July 3, 2014

Mugwumps, high jumps, and speed bumps

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:30 pm

crop of Godfathe Goldr

When and where was it decided that the Republicans would be given sole possession of the right to be considered patriots while the Lefties would be portrayed as Commie Curmudgeons? As this year’s Forth of July weekend approached, the World’s Laziest Journalist was skimming through “Documentary Expression and Thirties America,” by William Stott and searching for a column topic. In the early thirties, writers fanned out across America to document the effects that the Great Depression was having on Americans in the middle and poor classes. Photographers, such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lang took photos that inspired action to be taken. Later in the Thirties, many writers took President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s suggestion (page 241 – 242) to go see America and listen to what the Americans had to say. Stott describes (on page 255) a change happening in the USA: “As the war drew nearer, it was rare that a book documenting America did not have a passage, usually in the final pages, where the enumerated glories of the land aroused the author’s confidence in the nation and its destiny.” Stott sees the trend as “conservative ‘documentary’ reportage.”

Why must liberal writers sound like disgruntled commies and conservatives get subsidized extended vacations to gather material to bolster their views?

Ronald Reagan’s flippant attitude toward giant sequoia trees (“Once you’ve seen one giant redwood tree, you’ve seen them all.”) apply to Hollywood’s annual awards ceremony? Any columnist who attended both the 47th and 48th installments of the Oscar Awards knows that’s not true. When the awards for 1974 were handed out early the next year, very few of the nominated actors and actresses (two separate awards two different words) were in the audience at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to accept the award if they were named. Fred Astaire, nominated for his supporting role in “The Towering Inferno,” and Valerie Perrine, nominated for her leading role in “Lenny,” were there but they didn’t win. Mario Puzo and Frances Ford Coppola were there and won awards for “The Godfather Part II.” For anyone who had never covered the Oscars it was quite exciting.

A year later, the Oscars for 1975 received much better news coverage because “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” swept the awards and many of the nominated the actors and actresses were there to see if their name got called. That was the year that the only member of the Carradine family ever to win an Oscar got one for writing the Best Song, “I’m Easy,” from “Nashville.” The excitement level in the press area was perceptibly higher. The two successive years were quite different events.

Fast forward to forty years later: 2014. Have things change? You bet. Now, it’s rather rare for a nominated actors in the Best Actor and Best Actress (It’s complicated; don’t ask.) categories not to be seen on TV’s around the world, waiting anxiously for the winner’s name to be called. Land-line telephones, teletype machines, and ash trays are (we expect) quaint reminders of the past missing from the press rooms in the digital era.

If Berkeley does anything to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Savio’s speech on top of a police car (he took off his shoes so as not to scuff the paintjob), the World’s Laziest Journalist will probably take some photos and write a column about the symbolism of the event.

Where was it established that only conservatives can run a list of things that make the country surrounding the White House such a great destination for those seeking a better life?

In the time between taking a photo of a lone anti-war protester in the Times Square area of New York City in late1966 and taking some photos in Dorothea Lang’s home town (Berkeley CA) of some homeless kids, the World’s Laziest Journalist has been gathering a long list of items which (if we ever get around to it) can be included in a modern version of the conservative’s “I’ve seen America” genre of books that are a prose version of the song “God Bless America.”

If (big IF) we can get a press pass to go back and see how much the Oscars ceremony has changed in the last forty years, that would be a marvelous addition to the list of memories that sound rather like a typical bit of Forth of July rhetoric.

At the Sebring race, the disk brakes were glowing red hot in the dark. At a Hollywood premiere our reaction to seeing Paul McCartney arrive was: “OMG, he’s not dead!” When we heard John Carradine’s voice coming from a person within a yardstick away from us, we wished we had a cassette recorder so that we could have asked him to say something for our phone message. Seeing Jack Nicholson hold up his Oscar was more fun that seeing him portraying a drifter asking for an order of toast. If you are going to see the United States Grad Prix auto race, a press pass that gets you into the pits makes it so much more enjoyable. (Particularly if James Garner is there getting second unit shots for a Hollywood film.)   What was so special about the parties at the “A-frame” in Hollywood? The Goodyear blimp climbs at the same angle as a jet intercept, but just not as fast. Nicole Kidman is remarkably tall.

Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes made a person realize that no photographer (not even Richard Avedon) could accurately depict their effect on anyone lucky enough to see them less than a yard away.

People all across the United States (and some regular readers in the W. A. [“It’s so big you could stick the state of Texas in a corner.”]?) should be informed about the long range implications of the recent changes in the Ellis Act. Stories about that topic need to be filed in the Marina Tenant Association’s reference library and archives and probably some day soon we’ll do that.

For the July Forth weekend in 2014, we will forget about the long list of political activists urging columns about their pet cause and we will kick back, visit San Francisco, and dream some Fred C. Dobbs type dreams while trying to do some fact finding for our latest example of gonzo punditry. We want to know: What was the event that caused Democrats to concede the point that only conservatives can sound patriotic?

Listening to the radio lately, we have begun to wonder: Is all the constant criticism of the President of the United States part of a concerted Communist plot? The phrase “patriotic Liberal” is not an oxymoron. Are all these voices of doom and gloom being patriotic when they make it sound like a lynch mob rules the airwave?

Do the conservatives really believe in Democracy, elections, and the peaceful transfer of power? How would the conservatives like it if Bill Clinton was still the President who had to confer periodically with Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin?

What could be more American than a cable TV show about a journalist (with a Go-Pro camera?) driving around the USA (in a 1959 Cadillac convertible?) looking for barn finds while talking to various folks about the current state of the union?

If given a binary choice of a press pass for either: A. the Oscars or B. the final game of the World Cup; which event would a true red-blooded American patriot choose?

Mark Twain (do they still have a jumping frog contest in Calaveras County) seems to have anticipated the Fox in the journalism henhouse when he proclaimed: “A man who doesn’t read a newspaper is uninformed. One who does, is ill-informed.”

Now the disk jockey will select some of his favorite “proud to be an American” tunes. He will play Arlo Gutherie’s “City of New Orleans,” Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” (wasn’t that recorded in Santa Monica?), and the entire “Best of the Mamas and Papas” album. We have to go see (we missed him in Sydney) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Warfield (Monday or Tuesday). Have a “sitting in the club car” type week.

Fred Astaire

crop of Astaire arriving

Valery Perrine

crop Perine waves


August 30, 2012

Occupy the Air Conditioned Nightmare

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:33 pm

Would covering the Oscars™ (again) be more fun than writing political analysis?

A grizzled tough old guy in a dimly lit room speaks: “You know what I want . . . what do you say, baby?”

Cut to: A very attractive young woman, who looks like the young Lauren Becall, responds: “As a Republican, I support a ban on all abortions with no exceptions. I’m a member of the National Rifle Association and support the concealed carry laws and back the NRA on their support of the Stand your ground laws, I also endorse the use of hollowpoint bullets.”

She pats her purse and continues: “If you intend on raping a fellow Republican, first you might want to tell me the answer to the question asked in the movie ‘Apocalypse Now:’ ‘How come you guys sit on your helmets?”

Cut to: the man who hesitates and then replies: “So we don’t get our balls blown off!”

Cut to: She starts to reach into her purse. “There’s another famous question from another movie: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ . . . what do you say, baby? . . . if you want this game to continue . . . just whistle . . . you know how to whistle don’t you?”

As “Ride of the Valkyeries” plays the announcer does the V.O. (Voice Over): “The American Women’s Sharpshooters Team urges all good patriots to vote Republican this fall.”


A hip potential rapist, who knows the sources for all those cinematic questions, might also know that sometimes nothing is a real cool hand, but he might not be willing to bet his bippy, let alone his testicals, on what’s in the bag and what’s not.

If the fictional American Women’s Sharpshooters Team were ever to broadcast this hypothetical advertisement, a good many Republicans might wonder “Whose side are they on?” This supposed ad would only use Republican talking points so what’s for them not to like?

Liberals, who strenuously object to the idea of PACs and advertisements run by groups whose funding is a mystery, are unanimous in the idea that it is mandatory to do all the groundwork necessary to get the Citizens’ United advantage removed from politics. Could they, simultaneously, use the Judo principle of turning an attacker’s strength against himself to confuse and outrage the very people who wanted to expand the freedom of speech concept to include advocacy groups and the people known as corporations?

Obviously the long hard slog to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens’ United decision will provide leading liberal spokespersons with job security for years to come and we wish them God’s Speed.

In California, proposition 32, is being touted by backers as a remedy for the PAC problems, but many analysts are saying that the measure will give further legal backing to the very practice it is supposed to remedy. Who doesn’t think that’s a hysterically funny example of using lies to trick voters? Folks outside California can read up on the issue but they should look up both the “for” and “against” arguments. Some critics of the measure say that the proposition will only limit what unions can spend on political ads and not do anything to inconvenience wealthy conservatives who want to buy election results.

The Republicans, who want to prove that they have a sense of humor that will make people laugh, are also urging wage-earners to donate to a group that advocates passing the measure that some wags are calling “the Billionaires’ Bill of Rights.”

That, in turn, causes us to wonder if Republicans, when they ask their children if they smoke pot, want their kids to tell the truth in response to that question or if they are looking to get verification that conservative kids have learned the lesson of sounding very sincere when they lie or make campaign promises. What advice would Ayn Rand give to children who are being asked: “Do you smoke pot?” Is there a smoke-lie rule that applies? I.e. if you can get into trouble over pot, just tell a convincing lie.

Since the Republicans seem determined to blame President Obama for the deficits caused by the wars George W. Bush started but kept off the balance sheet, why didn’t President Obama proclaim that the “off the books” expenses had become a bipartisan American tradition and keep them off the books? When President Obama served his partial term as Senator didn’t he learn the old political legend that the Republicans spend like there’s no tomorrow when they are in power and then talk up balanced budgets nonstop when they are not in power?

Since Bishop Romney’s strategy of stressing his business record, which he won’t discuss, and giving assurances that his tax forms, which he won’t release, provide compelling reasons for electing him President have produced poll results which indicate a virtual tie; the World’s Laziest Journalist is beginning to think that political punditry has become superfluous and that it is time to start writing columns that are less partisan by tackling topics such as “Have the Oscar Ceremonies changed much since we took photos of Francis Ford Coppola with Mario Puzo?”

Columnists, who consider their mission is to provide snide comments about all politicians, might be more inclined to ask their audience if watching the Republicans try to ignore a major hurricane disaster reminded them of King Lear. Many people might not get the joke and ignore the source but when Ayn Rand advised her disciples not to vote for St. Ronald Reagan for President, didn’t she get ignored too?

The world’s laziest journalist has always been fascinated by picaresque adventures and the people who chronicle their travel experiences but it wasn’t until after posting last week’s column that we learned that Henry Miller had written a book about his experiences on the road. We were disappointed to learn that the Berkeley Public Library didn’t have a copy to borrow, but Moe’s Bookstore on Telegraph Avenue had a used volume of a collection of Miller’s work for sale. It included the text of “The Air Conditioned Nightmare.”

After living in Paris for almost a decade, Miller had returned to the USA because Europe was on the brink of a cataclysmic war and he wanted to write a book about the return of the prodigal son experiences he would gather while traveling around his native land.

Pseudo Intellectuals (moi?) will be delighted to find a cornucopia of very intriguing pre Pearl Harbor pop culture trivia in the book. Miller assumed that his audience would know who the writers Hermes Trismegistus and Kenneth Patchen and British actress Olga Nethersole were but we had to look them up. The names of these once famous personalities have become rather obscure examples of Google-bait.

For a columnist who has covered various episodes from the Occupy protests in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, Miller’s laundry list of social complaints sounded very much as if they “were ripped from today’s headlines.”

If economic inequity was a topic for Henry Miller seventy years ago and if it will be a hot issue for activists seventy years in the future, what then is the benefit that will be derived from doing the work necessary to post columns online about the issues that are generating the news events that transpire as the United States prepares to celebrate the workers of the world on Labor Day of 2012? (Were the people who worked to establish Labor Day as a legal holiday, asked the HUAC question?)

If the prospect of providing reading matter for a bookstore customer seventy years in the future were very rational, then working to do some fact finding and providing some speculative comments about the personality of a Mormon bishop might be worth the effort, but if seeking fame and fortune are not valid motives for doing all the required labor, then the only reason left is: “Just for the fun of it.” If that’s the case . . . .

If Scanlan’s Magazine was open to sending a leading practitioner of the Gonzo style journalism to report on the festivities surrounding the running of the Kentucky Derby, then maybe (just maybe mind you) they might be willing to give the World’s Laziest Journalist a similar assignment and send him back to the Oscars™.

Other than giving permission to our self to use a picture we took at the Oscars™ almost forty years ago, we have no way to prove to Scanlon’s that we covered the awards program back in the mid Seventies but if Bishop Romney can convince America that his unavailable business history is just as valid as Nixon’s secret plan to end the war in Vietnam, then perhaps there is still hope.

Quote wranglers will be delighted with the assorted possibilities provided in the works of Henry Miller. We like this incomplete sentence: “A man seated in a comfortable chair in New York, Chicago or San Francisco, a man surrounded by every luxury and yet paralyzed with fear and anxiety, controls the lives and destinies of thousands of men and women whom he has never seen, whom he never wishes to see and whose fate he is thoroughly uninterested in.”

The disk jockey will play some music he thought might have been appropriate at the Republican National Convention: AC/DC’s song “Big Balls,” the Kiwi song “My father was an All Black,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” We have to go over to Frisco to see “Vertigo,” which is the best movie ever made (according to some Brits). Have a “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” type Labor Day Weekend.

Powered by WordPress