away with a bawdy version of the WWII hit “Love them all”?  Would this be an appropriate time and place to plug John Costello’s book “Love, Sex, and War 1939 – 1945”?

 

Tim Osman got a warm welcome to the USA by the CIA.  Who was he, really?

http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/binladen_cia.html

 

Will the anchor desks at the network news programs finally notice the story about the Los Angeles County assessor when he appears in court later this month?

 

With all the references of Mitch McConnell’s bugging being similar to Watergate, will the news media still cling to the old saw about “the burglars didn’t find anything of value” or will they start to hint that what they got was the dirt on the Vice Presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton and they used that to throw the Democrats off balance at the start of the 1972 Presidential Election campaign and parley that into Tricky Dick getting elected for a second time on a promise to end the War in Vietnam. This Sunday night is the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic encounter with an iceberg.

 

Just for yucks, pull up Hunter S. Thompson’s interview with Keith Richard on Youtube and see how many words you can understand as they talk to each other (ostensibly in English) and have no trouble understanding what’s being said.

 

If “they” have hacked into the Yahoo and Google sites and if the electronic voting machines are truly “unhackable,” why don’t Yahoo and Google hire the folks who delivered the unbeatable security to the “unhackabble” voting machines?  Were the people who designed the “unhackable” voting machines (by any chance?) veterans of “the Blond Ghost’s” old posse?

 

Baseball fans in San Francisco are getting their hopes up that they will soon see Carl Hubblell’s 1936 record for the Giants of winning 24 consecutive games be broken.

 

In his autobiography, Lenny Bruce started chapter five with this sentence:  “Standing on the deck of a warship in battle, you get a good look at the competitive aspect of life, carried to its extreme.”

 

Now the disk jockey will give Annette’s “Pineapple Princess,” a memorial tribute play and then spin ACDC’s “Dirty Deeds,”  Jackie DeShanon’s “Salinas,” and Bobby Daren’s “Jailer bring me water.”  We have to go check into some “false flag” rumors about the sinking of the SS Athena for the research department at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory.  Have an “electro shock therapy” type week.

Just like the old days in Saigon?

April 5, 2013

After receiving a tip that some Phd’s are staying in a local shelter, and rejecting the possibility that it’s unlikely that a Republican majority United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) would issue a game changer liberal ruling, and wondering if some third party countries might be goading North Korea into a hostile action against the USA, why would a teetotaling columnist think that a new gin mill for journalists in the Oakland area would make the best topic for a new column?  The oil spill in Mayflower Arkansas isn’t getting any media mentions so scratch that off the possible topics list.  Updates on the nuclear plants in the Fukushima area of Japan won’t interest anybody but the treehuggers.  Kim Jong Un seems to have spoiled the news value of sequester cuts because there seems to be plenty of money available for Obama to do some “saber rattling” type diplomacy.

 

In a media market that has been inundated with analysis of the Gay Marriage issue, the fact that we have not encountered any commentary that points out that it is very unrealistic to expect a ruling from a conservative majority SCOTUS that would hand the liberals a “walk off grand slam” ruling and since there has been a surfeit of punditry that tries to keep a “think it through, Agent Utah,” outcome shrouded in a veneer of “anybody’s guess” mystery, writing a column with a tone of predestined inevitability seems like a waste of time and effort. 

 

What good would it do to point out that some nefarious country with an Eddie Haskel type sense of humor might think it would be amusing to goad the leader of North Korea into renewing hostilities on the Korean peninsula because that would make it more difficult for the USA to resort to some of the “all options are on the table” solutions to the task of preventing Iran from manufacturing WMD’s?  Didn’t the USA show that they could successfully handle the challenge of a two ocean war back when FDR was President? 

 

The possibility of doing an article about finding people with Phd’s in shelters located in close proximity to a world famous University might have some potential for landing a long and arduous assignment from the editor of the New Yorker magazine but doing all that work just to get a column for the Internets that would be just three e-takes long, seems a bit too Pollyanna-ish for the World’s Laziest Journalist.  Didn’t we already mention the New York Times writer who now lives in People’s Park? 

 

The Don Quixote challenge of starting a new establishment that will gain a place on the list of the mythological watering holes for word slingers – now that’s worth writing about.

 

To write about that topic, wouldn’t the abstaining columnist have to have some first hand knowledge of places such as Hurley’s bar in the Rockefeller Center area of New York City where Frank McGee would huddle with his co-workers while members of the staff of the AP’s New York Bureau gathered at a separate table nearby?  Check.

 

Wasn’t The Keg near the Santa Monica Evening Outlook a legendary drinking place?

 

Wasn’t the hotel in liberated Paris, called the Scribe, the setting for some amazing feats of alcoholic consumption?

 

Didn’t the war correspondents in Saigon gather at the Hotel Continental each evening to watch the artillery shelling of the city’s outskirts?  Were journalists permitted entry into the Purple Porpoise bar in Vientiane Laos, if that city actually existed?

 

We noticed in the New York Times Arts & Leisure Section for Sunday March 31, 2013, an article about a new Broadway play titled “Lucky Guy,” which is based on the life of Mike McAlary who was a columnist with “high-octane swagger” who (reportedly) did cartwheels when “closing time” was announced at the bar where he happened to be imbibing. 

 

Gonzo Journalism is starting the second half of its first century according to the way one of the founding fathers, Tom Wolfe, sees it, so the summer of 2013 might well be a time when America is awash in nostalgia for Gonzo journalism and that means that the idea of starting a new place in Oakland that will be gathering place for writers who grew up believing that they had to “go where the action is” has merit.  Do folks outside the Oakland area know that Lake Merit isn’t a lake? 

 

The Tribune Tavern, which will be located on the ground floor of the Tribune building in downtown Oakland, has opening day scheduled for April 10th.  Wouldn’t the journalists who covered Saigon have preferred a bistro on the top floor?

 

There is one tavern in Oakland where police tend to gather and talk shop talk.  Journalists tend to “let their hair down” when they are among their own kind.  Motorcycle enthusiasts tend to go to biker bars.  So gin mills may be an example of the old folk wisdom “water seeks its own level.”

 

While traveling in Australia a few years back, we noticed that the smoking and drinking table found at most of the hostels where we stayed tended to attract the most loquacious of the travelers staying there and so we often found the best conversations at those gathering places even though we do not smoke or drink liquor.  Perhaps a non drinker can hold his own in this new watering hole where columnists should be welcome. 

 

Speaking of the legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen and the fact that National Columnists’ Day is rapidly approaching, a recent Chronicle front page story detailing the attempt to assemble a list of San Francisco bars that are culturally significant makes all of Caen’s Bay Area fans a bit sad that he isn’t alive and fighting to augment that effort with a campaign to establish a “Gin Mill Hall of Fame” for the legendary bars that are gone but not forgotten.

 

What kind of chatter makes a journalists bar interesting?  About forty years ago, in a bar in a state known for gambling, a crusty old reporter told about the time he was a rookie who went with the old hands to a bar for a bit of liquid refreshment.  The journalist with a “white belt” level of experience got into a lively discussion with a veteran sports reporter about the legendary race horse “Man o’ War.”  The two had differing ways of speculating about the Triple Crown winner that couldn’t be settled until the bar tender jumped into the conversation and very emphatically said what the horse would have done under the hypothetical circumstances.  When the bar tender was asked “What makes you so certain?,” he replied “Because I was his trainer.”  That, in turn, led the young tenderfoot journalist to a high profile series of freelance articles about horse racing.

 

Realistically, when the Tribune Tavern opens, we don’t expect to find anything that we can use in a query letter to the assignment editor at Scanlon’s Magazine, but maybe we will stumble upon a source who can tell us if the “scientists” at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory (ACTF) have made any progress on their investigation into the possibility that “they” can use a dormant wifi connection to hack into laptops that are turned off and look at your private photos and read your e-mails. 

 

Speaking of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, we heard a recent radio news story that informed listeners that a recent Pew Research Center effort produced data that indicates that some classic conspiracy theories are gaining new adherents. 

 

If journalists gather at the new Oakland location, maybe we can track down some facts to confirm or deny the rumor we have heard that preliminary work is being done in the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory’s Planning Department to build a wing to house a Conspiracy Theory Hall of Fame museum.

 

Sometimes when journalists talk among themselves they come up with new story ideas via the “catalyst” phenomenon. 

 

Will the most cynical journalists look at the cheating teachers scandal in Georgia and start to wonder if doctors get commission checks (or free junkets to the Bahamas?) from pharmaceutical companies when they exceed a certain number for prescriptions of a particular medicine. 

 

Most journalists who have spent any time observing humanity in a bar know that President Obama, in his war of words with Kim Jong Un, is rapidly approaching a tough decision that cause bar room brawlers to realize for both leaders it’s time to either throw a punch or shut up.

 

Hunter S. Thompson’s philosophy for journalists was “Free lunch, final wisdom, total coverage . . .” and that brings to mind the old question:  “How can you tell if someone is a journalist?”  The answer:  “He is the guy who goes up to the free food, starts shoveling it into his face and, with a mouth full of food, asks:  ‘Where is the Hand Out?’”   Hand Outs are prewritten news stories that save lazy journalists (moi?) a lot of time and work.

 

Journalists can only take so much of official BS.  How many toasts will be inspired by a society that continues to foreclose large numbers of homes while the local radio urges the listeners to save more money?   As an old coworker used to say:  “My car payments are driving me to drink.”

 

[Note from the Photo Editor:  We used a photo of a bit of artistic decoration from Oakland but not from the one that hasn’t opened yet, because we thought that the quaint example, of a nearby establishment’s threshold, of art for bars would help set the tone for this column and it gives us a chance to make a literary allusion to the “face on the barroom floor.”]

 

In issue 111 of Granta magazine, on page 210, Richard Russo wrote:  “After World War II, about the same time men stopped wearing hats, women stopped wearing gloves.”

 

Now the disk jockey will play Slayer’s “World Painted Blood,” the Celtic Cowboys “Kiss My Irish Ass,” and a ditty titled “The Alco-hall of Fame.”  We have to put on our Gonzo disguise and go incognito to cover this new place in Oakland.  Have a “there’s no ‘there’ there” type of week.

Seen in Berkeley CA

April 3, 2013

Seen in Berkeley CA

While strolling on Shattuck we heard some boss cars and managed to get two shots of this Cobra