Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco CA’

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.


It seems like just the other day . . .

August 23, 2012

Finding a <a href =>

story on the Hispanic Business website</a> about a trust fund that the Republican Party’s presumptive Vice Presidential nominee had “forgotten” seemed like a good topic for a column but since the Republican Party’s “presumptive” nominee has based his campaign on his business record and has refused to release his tax records which would clarify questions about his qualifications for the Presidency, and since that clever bit of coyness seems sufficiently alluring to earn the fellow a virtual tie in polls; we deem the prospect of doing the work to produce a column that offers intelligent analysis of the implications of an overlooked trust fund an example of absurdity for inclusion in the Dadaism Hall of Fame.

The fact that this week’s polls show that the Presidential race is a toss-up, means that the only people who will question the final results that are produced by the electronic voting machines in November will be conspiracy theory lunatics.  It also means that it is too late to present facts which might help informed citizens change their mind about which candidate will get their votes.  As the croupier would say when the roulette ball hits the wheel:  “No more bets!”  The die is cast.  It’s time to write columns about sailing ships (the America’s Cup competition has started in San Francisco Bay), sealing wax, cabbages, and kings.

Would people who doubt the existence of global warming because it is based on the opinions of scientists be likely to consider the validity of an effort to use Schrödinger’s cat as a metaphor that explains the three card Monty game Mitt Romney is playing with his tax returns?  “Ah, hah, Mr. Romney. you have the Maltese cat?  You are a card, sir.”

We sent a link to the forgotten trust fund story off to radio talk show host Mike Malloy because he has more media clout and a bigger audience.

People seem to find the fact that TMZ found and published a photo of Paul Ryan without a shirt more interesting than the forgotten trust fund (or the completely ignored story about Paul Ryan’s girlfriend while he was in college.  [Google News Search hint:  “Paul Ryan girlfriend college”]  Keli Goff at The Root seems the reporter who got the scoop)

We have been intending to shift the focus of our columns to feature topics such as the effect the death of singer Scott McKenzie might have on tourism in San Francisco because that, at least, might lure some new readers from across the big pond, to this website.

Tourists from all over the world arrive in San Francisco and, equipped with maps, and then go walking around the various neighborhoods trying to imagine what it was like being there in the past during the Beatnik era.

Back in the Sixties, one had to dig deep to learn that the area around the Bus Stop bar had been called “Cow Hollow.”  That was the past.  The Beatniks had come (the location of the legendary Six Gallery was about three or four blocks away) and gone but who cared about the writers from the past when everyone was hip to Flip Wilson’s comedy routine about “The Church of What’s Happening Now!”

Learning to drive a stick shift V-dub on the streets of San Francisco at the time when folks were still chuckling because of Bill Cosby’s comedy routine on that very topic wasn’t funny because you could very easily get into a car crash whilst learning to make the deft maneuvers with the clutch pedal and the brakes.  Yeah, forty years later it may seem amusing, but not when it was actually “going down.”  There were laws governing how the front wheels of a car had to be positioned when parking on one of the famed hills.

Who cared about Beatniks when the cast recording of “Hair” was ubiquitous?  Beats were from a different decade.  Jack Kerouac was an old man in his forties reportedly living in Florida.  The Mamas and the Papas, the Doors, and the Jefferson Airplane were young and most likely would be playing a gig at the Filmore West very soon.

Back in the Fifties, when the Beat Generation in San Francisco was a popular media topic, the beats would have been talking about topics such as:  the Bay area disk jockey Don Sherwood, Herb Caen’s columns, and the arrival of the New York Giants at their new west coast home.

The beatniks had had their day and when the hippie era arrived it was time to enjoy KFOG and KABL radio, read Herb Caen’s columns, talk about Benny Bafano’s sculptures, see the Fantasticks, and voice an opinion about the War in Vietnam.

Young folks who stay this summer at the San Francisco Civic Center hostel will see a poster listing the lineup at the Filmore, for a concert on the 1969 Labor Day weekend.  They can look at the poster and just try to imagine what it would have been like to be able to go see that show.  About three and a half years ago, we were in that hostel, looking at that poster and thinking that very thing:  “Wow!  What would it have been like to be in San Francisco that weekend and have the option of seeing that show?”  Then we remembered, we had been seriously considered buying a ticket to that particular show until we got the chance to spend that weekend going for a job interview at the newspaper published in South Lake Tahoe.

On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, while doing some fact checking in the Beatnik North Beach neighborhood, we noticed a local artist using masking tape to make some political statements.

The map wielding tourists were searching for Beatnik ghosts and ignoring a fellow who was doing some street art.  We wondered if, forty years from now, tourists would be wandering around the same neighborhood wondering what it would have been like to stop and chat with Elvis Christ.  Since we can’t rationally expect to have that opportunity in 2052, we decided to take some photos and asked about him and his work now whilst we had the chance.

When we started back to the Transbay Bus Terminal, we encountered a photographer named “Grant” who had been shooting an assignment at the City Lights Bookstore for Interview magazine.  He had been taking photos of the store owner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was also a poet, a book publisher, and a genuine member of the group of pioneers who started the Beat Era back in the Fifties.

It would have been a great photo-op if we could have gotten the chance to take some pictures of Grant and his subject, but it has always been a tenant of the World’s Laziest Journalist’s philosophy that (as they used to say in the Sixties) you have to stop and smell the (pop culture) flowers  along the way.  “Be here, now!”

Writing about the pop culture is similar to writing about horse racing.  In the future, historians will look back on the summer of 2012 and focus on specific stories which will have become significant factors for inclusion in books about the election of the President in that year, but for a columnist trying to writing about the summer of 2012 as it is happening; an encounter with Elvis Christ will provide a desperation chance to solve the weekly dilemma “What will this week’s column be about?”

Ayn Rand has said:  “Whoever tells you to exist for the state is, or wants to be, the state.”

Now, the disk jockey will play a Pussy Riot album, a Jefferson Airplane album, and Scott McKenzie’s “(If you’re going to San Francisco) Wear a flower in your hair.”  We have to go check out the column potential of the Blackhawk Auto Museum.  Have a “California Dreaming” type week.

Remember Unions?

September 16, 2011

A noisy racket at 7:40 a.m., on Wednesday September 14, 2011, inSan Francisco’s Embarcadero district was designed to remind guests at the hotel across from theFerryBuildingat the foot ofMarket Streetthat they had crossed a picket line when they checked-in.  It also reminded one columnist of some San Francisco history and that it was time to take some photos and to collect whatever tidbits of information about union busting were available and not worry about a topic for the next installment of his continuing series of assessments of contemporary American Pop Culture.

One of the strikers described a recent confrontation with a critical citizen passerby who disparaged the strikers’ efforts.  She replied by offering the opinion that by supporting the management’s position he was actually supporting Osama bin Laden’s efforts to destroy America’s economy.  The citizen went and got a cop to provide the arbitration for the street debate.

The early morning commotion included the use of a kazoo amplified by a bullhorn augmented by some chanting and a striker who used another bullhorn to state her grievances.  Nearby some of the famed cable cars prepared to “climb half way to the stars.”  So did the noise level.  (We have to fact check and see if it was Keith Moon who played drums on the recording of “Stairway to Heaven.”)

Later on Wednesday (according to information found via a Google News search), the workers held a rally and agreed to return to work while continuing to express their grievances to company management. 

San Franciscotourists (and some of the city’s younger residents?) might be unaware of the fact thatFogCityhad been, during the Thirties, the site for one of the few general strikes in the annals of the American Labor movement.  Do the folks, who are planning the protest in Washington D. C. for October 20 of this year, know about the general strike that was held inSan Francisco?

When Teddy Roosevelt would mumble the word “Bully,” was he offering conservatives attitude advice on how to respond to complaints about working conditions such as those described in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”?

During World War II, there was a Broadway production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” that featured juvenile actors.  Will the repeal of child labor laws speed the demise of union? 

The description of the striker’s involvement in the curb side example of freedom of speech reminded this columnist of a pro-management conservative inLos Angeleswho also happens to be well versed in martial arts.  He often cites kung-fu movies as being an example of how individuals should be prepared to fight their battles with management alone.  Is the legend about one lone Texas Ranger single-handedly backing down a mob based on a true incident?

The fellow in L. A. ignores the implications of the axiom:  Negotiate together or beg alone.  He seems blissfully unaware of just how unrealistic those movies are.  In a film, Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee may beat-up a group of thugs but the bad guys always come at the hero one at time like the “take a ticket and wait for your number to be called” customers at a busy deli.  In real life (fact questioning trolls are referred to Hunter Thompson’s book on the Hell’s Angeles), if a karate expert blundered into a confrontation with a motorcycle gang, they wouldn’t fight him one at a time.  They would swarm over him (insert bear, bees, honey metaphor here) and beat the crap out of him. 

Fact checking trolls who challenge this are invited to go into a biker’s bar and learn first hand how inaccurate the kung-fu films’ level of reality is.  Do the actors in those quaint films belong to the actors’ union?  Can’t they fight their own labor disputes by themselves?

Reality has never been a serious consideration for those presenting the conservative point of view and it never will be.  Fox Views (News?) has legally established their right to tell lies as part of their efforts to report and let the audience decide.  If they really want you to decide about important issues, then we have a question:  How would you rate Fox’s coverage of the Murdoch hacking scandal?

We know of one particular conservative in L. A.’sSouthBayarea who asserts that the voices in his head have the call waiting feature.

If annual awards for hypocrisy are ever initiated, conservatives will be expected to dominate the yearly results. 

Take Uncle Rushbo and Sean Hannity (please, take them!).  Earlier this year they indulged in diatribes railing against unions.  Were we surprised to hear Mike Malloy mention that those two fellows were members in good standing in the very same union to which Malloy pays his membership dues?  Do wild bears . . . .  Conservatives and hypocrisy go together like . . . what?  Conservatives and hypocrisy go together like bikers and free concerts at the Alta Mont raceway!

We haven’t listened to Uncle Rushbo lately but we are curious to know if he is explaining how extending work hours and reducing wages can provide a logical basis for starting an economic recovery.  How the heck can people be out in the malls spendingAmericainto recovery if they have to put in extended hours at their desks to earn less pay?  Oh!  Yeah!  Run credit cards up to the limit!  What conservative doesn’t approve of that solution for a way to handle a tight budget crisis? 

Are the Republican members of Congress going to use the classical “sit down strike” strategy from now until a Republican is elected President?  Isn’t that like holding the recovery hostage and using that as a basis for a “You’ll get a recovery, when you elect a Republican President” type (implied) ransom demand?

If the Republicans use the union tactics of a sit down strike to bust unions, shield the rich from taxes, and regain the White House, would that  be an example of irony or hypocrisy?

Speaking ofSan Franciscohow did William R. Hearst’s efforts to break the union strike at the L. A. Herald Examiner work out?

In an effort to track down an appropriate closing quote from either Eric Hoffer or Harry Brudges (gotta help the conservative trolls earn their pay by providing them with deliberately misspelled names), we stumbled across the fact that Woodrow Wilson (wasn’t he a Republican?) told congress:  “The seed of revolution is repression.”

Now the disk jockey will play Woodrow Guthrie’s “Sticking to the Union,” Roy Orbison’s “Workin’ for the Man,” and the “Cool Hand Luke” soundtrack album.  We have to go make plans to attend the San Francisco Public Library’s 47th Big Book Sale September 22 – 25 atFortMason.  Have a “never heard Herb Caen’s name mentioned once” type week.

Searching for a new trend-spotting story

June 13, 2011

If the assignment editor for the Features Department of the New York Times newspaper just happens to read this column he may be very glad that he did if he gets a “heads-up” about an art story that he can assign, but what about everybody else in the world with access to the Internets?  Is it possible that a citizen-columnist might be the first writer to notice a story that is that good?  Or is it more likely that people will be very amused by the opportunity of seeing a self-deluded fool in action?  Isn’t that the very same reason why the news coverage (such as it is) of the Republican efforts to get their party’s 2012 Presidential Nomination is so fascinating?  Don’t those folks realize that JEB has a lock on it?

Columnists, much like journalists, are trained to turn on their cultural radar the moment they wake up and keep it scanning the contemporary scene until they drift off to sleep that night.

Were the college kids on KALX the first to play a trend setting song of the future on this morning’s program?  Did a localBerkeleyCAweb site break a story that will resonate with all the young people staying at the Sydney Central Backpackers Hostel?  Would it be worth the effort to buy a brand new book at Moe’s Bookstore, read it, and then review it for the entire world? 

Is it possible that a columnist could visit the used bookstore run by friends of the Berkeley Public Library and find some new (and shocking?) information about the Bush Junta in a book by Laura Flanders (Bushwomen Vero hardback) that was published outside the United States (in the American colony called London?) in 2004?  Isn’t Bush-bashing out of date?  Isn’t it too early now to be of relevance to the next installment in the saga of the Bush Dynasty?

Suppose that a columnist notices what seems to be a local trend in graffiti? 

Artists inCaliforniahave tended in the past to be at the vanguard of new national fads in many areas of contemporary American culturd.  Aren’t most of the journalists inCali, who work for a nationally known media headquartered inManhattan, especially keen to find a trend-spotting story?  (and thus get an “attaboy” from the home office?)

After purchasing a Nikon Coolpix digital camera, about a year ago, we were anxious to try out the close up setting and so we began to notice small examples of graffiti in the form of stickers affixed to inconspicuous locations aroundBerkeley,Oakland, andSan Francisco.  Since this columnist isn’t well versed in botany, and since flowers tend to vibrate in the wind, and since stickers don’t; we began to concentrate more on collecting images of the stickers. 

Some seemed to be mug shots of John Wayne Gaycie.  Was that a subtle political statement?  Are capitalists eating the poor?  Is it a call to action?  Is it an expression of a bit of sarcasm? 

One day, we noticed one particular example of this subcategory of graffiti that had been created on what had been a post office address label that was (in haste?) rather poorly stuck on an abandoned newspaper dispenser box.  We carefully removed the fresh example of folk art and took it back to the World’s Laziest Journalist news organization headquarters.  If these labels are hard to scrape off their location, does that mean that original examples are desirable collectables?  Who collects them?  How do they acquire them?

We went to Fantastic Comics, inBerkeleyCA, and 1 AM art gallery inSan Franciscoin an effort to track down more facts about this art trend.  The more we learned, the bigger the topic seemed to become.  While we were out and about trying to tack down the story, we were missing time when we could have been dispensing opinions online about some recent high profile celebrity sexual escapades such as the Ricky Nixon and St. Kilda schoolgirl scandal.  (Do a search on Google News for that exoteric bit of Australian celebrity gossip.)

We learned that the use of quickly applied pre-made examples of graffiti is called “slap art” or “sticker bombing.” 

Painting a mural sized graffiti painting takes time; slapping a label on a hard surface, doesn’t. 

Using spray paint cans to create graffiti can mean some sever problems if the artists are caught <I>en flagrante delicto</I> and their artistic efforts are construed as constituting vandalism.  There can be major problems with any offense involving the spray can school of graffiti art.  The legal penalties for putting up slap art are not (we are told) as stringent.  

You do the math.

Several more time consuming attempts to gather more information, such as trying to get contact information about the leading practitioners of slap art, only produced enough of a feint trail to indicate that it would take a lot more work to get an interview with either Broke or Euro.  (You want to talk to Banksy?  Fergedaboudit.)  Since graffiti artist don’t  often seek publicity in the pages of People magazine, that reluctance is precisely what would make a story in the Sunday editon of the New York Times so appealing to the aforementioned assignment editor.

Obviously being out in the sunshine and fresh air (what ever happened to the news coverage of the readings for nuclear fall-out downwind from the disaster in Japan?) is preferable to sitting in a dingy writer’s hovel at a computer pounding out some sarcastic snarky remarks about the teabaggers’ (wet) dream ticket of Palin-Bachman for the Republicans in 2012 (where would the lefties be with regard to gender equality and that pair?). 

[Would it be shameless bragging to repeat the anecdote about the time the guy who would become Time magazine’s White House correspondent entered my apartment in Marina del Rey and exclaimed:  “My god, Bob, it is a hovel!”?] 

Isn’t a unique individual initiative story with some trend spotting in Art, much more commendable than an anemic example of me too-ism wolf-pack punditry?

What if an online columnist combined into one story all this information: Congress is considering giving the President the power to declare war, a recent article by Semour Hersh in the New Yorker magazine suggesting that some intelligence agencies are cherry picking information that will indicate that Iran’s nuclar program is a threat to the USA, and Brad Friedman’s continuing efforts to undermine his audience’s confidence in the reliability of the electronic voting machines? 

What if such a hypothetical endeavor ultimately became a remarkably accurate forecast about JEB’s role in the Story of the Bush Dynasty in American History?  If that happened, wouldn’t the lone but perceptive pundit ultimately get many main stream media employment offers? 

BerkeleyCAhas a large much respected school of journalism, so it isn’t surprising to find a wide assortment of used books for sale that offer an insider’s close up look at the collapse ofAmerica’s free press.  How could there be that many books offering that idea whileAmericais lulled into a false sense of being well informed by a tsunami of Fox Political Propaganda? 

Has Journalism disintegrated into a farce where obedience to the political policy of the corporate masters is more important than “truth, Justice and the American way”?  Don’t the corporate owners prefer an obedient worker who will unquestioningly follow orders rather than a high maintenance rogue who gets it right?  Ostracism to the Internets’Siberiais its own reward?  What does that mean?

Andy Rooney, who is best known for his commentary on CBS TV’s Sixty Minutes program, has been quoted (Masters of the Air by Donald L. Miller Simon & Schuster hardback page 121) as saying:  “the worst kind of censorship has always been the kind that newspaper people impose on themselves.” 

Now, the disk jockey will play “Stuck on you,” the Drop-kick Murphy hit “Fuck you – I’m drunk” (did that get a lot of airplay?) and the unreleased music project known as the Rolling Stones’ contractual obligation album.

We have to go do some fact finding about the rumor that Banksy is teaching economics classes at a well known institution of higher learning in theSan Franciscobay area.  Have a “know when to run, know when to freeze” type week.

A visit to the 1940 World’s Fair (site)

March 31, 2011

“Swing,” Rupert Holmes mystery novel about the adventures of a musician in a swing band who is also an amateur detective investigating a death at the 1940 Worlds Fair held on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, left the World’s Laziest Journalist with an extreme case of regret about missing out on visiting that year’s West Coast alternative World’s Fair, which had to strive mightily to be noticed in the media shadow of the other one in the New York area.  The chance to rectify that gap in the columnist’s cultural resume had been relegated to a place in the “things to do when time travel becomes a reality” file, but then we recalled reading somewhere that the final vestiges of the Fair was available in the form of the <a href =>Treasure Island Museum</a> which was supposed to still be operating on the site.

On the morning of Wednesday, March 30, 2011, there was a plethora of column topics demanding immediate attention.  Listening to the Stephanie Miller radio show, it seemed like using the day to write a column in support of the Mooks’ right to castigate the President for giving his approval to the continuation of the Bush Crime Family agenda was a top priority.

A column making comparisons between the new adventures of the Legion of Libya Liberators and the Bay of Pigs fiasco would need some fact finding.  There would be an ironical difference:  the Bay of Pigs was lost because the United States failed to provide the rebels with air cover and the setbacks being suffered by the rebels in Libya, are happening despite the fact that the new rebels are being provided with their own Air Force, courtesy of the current Regan Democrat in the White House.  Such a column could be produced if a fact finding trip to the Berkeley Public Library’s Main Branch was conducted followed by an afternoon of intense keystroking.

If the columnist spent the sunny spring morning (March had produced 21 rainy days in the Berkeley area) rereading and jotting down pertinent information from Ian Patterson’s book, “Guernica and Total War,” the afternoon could be devoted to producing a brilliant and perceptive column comparing the Spanish Civil War with the efforts of the American led Libyan Liberation Falangists.  Can Gaddafi be compared to Franco?  Do civilians in Libya refer to the American air cover as something involving “the Condor Legion”?  Would that sobriquet sting the German contingent participating in the war for humanitarian reasons? 

Should we write a column noting that Australia, which has provided troops every time they were asked to do so by America, was given a pass this time because they were not invited to participate in this new American military adventure?

Should the day be spent pounding out a column urging popular support for Monday’s <a href =>Day of Action in support of the unions</a> in Wisconsin?

Would it be spurious to inject a plug for the efforts of a fellow Berkeley based photo blogger at the <a href =>What I saw in Berkeley today</a> website, into a three dot journalism style column?

Our desire to explore the last traces of the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939 – 1940 overwhelmed our dedication to duty and so we yielded to temptation and called in sick for the day so that we could travel there and gather information for a column on that non-political topic.

Treasure Island was built by the Army Corps of Engineers specifically to serve as the site for the Exposition and was expected to serve as the location where Pan Am Airline’s China Clipper would be housed after the Fair closed.  When the United States was pulled into World War II, the island provided a convenient location for a large new navy base.

Some conspiracy theory nuts are very skeptical of the fact that Treasure Island just happened to become available at the very same time when America needed to build a big naval base on the West Coast to conduct the Pacific faze of WWII.  Apparently they just don’t appreciate the fact that some coincidences come along at a very appropriate time.

The fairgrounds, on Wednesday, March 30, 2011, were deserted and void of tourists and walking down the empty streets was reminiscent of the opening sequence in the movie “Twelve O’clock High.” 

Late fair visitors can find a coffee shop and a pizza (was that invented by 1939?) place called the Oasis Café and two small convenience stores. 

We did wind up in the Naval base brig, which now is the site for <a href =>The Fat Grape Winery</a>, where the congenial staff (owner Patrick Bowen) welcomed this Fair visitor and gave us a brief tour of the facility even though the writer hasn’t had an alcoholic drink for a good number of years.

We were disappointed to learn that Sally Rand’s Dude/Nude Ranch didn’t deliver and hedged by featuring a cast of ladies who were “almost” naked. 

The <a href =>Fair headquarters building</a> is the location of a leasing office, today, and the surrounding area features a variety of sports fields which have had the same effect on real estate developers as a waving a red flag has on high strung bulls.  We were told that next month residents will learn what the next step toward in a redevelopment movement, with promises of high rise apartments with spectacular views of either San Francisco or the East Bay, will be.

Like most tourists, we took a good number of snapshots with our trusty Coolpix before hopping on the two busses which would return us to the World’s Laziest Journalist’s home office. 

When we got back there we began to have some feelings of guilt about (figuratively speaking) calling in sick for the day and felt inclined to bang out a column on a topic that would be more appropriate for use as content that would be posted on sites that feature political punditry.

However, President Obama has effectively put professional liberals (such as Stephanie Miller and Randy Rhodes) into a bind or what chess players would call a fork dilemma because they can no longer criticize George W. Bush and ignore Obama’s duplication of Bush’s war and torture policies.  Does that mean that Democrats can accurately say that they are being forked by Obama?  Liberals must either condemn both Presidents or drop the topics of torture and wars initiated by a President without Congressional approval. 

Republicans see no contradiction if they condemn Obama for doing the exact same things that their hero, George W. Bush, did.  Liberals are hesitant about praising the one and condemning the other for identical conduct.  If they do, they will appear to be hypocrites susceptible to the charge of being racists unfairly disparaging the President from Texas while condoning the conduct of another President from Illinois. 

Drat!  War and torture would have made such nifty campaign issues in 2012, but, thanks to Obama’s precious stunt regarding the Libyan Civil War, the topic is now moot.  Will the <a href =>El Segundo Blue Butterfly</a> become the hot debate topic in 2012?

We will have to stick with our decision to go with a column about a rather tardy visit to the 1940 event.

Dang!  If we actually had been able to do a real time travel visit to that event, we would very much have also wanted to stop at a Ford Dealer on the way home to buy a 1940 DeLuxe Ford convertible coupe. 

We did the best we could under the circumstances and enjoyed our “sick day” anemic attempt at time travel immensely.  The man made island was named “Treasure Island” because the author of that adventure classic, Robert Louis Stevenson, had been an area resident in the past for a portion of his life.  Perhaps, some other day, we will write a column about the long list of authors who have spent some time in or around the San Francisco area.

Pierre Jean Francois Joseph Bosquet, who died in 1861, may have made the best prediction of President Obama’s philosophy regarding the humanitarian effort involving helping the Libyan Rebels, when he said (he was referring to the Charge of the Light Brigade):  “It is magnificent, but it is not war.”

Now the disk jockey will play “In the mood,” “A nightingale sang on Berkeley Square,” and “Age of Aquarius” (Just to see if you are paying attention).  We have to go send a “Mook Power!” e-mail to Jim Ward.  Have a “strange days, indeed, mama” type week.

Fun at Bouchercon 41

October 17, 2010

This column will not contain any political commentary and, instead, will be about a fan’s reaction to attending Bouchercon 41 in San Francisco Oct. 14 to 17, which is the annual convention for mystery writers and fans and is named after William Anthony Parker White (AKA Anthony Boucher) who was a pioneer in the fields of both writing hard-boiled fiction and reviewing mystery novels.

The annual event is held in a different city each year and the selection of San Francisco as this year’s host city was appropriate because “Baghdad by the Bay” has a rich history for fans of detective novels starting with the fact that both Daschiel Hammett and his PI (Private Investigator) Sam Spade worked in the northern California city that is located at the Southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

A large subgenre of detective novels features an amateur sleuth who works full time and solves mysteries on a part time basis.  The day job background is an amazing smorgasbord of fascinating jobs, which often reflect the novelist’s past work history.  While at the Bouchercon we learned of novels featuring a detective who is a geologist (Susan Cummins Miller), a scrap booker (Joanna Campbell Slan), a travel writer (Hilary Davidson), and a former nun (Alice Loweecey).

Many police procedurals are written by former cops.  A sizable number of lawyers have decided to augment their retirement fund by writing fictional crime novels base upon their real life experiences.

This columnist noticed a woman in a very conspicuous hat and asked her:  “Are you Miss Marple?”  It turned out she was Jeanne M. Dams whose next book will be titled:  “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.”  When she said she wanted to write a Tea-cozy thriller novel, we blurted out a concept for a plot that her phrase conjured up.  She said it had merit and would take the suggestion under advisement.

We encountered four folks who were part of the staff of the Mystery Book Store in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, which has been a personal favorite of ours since before they moved to that particular section of town.  We learned from one of them that the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books which has been held annually at UCLA will be held in 2011 on the campus of the Bruin’s cross town rivals at USC.

We have been a fan of Doug Lyle’s non-fiction books about forensics and chatted with him several times during the SF event.  We intend to conduct an investigation into his new series of fictional adventures by a sleuth who is well versed in forensics.

It was at the aforementioned L. A. book store that we became aware of the novels of Tim Dorsey, who writes about criminals living in Florida, and so we were delighted to find a copy of Electric Barracuda in the goodie bag.

Lee Child was honored at Bouchercon 41 for Distinguished Contributions to the Genre.  Now we are going to add his novels about the knight errant named Jack Reacher to our “Must Read” list.  He was born in Great Britain but has become sufficiently Americanized to predict that the World Series will be a match-up between the Yankees and the Giants.  Although he himself is a Red Sox fan.

Rebecca Cantrell writes mysteries set in Hitler era Berlin (she knew about the evening TV newscasts during the Third Reich period) and so we will want to read all her novels.

Cara Black lives in San Francisco but her crime novels are based in Paris and so we put all her books on our literary “to do” list.

James R. Benn writes mysteries featuring a soldier in World War II and since one of our personal obsessions is life in occupied Paris, we’ll have to take a test drive (read) in one of his novels.

For a variety of reasons (to be elaborated in a future column about some news from the Maynard Institute), this columnist has become interested in the topic of prisoners who are innocent of the crimes that caused their arrest and so we spoke with Laura Caldwell, who took up the cause of a fellow who spent 5 years in a Cook County (Chicago) holding cell without a trial. She and others proved him innocent.  That inspired her book Long Way Home.

A segment of the mystery genre is occupied by former newspaper reporters who use the legends and lore they picked up on their beats to add authenticity to their tales of crime.  A smaller number are veterans from the wire services.  We were surprised (and showing our age) to learn from a former AP employee that AP is no longer Headquartered at 50 Rock.  Time marches on!

What political pundit wouldn’t be proud to boast that he (or she) had attended Nancy Drew’s 80th birthday party?

The titles for the Bouchercon 41 panel discussions were a bit baffling until it was revealed that they were titles of episodes from the TV series Streets of San Francisco.

An odd tidbit of information, for this columnist, is that a reference to a personal TV series favorite, San Francisco Beat, was not heard once during the weekend event.  Then again, neither was Paladin.

San Francisco was touted as leading the nation in two categories:  the number per capita of Independent book stores and the per capita number of barrooms.

Due to a clerical error on the columnist’s part, we botched the chance to meet and talk to Kelli Stanley about her novel City Dragons, which is about events in San Francisco’s Chinatown, during the 1940’s. 

The 2011 Bouchercon will be held in St. Louis and it will be held September 15 to 18.  The following year it moves to Cleveland followed by Albany New York in 2013, and then Long Beach in 2014.

There were folks at Bouchercon 41 promoting the Ninth Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival (AKA Noir City), which begins January 21, 2011, but the list of films to be shown has not been announced yet.

Mystery fans and columnists had to contend with a tsunami of information and so any write-up (such as this column) will have to be subjective, random, and capricious in nature and thus be a disservice to the many deserving authors who didn’t get a plug.  (Sorry!)  Such a column will, however, be a way to set out some Google bait which will cause a great number of mystery writers to find this particular web site. 

There is enough information about crime fiction set in San Francisco to fill a book, which is precisely the reason why the book titled Golden Gate Mysteries is being published by the University of California at Berkeley.

The 125 Anniversary edition of Bartlett’s saw fit to include this quote from Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled classic, The Maltese Falcon:  “That’s the part of it I [Sam Spade] always liked.  He [Flitcraft] adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to their not falling.”

Now the disk jockey will play the soundtrack albums from the movies:  Bullitt, Vertigo, and Dirty Harry.  We have to go to the Berkeley Public Library and start whittling down our now gigantic sized “must read” list.  Have a “Go Giants!” type week.  Hope over to our photo blog “floppyphotos” also on wordpress, for photo coverage of the SF event.