December 27, 2013

The homeless, panhandlers, and mug shots

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:26 pm

Berkeley’s beloved Hate Man 

Approximately forty years ago, Esquire Magazine commissioned a commercial photographer in New York City to select some bums from the Bowery, take mug shtos of them, then spruce them up, put them in fashionable clothes and take their portraits a second time.  The pairs of portraits made a very effective statement about the absurdity of lookism, which is the philosophy that everything, particularly people, should be judged on how attractive and stylish they look.

When we first arrived in Berkeley CA, we recalled the Esquire Magazine effort and considered doing a localized version of that approach to the controversial subject of the local homeless.

Things have changed (a bit) since the Sixties and these days people are up tight about having their photo taken and so the project was slowed down by an attempt, which had to come first, to win the confidence of some of the panhandlers.

Richard Avedon had a unique lighting style that made his portraits distinctive and eventually we figured out (“imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”) how to duplicate it.  It would take some expensive strobe lighting and a huge studio and, over the years, we (photo pun alert!) developed a low budget way to try to imitate the master’s distinctive style.  A plain white wall with Northern lighting would be a cheap way to get the flat lighting and plain background.

Francesco Scavullo came to our attention as the end of the last century drew neigh.  Scavullo usually had a hair dresser, a make up artist and a wardrobe wrangler on his staff and he could make anyone look like a movie star and made movie stars look like living legends.  If he selected a hippie, a panhandler, or a homeless person as a subject they would end up looking drop dead gorgeous in the finished print.  The photo critics eloquently praised Scavullo’s ability to see the inner human dignity of the subject.

Armstrong and Getty, who have the hottest (radio) show on the West Coast, are rather relentless in their harsh criticism of the homeless, the panhandlers, and the hippie connoisseurs of tobacco and home rolled cigarettes.  Lookism reigns supreme in the ranks of the Republicans.

The radio duo will, for example, describe in lurid detail just how unsanitary some panhandlers seem to be but they will not acknowledge that often businesses in San Francisco or Berkeley will deny the homeless access to public toilets.

During the series of Occupy protests in the San Francisco Bay Area, the World’s Laziest Journalist had to cope with the same challenge.  If, for example, there is a hotel with public toilets in the area, and if they deny access to those facilities during a time period when a big political protest is being conducted nearby, that could be construed as stacking the deck against the activists in the hopes that they would have to soil themselves and their clothing and thus provide grist for conservative propaganda.

Could that sly attack on freedom of speech happen in a country that had thousands of men die defending the Four Freedoms (can you name all four?) in World War II?

Wouldn’t such cynical manipulation of the protesters be a stealth way of contradicting the need for those men who fought and died in WWII, to give the ultimate sacrifice?  Or would it reduce the Conservatives’ lavish praise or patriotism to the level of being an egregious example of their addiction to hypocrisy?  What’s not to love about crass and callous hypocrisy?  Don’t Republicans want to be on the billionaires’ team rather than spend additional tax dollars on the casualties of war?

What would Armstorng and Getty have to say if, hypothetically, Francesco Scavullo were able to round up a contingent of Bay Area panhandlers, get them out of their dirty clothes (there is at least one Laundromat in Berkeley that offers the homeless a free night when they can wash most of their clothes.  [What’s not to love about a guy in his skivvies washing all the rest of his wardrobe?]), take an impressive portrait, and turn them into matinee idols and starlets?  Berkeley even offers the homeless a chance to shower and shampoo their hair, twice a week.

If Scavullo were still alive and transforming the homeless in the San Francisco Bay area into potential movie stars (there’s one guy on Shattuck who reminds us of Lee van Cleef [Does anyone still make spaghetti Westerns?]) we would expect Armstrong and Getty to ignore the results and continue to demean the victims of the current class warfare.

Since radioland will soon be turned into all conservative propaganda all the time, don’t expect sympathetic media coverage of the panhandlers any time soon.

Several years ago (could it have been twenty years ago?) the World’s Laziest Journalist occasionally bought lunch for a fellow who “owned” the begging rights to the 405 off-ramp at National Blvd in the Mar Vista Section of Los Angeles.  He had no reason to lie to us and so we take what he said at face value.  We asked him why he didn’t use some of his “offerings” to get a haircut and buy some nicer threads.  He bluntly told us that if he did that, he wouldn’t bring in half as much money.  The people, he said, wanted to have a full experience of being a “have” who was giving to a “have not.”  In Los Angeles, which is the home of the movie industry, an elaboration of the “you have to look the part” philosophy was not necessary.

Things were much better economically back then, and we had no reason to doubt him when he said his earnings were enabling him to put his two children back East through college.  He blithely told us that his annual income was $38,000.  Based on what he told us, it is easy to see why a panhandler would not want, back then, to get a “makeover” from Scavullo and his team and thereby sabotage his way of earning a livelihood.

In our photo archives, we have a good portrait of Berkeley’s beloved Hate Man.  We had to do a re-shoot when we couldn’t find the j-peg files of his portrait.  We used Northern Lighting with a white door as background to get a shot with the look we wanted.

The East Bay Guardian did an award winning feature story profile of Hate Man ( ) and we could not hope to do better with a measly 1,000 word column.   If readers do a Google Image search for Hate Man, one of the top suggestions is a portrait of Hate Man earlier in life and we offer that photo as conclusive proof that we do not harbor a condescending attitude regarding Hate Man because fifty years ago, he had already achieved a level of journalism success that we can still only envy today.

If (subjunctive mood alert!), the World’s Laziest Journalist were teaching a course in Journalism at a world famous University that is close to People’s Park, which is where Hate Man’s World Headquarters is located, we would beg him for the opportunity to be  a guest lecturer in an outdoor meeting of the class.  Hell, they should pay him to teach a class there every semester.

As it is, most folks take a quick look at Hate Man and revert to Lookism to make their assessment of the fellow.  Getty and Armstrong would score a coup if they could talk to him and listen to what he has to say.  Come to think of it, maybe even Uncle Rushbo would love to hear a person proselytizing on the idea that people shouldn’t suppress hate.

If the Republicans want an eloquent exposition on the idea that hate should be expressed enthusiastically, they couldn’t find a better spokesperson.  Since Hate Man lives in one of the most Liberal congressional districts in the USA, maybe the Republicans might take pride in Hate Man if they elected him to be the local Congressional delegate, but it is our opinion that Hate Man would get claustrophobic sitting in a Congressman’s office and decline the opportunity.

Recently in London, photographer Rosie Holtum caused a sensation with a photo exhibition that was based on the same premise that Esquire used so many moons ago.  Conservative media owners will probably be very quick to squelch this graphic evidence which proves a liberal contention.

What would happen if, instead of giving families a home makeover on a reality TV show, the production company started doing a weekly program that gave homeless people a makeover?  Conservative media owners won’t let that idea be expressed in any pitch session, eh?

While writing this week’s column, we saw the new Walter Mitty movie which features repeated recitations of the mission statement for LIFE magazine which provides us with an appropriate end of the column quote: “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of Life.”

Now the disk jockey will play Madonna’s “Vogue,” Frank Sinatra’s “Nancy (with the laughing face),” and the Cowsills’ “All I really want to be is me.”  We have to go buy a DVD copy of “Funny Face.”  Have a “say ‘cheese!’” type week.

December 26, 2013

The CIA gets it wrong — again

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 10:12 pm

The CIA really screwed up back in 1961 when it plotted to murder Patrice Lumumba — and just look at the mess it created in all of central Africa as a result, even today. The CIA also blew it bigtime when it assassinated the democratically-elected president of Iran back in 1952 — and Iran has pretty much been one of the CIA’s biggest headaches ever since.

And of course there was also the CIA’s famous Mandela fiasco — wherein “The Company” supported apartheid in South Africa and schemed to have Mandela thrown in jail. No wonder Raul Castro was so welcome at Mandela’s funeral. Cuba was a major anti-apartheid player, while the CIA once again stood on the wrong side of history, supported the Bad Guys and helped engineer the evils of bantustans, mass torture, dumpasses and the cold-blooded slaughter of school girls — plus the CIA, like one other dynasty I could mention right now, also put out false propaganda that South Africa was awash with happy Blacks picking cotton.

The CIA’s next total blunder took place in Chile. How many thousands and thousands were tortured and killed there for no reason as a result of CIA interference in a democratically-elected government there? According to the Washington Post, the number was 32,197 — but we may never know the real statistics for sure. Let’s list Chile as another political (and moral) failure for “The Agency”.

Don’t even get me started on Vietnam. Or Cambodia. A land-war in Asia? Never a good idea.

And let’s not forget the CIA’s disgusting and ugly ongoing disaster in Central America, starting in 1954 when the CIA drew up a “disposal list” to systematically assassinate 58 of Guatemala’s democratically-elected leaders in order to install the worst sort of dictators there This illegal and immoral strategy eventually cost American taxpayers untold billions of dollars — yet another big “Fail” for the “Certified Incompetents of America”.

And even today, when farmers in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala go out to plow their fields, they are still finding silent graves filled with whitened bones planted there by CIA-backed Death Squads. That whole decade of the 1980s was just one big blood bath after another in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. I shudder to even think about it. So much shame is there. And so much bad PR for America.

But let’s not forget Iraq either, the CIA at its very lowest ebb. False intel there. A trillion dollars frittered away on creating corpses — a million of them by some counts. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

And the CIA-backed neo-cons in Israel have also been a big failure. Those IDF blackshirts have turned out to be nothing more than Cossacks in sheep’s clothing as they run their viscous pogroms through the Christian and Muslim shtetls of the West Bank and Gaza

Not to mention CIA failures in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Belfast, Beirut, Georgia, Cuba, Grenada and Dallas You can always count on the CIA to back the wrong players and/or play the wrong game. The whole Middle East is in flames today, thanks to the CIA. Not to mention the alleged blow-back in 2001 at the World Trade Center — or was that just another one of the CIA’s failed war games too? Either way, America also lost bigtime here due to the CIA.

Thank goodness there was no CIA during the 1861 Civil War. It would have supported the Confederacy of course — and with the “Virginia Farm Boys” covering his back, General Lee would have lost even sooner than he did. Or imagine if “The Agency” had been around during the 1776 Revolution! With the kind of help that it has to offer, we’d still be saluting the Queen and sipping High Tea. And the CIA would have just loved George Armstrong Custer. “There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.” Sounds like CIA spies wrote that report.

“But Jane,” you might ask, “if the CIA has had so many abominable black marks against it and such dismal failures on its books, how come ‘The Company’ hasn’t gone bankrupt yet?” That’s a very good question. If any other corporation in America had failed its customers this often, abysmally and immorally, one would think that it would have been forced to go bankrupt a long time ago. Its publicly-traded stock would have been worthless and laughed at. But not this “Company”. Apparently the CIA leads a very charmed life.

I occasionally wish that I could do something like that too — start a business and know for sure and always that no matter what wrong thing I would ever do with it, what ever bad business decision I would ever make or how often I would horribly screw up, I would still automatically make almost a hundred billion a year anyway. Wouldn’t that be cool — to just sit back and receive corporate welfare like “The Agency” does, no matter how badly I blow it. Those CIA people certainly do have it all going on.

“But Jane,” you might also ask, “the CIA is a government operation, not a corporation.” Yeah right. You just keep telling yourself that. The CIA never has to answer to We the People. It answers only to the corporations that own it. That’s not “government”. Government, in a true democracy, must be of service to its people. And how the freak have We ever been served by having America’s reputation shredded to ribbons throughout the world?

PS: In a recent article in the Berkeley Daily Planet, George Lakoff wrote about how neo-cons use the word “redistribution” in a very negative way, like it’s a freaking crime to take from the rich and give to the poor.–By-George-Lakoff

But where in the freak do rich people actually think that they got all their “trickle down” money in the first place? From poor working stiffs like you and me, of course. Duh. It’s called “Trickle up”.

Hell, if it weren’t for strikes and unions and grassroots political candidates like Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren, you and I would all be running around in loincloths and working 18-hour days right now so that the rich could get even richer. So isn’t it high time for us to “redistribute” some money back into our own pockets where it came from in the first place? Yeah, duh.

PPS: Spoiler alert — unrelated topic:

WHY do so many neo-cons have their knickers all in a twist right now over the use of the word “Holiday”? I don’t get it. Isn’t the word “Holiday” an abbreviation of the phrase “Holy Day”? So Fox News is now saying that Christmas isn’t holy? Huh?

December 22, 2013

Who else is paying for their Endless War? The CA court system is

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 1:51 pm

Let’s think about all those trillions of dollars that have been constantly pouring into war profiteers’ pockets ever since they invented Vietnam. All those trillions must have come from somewhere. Of course we all know that some of them came from the Federal Reserve where they print Monopoly money like crazy. And, ironically, some of them have also come from multiple humungous loans from China. Plus some of that money also found its way into the pockets of War Street at approximately the same time that “all the gold in Fort Knox” mysteriously disappeared. And a few trillion also seems to have just materialized out of thin air — as if there was some ethereal war-profiteer fairy out there happily waving her magic wand. But a lot of this destructive blood-money also came out of the pockets of us American taxpayers. Trillions of dollars. From you and me.

All too many of us hard-working Americans have been forced to gird up our loins and go without so that war profiteers can afford to live like kings, buy multiple yachts, drink Veuve Clicquot champagne and smoke Cuban cigars.

You and I have gone without jobs, schools, roads, police, fire departments, hospitals, etc. in order to pay handsomely for War Street’s right to kill babies and Live Large.

And, apparently, we are also being forced to live without the high-quality court system that we here in California had grown accustomed to. How do I know this? Because the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association just told me so!

At a recent luncheon meeting of BABA at the famed Berkeley City Club (designed by Julia Morgan herself) and over roast chicken, fruit salad and pie, a judge from the Alameda County Superior Court gave us a talk on the struggles that Alameda County is going through just to keep its court system working and its courthouse doors open these days.

“One billion dollars was lost in the budget last year,” the speaker told us. “This is the toughest time financially in the history of this court. We have never has to worry about money before — but now we worry about money all of the time. It is very difficult to juggle to keep all of our programs alive.”

“For instance, there have been 26 furlough days this year, where court employees didn’t get paid. Courthouses are closed. We used to have 72 judges and nine commissioners. Now there are 18 vacancies this year. We went from 940 employees to 720 employees. We need 104 more just to operate. There used to be seven civil court locations. Now there are only two. Four family courts have been reduced to one family court. Four probate locations have been reduced to one.” Heaven forbid that you should have to die and your ghost be forced to stand in line for hours at probate court.

“And if you get a traffic ticket anywhere in the county, you will have to drive all the way down to Fremont to contest it. People stand in line for blocks at 5 am to get their tickets handled — and may still have to come back. And the only reason Alameda County is barely keeping its head above water right now is because we have so many employees who are dedicated to bringing access to justice for all. Sacramento County, for instance, doesn’t even have a civil filing office bull pen. You just leave your unfiled summonses, pleadings and other documents in a drop-box. Some counties have over 5000 unfiled documents right now.”

And where is the money from all those unpaid salaries going? As far as I can tell, it is going into the pockets of tax-dodging corporate welfare queens and heartless and immoral war profiteers. Christmas is coming up. Would Jesus approve of all this random bloodshed and not-random greed? Can you actually imagine Him saying, “I am Jesus and I approve this message.” No way!

“Then there is the problem of criminal realignment. 30,000 prisoners have been released but next year there will be no money for their realignment — so more petty thefts will occur. This will be very interesting to see.” In other words, 30,00 prisoners will get out of jail with only bus fare and the clothes on their backs.

And also court electronic data systems have suffered. “In some smaller counties, the filing system consists of putting papers in a box. And our county no longer has the personnel to support inter-court filing of documents either.” So you have to go to one specific court if you want to file a complaint or a probate document or a traffic ticket protest or an unlawful detainer.

And speaking of unlawful detainers (that’s where people who don’t pay their rent get invited to court by their landlord), the California court system has been flooded with them. “There are so many banks with foreclosures. These are our priority cases. And 95% of them are getting settled because judges from other departments volunteer to help out and get these cases heard — because where else are people being threatened with foreclosure evictions going to go if they lose their homes?”

PS: At its next monthly luncheon meeting, BABA asked a federal judge to speak — only he talked about an excess of money in America instead of a dearth of it, and how there have been whole tornadoes and hurricanes of money, flooding down on the USA like hailstorms ever since Citizens’ United took effect.

“And there is the additional problem of having individuals with unlimited personal bank accounts now running for office,” said the judge. “When all this money flows into the election system, only wealthy people are elected.” And why shouldn’t rich people invest in buying elections? For every dollar a huge corporation or war profiteer spends on buying an election, he gets a 5000% return in pork-barrel dollars sent his way.

“Swing states are already saturated with money on the presidential-campaign level,” and so any more money being poured into those campaigns will have decreasing effectiveness. “But large sums of money have an overwhelming effect on local elections. But even though voters aren’t stupid, even when being constantly bombarded with expensive ads, fair elections are still impossible under the current system,” said the judge as I happily ate roast beef, baby spinach and cheesecake.

“We in America have a very narrow view of what constitutes corruption.” It’s not corrupt to buy an election any more — just as long as you use the new Supreme Court guidelines or have a friend at Diebold. You can’t just slip a poll-worker a fin any more. That’s corrupt. You gotta be new-school about it.

“Chief Justice Roberts stated that, ‘The Supreme Court doesn’t make the laws. We just call balls and strikes’. That is wrong.” Especially when the current Supreme Court continuously calls out “strike!” even after a batter has obviously hit a home run.
PPS: “So, Jane. What’s your moral here?” The moral here is that we need to protect the integrity of our court system at any cost — even if it means that a few more war profiteers have to go without one of their yachts. And also that I love all those Berkeley-Albany Bar Association luncheons.

December 20, 2013

Another week for the History books

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:26 pm

Did History happen at San Francisco City Hall on Thursday?

Workers at the Santa Monica Outlook were used to the feeling that the building was shaking.  Each day, when the presses started to roll, the building would rumble just a bit.  When a small earthquake would occur, as happened periodically in that area of seismic instability, the building would gyrate in place (twerk?), but on one particular day about thirty years ago, when the building started vibrating, the World’s Laziest Journalist yelled:  “this is history happening” and ran out into the parking lot on the South side of the building to see the last time a railroad freight train would be used inside Santa Monica’s city limits.

We were reminded of that spine tingling feeling of realizing that something with historic significance was happening, earlier this week while we were listening to David Lazarus work as a substitute host on the Norman Goldman radio talk show.  The radio landscape in the San Francisco Bay Area will change radically when the political liberals are banished from the local airwaves and we knew that was going to happen; but listening to the Los Angeles Times writer do some verbal jousting with a conservative troll, we had that old “history is happening” feeling again.

A classic bit of Americana is about to go belly up.  Folks who don’t have online access to progressive radio programming in the San Francisco area will never again get to hear the classic bit of Americana wherein a troll calls a progressive talk radio program and asks “What if there had been a good guy with a gun there when the bad guy walked into that Connecticut school?”

The last weekend round-up column before Christmas of 2013 arrives is the perfect opportunity to become all sentimental and nostalgic.  The Lone Ranger, Lux Radio Theater, Fiber McGee and Molly, are gone and now the classic bit of Americana concerning “what if there had been a good guy with a bad gun there?” will join those other hallowed memories rusting in the Radio Hall of Fame.

Yes, there will always be archived material to bring back the treasured memories, but is listening to a recording of Abbott and Costello talk about the baseball team’s lineup the same as hearing it live?  Isn’t “doing it live” another American tradition that is fading into oblivion?

William L. Shirer, who was no stranger to radio history, wrote several books about his experiences of being a journalist working in Europe as WWII approached and became unavoidable.  In one of them (probably “Berlin Diary The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934 – 1941,”) he described the deleterious effect living in the midst of a relentless stream of propaganda had on the journalists whose job it was to refute that same series of lies.  If Murrow’s Boys weren’t immune to it, expecting average Americans to avoid becoming indoctrinated by a one sided debate might prove to be a bit overly optimistic, Think of the effect more like “shaving points” in a basketball game, rather than being an example of “taking a dive” in a boxing match.

Journalism presents news consumers with a smorgasbord of information that the individual can customize for his or her own tastes.  Some guys turn first to a newspaper’s Sports Section, other skim the front page before going to the comics.

On Thursday, December 19, 2013, a wedding ceremony was held at City Hall in San Francisco that drew a large contingent of journalists, but no satellite TV trucks.  The bride and groom started out clothed on the steps (Sheriff’s Department jurisdiction), were ordered to relocate to the sidewalk (SFPD jurisdiction), and were nude when the minister performed the wedding ceremony.  The wedding may have been a historic first for San Francisco.  If so, photos of the event will be used sporadically for years to come.  No TV trucks means it’s not a big news story and there won’t be any video available to use on the Evening News.  The story ran on the front page of the Bay Area section of the San Francisco Chronicle’s December 20, 2013 edition.

The bride, Gypsy Taub, is very adept at drawing news coverage and so we may write a column comparing her expertise at manipulating journalists to the way that politicians play the newsies as if they were from a paid Public Relations firm.

Newsworthiness and historical importance don’t always coincide.  In a week when some showbiz maneuvering for the cable TV show “Duck Dynasty,” the death of Al Goldstein and several movie actors, and a shooting at a Colorado school, were current event topics, stories about the use of gas in Syria were not getting good play.  The obscure stories about events in Syria may, in the future, wind up being of much greater interest to historians than this week’s celebrity gossip items.

Lamenting the fact that celebrity gossip is replacing hard news in the journalism world is itself a topic that won’t attract a big audience.

We know that is traditional for liberals to use Christmas time to spout platitudes about “Peace on Earth,” but for a patriotic pundit living in a country still deeply involved in George W. Bush’s “Forever War” that sounds suspiciously like a cowardly surrender attitude if not actual treason.

December is a time when journalists knock out the annual best of material, the top news stories recaps, and columns full of whimsy and nostalgia.

O.K.  Here goes:  When we were getting religious training during our grade school phase of life, a nun related an bit of information about the Roman treatment of the Christians.

The people who were going to be sacrificed in the arena for the amusement of the citizens were often taunted by some of the people who were watching the victims being walked through the streets to the place where they would draw their last breath.  Some of the sadistic instigators would walk along with the intended victims right up to the entrance to the Coliseum.  At least once, the sadistic guards let the vocal agitators past the entrance and into the “blue room.”  When they closed and locked the entrance doors, the people who were doing the taunting turned to the guards and explained a mistake has occurred and that they didn’t belong there.  The guards responded:  “that’s all we ever hear.”

It seems to us that eventually some of the conservative talk show listeners will someday change their mind about the way things are going and start to object to being told that the jobs will start to reappear when more tax breaks for the rich are enacted.

A massive tax cut for billionaires is a great idea if you are a billionaire.  If you are a member of the middle class who has been searching for work for an extended period, tax cuts for the billionaires should be a topic that gets a “we don’t have a dog in this fight” type answer.

Fooling people into blundering into participation in a gladiators’ contest and getting desperate voters to approve of tax cuts that probably aren’t going to generate the creation of just one job, are both fine examples of sadism in action.  The guards thought what they did was funny.  The billionaires think duping the working class into approving tax cuts that will only benefit the super rich is funny.  In both cases the only relevant question is:  “Whose side are you on?”

In a year when liberal talk radio is being drastically reduce to almost zero in the radio marketplace and no one, least of all any Conservative, is lamenting the disappearance of the last vestige of free speech, it seems to the World’s Laziest Journalist that it is time to forget about the possibility of time travel and scratch “Visiting Berlin at Christmas time in 1938” off the bucket list.  We don’t need to go there; we’re already there.

The closing quote for the Christmas 2013 column will be the words of Hunter S. Thompson:  “Big darkness soon come.”

Now the disk jockey will play Tom T. Hall’s song The Cowboy and the Philosopher (it contains an excellent Christmas wish list), “Christmas with the Chipmunks,” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  We have to go see “American Hustle.”  Have a “just what I always wanted!” type week.

December 16, 2013

Ye Old Scribe Presents: Joe McFuzzlepants Gets a New Cell Phone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ye Olde Scribe @ 5:55 pm

Ye Olde’s Old Goat Quote

“Megyn Kelly saying Santa is white is like Cypher saying the Matrix is real.”-infamous net blogger A-non-E-moose

Ye Old Scribe Presents: Joe McFuzzlepants Gets a New Cell Phone


December 15, 2013

Why life is like a football field

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:57 am

While watching football games on TV, we see players charge into danger, get their bodies beaten all to hell by opponents, injure their knees, walk away with “shaken baby syndrome” and sometimes even break a few bones — yet despite all this mayhem, players always seem to be having a whole bunch of fun at the same time.

And life too is like that — or at least it could be. Life always throws all kinds of obstacles in our paths. “Bad things happen.” You can always expect them like clockwork. That’s just the way life is. And you can then fold under the weight of it all — or you can look at the future with undisguised glee, with the same attitude as football players. Charge ahead. Grin. Enjoy the game!

Life is a contact sport, guys. Let’s suit up.

PS: The current challenge that life is handing me right now is how to deal with the pain of an abscessed tooth. You can’t just get your teeth fixed on Medi-Cal any more Plus even finding someone to pull it out for less than a small fortune is a Herculean task. What to do? FaceBook to the rescue! Here’s some examples of the good advice I’ve received from Team FaceBook:

“Put salt on it.”

“Soak it in whiskey.”

“Use Theodent chocolate toothpaste. It’s better than fluoride.”

“Go to Highland Hospital or the UCSF school of dentistry. They will pull it for cheap.”

“Do one of those dental-tourism thingies.” Sorry, no use. At this point in time, I can’t afford to do one of those.

But this suggestion is my favorite: “Tie a string to a door.”

In any case, here’s me, facing the future squarely, charging boldly down the field. A trip to the UCSF School of Dentistry revealed that a former root canal on my tooth had been done wrong, that the tooth was now unsalvageable and that I could gladly pay them $15 Tuesday for an extraction appointment today. “Score!”

But then a trip to San Francisco’s beautiful old Ferry Building on the way home helped a lot to distract me from thoughts of the coming ordeal. And, of course, images of the Tooth Fairy possibly leaving enough money under my pillow to pay for an implant — that also helped.

And now I’m all getting ready for life’s next challenging scrimmage — because you can always guarantee that it won’t ever be long before the next one comes along.

PPS: And speaking of scrimmages, it looks like we are all going to be having Big Fun dealing with the next huge challenge life is throwing our way — trying to stop the human race from going belly-up in the near future due to climate change. According to journalist Tim Donovan, a climate-change apocalypse is already on its way here.

“Last week,” says Donovan, “I argued that it’s wholly unrealistic to assume humanity will undertake the massive, world-changing, economy-disrupting policy solutions needed for us to even stand a chance of long-term survival. Given that our local political and economic systems are as fragile, stalled and polarized as they’ve been in most of American history, these predictions only seem more dire, and the problem only more intractable.”

I have two thoughts on this terrible situation. First, a good apocalypse will surely take my mind off my poor abscessed tooth! And it might even take the GOP’s mind off of Benghazi and ObamaCare too. Hey, it could happen. Rove and Eric Canter and the Koch brothers will finally stop fretting about the CIA and the ACA — because they will be dead like the rest of us! Sorry, guys, but your flashy new bunkers and greedy bank vaults full of moola won’t save you either.

And, second, in order to save the world from those evil corporatist Nazi bastards during WWII, we Americans mobilized everything we had, even down to planting victory gardens in our smallest back yards. And now we need to do that exact same kind of extreme mobilization again today — in order to save the world from itself!

PPPS: I myself have never particularly liked football — until the other day, when I met Colin Kaepernick. What a nice guy. Now all I gotta say is, “Go Niners!” Or at least until they sell out and move down to Santa Clara. And “Go Raiders” too — for as long as they stay in Oakland where they belong.

December 13, 2013

Have Nikon; Will Travel

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

This visual oxymoron seems appropriate for a column lamenting the fact that there will not be an outlet for liberal philosophy in the San Francisco radio market.

During the historic week which included a handshake, a Presidential selfie, and a prank, and Mike Malloy directing his audience to for the back story (which was being ignored by the mainstream media) of the arrest Nelson Mandela a half century ago; the World’s Laziest Journalist became involved with a friend in a debate about Fox’s claim to be fair and balanced.

The sources for an impartial adjudication of the dispute, in turn, provide another source for more rancor.  It got to the point where we wondered if it would be possible to get a judgment on the question from the Columbia Journalism Review but then we scrapped the idea because their credentials for making such a call would probably be challenged by our debating opponent.

When Edward R. Murrow was appointed to be the in charge of news for the Voice of America he caused a dispute when he announced that he would include unfavorable as well as flattering information in the broadcasts.

How much criticism of George W. Bush had Fox ever broadcast?  Did they ever have anything to say about President Obama that was not negative?  Could it be that tolerance for information that was less than “very flattering” was the hallmark of excellence which distinguishes reporting from propaganda?  One man’s derogatory remark is another man’s example of fair and balanced.  It seems that the dispute is destined for perpetual stalemate status.

As the week progressed, we tried to contend with the challenge of providing publicity for the Mother Laura Gertrude Seland Foundation (there is a page on Facebook for this organization) to bolster their fund raising efforts.

We started collecting a list of movies of, for, about, or featuring a Cadillac car for a friend, Frank Nicodemus, who is a specialist in restoring that famous brand of cars.

We have endorsed the efforts of the Armstrong and Getty Show is continuing their criticism of the bullet train that does not earn favorable approval numbers in the polls.  Thursday their program publicized a story done by Los Angeles Times reporter George Skelton on the expensive project which seems to contradict the concept of budget cuts because of the need for austerity measures.  One man’s boondoggle is another man’s “necessary path to the future.”

Armstrong and Getty have been critical of the homeless and we have wondered how receptive they would be to a suggestion that they interview an intelligent and eloquent panhandler or would they insist on doing a variation of the concept of a stacked deck and only extend an invitation to a guest who was not articulate?

During the week, we called the Norman Goldman radio show to castigate him for never showing any appreciation for the quality of Republican hypocrisy.  We were unable to suggest that he establish a Hypocrisy Hall of Fame.  Later we learned that the concept has already been used online.

The roster of liberal talk shows available in the San Francisco Bay area on radio is being reconfigured.  Isn’t it a strange paradox for folks to realize that liberal talk shows will be without a media outlet in the American city that is famous world wide for the tolerant philosophy of its citizens?

The fact that conservatives aren’t lamenting the evaporation of the supply of liberal voices in the marketplace is an indication that they will be content to let the sources for the philosophy of the Left be reduced to such a small size that it can be drowned in a bathtub.  When freedom of speech becomes extinct, do you think the conservatives will miss it?

The dwindling supply of liberal talk radio reminds us of the concept of the death of a thousand cuts.  No one cut is a mortal wound, but a large number of cuts can have a fatal cumulative effect.  The same thing seems to be happening to Freedom of Speech.

The World’s Laziest Journalist prefers to implement the three dot journalism style of a rapid steam of small items.  We assume that we could put a lot of time and fact finding into an effort to examine the topic of homelessness, but the fact that material is usually skimmed when it is published online, makes the prospect of doing all the necessary work seem like an exercise in futility.

If making the effort to gather content is going to be the only reward, and if people are going to only give it a quick glance, we are aware that of the Zen concept of “monkey mind” (attention deficit?) and that using the Herb Caen formula of selecting an assortment of diverse items is a matter of “form follows function.”

Occasionally being an insignificant member of the online pundit patrol has its own advantages.  A happy go lucky columnist can goad readers into considering some points that the major league pundits can’t touch with a ten foot pole.

For example, could it be that the Republicans don’t really care about Benghazi but they know that these days a President has to be accompanied by a communications specialist from the military (wasn’t that also true when Slick Willie was out cavorting with whatzername?) and that the claim that his whereabouts were unknown can never be a truthful statement.  If they have reliable gossip about where he really was when he supposedly disappeared, they are able to make his temporary location seem important, and they might figuratively speaking catch him with his pants down and embarrass him.  The actual event could just be a red herring to make him uncomfortable.  If they get a lucky break they could possibly make it necessary for someone to divulge where he was and what he (most likely) was doing at that particular time.

Heck, he ain’t going to run in 2016 so the Republicans might just make an issue of his whereabouts that particular night just to have some malicious fun.

Speaking of three dot journalism and unique bits of punditry from the peanut gallery, we have a question that seems timely.  Do the Republicans hate Obama so much that getting funding to purchase land or draw up architectural plans for the Obama Presidential Library will have to be postponed until at least after it becomes apparent if the results from the 2014 mid-term elections make that expenditure seem feasible by a (hypothetically speaking) Democratic majority Congress?

If gathering material is going to be a columnist’s only reward, then he might just as well consider himself to be the journalistic equivalent of a knight errant and extend the geographical boundaries for his beat to places that he has always wanted to see, or as in the case of the annual concert of the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra Holiday Concert in Perth, see again.

Due to austerity budget measures, the columnist will also be simultaneously assigned to carry a Nikon Coolpix with him so that he will be positioned to provide photos to accompany the aforementioned examples of thee dot journalism in action.

In The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler wrote:  “Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on and some very long and convenient hair.”

Now, the disk jockey will play “Lady Godiva,” the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” and Sleepy LeBEEF’s “Sure beats the heck out of settllin’ down.”  We have to go rescue a lady in distress.  Have a “nice state of affairs when a man has to indulge his vices by proxy” type week.

December 8, 2013

Berkeley writers: Famous authors from my home town

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 3:47 pm

Way back in 1972, I found myself really struggling to find a place for myself in the new Nixon America, both philosophically and economically. The 1960s were clearly over and nobody wanted to hire me — either as a hippie single mother or as a female city planner with a masters degree from Cal. The days of Johnson’s Great Society and Urban Removal were gone completely and monies that used to go to improve our urban infrastructure had all been consumed in a fire called the Vietnam War. Plus planning departments throughout the land were mostly hiring only men “because they had families to support”. Hey, me too!

And so I decided to go to a hypnotist who would then ask my subconscious mind for advice on the subject of, “What should I do with my life?” What am I good at? And the answer came back so definitively clear that it startled me.

“You are a WRITER,” screamed my subconscious. Go figure. Or maybe it had said, “Righter,” meaning a person who seeks justice and to put things to right. Or perhaps both.

And 40 years later, here I am — constantly writing my little heart out. So my subconscious mind was clearly on target. And I am also now living in a city that is famous for its writers (and Righters too): Berkeley, California. So I decided to go for a walk and check out the places where these famous writers had lived.

Alan Ginsberg lived at 1624 Milvia Street when he wrote “Howl”. And he also used to come over to visit my friends at the Woolsey Street House and hang out with Country Joe McDonald, Chogyam Trungpa and the Floating Lotus Magic Opera.

Jack Kerouac lived at 1943 Berkeley Way. Philip K. Dick lived at 1126 Francisco Street and worked at the Lucky Dog pet shop  The list goes on and on. Ursula Le Guin, Robert Penn Warren, Joan Didion, Huey Newton, Anthony Boucher, June Jordan, Michael Chabon… All of them had homes in Berkeley.

But then I got to thinking about all the other residents — writers, Righters or not — currently living in Berkeley who do NOT have any homes. James, the writer who lives on the sidewalk in front of Jon’s ice cream shop, for instance. He has no home. And there are many, many, many others too — writers or not — who now live on our streets, unprotected and constantly at the mercy of weather, economic downturns, criminal minds and bad luck.

And these are only the homeless people in Berkeley that I’m talking about. All across America today there are thousands — probably even millions — of potential writers (and Righters) who are now (involuntarily) On The Road.

The strange and cancerous growth of homelessness in America since Jimmy Carter should surely give me something to write about. And should give you something to write about too. For instance, you could write to your congressional representative and tell him or her to stop spending our money on sleazy bank bailouts and stupid wars and start spending it on housing and schools instead. Who knows? Perhaps somewhere out there, homeless and afraid and without an education, is America’s next William Faulkner, Mark Twain or Janet Evanovich!

PS: Didn’t Mark Twain live in Berkeley too? Or at least visit here a lot? I know that he left his memoirs to the University of California.

PPS: Here is an article I wrote back in 2007 after my visit to Nelson Mandela’s home town, Soweto, back when I was in the Peace Corps in South Africa. “Up the ‘Bucs!”

And another article I wrote about Mandela’s relationship to Lucas Mangope, uncrowned king of the Setswana, who lived in my South African home town.

December 6, 2013

Big Brother and the end of Liberal talk radio

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:21 pm

A two pound dog provides an image symbolizing Liberal Talk radio.

LIFE magazine would be the logical source for some classic photos of the attack on Pearl Harbor which occurred 73 years ago Saturday, but for a writer starting out to accomplish that chore on the day before that column is scheduled to be posted is an impossible assignment.  Time magazine and the New York Times newspaper both have staff members who are employed full time to handle such editorial needs but if an online pundit notices on Thursday, December 05, 2013, that the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is a timely topic, it is too late to try to get permission to use a historic photo of that event.  Devoting an entire column to the “inside baseball” aspect of the task would run a high risk of boring readers and that provides an example of how and why the concept of “citizen journalist” is a red herring for those who want to reassure the general public that an alternative source for news is being formed in the realm of pop culture.

Ideally, glitzy photos accompanying a thoroughly fact checked article that has been quickly produced is possible on a one time basis but logistically doing that consistently  is like saying that a football quarterback can play an entire game with two minute drill intensity.

Initially when the Internet was in the formative stage, expectations were expressed that the new form of communication would spawn strong unique voices that would help provide citizens with the information they need to make competent choices when the elections are held.  The ideal of a rugged individual who can turn in a championship performance makes for the basic material of a wide variety of examples of urban legends such as the movie “Rocky,” and others of that ilk.

The fact that a lone wolf journalist isn’t going to consistently land interviews with the news making politicians is something that average reader won’t consider.  Then when a TV network shows a President’s wife answering a question put to the President, most folks won’t stop to think that there is some heavy duty game playing going on off camera.

An online pundit who points out that the sound byte provides an example of subconscious image building (or destroying?) that indicates the President is an example of the “hen pecked” syndrome will go as unnoticed as the sounds of a tree falling in the remote wilderness.  So why bother?

At 0600 hours on a Sunday morning, there isn’t much happening in Berkeley and running off to San Francisco isn’t usually going to provide a much greater smorgasbord of interesting diversions, so why bother?  It is, however, a good time to write a rough draft of the next scheduled column, if the writer has scoured the media and, on the preceding day, visited San Francisco looking for tidbits of information.

Why spend the time and money to go to looking for items in a column?

Do readers in London, Kalgoorlie (in Western Australia), and Concordia Kansas really care about a trend spotting item about the pizza at the Golden Boy bar in San Francisco?  Didn’t someone from Oakland land in Bartlett’s for saying “A trend, is a trend, is a trend!” or something quite similar?

The décor in the Golden Boy is heavy with slap art and it would take a considerable amount of work to expand that topic into column length but if we use it as an item, perhaps the assignment desk at the New York Times features desk will be inspired to assign that topic to one of the available writers and then we’ll just need to find and read the article to learn all about slap art.

Cold winter’s nights in Berkeley are an excellent time to read the classic novels that were assigned reading in high school and college many moons ago.  We might get a good column if we complete our reading of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”  We fully intend on writing a column as a review of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” when we finish reading it.

On Thursday December 5, 2013, another aspect of the pathetic plight of the citizen journalist became apparent when it was announced that the supply of Liberal voices on the radio was being considerably diminished.

Is an online pundit criticizing Compassionate Conservative Christian propaganda on hundreds of radio stations a fair fight?  Did anybody bet on the rebels holding off the Mexican army in the Alamo or was that situation so lopsided that the bookies declined any attempt to make such a long shot wager?

Many moons ago the World’s Laziest Journalist facetiously suggested that eventually the effort to present the Liberal point of view on radio for Americans would eventually lead to a modern pundit doing a Wolfman Jack style of “voice in the wilderness” program on a very powerful signal being broadcast from outside the USA.  Our reasoning was that it did happen in Germany in the Thirties and it would happen again in the USA eventually.

If a fellow happens to be a digital hermit living in a pad without Internet access how will he be able to monitor Liberal radio?  It ain’t gonna happen.

We could still write about news that intrigues us such as the possibility that Tom Cruise will play Carroll Shelby in film to be title “Drive like Hell.”

We could write a column that features a “Twilight Zone” fan reading some forbidden Liberal Punditry about the Republican long range game plan and mutters:  “It’s a cookbook!”

We could (maybe) find a two pound dog and use an image of that beast to symbolize Progressive Talk in the dog eat dog world of the contemporary scene on the radio dial.

There was a comedian back in the day who did a routine speculating about what would happen if the only rule parents gave to their kids was:  “Don’t put beans in your ear.”  Maybe Liberal talk show hosts should hawk T-shirts advising:  “Don’t put clandestine radio ear candy in your brain!” and watch their ratings soar.

When will the Republicans learn the lesson Rev. Gene Scott taught the audience in L. A.  Shouldn’t some forward thinking radio station be using the old “Best of” trick to broadcast Rush Limbaugh 24/7 every day of the year?

Watching Progressive Talk radio do the Cheshire Cat disappearing act, we are reminded of the last two sentences in “1984:”  “He had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother.”

Now the disk jockey will play Dave Van Ronk’s “Romping through the Swamp,” Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” and Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “The Cruel War.”  We have to go to a hootenanny.  Have a “Kumbaya” type week.

Down for the Rapture?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ye Olde Scribe @ 9:39 am

Soon you’ll be toast.

YES, this kitsch is a REAL product.

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