November 29, 2013

Do unto Syria as you would have Syria do unto you

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:51 pm

While walking through the streets of San Francisco the other day and totally admiring this beautiful city’s “painted lady” architectural glory, I suddenly and inexplicably started wondering what this amazing place might look like if it too had been bombed all to crap in the same manner that Damascus has been bombed to all to crap by all those missiles and cluster-bombs and Al Qaeda operatives — that American taxpayers are paying for — as they happily torture, rape and/or maim women and children in our name.

And this sudden unexpected vision of beautiful San Francisco as a bombed-out ruin has even further strengthened my resolve to do everything that I can to prevent America’s ruthless War Street from spending our money on bombing other countries — lest something like this happens to our beloved San Francisco too. Or to my own beloved Berkeley.

We need to stop all this expensive, bloody and worthless slaughter and seriously consider a far, far better alternative instead: “Do unto Syria what we would have Syria do unto us.”

And let’s also consider what corporate America’s current utter lack of a “Do unto Africa as we would have Africa do unto us” policy would do to us here if it also was reversed? Can you even imagine what it would be like in America if what happens in Africa today daily was happening here too? Really? Would we Americans love to be perpetually in debt to the world bank, have our lands and resources seized by neo-colonialists, our crops polluted with GMOs, millions of our women and children raped and killed, and our pristine forests turned into a dumping ground for nuclear and industrial waste? Hardly.

And while we’re at it, let’s also “Do unto Israel as we would have Israel do unto us.” America’s relationship to Israel right now sucks eggs for the Israelis. And what exactly is this relationship? It might be easier to understand if we look at it from a different perspective and if our roles were reversed.

Imagine, for instance, that some huge gonzo super-power on the other side of the world was pumping billions and billions and billions of dollars into America’s economy annually — but with only one stipulation: That all this gigantic wad of free Moola can only be used for one purpose: To kill, torture, maim and and jail Native Americans. And steal their land. And establish an American Gestapo defense force and fund SSettlers to take over what few Indian reservations we have left (after 19 million Native Americans have already been slaughtered here already), and to treat native Americans like animals and to napalm their children. And to do this all in the name of God.

Would we, as Native Americans — or even as just plain American citizens — see the cruelty and injustice in this? Or would we just sell out to all those big bucks thrown our way like the Israelis have; and just relax and glorify in the joy of having a vampire-like power over others who are completely at our mercy?

These same choices are the ones that America’s War Street is forcing Israelis to make every day. And so far, most Israelis seem to have chosen blood-money over the Ten Commandments. What a waste.

And also let’s consider another new perspective: “Do unto nature and the environment what we would have nature and the environment do unto us.” Always remember that Nature bats last. Think Fukushima. Think a thousand more hurricanes like Sandy, Haiyan and Katrina. More fracking earthquakes. More 140-degree days. “Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, [stated] that global climate change was the greatest threat the United States faced — more dangerous than terrorism, Chinese hackers and North Korean nuclear missiles.”

And America’s War Street and Wall Street and related skin-flint tax-dodging huge corporations are obviously not clear on the concept of “Do unto Americans as you would have Americans do unto you” either.

In the 1940s, every American sacrificed their comfort and rationed their goods and went without in order to pay for the “Good War”.

But ever since that stupid and useless invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, 99% of Americans are sacrificing and going without in order to pay for some stupid and useless “Endless War” that in no way benefits them — while America’s top one percent make no sacrifices at all; dining on caviar, buying cruise-ship-sized yachts with their bloody “war” profits and fiddling like Nero.

And yet most Americans these days do nothing to protect themselves from being cheated, robbed and exploited, but rather spend their last decaying days as citizens of a formerly economically-viable democracy happily watching pseudo-myths and fables on Fox News — as our beloved country slowly slips into third-world status. “Welcome to Jakarta.”

Are we finally getting the Big Picture here yet — that what goes around comes around? If Americans continue to let Wall Street and War Street run our domestic policies, our foreign policies and our environmental policies, then all we can ever expect to receive is blood and carnage in return.

“The Bible tells us so.”

PS: Denmark, a country generally known to be a socialist/commie anti-war environmentally-conscious female-honoring democratic single-payer Tea-Party nightmare, has just been declared “The Happiest Country on Earth”. However, you will find no countries at all that are currently under the sway of corporate America at the top of this Happy List — not even America itself. And definitely not any countries that corporate War Street has invaded in the last 40 years!

But changing from one economic system such as America’s current Corporate Welfare state to another such as Denmark’s economic democracy is clearly not going to help us either We need to make even bigger changes, and go from using any economic system for judging our success and failure — to utilizing a philosophical system instead, one such as “Do unto others…”

November 27, 2013

Remember Quality Journalism?

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

Watching the ABC TV news program on Tuesday November 26, 2013, it seemed like it was time to do yet another column about how Journalism is doing the Cheshire Cat disappearing act in the USA.  Their lead story was about the fact that a new snowstorm was snarling Thanksgiving Day traffic on the East Coast.  We just couldn’t picture Edward R. Murrow picking that weather item as being the lead story of the day.

Recently we have heard ads on KCBS, the all news all the time AM radio station in San Francisco, featuring the voices of some of their reporters.  We couldn’t imagine Murrow endorsing the idea of a journalist doing a commercial.  Isn’t that called “crossing the craft”?

ABC followed with a brief item about using birth control pills as a basis for yet another way to give the United States Supreme Court a second chance to veto the Obamacare legislation.

Where were the compassionate Christian conservatives when some Native Americans wanted a legal basis for declaring their use of peyote was a religious right?  Did any news organization do a sidebar story about the peyote dispute?

Some time ago, in Los Angeles, a man and a woman tried to establish a church that held that sex was a religious experience.  The police and the politicians teamed up to put a quick end to that issue using the laws against prostitution as a way of keeping society under strict control of the one percent.

Next, ABC ran a story saying that the Black Friday bargains might not be a real true bargain!  Stop the press!  There was a common saying (folk wisdom?) in Los Angeles that maintained there would be T-day weekend sales in Beverly Hills.  The punch line was:  “Yeah, everything will be marked down to retail price!”

Also on Tuesday, we encountered an axiom that advised that birds born in a cage thin k flying is an illness.  Do people who have read Ayn Rand and watch Fox News know who Murrow’s Boys were and what they did?

When Sunday night rolls around and folks head back home will the inevitable stories about the weekend box office take for the movie industry put the figures in context?  If a bargain matinee ticket in San Francisco cost about $8 and a film grosses $16,000,000 this weekend, does that mean that more people saw it than went to see “Gone With the Wind” on its first weekend of release?  If the price of admission soared to a half a buck and if (just for the sake of comparison) it did the same dollar amount of business its first weekend or release, wouldn’t that mean that 32 million people went and saw Rhett and Scarlet do their emoting?

A white Christmas in Australia would be a headline event because, since the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, the traditional way of celebrating Christmas down under is in your bathing suit on the beach (nice movie title?).

As we recall, on Thanksgiving Day in 1971, Scranton Pa. received 24 inches of snow.

Wasn’t that the same time that a guy, called D. B. Cooper, with a parachute and a bundle of money made headlines?

Are the reporters in the USA, who work on trend-spotting stories, just about to discover Parkour?  Can you do a story on that without mentioning some of the amazing stunts that Jackie Chan has done in his movies?  What?  You want a full explanation about what it is and how it works?  Can’t you look it up on the Internets?  Why do you think we are known affectionately as “the World’s Laziest Journalist”?

Maybe we should do a column that asks the question:  Who is getting shoddier treatment football players with concussions or wounded veterans?

Can a dedicated consumer buy his/her way to prosperity?

Recent news stories indicate that a majority of people don’t believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.  Most of the stories about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy quickly glossed over conspiracy theories related to the shooting and people think we’re a lazy journalist.

Carefully examining the reasons why the World’s Laziest Journalist considers being critical of American Journalism,  in a column for people who are busy contending with the best meal of the year, to be as futile as formulating a magic bullet explanation for pesky laws of physics and it just doesn’t seem like a reasonable use of time as the buying season approaches.

Aren’t Republicans very enthusiastic about sending troops into Syria and/or Iran?

Can it be that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the War in Afghanistan?  Will the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan, please turn out the lights?

The Republicans in Congress should officially adopt as their motto, a famous line from “Gone with the Wind:”  “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

Now, the disk jockey will play Jimmy Clanton’s “My Own True Love,” the Revels’ “Church Key,” and Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat?”  We have to go buy some Christmas presents.  Have a “Only a few shopping days left” type week.

November 24, 2013

Tea Party Announces African American Outreach Program

Filed under: Commentary — Ye Olde Scribe @ 7:57 am

November 22, 2013

Gonzo Jouralism = a verbal selfie?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:29 pm

A full color digital image of a Berkeley artist, after being photoshopped, appears to distort reality more than a selfie would.

French existentialist philosophers will probably find some deeply disturbing narcissistic meaning lurking behind the current American fad of taking self-portraits with a cell phone called “selfies.”  Didn’t they heap copious amounts of adulation on American writer Henry Miller for doing with words what kids are doing with digital images?  Isn’t “Tropic of Cancer” an example of literature as a selfie?

Selfies are limited in perspective because the camera’s point of view is restricted to arm’s length.  Photos take by another person are often taken from a point of view that is much further away from the subject and thus (ostensibly) provide a much more “objective” version of reality.  Photographer Cindy Sherman was known for taking photos of herself before the word selfie came into popular usage.  She used either a cable release, a self timer, or a studio assistant to click the shutter and thus distance her subject from the camera.

When Ernest Hemingway went to cover the Spanish Civil War didn’t the fact that Hemingway was covering the conflict become “the” story?

Is there a difference between a PR (Public Relations) HO (Hand Out) story, a traditional news story, and Gonzo Journalism?

The symbolism of a personality looming large in the foreground of an interesting scene is far different from a record shot of the artist “out among them.”

There was an amusing bit on the Internet this week that featured famous news photos doctored to appear to be selfies.

That in turn causes us to wonder if the journalists in Washington are producing journalism that is the verbal equivalent of selfie photos.  Yes, you could say that “Today we asked the President . . .” is a continuation of the Sixties era Gonzo school of journalism, but isn’t a constant torrent of such material just as stultifying as a tsunami of selfie pictures?

Edward R. Murrow went, saw, and reported, but he removed himself (as well as he could) from his stories while at the same time, Ernest Hemingway was insinuating himself into as many news events as possible.  Someday we may write a column addressing the question: “Was the better journalist Murrow or Hemingway?”

Did Hemingway inspire the Beat writers and didn’t they morph into Gonzo?  So is Hemingway the grandfather of Gonzo?  Are some of Hemingway’s stories the verbal equivalent of a selfie photo?

Was Murrow really the epitome of an objective reporter?  Some biographers portray Murrow as a fellow who was convinced that the United States would have to go to war with Hitler and so he shaped his narratives of the Battle of Britain to that end.

We know of one fellow in L. A. who was writing film reviews for a second level national magazine and was proud to be invited to lunch by a director.  The Hollywood personality made a concerted effort to flatter and entertain the white belt critic.  The rookie realized he was being played for a more enthusiastic review and drew a line in the sand.  He adopted the philosophy:  “No more fraternizing with the enemy.”Aye, lad, there’s the rub.  Compromise your principles or starve.

There’s a new book out by Michael Streissguth, titled “Outlaw,” that tells how Waylon, Willie, and Kris Kristofferson fought the music establishment in Nashville and won.

“The Rebel,” by Albert Camus, intimates that if society (AKA the 1%) encounters a formidable challenge from a revolutionary, they foil the movement by granting the malcontents membership in the world’s most exclusive club, know informally as “Fame and Fortune.”  Hence the strange phenomenon of The Rolling Stones Inc.  It is much more difficult to knock The Establishment if you have become an integral part of it.

Pundits pounding the political beat face a similar dilemma.  They can either be shut out or owe favors to sources.

It’s hypocritical to inform the audience “we report objectively; we don’t compromise with expediency” when in fact they are blatantly partisan.  Don’t the people who don’t catch on deserve to be fooled?  “We deceive; you owe us gratitude!”

A good game of poker would be impossible if the dealer delivered all cards face up.  The game of diplomacy demands chicanery, duplicity, and fibs.  If the President of the United States is going to deliver a shock to the members of his own party, it is unwise for journalists to think (or boast) that they can provide their audience with “the real story.”  It would be better for the well fed (and paid) reporters in the mainstream media to adopt the “I’m a patsy” philosophy the moment they arrive in Washington D. C.

Isn’t the journalistic ideal of “the gentleman in the grandstand” more attainable for a fellow out in the boondocks with no sources in Washington?  Doesn’t he make a better critic of the emperor’s new clothes?

Liberal (for lack of a better word) pundits attacked George W. Bush incessantly for his war policies.  When he was replaced by a member of the Democratic Party who continued most of the Bush war policies (with some minor adjustments), the Liberal pundits had a dilemma on their hands.  Should they suddenly become hypocrites and start lavishing praise on futile wars or should they start to criticize “their guy”?

Columnists who epitomized the H. L. Mencken axiom that there is only one way for journalists to look at politicians and that is “down,” have no problem.  They believe in being in attack mode eternally.

As the mainstream media trends more and more towards partisan bickering, the need for commentary from a gentleman in the bleachers recedes into irrelevancy.  If the trend to “one quote for and one quote against” becomes the Journalism norm, then an impartial observer becomes irrelevant but, perhaps, it will not become completely extinct because of the increasing novelty value of such verbal selfies.

Speaking of “mug shots,” a TV series titled “You’re in the Picture” was one of the monumental program flops of all time.  The initial episode on January 20, 1961, was so bad the series was immediately canceled.  The following week host Jackie Gleason used the time slot to apologize and produced a very memorable example of great television.

Wolf pack journalism will provide Americans with a massive amount of punditry on other topics this week and so we take the existentialist’s path and offer a look at something different.  We figure it is in keeping with the philosophy of a very famous (fictional) San Francisco philosopher (AKA Dirty Harry) who said: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Henry Miller wrote:  “How different the new order would be if we could consult the veteran instead of the politician.”

Now the disk jockey will play Dick Dale & the Del Tones’ “Misirlou,” the Ventures’ “Perfidia,” and the Chantays’ “Pipeline.”  We have to go wax our surfboard.  Note:  The World’s Laziest Journalist’s End of the Week column will probably be posted on Wednesday of T-Day week.  Have a “kick on third down” type week.

November 20, 2013

Giants, fairies, Disneyland, war, archetypes: The role of mythology in our lives

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:44 pm

I want to go back to Disneyland! Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to return to a time when the Middle East was represented by flying carpets in the “Small World” ride instead of all those sad videos of dead babies that we now see on the news.

And even in today’s modern world, there are still myths and legends in our lives that motivate us, spur us on and keep us going — such as the myth of the Good War, the hero, the Patriot, the soldier and all those Marvel superheroes who stand between us and our worst nightmares.

And then there are the nightmares themselves.

But on the other hand, we also have many sweet, gentle myths and archetypes that enhance our world and bring us gifts of love — such as the good fairies who grant us three wishes, the Three Wise Men, and Glinda the Good Witch of the North. “You’re capable of more than you know…”

“Please read me another story from the fairy tale book,” says my granddaughter Mena every night before bedtime. She loves fairy tales. They help to explain a confusing adult world to her in a way that a five-year-old can understand. The wicked witch in Hansel and Gretel. Monster High’s cool DracuLaura. The town musicians of Bremen, the three little pigs. Parents as giants, towering over kids. Or even when Mena was a hero herself, during a deadly asthma attack last year. Fairy tales help Mena to understand that there are both good guys and bad guys in the world — and that the good guys sometimes actually win.

Then we have all those other myths and archetypes which are deliberately created by clever PR campaigns, ones that make us believe that if only we buy this fabulous 4G high-speed cell phone or that sexy high-speed car, we too will become a Hero. Not so, sadly. All we really are doing is speeding up the death of the Earth as we know it. And our deaths too.

And did I forget to mention the myth of War? That if you can just kill enough people, then Might will make Right. Where mass murder becomes sanctioned and even glorified. Where “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” becomes a tooth in exchange for a thousand cemeteries What a bloody lie. I myself prefer the “Love thy neighbor as thyself” myth much better. Plus it’s far easier than trying to get blood stains out of the carpet once all those murderous Heroes have moved on to the next Good War.

And then, of course, there is the myth (and the reality) of our own evil twin. I just finished reading a book called “The Tools,” which advises us to harness the power of each person’s evil twin in order to make them our allies instead, and to help us do Good. Good luck with that one.

Bottom line: Legends and myths and fairy tales and giants and archetypes all come from somewhere deep within the dark reaches of our individual subconscious minds. And these myths and archetypes have an important role to play in our lives. I’m just saying. Ignore them at your own peril. Or else try to take advantage of them — before they take advantage of you.

PS: Am currently reading two fairy tales for adults: “Summerland” by Michael Chabon and “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman. Will let you know how they turn out. And am also trying to figure out how to win the lottery so I can go back to Iraq with Hinterland Travel next October, to see where they wrote “1,001 Nights”.

November 15, 2013

Triple J, Sky Rock, and Radio Caroline

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:26 pm


Many disk jockeys say that there is no “there” in Oakland but a columnist says otherwise.

[Note:  We leave it up to other pundits to write columns about the latest developments in the ACA political donnybrook.  A nostalgic look at radio may not be cutting edge commentary but that’s the way the cookie crumbles for this week’s installment of a column from the World’s Laziest Journalist.  Who knows?  Maybe a change of pace in the midst of a tsunami of facts about health insurance will be a breath of fresh air.]

Norman Goldman, the talk radio host who promulgates the philosophy that labels are inaccurate and confining, asserts that radio personalities are entering a new age when radios are superfluous.  Since we heard Triple J radio online long before we used a small battery operated Sanyo to tune in to the source for Australian music, we grok what he says but it was a much more visceral experience to hold the radio and work the tuner to listen to that unique blend of voices and music.

When we think of going to visit friends in close proximity to the Big Apple, our heart leaps up at the chance to hear Harry Harrison reassuring the audience that they live in the greatest city in the world but that Eastern Airlines (“The Wings of Man”) stand read to whisk them away to far away places with strange sounding names.  We have to take a deep breath and say:  “That was then; this is now.”

Armstrong and Getty boldly assert that they have “the hottest show on the West Coast.”  There was a time, though, when things were different.  Living at Lake Tahoe as the Sixties came to a close, radio reception was very limited because of the basin which meant that very few AM radio signals could be picked up.  The two local stations were on opposite ends of the AM dial and so it was that switching from one to another meant a sweep of the AM dial and in that process you would hear a third signal.  Fine tune it and you would hear a raspy voice claiming that his radio show was heard from coast to coast and border to border.  A signal wall to wall and tree-top tall was heard in 38 states.  The people who heard Wolfman Jack before seeing American Graffiti know what the true definition of “the hottest radio show” used to be.

How could Wolfman Jack possibly have been that popular if he never took a position on the Affordable Care Act?

Heck, now folks with Internet access can be in South Lake Tahoe and listen to Triple J in Australia, Sky Rock in Paris (France not Texas), and Radio Caroline.  It’s no wonder that Pan Am has vanished.  Radio fans don’t need to travel to hear those radio stations.

We did listen, whilst in Sydney Oz, to Skid Row Radio but we have not fact checked listening to them via the Berkeley Public Library computers.

When we went to Paris in 1986 (how can a 28 year old columnist remember a trip to Paris almost 28 years ago?  [Trade secret.]) we packed a comparatively bulky portable radio to enhance the “we are really there” aspect of the experience.

Some other time we may expand the question “Why do Internet sites aggregate only American radio broadcasts and not include ones from outside the USA?” into a full column but not today.

Norman Goldman uses sound bytes of politicians to punctuate his broadcasts and that often reminds us of the first time we heard the version of “What the world needs now” augmented by various sound bytes.  We heard it on WABC and they usually played only one song at a time and when we heard that version of that song for the first time, they quickly followed with another song.  We have always assumed that the DJ, like us, had been caught off guard and was knocked on his ass by what he heard and couldn’t say anything.  Is the Pan Am building still called the Pan Am building by old timers?

That was just about the time WICK in Scranton had changed to the talk show format.  We called in to ask Evel Knievel which of the many hospitals he had stayed in had the best looking nurses.  He said the one in Las Vegas.  I had stayed in the hospital in Carson City Nevada and the nurses their all talked about what a good patient Kenivil had been.

WICK had been a sensation when they were one of the first stations in North Eastern Pennsylvania to play “Rock’n’Roll” music.  They used some Polish language broadcasts on Sunday morning to pay the bills and more than a few Irish Catholic Democrats picked up on phrases in Polish while waiting after Sunday Mass for the format to change back to the usual new music.  What ever happened to Fats Domino?

Their arch rival WARM used the WARMland shtick to excess during the winter months.  WARM ridiculed sports news by giving the results of a fictional match up between the Honeypot Cheaters and the MacAdoo Stompers every week during football season.

Before Dick Clark’s American Bandstand was picked up by the ABC TV network, they expanded from their Philadelphia flagship station to one other area TV station, WNEP in the Scranton Wilkes Barrie area.

A Southern California high school football team with the Fighting Arabs as their mascot have been in the news lately and since there really is a town called Honeypot we wonder what their high school’s mascot is.  What about Intercourse Pa.’s high school’s mascot?

The mascot of the Whittier CA college is “the Poets.”

Lately with the ACA 24/7 marathon we have searched in vain for KFOG but can’t find that old stalwart radio signal from the Sixties.  Can’t seem to find KABL either.

We didn’t hear Don Sherwood until he got his gig up at Lake Tahoe.  They had called his radio program the “Will Sherwood Show?” show because more than once the city’s top disk jockey called in sick.

Then the “shock jock” era began.  Whatever happened to Don Imus?

Did Westwood One and the count down format really get started in a former rug store in Culver City?  The last time we heard Dr. Demento we were living in L. A.  We should try fishing around to see what station carries his Sunday night show in the San Francisco area.

Since political punditry from Uncle Rushbo’s clones seems ubiquitous on the radio, we think a new radio format or a resurrected old one might be like rain in the desert for listeners who have been pummeled by nonstop criticism of Obama and have nothing but more of the same to look forward to for the next three years.

Why doesn’t some intrepid radio format wunderkind implement a format that uses a bilingual approach.  Folks who want to learn English could learn English and the gringos who want to know what the Spanish speaking employees are saying could benefit from such a style of newscasts.  We had an Aunt in Santa Monica who knew enough about baseball that she could have coached a high school team so she learned Spanish by turning on the TV, turning down the sound, and listening to the Dodger games on Spanish language radio.  She got to be quite proficient at it.

We can remember working at a large University in the Westwood Section of Los Angeles and we picked up a fair degree of proficiency in Spanish.  Once when the head honcho’s lackey came into the room the manager announced to the room in Spanish:  Watch what you say because she’s the department head’s spy.  The interloper didn’t speak Spanish so the general announcement went right over her head.  Since our Spanish was good enough to know what was said we felt like we were “one of the group.”

In the Seventies, one L. A. radio station played only big band era music.  We loved the music but since the commercials were all about Depends, denture adhesives, and hemorrhoid medicines, we opted out.

If some San Francisco station went to all Sixties music, now, we’d be tuned in to them in a New York minute.  What if they played Sixties music and ran news from 50 years ago today?  Could they call it Nostalgia Radio?

A column about radio and nostalgia reminds us how annoyed a friend used to get when, in 1968, we would often say:  “Back in 1968 . . .” and he would get mad and say “Damn it!  It is 1968!”  He died several years ago.

[Note from the photo editor:  Is the gigantic “THERE” in the East Bay actually proof that there is a “THERE” in Oakland or is it actually in Berkeley and a confirmation of the folk wisdom that, in Oakland, there is no THERE there?  Ask your favorite DJ.]

Back in 1968, a one-liner that was ubiquitous went;  “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

Now, our disk jockey, who really appreciates good guitar work, will play us out with Link Wray’s “Rumble,” Henry Mancini’s “theme from Peter Gunn,” (that’s Duane Eddy on guitar), and Jody Reynold’s “Endless Sleep.”  We have to go buy some strings for a friend’s sitar.  Have a “we’ll do it live!” type week.

November 14, 2013

TV violence: America’s dark night of the knoll

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

I was watching “The Mentalist” on TV recently, where some guy was being tortured, had a finger cut off with pruning shears and his face caressed with an acetylene torch. Yikes! And even during that nice little detective show “Castle,” you can always count on seeing a whole bunch of blood and guts — not to mention the torture scenes and disemboweling now available on “Elementary” and “Body of Proof” and “Revolution” and “Person of Interest” and “Scandal”. And these are just the milder prime-time television shows. I’m not even going to get into the nightmare-producing horrors of “Criminal Minds” and “Law & Order SVU” — because I can’t even bear to watch those.

And then there are all those currently-popular “undead” shows too. How many times can you torture a werewolf or drive a stake through a vampire’s heart before he or she is truly dead? Apparently a lot.

I can think of at least eight TV series off the top of my head right now that face this very problem nightly in our very own living rooms: Dracula, The Originals, Vampire Diaries, Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Sleepy Hollow, Beauty and the Beast, Supernaturals. And, again, that’s not even counting cable and “True Blood”. What are America’s television viewers THINKING! Are they that hungry for blood? Apparently.

But thank goodness I can’t afford cable TV because that would mean there would be 500 more channels with 500 more new and different ways to kill people off violently and with lots of blood and torture and gore. Good grief, no wonder hardly anyone blinked when the horrendous secret tortures of Abu Ghraib, Zero Dark 30 and Palestine were exposed to America by social media “No big deal. We see that kind of stuff on TV every night!” Americans replied.

If one were to judge the American way of life solely by what its most popular television programs are, one would think that Americans were all murderous blood-thirsty psychopathic nut cases who dream only of blood.

To quote George H.W. Bush, “The American way of life is non-negotiable.” Makes you wonder about that.

PS: And speaking of TV violence and George H.W. Bush, wouldn’t you just love it if, on his deathbed, Poppy Bush suddenly decided to make one last attempt at becoming one of the most famous men in history (in the grand tradition of John Wilkes Booth for instance — or Marcus Julius Brutus) by finally confessing to his role in the assassination of John Kennedy. Wow! That would really earn Poppy a place in our history books for sure!

But what I would really love to see would be Dick Cheney doing the same thing: In a fabulous deathbed interview with Olivia Pope herself, Cheney would finally “tell all” about what he had really been doing on the day that the Twin Towers fell. Hell, even Dracula himself would come back from the Undead to watch that TV show. Me too.

I bet there’s a whole long list of creepy “Patriots” here in America, just like those creepy Patriots in “Revolution,” who know exactly where all the bodies in recent American history are buried — and these creepy guys are all getting up there in age. So if any of these shadowy “Persons of Interest” should suddenly decide that they want to add to America’s “Body of Proof,” become an “Original” and create a huge “Scandal,” now is the time!

PPS: I have just one more thing to say about the mind-numbing violence of JFK’s assassination: If it had happened today instead of 50 years ago, every SmartPhone in Dallas would have posted that video on FaceBook in a nanosecond — a la the shooting of Oscar Grant. And that grassy knoll shooter wouldn’t have stood a chance in Hell of getting away. And there couldn’t have been any slimy Warren Commission cover-ups either.

America’s shadow figures and black-ops plotters can no longer get away with the low-life garbage they used to easily pull off 50 years ago, thanks to social media. And that’s “Elementary”.

PPPS: Overheard on a military base on Veterans Day: “You gotta love America. Even our gangsters are better-armed.”

November 12, 2013

Scribe Asks: If Feeling Threatened is All It Takes…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ye Olde Scribe @ 9:16 pm

…and there’s a HISTORY of murders to PROVE they SHOULD feel threatened.

November 10, 2013

Ye Olde Scribe’s VERY Inconvenient Truth

Filed under: Commentary — Ye Olde Scribe @ 9:59 am


If Goldilocks HAD knocked, and the bears were home, under Stand Your Ground murdering her could be consider justifiable homicide.

But most likely only if she were Black.

November 8, 2013

The Long March to 2016 begins

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:29 pm

Is a distorted image better than none at all?

Over the first weekend of November of 2013, the Drudge Report ran a headline alerting readers to the possibility that Congress would pass a law requiring doctors to treat the new patients created by the Affordable Care Act.  There have been some muted hints about the possibility that all the new clients for doctors will provide gridlock in the waiting rooms of America and soon the mainstream media will take notice of the fact that a system that is operating at full capacity now, is going to have problems with the addition of a massive number of new “customers.”  The challenge of doing trend-spotting items is to be the first to notice and report them.

The Republican strategy, recently, has been to attack the strong point and since the Affordable Care Act seems to be the keystone for President Obama’s legacy, it would only be logical to conclude that for the next three years, the Republicans will produce a constant avalanche of criticism of the implementation and results of that program as the central issue for the 2016 Presidential election.

Since Republicans also tend to believe that snappy slogans are preferable to long and detailed explanations of complex topics, the fickle American audience might not have an insatiable appetite for three solid years of a series of unrelenting columns about health issues and so the World’s Laziest Journalist operates on the belief that information that is interesting and informative will trump approved talking points for the next 150 weeks and that efforts must be made to track down some facts with novelty appeal for the folks who have made up their minds about how to vote three years from now.

Occasionally we get a chance to chow down in a UCB cafeteria where there is a feature called Papers with the Professor that provides a copy of the current day’s New York Times to read.  Hence, the search for potential topics for a Friday column can begin on a Sunday morning with some pizza (warm pizza for breakfast is something that most students would endorse and that few restaurants are willing to provide) coffee, and the Sunday Edition of the New York Times.

When we first stumbled upon this modus operandi, it was an example of pragmatism in action to get to the table with the papers as fast as possible to get access to the Sections we prefer.  Our order of preference is:  Arts, Book Review, Week in Review, the magazine Section, and then the front news section.

We have noticed lately that there is no competition for the prize and we wondered about that until we noticed a student who was nearby fiddling with her hand held communications center.  The young people don’t have a nostalgic attachment to the physical sensation of flipping through a standard size newspaper.  Things have changed since the days of Mario Savio’s rant on top of a police car.

While talking to a young person about cinema we were surprised to learn that they had not ever heard the expression “double feature” and correctly guessed what it means from the context where it was used.

As a pundit who doesn’t have access to high level politicians, the challenge for online commentators is to:  find media trend stories early, find under reported stories, find interesting feature material first, and or to go Gonzo and describe the efforts to go and cover news without a press pass.

Twice the World’s Laziest Journalist has come close to getting mixed in with reporters who were detained by the police.  Once covering BART shooting protests, and once covering Occupy Oakland.  Since covering the Venice canal “riot” about forty years ago, our enthusiasm for getting close to the story has slowly morphed into the concept that Tom Wolfe called “the gentleman in the grandstand” style journalism.

Media trend spotting and second guessing the opinions of nationally known commentators can be done at home at a computer connected to the Internet but to get photos of the event and to get a “You Are There” viewpoint, the columnist has to leave the comforts of home and go where the action is, or was, or will be.

We have been reading Bill Bryson’s “One Summer America 1927” but once we state that it is like taking a time travel trip back to another era and is a very enjoyable read chock full of interesting facts, what else can we say to expand that assessment out to full column length review?

Last week, two new movies featured actors portraying the writer Jack Kerouac.  After seeing “Big Sur” in San Francisco, we went dashing off to the Beat Museum to trade film reviews and continue our discussion with Jerry Cimino on the topic:  “Was Hemingway a prototype for the Beat Writers?”

People who are Hemingway fans have read about the idyllic existence of ex-patriot American artists living in Paris in the Twenties, but the Bryson book reports that up until aviator Charles Lindbergh landed there in 1927, American tourists had to contend with anti-American sentiments.  Was the ex-pat community isolated from the trials and tribulations of the average American tourist?

Bryson relates that the public adulation of Lindbergh caused him to become aloof and since he was shy, more withdrawn.

The “Big Sur” movie portrays a writer who had to retreat to a friend’s cabin in the woods to escape the fans who were making live miserable for the newly famous author of “On the Road.”  The film “Kill Your Darlings” made the subtle point that at a certain level fame could be quantified and shared in a way reminiscent of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Last week, we went to the de Young Museum to see the Hockney exhibit.  That sparked a debate with a fellow who had been an art critic columnist in the Denver area about which of the two exhibits we have seen there this year was the best:  Diebenkorn or Hockney?

The debate devolved into an assertion that since the other fellow had a degree in art, he knew what he was talking about and that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Diebenkorn exhibit featured the most talented artist.

That, in turn, reminded us that a continuing debate about the relative merits of writer Ayn Rand.  The World’s Laziest Journalist contends that since she is not featured in any of the comprehensive guidebooks of the “Philosophy fur Dummkopfs” style of overviews that proves she is a wannabe.  Our debate opponent says he used to be a newspaper editor and since it is his opinion that she was an inspiration and an insightful author that is conclusive proof that this columnist is wrong.

Bryson asserts that almost all sports enthusiasts agree that the 1927 Yankees team was the greatest baseball team ever.  (Brothers and sisters, can we get an “Amen,” on that?)

Three years from today, the results of America’s 2016 Presidential Election will be the top item on the weekend shouting match style TV analysis shows.  The folks in the mainstream media will expend a lot of time and energy promoting the run-up to that election.

Will the mainstream media devote a tsunami of material on the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang?  That seems quite likely.  What else will qualify to get the attention of the mainstream media between now and the Presidential Election?

Bryson makes a casual mention in his look at 1927 about a Wisconsin congressman (weren’t they all men back then?) who was a socialist.  If Americans like novelty and if talk radio becomes all conservative talking points all the time could it be that if people grow tired of it, the back lash would arrive in the form of an event that would cause talk radio host to have apoplexy.  Just think how the media would react if a member of the Socialist Party did get elected to Congress in the next three years.

Wouldn’t that be as noteworthy as a young lady in a bridal gown taking a tour of Alcatraz Prison National Park?  Didn’t that actually happen on Election Day earlier this week?

[Note from the Photo Editor:  A distorted image of a skyscraper in San Francisco can serve as a metaphor for reality in the age of talk radio and messages with a 140 word limit.]

In the 1927 movie “The Jazz Singer,” actor Al Jolson said:  “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”

Now the disk jockey will play the Zombies’ “Care of Cell 44,” the Kinks’ “Holloway Jail,” and AC/DC’s “Jailbreak.”  We have to go protest the jailing of the Pussy Riot band.  Have a “no trace of them was ever found” type week.

November 6, 2013

Big shots: Four best-selling crime-novel writers talk about death

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 1:08 pm

There are seven billion people alive on the planet today — and it’s a sure thing that every single one of us will die eventually. Death is completely unavoidable. And perhaps this cold hard fact is one reason for our universal fascination with murder-mystery novels: That they deal with the subject of death, an event that all of us face 24/7 — but which no one really knows one damn thing about.

Who can you ask about death — who has ever returned from the dead? “What was death like? Did it hurt? Is it better now? Is there an after-life? Do you like being dead? Will I survive the process?” The Bible says that Jesus came back from the dead. But probably nobody else ever has, not really — near-death experiences aside.

Death is the absolutely most important event in all of our lives (besides birth). But it is a totally unknown factor. And so we watch CSI on television and go to zombie movies and read crime novels, searching for clues.

At the 2013 BoucherCon convention in Albany last month, four prominent murder-mystery writers got together to discuss their craft, at a seminar called “Big Shots”. Anne Perry, Steven Hamilton, Sue Grafton and Tess Gerritsen? Yes, they are all still alive. But they certainly know where the bodies are buried!

Sue Grafton was first to speak, and told us a really funny story about the death of (wait for it) her chicken Peggy Sue. “The vet gave me a very serious look and said, ‘This hen needs a hysterectomy.’ Yeah but… Isn’t the main purpose of a chicken to lay eggs?” Then the vet billed Grafton $250 but the chicken still died. Moral here? I guess that chickens aren’t immortal either.

But as Steve Hamilton pointed out, “That’s a pretty hard-boiled story.”

“I get a lot of plot problems solved while driving,” said Tess Gerritsen, “especially while driving across Texas.” Gerritsen also plays the fiddle in an Irish-music band in Maine and is a MD. She writes best-selling medical thrillers in her spare time. Death becomes her.

Anne Perry, who lives in a small village in Scotland where there are only 500 people, has to rely on getting “an endless supply of faces, ways of walking and gestures for my novels — from watching TV.” And I bet she gets lots of ideas on how to kill people too, just by watching TV. I bet that at least 600 people meet the Grim Reaper on TV on any given day spent in Televisionland.

Hamilton writes at night, after the family has gone to bed. “The idea of me getting up and working at 6:00 am is pure science-fiction.” But all four authors prefer to write when it is quiet.

“I have to listen to my characters’ voices,” said Gerritsen.

Hamilton was having a whole bunch of trouble writing about a hero who was an urban private investigator. And then,”I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘I live in a cabin in the wilderness and I have a bullet in my heart,’ and this character, Alex McKnight, just stepped out from my mind.” And murder-mystery readers everywhere are glad that Alex did.

“I identify with characters, envision them,” said Perry, “and find their vulnerabilities. And they all have some sort of vulnerability, even the villains.”

Gerritsen added, “When I can’t get started, I wait and listen; listen to the voices most different from myself. If I were to write from my own point of view, I’d get bored. My characters are never boring.”

And all of these writers are grateful for their readers. As Hamilton put it, “I still can’t believe that people love my books.” And Grafton sees her fans as friends. At BoucherCon, I watched Grafton stand and sign books for her fans for two and a half hours straight, without any breaks.

These four authors have sold millions of books about death. So what’s my point? Have I learned more about the Big Sleep by reading these books? Not really. But I have learned that the important thing about death is to realize that I am still among the living — and, until a whole big bunch more people besides Jesus (and possibly Lazarus) come back from the dead and tell me how much fun it all is on the Other Side, I would prefer to keep it that way.

PS: If, despite being a murder-mystery lover, you are still truly curious about death and what will happen to you when you die, just keep voting for RepubliDems. They and their pals on Wall Street and War Street will have all the rest of us joining the ranks of the dead sooner rather than later, years and years before our time.

According to one right-wing publication I read recently, the whole purpose of the government shut-down is to “DeFund Obamacare!” So between trying to defund ObamaCare and shutting down government services, that alone should kill off thousands of us. The plot thickens!

However, Single-Payer healthcare could save millions of lives in America, and over one trillion dollars as well — and do all this without any computer snarl-ups or sabotage. But no one in Washington appears to be interested in Single-Payer.

PPS: And in the immortal words of Dr. Richard Webber, “We’re all going to die. We don’t get much say about how or when. But we do get to decide on how we’re going to live. So do it. Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger, kinder, more compassionate? Decide.”


I also have photos of additional authors at the conference: Johnny Shaw, Cara Black, Lisa Brackman, Robert Kroese, Kelli Stanley, Rhys Bowen, Marcia Clark, Rebecca Tope, Peter Barus, Robin Spano, Lee Goldberg and Louise Penney at

November 1, 2013

Facts + Imagination = Conspiracy Theory?

Filed under: Commentary — Bob Patterson @ 12:39 pm

Tree root or Gila monster?  Use your imagination!

Halloween, as celebrated in the USA, is the time when Americans take a break from subjecting themselves to a constant barrage of journalism that vigorously asserts that all of the conspiracy theories are the fictional product of an active imagination and that the tales of vampires and werewolves, and stories about Invasions from Mars are true.

If the hysterical ranting about the possibility that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was part of a plot is true, then the wider implications of that fictional horror story (substantiated by a second less known Congressional Investigation) would have to be that the scariest Halloween story of all is the possibility that all the best conspiracy theories can be fitted together to form one vast picture of a country that is being played as fools for the benefit of a select few.  Stop thinking that!  You are frightening the children!

Was Harold Holt the first national leader on planet earth to be abducted by aliens from outer space?  The only explanations of his disappearance are either vague and illogical official explanations or conspiracy theories.  Take your pick.

Being alone in an apartment in Marina del Rey, it was very disconcerting to see a fellow with a gun in the adjacent dressing room.  It was just the reflection in the mirror showing the World’s Laziest Journalist stuffing his wallet into his pants pocket.  The wallet, in the dim light, just looked like an automatic pistol.  A gunman suddenly appearing inside your locked apartment would make the start of a good Twilight Zone episode, though, wouldn’t it?

Recently Jim Romenesko’s “inside baseball” website for journalists ran a picture illustrating the fuss caused by a New York Times photo, which at first glance seemed to show John Boner carrying a pistol in the halls of Congress.

Would you need a laxative if someone pointed a gun at you?

In the San Francisco Bay area, the citizens were very upset with a policeman who fired at (and killed) a kid who failed to follow the “drop it” order.  There’s a clever line in a Willie Nelson song about knowing when to run and when to “Freeze!”  How many of the folks who demonstrated against the policeman have ever had a gun pointed at them?  How many of them have ever been the target for a person using a gun?  Apparently the civilians were unfazed by the prospect of betting their own life on a chance to differentiate a fake gun from a real one in a split second.

There were some political ads on TV in California, many moons ago, asserting that the common image, used in a large number of films, of hiding behind a door from a shooter was a fictional misperception because a slug from a magnum gun could rip through two police cars and still have enough lethal force to kill a person.  Gee, did you know that movies disregard truth?  Didn’t one of the guys on the Tu Phatt team often used to say:  “I didn’t know that!”?  (Did that group morph into “the Watergate Burglars”?)

Last week, on the Stephanie Miller radio show, former Governor Jesse Ventura said that he had seen photos, taken at Dealy Plaza at the time of the assassination of President Kennedy, which showed one fellow who looked a lot like George H. W. Bush, who claims he can’t remember where he was when he learned that JFK had been shot.

Was the film “Apocalypse Now” an accurate representation of what had happened, or was it a precise prediction of what America would become?

Did the mainstream media exaggerate the effect seventy five years ago that Orson Welles’ “Mars Attacks” radio show had on listeners?  Is the perception that it caused mass hysteria just a bit of clever exaggerated boasting urban legend?

The Spanish Civil War came to a conclusion less than six months after the famous Orson Welles’ broadcast.  Due to a proliferation of labels, there was a great deal of confusion about who were the “Good Guys” in that conflict.  It seems to boil down to fascists vs. workers.  Which side was the Catholic Church on?  Which side would you support?

In many kung fu movies, a fight becomes a battle of the rugged individual contending with an array of bad guys.  In those movies the king fu expert dispatches the attackers one at a time like an overworked clerk in a busy deli.  Unfortunately in real life a gang of bikers would swarm all over the Bruce Lee clone and beat the living snot out of him.

Fascists like to project the image of a rugged individual who can, in existentialist (don’t the Republicans hate the poor people of Paris?) style, single handedly take on the bad guys and emerge victorious.  The greedheads would have voters believe that only members of the Communist Party spout the cliché that “We can negotiate together; or beg alone.”

In San Francisco, renters in low income housing are becoming alarmed that they will be evicted despite laws designed to prevent such ruthless possibilities.  Recently the Berkeley Tenants Union handed out fliers that assert:  “Policy Change Will Lead to Evictions.”  The Berkeley City Council is considering making changes to the Demolition Ordinance.  The flier states:  “The Sierra Club, NAACP, Neighborhoods Council, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn., and East Bay Law Center are also speaking out against these new drafts” of changes for the Demolition Ordinance.  (For those who want to fact check this item do a Google News search for “San Francisco evictions” and/or read up on the topic at

Some (partisan?) online sources assert that in order to be able to make the claim that evictions are down, if all the tenants in one building are tossed out en masse, that adds just one to the total number of evictions.

If a renter had survived having his home foreclosed and then got evicted from a rental unit, would that person feel like one of the handful of survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima who went to stay with friends or relatives in Nagasaki?

The conspiracy theory folks, no doubt, would have folks believe that the austerity budget cuts that were made at mainstream media news outlets are making it easier for unpopular changes in the laws to be made because people (such as the citizens of Berkeley) are less well informed than they used to be when there was a local daily newspaper and the world famous Berkeley Barb underground weekly newspaper informing readers about all the latest efforts of “the Establishment” to exploit the people who were supposed to be well informed voters.

Ross Thomas wrote a mystery titled “The Fools in Town Are on Our Side” and we think of that title every time the boobs recite the talking point that Fox and Rush Limbaugh are the mainstays of the Free Press in America.

The folks at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory are anxious to get in on the ACA criticism trend, but they can’t decide if they will assert that the website troubles are due to hacking activity by the Chi-Com, the Ruskies, or some unscrupulous Republicans.

Wasn’t “The Man of La Mancha” a famous communist documentary film about workers being exploited right before the Spanish Civil War started?

While wandering around Berkeley, last weekend, we encountered the folks from Story Geeks.  We didn’t have the necessary time to expand that into a full length column but we thought they were worth a mention at Halloween time.

Could the vampire lore explain how a person, who claims to be a wild impulsive 28 years old journalist, could remember selling his first news photo more than 50 years ago?

[Note from the Photo Editor:  A Halloween Season photo of a tree’s root that resembles a Gila monster will illustrate our contention that a vivid imagination is needed to believe in ghosts, vampires and werewolves but it is a patriotic duty to believe official assertion that all conspiracy theories are the product of creative fictionalizing.]

Nietzsche wrote:  “A sedentary life is the real sin against the Holy Ghost.”

Now the disk jockey will play Sheb Wooley’s “Flying purple people eater,” Buchanan and Goodman’s “The Flying Saucer,” and the Byrd’ “Mr. Spaceman.”  We have to go check out the rumor that, thanks to a prototype experiment for the witness protection program, Enesto “Che” Guevara was given an identity that, ultimately, provided him with a chance to be a member of the city council at a small University town, in California and that he died peacefully there in his sleep, long after the Sixties were over.  Have a “bump in the night” type week.


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