Posts Tagged ‘Philip K. Dick’

In search of Déjà vu in Berkeley

August 2, 2013

 

As political protests in Berkeley go, last Saturday afternoon’s rally of citizens protesting the sale of the Post Office facility in the downtown area didn’t seem to be a chance to watch history in the making but then we were told that something else would happen after the speeches and music were concluded.  We were provided a hint that it would be similar to an Occupy event.  On a summer day, when it is cloudy and chilly the appeal of going to a political protest in Berkeley that wouldn’t be something that folks would be talking about for years to come (the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Savio’s speech from the top of a police car is rapidly approaching) was not exactly overwhelming but on the other hand no other choice seemed better.

 

There were three TV trucks there and that indicated that the event did have some news value.  The number of TV trucks can equate to the news level of an event and we have seen perhaps as many as 10 trucks in Oakland for an Occupy Oakland event.  We lament our lapse in penny pinching judgment that caused us to skip the chance to buy a souvenir T-shirt at the “Camp OJ” convention of TV trucks in Los Angeles, some time back.

 

Experience from Occupy events indicated that any effort to remove the tents which were pitched on the Berkeley Post Office front steps would come either after dark or perhaps at dawn on Sunday, so we considered the array of possibilities our solo news organization efforts could select because it was obvious that eventually there would be a photo op for the removal of the protesters.  When not if. 

 

There was a lingering feeling of familiarity to the impending news event and it wasn’t just the Occupy events we had witnessed.

 

We weren’t too enthusiastic about the possibility that we could inadvertently need a friend to post bail if we got too close to a melee on a quiet Sunday morning, but we seemed compelled by more than curiosity to take a look-see early the next day.

 

Then we had a flashback.  Vietnam Veterans camped out in the lobby of the Wadsworth Veterans Hospital in the Westwood Section of Los Angeles back in 1981.  A summer co-worker at the Santa Monica Independent Journal Newspapers was a young fellow who was majoring in photojournalism in college and we advised him to monitor the events at the hospital very closely.

 

Leaving for work an hour early to swing by the protest and see what new developments had occurred became a part of the daily routine for both of us.  One particular morning, two or three TV trucks but no still photographers were documenting the removal of the vets from the hospital lobby.  Our young coworker took some photos and they were used by AP.  In his Junior year he had a portfolio that included his work appearing on the front pages of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Los Angeles Times.   He got a summer intern job at a daily newspaper in the L. A. area the next year.  We took a shot that turned out to be the only news photo (that we know of) that we’ve taken that appeared in the New York Times.

 

Didn’t the Wadsworth event bring world wide attention to the lack of care that was being provided to the Vietnam vets?   We thought that perhaps our next column might ponder the fact that the “never again” meme is always forgotten, new wars are started, and vets always have to protest to get better care despite the patriotic sentiments expressed as they marched off to the various battlefields around the world.

 

There have been stories online indicating that the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plants was much more serious than reported and we thought that skipping the plight of the Berkeley PO and writing about the thereat of radioactive water in the Pacific Ocean might be an good alternative.  Then we realized that the radio active debris story is being totally stonewalled by the mainstream media.  Could it be that the story is so negative that the chance that young folks might, if they realized “we’re all gonna die!,” go completely out of control and precipitate an “end of the world” orgy of excess is the real underlying cause of the news embargo on radioactive leaks? 

 

While attending the Saturday event at the Berkeley Post Office we noticed that several other activists tried to hijack the media’s attention with their cause.  Postcards were collected and sent to Bradley Manning.  The prisoner hunger strike was mentioned.  Concerned voters were encouraged to support the efforts of workers promoting the gay marriage and abortion causes.

 

During the week we listened to Armstrong and Getty and noticed a curious phenomenon concerning money.  The “hottest show on the West Coast” pointed out the hilarious aspect of the Detroit going bankrupt story and the possibility that workers would lose their pensions.  Detroit’s financial plight can be, according to conservative thinking, traced back to the greed of the union workers.  The “greed” motive is being mentioned as the ultimate cause of the need for a resumption of the BART strike in the San Francisco area.  The BART strike will resume on Monday.

 

Unions tried, in the past, to get money so that union members could live comfortably while raising a family and sending their kids to college and then enjoy retirement living.  Now, however, union workers who want a living wage are deemed greedy but billionaires who have more money than they will be able to spend in their lifetime need to be given more tax breaks so that they can have even more money.  Perhaps we should write a column elaborating this economic disparity.

 

We noticed this week that Uncle Rushbo has been eliminated from the lineup of about forty radio stations around the country.  (Is the classic rock format making a comeback?)  We wonder if he ever noticed our column that warned him that when all the liberal leftist voices are eliminated from the American pop culture scene, the fat cats won’t want to pay Uncle Rushbo his enormous salary if there is no socialist propaganda that needs to be drowned out. 

 

Won’t the tax cut hungry billionaires eventually deem Uncle Rushbo’s annual salary as an example of worker’s greed?  Can’t the radio executives find a new younger voice that will deliver the same seductive propaganda for a much smaller salary?  Isn’t Uncle Rushbo in a union?  Wouldn’t he, philosophically speaking, endorse an effort to disrupt his career and retirement plans by replacing him with non-union talent who would do the same pronucicating for a lot less money?

 

Recently we decided that it was time to take a night off and get away from political disputes, so we journeyed to a meeting of a local club for folks who like to pan for gold.  The effort of Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), to pan some gold, as seen in the movie “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” has been a leitmotif in our life since childhood.  The club meeting that we attended was devoted almost entirely to examining legal issues of the utmost importance to the club members.  Out comes the pen and the reporter’s notebook.  Scratch the idea of a night off.  There is one web site where many of the legal issues are listed and so now we have another topic in our “future columns” in box.  To get an idea of just how legally complexities are getting the attention of those hobbyists, take a look at the issues being discussed on the Western Mining Alliance (dot com) web site.

 

One professor at Berkeley has done a remarkable job of collecting information about the history of what the WPA did during the Great Depression (Please do not call it the Republican Depression!).  We’ve mentioned, in a previous column, that he is trying to promote the idea of a brick and mortar location for a New Deal Museum.  Perhaps if we do an entire column devoted to that topic then the feature assignment editor at the New York Times might give the effort some national publicity?  His scholarship can be seen on the livingnewdeal dot org web site.

 

Some of the peaceniks in Berkeley think that Bradley Manning should have been commended for following the moral advice delivered to the German war criminals in the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials but they conveniently overlook the fact that Manning isn’t in the German Army!

 

More than fifty years ago, Berkeley resident Philip K. Dick was writing novels predicting a fictional government spying on its own citizens. 

 

As of 10 a.m. PDT on Friday August 2, 2013, the Occupy the Berkeley Post Office steps protest was still protesting the proposed sale of the property.

 

[Note from the photo editor:  For a photographer, who was told “it’s a great picture but it generates too much sympathy for the anti-war crowd” when AP passed on the chance to buy a Vietnam War protest photo in December of 1966, the potential of taking some career making protest photos in 2013 only evokes a strong déjà vu reaction.] 

 

St. Ronald Reagan is reported to have said:  “A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane and smells like Cheetah.”

 

Now, since the theme of nostalgia has been recurring in this column, the disk jockey will play some songs that get automatic memory associations from the World’s Laziest Journalist.  Hearing Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t get you outta my head” will always make us feel like we are back in Australia.  The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the city” always takes us back to NYC in the summer of 1966.  Then he will play Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay.”  We have to go see the Peter Stackpole photo exhibition at the California Museum in Oakland.  Have a “Temps perdu” type week. 

 

Advertisements

Hackgate or Hecklegate?

June 22, 2012

Some news such as the potential for a Hackgate scandal is being completely ignored by mainstream media, while a rude conservative instantaneously becomes a celebrity journalist.  Between the two extremes of Hackgate and Hecklegate, lies a vast array of news stories of differing degrees of newsworthiness that should be getting more media attention.  The staffs of various national news organizations have been cut back to alarmingly low levels and stories that have great trend spotting value are being ignored by the various media that might have provided massive coverage if these same stories broke back in the day when manpower was plentiful for large newspapers and TV networks.

On Thursday, June 14, 2012, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) held a press conference to release their reaction to the the Frazier Report which criticized the OPD conduct in response to protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza on October 25 of last year.

On Friday, the Lakeview elementary school in Oakland was closed permanently.  Over the weekend disgruntled parents and teachers began a sit-in on the school grounds.

On Monday morning, the Oakland Police delivered to protesters the information that they were subject to arrest on the charge of interfering with the operation of a school, which is a serious matter.

As the week progressed it was unknown if the Oakland Police would adjust their response to the Lakeview school sit-in in a way which indicates that they have heeded the message of the Frazier Report or not.

Critics of the OPD would have other Americans believe that a new local version of the Algiers Motel Incident is almost inevitable.

If Oakland is becoming a microcosm of the problems and challenges facing many other American cities during the summer of 2012, then perhaps national news media (usually owned and controlled by conservatives) should be covering the political maneuvering in that city.  The politicians are trying to provide a miracle of the loaves and fishes style solution for the rapidly expanding list of budget shortfalls and municipal challenges.

News stories during the week indicated that Oakland would hire a Los Angeles based firm to manage the Oakland Coliseum as long as the agreement contained an iron clad clause that the company would not indulge in team poaching.   That brought to mind the old quote about “I don’t want lawyers who will tell me what I can and cannot do; I want lawyers who will get done what I want done.”

At the same time that a Republican Senator, who owns several homes, is staunchly asserting that it might soon become very necessary for the American military to become involved in a civil war in Syria, the Republicans, who have established their brand identity along the “for the sake of the children” style of thinking, seem to be willing to decimate public education nationwide rather than miss out on the chance to completely disregard the “never again” post Vietnam philosophy and plunge America directly into a shiny new war (AKA quagmire) in the Middle East region.

It seems as if the Republicans who were fearless of the deficit problem during the George W. era are now willing to sell off kids’ education and instead provide them with basic training and an M-1 (or the modern equivalent) in deference to deficit spending.

While student activists were objecting to generous raises for the UCB executives and trying to gain wage and benefit increases for the members of the AFSCME union’s local 3299, they had to contend with the possibility of massive cuts in the library service available to the students.  The Republicans seem ready to manipulate current students into a much higher interest rate for their student loans.

A recount of the votes for the smoking tax initiative in California’s June primary election were still being conducted as the week started, and the tally was “still too close to call.”

Financial markets around the world seemed to react favorably to the pro-Conservative results in the elections in Greece.  Pre election news stories indicated that the voter sentiment was leaning toward a socialist agenda.

Some skeptics were questioning the legitimacy of the election results in Egypt.

It seemed like the only journalist who was concerned about the legitimacy of the voting results in Wisconsin was Brad Friedman, who has provided extensive coverage about the reliability of the electronic voting and vote tabulating machines being used nation wide.  He was the only person drawing attention to the implications that if the recall results in Wisconsin were questionable, then conservatives might have used the contentious recall election there as a dress rehearsal for sliding more skewed results past the media in November.   (Google News search hint:  “Brad Friedman” plus “Command Center”)

In the past, reporters in the group known as Murrow’s boys (Yeah, we’ve read The Women Who Wrote the War” by Nancy Caldwell Sorel so we know that the war correspondents weren’t all guys) risked their lives to bring a very high standard of excellence to American Journalism during World War II.  Media owners (who are usually conservative) would like Americans to assume that is still the norm.  Unfortunately that is just as unrealistic as believing that Paul Josef Goebbels was a champion of freedom of the press.

These days it is much easier to get a major career boost from rude and boorish conduct at a President’s press conference than it is to do so via high quality reporting.  Who doesn’t love a class cutup from the Spicoli School of Journalism who can disrupt a President’s speech just as easy as he used to toss snide remarks at the teachers giving lectures at Ridgemont High?

How difficult would it be to convince high school dropouts (via cleverly disguised political propaganda?) that teachers don’t deserve to get the pension benefits they spent a lifetime earning?

The state of the art for Journalism in the USA has become so wretched that American journalists are happy to manufacture drama and uncertainty about how the Republican majority United States Supreme Court will rule on a case that could subsequently provide Republican propaganda specialists with an opportunity for asserting that there is no basis for speculating about the legacy of the first President with a pan-African heritage.

The world of conspiracy theory connoisseurs is buzzing with rumors that the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is conducting a competition that is offering a cash prize for the first employee who can come up with one single, all encompassing, narrative that includes three diverse items from the current events beat.

There is rumored to be a wealthy journalism media mogul who used wire taps and e-mail hacking in Great Britain to accumulate material which was then used to blackmail politicians for unspecified ends.

Brett McGurk’s e-mails were posted on a web site called Cryptome and caused the fellow to withdraw his efforts to become the American Ambassador to Iraq.

Some recent news stories reported that the e-mails of Mitt Romney, who is expected to be given the Republican nomination for President, have been hacked.

It is doubtful that even Philip K. Dick could concoct a logical narrative connecting the dots using those three items of public record, but if he were still alive and if he did concoct an entry for the competition and labeled it “Hackgate,” it is very unlikely that news media would take any notice.

Famous con man Frank W. Abagnale, in his autobiography, wrote:  “Almost any fault, sin, or crime is considered more leniently if there’s a touch of class involved.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Charlie Brown,” Chuck Berry’s “School Days,” and the drinking song from Sigmund Romberg’s “The Student Prince.”  We have to go see what odds the British bookies are giving for bets on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Obamacare case.  Have a “not drunk he is who can from the floor can rise alone to still drink more; but drunk he is who prostrate lies with power to neither drink nor rise” type week.

[Note from the photo editor.  A good deal of time was spent on Monday trying to get some adequate news photos from the Lakeview school sit-in in Oakland.  A return trip on Tuesday produced a better result.  A casual encounter with carpenters’ local 180, which was handing out information leaflets on Market Street in San Francisco on Wednesday, produced better (but less relevant?) photo images.]

The Philip K Dick effect in Berkeley

September 19, 2010

Walking around in Berkeley, recently, some very Philip-K-Dickish thoughts and storylines about time travel began to inspire some efforts at fiction writing.  When that was followed up by a chance to return to the City of Angeles it didn’t take long for it to seem like we had traveled back in time to when we used to go to work in the 90403 zip code every day.  The first column by this writer to get cross-posted online was one written several years back when it seemed like the topic of a Presidential Library for a fellow who didn’t like writing things down and was very secretive presented an irresistible opportunity to express some cynical skepticism about the prospect.

When we thought back to that column, during a stroll on the Santa Monica Mall, it seemed like it needed to be updated and rewritten to make some new points regarding the concept of a Presidential Library for Barack Obama. 

It’s not that Barack Obama is like George W. Bush at all, but it does seem that the idea of a Presidential Library for President Barack Obama will be as distasteful to the Republicans as the thought of a Presidential Library for Dubya was for the Democrats.

Let’s be blunt.  The Conservatives and the Republicans hate President Obama and if, as most of the high priced pundits think, the Republicans gain a majority in the House in the fall elections, not a single one of them will vote for the spending of one damn cent (or more) for a Presidential Library for Obama.  Thus any Obama Presidential Library will have to be a partisan effort and that, in turn, will only infuriate the Republicans even more.

The thought of an Obama Presidential Library at any time in the future will spur the Republican majority in the new Congress to work very hard to find a reason, any reason at all will do, for them to start impeachment proceedings the day after they pick their new House majority leader.

When the aforementioned column about the possibility of a George W. Bush Presidential Library was posted online, a good number of comedians just happened to come up with jokes about such a facility and what might be displayed in it.  Many of the jokes suggested coloring books.

The Republicans have indicated that if they gain a majority in the House in the 2010 elections, they will produce political gridlock.  We’ve suggested that the Republican strategy is tantamount to a de facto sit down strike but no one else has used that metaphor. 

This columnist can not recall seeing any other commentary about the challenges an Obama Presidential Library will face and so it will be interesting to see if anyone subsequently brings this up soon after this column is posted.

Won’t Rush Limbaugh become apoplectic when he realizes the strong likelihood that there will someday be a President Obama Presidential Library?

It will be virtually impossible to listen to Rush’s program during the coming week and so if someone reads this column and then hears Rush risking a coronary by talking about the prospect for an Obama Presidential Library during next week, we would ask that they post a comment noting the coincidence.

Ths idea of an Obama Presidential Library will upset Rush just as much as the phrase “Jeb Bush Presidential Library” would rile up most Democrats.  We’ll leave that prospect for inclusion in a future column about the unreliability of the electronic voting machines, which we intend to write some time in the future.

Note:  This column was written in and will be posted from a coffee house in Venice CA.  We are having a great time visiting L. A., but (there’s always a “but,” in these columns, eh?) we would rather be writing science-fiction in Berkeley!

Before we run the final quote, we’ll just point out that big forest fires are never blamed on terrorists.  (Nor are accidents in San Bruno.)

In “A Scanner Darkly,” Philip K. Dick wrote:  “One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven – or even proven at all – to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn’t there at all. If a bomb is wired to a car’s ignition, then obviously there is an enemy; if public building or a political headquarters is blown up, then there is a political enemy. But if an accident, or a series of accidents, occurs, if equipment merely fails to function, if it appears faulty, especially in a slow fashion, over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfiring- then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.” “One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven – or even proven at all – to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn’t there at all. If a bomb is wired to a car’s ignition, then obviously there is an enemy; if public building or a political headquarters is blown up, then there is a political enemy. But if an accident, or a series of accidents, occurs, if equipment merely fails to function, if it appears faulty, especially in a slow fashion, over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfiring- then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Night on Bald Mountain,” “Thus Spoke Zarthustra,” and Iron Butterfly’s “Inna Godda Davida.”  We have got to go back in time to point out to H. G. Wells where he got the basic principles of time travel wrong.  Have a “been there; done that” type week.

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.

PKD on terrorism?

August 31, 2009

In the novel “A Scanner Darkly,” Philip K. Dick (on page 91 paperback) wrote:  “One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotagelimits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven – or even proven at all – to be anything deliberate.”  How closely would Dick say that the fires in the Los Angeles region come to meeting his criteria?

Would you buy a used car . . .

February 18, 2009

If someone offered you a copy of an autographed copy of a  Philip K. Dick book that was published after he died, would you buy it or pass?

According to a fellow who was a friend of Dick’s, after he died a book was published and the publisher used the signature part of Dick’s personal checks (which the publisher got from the widow) to produce autographed copies of the new book.  That would be an interesting collectible with a great story to go along with it.