April 12, 2014

KrakenCon: Living in a fantasy paradise

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 9:34 pm

For those of you who haven’t got a clue what KrakenCon is, it’s a semi-annual, semi-local, no-holds-barred costume parade and fan convention geared to appeal to devotees of Japanese anime comic books, TV shows and movies. And, trust me, there are a LOT of Japanese anime fans in America, most of them part of the millennial generation (I was the oldest person at KrakenCon — by about 40 years).

And this year’s KrakenCon was held in Oakland. So rather than shell out a bunch of money I don’t have and buy a plane ticket to San Diego in order to go check out ComicCon, I ended up at KrakenCon instead — where everyone is all dressed up like a cartoon character from Japan and it only cost me the price of a BART ticket to get there from Berkeley.

And as I wandered around the convention among all those hundreds of costumed anime fans, I couldn’t help asking myself, “Why are all these people so intent on escaping reality?” Well, the answer to that question is obvious, duh.

Why should so many members of the millennial generation even bother wanting to live in real time these days — and thus be forced to deal with climate change, endless war and political hypocrisy on a level that leaves our minds stunned and numb? Why deal with all that downer stuff when they can escape into a fantasy paradise filled with fun creatures like Sailor Moon and InuYasha and Squid Girl instead?

What would you do if you were under age 35?

I’ll tell you what I would do if I had been born after 1978. First off the bat, I would dump all those dirty old men on the federal Supreme Court. Dirty money. Would Kiki or Totoro or Howl put up with that kind of greed? Not for a minute!

Next I’d get rid of all those cold-hearted CEOs of huge corporations who will do anything (anything!) for money — killing off millions of innocent human beings and cute baby animals for fun and profit. Power Rangers would never do that. And neither would Asuta.

If I myself was part of the millennial generation, I’d make damn sure that no one in Congress ever took a nickel from anyone who lived on more than $50,000 per year. Yeoman democracy! That’s what I would work for. And so would Jiro Horikoshi and Naruto too. Let’s make our congressional representatives kiss our butts for a change — instead of always bending over for Wall Street.

Of course a heroic amount of the upcoming millennial generation is already doing all of this stuff right now — as well as enjoying a fantasy paradise while doing it too. And hurray for you! I salute all of you — and even fishmen and krakens do too. The fate of our entire planet rests in the hands of this generation’s idealism. “Time to release the Kraken!”

“But Jane,” you might say, “don’t these people know that anime characters aren’t really real people.” So what. Corporations aren’t really real people either.

PS: KrakenCon was totally fun. And all the hundreds of people there dressed in full anime drag must have spent weeks and months working on creating their costumes. Good for them. Who says that cottage industries are dead.

And Margaret Caragan and her truly talented special effects team from Pandora FX were also at the convention, and they promised to turn me into a zombie right there on the spot. Too late! Been there already. Already done that.

PPS: And another fantasy paradise that I have just recently learned about is called “Oklahoma”. Yes, the state. You read that right.

Apparently a hundred and more years ago, African-Americans, Indians and socialists in Oklahoma all banded together to try to create a place where there was no economic exploitation and no racial prejudice. But of course their fantasy of an on-going democratic egalitarian paradise in Oklahoma was never allowed to happen and, after the dust had finished settling, a large number of horrendous and brutal acts of suppression by government, corporatists and haters had left hundreds of these idealists dead, thousands of them in jail, tens of thousands of them burned out of their homes, and over a hundred thousand of them had their land seized right out from under them.

However at least we now know that, somewhere, these old-timey salt-of-the-earth Americans did at one time try to stand up for their rights and to create a fantasy paradise — in Oklahoma. And this July, Global Exchange is offering a tour of all of the places where this all happened back in the day, culminating in a trip to Woodie Guthrie’s home town. And if you want to go on this tour yourself, please sign up for it here:

April 11, 2014

Tanks, cars, and books

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:27 pm


Napoleon learned the hard way that waging war during winter in Russia is a brutal ordeal.  Hitler disregarded his military advisors advice and dawdled for a few weeks before implementing their strategy.  The postponement caused the German army to relearn Napoleon’s military lesson that was readily available in the history books.

American news reporters and political pundits apparently aren’t aware that Vladimir Putin would be much more versed in Russian history than they are and led their audiences to think that after the winter games were concluded the Russian leader would immediately make a military move in the Ukraine.  The American journalists’ eager anticipation of doing voiceovers for dramatic video of new hostilities in that region is getting bogged down in the spring thaw mud.

If the newsies would read up on military history they could sound authoritative and knowledgeable if they advised their audience to expect any military movement in late spring or very early summer.  Televised news thrives on expediency and so they disregard practical considerations and emphasis that Putin could send troops into the Ukraine any minute rather than taking the spring thaw into account.

[For a different perspective on Putin try reading Christian Neef’s commentary “It’s time to stop romanticizing Russian” in the English language section of Der Spiegel’s web site.]

Some folks think that a guy who was community organizer will not be pushed around by a former KGB agent who was born in Leningrad.  This columnist is prepared to bet otherwise.

While we are waiting for the news readers’ time schedule for life-and-death drama to unfold on dry ground, we seized an opportunity to see the exhibition of French Impressionist paintings at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco while simultaneously reading Christopher Moore’s speculative fiction novel “Sacré Bleu” about the same group of famous artists.

The San Francisco show may lure some French Impressionist enthusiasts from “shakey town” up to the Bay area just to see that particular exhibition and we don’t think they will be disappointed by the effort.  It is closer and cheaper than a trip to Paris, eh?

Since Christopher Moore is publicizing his newest book, “Serpent of Venice,” and he is coming to the Bay area to do a book signing event at 7 p.m., at Books Inc. on April 22 later this month, we sent him a suggestion that he might like to see the show at the Legion of Honor and we are attempting to perhaps interview him while he is in Frisco, so that we can get some exclusive information which will give us another chance to plug his newest novel again in a future column.

While sensation seeking journalists eagerly anticipate Putin’s next move, for columnists, April is a smorgasbord of topics.  The Titanic, the century old run-up to WWI, the similarity of events in the late Thirties to the show down in the Ukraine, and yet another chance to write about National Columnists’ Day (April 18) and see if we can enlist the aid once again of Jim Romenesko, who runs an “inside baseball” website for journalists, to help us in our annual effort to raise awareness of the date which marks the day when famed columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action during WWII.

Meanwhile car enthusiasts are busy preparing to celebrate the Ford Mustang’s 50th birthday.

Since coast to coast journeys always get our attention, we will plug the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Beer Camp effort to promote a celebration of hand crafted beer even though we haven’t had a brew in several decades.  Do they need a designated driver/columnist?

Willie Nelson is famous for playing musical gigs at American Honkey Tonk bars and since he will be playing two shows at UCB’s Greek Theater this weekend, we will henceforth be tempted to think of the local world famous learning establishment as being “Honky Tonk U.”

The Ambush Review is holding a poetry reading at the Beat Museum in San Francisco on the night when this column will be posted and so we may feel obligated to cover the event in the hopes that it will become a milestone in literary history similar to another one  that happened in that same city many years ago.

This month we intend to do some fact checking on the pop culture beat to learn more about “the Spleen” from the Mystery Men.  It seems the fellow’s super abilities are unleashed when he gets a positive response to his signature challenge:  “Pull my finger!”

NBC has caused a sensation this week by starting a search for new sit-com talent by issuing an opportunity to make an online pitch.  (Google hint:  NBCComedyPlayground dot com)

War usually gets such bad publicity that we were very glad to see that the premise for the new book “The Love-charm of Bombs,” by Lara Feigel is that the Battle of Britain provided an exciting and romantic backdrop for Great Britain’s social elite to have extra-marital love affairs.  Wasn’t it called the “live life to the hilt” approach to contending with impending doom?

If American news media stations assign some correspondents to go to Perth to monitor the MH 370 search efforts, does that mean that they will, during the wait, be expected to start filing feature stories about the charms and tourist attractions available in the W. A.?  The million square mile state known as Western Australia is called “the W. A.” by locals.

Maybe some of the visiting journalists will note that a large number of local vehicles feature snorkels and that indicates a high likelihood for some freelance assignments from America’s 4wd publications?  What journalist doesn’t love the prospect of some extra loot via a bit of freelancing done on the side?

Speaking of “appropriate setting,” Kalgoorlie is the perfect place for an American to hear Bobby Bare’s “Five Hundred Miles” song.

Fans of the film “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” might want to read about the Prospectors’ Hall of Fame which is located in (relatively speaking) nearby Kalgoorlie.

[Note from the columnist:  We have been posting a column almost every week for 15 years but due to some temperamental vintage computer equipment, we might be forced to go AWAL one of these weeks.  We’ll start taking preventative measures, but there are no guarantees in life, eh?]

[Note from the photo editor:  We illustrated the 50th birthday for the Ford Mustang by running a file photo taken a few years back at the Los Angeles Shelby American Auto Club’s annual car show.]

In “hip: the history,” by John Leland, readers are informed that George W. S. Trow wrote:  “To wear a fedora, I must first torture it out of shape so that it can be cleaned of the embarrassment in it.”

The disk jockey will play Wilson’ Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” the theme music from “Un Homme et une Femme,” and Marianne Faithful’s “Ballad of Lucy Jordan.”  We have to go inquire about how to get a press pass to cover this year’s Le Mans 24 hour race.  Have a “why do we do this, Buzz?,” type week.

April 5, 2014

America & Israel: “War is our most important product”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 4:41 pm

I just finished reading an article about how guns and munitions have become Israel’s most important export — and immediately I started thinking, “Hey, that is America’s most important export too!” America and Israel now have so much in common. No wonder AIPAC is so popular here and Israelis love Americans so much. They are practically twins.

And how many other countries in the world today can make this claim: “War is our most important product!” I can’t think of a single one offhand.

But now let’s take this down a few notches — from the international level to the personal. What if the best and most important thing that I could do with my own life right now is to manufacture and sell guns too? Just call me the next Sarah Winchester!

Not to teach children, not grow crops, make music or create films, not be a religious, spiritual or moral person or even to manufacture trains, buttons or soap — screw all that pansy stuff. Just to manufacture and sell weapons and guns.

“But mommy, we had guns for dinner last night!”

“Just shut up and bite the bullet, kid.”

“Can I go over and play with Jenny? She’s got a new bike?” No she doesn’t. She’s got a new AK-47.

And what if a civil war started in America? That’s totally possible. And what if there was a civil war in Israel too — between its secular neo-cons and ultra-orthodox extremists? Also totally possible. Just think of all the profits that gun manufacturers would make from all that. “War isn’t just for foreign countries any more!” could be their slogan. A buck is a buck.

PS: Never forget that Creativity is the very best antidote for War.

Both America and Israel seem to be addicted to war right now. And this upside-down sicko attitude toward what is really important in life is going to kill off both countries (sooner or later) if they don’t watch out. But creativity is the strongest antidote for war. So let’s all help people get hooked on being creative instead of on being viscous, immoral and mean.

For one thing, creativity is a hecka lot more fun. And for another, it doesn’t leave you with PTSD the morning after either.

Wouldn’t you really rather have composed the “Ode to Joy” than to have brutally and senselessly slaughtered a million people in the Middle East? When I was a war correspondent in Iraq, I saw blood flowing from innocent bodies there — and, yes, I’m still bitter and pissed off about that.

How much nicer it would have been if I had been able to take a tour of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon instead.

PPS: The Flight 370 murder-mystery still continues Now the world’s various “Command” top guys are refusing to release official air-controller radio transcripts, radar data and other documents. Does this sound familiar or what?

One would think that — after all these years of watching internet bloggers do their homework with regard to who was doing what to whom in Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, NYC, Palestine, Haiti, Ukraine, etc — that certain “Command” top guys would at least know how to get their stories straight by now. Americans no longer blindly accept cover stories and false flags like they did back in the 1950s with the murder of Patrice Lumumba and the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government, or in the 1960s with the Gulf of Tonkin false flag.

We American “Gladiators” have become far more sophisticated since then.

April 4, 2014

Trash news for America

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:24 pm

The Pravda Syndrome, according to a reliable source, refers to the condition that developed in Russia when people automatically doubted the state sanctioned version of the news.  A news story would immediately generate a belief that the exact opposite must be true.  The USA, he warned, is beginning to show symptoms of an impending epidemic of that malady.  (Starting with Fox?)

Will the Gulf of Tonkin resolution be fifty years old this year?  If so will the free press take a critical look at how the American voters got fooled?

Will the news stories about the century anniversary of the start of WWI tell Americans about how a little lie about the cargo on the Lucitania got them into a war thousands of miles away from the homeland?

How credible were the reassurances that the troops who took part in nuclear testing in the desert had no worries about long term effects?

A controversial topic can always be exempted from debate by labeling the issue a conspiracy theory and then all dissent must halt immediately.

The ecological damage done by Fukushima, any possible explanation of what happened to MH 370, and secret negotiations with Russia to avoid WWIII are all “off-limits” topics for journalists and so pseudo news is becoming a viable industry so that Americans can see something that can be extolled for providing an example of freedom of the press, which is always one of the defining examples used to motivate the poor and middle class to send their children off to war in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a country that wants voters to be fully informed so that they can make well-informed decisions, giving controversies an automatic exemption from debate defies logic but since it is an American tradition, if you don’t like it . . . go jump in the lake just like the fellow did in “The Manchurian Candidate.”

Greenpeace has been asserting that the oceans of the world are littered with trash and the more false alarms that satellite photos generate for the people searching for the remains of the missing MH 370 airliner the higher the likelihood that rubes in flyover country will eventually come to the conclusion that the forecasts of impending ecological disaster could generate a preemptive response.

Part of the standard Conservative response to Liberals (including the “save the whales” faction) is to question their sanity.

Conservatives expect Americans to assume that the Oceans are pristine pure and that any time any satellite photo shows some flotsam and jetsam, people must automatically exclaim:  “That must be from MH 370!”

The Greenpeace movement has been dismissed by Conservatives as a bunch of whacko altruists who make absurd claims about seeing an island of trash in the middle of various Oceans.  If there are too many examples of false alarms in the search for the missing airliner then there may come a time when the Greenpeace assertions become uncontestable.

Shouldn’t a Greenpeace spokesperson be getting face time on the Network News to show satellite photos of the Island of Trash and predict that the debris from MH 370 may never be found?  Would a humorous “we tried to warn ya” be copasetic?  (Isn’t that a Sixties word?)

If the Conservative News Nabobs aren’t vigilant in their mass mind control duties, the curious incident of the transponder that didn’t bark may wind up being the biggest factor in a gigantic spike in the performance graph for the ubiquitous Greenpeace fundraisers who solicit funds from High Street in Fremantle to Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley CA and beyond.

The fact that the nightly exercises of excellence in propaganda (AKA the Evening News) are not mentioning the Greenpeace explanation for the false sightings indicates only two possible explanations:  incompetence or deliberate planning.

If all of the nightly propaganda programs miss the obvious through incompetence, the prognosis for democracy is grim.  If the error is premeditated, then expecting voluntary preventive ecological measures is irrational.

When the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster occurred, business owners raised economic objections to installing fire escapes.  Expecting modern capitalists to increase production costs just for (hypothetical?) extreme long range goals is unrealistic.  Greed will always trump altruism in a capitalistic society.

Isn’t the Supreme Court going to take another look at the American tradition that lets team owners grow richer by exploiting athletes while being exempt from many regulations about workers’ rights?  Don’t the corporations known as colleges have the same rights as wealthy team owners?

A past TV report (BBC?) indicated that manmade trash is washing up on the beaches on Wake Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Many years ago, media in the USA carried reports that beachcombers on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula were finding some very intriguing debris.  Specialists were sent and it was determined that the curious detritus was actually trash from the Battle of the Coral Sea.  It had taken approximately 20 years to make an Eastward crossing of the Pacific Ocean.

Would it cause a big sensation if the search for MH 370 produced some wreckage from Amelia Earhart’s missing airplane?

We wonder if any of the talking point readers who are “covering” the search for the missing MH 370 airplane on temporary assignment in Perth will on their days off go down to Fremantle and the beach at Cottesloe (we understand there is a “free” beach just North of that world famous beach) and if they will sample the local music scene.  (Google hint:  who is playing at Mojo’s this weekend?)

Abandoning the search and adopting the nihilistic “Such is life” philosophy may seem crass and coldhearted but in the Golden Age of Austerity the search can’t go on forever.

Will the Fox faithful ever get to hear a feature story about the Pravda Syndrome?

Was it inevitable that shooting rampages would become routine news and hence slip out of the “hysterical obsession” category of news stories on the 24/7 cable news networks?  It seems that historical milestone was reached this week.

The 36th annual St. Stupid’s Day festivities were held in San Francisco this week.  Rumors are rampant in Frisco that the media in-crowd in New York are asking if San Francisco is the new New York.  If they have to ask that question, that means they already know the answer and they won’t have to wait until they see it in Pravda to believe it.

[Note from the Photo Editor:  Sixties icon Wavy Gravy participated in the St. Stupid’s Day parade in San Francisco on Tuesday and we got some photos of him.  What’s not to love about a Sixties flashback?]

It wouldn’t be prudent to use a notorious excerpt from Lenny Bruce’s comedy (?) track titled “Non Skeddo Flies Again” as the wrap it up quote and so we will note that back in the day before 140 word limits were considered cool, Lafcadio Hearn, at the beginning of “Midsummer Trip to the Tropics” went on and on about just how blue the ocean would be where he was going.  We’ll use a self-imposed limit of one sentence and for the closing quote use just this one:  “The painter who should try to paint it would be denounced as a lunatic . .  . .”  (The journalist who tries to report the news [especially the countdown to JEB’s Inauguration] accurately will be denounced as a lunatic.)

Now the disk jockey will play Charles Trenet’s “La Mer,” Slim Dusty’s “I can still har dad swearing,” and Judy Collins’ “Send in the Clowns.”  We have to go finish reading Pete Hamill’s “Why Sinatra Matters.”  Have a “don’t bother; they’re here” type week.


March 28, 2014

At the LLC murder-mystery convention: Nobody’s mentioned Flight 370 so far…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 6:18 pm

While driving to a murder-mystery writers’ and readers’ convention in Monterey, CA the other day, I stopped by Silicon Valley to have lunch with my old college sweetheart. Good grief! How come I have aged so much and he hasn’t? That’s totally not fair.

A friend of mine in Germany had emailed me that I absolutely, positively had to visit the Paris Bakery while I was in Monterey Which I did. And got hooked. So much for my gluten-free diet. It’s clear that I’m gonna pay a steep price for this discrepancy when I get home. But not now! Too many eclairs, croissants and napoleons to sample. Greed triumphs over common sense. Again.

Once actually at the convention, I immediately scored my 40 pounds of free books. First things first. Greed again. Who would have thought that I was such a hoarder. But apparently I am. Who can possibly read three murder mysteries per day for a year? That’s just plain greedy. It’s like how the U.S. military collects all those countries, weapons and bombs. Hoarding. Just plain greed. Except that you can’t blow up cities and kill babies with books.

But how can I possibly begin to describe this convention? All kinds of fabulous authors spoke. And in between sessions, I ran off to the movies and saw “Omar” (you just gotta see it!), the Grand Budapest Hotel (laughed my socks off) and “Tim’s Vermeer (very interesting of course but I dozed off for a few minutes half way through — it was PBS on steroids).

My favorite authors speaking here were Lisa Brackmann, Johnny Shaw, Louise Penny, Cara Black, Brad Parks, Laurie R. King, Terry Shames, Rhys Bowen, Lee Goldberg, Sue Grafton, Sophie Littlefield, Simon Wood, Doc Macomber, Robert Kroese, Kelli Stanley…. Oh hell, they were all my favorites.

Except that Janet Evanovich wasn’t there.

And all of these fabulous authors gave talks and/or spoke on panels. But not even one of them mentioned the strange mystery of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370 — or why it went down in the southern Indian Ocean instead of landing safely in Beijing — closer to Diego Garcia than to Peking duck. That’s a hecka long way to be off course.

Anyway, my main take-away from the first day of the conference did solve one big mystery for me — why in the world do I like crime-fiction novels so much? At a panel discussing murder mysteries and social justice, one author stated that, “I never write about anything that involves social justice. My books are just straight crime novels.” Which caused a light bulb to turn on in my brain.

“Every single murder mystery ever written is always solely about social justice — or even just plain justice itself,” I replied during the Q&A. “They all have to do with bringing killers to justice. And in every single one of these books, justice is always obtained.” No wonder I like murder mysteries. I am such a big fan of Justice — with a capital J. If only we could track down all those evil killers on the national and international political scene as successfully as Sherlock Holmes or Aimee LeDuc or Kinsey Millhone or Ellie McEnroe tracked down their bad guys.

But it’s all a matter of transparency. In crime-fiction novels, transparency is always achieved eventually. But in the covert world of the CIA, the Pentagon, NSA, Washington and Wall Street, transparency sucks eggs.

And the greatest murder-mysteries of our day — deadly climate change, sleazy bankster fraud, Monsanto’s silent-but-deadly GMOs, unconscionable War Street attacks on the Middle East and the creepy neo-Nazi corporatists’ takeover of our government — may never be solved. Until it’s too late, that is. “Oh, now we know who-done-it!” we will all cry out — cry out from our graves.

PS: Meanwhile, back at the Paris Bakery, there are even more important mysteries to be solved. Should I have almond croissants or eclairs for breakfast? Or that round thingie over there with all that whipped cream?

Fear and Loathing in Oakland

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:28 pm

Anarchists’ Book Fair in Oakland

On the day after Scott Olsen was awarded $4.5 million for injuries incurred during an Occupy Oakland protest, the folks who believe that the police are out of control held a book fair in Oakland.

A group called Copwatch was in existence before the first Occupy Oakland protester brought a tent to Frank Ogawa plaza.  The Occupy movement produced many examples of conduct that Copwatch wants to eliminate.  The protesters allege that the wealthy are being given priority treatment in a society that preaches all men are created equal.

Access to public restrooms was severely restricted during the Occupy time period.  The police then alleged that the protesters were uncivilized creations who didn’t use bathrooms and soiled themselves.

People (including the corporations known as “people”) who don’t pay taxes couldn’t care less how much Scott Olsen received as a settlement because it is the average citizen who will foot the bill for the cash awarded to the injured protester.  The fact that the richest pay no taxes and this law suit settlement will be paid for with funds provided by the middle class and poor taxpayers and not the rich seems to be an example of achieving perpetual motion.

When the Scott Olsen incident happened news reports indicate he had been hit by a teargas canister but when the cash award settlement was made, it was described as injuries received when he was hit with a beanbag.  Doesn’t that sound like a much more benevolent way to be injured for life?  Getting hit by a canister sounds barbaric but getting knocked out by a beanbag sounds like some high spirited schoolboy rowdiness  got a bit out of hand.

We wondered if there would be a large amount of coverage of the Anarchists’ Book Fair, on the day after the settlement was announced on Friday, March 21, 2014 or if we would pretty much have the Saturday story for our own.  Berkeley journalist/blogger Ken Knabb had a table at the event, and we were interviewed by a reporter for KALW radio but we did not see any evidence that would support a contention that the even received much additional coverage.

We thought the event would provide us with a blank check for some clever word play such as “we had a blast covering it” and “we’ll take a shot at describing it.”

Most folks think that anarchy is a synonym for bedlam and pandemonium but the anarchists say that it is a bit more of a less government form of political philosophy.  Take a closer look and it sounds like a mirror image of the Republican teabagers’ agenda.

The rich fuckers who think that the solution of the homeless problem is to tell them:  “Go home!” see no irony in the fact that many of them are in that condition because banks foreclosed them out of their domicile.  It’s kinda like telling an alcoholic to have a drink, eh?

Dump then out of their homes, put them in the streets and then tell them “go home!”  Who says they don’t have sense of humor that produces kneeslaper jokes?

Are the capitalists who want people to work for minimum wage, buy their goods at the company store, and pay big tax bills the root cause of society’s unrest or is it the anti-social(ist) rabble who cause the winter of our discontent?

Bob Calhoun was there promoting his book “Shattering Conventions,” which is a journal of his exploration of the world of expos and conventions.  Wouldn’t that make an intriguing shtick for use as a weekly feature by a outlet in the mainstream media?  What’s not to love about the idea of a fellow covering a new gathering every week?  (Isn’t that just the kind of thing USA Today would publish?)

Endless Canvas is a website that features news and photos of interest to graffiti artists and their fans in the San Francisco area known as “the East Bay.”  Two of the local celebrities in that realm are Gatz and Broke.  We bought a copy of “More Beer Less Work #4” done by Broke and it seems to be numbered and signed.

We could probably churn out a column about the 100 best anarchy songs of all time, and maybe sometime in the future we will.

As it turned out we were working on a column about anarchy at the same time that the fellow who runs the Cinesthesia dot blogspot website asked for our opinion of the “Grand Hotel Budapest” movie.  It seemed to us (subjective opinion alert!) to be like “The Sound of Music” without the tunes and politics so we told him:  “It is the greatest film tribute to fascism since ‘Triumph of the Will!’”  If a fellow expects a flick to be a big disappointment and it is; does that mean it wasn’t?

Is the fact that an elite bunch of hackers can keep track of every phone call in a foreign country for an entire month but they can’t find a missing airliner an indication that Americans are more gullible than previously assumed?

Recently we read two history books (such as “The Deserters” by Charles Glass) that indicate there was more anarchy in Paris during the Liberation by the American troops than there was during the Nazi’s Occupy Paris period.  Does that mean American exceptionalism is a valid concept?  Just because a Prussian cavalry officer can ride a horse doesn’t mean he automatically qualifies as a “cowboy,” eh?

A bumper sticker that advises “You don’t want to be associated with those nutcases” is much easier to digest than a book that presents some in-depth analysis of the idea that since a capitalist makes a fortune on the work done by his serfs, it might be reasonable to let the laborers share in the bounty.  WTF?  Shutup and get back to work!  Reading all of Albert Camus’ “The Rebel” would be more like work than relaxation.

Who can’t breeze through “Anarcho-Syndicalism Theory and Practice,” by Rudolf Rocker, in a single eveing?

If the capitalists can get the police, media, and members of the clergy to pall parrot the bumpersticker ideology, then maybe the capitalist will have some chump change to donate to his favorite politician’s re-election fund.

The general public stays away from events such as last weekend’s Anarchist’s Book Fair (“Good boy!  Want a doggie treat?”) because they have been trained to think it would be a bit like attending a convention of biker gang members.  The crowds were well behaved.  Some T-shirt vendors must make out like bandits at events such as this one.

We had wondered if there would be Anarchist books for kids.  We scored a copy of Woodie Guthrie’s “New Baby Train” for $3 and were relieved to learn that there was not a gap in the realm of pop culture that we would feel obligated to fill.  Whew!  That was close.

[Note from the Photo Editor:  Didn’t someone from Oakland once say:  “A convention is a convention is a convention. . .”?  Photo of last week’s Anarchists’ Book Fair looks a lot like a generic image.  Frank Sinatra was famous for telling movie directors that the first take that had just been shot got a “That’s good enough” rating and we have adopted that as the official motto of the World’s Laziest Journalist Industries.]

Leona Helmsley summed up the irony of the middle class and poor Oakland taxpayers paying for the damage that the Oakland Police Department inflicted on someone protesting an unfair taxation program that favors the rich, when she said:  “We don’t pay taxes.  Only the little people do.”

Now the decisions of the disk jockey (“What?  Me fascist?”) are final and he doesn’t want any quibbling about his choice for the three best anarchy songs of all time:  GWAR’s version of “Get into my Car,”  Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the name . . .”  and the best anarchy song of them all “Helter Skelter.”  We have to go to Chopshicks in Oakland to cover the Saturday slap art show.  Have a “getcha a case of beer for that” type week.

March 21, 2014

March Madness eclipses real news

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:23 pm

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee 

CBS Evening News, on Sunday March 18, 2014, spent almost as much time covering the voting for the fate of the Crimea area in the Ukraine as it did in assessing the prospects presented by the basketball schedule for March Madness and that brought up the question of news value.  Back in 1939, were newspaper readers anxious for facts about the first NCAA basketball tournament or were the front pages filled with details elaborating the esoteric aspects of America’s foreign policy?

Most news broadcasts lately mention that a Soviet Naval base with great strategic importance is located in the province that includes the city of Sevastopol.  We did not hear much background information and had to look it up.  The Germans captured Sevastopol in WWII.  It was retaken by the Soviet Army.  The city was leveled during the fighting.  A half a million Russians died in the struggle to control the region including the nearby city of Stalingrad.

To understand just how offensive Russians find Obama’s medaling think how upset Americans would be if Putin told the American President that the battle field at Gettysburg could be improved starting with an urban development plan.

Putin’s heavy handed manipulation of the region is inappropriate but it sure won’t help matters if President Obama talks tough and gets into a “pissing match” with Russia.  President Obama’s greatest gift to the Republicans may be a revival of the Cold war but they will still hate him.

Since CBS will be broadcasting some of the games to determine the NCAA basketball champions and since Americans don’t care much about what the ultimate consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (which was signed in 1939) will be; the coverage of the relative entertainment value of this year’s sporting event might, in retrospect, seem like a good news judgment call.

Unfortunately, in 1939, the management at CBS assigned their star reporter, Edward R. Murrow, to cover international developments in Europe and not the history making first installment of the NCAA basketball championship which was won by Coach Howard Hobson’s team from Oregon, when they beat Ohio State.

It doesn’t seem likely that 75 years from now, extensive coverage of this year’s March Madness will seem like a better news judgment call than some in-depth reporting about the history of Russia would provide but almost no one alive today will be able to live to see what is considered important old news in 2089.

Since all the speculation about what might have happened to the missing airliner seems amateurish and inept, we asked for and where granted an interview with a fellow who is on the board of directors at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory.

When we asked him what really happened, he noted that the plane was presumed to have gone west into the Indian Ocean.  “Is there a terrorist friendly destination in that direction?”  We answered “Somalia.”  “If the radio and transponder were turned off, would the airplane crew have missed something if they strayed into restricted air space and were challenged?”  We asked:  “How could there be restricted air space in the middle of the Indian Ocean?”  He smiled, shrugged, and said:  “Just suppose that there was for the sake of this conversation.”  The columnist pantomimed shooting at something in the sky.  Our expert witness paused for a moment or two and then asked:  “If it was in restricted air space, would they let searchers and the press into the area under the restricted air space where the debris would fall?”  We frowned and growled “Not bloody well likely.” After another shrug and smile, he said:  “Maybe they made it to Somalia and were given a safe haven for hijackers.”  Neither scenario would get much more than scant news coverage in the USA.

While most of the United States continued to suffer from a long hard winter, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in San Francisco was held while the Bay Area experienced balmy shirtsleeve weather.  Would conservative TV networks want to run a feature story that implies global warming is a fête accompli or would they rather focus their audience’s attention on the apparent contradiction a harsh winter presents?

The contrast aspect of the warm weather in San Francisco while cities back east struggled with snow removal problems was virtually stonewalled by the news media.

Isn’t it curious that in the land that venerates a Free Press, criticism of journalism has virtually disappeared?  Would A. J. Liebling find that amusing?

American news media seems perfectly content to ignore the Fukushima clean up and any concomitant impact that disaster has had on the environment.

The third week in March of 2014 may be used by future historians to designate when the America’s Free Press went flat line and marked the end of an era.

Substituting amusing and interesting information in place of fact filled political analysis might draw bigger ratings and consequently please network executives and it will take years before historians and media critics can produce any definitive conclusions about the results such a development might produce.

The best that the World’s Laziest Journalist can try to achieve is to spend time gathering innocuous information that proves the old maxim:  If you are having fun doing it; it isn’t work.

George Clayton Johnson who wrote several scripts for the Twilight Zone also wrote the first episode of Star Trek (not to be confused with the pilot episode) on a typewriter.  He has a page on Facebook and that makes us wonder if George will send a friend request to George Takei or will it be vice versa?  Will they have a friendly competition to see who gets the most Facebook friends?

Early this week, we read an online report that says that authorities in Cuba are starting efforts to refurbish Ernest Hemingway’s home Finca Vega in hopes of increasing the tourist attraction value of the location.  The World’s Laziest Journalist has a visit to that very place on his bucket list and the prospects for getting there are slim and none, but isn’t there a song from Man of La Mancha that can serve as a musical inspiration for such an attempt?

Just this week, we snagged a bargain copy of Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again” and were surprised to find that it contained a section that rhapsodized about finding love while soaking up the invigorating atmosphere at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Did you know that those games were televised?  They were filmed and the processing of the film caused a slight delay (about a minute) so that it could not be called “live” coverage.

[Note from the photo editor:  While many mayors in the USA were worried about snow removal, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was participating in a St. Patrick’s Day parade that was blessed with sunshine and temperatures in the mid Sixties and hence provided an image that graphically demonstrated the contrast aspect of the big country’s weather for that particular day.]

Near the end of chapter 16, of the aforementioned novel, Thomas Wolfe wrote:  “Was not this world of fashion and of privilege the deadliest enemy of art and truth?”

Now the disk jockey will play Marty Robbins’ “Beyond the Reef,” Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza’s duet “Bali Hai,” and the Andrew Sisters’ “(How’d ya like to spend) Christmas on Christmas Island?”  Since the New York Times probably won’t cover it, we figure we best go cover the 19th annual Anarchist Book Fair at the Crucible in Oakland on Saturday.  Have an “enemy of art and truth” type week.

March 14, 2014

Land of the “Ever Young”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:11 pm

Three American Presidents share Irish ancestry; Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Obama.  In recent years, that fact has made the Republicans uncomfortable, but this year, as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, their worst nightmare will bring their propensity for hypocrisy into play:  the Republicans hate the Communists and they hate Obama so being forced into a binary choice will deliver an uncomfortable decision: racism or McCarthyism?  The fact that some Republicans seem to be endorsing Putin over the American president in the Crimean Crisis speaks for itself.

Would it be ironic if some genealogists offered a theory that St. Reagan and Obama were related?

“It takes too long to retrain them!” is the punch line for an ethnic joke that might “get your Irish up,” if you were offended by that sort of attempts at “humor.”

Is it true that Adolph Hitler, who was a well known vegetarian, gave himself a dispensation from the usual rules by ordering corn beef and cabbage every year when Saint Patrick’s Day was celebrated at Berchtesgaden?

Is it true that one of the founding members of the Black Panthers would astound his posse by producing evidence that he held dual American and Ireland citizenship because he was born as an “Army brat” son of an American Air Force officer serving at a base on the Emerald Isle?

Ernesto Guevara Lynch’s son became known to the world as Che Guevara. You don’t find many references to that fact when St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are being held in the United States.

In the U. S. vs. Mexico war, induced by offers of higher pay than the American army paid and land grants, a group of gringos led by some Irish with military experience, fought on the side of Mexico.  They were called Batallón de San Patricio (Saint Patrick’s Battalion).  Many of those who survived battle were hanged (30 simultaneously) for treason.  Some (urban legend?) escaped and became Mexican landowners.

In the WTF file we see that on Monday many of the employees of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory plan to be wearing green T-shirts with the word “Diego Garcia” printed on them.  When asked what they symbolize; they shrug their shoulders and say:  “It’s a mystery.”

John Wayne was a member of John Ford’s “repertoire company of film makers” and many of the films featured a recurring group of actors (AKA the usual suspects”) but some of his most memorable films featured Maureen O’Hara (who made many films directed by John Ford) as his costar.  The best and best known would be “The Quiet Man” from 1951, in which John Wayne sang “Wild Colonial Boy.”

[In “Ned Kelly,” Mick Jagger sings the same song.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear what a good sound man could do making a mash up of the two versions?]

In “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Irish History and Culture,” written by Sonja Massie, readers learn (page 191) that sparks flew when William Butler Yeats met James Joyce, who, upon learning that Yeats was thirty-five years old, said:  “I’ve met you too late” and elaborated the age meant that he (Joyce) wouldn’t have any influence on Yeats.  Subsequently the fellow summarized Joyce by saying “Never, have I encounter so much pretension with so little to show for it.”

What is it like in Ireland?  According to a reliable source, “In the summer the rain is warm; in the winter, the rain is cold.”

Aren’t sailors on the USS O’Brien the only crew in the U. S. Navy that is permitted to wear green baseball caps rather than the regulation Navy blue gear everyone else must use?

For many years, the St. Patrick Day celebration in New York City was very popular with college students because back then the State of New York had a drinking age of 18 and was surrounded by states where it was 21.  Talk about “Aye, lad there’s the rub.” Eventually political pressure was used to convince New York to change it’s drinking age laws to 21.

Self-deprecating humor is a hallmark of Irish wit.  St. Ronald Reagan told a story about knocking on a farmer’s door during the Iowa primary season.  The local looked at the former movie actor and sputtered:  “You’re . . . you’re . . . you’re.”  St. Reagan tried to offer a hint:  “Do the initials R. R. help?”  The fellow turned and yelled into the interior of the house:  “Momma, come quick and meet Roy Rogers!”

George Berkeley has been described as being the only philosopher from Ireland.  He traveled to the United States.  A town “near Harvard” was going to be named after him, but an error by a court clerk changed the spelling of the town to Berkley.  A city in California was also named for him.  The Californians weren’t content to just spell the name correctly’ it was also decided to build a better University in the city a few miles East of San Francisco.

The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in San Francisco this weekend is being touted as the 164th installment of the annual celebration.

The California town of Dublin will also have a parade this weekend.

[Note from the photo editor:  We dug up some photos from a past Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Frisco.

Hat tip to a clerk at San Francisco’s Beat Museum for that obscure historical sidebar item about the Saint Patrick’s Battalion.]

William Butler Yeats wrote:  “The best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Now the disk jockey will play the Rolling Stones’ “Flight 505,” the Irish Rovers’ “The Unicorn,” and he rarely does dedications, but just this once, for Clint Eastwood, he’ll play John McCormack singing “The Empty Chair.”  We have to go try to solve the riddle:  “Why can’t Irish employees be given a lunch break?”  Have a “Sinn Fein (it’s pronounced Shin Fain and means “Ourselves alone”)” type week.

March 13, 2014

Want to see real capitalism? Go to Haiti!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:35 pm

Note: Can we still post on BartBlog?

I LOVE BartBlog! It will be a very hard habit to give up.

Will there still BE a BartCop?

The world needs it more than ever!

You think that all those fat-cat corporatist billionaires on Wall Street are capitalists? Not even close!

Those guys have systematically and carefully cocooned themselves inside of a risk-free, artificially-induced highly-rigged monopoly-style con-game bubble — created at great cost to salt-of-the-earth types like you and me. And inside of this fairy-tale ponzi-scheme bubble, the top dogs all cheat and steal, no one goes to jail and you and I are their shills. Welfare for the rich? Yes. Capitalism? No, no, no and no.

But just come to Haiti and you will immediately see true capitalism at work — on every street corner. Everyone here has something to sell. It’s amazing! The competition is fierce. There are no monopolies. Nothing is risk-free. There are no artificially-created safety nets. And U.S. corporate fat-cats would only last about five minutes here.

Everywhere you look in Haiti, there is someone setting up a booth or offering a handful of goods to sell or improvising a restaurant on wheels — or in a wheel barrow.

Ariana Huffington just published a book called “Thrive,” and in the opening chapter she talks about how trying to make it in the corporate world has led to very high levels of stress. I would dearly love to see Wall Street CEOs and high-powered American executives who make 30 million-plus a year with the help of a lapdog government that they own lock stock and barrel — would love to see these spoiled brats and primadonnas get their asses kicked by the competition of trying to sell yams or used T-shirts on the streets of Port au Prince.

Within a half-hour at most, these fancy dudes would be begging to be taken back to their sweet little tax shelters and big-bank scams. “Please! I hate real-life capitalism! Get me out of here! Please!”

Haitians work their butts off making capitalism work for them!

Any fool can put together a housing-market scam if they have a trillion dollars to back them and a government to keep them out of jail. But Haitians know that they have no silver spoons in their mouths, no old-boy networks, no soft defense-industry contracts and no fleeced American taxpayers to soften their fall. If Haitians don’t make it in their own capitalist world, they die. Period.

When was the last time those welfare-for-the-rich dudes risked more than a hangnail? Libertarianism? Rugged individualism? My foot!

PS: Haiti is also the place where used T-shirts from America go to die, after they have been tossed out of our closets. There are all kinds of used T-shirts down here, that say almost anything on their fronts — and always say it in English.

PPS: Want an example of rigged “capitalism” in America? Here it is. Our judicial system happily supports deregulation on Wall Street and also supports War Street’s right to attack other countries illegally at will. Anyone with half a brain and wi-fi access knows that. But might our judges possibly go out on a limb and support net neutrality — just because American taxpayers paid for its creation? Not on your life.

“But, Jane, what’s so important about net neutrality?” you might ask. It’s this: If you can’t afford to pay big bucks in order to get decent internet speed, then you are automatically being censored and controlled. It’s all about access. While down here in Haiti, I have certainly found out about that.

Down here the internet is so slow that it takes me at least two hours to put together an article, plus another three hours to get it to post on my blog, while I wait around for everything to reload. And that’s on a good day. So while all of my blog posts are being written by hand down here Haiti, I will have to wait until I get home to send them out. What a bother. Who has five hours of internet frustration to spare every day or the patience to wait and wait to reload? Not me.

The slow internet here has also slowed me down a whole lot. I don’t even want to blog anymore most of the time. And when that happens in the USA too because I can’t afford to buy fast internet speed? Then, snap! I will have been effectively shut up and shut down — without the Deep State even having to lift a finger to stop me. “Damn those pesky liberal bloggers. We’ve certainly showed them.”

But there wouldn’t be any problems with net neutrality at all back in the States if capitalism was really working there — and artificial monopolies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc. didn’t have Congress and the courts in their pockets, creating yet another expensive hidden tax on you and me. And some start-up kids with a garage-app in Mountain View would be supplying us with high speed internet for about five bucks a month.

Want another example of welfare-for-the-rich? That’s easy. American taxpayers have been forced to fork over trillions of dollars in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia, Kuwait, East Timor and even Saudi Arabia so far — to pay for what are essentially the top five oil companies’ private armies. But do we ever get a tax break on the oil that these armies steal? Hell, no. Only oil companies get tax breaks. Not us. That’s welfare-for-the-rich, not capitalism. What else did you expect?

Let those slick dudes on Oil Street pay for their own freaking armies.

It never ceases to amaze me how Americans keep electing anti-capitalism government officials who do not represent our own best interests or even the best interests of our country, but keep electing moochers, schemers and con-men from the welfare-for-the-rich class instead — time and time again.

PPPS: Paul Ryan just proved my case! The guy just made an impassioned speech to CPAC, stating that receiving welfare is humiliating and degrading. “People don’t just want a life of comfort; they want a life of dignity — of self-determination” So let’s help him get America’s “communism for the rich only” 1% off of welfare and give them some “dignity” for the first time in their lives instead.

PPPPS: Like I just said, the internet limitations in Port au Prince have forced me to wait to send out this story on Haiti until I got home to Berkeley. Good to be back. But I still miss Haiti a lot!

But on March 20th I’ll be traveling again, off to Monterey, CA, to attend the annual Left Coast Crime festival, a convention of murder-mystery writers and readers — and a chance to pick up 40 pounds of free books (without having to lug them back home on an airplane) and, hopefully, to have access to fast internet service so that I can blog about all that.

March 11, 2014

In memory of Terrance Coppage a.k.a Bartcop

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 8:57 pm

I was saddened by the news of the loss of Terry, our beloved bartcop. I know many of you are as well. I am not sure what to write, so these words come to mind:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Steve Jobs said that before he passed away and our bartcop lived his life like that…just read any back issue and you’ll see that.

So, what can we do now? Here is my proposal:

I am an experienced copy writer, editor and researcher. I also know a few things about search engine optimization (SEO) and IT management. I am willing to offer my services pro bono to help keep this site alive. I cannot do that myself, I would need help in the IT and graphics arts areas. I think that contributing to keep bartcop alive is the best way to honor bartcop. Terry is gone, but this web site can live on as long as there are people willing to contribute.

Bartcop was the liberal blogosphere before there was one. Terry’s work was truly groundbreaking and inspirational. Everyone on the left should feel indebted to him for showing how information can be spread without the help (or hindrance) of the corporate media.

If anyone is with me on this, feel free to email me at

May the Chinaco never run dry and let’s keep the hammer pounding!

March 7, 2014

In Memory of…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ye Olde Scribe @ 9:52 pm

St. Peter was closing the gate when newly arrived Rufus asked, “You let HIM in?”

“Yes, the boss ordered it done.”

“You do realize he ranted all the time about organized religion and called them all kinds of names…”

“So does the boss.”

“I’m pretty sure if he wasn’t an atheist he was at least an agnostic.”

“With all the stuff said, done and claimed in his name, the boss can’t blame him. Besides, he fought off true evil: especially evil claimed to be in the name of the boss. That counted for a lot. The boss even let him put something on the gate on the way in…”

Unexpected Help for an existentialist

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:23 pm

A strongly held conviction that is only an opinion can liven up an online comments section and if the idea being endorsed seems to others to be a symptom of insanity, it can lead to a rugged challenge for the person who stands alone against the entire world.  Scientists managed to convince most people that Galileo was right about the world circling the sun and that the opposite explanation that the sun revolved around the world was wrong.  The scientists aren’t doing as well convincing the man in the street to endorse the theory about global warming.  Galileo serves as the patron saint for people who fervently believe that the Bush Dynasty will be reactivated after the next Presidential Election in 2016.

Saturday March1, 2014, seemed like it was going to be a day like any other day filled with skepticism and ridicule for any pundit who dared to offer an extreme prediction about the results of the 2016 Presidential Election in the USA.  Getting just one person to endorse an outrageously illogical opinion that causes people to question your sanity seemed like a long shot.  If the Pope had endorsed Galileo’s nutty theory, it would have made life a whole lot easier for the fellow who didn’t know when to shut up.

The first day of March in 2014 seemed destined to become an unforgettable day filled with those events which alter and illuminate modern history because Vladimir Putin was making it obvious to the world that he was going to disregard the American President’s opinion about the advisability of interfering in internal politics of the Ukraine but Putin had the boys in the Russian legislature backing him on that move, so he wasn’t alone.

Wasn’t Putin just implementing a variation of the reasoning behind many previous similar events in history such as St. Ronald Reagan’s valiant effort to protect American Medical Students in Granada?  Don’t the Republicans endorse any attempt to replicate St. Reagan’s policy?

At the San Francisco History Expo, the Art Deco Society and the Treasure Island Museum both seemed to think that the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island will be of interest around the world.

The Museum showed some old movie footage that informed the audience, which might have forgotten the glamour and excitement generated by Pan Am’s China Clippers, that the airline which was not a decade old had subsidized the construction of way stations where their flying boats could land for rest and refueling on their route that (eventually) connected San Francisco with China.  That pioneering effort became a virtual commuter run during World War II and the fact that it had been established right before the outbreak of the hostilities between the United States and Japan was a very lucky coincidence for the Allied Nations.

Pan Am started up just as the Great (or as it used to be called: “Republican”) Depression started.  By 1935, they were not only asking aircraft production companies to develop new models for them, but they could also subsidize sending men and supplies to island all across the Pacific to build facilities for hotels and support stations for flying boats at a time when many businesses were struggling to show a profit.  Could Houdini have matched that phenomenal feat?

After seeing all the historical newsreel footage about the China Clippers, our appreciation for the concept of time travel was once again being honed to a fine edge.  Then we experienced a moment of skepticism.  Was it really a lucky coincidence?  We filed away an impulse to check with our sources at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory and see if they had any material that offered an alternative explanation for that the happy coincidence of having a shuttle route between the USA and China available after Pearl Harbor was attacked.  Was it more than just a coincidence?

[The New York Times reported the sudden death of Jackson Miss. Mayor Cholwe Uumumba on February 24, 2014, but after Hinds County Commissioner Kenneth Stokes called for an autopsy and Louis Farrakhan offered to pay for it, the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is evaluating the potential for having the R&D Department formulate an explanation for the unexpected death.]

Wild speculation couched in a conspiracy theory has no place in serious history books but, like horoscopes in the daily newspaper, it does provide a modicum of entertainment value for a columnist working the pop culture beat.

We learned from the American Printing History Association (Google hint:  Printing History dot Org) that a summer course for the operation of linotype machines is available and we thought taking that course might provide us with a good column topic in the coming summer.

Seeing Emperor Norton (wouldn’t he be about two hundred years old?) at the History Expo made us wonder about the potential doing an interview and column because he is almost as synonymous with San Francisco as Herb Caen was.

After our material gathering expedition to Fog City, we stopped at the Berkeley Public Library and during a brief online check (“round up the usual suspects”) we discovered that we where no longer the only person in the world who thinks that John Edward Bush (J. E. B.) will become the Republican candidate for President in 2016.  Sure enough, on page one of the Week in Review Section of the Sunday New York Times for March 2, 2014, there was the headline warning the readers to brace themselves for a battle between Hilary Clinton and the Bush Dynasty’s heir apparent, Jeb Bush.

Some skeptics might think that somehow the World’s Laziest Journalist got an advanced peek at the New York Times’ columnist’s copy and rushed to post our column posted on Friday February 28 and the only defense we can offer is to make the assertion that we had been banished from a prestigious website several years ago for making the JEB prediction too prematurely.

Do members of the New York Times newsroom sit around on Friday afternoons and pounce on each and every new installment of punditry from the World’s Laziest Journalist?  Let’s try an experiment.  One of our more obscure insights into world affairs make the assertion that if a reader holds a photo of Howard Hughes next to a photo of the Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini, material for a marvelous scoop will become obvious.

Now, if a writer for the Great Gray Lady hands in a column making the “has anyone noticed that Clark Kent is never around when Superman shows up?” type assertion about the image experiment; then we will have much more circumstantial evidence to support our “Friday afternoon” assertions.

Back in the day when a national TV network ran afternoon movies, we saw one that featured a fellow who faced a big dilemma.  He had to tell the magic fairy which of two potential spells she should cast on his girlfriend.  She would either become an ugly hag when they were alone and be seen as the most beautiful woman in the world when they were in public or she would be the most beautiful woman in the world when they were together in isolation but would be perceived as an ugly hag when they went out into society.  Yikes!  That could be a problem at the local pub, eh?

We have never been able to ascertain the title of that motion picture but it, in turn, provided us with a similar tough binary choice:  would a writer prefer to have hundreds of thousands of voters read his political punditry or would he tell the magic fairy to give him a very limited audience that included a Vice President who was a former classmate and about a hundred nationally known pundits?  What’s not to love about having a lock on the right to the claim to be “the pundit other pundits read first!”?

Some skeptical friends have cried “Coincidence!” when we pointed out to them that we have run items (such as a mention of smoking bath salts) and subsequently seen a front page article in a Sunday edition of the New York Times about that very topic.

We have often wondered why the topic of slap art isn’t being mentioned in the mainstream media, so if we announce our intention to cover the Slapocalypse 3 event on March 29 in Oakland, and if a certain daily newspaper headquartered in New York City does a feature story about it, we get to ask: “How many coincidences does it take to verify a trend-spotting hunch?”

[Note from the Photo Editor:  The columnist went to the San Francisco History Expo and some snapshots of Emperor Norton was the best he could do.]

Hitler said:  “The man who feels called upon to govern a people has no right to say, If you want me or summon me, I will cooperate.  No, it is his duty to step forward.”  Republicans will make sure J. E. B. reads this, eh?

Now, the disk jockey will play Harry Belafonte’s “Banana boat song,” Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen tons,” and Adele Dazeem’s exquisite rendering of “Let it go.”  We have to go fact check the rumor that Ahmed Chalabi is masquerading as a political consultant going by the name of Paul Manafort. Have a “I gets weary” type week.

March 4, 2014

Vodou Lounger: A tourist’s eye-view of Haiti

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:23 pm

“Please don’t go to Haiti — it could be dangerous down there!” several worried friends begged me right before I left. But boy were they wrong. Haiti is totally fun! I never had so much fun in my life as I did this past week in Haiti. And this is my very own tourist guidebook to all the neat stuff that I’ve done down here. Not exactly the Lonely Planet. But boy am I having a good time.

The most frequently asked question before I left was, “Are you going down there to do humanitarian work?” No no no. I’m going down there to be a tourist!

To start with, I got a really great bargain deal on Expedia — $800 to fly me from SFO to Port au Prince and five nights in a convenient, clean and quiet hotel called the Diquini Guest House. This was absolutely the smartest thing that I did on this trip. Why? Because the manager of the guest house, a former member of the Haitian diaspora and long-time resident of Washington DC, took me under his wing and for a reasonable fee let me hire his driver, translated for me, kept me fed on nicely-flavored Haitian stew and rice — and then took me off to explore Port au Prince.

First we went to the famous Hotel Oloffson where the ghosts of past American ex-pat writers such as Graham Greene and Lillian Hellman roam its gardens, terraces and gingerbread-style balconies; where Mick Jagger and even Jacqueline Kennedy have stayed — and where the famous vudou-inspired RAM band was playing that night.

The next day we explored what is left of the 2010 earthquake ruins, from what was left of the tragically beautiful stone-filigreed huge rose window of the old cathedral and the site of the historic National Palace to various small tent cities dotting Port au Prince that still house earthquake victims today, and the ruined buildings that still have market stalls precariously tucked into whichever concrete slabs are still left standing.

“So, Jane, how is Port au Prince actually doing now, four years after the quake?” you might ask, now that I’m an actual eye-witness to the scene of the crime. It’s not doing super-good, but not doing as badly as I had expected either. Most of the tent cities are gone now — as a lot of the homeless victims have by now squashed themselves in with relatives, left for the countryside or otherwise made do.

“But what are Haitians really like?” you might ask next. You can tell what Haitians are really like by the way that they drive. There are only a handful of traffic signals in Port au Prince and even fewer rules of the road. And Haitians drive very fast. But they also drive in a way that is almost polite. Everyone wants to get where they are going (and to get there fast) — but no one wants to actually hurt anyone else. I didn’t see any road rage there. Just people trying to get by.

Basically, Haitians are just people trying to get by after having been dealt a very rough hand for a very long time, from the moment they were kidnapped from Africa and sold as slaves here — starting in 1503, just eleven years after Columbus discovered the island. And those slaves were expendable too, worked to death in a few years at most and then replaced by other new slaves.

Then after having fought for and achieved its freedom in 1804, Haiti was also constantly attacked, exploited and/or invaded for the next 200-plus years by America, Canada and various combinations of European nations. And now Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, resembling the slums of Uganda or the slums of Zimbabwe. And yet despite their poverty, which is dire and extreme, Haitians still remain stoically polite.

Next we went off to the Iron Market bazaar to buy Haitian stuff to hang on my walls when I get home. And then we drove all over Port au Prince — the grand tour. And that night we went off to Carnival in the Carrefour district. Are you jealous yet?

Carrefour’s pre-Lenten carnival was like one gigantic block party and was actually as much fun as Berkeley in the 1960s, the benchmark against I always measure how much fun something is.

I also wanted to go see San Souci and the Citadel, UNESCO world heritage sites up in Cap Haitien, but it was a seven-hour drive to get there, so we went to Fonds des Negres instead, which was only a three-hour drive, and I met a vodou master there. “No one is cursing you,” he told me. Not even the NSA? Good to know. Then he performed a candlelight ritual to help my knees get better. Then he pulled out a business card for his son who owns a botanica in SoCal who, for a price, could finish my knee treatment when I got back home And then the vodou master pulled out his cell phone and started texting someone. Guess the ritual was over.

And there’s also a cave in the mountains near Fonds des Negres where a “Suzan,” a vodou spirit, resides. But you have to get there by motorcycle and we didn’t have time to do all that on this day trip. So I just bought a sequin-covered vodou flag instead.

“Have you seen any zombies in Haiti?” might be your next question. Sorry, no. But on my plane ride down here, we ran into a bunch of really scary turbulence over Chicago and I thought I was going to die. So I had an epiphany. “When you are in your mother’s womb, the only way out is by going through a whole bunch of pain first — and death is also like that. First you pass through a whole bunch of pain and then, poof, you are out on the Other Side.” As a zombie? Let’s hope not.

The next day we went out searching for Jean-Bertrand Aristide and then ended the day in that famous five-star hotel in Petionville — just to see how the other 1% lives. Trust me, they are living well.

What else have I done down here? I can’t remember exactly. But I will tell you this: I have really had fun. And if you ever want to go to Haiti too, I totally recommend it highly. And, no, I’m not getting paid to say this.

PS: While in Haiti, I also watched the winter Olympics on TV — thus getting a chance to compare Port au Prince and Sochi. One city has far too little city planning and one city had far too much!

According to journalist Roi Tov, “With less than 350,000 denizens, [Sochi] has been occupied by at least 25,000 police officers, 30,000 soldiers, 8,000 special forces, and an undisclosed number of FSB agents.”

Port au Prince is nothing like that. The streets go every which-way like a patchwork quilt. But it does have one thing in common with Sochi — abuse of its fragile labor force.

And let’s also compare Port au Prince with Havana. I’m currently reading Carlos Eire’s autobiography, “Learning to Die in Miami”. Eire appears to believe with all his heart that the Castro experience was a nightmare — and yet just compare Cuba and Haiti today. Haiti has been under the thumb of American and European corporatists for ages and ages. And now, despite all its amazingly fertile soil and impressive mineral riches, Haiti is currently one of the poorest countries in the world. Seven out of ten Haitians live on less than $2 a day, according to the International Red Cross.

But in Havana under the Castro brothers, everyone has a good chance of getting a college education.

But, hell, most Haitians are lucky to have a chance to even get as far as fourth grade!

If Fulgencio Batista and the American corporatists who owned him back in 1959 had remained in power and Castro had never taken over Cuba, Cuba today would more than likely look just like Haiti today. And does anyone with a working brain really think that having American and European oil companies, bankers, war profiteers and neo-cons in control in Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine are going to help those countries either? Hell, just look at what those guys did to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya — and to Detroit!

February 28, 2014

Beer and Loafing: On the Campaign Trail ’16

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:22 pm

Protest in Berkeley 2014

A spontaneous chance to cover a political protest in Berkeley on the morning of Sunday February 23, 2014 provided a photo-op and an opportunity to learn about a political dispute that hasn’t suffered from overanalyzes on the network TV newscasts.  The Dalai Lama had given a speech and the protesters were trying to draw coverage of the suppression of the Shugden sect.  The splinter group is brining a Sunni vs. Shiite style dispute to Buddhism.

The serendipity discovery of the religious feud was an opportunity to write a column about the allegations that the Chinese government was funding the rebel religious group for political reasons and that the Shugden believers were responding with accusations that the Dalai Lama was guilty of bigotry and religious suppression.

Initially our inclination, since access to the event was very limited, was to dash off a column about how restricting coverage to news events is an initial step towards managed news and de facto censorship.

We were bothered by the fact that devoting a full column to one particular topic in a week when a smorgasbord of issues begs for attention does a disservice to the other problems.

Has anyone noted that the Arizona veto story was a perfect example of a wedge issue taking up valuable air time on talk radio while the war in Afghanistan crumbles into another example of why quagmires aren’t popular with taxpayers?

Did a brief blip on the news radar, about the possibility that American sailors may have been exposed to a dangerous amount of radiation while providing a propaganda photo op moment at Fukushima, unleash a discussion about Veterans’ benefits?  If it did, we missed that.

When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the plans to reduce the Military to the 1940 level, we thought about doing a column questioning that ploy which might have the unintended consequence of causing a member of the Axis of Evil to become more belligerent.  Then we wondered if it was a variation of the rope-a-dope strategy meant to goad some more aggressive response to American foreign policy.

Then the media started reporting some ominous activity on the Ukraine border with the Soviet Union and we were reminded that after giving Syria an “or else” ultimatum, President Obama backed off on his threats to that country.  When Secretary of State John Kerry issued a similar sounding “or else” message, it brought back echoes of the preliminary stages of the Cuban Missile Crises and we wondered if President Obama was ready for a similarly tense confrontation.

After buying a bargain copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing:  The Campaign Trail ’73,” we noticed that much of the material could be written this week with only a few name changes being necessary.

Thompson’s description of the scene when George McGovern is asked if he would support Ed Muskie if he got the nomination and gave a “Yes, I’m inclined to that position” made us think that most likely Vice President Joseph Biden will back Hilary after she gets the nomination in the summer of 2016.

When Thompson castigates the Air Force for the results of the bombs they dropped, it sounded very much like the current disapproval some are expressing about the drone strikes.

Hunter marvels that McGovern had the Democratic nomination wrapped up by April.  The New York Times this week ran a story that makes it look like Hilary has a lock on the nomination and the only horse race for the press to cover is over in the Republican Party.

The Thompson book skips over the second rate burglary at the Watergate.  All most all journalists dismiss the question “what did the buglers get at the Watergate?” and ignore the crimes’ immediate impact on American History.  How did Thompson handle that thorny issue when it was a current event?

Unfortunately the book doesn’t have an Index and we started flipping pages and skim reading to get to the Gonzo assessment of the burglary in the context of the 1972 Presidential Election.

There was some iconoclastic name calling, a lot of name dropping, and the self promotion aspect of the book was, in retrospect, annoying.  Hemingway had to fight a perpetual battle with the bull known as a blank white sheet of paper.  Hunter S. Thompson fought a myth of Sisyphus battle with deadlines.  That was before the advent of cable news networks.

At the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory many of the employees with a great deal of seniority believe that the Watergate burglars went looking for skeletons in the Democratic closet and that they found what they wanted.  Among the material they took were copies of Thomas Eagleton’s medical records.  After he got the Vice Presidential nomination and the conventioneer went home, somebody leaked the damning information to the press.  The McGovern campaign was tripped up and never regained their footing thus assuring Richard Nixon of re-election.

There is an old journalism adage:  “When you can’t cover the story, cover the coverage.”  That accurately describes the essence of the Gonzo account of the McGovern Presidential campaign.

Doug Brew, who parlayed an assignment to cover the 1980 Ronald Reagan campaign for Time magazine into the coveted White House correspondent slot, once summarized the attitude of the big league journalists:  “Monkey see; monkey do.”

The hell with Thomas Eagleton’s medical records and the fact that they were the keystone story for Nixon’s reelection; on the morning of Friday February 28, 2014, we had a 10 a.m. reservation for a computer and at 7 a.m. the Perils of Pauline question was could we pump out the necessary keystrokes, transfer the column to the thumb drive, and get to the computer appointment without getting soaked in the much needed rain storm that was helping to break the drought in California and then get it posted on time?

Our efforts to get press credentials for the 1968 Democratic National Convention had failed.  Our attempt to get a press pass to cover this weekend’s Oscar pageant had been unsuccessful.  A word to the wise is sufficient.  Our efforts to secure a Press Pass to the 2016 Republican National Convention will begin this weekend.

Isn’t the decision about where to hold that event being made this weekend?  Isn’t Cleveland the front runner?

As New Jersey’s governor Chris Christy’s Presidential hopes are nibbled away by the piranha-icle mainstream media, the question now for political pundits (resorting to sports clichés) will be who is going to be the next Republican party bum-of-the-month?  Our prediction is that the man who gets the nomination will sit out the primaries and then listen to a committee begging him to break a deadlock.  (Hint:  His initials are J. E. B.)

[Note from the photo editor:  Photos of a protest in Berkeley have been popular for almost fifty years.  The tradition continued last Sunday when members of the Shugden sect protest of  a speaking appearance by the Dalai Lama drew extensive news coverage.]

Hunter, on page 300 of the Campaign ’72 book, writes:  “Later that night, at a party on the roof of the Doral, a McGovern staffer asked me who I would have chosen for the VP  . . . and finally, after long brooding, I said I would have chosen Ron Dellums, the black congressman from Berkeley.”

Now the dick jockey will play Ted Nugent’s “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” Rattlife’s “Great White Buffalo,” and As I Lay Dying’s song “Nothing Left.”  We have to go check out the San Francisco History Expo being held this weekend at the Old Mint.  Have a “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro” type week.

February 27, 2014

Haiti & me: In search of Jean Bertrand Aristide

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 5:33 pm

When thinking about Haiti, a lot of people think first about that terrible earthquake disaster of 2010 — and also about President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. And I do too. So on my first day in Port au Prince, I toured most of the earthquake disaster areas. And on my third day there, it only seemed logical that I also attempt to meet up with the great man himself. And I actually came THIS close to doing that too!

After recovering from wandering around the Carrefour district’s Carnival celebration the night before, I then went over to check out Aristide’s house. “President Aristide is actually here today,” said the guard at the door, “but he’s not seeing visitors right now. However, you can always wave to him on our closed-circuit TV camera.” Great idea! So I smiled and waved and smiled and waved at the CCTV camera like the idiot tourist that I am.

Next I went off to visit Aristide’s Foundation Pour la Democratie and looked around there. Met some interesting diplomats, students, professors and a chicken.

Then I visited UniFA, a medical school established by Aristide in order to create more doctors in Haiti — where the ratio of Haitians to doctors is 10,000 to 1 in urban areas and 20,000 to 1 in the countryside (no wonder vodou cures are so popular here). “How many students study here?” I asked a bright-eyed first-year physician wannabe, sitting outside eating her lunch between classes. (Actually all the students here are clearly bright-eyed and diligent and idealistic — all young, gifted and Black. Go them.)

“About 700,” the student replied.

“So can you tell me how cure my sore knees?” I asked.

“No, we haven’t gotten that far in our curriculum quite yet.” Rats.

Lastly, I stopped by a large apartment building that had been constructed during Aristide’s presidency in order to house some of Port au Prince’s homeless population, right before GWB sent in the Marines. Two things about this apartment building were note-worthy. First, it was the only building for blocks around that had actually withstood the 2010 earthquake. And, second, the apartments all had two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen.

In stark contrast, directly across the street one could also see a hundred-odd new U.N. housing units — such as they were. Each family had been allocated a really really small cube-shaped one-room dwelling with no bathroom, no bedroom, no kitchen and no running water. And their shared port-a-potties were all way down the street.

So just exactly who is this guy Jean-Bertrand Aristide? And why do American neo-cons and corporatists all hate him so much? I don’t know. Maybe because Aristide doesn’t want to keep Haiti forever “barefoot and pregnant”? Maybe because Aristide, a former priest, actually tries to practice the teachings of Jesus? Your guess is as good as mine.

In any case, here’s a bit more about Aristide’s back-story for those of you who have never heard of the guy. In 2001, Aristide was democratically elected as president of Haiti, just one year after George Bush stole the 2000 American election. But, unlike GWB, Aristide’s emphasis was on inclusion and education.

In just the few years that he was president, Aristide built more schools in Haiti than had ever existed in all of its long miserable history of being controlled by U.S. interests. Aristide also devoted 20% of the nation’s budget to healthcare. Good grief! No wonder Wall Street and War Street hated him. And overthrew him too. Violently. In favor of deadly U.N. “peacekeepers” and the Marines, who immediately shot everything up and turned UniFA into a military barracks. That was back in 2004.

And now, ten years later, Haiti has been stuck with President Michel Martelly, aka the “Neo-Cons’ Choice,” elected in the same way that the U.S. got stuck with Dubya — illegally. “He is our guy!” cries Wall Street, War Street and the Deep State.

And now WalMart is once again happily running sweatshops in Haiti, where workers get paid $4.56 a day

What the freak was Aristide thinking!

Surely Aristide should have known that anybody who denies WalMart access to economic slave labor is naturally gonna be in big trouble — and educating a country’s children and providing its citizens with healthcare is also a really bad idea because then countries like Haiti will no longer have a subservient labor force and a really dumb electorate — and that’s just not the corporatist way. Aristide should have known better. Even most Americans are clear on this concept, keeping their eyes down and their mouths shut. Why couldn’t Aristide do the same?

And if you still want even more information on Aristide and Haiti, here’s a great video to watch:

PS: I truly love being in Haiti! It’s an amazing country. You all should all come visit it sometime. And, unlike those nasty rumors spread by neo-cons hell-bent on colonizing Haiti for fun and profit, Haiti is perfectly safe. And it’s lovely here too.

PPS: Here’s another interesting fact about Haiti: The whole population of this country has African DNA. So far, I’m the only white person I have met in all of Port au Prince. For instance, there were over 2000 people at the carnival in Carrefour last night — and only yours truly was white. And you know what? No one cared — because everyone was having such an amazingly wonderful time there, dancing in the streets, even me (except, of course, for my sore knees).

February 21, 2014

Shhh, I finally made it to Haiti!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 5:09 pm

I was supposed to fly down to Haiti on February 12 but ice-storm Pax put an end to that plan. 3,000 flights were cancelled, including mine — which was sort of embarrassing because I had already told the world and his wife that I was going and hated to go back on my word. So when I suddenly came across another cheap flight to Port au Prince on February 20, I decided not to tell anyone I was going until I was actually really and truly there. Why jinx a good thing? Fingers crossed.

And now I really am actually here! And just saw Port au Prince up close and personal. And had goat stew for dinner. Yes!

Sure, Haiti is a third-world country — thanks mainly to the United States, Canada and France. And, sure, there are still people living in tents from the 2010 earthquake, and a lot of our money donated to Haiti has gone toward projects like building a five-star hotel and getting Baby Doc’s evil rep whitewashed. But today when I did a quick windshield survey of Port au Prince, I also saw a lot of school kids in uniforms going hopefully off to school and a lot of market women carrying on.

And I didn’t see as many homeless panhandlers here as I did back in the United States. But, like I said, Haiti is still a seriously third-world country.

Last night I slept for a half-hour on a red-eye flight from SFO to JFK.

Tonight I’m off to the Hotel Oloffson to hear the RAM band play music based on Haiti’s voudou heritage.

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