October 18, 2013

Zen and the art of “Frankly, my dear, I don ‘t give a damn!”

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:31 pm

” . . . to dream the impossible dream . . . ”

The real winners in this week’s national embarrassment will be the pundits.  The Tea Party got concession after concession.  President Obama got a walk-off last minute settlement.  The talking heads will get the chance to give their sages’ opinions to bigger than usual audiences this weekend even if they have to play the “too close to call” card when the host/croupier calls for a halt to the equivocating on the question of “Who was the real winner?”

Pundits employed by the mainstream media will ignore the fact that the Teabag Republicans attempted to go outside the Constitution to defund a law that had been passed by a previous Congress and concentrate on the idea that the Republicans will have a major challenge to reelection next November.  They will not go into territory where they might have to admit the possibility that if the Teabagers went outside the Constitution to attack Obamacare, they might use the electronic voting machines (with unverifiable results) to produce an undeserved win.

Competing with the well publicized and well connected pundits who refuse to consider anything but points of view that have been blessed by billionaire media owners (kosher-ized?) is an assignment for a columnist who is “the man” at on the La Mancha Times because, it would seem, the ultra rich are the unbeatable foes.

On the Columbus Day Holiday, the situation was:  The negotiation tactic of moving the goal line will be effective up until the clock runs out.  Then it will be time for both political parties to kick the can down the road and start the blame game as part of the preparations for the mid term elections in November of 2014.

Some cynical pundits (moi?) wonder when voters in the USA will realize that there is a vast credibility gap between the effusive patriotic enthusiasms the Republicans display when the military goes off to participate in a new quagmire and the hypocritical lack of attention they pay to the fiscal needs of the lesser known veterans’ programs.  Which group does the Tea Party love the most:  the disabled vets, the unemployed, or the hungry children?

Long before the Tweet fad started, the World’s Laziest Journalist noticed that the switch to the Internet media seemed to indicate that a digital version of the three dot journalism method of column writing might work well for the short attention span audience coping with the computer age.  Heck, the TV show “Laugh In” introduced the quick cut rapid pace to TV and changed that game many moons ago.  Since long reads online don’t seem to attract copious amounts of hits, it seemed like there would be a natural selection process that would favor the digital version of three dot journalism.  We forgot one aspect of the pop culture in the USA: it takes tons of publicity to provide a convenient short cut to success.

When book publishers discovered that their product sold better when the authors appeared on network TV talk shows, all of a sudden, they were ubiquitous on the Tonight Show.

When the proprietor of a Los Angeles book store was asked about the authenticity of a copy of “On the Road” that was autographed by Jack Kerouac and inscribed to Marilyn Monroe, he started doing his homework because the two had never been linked in Hollywood gossip.  Eventually he learned that when Jack Kerouac appeared on the Tonight Show (when Jack Paar was the host) to promote his new novel, one of the other guests that night was the famous actress who was (according to her PR agent?) an avid reader.  He authenticated the item which then jumped a considerable amount in value.

The accountants in Hollywood grew envious of the authors’ free air time and the trend of supplying Hollywood stars to talk shows to promote new movies was started.

If, in 1962 when “From Russia with Love” was being talked about, would anybody have believed a prediction that eventually the spy genre would morph into a tale about a rugged looking Chicano illegal alien who prefers a machete rather than a Walther PPK?  Has the lead actor, Danny Trejo, hit the talk show circuit yet?

German style potato pancakes are difficult to find in the Los Angeles area and so the World’s Laziest Journalist was very delighted to stumble on a place in San Francisco that listed that item on the menu.  We could write an entire column about that elusive treat.  Our third effort, on Columbus Day, to have a nostalgia laden foodie experience with that rare item was unsuccessful as the first two had been but it was a beautiful example of Indian summer weather and thus provided a pleasant setting for the futile effort.

Coffee houses are plentiful in San Francisco but the Cup-a-Joe on Sutter was notable because they also offer a choice of 10 brands of draft beer.  Their coffee and buns were very enjoyable but they didn’t have potato pancakes.

Ezekiel Tyrus, who is a clerk at the Beat Museum, had offered us a review copy of his new novel “Eli, Ely” and we decided that reading the entire novel and devoting a full column to a review was not our style, but a quick item in the column about him would work as a history hedge.  Wouldn’t it be remarkable if Tyrus eventually became more famous than any of the original members of the Beats?  Our effort to supplement a photo of Tyrus’ tattoo with a mug shot was unsuccessful on Columbus Day.

Five years ago when we went to Australia to satisfy our curiosity about that country (and scratch a visit there off our bucket list) we still harbored a desire to become a pundit with a vast worldwide audience.  After becoming a resident of Berkeley CA we began to reacquaint our self with the writings of our three most influential role models:  Ernst Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson.  We noticed that all three worked long and hard to become world famous writers.  All three were very uncomfortable with being world-wide fame when they achieved it. Maybe being an autonomous anonymous columnist isn’t so bad after all.  Invincible foes?  “Bring ’em on!”

We noticed this week that Jim Romenesko, who’s website caters to the practitioners of journalism, is featuring sponsored content.  In a world where Senator Dianne Feinstein maintains that real journalists draw a weekly paycheck, the paid content innovation could be a game changer.  Is that a newsworthy example of a precedence setting innovation on the Internet?  If so we could do a whole column about it.  We’ll keep that option in mind when we post our annual National Columnists’ Day.

On a day, such as Columbus Day this week, when we are laying starring at the ceiling and trying to decide if we want to award our self an all expense paid (one day) vacation in San Francisco, we don’t use the prospect of fame and fortune to motivate the effort; we use the possibility of getting some material for the column as an excuse (not a reason) for doing a walkabout in Fog City . . . if the BART and AC buses are running.  As of Friday October 18, 2013, a strike was complicating the choice.

What if an obscure pundit on the Internets suggested that commuters could show support for the striking BART union members by displaying a flower in their hair and that became ubiquitous on Monday morning?  (Armstrong and Getty would gag.)

Which is more work:  doing the research and fact checking necessary to expanding a topic out into a full column or gathering enough material to select the best items to fill three e-takes (a standard size sheet of typing paper was called a “take” in most news rooms back in the age of teletype, telephones and typewriters, so doesn’t that make a page in the Word program, an e-take?)?  It doesn’t matter because the World’s Laziest Journalist’s personality tends to function in what the Zen crowd calls “monkey mind” (going from topic to topic like Tarzan swinging on successive jungle vines) mode and three dot journalism feels more comfortable than a longer rant about a single issue.

For someone with a curious mind and a lot of time, a weekly column is a very convenient rationale for talking to people, investigating new places, and doing an extensive amount of reading to find interesting but innocuous facts.

During this week, it was mentioned in passing on the Norman Goldman radio show, that buried deep in the paperwork for the bipartisan agreement to extend the dept ceiling and end the shutdown was a provision that will change the rules and make it virtually impossible for the Teabagers to indulge in a similar exhibition of stunt politics again in late January of 2014.  The fact that such a change was made will make this weekend’s tsunami of righteous indignation by slave wage pundits irrelevant.  The change will be completely ignored. There will be more drama and bigger ratings numbers if the pundits can convince the audience that the Teabaggers might be giants.

The potential for the existence of unreported secret escape hatch clauses in new laws may give folks a hint at why Senator Dianne Feinstsein wants only wage slave employees to be regarded as journalists.  A maverick columnist can obsess on German potato pancakes or run spoiler items about hidden political news or both.  If he gets denounced as “not a genuine journalist,” he can take a cavalier attitude:  “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

[Note from the photo editor:  Berkeley is the type of city where the hippie philosophy of “If you like this t-shirt; I’ll take it off and give it to you” still exists.  After we took the photo accompanying this week’s column, the guy did take it off and give it to us.  Groovy, eh?]

Adlai E. Stevenson once said:  “Your public servants serve you right; indeed often they serve you better than your apathy and indifference deserve.”

Zombies are very popular with the young folks these days, so the disk jockey will play “She’s not there,”  “Tell her no,” and “Time of the Season.”  We have to fact check the assertion that Indian Summer is the best time of the year in Berkeley CA.  Have a “wear a flower in your hair” type week.

February 15, 2011

Phony-spotting guide?

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

Imagine how exciting it would be to be walking around in Berkeley CA (excitement galore, right there) and you saw on the ground a dollar size piece of greenish paper that said “Fifty Dollars”? Your joie d’vivre might diminish considerably when you notice that the portrait on the front side is of a bearded fellow who looks like he might have been one of those misguided clergy men who wanted to make the Hawaiian natives put clothes on and is identified as “Hoffarth.” Then you notice the disclaimer: “for Motion Picture use only.” Drat!

This columnist has, many moons ago, on two different occasions, found a genuine 100 dollar bill and so the first thought when we laid eyes on the Hoffarth bill was to immediately take a picture and start to debate weather we should submit the item to the Berkeley Daily Planet or the Berkeleyside web site. They must have been filming a movie in Berkeley recently and that is the kind of hot news both of them like.

Is that name some kind of joke? Is it a phony name like the one used in a famous e-mail that faked-out a legendary stand-up comedian working for Fox News?

In the era of hit movies from the Jackass crew and the word Punk’d has slipped into the mainstream American vocabulary, who wouldn’t love the irony of finding a Hoffarth bill?

Don’t all Americans appreciate a good practical joke? Lately, we have noticed some political pundits are analyzing the new Obama budget proposals and slaping their own foreheads and saying: “Oy vey! We thought he was a progressive!” The joke that the Reagan Democrat fooled voters into thinking he was a progressive is another hilarious example of Punk’d-ing for fun and frivolity. Young Internets citizens might not remember the time when an American President and his pals concocted a clever ruse about something that had to do with aluminum tubes that were positive proof that a new war needed to be started.

The President went though all the effort to cook-up a clever reason never realizing that all he had to do was ask.

[We’ve heard an urban legend about an attractive young lady who had a very close male friend and when he had to move to a different geographical area he asked her whey they had never hopped into bed together and she responded: “Because you never asked!”]

Some pundits are groaning about the apparent buyers’ remorse factor that the far lefties are experiencing as the Reagan Democrat President reaches out his hand to the far righties in the Republican Party.

Cynics are asking: Shouldn’t a President who works so assiduously to be a one term President get what he wants?

This columnist tends to emulate the taciturn nature of saloon owner Ricky Blaine in the movie Casablanca and thinks that the Australian bandit Ned Kelly was spot-on when he said: “Such is life.”

Is it time to inject some obscure and esoteric (but relevant) items? Watching some newsreel footage from 1953 we saw and heard Adlai Stevenson chide his successful rival for the Presidency for being in charge of a political party run by businessmen. Wasn’t Harry Truman the last President with businessman experience?

We digress. Speaking of digressing, did you know that a bunch of writers from one very successful liberal web site have their own page on Facebook? Why isn’t Eric Hoffer one of that group? Wasn’t he big on liberal causes? Didn’t a famous communist coin the phrase “One for all; all for one.” Don’t the Hell’s Angels say: “A fight with one of us is a fight with all of us!”?

This columnist wishes he could contact that group of scribes because we’d love to ask them: “Is it better for a columnist to tell his readers what he wants them to think or is it better to throw some apparent contradictions at them and let them think it through for themselves?” It’s just like when George W. Bush said: “You teach a child to read, and he or she will be able to pass a literacy test.”

When dealing with writers like that Facebook group shouldn’t their boss ask them the classic question from the Fifties: “Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”?

Wasn’t “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!” a famous communist slogan in WWII?

We’ve read: “In a Communist state a love of neighbors may be classed as counter-revolutionary. Mao Tse-tung counts it a sin of the liberals that they will not report the misdeeds of ‘acquaintances, relatives, schoolmates, friends, loved ones.’” Where did we read that?

In “The Ordeal of Change” (Perennial Library paperback 1963 p. 5), Eric Hoffer wrote: “Things are different when people subjected to drastic change find only meager opportunities for action or when they cannot, or are not allowed to, attain self-confidence and self-esteem by individual pursuits . . . . The substitute for self-confidence is faith, the substitute for self-esteem is pride; and the substituted for individual balance is fusion with others into a compact group.” Was Hoffer a founding father of the teabag movement?

If you see something suspicious report it. Buy War Bonds today.

Now the disk jockey will play “Stickin’ to the Union,” the “Cool Hand Luke” soundtrack album and Roy Orbison’s “Workin’ for the man.” We have to go and file a grievance with the shop steward. Have a “contract approved by a vote of the membership” type week.

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