July 26, 2015

Greece: “You’re the one that I want!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 6:19 pm

Olivia Newton-John pretty much got it right back in 1978 when she sang her heart out to John Travolta, “It’s raining on Prom night”.

And here and now, in 2015, it’s still pretty much raining on prom night too — but in a different movie, one called “Greece”. And there are also worse things that Germany’s sleazy bankers could do to Greece (but I can’t imagine what).

Back 1946, when Germany was in big economic trouble after the Allies let loose their “greased lightning” on the Nazis, America bailed out that country with the Marshall Plan. But now that Greece, the country, is in big trouble from German banks and the roles are reversed, German banksters are showing absolutely no mercy. As far as Greece is concerned, those banksters are now singing “We go together” at the top of their lungs — but not in a good way.

So what’s my point? That Greece is in trouble, of course. And that Greece is about to become another beauty-school drop-out.

“But what can we possibly do to help?” you might ask. I’ve got a great idea. Let’s all go to Greece and become tourists. To paraphrase Rizzo again, “There are worse things you could do.” If a million American tourists suddenly become “hopelessly devoted to you” and descend on the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Greek Isles, this would provide a much bigger infusion of euros, drachmas or whatever than German bankers could ever wring out of Greece with their stupid austerity programs. Plus it will be fun too!

As Danny Zuko was fond of saying back in the day, “Summer dreams, ripped at the seams. Bu-ut oh, those summer nights!” Let’s all go visit Greece.

PS: It is really, really hard being a teenager these days — so much harder than it was in 1978, when the movie “Grease” first came out.

“Just how much harder can it be?” you might ask. I just said. Really, really hard.

For instance, let’s look at two recently-released coming-of-age movies about the lives of post-millennial teens. Their tribulations make Sandra Dee’s tribulations look almost silly.

“I believe in Unicorns” is a haunting tale of a very starry-eyed young girl who runs off with some cute soul-eyed bad-boy from down at the skate park — and with disastrous results, but with magical animation an FX scenes that will have you believing in unicorns too.

If you are a teenage girl these days, forget about “Grease”. This cautionary tale is for you.

The next coming-of-age-in-2015 movie to see is “The Wolfpack,” a strange documentary about six boys and a girl raised in an apartment in New York City — literally.

Afraid to expose his kids to the mean streets of the big city, their father barely lets them out. “Sometimes we got out once a year. One year we never got out at all.” Except that one day the oldest boy finally escapes. How’s that for an interesting way to come of age?

PPS: And then there is the coming-of-age footage we see every night on the TV news: Coming of age in Ferguson. Coming of age in Gaza. Yes, there really are worse things teens could do. Coming of age in Libya, Baltimore, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Congo, Honduras, Detroit — all the places where America’s military are making a living hell out of taking your date out on prom night.

And children coming of age in 2050 will most likely to be starving to death or dead if we don’t drop fossil fuels right this instant. Talk about your really, really hot summer nights!

Note: The photo below is of me and my mean-girl older sister, coming of age back in the 1950s. Don’t let her friendly smile fool you. It’s all a facade — as was everything else in the 1950s. Thank goodness for the internet. Now we really know what is going on in places like Syria and Ukraine, unlike what McCarthy used to tell us was going on in Hollywood back in the day.


July 22, 2015

Dinner at Chez Panisse, an introspective life

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 10:01 am

Without fail, every single year I get yet another year older. Nothing I can do about that. But it is a whole lot easier to face yet another birthday when there is a really big reason to look forward to it. So every year I save up my money and go off to Chez Panisse for my birthday and then I can always look forward to that. Except that this year I got my OpenTable reservations all screwed up and we had to eat in the cafe upstairs instead in the more glamorous downstairs seating.

The other five people I went with had absolutely perfect dinners upstairs and the more casual atmosphere up there suited my family just fine. Plus we met Leah Meyerhoff, the director of “I Believe in Unicorns,” which opened at the Roxie in San Francisco last week.

But my own pasta dish tasted practically just one step above Chef Boyardee and I was heart-broken not to have the open-fire-roasted rack of lamb that the nobs downstairs got to eat.

Then, it being my birthday, I went home afterwards and reflected on my life so far. And I was not a happy camper about what I saw. “You seem to be pretty much wasting your life right now,” I said to myself. And, sadly, my self nodded back in agreement.

At dinner my son had observed, “There are two kinds of people — those who happily live their lives on the surface and those who are willing to go deeper into who they are and what they can do to make their lives more meaningful and worthwhile.”

Good grief, sometimes I wish that I was just happily shallow. Then I wouldn’t freaking care so much about the recent tragic deaths in Charleston and the on-going tragic deaths in the Middle East.

And it wouldn’t even matter to me that America is being sucked into a financial Black Hole.

But all this does matter to me. Greatly.

Too bad it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone else.

But next year I plan to get my Chez Panisse reservations all carefully straightened out early so that I can eat roast lamb instead of Chef Boyardee.

If there is a next year, that is.

We could have spent seven trillion dollars on making this earth into another Eden — and instead Wall Street and War Street have spent seven trillion dollars on turning our planet into Hell.

PS: I just opened up a new online T-shirt shop at Cafe Press! Be the first on your block to proudly own and wear a T-shirt proclaiming “Stop Wall Street & War Street from destroying our world”. Or else get a bumper sticker or baby shirt or mug that says it. Somebody has to say this. Might as well be us.

PPS: And speaking of getting older, way back in 2004 I wrote a really funny satire on the annual Bohemian Grove bacchanal that rich people hold each July. But re-reading my article again in 2015, I realized just how naive I had been back in 2004 — obviously thinking that bankster skullduggery and Endless War was just some passing phase and something I could easily joke about.

But over a million American-made corpses later, I don’t think that way any more. Endless War and bankster skullduggery are obviously here to stay and it’s really hard to be cheery in the face of that fact — especially when one realizes that bankster skullduggery is now a done deal and that Endless War is now the world norm and could come to my home town now just as easily as it had once come to Baghdad.

Who would ever have dreamed that so many sovereign countries would go down in flames and that so many millions of people would be either dead or homeless within just one short decade more. “Mission Accomplished,” Wall Street and War Street.


July 10, 2015

On the Road to literary fame and fortune?

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

crop of tent man best


What would happen if a group of homeless political activists in Berkeley offered an opportunity for a young journalist to score a scoop and a chance for a career making project? Since a good many energetic authors have endured the rigors of life on the road to write about their experiences, and since Berkeley is considering a list of proposed ordinances that will make being homeless more challenging, Mike Zint, the political activist leading the effort to prevent the historic Berkeley Post Office building from being sold, has issued a challenge to journalists covering the resurgent political scene in the famed University town. He calls it the George Orwell do-it-yourself scholarship program.

Writers ranging from the eager staff of the Daily Californian to contributing writers for various publications, and perhaps even a staff writer for the New York Times are being urged to vie for the privilege of spending a week (or month?) with the 24/7 protest at the city’s main Post Office branch and experience what life without money, regularly scheduled meals or time clocks means.

If a young writer shows up with no money, no ID, and no credit cards and is willing to spend a week (month?) living on the streets gathering material for a writing project, there is no guarantee that the work will sell, but the rookie scribe will be granted membership in a rather exclusive group. The Berkeley chapter of the fraternity of the open road school of journalism has an impressive roster.

Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote “Travels with a donkey,” and “An Inland Voyage” had a home that is now a California State Park just north of Calistoga.

Dorothea Lange was a photographer who roamed the country taking photos that provided classic images showing the desperate plight of the poor during the Great Depression. She lived in Berkeley CA.

Jack Kerouac made being a bi-coast schizophrenic the basis for the beatnik literary movement by repeatedly bouncing from the Big Apple to Frisco and back again and again and writing about it in various books. He was briefly a Berkeley resident.

Hunter Stockton Thompson rode with the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angeles Motorcycle Club and the subsequent book mad him a journalism super-star. He lived, for a while, in San Francisco.

Blogger, former war correspondent, and (more recently) occasional baby sitter, Jane Stillwater, who has circled the glob gathering interesting information and facts, has interrupted her peripatetic fact checking activities and is currently ensconced in Berkeley and is putting the finishing touches on her first novel tentatively titled “Pictures of a Future World.”

Sure, married people can write charming books about domestic bliss but even the lady from Scranton Pa., who wrote “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” didn’t stay there.

George Orwell’s first book “Down and Out in Paris and London” never lived in Berkeley but his first book helped establish him as a celebrity writer. The fact that his book about hard times sold well during the depression should provide some incentive for today’s white belt (i.e. beginner) writer to “walk a mile in Orwell’s moccasins.”

If writers can’t get an assignment from the mainstream media to cover the tumultuous atmosphere on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley it might indicate that the publishers (who are usually conservatives) are more into denial than willing to subsidizing a sojourn into the fascinating world of life on the edge.

If a bold and audacious writer decides to take the challenge, and doesn’t get any response to his work done on speculation, that might be proof that capitalists are practicing de facto censorship in a country that has been conditioned to be oblivious to any limits on freedom of speech imposed by financial considerations. Would capitalistic publishers institute de facto censorship based on misguided fanatical beliefs if it deprived them of a traditional source for sure sales? In the capitalists’ world, doesn’t greed trumps political principles every time?

If such hypothetical self imposed limitations were in effect, wouldn’t the discipline required to resist the urge to break the embargo ultimately fail due to greed fostered by the potential of impressive sales numbers? Hasn’t the life of a vagabond wordsmith been the basis for many literary careers? Publishers may be able to control what is available to buy in America’s bookstores, but they can’t stop people from follow sales trends that have been effective for many generations.

The danger for the capitalistic conservative moguls would be that some desperate graduate of a journalism school, who is being overwhelmed by student debt, cites the WTF factor and puts his world on the line and risks everything on a bold gamble. That makes very interesting reading for those who want to live an exciting life vicariously.

What beleaguered dad doesn’t retreat to his “man cave” and yearn for a proxy who will deliver the life of a happy go lucky, eloquent rolling stone in the pages of a new best seller?

With all the time spent on talk radio decrying the existence of panhandlers in the land of opportunity, there is one glaring factor: when is the last time a conservative talk show host interviewed a homeless person on the air? If the unemployed are not given an opportunity to express their point of view, how then does a one-sided point of view program exemplify a dedication to “fair and balanced” content?

Dirty diapers, puking babies, and Sunday morning sermons may add a comforting predictability to life and adds a shared experience bond to community living but the uncertainty of hitchhiking in the rain on a desolate highway intersection at night does not need to be concerned about being too mundane to hold the audience’s interest. The song “Phantom 309” describes the dismal experience of hitchhiking at night on a remote stretch of highway as a rain storm approaches. For families in fly-over country that song is a “Twilight Zone” episode told in lyrics and is very entertaining, but for someone who has experienced the vagabond lifestyle it provides a “been there done that” moment that rings true for many a wandering wordsmith.

(If the writer’s reaction to the plight is to utter a blasphemy and if it is immediately followed by a dramatic lightening bolt striking the peak of a mountain top about five miles yonder, that will probably be an “ace of trump” incident at a hostel story telling competition.)

The World’s Laziest Journalist has lived the hitchhiking to Frisco chapter of “On the Road” almost five decades ago and has concluded that it is better to interview the regulars at ‘Fort Zint” (the Berkeley Post Office Defense Protest) and get a vicarious look at the challenges they face rather than adopting the young writer’s sense of adventure and putting a major commitment of time and energy into a project that would be done on speculation.

At this stage of the game what would be the use of putting a great deal of time and effort into laying the foundation for a writing career that will stretch thirty years into the future?

We either do something for the S&G factor or we give it an immediate “pass.” That isn’t to say that we would turn down a spur of the moment offer of a ride to NYC – the travel bag is always packed – but road adventures are a young man’s game and, according to Mike Zint’s ground rules wouldn’t getting a monthly social security check take away the risk factor of being broke and on the move?

In “the Road,” former University of California at Berkeley student Jack London wrote: “I located and empty box-car, slid open the slide-door, and climbed in.”

Now the disk jockey will play Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s 1956 hit “Ain’t got no home,” the Eagles’ “Take it easy,” and the Highwaymen’s “The Road goes on forever, the party never ends.” We have to check Craig’s list and see about the possibility of getting a ride to the Big Apple. Have a “never saw a sight that didn’t look better looking back” type week.

July 7, 2015

Syria: Where America drops barrel bombs filled with lies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 10:49 am

One of the main reasons I hate Wall Street and War Street is that they are usually lying through their teeth to us. Fortunately, however, there are usually actual eye-witnesses to what really happens as well, and these actual eye-witnesses are always calling Wall Street and War Street out for their lies — but none of that even seems to matter. Remember all the lies we were told about Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan? Libya? Palestine? Bosnia? Ukraine? Panama? Guatemala? Granada? And how we were always warned about these lies? And yet those “wars” went on anyway.

And here is just one more example of the kind of pretty lies that we are constantly being told — this time about Syria. An internet friend of mine who I met after visiting Damascus last year is now living in Aleppo and he sent me the following eye-witness 411 about what is really going on in his town.

So you read this. And you have been told. By an actual eye-witness. But does that mean that the unjust and mendacious “war” on the Syrian people will now stop, now that you actually know the actual truth? Obviously not.

“We didn’t sleep at all last night,” my friend Waheed (not his real name) wrote me today from his home in Aleppo. “Attacks by the so-called ‘moderate rebels’ started in the afternoon yesterday and continued constantly up until this morning. The news here said that three or four civilians died and that 87 civilians were injured. But the ambulance sirens didn’t stop all night long.”

Hey, Waheed, are you okay? Apparently yes, but just barely.

“I’m sure that you have heard time and again in the American media,” said Waheed, “that Syrians support the so-called ‘moderate rebels’. But every single one of the people I know over here do not — and aren’t they the real Syrians? And after all these years and after all these attacks on them and after they have lost their income sources and family members, they are still asking the Syrian army to fight on their behalf, to terminate these vicious attackers and their nests, which have become like cancer in our body.”

But what about the barrel bombs we hear so much about? I asked.

“At this point in time,” said Waheed, “the Syrian people no longer even care if the termination of these terrorists who are invading our homes is by chemical weapons, bombs or whatever. All we want is for the killing of Syrians to stop. Yet, around the world and in the mainstream media, they still dare to demonize the so-called ‘barrel bombs’ of the Syrian army and they talk about the loss of lives of ISIS terrorists as if it was the loss of lives of some mythological Syrian peaceful moderate opposition who had been killed by a dictator!”

Waheed is totally pissed off that all these lies are being spread around. Barrel bombs? Really? When the terrorists’ ISIS version of Freddie Kruger is being armed, trained and paid for by US, Saudi, Israeli and Turkish neo-colonialists who are only after capturing Syria’s land and oil? Barrel bombs are the bad guys here? I think not.

“I don’t swear, and I’m fasting this month,” Waheed said next, “but this injustice is unlimited and it makes me and many others here feel like we are going to explode with cursing and swearing against all that nonsense of people lecturing in some conference in Britain this week or people at the UN who are telling nothing but lies and hypocrisy.”

Part of Waheed’s family spent last night huddled in the bathroom of their house because it was the safest room. “Everyone there was crying and terrified by the ‘moderate peaceful opposition’ as their house is located close to one of the conflicts lines. But the Syrian army can’t bomb these ISIS and foreign-fighter terrorists because then the ‘international community’ will accuse the Syrian army of using this unprecedented super-ultra-modern weapon that is way stronger than a nuclear bomb: Barrel bombs!”

Yeah, right. And next the Syrian army will probably be accused of illegally using fire crackers or cap guns to protect themselves.

“The terrorists are using mortars, explosive bullets, cooking-gas-cylinder bombs and bombs made out of water-heater cylinders; filled up with explosives and shrapnel and nails, and fired by what they call “Hell Canons”. Just Google these weapons or see their YouTube clips.” Yes, they still do have Google in Aleppo — but not for long if Obama and Bibi and Turkish hard-liners and the House of Saud have their way.

To quote certain Israeli generals who are finally coming to their senses, “According to General Azer Tsfrir, for example, allowing the Assad regime to fall would mean turning Syria into a ‘black hole’ in which the border areas could become launch pads for operations against Israel. Writing in Haaretz, the former military intelligence officer suggested that the fall of Assad would subject Syria to the hegemony of extremist Muslim groups which have declared their desire to destroy the Zionist state. They would, he claimed, become a first degree strategic threat.”

But we all know that Bibi is pretty much crazy to support ISIS — so let’s get back to Waheed.

“The cooking-gas cylinder is made of steel, and it weighs around 25 kg. Imagine it thrown by a canon to hit civilians? And imagine knowing that it is full with explosives? And yet, the mainstream media in America is all busy with the legendary weapon of ‘barrel bombs’! And also filled up with how these terrorist ISIS ‘moderate rebels’ came to spread ‘freedom’ among Syrians! How dare they say that Syrian army shouldn’t fight them back?”

And meanwhile the fighting just keeps getting closer to Waheed’s house. “For the first time last night, we smelled gunpowder. The shelling was so extreme and so close as to leave the smell gunpowder in the air.” Yet no one at the UN complains about the American-backed terrorists.

“The results of last night’s shelling was nothing but more new innocent civilian victims,” said Waheed. At this point I’m almost ready to cry.

“I mean, the terrorists failed in gaining new land or occupying new buildings or quarters. They lost many of their foreign-fighter cannon-fodder ‘zombies’ here of course but their zombies don’t count because they are being paid to fight and have no families or friends here to weep over their mangled bodies like is the case with our civilians.”

Waheed then apologizes for being so upset — as if he didn’t have a legitimate reason. I know if it was my family and neighbors who were being blown up by terrorist death machines, I’d be too hysterical to even put words on a page!

“Mostly I’m not so much upset by the attackers and whoever is supporting them in Turkey over here (and Israel and Jordan in the south); but mainly from the liars in that conference in Britain or at the UN, who keep lying and lying, telling piles and tons of lies, about ‘freedom’ and ‘barrel bombs’ — and they live in their perfumed and ironed suits and ties, happy with their Ph.D degrees in stupidity and fooling the world, having no problem in obtaining clean water, electricity, hot food and the rest of the services that we are suffering over here to obtain, even a part of them.

“Those people travel in 1st class airlines and live in 5-star hotels, and are ready to come on TV to weep over the fate of the ‘Syrian people’ and blame the ‘regime’ — while giving a blind eye upon all the terrorists they are funding and supporting. I wish these people, whether they are Arabs or Western, Muslims or Christians, Syrians or others… I wish them Hell! And to taste and suffer the same pain they are causing to the innocent Syrian people.” Me too!

These pond-scum should be evicted from their 5-star hotels and forced to go live out the reality that they now happily force millions of others to endure.

“The Syrian army has defended our city, and all the lies on the media claiming terrorists’ victories are nothing but rumors and gossip. But that’s all for today. Take care.” You too, Waheed.


July 2, 2015

Punditry follies

Filed under: Commentary — Bob Patterson @ 12:34 pm


crop of flowersIn a university town that is home for a renowned school of journalism, where the Center for Investigative Reporting (this just in: It has relocated to Emeryville) is located, and where great news reporters have taught, it would be very ironic for good journalism to go missing in action, but that seemed to be the case this week in Berkeley.

At a city council meeting this week, witnesses report that a uproar occurred when a member of the city council attempted to get a vote on new wording for some new laws regarding the homeless without any public input. The measure was tabled after it was pointed out by other members of the city council that the change in procedures would be illegal, according to one source.

Allegations that an extensive cover-up to mask the details of the events that lead to the Berkeley Balcony Disaster is being implemented, should be sufficient motivation for some of America’s top level journalists to come to Berkeley and then either substantiate the rumors or refute them completely.

If the city that was home to both the Berkeley Barb and the Berkeley Tribe can now stifle rumors of malfeasance, then perhaps the dire prognosis that Democracy in the USA is rapidly approaching “flat line” status is spot-on.

The world’s laziest journalist had been tipped to the historic potential of this week’s city council meeting by Mike Zint, who is the fellow responsible for the “First they came for the homeless” page on Facebook (among other political activist accomplishments).

We attended the rally that was held before the meeting began, but the time when we could work a full day, attend a city council meeting (back in the day when Culver City held the council meetings in the firehouse/city hall building) that evening, then go back to the office and type out a report before ringing out for the day was several decades ago. We left the scene before the newsworthy aspect of the night began to unfold.

According to an article in the New York Times, statistically speaking a shortstop’s best year usually occurs when he is 28 years old. Could the same principle apply to a columnist’s performance level?

We have heard that waiting until late in the meeting to bring up important issues is a favorite tactic in Berkeley but we were unprepared to reactivate the old college “pull an all-nighter” methodology of coping with the challenge.

If the New York Times, Rolling Stone magazine, and Sixty Minutes don’t have the resources (or motivation?) to cover the recent events in Berkeley, should local activists try to pitch the idea to Paris Match, Der Speigel, or Pravda?

Recently we acquired a DVD copy of the movie “Rum Diary,” and were thrilled to see again the “Ink and Rage” sequence where the writer warns the bad guys that he does not have their best interests as his chief motivating factor in life.

We have, in the past, written a column detailing the fact that the portable typewriter used by the leading character during his soliloquy was one of our personal possessions before it turned up on the set in Hollywood and thereby made the “wannabe” aspect of the sequence particularly noticeable.

At this stage in our life, the world’s laziest journalist would greatly prefer to abandon all reasonable expectations of following the Hunter S. Thompson strategy to achieve fame and fortune and, instead, just coast from one enjoyable feature story to another.

In a course at Santa Monica College, we learned that writing a solid magazine article takes about a month of work. Putting that much time and effort into a weekly column (or even a series of weekly columns) is way above our pay grade.

Rather than do the heavy lifting to find out the specific details of the (alleged) shenanigans in Berkeley, we would rather concentrate on some innocuous bits of frivolous information that might make our readers smile and not try to inspiring them to change their vote in the 2016 Presidential Election.

If, however, one of our regular readers just happens to know a writer or assignment editor for a very influential member of the mainstream media, and sends them a link to this lament, we would not be adverse to playing a catalyst role in causing a chain of events which brings the focus of national attention to some of the hidden aspects of life in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We intend on seeing two movies this weekend. A restored version of “The Third Man” will be playing in Berkeley and word of mouth indicates that seeing “Ted 2” might be good for some laughs.

After a respite of a long holiday weekend, perhaps we will be inspired to take a 75th anniversary look at the beginning state of the Battle of Britain, some events to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Berkeley Barb, and/or . . . a gonzo style look at the next Berkeley City Council meeting?

To be continued . . .



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