January 10, 2013

Truth vs. Legend

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:25 pm

“Did Mr. Houdini really make the elephant disappear?”

“Yes,” I said.  “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Did President Bush make the expenses of running two wars disappear?  Telling the truth to Dubya’s loyal admiring fans would be as cruel and vicious as trying to take away their guns would be . . . and just as unproductive.

Modern Society is fueled by misperceptions.  Ridiculing the Emperor’s new clothes has always been a sure fire way to become an outcast.  A book of literary criticism summed it up in its title:  “Naked is the best disguise.”

In the early part of the Twentieth Century, there was a Congressman (everybody in Congress was a man back then and so the correct designation was Congressman) who was very popular and seemed destined to land in the Senate or the Governor’s office in Minnesota . . . until he criticized the role that bankers were playing in the effort to get the United States into the War to End All Wars.

That fellow, as a young lawyer, got into trouble when a bank sent him out to foreclose on a farm and he returned with the money that paid the farmer’s loan up to date.  The Bankers were furious and fired him.  He got his revenge by becoming a political activist who worked on behalf of farmers.  To show their gratitude, they elected him as their Congressman.

When a European member of nobility got shot and millions of soldiers were called on to die in the ensuing war, some influential decision makers in the USA saw the fracas as a sure way to increase profits for certain businessmen.  The fellow, who had been born in Stockholm Sweden, started saying things like:  “The war-for-profit group has counterfeited patriotism.”

Wasn’t patriotism what fueled the British soldiers’ charge into machine gun fire in the subsequent battles for “no man’s land” in WWI?  According to information we stumbled upon in a non-fiction book by Len Deighton, a curious thing called “the creeping barrage” may have augmented the patriotism.  It was alleged that in an effort to encourage soldiers to participate in the charge against the German line, an artillery barrage was laid down by the British.  It started behind the front line.  The shells were gradually moved farther forward and the soldiers in the trenches had the option of taking their chances with the barrage or running at the German line and see if they could get past them.  The image of brave young men running enthusiastically at the dreaded Bosch was very reassuring to the families on the home front.

The American Congressman had sealed his fate and his career in the halls of Congress was doomed.  He remained popular with his constituents, but they just couldn’t reelect him because of his views.  He tried in vain to become governor, but that didn’t work.

He was quoted as telling his son “In war it is not safe to think unless one travels with the mob.”

His achievements faded into the history books but not his name.  His son, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. became a celebrity pioneer in the field of aviation.

In an article on a notorious TV appearance by the singer Madonna, writer Norman Mailer hypothesized that celebrities (and politicians?), who were rascals, would be forgiven so long as they didn’t commit the one unforgivable sin, which is going against type.  Hence celebrities who project an image of virtue are dealt with severely, by the media and fans, when they are caught in a scandal.

You could be a cynic who tells America that Houdini didn’t make the elephant disappear, but showing them how he did it would be completely unacceptable.

Did Robert Capa fake his most famous picture?  According to his biographer Richard Whelan, Capa was a rake-hell who often embellished his achievements with heaps of exaggeration and so the possibility that the “Falling Soldier” photo was an elaborate ruse is irrelevant.

Why is it that Elvis Presley was drafted but James Dean wasn’t?

When we first encountered a best selling history of the USA that had a title that (we thought) hinted it would be a “tell all” expose, we had visions of giving it a place of honor in the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory reference library.  Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be “more of the same” that breathlessly described how various legendary American heroes had made the elephant vanish into thin air.

[Note from the photo editor:  the photos we had of Banksy’s Los Angeles art installation called “The elephant in the room” have disappeared from the World’s Laziest Journalist’s photo archives and so this column will run without an accompanying photo.]

Is it hard work to be the World’s Laziest Journalist?

Did a well known folk singer really “burst on the scene already a legend”?

Was Amy Sample McPherson really kidnapped?

Did one bullet really do all that damage in Dallas?

Did a famous editor lie to a little girl named Virginia?

Are Federal investigators still trying to learn who made money on short selling airline stocks on Sept. 10, 2001?

Did Building 7 ever really exist?

Was President George W. Bush really able to reduce taxes, wage two wars, and not make a significant increase in the deficit?

When it comes time to make the call always remember the old journalism axiom:  “Always print the legend.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Do you believe in magic,” “That old black magic ” and“ Magic moments.”  We have to go try to score some tickets for Houdini at the Hippodrome.  Have an “abracadabra” type week.

July 30, 2010

Oil eating bacteria destroys journalism

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

This week Fox News had people (and the Mamas and Papas in song) asking about where has all the oil gone? When will they ever learn that Houdini didn’t really make the elephant disappear? It had to go somewhere. In all the time that Americans have been fighting, dying, and losing assorted limbs to bring Democracy to Iraq, the oil industry there may have lugged along in second gear, but it has never shut down completely; so where the hell did all that oil go? Somebody had to be paying for it; so where did all that money go? Was BP earning up the financial reserves to pay for unexpected, unforeseen future expenses such as the ones cause by the Gulf oil spill? For nine years, the Iraq oil fields have been coughing up “Texas tea,” so inquiring minds want to know: “Where did all that oil go?”

Could America be doing all that fighting in Iraq just so that BP could pump out oil to be sold in China?

Has America vaulted past existentialist thinking and begun the epoch of post-absurdism?

Any country that conveniently forgets about the dispersants and embraces nonsense about oil eating bacteria causing the oil spill to disappear deserves to be swindled into believing that Houdini used elephant eating bacteria or that when (not “if”) Jeb Bush gets inaugurated in January of 2013, it will have been the result of a legitimate win in the 2012 Presidential election.

When a news story about billions of missing dollars is reported, the reaction is: “That only proves that the Bush tax cuts for the super wealthy need to be extended!”

Isn’t it ironic that Americans shrug off the conspiracy theory lunatics’ idea that George W. Bush committed war crimes but they bristle at any hint that the Republicans would sanction anything that would compromise the sacredness of free elections in the U. S. A.

Americans, who take complacency to heights of achievement undreamed of by the Third Reich, accept the fact that President Obama has continued the war crimes policies of the Bush Administration but they react furiously to the possibility that the Republicans, if they are “given” a majority in the House and Senate via the 2010 midterm elections, will start impeachment proceedings against President Obama by producing a foreign student loan application that swears the applicant was not a native born American.

That idea might make some liberals gag, but eventually with repeated haranguing from Fox News, the Americans will (like Monica Lewinsky?) swallow it and get used to breathless impeachment updates around the clock in lieu of actually doing what the House and Senate is supposed to be doing. Has any pundit ever speculated on the possibility that Monica was deliberately sent (Mata Hari style) to sabotage Bill Clinton’s presidency?

Americans might assume that if such a hypothetical news development about a possible student loan perjury existed, Andrew Breitbart would already know about it and would not hesitate to rush the allegation onto the Internet and not wait until it’s just about time for the new Congressional representatives to be sworn in next January. Is it a conspiracy theory to think that he must wait for the Minister of Propaganda to give (like a maestro for a symphony orchestra) the signal to push the “post” button for this (hypothetical) example of citizen journalism in action?

With major elements of the so-called pro-Liberal mainstream media, like trained seals performing on cue, making the case for the oil eating bacteria, the Conservatives will consider any attempts by online pundits to point out that the dispersants caused the oil to dissipate with the same level of amused distain as would be assigned to a cough during a performance of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Where is Arturo Toscanini when Fox News truly needs him?

Have you noticed that now that Bush isn’t President the Conservatives don’t need Ann Coulter to act like the rodeo clown to switch the media’s attention away from a possible chance to debate war crimes?

Isn’t it a bit inconsistent for Republicans to say that the unemployed don’t need an extension of benefits but that the Rich must have an extension of the tax cuts? In the one case adding to the cash flow coming into the U. S. treasury would be a bad thing, but stopping money from coming into the bank accounts of the unemployed would be a good thing. How can cutting off the flow of money (into the U. S. Treasury) be bad and shutting off a weekly check into families’ bank accounts be a good thing?

The silver tongued devils have convinced America that having the rich’s tax dollars go elsewhere (like into their bank accounts) would have a positive effect on the economy but that putting a few bucks into the hands of folks waiting for the next unemployment check to arrive would not help stimulate the economy. The apparent paradox is ignored by “journalists” who do not try to explain the difference.

The allure of being a Republican member of Congress in 2011 and 2012 is something that the World’s Laziest Journalist can readily appreciate. The fact that Republican politicians will be well paid just to make sure that no work gets done, makes this columnist green with envy.

Speaking of the Beach Combers’ Hall of Fame, this week this columnist was unable to ascertain if Garland Roark, author of the novel which was the source material for the John Wayne film “Wake of the Red Witch,” ever actually traveled to the South Pacific or if he did his research in the Nacogdoches Public Library. Say, isn’t that the town where this columnist’s newest hero, Joe R. Lansdale, lives? Speaking of Texas, whatever happened to Kinky Friedman? Did he go back to writing mysteries?

Which, of course, brings us to this nagging question: Will the new James Bond Cars Museum have taped guided tours and will those tapes feature the voice of Sean Connery? If not; why not?

Writing columns for the post-absurdism era won’t be much of a challenge for this writer.

In the introduction to his own book, “The Hoax,” Clifford Irving wrote: “I believe that the past is fiction, the future is fantasy and present for the most part is an ongoing hoax.”

Now the disk jockey will try to embarrass the columnist by playing Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and then throwing The Beverly Hillbillies theme song, and the soundtrack album from “Giant” on the turntable. It’s time to go and take Buzz’s “chickie run” dare. (Isn’t a “chickie run” when fraternity brothers are sent on an emergency mission to find more young ladies to populate a Saturday night party?) Have a “Match me, Sidney!” type week and remember that if Jesus and Fox News can forgive BP’s sins, so can you.

February 10, 2010

The case of the vanishing WMD’s

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:04 pm

[Note: Spoiler warning: Some of Houdini’s methods will be revealed below in this column. If you don’t want to lose the wonder of “how did he do that?” stop reading this column now.]

Recently, when this columnist saw a used copy of Jim Steinmeyer’s 2003 copyrighted book, “Hiding the Elephant,” for sale, we had a dual motivation for glomming on to it; we’ve always been interested in how to saw a woman in half and there was a chance that, perhaps, if the author explained how Houdini made an elephant disappear, there would be the basis for a column explaining how Generalisimo Bush was able to perform the magic needed to get a gentle and peace loving nation to invading Iraq.

By page 13, Steinmeyer is extolling the qualities that made Howard Thurston a much more superior magician than Houdini. He notes the irony of Thurston telling his audience “I wouldn’t deceive you for the world” knowing that they had paid good hard earned dollars just to be there when he did exactly that.

On page 17, all tricks are explained: “The audience is taken by the hand and led to deceive themselves.” Ahhhh, now we see how Bush did it. America had regressed to the days of the Roman gladiators and given Dubya the signal that is copyrighted by Roger Ebert to designate approval for a bloodbath. (Does Ebert get royalties from the Caesar Agustus family estate?)

When the “Shock and Awe” TV special was being broadcast live; this columnist went to the home of a friend and found him cheering wildly while watching the carnage being delivered. My buddy has long been a big Ed Gein fan.

Obviously some of the Liberals have been a bit slower than others in accepting the “Immaculate Deception” lesson in their hearts. President Obama seems to have become hip to the message: America wanted the war with Iraq.

Now, as the slow on the uptake Liberals try to object to the use of depleted uranium, because of the allegations of a perceptible increase in birth defects in areas where that substance has been used, they are still trying to use facts and logic to persuade the Conservatives that such material should be banned from the battlefield.

The Liberals petition the media with requests to delineate the effects that depleted uranium causes. “Oh, please tell us how Houdini made the Elephant disappear!” Boys and girls: “You cannot petition the media with prayers!” The New York Times public editor will only read letters pertaining to stories that publication has run. Trying to bring stories that need to be covered to their attention is a “Myth of Sisyphus” task. Don’t waste your time or his.

This year as the world celebrates another Valentine’s Day, note the complete lack of enthusiasm the media has for the topic of using depleted uranium in the war zones. Think of it as America’s Valentine’s Day gift to the world.

Steinmeyer notes that Houdini’s appeal was derived from his skill as a master escape artist.

Walter Gibson wrote books about magic and one in particular explains some of the secrets to Houdini’s escapes. If you are of a mind to learn all about how magicians work their magic, you can acquire much of that esoteric knowledge, if you read enough books.

If you do go to the trouble of learning the secrets of magic, you will then watch magicians from a completely different viewpoint. You will pay attention to the way they distract an audience’s attention. Magician assistants (usually very attractive women in scanty costumes) are called “box jumpers.” You will appreciate them as showmen and not people who can perform impossible feats.

Sometimes when Houdini was about to perform a dangerous escape, his wife would give him a passionate kiss as a show of support and encouragement. She would (sometimes) also pass a key from her mouth to his during the steamy public display of affection.

In an effort to show that “there’s nothing hidden up my sleeves,” Houdini would sometimes perform his escapes clad only in shorts which preserved his modesty. If, for instance, his hands were tied spread eagle fashion to the floor, the audience wouldn’t get to see that he was agile and flexible and could untie knots with his bare feet. Many people who don’t have hands develop a similar level of agility for using their feet.

Ohhhhh Kay! So people want to be fooled and join with my buddy in making a festival setting for watching “Shock and Awe.”

In other words: no body gave a fig about the possibility that there were no WMD’s in Iraq. America wanted to see a tyrant get spanked and the WMD excuse was good enough for them. The crybaby liberals who fretted about a long and costly war were just trying to run interference for their pet social programs which (obviously) are destined to become metaphorical casualties in a long, expensive war. Boo-hoo!

Liberals are decrying the rising costs of a college education. Wake up, people! Cannon fodder doesn’t need the chance to be given an affordable college degree. The sons and daughters of millionaire politicians need not be concerned about such mundane matters as what it costs to go to a fine University. Hence rising tuition costs are a non-issue.

This year, as the world celebrates another St. Valentine’s Day, there won’t be but a handful of mentions from “bleeding heart liberals” about the use of depleted uranium in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the land where Jesus walked. Want to know the secret behind that trick? How can concern for such a serious topic vanish? Americans don’t care about deformed babies in other countries.

Young folks recently were reminded that the movie “Love Story” spawned the popularity for the line “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” War crimes trials? Hell, no! Not even an apology. (Did you see the photos of the “
Do you miss me yet?
” billboard?)

Now, the disk jockey will play “Please Mr. Custer,” “Bless ‘em all” (ask a WWII vet about the way they changed that song’s lyrics) and “Praise the Lord and Pass the ammunition.” Now, it’s time to say abracadabra and disappear. Have a week full of magic and wonderment.

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