Have you heard . . .

June 7, 2013

Obama’s efforts to wean the Democratic Party onto Bush Administration policies, which gave members of the Democratic rank and file fits of apoplexy during the Bush reign, seemed completed this week as Democrats and Republicans in both the Congress and the Senate shrugged off reports of government access to citizens’ phone records with an extremely blaze attitude.  Paranoia is patriotic and privacy is passé.

Could any of the politicians, who are überenthusiastic about the prospect of fighting terrorism by inspecting phone records, be vulnerable to manipulation (i.e. blackmail)?  Wouldn’t veteran married politicians, who had (hypothetically) placed multiple phone calls to single young attractive people at odd and non-business hours, be able to act (a key word) enthusiastic about such snooping?

The transition from a Bush Administration promoting invasions, drones, wiretaps, torture, and Guantanamo to a Democratic Administration that continues those policies as if they were venerable American traditions came to completion this week and thereby eliminated any tarnishing on the concept of a Bush Dynasty as an American version of the British Royal family and thus eliminated the largest negative factor from the prospect of JEB Bush’s participation in the 2016 Presidential Primary contest.

For the lefties who find that idea repugnant there were other topic during the first week of June for them to use to vent their outrage, such as the prospect of learning a new list of names involved in the baseball steroid scandal and a new installment of soap opera journalism as a beloved celebrity tries to lick throat cancer.

The Getty and Armstrong radio program, earlier this week, intrigued their listeners with the possibility that California voters had been victimized by a fraud that would result in a need for taxpayers to subsidize the costs of a bullet train.  We jumped online and learned that a court case, which is underway in Sacramento to consider the future of the costly venture, is a complex and confusing topic and any attempts to simplify the Gordian Knot of issues involved would only produce a tsunami of WFC (Who ******* Cares?) reactions in the Facebook mentality atmosphere of the current American Pop Culture scene. 

Anyone who wants a tsunami of Facebook “likes” would be better off collecting celebrity gossip items, rather than trying to becoming the pundit other pundits read first.

Back in the Sixties, a series of photos graphically showed a distinctive style of cobwebs produced by spiders who had ingested LSD.  Earlier in the history of the Internets, the topic of kittens who had been taught to paint caused a stir.  Would it behoove the “like” level of the World’s Laziest Journalists’ efforts to go viral with punditry on Facebook if we subsidized the costs of investigating the artistic efforts of feline Rembrandts who had been dosed with LSD? 

Marc Eliot in his book “Steve McQueen,” on page 68, describes a tense confrontation between Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra on the set of the film “Never So Few.”  Finally Sinatra laughed.  They became friends for life.

Once upon a time, the judge in Malibu (according to a reliable source) was outraged when her housemaid was bitten by the neighbor’s dog.  The judge, who was a woman, was determined to “read the riot act” to the owner of the offending canine.  On the day following the scheduled confrontation her staff breathlessly awaited the judge’s report.  She told them:  “Mel Gibson has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen!”

Speaking of blue eyes, why doesn’t someone rebroadcast the TV special that was used to welcome Elvis back to America after serving his hitch in the Army in Germany?

Our efforts to e-duplicate (metaphorically speaking) Genghis Kahn’s slog to go visit the Pope in the Vatican via going viral on Facebook produced the fact that recently Australia’s Tourist Bureau brought several lucky individuals to their happiest country in the world (according to a recent Wall Street Journal story [who owns that newspaper?]) to become gainfully employed doing their dream job.  (Like Kerouac in “The Dharma Bums”?)  That, in turn, made us wonder why the Fox Media Empire doesn’t provide Good Morning Australia (GMA) to various cable companies in the USA. 

If after a hectic morning Americans could tune in to an early morning TV show that exemplified the old folks adage “the world’s can’t end today because it’s already tomorrow in Sydney,” wouldn’t that in itself be therapeutic and inspiring?  The chance to deliver to Americans some feature stories would help boost tourism wouldn’t it?  If Sydney has a statue of Ivan, Queen Victoria’s dog, what would be the American equivalent of such a canine tribute?

“MarijuanAmerica:  One man’s quest to understand America’s dysfunctional love affair with weed,” written by Alfred Ryan Nerz (Abrams Image New York © 2013) caught our attention in the Berkeley Public Library’s main branch’s new books section and since we are a pushover for a new variation on the drive around America subgenre of literature and since columns that address the topic of the devil weed always get extra readers, we checked it out and will read it for a review in a future column.

Speaking of driving all around the USA, we wonder why some of the cynical, ever vigilant political pundits on TV haven’t questioned the curious fact that a lame duck President is doing an extensive amount of traveling to attending partisan fund raising events.  Should we start wearing our Wendell Willkie era “No Third Term” button again

In an era of austerity budget cuts some cities in the San Francisco Bay Area were uncomfortable with the concept of paying local police for providing extra security for a lame duck President raising funds for candidates spouting the liberal philosophy.

That brings us to FDR’s 1940 campaign promise that America’s kids wouldn’t be used as cannon fodder in a war on foreign soil. At the same time, Australians were a bit perturbed that many of their young men had been sent to participate in the slaughter of millions of young citizens of the British Empire in a war that was waged thousands of miles away from their homeland.  The Australian Prime Minister during WWII, John Curtin, told Winston Churchill that the Aussies in the military would only be used to defend their own country.  The American President seemed more concern with the potential loss of Australian land to an invading Japanese military than the British Prime Minister was.  The Brits were concerned about protecting access to oil in Saudi Arabia (sound familiar?). 

Prime Minister Curtin, who isn’t mention in many history books about WWII, kept his commitment to his citizens and the Aussies were not sent to the European Theater of Operations as they had been after an Austrian nobleman had been “offed” by a (tah dah!) deranged lone gunman operating in Serajhivo.  When they promised to “never forget” the sacrifice made by those who died at Gallipoli, they kept their promise.

[Note from the photo editor:  Many Americans who are baffled by the word “Gallipoli” would be astounded to learn (by Watching Good Morning Australia?) that Kalgoorlie’s War Memorial is prominently displayed near the train station where most of the city’s tourists arrive.]

Would Australians be traumatized by the thought of sending troops to participate in the Syrian Civil War if they knew it is (relatively speaking) close to Gallipoli? 

Isn’t it an odd coincidence to note that media moguls in the USA seem as reluctant to permitting foreign media into the lucrative market in America as were the staff of the German OKW during WWII? 

Feeding Good Morning Australia to America’s cable TV audience might “poison the well” as far as pure ideology is concerned and therefore be as unappealing as the possibility of including Triple J radio, Sky Rock, and (if it still exists) Radio Caroline to the folks who get an app that lets them listen to thousands of American radio channels.  (Cue the image of the hall of mirrors sequence in “Lady from Shanghai”?) 

The purity of America’s political philosophy must be insured and thus restricting access to foreign political punditry is as essential now as it was back in the day when news was controlled by Goebbels, eh?  Berkeley CA once elected a member of the Socialist Party as mayor and so American’s must be ever vigilant to stand guard against the possibility that their kids’ minds can be corrupted again by claptrap ideology from foreigners, eh?

The French teach their kids “One for all and all for one” (Just like in the book ?)  Do you want your kids thinking like the members of a famous Oakland motorcycle gang?  This is America and our motto (which should be on the money) is:  “Every man for himself, boys!”

W.E.B. du Bois said:  “Freedom always entails danger.”

Now the disk jockey will play AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” the Bee Gees’ “Nights on Broadway,” and Olivia Newton John’s “Have you never been mellow?”  We have to go investigate the disappearance of pay phones.  Have a “clean phone records” type week.

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The Case of the Missing Conspiracy Theory (Book)

May 31, 2013

“Conspiracy Theory in America” (University of Texas Press, Austin TX, © 2013) by Lance de Haven-Smith came to the attention of this columnist when it was spotted in the window of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and seemed worth the trouble of being granted an exception to the rule:  “We don’t buy books to review them” because we have been worried by the idea that if we don’t soon find a comprehensive encyclopedia of conspiracy theories, we will have to fill the gap in the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory reference library by writing such a book and that would be a lot of work to undertake.

It turned out that the book wasn’t aimed at readers hoping to reap new and sensational disclosures for the “round up the usual suspects” list of conspiracy theories.  The “Conspiracy Theory” (AKA CT) label has become the equivalent of a chess game that involves the “Fool’s Pawn” strategy, in which a beginner plays a game that involves only three move.  The victim makes one unwise move and the game is over.

Lance deHaven-Smith bolsters his claim that the CIA used the “conspiracy theory” label to attack critics of the Warren Commission Report by providing a transcript of dispatch #1035-960. 

For debaters, the “Conspiracy Theory” label is the verbal equivalent of a come from behind walk-off grand slam in baseball.  Can’t you just imagine the voice of Mel Allen doing a play-by-play account of the debate?  “The Theorist asserts that one bullet can not possibly deliver that amount of damage to two victims and remain in (virtually) pristine condition. . . . the opposing debater steps to the plate.  Three on two out and the score is six to three against the ‘Official Version of the Truth’ team.  The pitch.  It’s a long drive to right.  The ‘Conspiracy Theory Lunatic’ charge is invoked! It’s outta here.  Home run!  End of debate!  The crowd goes wild as the batter (debater) trots around the bases.”

The defendants at Nuremberg were tried not for specific murders or incidents of torture, but (page 71) for “‘participating in the formulation or execution of a Common Plan or Conspiracy’ to wage aggressive war.”

The book discusses the “conspiracy theory of the Fourteenth Amendment” which was promoted by Charles Beard and his wife Mary in 1927.  The “Corporations are people” move started long before the current members of the United States Supreme Court were sworn-in.

On page 107, readers are informed:  MWAVE is the name of the CIA station in Miami.  Wasn’t it actually JMWAVE (J M as in Jose Martine?).

In the back of the book, in Table 5.1, we learn on an unnumbered page that in 1968 “With RFK out of the way . . . Nixon is reelected.”  WTF?

On page 106 a sentence that spills over to the next page states that the Warren Commission findings are unchallenged.  Apparently the author is unaware of the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations

(http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/select-committee-report/)

 or chose to completely ignore that Inquiry. 

Recently we found a used copy of “True Enough:  Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society” (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken N. J. © 2008) by Farhad Majoo and it asserts that the Swift Boater attack on 2004 Democratic Party Presidential Candidate John Kerry’s record in Vietnam was a “conspiracy theory” that aimed to turn the record of an undisputed war hero into the belief in a story of a dishonorable soldier who didn’t deserve the medals awarded to him.

Could these two books taken together convince an unbiased reader that in an era when no official explanation of baffling events can stand up to scholastic investigation that the government misleads voters with lies or are there valid gaps in reality that are due to occasional anomalies such as things not conforming to the scientific (them again!) laws of physics that get a temporary suspension during intensive moments of history that carry a tremendous emotional impact (“Back and to the left!”)?

The two books present an odd paradox.  In one instance in the deHaven-Smith book, the concept of “conspiracy theory” is used to dispel the effect facts might have on a debate, while Manjoo examines the fact that the Swift Boat vets didn’t supply any valid facts to change voters’ opinions about Kerry’s conduct in combat.  (“But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. . . . He loved Big Brother.”)

“True Enough” is an entertaining and informative book length elaboration that concurs with the psychological investigation done by Simon and Garfunkel that was summed up thusly:  “ . . . a man hears what he wants to hear and all the rest is lies and jest . . . .”

We have also acquired a bargain used copy of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”  Disciples of St. Ayn Rand believe that capitalists were and continue to be benevolent philanthropists whose generous attitudes towards employees make the need for unions and strikes irrelevant, immaterial, and obsolete. Unfortunately the (Leftist?) folks who read about the Ludlow massacre, the Pullman strike, the Republic Steel strike (“Autopsies showed that the bullets had hit the workers in the back as they were running away; . . . .”  Op cit, page 392), and the Ford Motor Company strike, seem vulnerable to a more cynical attitude regarding duplicity and deception from captains of industry than the loyal fans of Ayn Rand do.

Zinn’s book makes a reader wonder:  If what you learn in history class was subjected to exaggeration, spin control, and rewriting, is it reasonable to expect the government to flat out lie about some events?

A copy of “It’s a Conspiracy!” written by “The National Insecurity Council” published by Earth Works Books of Berkeley CA in 1992 was acquired used for a bargain basement price.  It is a well done book but since there have been one or two more instances since 1992 where skeptics charge that the United States Government deliberately committed prevarications, a revised and update version of this work might be a good idea.  Whew!  Looks like we don’t have to write an encyclopedic overview of the topic of conspiracy theories after all! 

Will the questions being asked about the details surrounding the recent death of a suspect in Florida spawn a new conspiracy theory about a cover-up?

Recent news reports indicate that top secret American Military plans and designs have been acquired by hackers.  That news makes us wonder why the military didn’t use the services of the companies that designed and provided the unhackable electronic voting machines.  Was there a conspiracy to exclude them and use the inept people who let this scandalous electronic invasion occur?

Some skeptics who think that the “low ball the bid and be caught off guard by cost overruns that will provide the missing margin of profit” trend may, in the future, be invoked by the a low bid winner of a facet of California’s coveted “bullet train” project (that voters don’t want to subsidize) out in the dessert.  Cost overruns can always be explained away by the old “blindsided by reality” (i.e. “no one could possibly have foreseen . . .”) ploy.

Can allegations of unexpected “cost overruns” be classified as a subcategory of “conspiracy theory” and thereby be exempted from embarrassing witch hunt style investigations?

There is supposed to be a march from Oakland to Stockton, to publicize allegations of “police brutality” in the bankrupt city, starting at noon on Friday May 31, 2013.  The march is scheduled to start shortly after this column is posted.  Will critics contend that police brutality in that city is being covered up?  We’ll have to include an update on that topic in our column next Friday.

If we score a press pass, we’ll go to the Conspiracy Convention (http://www.conspiracycon.com/ ) this weekend in Milpitas and write up our perception of it for next week’s column.

[Note from the Photo Editor:  Dueling perceptions is the crucial element for conspiracy theories, so it seems that a photo that shows what some people may see as a turtle and others may just call a manhole cover with chalk graffiti markings qualifies for being the photo to run with this column.  Is it an image of a turtle or does it show a manhole cover?]

Legend has it that Aimee Semple McPherson’s response to reporters who were skeptical of her explanation of her kidnapping was the famous line:  “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Now, the disk jockey will play (from the Twenties) “I Know that you know,” Peter and Gordon’s “Wrong from the start,” and Conway Twitty’s “It’s only make believe.”  We have to go put on our Gonzo Journalist disguise.  Have a “Just keep walkin’” type week.

Murrow’s “Orchestrated Hell” revisited

May 24, 2013

One TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area, on Saturday May 18, 2013, used an ironical sound byte to illustrate their story reporting on the commencement address given that day by Steve Wozniak in Berkeley.  In the brief excerpt, Wozniak urged graduates to take a page from the panhandlers’ guide book (folks in Berkeley are well aware of the existence of street people asking for a handout) and to be sure, later in life, to take time to have some fun or as the hippies in the Sixties used to say:  “stop and smell the flowers.” 

The very next day some 30,000 people officially participated (there were many more unofficial runners) in San Francisco’s annual “Bay to Breakers” competition which combines a footrace with a Halloween practice run in May.  It was not immediately known how many of the racers were recent UCB graduates putting Wozniak’s advice into action.

A group of women wearing ball gowns may have been a good example of the event’s basic philosophy.  When asked if they were the “Gone with the Wind” team they laughed and said that a journalist last year had dubbed them the “Bevy of Beauties.”

The Mardi Gras atmosphere may have been exemplified when the band Posole, a self-described mariachi/surf band which will be appearing June 7, at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, provided the World’s Laziest Journalist with the opportunity to participate in an impromptu audition for the possibility of becoming America’s oldest roadie.  (Isn’t the chance for a career change from columnist to roadie rife with potential column topics?) 

On Tuesday, May 21, it was announced that Superbowl L (the Roman numeral for 50) will be played in the 49ers’ Levi stadium.

While having supper in Oakland on Tuesday, we had stumbled upon a pre City Council meeting protest march that was urging the local municipality to endorse a national move to impose a tax on Wall Street which would collect funds to replace revenue lost in the austerity budget fad for cutting money for social programs.  We had never heard of the Robin Hood tax movement and so we took a few photos.  Folks who have not encountered news coverage of this topic can learn more at RobinHoodTax.org.

A columnist, who first learns of a new topic by encountering a street demonstration, runs the risk of thinking that a topic is new and unique (scoop?) if he has limited access to the Internet where the topic may have been previously reported ad nauseum but the advantage of preferring the reporting from the field methodology of topic gathering is that it delivers a cornucopia of photo ops which may produce photos that can be used either immediately or at a later date.

Wednesday May 22, 2013 the only item on the World’s Laziest Journalist’s agenda was to do some fact finding for a future column comparing and contrasting the B-17 and the B-24, which were both used extensively as bombers (a drone with a crew?) in WWII.  The inspection of the WWII aircraft on display (through the weekend) at Moffett Field left us wondering if Edward R. Murrow were available to do a report today from the scene of a drone attack in the Middle East, would he make any nostalgic references to his famous “Orchestrated Hell” report made while flying a bombing mission aboard a British Lancaster Avro bomber?

While walking down Third Street towards the Caltrans station, we impulsively decided that since our mind is already made up and we prefer the B-17, what the heck . . .  since everyone knows what a B-24 looks like, we were free to improvise a day in Frisco and figure out the column photo question later.

If a columnist were to write a column later in the year about drones, wouldn’t it be convenient to have some stock shots of a piece of machinery that could be called a drone with a large crew?

[Note from the photo editor:  The Vesuvio bar in Frisco’s North Beach area has been there for decades and so it is often listed as one of the places where Jack Kerouac imbibed with his fellow writers.  Patrons on the Second Floor balcony can look across Jack Kerouac Alley at a mural on the side of the famed City Lights Bookstore.  Who knew that Jack Kerouac and Steve Wozniak would agree on the philosophical concept of chillin’?]

With all the attention to fun and frivolity it was easy to be distracted and forget that the situation in Washington D. C. was serious.  Could the Republicans’ enthusiasm for a new impeachment circus be compared to the segment in the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” where the escaped prisoner tries to outrun and outfox the bloodhounds who are following his trail?

In a cynical example of reverse racism, Uncle Rushbo was loudly asserting (“Please don’t throw me in that briar patch!”) that America couldn’t (in good conscience?) impeach the first President of Pan-African heritage.  Wasn’t his wink, wink, nudge, nudge implied in the tone of his voice?

As the Memorial Day Weekend for 2013 approaches, we realize that once again we have waited too long for making a serious effort for applying for a press pass to cover the 24 hour endurance race at Le Mans in France. 

Formulating a game plan that blends serendipity safaris in search of interesting photo opportunities with attempts to offer unique observations about the contemporary political scene in the USA may sound a bit too whimsical to be practical, but the sad truth is that a freelance pundit is not bound by the implied obligations of party affiliation and can therefore make snide remarks about the emperor’s new clothes if the occupant of the White House is a Democrat or a Republican. 

A hybrid combination of three dot journalism and the Gonzo style of reporting gives a columnist a great deal of latitude for making editorial and photo decisions. 

For example in the San Francisco area, a new bridge is being built to replace one that is 75 years old.  Readers in Los Angles, New York City, and Fremantle could care less about a new bridge between Treasure Island and Oakland.  When the bridge encounters delays because of faulty bolts and the entire project is put in jeopardy, the news value of an item about that bit of local news gains some additional news value.  If the integrity of the entire project comes into question because of some greedy short cuts, then a mention of a topic that has not been used in the mainstream media becomes more pragmatic.  

When the future of the project is called into question, a renegade pundit can muse about the curiosity factor of the possibility that the bigger a crime is, the less likely it is that some poltroon (we learned that word while reading some H. L. Mencken) will serve time in prison.  Perhaps we could do an entire column about the possibility that there is some kind of inverse proportion linking the amount of money involved in the commission of a crime and the length of a prison sentence.  Didn’t Jean Valjean learn that lesson first hand many moons ago?

One other advantage to inventing a writing style that combines three dot journalism with the Gonzo school of first hand observations is that it makes it much more difficult for trolls to disrupt the flow with a bumper sticker slogan.  Isn’t it more compassionate to toss them an occasional malapropism and watch them go into an ecstatic trance when they have the opportunity to point out the “mistake”?  

What’s not to love about an esoteric and arcane tidbit of information that will cause a WTF meltdown reaction?  Could the Bay Bridge Bolts be compared to the Warren Commission’s exhibit no. 399?

Commentators from both the Republican and Democratic Parties seem to be in agreement about the fact that the United States Supreme Court decision on gay marriages could go either way (15 yard penalty for inappropriate cliché?) but a rogue columnist can have the opinion that a decision that could be compared to a walk off grand slam homerun for conservatives is a gimme call for cynics.

Journalists partial to either the Democratic or the Republican Parties seem to be in agreement about the reliability factor for the unhackable electronic voting machines.  Hunter S. Thompson (the godfather of Gozno) might, if he were still alive and ranting, advise his fans to embrace a more cynical assessment.

General Douglas MacArthur said:  “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

The disk jockey will augment the music with a playing of Edward R. Murrow’s “Orchestrated Hell” broadcast.  The tunes for playing us out (“We’ll do it live!”) will be the Andrew sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” Edith Piaf’s “Mon Legionnaire,”  and Marlene Deitrich’s “Lilly Marlene.”  We have to go prepare for celebrating National Tap Dancing Day and National Towel Day (in honor of writer Douglas Adams) simultaneously on Saturday.  Have a “ya mean people get paid to do this?” type week.

Airplanes, photos, and permissions

May 17, 2013

When a photo librarian for the Associated Press got a request, in 1966, from LIFE magazine for a copy of the picture of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby, things got complicated when the future World’s Laziest Journalist noticed a copyright notice on the photo.  According to the ground rules the lowly photo librarian had to say “no” to one of the biggest and most prestigious members of the news coop organization.  It was the weekend and it was quite likely that there were no managers around to consult.  Then the beleaguered photo librarian ran into the AP’s Chief Executive Officer in the hall.  We quickly explained the dilemma.  He asked “What would you do if I weren’t here?”  We told him the ground rules required me to say “no.”  He hesitated a beat and then said:  “Pretend you didn’t see me.”

 

A column containing that vignette would be so much more eye appealing, if we could run the image of the murder happening but since it seems unlikely that even if the columnist started on Sunday morning to track down the copyright owner and get permission to use it online, the self imposed deadline of doing all that in time to post the column on Friday May 17, 2013 renders the question moot.  It will be easier to relate the incident and then challenge readers to do a Google Image search for the famous photo.

 

Since images enhance the drawing power of online postings, it is tempting to toss any old image on the top of the column and hope for the best, but a rudimentary acquaintance with photography indicates that the image needs more eye appeal than, for example, a snapshot of the columnist at a recent college commencement program.  

 

If a columnist has talked shop with more Pulitzer Prize winning photographers (three) than reporters (one), then perhaps it might be realistic to assume such a fellow can make a valid claim to a better than a beginners knowledge of photojournalism and therefore should have a legitimate claim to having some photo editing competence.  If such a person wants to run photos he took, he knows there will be no hassles about permission to use any of those images with his column.  The unauthorized use of a copyrighted photograph could cause a remarkable increase in the amount of non productive clerk work and the best way for the World’s Laziest Journalist to avoid that unnecessary drudgery is to only use photos taken with his personal Coolpix.

 

It helps, of course, if the selected image has something to do with the contents in the column, but if the columnist has established his niche in the “three dot journalism” style of running multiple short items that cover a wide swath of subject matter just about any photo of anything could be deemed germane and useable as long as it was a good image.

 

In the past we have recounted getting a photo lesson in the AP lunch room from Eddie Adams and that name will impress folks who know the history of photojournalism, but folks who don’t recognize the name might like to know he is the guy who took the famous picture of the Police Chief in Saigon blowing out the brains of a suspect.  Tracking down permission to run that image is more clerk work than time permits so, again, we refer to curious to the wonders of the Google Image search site.

 

Do we need to get permission to post a photo we took?  Some time back, while working as a columnist for Just Above Sunset online magazine, we got the chance to take a ride on a B-17-G and write the story about the experience.  At one point, we borrowed the camera being used by Alan Pavlik, the photographer and the web site’s editor and publisher.  We flopped down flat on the ground and took one photo.  Now, it seems prudent that we secure his permission to use that photo (which was published with a large selection of the photos he took) with this column.  Once we got that permission (10-Q message sent) it should be a piece of cake.

 

It didn’t work so click on this link:

http://www.justabovesunset.com/imagelib/sitebuilder/misc/show_image.html?linkedwidth=actual&linkpath=http://www.justabovesunset.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/b17_fullside.jpg&target=tlx_new

(Readers may have to copy that URL and paste it into their browser.)

 

Our flight on the B-17-G was something that had been on our bucket list since high school, but in the tradition of fair and balanced journalism and in the tradition of the Ford vs. Chevrolet debate, we may still have some more work to do.  An assortment of WWII aircraft from the Wings of Freedom Tour (see more info at http://www.collingsfoundation.org/menu.htm) is coming to the SF Bay area and if we get a chance to get a ride on the B-24 that is coming to Moffett Federal Air Field next week, we could then do the judicious thing and cast our vote in the B-17 vs. the B-24 controversy. 

 

We will probably go out to Moffett and take some photos of the WWII aircraft and mention the expedition in a future column because that will give us a convenient excuse to run (at least) one of those photos. 

 

Speaking of missing photos and B-17’s, about a half century ago (how can that be if we are only 28 years old?  [Haven’t researchers proved that everyone online is 28 years old?]), we were reading up on the Liberation of Paris in WWII and we came across an account of a wild cowboy American pilot who flew a B-17 between the legs of the Eiffel Tower to fly under it.  It outraged the French people because of the reckless disregard for their national icon.  We saw one photo of the stunt back when we read about it but we have never seen a copy of that image online. 

 

The editors at LIFE magazine knew the allure of a stand alone shot because of the popularity of their “Parting Shot” feature, which drew numerous submissions each week.  We have, in previous columns, suggested that the editors of LIFE and some commercial entity, such as Nikon and/or Eastman Kodak, should collaborate on an online version of that popular feature.  (Hellfire, if they need an editor to select one photo a day to be featured as the best, we know of a fellow in Berkeley who might volunteer his services.)  If they adapted a policy where every submission appeared online and each day one was selected as Best of the Day, they would probably get some fairly impressive hit numbers and submissions.

 

What makes an image jump off the computer screen?  There are plenty of hot rods with flame paint jobs and there are a great many Rolls Royce automobiles in the world but when we did a Google Image search for a Rolls Royce with a flames paint job we found only two valid suggestions.  One of them was a shot we took in Berkeley CA and posted on our photoblog. 

 

Recently, in our attempt to do a survey of the contemporary pop culture scene, we came across the concept of “soap opera news,” and getting a chance to take a photo to illustrate a column on that topic, would be challenging. 

 

This week, Norman Goldman, tipped his listeners to a US Supreme Court Case decision in the case of Robert Pelkey’s towed car that could serve as an example of soap opera news. 

 

The World’s Laziest Journalist has been quite critical of the journalism industry.  We recently lambasted CBS Evening News for relying too much on footage of an interviewee crying.  Aren’t those weeping people interviews Exhibit A in the case to prove the existence of Soap Opera News?  We are not too sure about the legality of taking a photo of the TV screen showing an example of the soap opera news crying phenomenon and so we only mentioned it.  We note with interest the fact that last weekend Scott Pelley shook up the Journalism world by seconding our idea that America’s free press has become a parody of itself.  Come to think of it, some of the blustery anchors do remind us of that sly old fox, Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) in the film “True Grit.”

 

Doing some digging to find some interesting tidbits of information and going places (such as Moffett Field) to see some interesting things and to watch some events happen helps the World’s Laziest Journalist cope with the challenge of breaking the boredom barrier in Berkeley.  It helps if we come up with some material that is new and unique.  Such as?  Isn’t it about time for an announcement be made and AP to run some photos of the location for where the Obama Presidential Library will be built?  Have your other sources for political punditry hipped you to the latest pop culture phenomenon named Paris Jackson?

 

While Fox reports on the latest Obama scandals, aren’t the treehuggers who are disappointed in the XL pipeline, the potheads who are miffed about the crackdowns on medical marijuana dispensaries, and the peaceniks who disapprove of all drone strikes (not just the ones Dubya authorized) supposed to rally to Obama’s defense?  Lotsa luck on that.

 

Charles Batman, the managing editor of the Santa Monica Independent Journal Newspapaers once said:  “I have seen the future of Rock and Roll and it is . . . litigation.”

 

Now the disk jockey will play our highly subjective list of the best one hit wonder (that qualification eliminates Les Paul and Duane Eddy from consideration) guitar recordings.  He will play Link Wray’s “Rumble,” Jorgan Ingman’s “Apache,” and Jody Reynold’s “Endless Sleep.”  We have to go charge the batteries for our Nikon Coolpix camera.  Have a “keep ‘em flying” type week.

Impeachment again?

May 10, 2013

Republicans, who hate President Obama with a white heat level of intensity, impeached President Bill Clinton for a lie under oath about getting a blow-job and have been searching for a reason to impeach Obama since he was “President elect,” have managed to get the mainstream media to misunderestimate the political potential of the deaths of Americans in Benghazi and may be in position for an ambush attack regarding impeaching Obama.

America’s mainstream media’s tendency to practice wolf pack journalism (led by Fox?) was operating at warp speed this week as all hands became obsessed with a Cleveland crime story, while the Republicans performed the chess moves needed to put the pieces on the playing board in place for achieving the ultimate goal of the political maneuvering regarding the investigation of the Benghazi debacle.

Would the Republicans be so disloyal as to move towards impeachment while the President was distracted by American involvement in a new war in the Middle East? Doesn’t folk wisdom advise that everything is fair in love, war, and politics?

Realization of the ultimate political advantage of discovering deliberate lies regarding the events in Benghazi might explain the level of enthusiasm at Fox regarding the need for a full investigation into the back story about the handling of the events in Libya. When sharks smell blood, it’s a good idea not to get caught between them and the source because the concept of “feeding frenzy” is something you don’t want to experience first hand.

If reporters and politicians still trade information in the “off the record” mode of communication, then all parties might realize the political potential to be found in revelations about Obama’s whereabouts the night of the Benghazi events and thereby know that a headline grabbing search for the truth might be worth the effort, then a long replay similar to the Monica Lewinski circus may soon push the national discussion about guns off the top of the political agenda list.

Where were the drones when the attack in Benghazi was happening? Aren’t drone strikes as readily available in Libya as the delivery of a certain brand of pizza is in the USA?

The fact that the President’s whereabouts for the night of September 11, 2012 isn’t being reported, may mean that the Benghazi investigation may be a stealth way to introduce some embarrassing information into the news cycle without looking like it is just another political smear campaign. If President Obama has to lie under oath about the particulars of his schedule for that night, the Republicans would, once again, be able to loudly proclaim their brand identity with family values while evoking echoes of the Clinton proceedings.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Congressman Mark Sanford, who was a leading critic of President Clinton’s inability to manifest the family values embraced by the Republicans, regains his status as a leading guardian of public morality by speculating where President Obama was (and what he was possibly doing) on the night of September 11, 2012?

In an era of a kaleidoscopic aspect to news coverage, a return to the constant drum beat of a slow procession to impeachment proceedings might have some additional nostalgic appeal for the Republicans. (We noticed a small item online this week informing readers that the North Korean missile units had quietly implemented a stand down order.)

Mike Huckabee, according to a Google News search earlier in the week, was the only Republican breaking the informal “news embargo” on the word “impeachment.”

If the lame duck President wants to drag out the process, that will only be to the advantage of the Republicans who would love to have impeachment proceedings coincide with the mid term elections in 2014.

If, on the other hand, the Democrats don’t want a long and nasty series of news events, while they contend with the riggers of reelection, then they might have to explain to the President that expediency trumps loyalty quite often in Washington D. C.

The mainstream media, for the most part, are owned by wealthy conservatives who would (presumably) be very cooperative with any efforts to act as accessories (like the chorus in a Greek tragedy?) for the effort to bang the drums slowly and gradually build the volume to a the level of a howling (lynch?) mob demanding “justice.”

Meanwhile, the Republican pundits seem to be missing a chance to ask why the terrorist’s widow isn’t being questioned by the interrogation specialists at Guantanamo.

The conservative pundits don’t want to exploit the impeachment implications of the Benghazi attack because they don’t want to tip their hand too soon.

The leftist pundits don’t want to bring the subject up because they don’t want to give the Republicans the idea of going that route.

“Bert Stern Original Mad Man” a film about the career of photographer Bert Stern provided us with a one night opportunity to experience time travel back to New York City in the Sixties. We considered doing a review of the film as the only topic for this week’s column, but, even though we enjoyed the movie thoroughly, the historic nature of the first full week of May 2013 overwhelmed the value of focusing exclusively on the pop culture diversion.

We had also considered doing a column about gun songs, but our effort to solicit suggestions on Facebook, produced only one title: the Beatles’ “Happiness is a warm gun.” We did some fact checking and found that Lorne “Bonanza” Greene had recorded a song titled “Gunslinger’s Prayer” and Weird Al’s song “Trigger Happy,” was on Youtube. Doing all the fact checking for an entire column about gun songs wasn’t feasible due to the time available and so perhaps, since guns seems to be the key issue for the 2014 mid term elections, we will ration out mentions of popular gun songs over the next year and a half.

The California Supreme Court disappointed pot smokers, who had approved a 1996 measure to sanction medical marijuana, by saying that cities had a legal right to quash dispensaries within their municipal borders.

On Tuesday of this week, the Armstrong & Getty featured a guy from the save the plastic bag dot com web site, who alleged that the idea that wildlife dies because of plastic bags is a myth and that since he has never seen pictures of the garbage island in the Pacific Ocean (apparently his Google image searches were unsuccessful) it doesn’t exist.

Isn’t it remarkable that all the things that treehuggers say always turn out to be myths but that any attempts to question facts from conservatives are automatically classified as lunatic conspiracy theories?

How long will it take conservatives to note that the case of the missing women in Cleveland, the terrorist discovered last week, and the recent flawless inspection of millions of homes in the Boston area might, if taken together, be enough to prove a need for a police inspection of all homes in America?

Speaking of the homeless, we heard a story on KCBS news radio that indicated that the (compassionate Conservative Christian?) citizens in the San Jose area wanted several million dollars to be appropriated to hire park rangers to keep encampments of homeless people out of some parks in the area. What happened to the “austerity cuts” meme?

Randi Rhodes, on Thursday, told her radio audience that if the police fumble on a call about a woman being held prisoner in a house, perhaps the Good Samaritan caller should just say they suspect that marijuana is being grown on the premises. That should, she asserted, get the SWAT team to investigate the tip and search the home.

Norman Goldman, (who is a lawyer) also on Thursday, gave his listeners a heads-up about the Cleveland case. The DA there has filed murder charges stemming from the alleged amateur abortion efforts of the suspect. If the abortions provide the basis for a murder conviction, the case could become a landmark game changer for the pro life abortion foes.

Charles Ramsey became an Internet celebrity this week when he provided the quote of the week: “I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl runs into a black man’s arms, I said, ‘Something is wrong here’.”

The disk jockey (for his suggestions for best gun songs) will play the Victory at Sea theme music, the 1812 Overture, and the theme song from the TV show “Have Gun Will Travel.” We have to go see “Gatsby” and see if it is as bad as the reviews lead us to believe. Have a “Kapooyah, kapooyah!” type week.

Austerity Budgets for Fun and Profit

May 3, 2013

Conservatives, who were unaware that Fox ignored the fact that Dubya completely disregarded the principles of invasions established at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials, have been very enthusiastic about the Fox effort to find out the facts about events related to an incident in Benghazi, Libya, which is where the threat of nationalizing British Petroleum’s holdings are rumored to have caused an investor with large amounts of stock in that company (a fellow who owns newspapers in Great Britain, Australia, and the USA?) to urge the company’s largest stock holder (AKA Queen Elizabeth) to use military means to protect their cash cow. 

 

The Fox team stonewalled criticism of George W. Bush but has suddenly had the journalistic St. Paul’s moment when they saw the chance to investigate a Democratic Party President for (possible) malfeasance regarding the attack in Benghazi.  Why do they have such different attitudes about Presidents from opposing parties?

 

Speaking of reviving the double standard, on Tuesday Uncle Rushbo took fiendish delight in repeatedly playing Larry Flynt’s endorsement of the Republican Congressional candidate in South Carolina, Mark Sanford, because of the family values conservative’s implicit endorsement of the double standard and exposure of hypocrisy in America regarding morals with a recent high profile love affair.  It wasn’t clear if Flynt was being sarcastic or ironic with his endorsement, nor was it clear if Uncle Rushbo was being ironic with his enthusiasm about Flynt’s endorsement. 

 

If President Obama makes a military move into the Syrian Civil War without calling for a vote in Congress, would the masters of the double standard forget that George W. Bush pulled two similar stunts, and call for the immediate impeachment of Obama for using illegal means (executive order) for starting a new war?

 

Uncle Rushbo is encouraging his listeners with a high school level of education to look down on the Democrats (with a college education?) as “low information voters.” 

 

Recently, while doing some fact checking on Ayn Rand, we noticed that she is not mentioned in any of the various “Beginners Guide for Dummkopfs” series of introductory books.  What’s up with that?  Could there be a conspiracy among scholastics to discredit her and keep her out of those comprehensive survey books?  Is that comparable to the fact that most compact histories of the United States fail to mention the reign of Emperor Norton? 

 

Is there a secret double standard in the world of academic Philosophy?  You are automatically disqualified if too many people buy and read your books?  If that’s the criteria would that mean that the author of “Mein Kampf” was also a disqualified Philosopher?

 

Would it be an example of the double standard if compassionate Christian conservatives insisted that leftist pundits had to produce grammatically flawless work while they enthusiastically approve the eloquence level of the President who mangled his thoughts with examples of grammatical errors that were hilarious?  Is there a double standard for articulation?

 

If the Republicans cringe when they are compared to Nazis and the Democrats have conniptions when they are accused of using Gestapo tactics, why doesn’t some University professor, whose area of expertise is the Third Reich, speak out with the tie breaking vote and say which of America’s political parties are putting the principles elaborated in “Mein Kampf” into action in America’s political arena?  Do both American Political Parties each have a double standard for judging allegations of being like Germany’s dominant political party in the Thirties?

 

Does the mainstream media care (or know) that most voters in California are very unenthusiastic about building a bullet train for the Golden State.  Supposedly the husband of one of California’s Senators owns a company that (reportedly) will play an integral (and very profitable) role in the historic upgrade effort.  Our efforts to fact check that allegation have been unsuccessful.  Doing a Google News search was very futile.  It seems like the Democrats in California have a double standard regarding the appeal of an obvious boondoggle.

 

Is there a Double standard for news coverage of protests?  Would an anti-war rally that attracts a million people and had no violence, injuries, or arrests get more coverage than a small march with some smashed windows, broken bones, and arrests?

 

In a Democracy, can the citizens be forced to pay for a Bullet Train that the majority doesn’t want?  In a Democracy would the President start a war the voters don’t want?  It looks like the citizens of the USA are going to get the XL pipeline whether they want it or not.

 

Do Republicans have a double standard regarding the care of wounded veterans?  Benefits for vets are a commendable endeavor before a new war starts and then are subjected to sequester cuts when the wounded vets come home?

 

Is there an unspoken double standard in the world of journalism?  Does the kid who mumbled the f-bomb word in North Dakota have to embrace the “rugged individual” school of achievement and start at the bottom of the ladder while rookies like Luke Russert, one of the Bush twins, and Chelsea Clinton start at the network headquarters?

 

Speaking of Texas, we noticed that the New York Times quoted Barbra Bush’s response to a question about JEB’s turn in the White House by saying “ . . . we’ve had enough Bushes.”

 

Would disregarding his mother’s opinion help JEB establish an image of him as the political version of a rebellious youth?  Are the Republicans going to use the “cross the red line” as an excuse to promote an image of Jim Backus in an apron to goad Obama into stretching the boundaries of Dubya’s “Forever War” to include Syria?

 

Will the image of a reluctant JEB be used to set the stage for a carefully orchestrated campaign in the mainstream media to get him to accede to a public outcry to accept a draft nomination in 2016?  What are the latest British bookie odds on JEB?

 

Would the do nothing party goad Obama into a war with Syria that would destroy America just to see Obama’s legacy ruined?  Is that a double standard of patriotism?

 

Meanwhile over on the campus of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, the staff has been alerted to a move to switch to a higher level of activity and that all leaves and vacations are being canceled to start work on new explanations to prove that some nefarious plot was unfolding recently.  In the radical left wing (is that ironical or what?) of the main building, some extremists are pointing out that since some “fine tuning” of the chemicals in cannabis sativa are producing some very specific psychological reactions, a new possibility for accelerating the dumbing down of the USA exists.  Could it be, they ask, that in a manner similar to the fluoride conspiracy theory “they” are dumping chemicals into America’s water supply that cause people to become more bellicose, belligerent, and argumentative?  Are psychologists calling it the “McLaughlin” effect?

 

Are the members of the mainstream media analyzing the implications of the challenge of assembling a detonator or when it comes time for them to do that do they suddenly switch to some innocuous bit of information that is interesting, possibly humorous, and completely irrelevant?

 

Is it true that a restaurant in San Francisco is about to become involved in a scandal that alleges they have been substituting horsemeat as the main ingredient in their dog soup?

 

Saturday, May 4, will bee National Comic Book Day featuring some free comic books at locations around the USA.  It is (coincidentally?) also Kentucky Derby Day. 

 

[Note from the Photo Editor:  The May Day Protest Parade in Oakland was very low key and lacking in news value, but the photos that the World’s Laziest Journalist took at that event are the only available images with some “news value,” so we figure using them is better than not using any at all.]

 

“I’m endorsing Mark Sanford for U.S. Congress because no one has done more to expose the sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today,” was Larry Flynt’s effort to win the “quote of the week” competition for the Kentucky Derby week.

 

Recently we suggested that Willie Nelson should sing a duet with Mick Jagger.  The disk jockey recently found on Youtube a version of the perfect Derby Day song, “Dead Flowers,” featuring Willie and Keith Richards so he’ll start us out with that and follow it with Peter Paul and Mary’s “Stewball,” and Spike Jones’ “Beetlebomb.”  We have to go make some bets.  Have a “Mad Men” type week.

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.

Herb Caen or Ernie Pyle?

April 18, 2013

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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.