March 23, 2012

Report from 6079 Smith W

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:45 pm

It’s a game changer when pawns become bowling pins.
Smirnoff is offering something new in the San Francisco market.

Artist Mark Petersen opened his new show, titled “game changer,” at the “local 123 café” gallery in Berkeley on Friday March 16, 2012; the premise for the show is that 99% of society are pawns in a game being played by the one percent of the population that believes in a government of the elite by the elite is run for the benefit of the elite. We took some photos of the artist and assumed that the philosophy underlying the works of art would provide a graphic metaphor for starting a column that would explain the results of this week’s Primary Election in Illinois, which we were expecting. When the final count ran completely contrary to our expectations, the lede for this week’s column wasn’t the only thing that needed a quick revision.

The World’s Laziest Journalist has assumed that Karl Rove hasn’t worked all these years for the Bush family so that he will get a prestigious seat assignment for the Inauguration of Mitt Romney as President in January of 2013; so when JEB endorsed Romney the day after Romney won in Illinois, it seemed that it was time for the various radio talk shows to use “A simple twist of fate” for their bumper music as the week drew to a close.

There are two ways to write political commentary. You can either report your own personal thoughts and reactions or you can read up on other commentary and then make the choice to either follow the crowd or go rogue. Since our access to TV and the Internets is rather limited lately and since our budget has necessitated a drastic reduction in our ability to read the New York Times on a daily basis, we have been forced by circumstances to go the “I column as I see ’em” route to forming our political opinions.

Our immediate reaction to Tuesday’s election results in Illinois and the JEB endorsement story was to begin a search for a clever line that would casually mention Bishop Romney or to make some snarky remark about Mitt Goldwater or Senator Barry Romney.

Are the Republicans really going to give the Presidential Nomination to a fellow who turns off a goodly number of their own voters? Apparently they are. Are the Democrats going to give their party’s nomination to a guy who has put his imprimatur on the Bush war policies by adopting them with a Nihil Obstat rating? Apparently they are.

Political commentary hasn’t had to contend with a game changer like Tuesday’s Illinois results since Linden B. Johnson told Americans, on March 31, 1968, that he wouldn’t seek reelection.

While the very convoluted contemporary political scene gets sorted out, what can a columnist write to amuse and entertain the dozen or so regular readers? “ . . . to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget . . .”

There will be a cornucopia of topics not related to the November election available during April because this year there will be chances to write about: the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the San Francisco earthquake, National Columnists’ Day, the bombing of Guernica, the Columbine school shooting rampage, and the start of Winston Smith’s clandestine diary.

We could also write about the Air Sex Championships scheduled for Tuesday March 27, 2012, at the Elbo Room in San Francisco. It wasn’t immediately clear if the Air Sex Championships is a band or a contest similar to the Air Guitar competitions.

Since Mitt Romney’s middle name is Willard perhaps we could write a column comparing the November Election to the classic movie “Apocalypse Now”? It’s not difficult to imagine candidate Romney looking at the Obama legacy and responding to an question about the effectiveness of Obama’s agenda by muttering: “I don’t see any methods at all . . . .”

If Willard Romney wants to project a “man of the people” image (on his Etch-a-sketch screen?) perhaps he should show off some bowling trophies?

We could run a plug for a friend’s automobile photos and then use that as an excuse for segueing into considering if we should send a query letter to the assignment editor at Jalopnik suggesting they assign a political pundit to test drive a new Ferrari or maybe just a chance to describe the sensations produced while operating a Zamboni. Does anyone ever hold Zamboni races? Would an assignment to cover such hypothetical Zamboni races provide a chance to write an allegorical novel about “a savage journey to the heart of the American Dream”?

Could a series of weekly Photo Reports on Contemporary Pop Culture pass as weekend wrap-up columns?

Could we write a column with deep psychological insights based on the fact that this week in San Francisco, we saw an advertisement for whipped cream flavored vodka? Would anyone read such a column? Would anyone care? “What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side?

Is it worth the effort for the World’s Laziest Journalist to go to Chicago and see if the Occupy May Day protests there will produce any 1968 flashbacks?

A trip to London to see the Olympic Games might not be cost effective for a columnist who would have to subsidize his own travel expenses.

Didn’t a long haul trucker become an art critic for the New York Times? Hasn’t that fellow maxed out on getting Facebook friends? Has that guy ever heard the music of the German Country and Western band named “Truck Stop”? Is it possible to think of the concept of Country music with lyrics sung in German and not think of Hunter S. Thompson’s line in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” describing the “Circus Circus” casino?

Lately talk radio seems to consist of either conservative hosts endorsing the conservative talking points made by conservative callers or progressive hosts attempting to drop a game changer explanation on a conservative caller who doesn’t seem inclined to listen to any rebuttals. A Romeny vs. the incumbent Presidential race does not seem to offer any hope for improving the entertainment factor for talk radio.

At this point, it seems that rebroadcasts of some of Wolfman Jack shows would be more entertaining than any production figures about oil pipelines provided by a man who has talent on loan from God.

Can anyone make the chocolate production numbers more informative and entertaining than Rush Limbaugh? “Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones.”

Speaking of Uncle Rushbo, has he commented on the Treyvon Martin affair yet?

There isn’t going to be any drama about the eventual Democratic Party pick for the fall election. The Republicans seem resigned to the fact that Mitt Romney is predestined to get his party’s nomination. Isn’t the challenge facing both political parties comparable to the idea of getting American sports fans hooked on rugby?

This columnist was expecting to write a series of columns for 2012 that would sound quite a bit like what one might expect to be produced by a black belt in conspiracy theory, but all that evaporated this week when the movement toward the selection of the Republican nominee got its “white smoke/new pope” moment.

If football players can get bonus pay for sending a member of the opposing team to the hospital, why can’t liberal pundits get big extra bucks for items that cripple the campaigns of conservative candidates?

We will (apparently) have to scrap all our plans to win a few friendly bets on JEB Bush and face a bleak choice of either making some tepid criticism of both party’s candidates or changing the focus of the columns to other topics. However, in the best spirit of conspiracy theory lunatic thinking, we can remember that in this vitriolic world of unexplained events, an unexpected game changer development could become a new factor quicker that you can say “Senator Paul Wellstone.”

The closing quote for this column was found in George Orwell’s essay titled “Looking back on the Spanish War.” He wrote: “All that the working man demands is what these others would consider the indispensable minimum without which human life can not be lived at all. Enough to eat, freedom from the terror of unemployment, the knowledge that your children will get a fair chance, a bath once a day, clean linen reasonably often, a roof that doesn’t leak, and short enough working hours to leave you with a little energy when the day is done.” The Republicans in Spain wanted that?

Now the disk jockey will play Patsy Cline’s “So Wrong,” Waylon Jennings “WRONG!,” and Buddy Holly’s “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?” We have to go look for some new column leitmotifs. Have an “Ignorance is strength” type week.

February 24, 2012

War, Ashes and Shatner

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:40 pm

Ash Wednesday in San Francisco
Rev. Michael Carter speaks on Ash Wednesday

Clergy prays on Ash Wednesday

The assertion that President Obama may have botched his chance for reelection in November because he didn’t start a war during the week of February 19 to 25 may sound absurd as that week comes to an end, but how will the President’s spin specialists respond if, right before the 2012 Presidential Election is held, the Republican candidate tells the voters that it is too late to stop Iran from developing an atomic weapon and that the last chance to prevent that development came during the last full week in February?

Usually avoiding American involvement in a new war is portrayed as a wise course of action, but with the Republicans this year the standard rules of political conduct seem to be in disarray, if not total chaos, and that leaves open the chance that the candidate who eventually wins the Republican Party’s nomination and who will attempt to limit President Obama to one term in office may not hesitate to point back at the last full week in February of 2012 and say that was when President Obama had the last chance available to use a surgical military strike to put a halt to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

During the week of February 19 to 25, pundits and or journalists suggested that Iran might want to use a preemptive strike to protect their own country. The news media in the USA ran a story suggesting that Iran had individuals inside the USA doing scouting reports for possible terrorist activity.

If a President has solid intelligence asserting that another country is going to launch a preemptive strike against the USA, doesn’t that mean that the President should launch a preemptive strike against them to defend America from a new Pearl Harbor-type attack?

Some altruistic personalities were suggesting that the week would have been a good time to launch humanitarian air strikes against Syria to protect their citizens in much the same way as the war for humanitarian reasons helped diminish the carnage in Libya last year.
Now that the principle of war for humanitarian reason has been established (by President Obama) can any Democrat rationally defend a choice to skip waging a new war for humanitarian reasons?

The Republicans love to frame the issues and debates for the Presidential elections and so if they make the assertion that a surgical strike against Iran should have been launched this past week, then the Presidential campaign might be based on the idea that the winner should be the one who can most duplicate the war-like attitude of George W. Bush.

Wouldn’t it be über-ironic if George W. Bush’s brother used that bit of inverted logic to win the Presidency in November of this year?

If President Obama doesn’t attack some country soon, his fall reelection campaign might sound like a flashback to San Francisco in the Sixties. “Make Love, not War” and all that.

It seems that Occupy San Francisco has faded into history. The Republicans love to treat a problem by removing the symptoms. Where have all the Occupy Protesters gone?

Page one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wednesday, February 22, 2012 edition, reported “Peter Cukor, 67, was killed at his home in Berkeley minutes after reporting a trespasser. Police were responding only to emergency calls at the time.”

Since the Berkeley Police Department was busy monitoring an Occupy Berkeley Protest, critics immediately demanded a complete investigation into the BPD response to the citizen’s call on the non-emergency line.

Occupy Cal has been moving a protest encampment around to different locations on the Berkeley campus.

Occupy Oakland, Occupy San Francisco, and Occupy Berkeley encampments have been dispersed. The news media seems to have become distracted away from any questions about where the Occupy protesters have relocated.

On Wednesday, February 22, 2012, the San Francisco Organizing Project (SFOP) had members of the local clergy present a letter to a representative of Wells Fargo Bank asking their bank to put a halt to foreclosure proceedings in the state of California until a study could determine if the paperwork had been done carefully and legally.

Would the clergy’s protest have received more news media coverage if any of the Occupy groups had provided additional protesters? There were no San Francisco Police Department officers in riot gear monitoring the possibility that the clergy protest might get out of hand and necessitate numerous arrests.

The Occupy San Francisco protesters have disappeared and news coverage of the possibility that the city will host the America’s Cup yacht races has become the hot controversy for local political observers.

To some cynical observers, it may seem that the politicians in San Francisco are giving away too many concessions to various parties. To others, the America’s Cup races promises to bring additional tourist revenue to the area.

If some average San Francisco citizens were to suddenly have the chance to do the tourist routine in Fremantle, Western Australia, which would they rather see: Bon Scott’s statue or the Museum with a yacht that won the America’s Cup?

Recently the World’s Laziest Journalist noticed what seemed to be a
T-shirt with a typo. It read: “Beat me up, Scotty!” Then we realized that was a San Francisco (Republican?) thing.

This week, folks in fog city learned that tickets would soon go on sale for a local venue for “Shatner’s World: We just live in it.” Wasn’t that predicted ages ago by the Mayan calendar?

Former area resident (and columnist) Hunter S. Thompson has been quoted as saying: “I wouldn’t recommend alcohol and drugs to anyone. But they have always worked for me.”

Now the disk jockey will play The Iron Butterfly song “Beyond the Milky Way,” the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” and Scott McKenzie’s “What’s the Difference?” We have to go see if flower power is still happenin’. Have a Haight & Ashbury type week.

January 27, 2012

Joey Biden, Alexey Brodovitch, and Bon Scott together again (for the first time) in this weekend wrap-up column

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:39 pm

Statue in Fremantle
Flower power!
Snapshot collecting is a trend in Berkeley CA

[Note: In an effort to enhance the reading on the humor scale, this column will be found to contain trace elements of braggadocio and fabricated verisimilitude.]

Due to the fact that a member of the Fortyniners did his imitation of Bill Bruckner style clutch performance twice in one game last Sunday, we are obliged [It’s never fun to lose a bet] to start this week’s weekend wrap up by plugging a blog (
{did she say it was the Cadillac of blogs or a blog about Cadillacs?}) for a Giants fan and then proceeding on to our regularly scheduled ration of amazingly perceptive and insightful political punditry interwoven with unique observations about pop culture.

Are the mainstream media pundits pointing out the absurd spectacle presented by the fact that a year long cavalcade of clichés proclaiming that the most important Presidential election ever? It is starting with a concerted effort by top Republican personalities to discredit the two leading candidates. How dare the Republican rank ’n’ file voters think that they can select the nominee! Isn’t the core principle of a Republic that only qualified persons (such as men who own land) can vote? Well then only folks like Bob Dole and Karl Rove should be consulted when it comes time to write a news story that will refer to “the Republican frontrunner.”

If it ain’t gonna be Romney or Gingrich, then who will it be? If the experts on the weekend shouting matches can’t tell you that, do you really expect the World’s Laziest Journalist to make an accurate prediction which will spoil the surprise? Here’s a hint: what totally qualified Republican has the initials: J. E. B.?

The Republicans lately have been rather insistent about starting a tiny, quick war with Iran. The Republicans always harshly criticize everything Obama does. If President Obama starts a war with Iran; will that force the Republicans into making a tough fielder’s choice decision? They can either cheer him on in the conduct of a blitzkrieg in the Gulf or they can denounce him for doing what they wanted to do.

Even if President Obama starts a new war they really want, and even if he personally goes into battle and wins a Medal of Honor and the war is won in thirty minutes, the Republicans would sincerely ridicule that as being a despicable inept spectacle that has brought shame and dishonor to the country.

Where can we get a photo that contrasts flower power with a soldier’s weapon to illustrate the dilemma facing the USA this week? There was an iconic Sixties image that showed a hippie guy placing the stem of a flower into the barrel of an M-1. That image is rather common on the Internets, but we won’t use it because we don’t know who owns the rights to the famous shot, so that makes getting permission to use that shot a moot question.

Berkeley CA is rather synonymous with both flower power and anti-war demonstrations and, as luck would have it, to promote the current production at the Ashby Stage (home of the Shotgun Players) a relevant new mural is being used to tout it. It is a graphic design featuring an M-16 with a flower dangling from the gun barrel. Click. Voila! We now have in our possession, a digital file of an image that makes getting permission to use it seem like a schizophrenic’s soliloquy .

Who knew that being an online columnist would eventually require a fellow to acquire a stockpile of stock photos and a handbook full of information about the art director’s job?
(Most columnists online or in print journalism have probably never heard of Alexey Brodovitch, let alone aspire to his level of art direction achievements in page layout and photo illustrations to supplement the text on the page.)

Did other political pundits report that on a fundraising visit to San Francisco, the columnist’s old grade school classmate Joey Biden suffered a verbal malfunction that revealed his lack of sports expertise show? The gaff landed Biden on page one of the San Francisco Examiner the next day for saying that the Giants were going to the Superbowl. Wouldn’t a photo of the security detail assigned to the Vice President be an example of an anemic illustration for a weekend wrap up that runs more than a week later?

It’s tough enough to get up early, pound out a column that the writer hopes is entertaining and informative augmented by (occasionally) topics that are subsequently used in the main stream media, and then go to a public library to get access to the Internets to post it; but when you add on the duties of a photographer and an amateur art director to the “to do” list, that makes it all the more time consuming. Herb Caen, who wrote a daily column in San Francisco for sixty years never had to spend time finding a photo that was relevant to his column, did he?

What if the columnist’s stock photo files have some nifty photos of Bon Scott’s statue in Fremantle Western Australia, but he didn’t get any images of the Occupy the Cal Library news story during the week? Will UCB students be upset that the library story wasn’t covered by the photographer? Do kids these days even know who Bon Scott was? Well, such a shot would be sure to draw about one Google searching person somewhere in the world to the site every day for years to come. Unfortunately no American website would be willing to reimburse the photographer for the expenses that would be incurred in the effort to get such images.

What if the journalist’s trend-spotting radar picks up a regional anomaly? If snapshot collecting is not becoming popular anywhere else but in Berkeley and if the columnist gets caught up in the “hobby,” does it deserve to be a trend-spotting column topic? Is a decades old photo print considered to be in the public domain? Would the topic of snapshot collecting be a valid excuse for running an intriguing old snapshot with no caption material?

The columnist seems to find images featuring old automobiles irresistible even on a tight budget. Someday, if we ever write a trend-spotting column about snapshot collecting, we will probably have several eye-catching images to go with it.

A homeless writer in Berkeley CA caused a bit of a small sensation online this week by challenging Mitt Romney to do a Prince and the Pauper routine and trade places. The Berkeley fellow, James Richard Armstrong II, is on Facebook and looking to expand his fan base by adding more readers to his list of friends, so folks who want to follow his progress can go to that site and send him an invitation to be an e-friend. A good portrait of him would have been a good photo illustration for this column.

If Corporations are going to have the same rights and privileges as people, then when will they be permitted to compete in the Olympic Games? Wouldn’t the New York Yankees kick ass in the baseball competition? Life magazine has collected the 100 best sports pictures for a gallery on their website.

We were introduced to a fellow in Berkeley this week whose claim to fame was being “Louie the Turkey” on some Frank Zappa recordings. Unfortunately we didn’t get a photo of the fellow.

On Saturday, Occupy Oakland is planning an event which, if the World’s Laziest Journalist goes, might provide some acceptable accompanying news photos for a weekend warp-up column that will get posted next Friday.

The quest for good photos will continue . . .

Alexey Brodovitch has been quoted as saying:
A. “This disease of our age is boredom… The way to combat this is by invention – by surprise. When I say a good picture has surprise value, I mean that it stimulates my thinking and intrigues me.”
B. “A good picture must be a completely individual expression which intrigues the viewer and forces him to think.”
C. “If [an artist] is to maintain his integrity, he must be responsible to himself; he must seek a public which will accept his vision, rather than pervert his vision to fit that public.”
D. “If you see something you have seen before, don’t click the shutter.”
E. All of the above.

Now the disk jockey will play “Kodachrome,” Ferde Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite,” and Ferrantey and Teicher’s “Canadian Sunset.” We have to go find a movie theater showing “Hugo” in 2-D. Have a “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” type week.

March 2, 2011

Return of the “Chicken Little” Syndrome?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:43 pm

If an online columnist can not convince one of his friends that there is a credible possibility that JEB Bush not only can be, but will be elected President in the November 2012 Election, should he persist in expending time and energy writing material to post online that continues his attempt to call attention to what the blogger thinks deserves serious consideration from Democrats?

The thought that he will be the only blogger to have exclusive rights to the “I tried to warn you” assessments on the day after that election is held, can have a certain seductive appeal to a fellow who has always enjoyed the role of the rogue in nature and society.

If people are reminded of the fable of the duck who thought the sky was falling, they should also remember that just about everyone thought the Jets couldn’t win Super Bowl III.

It’s one thing to have a crazy idea that comes from left field, such as “this lottery ticket I’m buying today is going to be the winning ticket,” but when a columnist adds up the factors that lead him to make an unpopular political prediction and the only conclusion that he can see after making a new attempt, is the one that others don’t see as even a very remote possibility, then . . . the worst that can happen if he says “I’m going to explain my thinking one more time” is that he gets fired by the blog-plantation owners who don’t pay for content.

Is there any liberal pundit who thinks that both the 2000 and 2004 elections were won fair and square by George W. Bush?

Is there any one of those who do who can give a rational, logical reason why the Republicans wouldn’t do it again in 2012.

In the past we have written a column or two explaining that in the hustler’s world (pool shark, poker player, or what have you) you can’t win all the time or the intended victim will suspect cheating.

Recently the governor of Wisconsin indicated that there were other newly elected Republican governors around the USA who were set to put a similar attack into play if he managed to bust the unions in his state. Did it seem to imply that all the Republicans might be participating in a coordinated effort? If so, who could possibly be the figurative quarterback calling the plays or should the question be: “Who is the coach calling the plays from the sideline?”

Next question: “Weren’t there some stories online recently claiming that Karl Rove is orchestrating the attempt to bring Julian Assange to the USA to face criminal charges for his online journalism accomplishments?”

Does anyone think that Rove is working to bring about a victory in 2012 for a generic Republican ticket such as Sarah Palin and the Wisconsin Governor? If Karl Rove is working behind the scenes isn’t it logical for a rogue columnist to suggest that he might be still working for the Bush family (as he did from 1973 until . . . either now or 2008?) and if so who does that leave as the most likely person to rekindle the Bush Dynasty stories?

Back in the late thirties almost any American journalist who reported from Europe was sending frantic dispatches warning that Hitler should be taken seriously?

Granted that one lone rogue blogger, who is desperate to advance the idea that the next person to be elected President of the USA will be JEB, might not deserve to be compared to Murrow’s Boys, but back then journalists were free to issue dire warnings.

In today’s media world, do you see big media stars being as aggressive with the Republican politicians on talk shows as they are with the Democrats?

Does Bob Schieffer’s brother’s past business relationship with George W. Bush explain an appearance of Republican favoritism in Bob’s questions and coverage?

Could Chris Matthews employer want to rein in any aggressive criticism of the Bush military adventures?

Could one blog manager have toned down her posse in an attempt to push up the sale price that would eventually be paid by a conservative buyer?

Look in the political section of a Borders Bookstore (while you still can) and see if there isn’t an impressive array of anti-Bush items available. Could it be that liberals are more likely to buy pessimistic progressive books than teabaggers?

If conservative corporate moguls are trying to suffocate the progressive point of view would they be in favor of a meltdown of the bookstore fad?

A shrill blogger’s warnings about JEB may seem more like the efforts of Hans Brinker than of any of Murrow’s Boys, but for a fellow who enjoys playing the part of a blogger who is trying to (to use the phrase that an old coworker admitted he “borrowed”) “column as I see ‘em,” it beats going to the closest Senior Center and playing cards.

Obviously the biggest and best known Blog Plantation owner won’t send such a rogue an invitation to “join her team.”

The conservative talking points folks at Fox News have marvelous opportunity the past few weeks to crow about how George W. Bush may have a right to claim that his prediction that the invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan would unleash a tsunami of change in the Muslim world and yet there doesn’t seem to be one of them seizing a golden opportunity to do some Republican bragging. The liberals were so vehement while disparaging George W. Bush when he issued that forecast, why aren’t the Fox Folks playing the “paybacks are hell” card?

Could those “told-ya” opportunities be a symbolic ace of trump card that Karl Rove is holding until it is time for JEB to become the new smirker-in-chief?

In the opening of John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie,” he reported on a chance meeting with John Gunther that he had on an airplane trip. Gunther specialized in doing books by talking to the leaders of countries in various parts of the world. Steinbeck preferred to use the Ernie Pyle approach to journalism and talk to the locals about politics and the foot soldiers about the war effort. Steinbeck based the “Travels with Charlie” book on material he gather in a vagabonding trip he had always wanted to make.

It’s probably nice to chat with folks who are frontrunners in the next election and the journalists who have that kind of access should always be aware that they can become pawns to be played by their sources.

Writers who gather their material without access to the in crowd can only make their best guess as to what is happening and how things will occur. It’s as if they were their own version of a low level CIA analyst.

The World’s Laziest Journalist will (most likely) not talk to one serious contender for the Republican Party’s next nomination to run for President. Piecing together our impressions from the scant information we have available is the best we can do.

If we divert our efforts to completely extraneous and irrelevant topics, such as a critical evaluation of an automobile museum in Oxnard, we’ll try to portray it as a change-up column done so as not to sound as if we are obsessed by the JEB prediction. We may even do some “in the field” reports from Europe. It’s just one fellow’s attempt to amuse, entertain, and (when possible) inform the readers.

Speaking of being obsessed, is any other political pundit going to do a column on the disappearance from Venice CA of the hippie/homeless crowd as a possible new facet in the Republican war on the poor and middle class?

Being the World’s Laziest Journalist doesn’t mean that we don’t do any work (that’s why the rules committee has decreed that the Fox Follies are ineligible for consideration for the claim), it just means doing as little as possible . . . but we do have to do some.

If we ever get the chance to submit a quote to Jon Winokur for one of his books of quotes, we’d submit this sentence (a repudiation of a Charles Buskowski book title) from an unpublished item written by this columnist: “The days crawled by like wounded worms on their way to the elephants’ graveyard.”

Now the disk jockey will play the best of Duane Eddy album, Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” and the Best of Roy Orbison album. We have to go check out Eurail Pass prices. Have a “This is London Calling” type week.

January 16, 2011

A Liberal subterfuge suggestion

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 4:41 pm

Journalists on the Trend-spotting beat are always searching for questions, facts, or fads that indicate that a quick and significant shift in the national cultural scene has begun. When a new man is sworn in as America’s President, that usually unleashes a tsunami of journalistic pontification about how henceforth things will be different, accompanied by sanctimonious efforts to make specific predictions. Sometimes such a trend-spotting story displays a remarkable level of accuracy such as the time in 1943 when New York based media (and Newsweek in particular?) focused their attention on some innovations being scored by local jazz musicians, such as Charlie “Bird” Parker. Perhaps the most notable examples of accuracy in trend-spotting can be tarnished by allegations of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” kind. Look at the incredulity that greeted the simultaneous cover articles done by Time and Newsweek on the then obscure musician named Bruce Springsteen.

Close counts in certain endeavors such as pitching horseshoes, hand grenades, and (as some curmudgeons maintain) love, but it has no validity when it comes to trend-spotting.

We’ll inject a personal anecdote here to illustrate the point. Back in the late Sixties, this writer and a buddy went out on reconnaissance “bird watching” mission. (Back then young ladies were yclept “birds.”) In the process, we went to a night club that was popular with the college crowd. In a moment of quiet reflection (“Schaeffer’s is the one beer to have, when you’re having more than one”), this columnist focused his attention on the band and was struck by the thought that the young folks were so intent on the “body exchange” aspect of the place, that they seemed oblivious to the possibility that they could be ignoring a band destined for greatness.

Did the young folks in Liverpool’s Cavern Club focus on the potential of the house band, or were they concentrating their attention on the mating rituals of the human species? Could it be, we wondered, that the young people in that Jersey bar were overlooking a band with the potential to sell out arena venues?

The place where we had that thought, we later learned, was the very same place (the Erlton Bowl in Cherry Hill) where Bruce Springsteen and his band worked for years as the house band and polished their musical skills. Were they the band that inspired a comparison to the Beatles? Maybe, but it could also be that Springsteen & Co. got their gig at that place the week after we were there. We’ll never know how close we came to being a few years ahead of Time and Newsweek in their admiration for Springsteen.

The inciting incident for this maudlin example of “wallowing in nostalgia” was a question about the concept of “point of no return.” This columnist first encountered that notion when the John Wayne movie “The High and the Mighty” was released.

Some car crash victims have reported that the event seemed to have taken place in “slow-motion.” If that is true, isn’t there a second in time where thing snap into focus? Isn’t there one particular moment when the mouse’s perception of the cheese instantly morphs from seeing it as a desirable, easily accessible reward to realizing that it is a parcel of treacherous bait that has been used for an ambush? Some mice may never have enough time to appreciate the St. Paul’s moment. But a smarter, more observant mouse may have a blitzkrieg quick moment where he (or she) can (to steal a line from W. C. Fields) take the bull by the tail and face the situation. The mouse notices that things have become unmanageable and that “this isn’t going to end well.” The cheese doesn’t move, but the mouse’s perception of it does.

This columnist isn’t the only American who has been fascinated by the history of the Third Reich. Didn’t “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” make the best seller lists when it was published? Our (apparently autographed by the author) copy of the English translation of Klaus Hildebrand’s book “the Foreign Policy of the Third Reich” indicates that we aren’t alone in regard to an interest in that academic topic.

[Ready for another personal experience story? About a year ago, while savoring a hot white chocolate drink at the Cow’s End Café in the Venice Section of Los Angeles, we started chatting with one of the locals. When he was informed that we write for this website, he became antagonistic in his attitude about America’s first President of Pan-African heritage and eventually we counter-attacked with an allegation that the Republican playbook relied entirely on concepts plagiarized from “Mein Kampf.” That incensed the fellow and he challenged our basis for making that comparison: “Have you read it?” When we said “yes,” he resigned the game snarling that his personal ethics dictated that he couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone who had read that book. Republicans, it seems, only wish to debate people who are not well informed about the topic to be discussed.]

Initially, approval in Germany for Herr Hitler was sufficient to give him a basis for an attempt to form a coalition government. Thanks to some subsequent tricky political maneuvers, the influence of his party grew. Ultimately, Hitler’s approval ratings plummeted in early 1945. We have often wondered: At what point did the German people have their “Mousetrap Moment Epiphany”?

The teabaggers are steeped in unqualified admiration for the Republican agenda. Will they ever experience a “Mousetrap Moment”?

Have you noticed that lately all the Republicans are calling the USA a Republic and not a Democracy? What’s the difference? Does it matter? Will that subtle bit of semantics provide the basis for a teabag party mousetrap moment some time in the future?

Some curmudgeonly pundits are making dire predictions that the USA will follow the German path to national disgrace. If they are accurate in their trend-spotting prognostications, then the Americans will, like the Germans, have a Mousetrap Moment when the majority (some party stalwarts will be enthusiastic about using the cyanide pill) of Americans will have a change of heart about the Republican stealth efforts to scrap the Social Security program and cater only to the welfare needs of the super-rich.

What small (relatively unnoticed) bit of contemporary American culture will future historians say marked the turning point? Will it be the fact that Bill O’Reilly lost his radio show? Will it be the slide in Glenn Beck’s numbers? Will it be the contemporary spin that denied that President Reagan was suffering from dementia? (Didn’t the Wall Street Journal run a feature story about emphatic denials being a symptom of guilt, just before the O. J. trial began?) Will it be something that Rush lies about too blatantly?

This columnist had been assessed as being out of touch with reality for expressing the opinion that future historians will someday determine that the Mousetrap Moment was when JEB Bush was inaugurated as President in 2013.

Who was the German leader who made the decision to accept the Allies offer of unconditional surrender? It wasn’t Hitler. He was “non en case” by that time.

Recently we have noticed that Fox Network of Republican Propaganda seems to be loosing their position as de facto squad leader for American media. Taking a reading of public sentiment in Berkeley CA may not be the most accurate measure of the situation on a national level, but we have noticed that some obstreperous members of the country’s media seems to be making efforts to establish that Fox no longer gives them the lead that they must follow.

When Fox dictates that the media must marvel at a sudden surge in JEB’s popularity right as the Iowa caucuses are scheduled to be played out, will the rest of the national media do what will be expected of them (by their wealthy owners?)?

For those who would refute this scenario by asserting that Sarah Palin has a “lock” on the nomination, we would respond: “Look up the definition of ‘stalking horse candidate’!” She won’t be the first babe to be played for a sucker by the rich guys calling the shots from behind the scenes.

[Here’s a nice irrelevant quote. In the entry for March 7, 1936, in his book Berlin Diary, William L. Shirer wrote: “Their hands are raised in slavish salute, their faces now contorted with hysteria, their mouths wide open, shouting, shouting, their eyes, burning with fanaticism, glued on the new god, the Messiah.”]

What if the turning point turns out to be the invention of “The Malloy Challenge” by an obscure blogger? What, you ask, is “The Malloy Challenge”? Find a staunch conservative friend and make a small friendly wager. Bet them they can’t listen to Mike Malloy’s radio program for a week and not have a mousetrap moment conversion.

They have to listen for a full week. Listening for fifteen minutes and then turning it off and throwing a temper tantrum won’t win the bet. If terrorism suspects can be repeatedly subjected to waterboarding and they can’t listen to a fellow with an opposing point of view for a full week, doesn’t that smack of hypocrisy and wimpiness?

Challenging a conservative to listen attentively to the Mike Malloy’s radio program for a week in return for $10 pay, won’t work; but if you appeal to their macho side and couch the offer in the terms of a friendly wager that might work. If they can’t tune in to Malloy for a week to win a bet, then it is obvious they would crumble like a paper tiger, if they had to endure waterboarding for their cause.

Issuing “The Malloy Challenge” to conservative friends isn’t going to stop the inauguration of JEB, but it is going to give you a right to the “I tried to warn you” example of schadenfreude, when you conservative friends are aghast at what they see happening when JEB gets his hands on FDR’s beloved Social Security program.

Klaus Hildebrand (Ibid page 72) wrote: “Chamberlain’s attitude can only be understood properly if it is seen in the context of his basic plan for peace.” Isn’t that sortta like Obama’s efforts to “reach out to the other side”?

The disk jockey will, of course, play the haunting theme song from “the High and the Mighty,” “Born to Run,” and the Badenweiler March (to see why that is relevant to this column read Shirer’s Berlin Diary entry for September 5, 1934). We have to go look up the explanation for Rupert Sheldrake’s concept of morphic resonance. Have a “Bugaloo, got a bet going over here!” type week.

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