Posts Tagged ‘Hunter S. Thompson’

Are Americans living in a world of carefully crafted illusions?

March 5, 2012

A column describing the events of Saturday, March 3, 2012 experienced and witnessed by the World’s Laziest Journalist might prove how and why the parable of the six blind Hindus is still important in the Internet era.

 

[Six blind Hindus touched an elephant and were asked to describe their reaction.  The one who felt the tail thought elephants were like a strand of rope.  The guy who touched the elephant’s trunk, said elephants were just like snakes.  The fellow who touched the ear observed that elephants were just like a big leafed plant.  The man who felt the elephant’s stomach was very convinced that elephants were a subcategory of walls.  The guy who touched the tusk, knew that elephants were like swords.  The guy who felt a leg concluded that elephants were very similar to trees.]

 

On Saturday morning, we met up with <a href =http://smirkingchimp.com/author/james-richard-armstrong-ii>James Richard Armstrong II, the homeless columnist</a> who lives in Berkeley CA.  This writer wanted to brainstorm some possible column topics and have a morning cup of coffee.  James was, among other things, concerned about some generalizations a reader had made regarding one of his columns about the plight of the homeless.  People who live in houses (glass or not) tend to be very certain of their perceptions as do all of the six blind Hindus.

 

Since the homeless writer uses Hunter S. Thompson as a role model and since Thomson’s public persona often displayed a cavalier attitude about money, we criticized theBerkeleyresident’s tendency to imitate Thompson when making financial decisions.

 

We suggested that perhaps Thompson’s attitude was part of a fictitious “image” that was deliberately manufactured.  This was met with a vehement denial of that possibility, which, unfortunately, was impossible to fact-check.  The World’s Laziest Journalist explained that he was basing his assertion on one actual encounter with one of the founding fathers of the GonzoschoolofJournalism.

 

At an appearance at the Viper Room inLos Angeles, in 1996, Thompson had made a conspicuous display of having security eject hecklers.  What many in the venue did not notice is that subsequently the persons who had been 86’d would be seen again in the sold out event, quietly observing the proceedings from the very back of the auditorium.  The victims had the material for a personal encounter story that they would still be telling many years later, Thompson had bolstered his Wildman image, and the audience had been treated to an entertaining example of Thompson’s lack of tolerance for dissention.

 

We suggested that (perhaps) Thompson (who owned real estate in the Aspen area ofColorado) was just helping to create an image of an outlaw journalist when he seemed to act irresponsibly about financial matters. 

 

We have been reading a recently acquired copy of “The Kitchen Readings:  Untold Stories of Hunter S. Thompson” (by Michael Cleverly and Bob Braudis Harper Perennial paperback) and have become aware that often the reality of stories about Hunter do not match the legend and that the tendency is to use theRio Bravoadvice:  “print the legend.”

 

Hence we strongly asserted that the famed father of Gonzo may have been playing a role when he used an expense account to subsidize living large.

 

Next we discussed the bogus aspect of the image of the homeless as free wheeling “king of the road” people who could come and go as the mood strikes them.  Unfortunately the reality is the complete opposite.  Often their movements are very restricted because they have to worry about finding a place to temporarily store their possessions if they want to  move about during the day. 

 

We volunteered to do a column delineating the problem.  If (for example) a homeless woman wants to go into a public building and use the women’s rest room, the backpack and bedroll is an open invitation for hassling.  If she can leave her gear with a trusted friend, she can run off, use the facility, and return very quickly.  The problem is exponentially more complicated if the homeless person wants to stash their backpack and go across toSan Franciscofor a day.  Where can he or she leave the backpack for a whole day?

 

Storage lockers are a quaint reminder of the past.  (We will expand on this topic for use as a full column in the future.)  So where can a person leave all his worldly possessions while taking a one day trip over intoSan Francisco?  Taking sleeping gear and a heavy backpack will certainly put a damper on any one day outing inSan Francisco.  What’s with these practical restrictions vs. the image of “go anywhere when the mood strikes you” freedom? 

 

A few hours later we were at the opposite end of the social spectrum.  We were inMarinCountyas the guest of a woman who has devoted her life to helping women’s causes and helping philanthropists decide where and how to make their contributions.  She has lived the “those who can, do” aspect of the story; now she also does coaching and teaches about that and related subjects.

 

As it turns out, the woman had met Hunter S. Thompson at the wedding of one of her close relatives.  The philanthropy coach corroborated our impression of Thompson as a fellow who created a public persona that was very different from the private person. 

 

The prolonged economic “recession” has added some additional new challenges to the task of encouraging wealthy citizens to make well informed decisions about making philanthropic donations to an every growing list of worthy non-profit organizations. 

 

As it turns out, on that very day that we were discussing the particular financial needs of various organizations devoted to women’s causes, radio personality Rush Limbaugh may have inadvertently drawn added attention to women’s causes in particular by apologizing for calling a collage student a slut, earlier in the week.  Liberal pundits noted that the apology was “out of character” for the bombastic radio talk show host.

 

Uncle Rushbo could add a considerable amount of credence (“What me make an insincere apology just to get myself off the hot seat?”) if it were accompanied by a large donation to a relevant women’s nonprofit organization. 

 

We asked the Philanthropy coach if she or any of her associates had ever asked Uncle Rushbo (Doesn’t he live in a house that is worth $24 million?) what the level of his philanthropic donations are and also ask if he would like to increase that amount of giving during the economic hard times which have perceptively swelled the difficulty level of maintaining America’s commitment to subsidizing charitable organizations. 

 

Wouldn’t most Americans be quite prepared to assume that Uncle Rushbo’s annual philanthropic donations are rather anemic?  Doesn’t he advocate the “bootstrap” philosophy of self reliance?

 

The World’s Laziest Journalist adheres to a stringent budget, but we have, in the early phase of the Occupy movement, bought fast food meals, on different occasions, for two Occupy protesters.  Could it be that the parsimonious columnist outspends Rush on philanthropic endeavors?  Perhaps Rush Limbaugh makes large philanthropic donations anonymously or very quietly while perversely bolstering the Scrooge image?

 

On Monday morning’s broadcast, Uncle Rushbo’s introductory monologue seemed to be an apology to his regular listeners for making the apology on Saturday.  His mistake was to lower himself to the level of leftists, he explained.  “ . . . it was way beneath me . . .”  

He did use the term “self reliance” several time Monday morning. 

 

When Armstrong posts and shares a link to one of our columns on <a href =http://www.facebook.com/james.r.armstrong1>facebook </a>, we get a perceptible bump in hits.  We had shamelessly suggested that the Philanthropy coach bring the humble efforts of the World’s Laziest Journalist to the attention of some of her well known friends in the journalism industry.  Could they do better at boosting the hits? 

 

What would happen if Uncle Rushbo destroyed our speculation about his level of philanthropy giving on air and enumerated and elaborated on his donations and specifically mentioned that he was providing some fact checking information for the World’s Laziest Journalist?

 

Over the the course of this weekend and Monday morning, we realized that about one percent of journalists have about ninety percent of the clout that publicity can deliver.  The other ninety nine percent of those working in Journalism must share the remaining amount of influence. 

 

The folk wisdom inHollywoodis:  “I don’t care what people say about me as long as they spell my name correctly.”  Should we, perhaps, hope that Rush does mention our columns in a negative context?  What if Limbaugh resorts to ridicule and speculates about the incongruity of someone who works very hard to promote the image of being an example of Lazy Journalism?

 

 

While this columnist roamed aboutAustraliain a “sundowner” style, we often left our suitcase under a bunk in a hostel.  We were oblivious to the homeless’ concern about “stowing the gear for a day,” until Armstrong elaborated it.  This proved to me his contention that people who live in glass houses (or even sleep on a hostel’s bunk) should not assume that they fully understand what it means to be homeless.

 

What would life be without handy, comfortable illusionary images?

The closing quote has to be a line from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”  “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. ”

[Correction:  the Howard Hawks series has not concluded but continues at the Pacific Film Archive until mid April. Rio Bravowill screen Saturday, April 14, 2012, at 8 p.m.]

Now the disk jockey will play “the man who shot Liberty Valence,” “Do not forsake me oh my darlin’” (the Oscar winning theme song from “High Noon”) and the theme song from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”  We have to go get us a cup of celestial tea.  Have a “smile when you say that” type week.

National Columnists’ Day for Hunter Thompson fans

April 14, 2011

National Columnists’ Day occurs annually on April 18 because it was on that date in 1945 that war correspondent/columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action on theislandofIe Shima.  In past years, our annual National Columnists’ Day column has detailed Pyle’s life and career and in other years it was devoted to other memorable columnists such as Herb Caen and Walter Winchell.  About two weeks ago, we took a break from the task of selecting a subject for this year’s installment and went down to the local Half Price Bookstore in downtownBerkeleyto score a bargain bin copy of Ammo Books’ “Hunter S. Thompson,” which is subtitled “Gonzo.” 

Recently, we had caught a screening of the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and followed it up with an immediate repeat viewing via a VHS tape, on the following day.  The “Gonzo” book, edited by Steve Crist and Laila Nabulsi, includes photos and reproductions of memorabilia from Thompson’s life.  While perusing the new addition to the collection, because a friend is preparing to celebrate her fortieth birthday, we noticed one particular illustration in the Ammo book; it was a certificate of achievement, from the National District Attorneys Association noting the fact that the Thompson had covered the Third National Institute Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs convention which was held, in Las Vegas, on April 25 to 29 in 1971.  We realized that the events described in Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” book were also celebrating their 40th birthday. 

After starting to reread the book, we recalled reading columns by Hunter S. Thompson in the (now defunct) Los Angeles Herald Examiner and then later, in the computer age, online.  Thompson has always been hard to categorize and so it seemed that selecting him to be the peg for this year’s installment of our annual National Columnists’ Day column made the choice a “slam-dunk” because forty years after Thompson blurred the lines between fiction and journalism all of American Journalism has become a credibility challenge for those who want to know if what the government is telling the people is fact or fable. 

“Fear and Loathing inLas Vegas” is subtitled:  “A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream” and that may be a play on title of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”  Forty years ago, the concept of the “American Dream” evoked clichéd references to a home surrounded by a white picket fence.  Today, the thought of a “home” conjures up images of thousands of families being thrown out of their homes by wealthy businessmen (who contribute generously to various political reelection funds?) who are just as savage and ruthless as any native warrior encountered by Marlow in the journey described in the Conrad novel. 

Forty years after Thompson lampooned the American Dream, circa 1971, theUSAis full of disillusioned families with broken dreams trying desperately to cope with homelessness and the darkness in their new depression era hearts.  The country is going broke fighting three separate perpetual military adventures which are either just for the pure fun of it or are wars of imperialistic aggression.  The American Dream has morphed into a nightmare while American Journalism stands by obsessing over the latest celebrity gossip about Charlie Sheen and ignoring the Republican Party’s coordinated efforts to vandalize and sabotage the Democratic process of holding honest elections.

Thompson helped popularize the term “Gonzo Journalism” which became a handy label for a Sixties journalism trend marked by the writer including himself in the events being described while simultaneously exaggerating some factual aspects of the story.  (For a more scholarly approach to the wide open and vague bit of fact checking about the origin of the word “gonzo,” refer to page 128 of Jann S. Wenner and Corey Seymour’s oral biography of Thompson, titled “Gonzo,” published in 2007 by Little Brown and Co.) 

In the early stages of Internets development, we belonged to an e-mail group of people (mostly scholars) who were focused on all things concerning Ernst Hemingway and they accepted without challenge the idea that the degree of involvement of the writer in his own story, as far as both Hemingway and Thompson were concerned, was about equal.  The term “gonzo” had not come into contemporary American Literary culture when Hemingway was writing (and producing columns) about WWII and the Spanish Civil War.  Is it possible to make the case for asserting that Hemingway was the spiritual godfather of gonzo journalism?

While George W. Bush was President, columnists who furnished vitriolic criticism of the fellow, who Thomas called “the child-President,” became wildly popular on liberal web sites and attracted an eager audience whose appetite for disparaging remarks about the occupant in the White House couldn’t be satisfied by a relentless torrent of criticism. 

In “Kingdom of Fear,” the last of Thompson’s books published while he was still alive, the pessimistic attitude regarding the future of America is epitomized by the phrase “Big Darkness Soon Come” and it doesn’t take a scholar with impeccable academic credentials to say that if Thompson had lived, he would be very acerbic in his assessments of George W. Bush’s successor who has rubber stamped his approval (“imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”) of almost every one of Bush’s outrages against the Geneva Accords and the rules of engagement. 

Thompson was relentless in applying his philosophy regarding politicians (“Don’t take any guff from these swine”) to the Bush Administration and anyone who wants to assume that Thompson would give President Obama a pass and, instead, provide partisan platitudes just because he wasn’t a Republican is asking for a stretch in logic that betrays the foundations of rational thinking.

Thompson’s righteous indignation, directed against George W. Bush, was a matter of principle not subject to change when a new President from the other major political party took the oath of office, rather than being an example of partisanship (of the German salute level of commitment kind) which would defy credibility when it broke the WTF barrier of logic and did a complete 180 degree about-face to mollify the new war monger (not that the new guy gives a farthing about what columnists or bloggers think of his ERA [or era?]) Thompson would have continued his acerbic snarky attitude with only the name of the President being criticized changed.

Philip K. Dick, in “Man in theHighTower,” envisioned a cult hero writer adored by his fans who lived in isolation inColorado.  The World’s Laziest Journalist is alone in his conviction that Dick had accurately forecast the cult of Thompson fans, in his alternative history novel which was written and published when Thompson was graduating from high school and serving a hitch in the Air Force.  If this columnist was younger and more ambitious, he might consider doing a doctoral thesis as the basis for a comparison of the real life writer to Dick’s fictional character.

Thompson’s biographers report that he was obsessive in his slavish attention to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby” and that Hunter may have either consciously or unconsciously patterned “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” on Fitzgerald’s work of fiction.  Ironically, the Fitzgerald novel has become an icon of life in the Twenties during prohibition and “Fear and Loathing inLas Vegas” has become a symbol of the hippie life style.  Each novel has come to epitomize an American generation.  Perhaps some diligent liberal arts graduate student will do a doctoral thesis comparing and contrasting the two (related?) examples of classic contemporary American Literature?

While gathering information for this column we were informed that Cliff Notes does not have a detailed critical analysis of “Fear and Loathing inLas Vegas” available.  Perhaps some industrious literary critic will now send a query letter to the Cliff Notes commandant and perhaps that gap will be remedied?

The fact that theBeatMuseum(inSan Francisco) has become the host site for two courses (for college credit?) in creative writing brought to mind the academic consternation caused when a pioneering effort to teach a course in Beat Literature was a controversial innovation and that, in turn, caused us to wonder if any college or university anywhere offers a course of study (Gonzo 101?) devoted to the works of Hunter S. Thompson or an overview of Gonzo journalism per se.

Ernie Pyle went toEnglandto cover the Battle of Britain.  Hunter S. Thompson covered the Viet Cong’s arrival inSaigonafter American troops were evacuated.  Would it be too Philip K. Dick-ish to try to envision how an imaginary encounter between Pyle, if he had lived longer, and Thompson, during the evacuation ofSaigon, would have played out? 

Looking through the index for Karl E. Meyer’s book “Pundits, Poets, & Wits (An Omnibus of American Newspaper Columns)” it is obvious that we could have made a different less controversial selection for this year’s installment of our National Columnists’ Day column, but the fact that Thompson could be a contentious choice made it all the more imperative to do so.

About his friend Oscar Zeta Acosta, Thompson wrote:  “Oscar was one of God’s own prototypes – a high powered mutant of some kind who was never even considered for mass production.  He was too weird to live, and too rare to die.”  The same might be said of Thompson himself.

Now the disk jockey will play the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” soundtrack album.  We have to go to a wifi hot spot and post this column early as a way to stir up a “my National Columnists’ Day column is better than yours” competition to increase public awareness of the annual event.  Have a “Gonzo” type week.

Just like in the end of Treasure of the Sierra Madre?

February 8, 2011

Larry Flynt pays his writers well and delivers the checks promptly.  He is one boss who doesn’t have disgruntled employees bad mouthing him behind his back.  Current and former employees of Larry Flynt Publications always speak well of him.  Hugh Hefner made Playboy magazine the highest ranked potential market for freelance writers and also made some remarkable profits with his philosophy about paying generously.  Unfortunately, Hefner was so successful at making his magazine an attractive prospect for freelancer writers he had to close down the golden opportunity.  Playboy articles are now all done on assignment (according to a reliable source who is a former boss) only basis.  Neither freelance query letters nor submissions are accepted.

William Randolph Hearst assembled a remarkably talented posse of writers by offering them more money to work for him than other newspaper publishers could.  Hearst was the source of the term “lobster shift” (AKA “lob-shift”) and caused his biographer W. A. Swanberg (<I>Citizen Hearst</I> Bantam Books paperback p-83) to write:  “The <I>Examiner</I> office was a madhouse inhabited by talented and erratic young, men drunk with life in a city that never existed before or since.  They had a mad boss, one who flung away money, lived like the ruler of a late Empire . . . and cheered them on as they made newspaper history.”  Hearst was not a sexist.  He did hire a red haired chorus girl, Winifred Sweet, who became a successful reporter.

Republicans, perhaps thanks to the book “<I>Rich Dad, Poor Dad</I>,” believe that they should pay their workers as little as possible for the most amount of work they can ring out of their workers.

Wouldn’t it be funny if a famous conservative made a bet with a wealthy Republican owner of a word plantation that she would do better than get the prols to work cheap?  What if she made a bet that she could get writers to clamor for the chance to work for free?  She could pose as a liberal, start up something cheap, and then get talented tree-huggers to embrace her “you don’t need a paycheck” response to the idea of paying writers generously by giving them a big audience as an “ego-stroke.”  Then to prove that she deserved to win the bet she could sell her publication for a shipload of money and “cry all the way to the bank” with her profit.  She could collect on such a hpothetical bet she had just won.

What if her writers were true ballsy Democrats who believed in workers’ rights and they all went on strike during the same week she collected her sales windfall?

What if on the same day they all tuned in something that was in the public domain?  Is the “Modest Proposal” essay in the public domain?  Come to think of it, a strike did fatally cripple Hearst’s L. A. newspaper.

On the same day the sale was announced, a friend suggested that this columnist could improve the quality of his words if he would spend more time fact-checking and double checking for spelling errors.  A good city editor can turn one spelling mistake into a mortifying city room ordeal, but if it takes a goodly amount of time to turn out a contribution to the Internets done in a slap dash fashion, why should any extra time and effort be made?  Fox News’ personnel (Is Fox a farm club for the stand up comedian circuit?) are backed by a court decision that says they don’t have to report news that is “true.”  If they don’t waste time and money on fact checking, then why should a rogue columnist do it?

It is one thing for a Hunter S. Thompson wannabe to spend some personal funds to go to Fremantle in the W. A. (Western Australia) and spread the Gospel of online Gonzo Journalism, but it is a different thing entirely to see a Berkeley CA based web site owner and operator urge his work for free keystorkers:  “We have to go out and work harder for Democrats in the next election cycle.”  As Tonto once said; “What do you mean ‘we’ . . . ?”  Couldn’t an imaginative writer cook up a wild conspiracy theory about such an order? 

We seem to recall an issue of Paul Krassner’s “<I>The Realist</I>” which proclaimed that the Republican and Democratic parties were twins separated at birth.  At the time, it sounded absurd to us.  It seems we may have had the opportunity to naively question Krassner about that belief in a composing room encounter in the early Seventies, but deadlines are relentless and we didn’t have time to seize that chance.  We now believe that Krassner was “spot-on” with that Sixties assertion.

If the next election is a choice between a Reagan Democrat incumbent and JEB, then maybe it’s time to double check and see if we can still cross post our material on Digihitch because the extent of our efforts over the next two years will be along the lines of doing a random bit of voter trend spotting in the automobile museums of Germany.  If that doesn’t help Obama very much . . . oh well . . . at least there will be photos in the e-scrapbook to remind the writer when he gets old of just how much fun it was to do the “Europe on 5$ a day” routine in the second half of Obama’s first (and only?) term in office.

This year Germany is celebrating the 125th year of automotive history.  Sounds like a fun thing for this columnist to cover.  Once, long before we sent our first news tip to Ray Wert, we talked our way into a top rate automobile museum on a day when it was closed.  We’d like to think Mr. Hearst would give us a “well done” on that stunt.

W. A. Swanberg (Ibid page 57) wrote that Hearst regarded journalism as:  “an enchanted playground in which giants and dragons were to be slain simply for the fun of the thing.”  Wouldn’t it be funny if Hunter S. Thompson read that book before choosing journalism for his career?

Yeah, it was great fun the one time we saw our efforts mentioned on Mike’s Blog Report.  It made us feel like we might some day get a membership card and bragging rights that we were “in with the ‘in’ crowd,” but it was more fun when Time magazine’s Reagan era White House correspondent entered our apartment in Marina del Rey (many years ago) and exclaimed:  “My God, Bob, it is a hovel!”  We’ll have to work that moment into our memoirs . . . if we ever get around to finishing that project.

Would it be funny if a TSA employee said “turn your head and cough” during a pat-down?

The Daily Curser used to plug good blog postings.  They are long gone, but still listed on a list of other blogs at a certain high profile liberal pundit aggregator site.  Did the Cursor ever mention our efforts?  What blogger holds the record for “talking shop” with the most winners of a Pulitzer Prize?  Is four a good number?

Swanberg succinctly captured the hippie commune non-judgmental democratic atmosphere of a newsroom (Ibid page 70) in one sentence:  “The <I>Examiner</I> had drinkers of all categories, moderate, steady, intermittent and inert, and the staff was so flexibly arranged that when a member fell from grace another would take his place without comment.”

[Note:  One night in late 1996 we saw Hunter S. Thompson appear at Johnny Depp’s night club on the Sunset Strip.  He drank an amber liquid from a whisky bottle for three hours and at the end of the evening he wasn’t showing any of the three symptoms of intoxication, which are:  impaired physical dexterity, slurred speech, or incoherent thinking.  What up wid dat?  Was it a hoax or a miracle?]

Nietzsche wrote:  “Nothing succeeds if prankishness plays no part in it.”  We have always wondered how that applied to the stodgy Huffington Post or if it was the exception to the rule.  Now we know.

Now the disk jockey will play the Doors’ “Show me the way,” “See what the boys in the back room are having,” and “Pour me another tequila, Sheila.”  We have to go and try to decipher the inside joke behind the word “Rosebud.”  May you have a “Let’s celebrate the $315 million sale with a big party!” type week.  This columnist is going to have a glass of A & W. diet root beer and then browse through the travel guide books to Paris (France not Texas) which are available at the Berkeley Public Library – after we check out the latest pro Egyptian student demonstration at Sproul Plaza.

Imagining Lenny Bruce on Fox News

February 12, 2010

It was about six o’clock in the evening of February 9, 2010, the sun was gone and there was a threat of hard rain in the cold crisp air of the Berkeley evening.  I was wearing powder-blue jeans with a dark blue T-shirt, black sneakers, and black socks.  I was neat, clean, shaved and sober and I didn’t care who knew it.  I was on my way to the Pacific Film Archive to see “Pull My Daisy” written and narrated by Jack Kerouac.

In a video introduction, film maker Alfred Leslie told the audience about a time when the film was just being shown for the first times.  In San Francisco, Lucius Beebe hosted a social event, at a restaurant he owned, for the beat poet/novelist and the film maker.  Leslie told about how the two were sulking at the bar when actor David Niven arrived and was escorted to a table which would obviously be the social hub for the evening’s activities.  Niven quickly invited Kerouac and Leslie to sit at his table and immediately offered a toast for the guests of honor.  It was at that point, according to Leslie’s anecdote, the film maker and writer both realized that they had just been anointed into San Francisco’s high society and had graduated up from the ranks of the bikers, beatniks and bay area bohemians. 

Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg had been Berkeley residents and so we wondered if any of the graybeards in the audience were living links to the celebrated hitchhiking legend from the past.  We wondered if the Digihitch web site would cover the PFA program.  We were disappointed to note that the proprietor of the Beatnik Museum over in Frisco was, as best as we could tell, missing from the audience. 

“Pull My Daisy” is a specialty item.  The film would not hold much interest for anyone who was not interested in the subject of “The Beats.”  For those who do like that particular era of literary history, the thirty minute long film was a chance to see members of the famed writing group when they were young and vibrant.

On the walk back to the World’s Laziest Journalist Headquarters, we noted that Berkeley had also been a hometown for Philip K. Dick and since he was the author of “The Man in the High Tower,” Berkeley could legitimately make a claim to being where the cottage industry producing fictional alternative history was born. 

[It seems that this columnist is the only person in the universe who thinks that “The Man in the High Tower” accurately predicts the role Hunter S. Thompson would play in the history of the state of Colorado.]

Riffing on the idea of alternative history, we turned our back to Sproul Plaza and started walking down Telegraph Avenue.  We wondered:  If he were still alive would Fox News hire Lenny Bruce as a political pundit?  That idea seemed absurd, which consequently made it seem like something Fox News might try.

Our expectations of Fox News after the midterm elections are that they will increase the level of subtle racism in their attitude towards and coverage of the 44th President.  How would Lenny Bruce be fitted into such a strategy? 

Wasn’t Bruce a free speech martyr who got arrested and thus became synonymous with a nasty four letter word?  Didn’t George Carlin and the United States Supreme Court collaborate to prove that Bruce’s favorite word had to be bleeped off the airwaves?  Today that word is splashed all over the bleeping Internets and would be of no use to the Fox News game plan.  Unless . . . ?  Is there one word that Bruce could say and maybe get arrested on the air for using?

[Back in the Sixies, this columnist saw a local new reader in the New York City area get arrested on air, for possession, immediately after displaying a marijuana cigarette which had been sent to his station.   It looked a bit contrived.  Why did a cop just happen to be in the TV studio?  Who was that guy?  How did the case play out?]

Let’s see.  Could Bruce get arrested for calling the President a nincompoop, nitwit, nefarious or a nematocyst?  Nope!  Is there some other word that could produce a dramatic freedom of speech arrest of (hypothetically) Lenny Bruce these days?  NNNNNahhh?  Wait, what about if Bruce uttered a one word racial slur?  That might, with a bit of preparation on the Fox News producer’s part, work. 

How would liberals react?  Would they back the attack him or would they defend their darling?  If the Liberals defended Bruce for using the word, they’d look like racists; if they attacked him (in this alternate history case) they’d look like hypocrites.  Either way Fox News could just sit back and chortle. 

Fox likes to lull their audience into a hypnotic state and then download some Republican talking points so that they can be activated later, Manchurian Candidate style.  Lenny Bruce liked to shock and push things to the limit.  Could Fox use Bruce’s psychological quirks and drives to seduce him into their studio to say the most outrageous imaginable thing possible?  Wasn’t his specialty breaking social taboos?  Wasn’t he compelled to be bad when he faced any taboo?  How could the bad boy inside him decline any such invitation from Fox?

WWPKDD?  What would Philip K. Dick do?  It seems like many (most?) of Dick’s tales start with someone going somewhere (just as this column did?) and then running afoul of the fascists in charge of the country.   Their destiny seems to be a doomed existence.  It seems likely that Dick would endorse the idea of Lenny Bruce becoming a free speech martyr again, only this time as a pawn on the set of Fox News for a cause he didn’t believe and to prove the complete reprehensibility of “selling out to the establishment” by doing it.

Ursula K. McGuinn (who was born in Berkeley) has been quoted as saying:  “What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?”

Now, in an effort to prove that he’s a hep cat and familiar with the contemporary music scene, the disk jockey will play Daisy Dares You’s “Number One Enemy,” Me$ha’s  “Kiss and Tell,” and Seasick Steve’s “Cut My Wings.”  It’s time for us to go take a nap.  Have a “you are a card, sir!” type week.

Hunter S. Thompson Action Figure

May 30, 2009

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

We found a book titled

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

by Gary Trudeau

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

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

To be continued . . .