November 8, 2013

The Long March to 2016 begins

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:29 pm

Is a distorted image better than none at all?

Over the first weekend of November of 2013, the Drudge Report ran a headline alerting readers to the possibility that Congress would pass a law requiring doctors to treat the new patients created by the Affordable Care Act.  There have been some muted hints about the possibility that all the new clients for doctors will provide gridlock in the waiting rooms of America and soon the mainstream media will take notice of the fact that a system that is operating at full capacity now, is going to have problems with the addition of a massive number of new “customers.”  The challenge of doing trend-spotting items is to be the first to notice and report them.

The Republican strategy, recently, has been to attack the strong point and since the Affordable Care Act seems to be the keystone for President Obama’s legacy, it would only be logical to conclude that for the next three years, the Republicans will produce a constant avalanche of criticism of the implementation and results of that program as the central issue for the 2016 Presidential election.

Since Republicans also tend to believe that snappy slogans are preferable to long and detailed explanations of complex topics, the fickle American audience might not have an insatiable appetite for three solid years of a series of unrelenting columns about health issues and so the World’s Laziest Journalist operates on the belief that information that is interesting and informative will trump approved talking points for the next 150 weeks and that efforts must be made to track down some facts with novelty appeal for the folks who have made up their minds about how to vote three years from now.

Occasionally we get a chance to chow down in a UCB cafeteria where there is a feature called Papers with the Professor that provides a copy of the current day’s New York Times to read.  Hence, the search for potential topics for a Friday column can begin on a Sunday morning with some pizza (warm pizza for breakfast is something that most students would endorse and that few restaurants are willing to provide) coffee, and the Sunday Edition of the New York Times.

When we first stumbled upon this modus operandi, it was an example of pragmatism in action to get to the table with the papers as fast as possible to get access to the Sections we prefer.  Our order of preference is:  Arts, Book Review, Week in Review, the magazine Section, and then the front news section.

We have noticed lately that there is no competition for the prize and we wondered about that until we noticed a student who was nearby fiddling with her hand held communications center.  The young people don’t have a nostalgic attachment to the physical sensation of flipping through a standard size newspaper.  Things have changed since the days of Mario Savio’s rant on top of a police car.

While talking to a young person about cinema we were surprised to learn that they had not ever heard the expression “double feature” and correctly guessed what it means from the context where it was used.

As a pundit who doesn’t have access to high level politicians, the challenge for online commentators is to:  find media trend stories early, find under reported stories, find interesting feature material first, and or to go Gonzo and describe the efforts to go and cover news without a press pass.

Twice the World’s Laziest Journalist has come close to getting mixed in with reporters who were detained by the police.  Once covering BART shooting protests, and once covering Occupy Oakland.  Since covering the Venice canal “riot” about forty years ago, our enthusiasm for getting close to the story has slowly morphed into the concept that Tom Wolfe called “the gentleman in the grandstand” style journalism.

Media trend spotting and second guessing the opinions of nationally known commentators can be done at home at a computer connected to the Internet but to get photos of the event and to get a “You Are There” viewpoint, the columnist has to leave the comforts of home and go where the action is, or was, or will be.

We have been reading Bill Bryson’s “One Summer America 1927” but once we state that it is like taking a time travel trip back to another era and is a very enjoyable read chock full of interesting facts, what else can we say to expand that assessment out to full column length review?

Last week, two new movies featured actors portraying the writer Jack Kerouac.  After seeing “Big Sur” in San Francisco, we went dashing off to the Beat Museum to trade film reviews and continue our discussion with Jerry Cimino on the topic:  “Was Hemingway a prototype for the Beat Writers?”

People who are Hemingway fans have read about the idyllic existence of ex-patriot American artists living in Paris in the Twenties, but the Bryson book reports that up until aviator Charles Lindbergh landed there in 1927, American tourists had to contend with anti-American sentiments.  Was the ex-pat community isolated from the trials and tribulations of the average American tourist?

Bryson relates that the public adulation of Lindbergh caused him to become aloof and since he was shy, more withdrawn.

The “Big Sur” movie portrays a writer who had to retreat to a friend’s cabin in the woods to escape the fans who were making live miserable for the newly famous author of “On the Road.”  The film “Kill Your Darlings” made the subtle point that at a certain level fame could be quantified and shared in a way reminiscent of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Last week, we went to the de Young Museum to see the Hockney exhibit.  That sparked a debate with a fellow who had been an art critic columnist in the Denver area about which of the two exhibits we have seen there this year was the best:  Diebenkorn or Hockney?

The debate devolved into an assertion that since the other fellow had a degree in art, he knew what he was talking about and that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Diebenkorn exhibit featured the most talented artist.

That, in turn, reminded us that a continuing debate about the relative merits of writer Ayn Rand.  The World’s Laziest Journalist contends that since she is not featured in any of the comprehensive guidebooks of the “Philosophy fur Dummkopfs” style of overviews that proves she is a wannabe.  Our debate opponent says he used to be a newspaper editor and since it is his opinion that she was an inspiration and an insightful author that is conclusive proof that this columnist is wrong.

Bryson asserts that almost all sports enthusiasts agree that the 1927 Yankees team was the greatest baseball team ever.  (Brothers and sisters, can we get an “Amen,” on that?)

Three years from today, the results of America’s 2016 Presidential Election will be the top item on the weekend shouting match style TV analysis shows.  The folks in the mainstream media will expend a lot of time and energy promoting the run-up to that election.

Will the mainstream media devote a tsunami of material on the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang?  That seems quite likely.  What else will qualify to get the attention of the mainstream media between now and the Presidential Election?

Bryson makes a casual mention in his look at 1927 about a Wisconsin congressman (weren’t they all men back then?) who was a socialist.  If Americans like novelty and if talk radio becomes all conservative talking points all the time could it be that if people grow tired of it, the back lash would arrive in the form of an event that would cause talk radio host to have apoplexy.  Just think how the media would react if a member of the Socialist Party did get elected to Congress in the next three years.

Wouldn’t that be as noteworthy as a young lady in a bridal gown taking a tour of Alcatraz Prison National Park?  Didn’t that actually happen on Election Day earlier this week?

[Note from the Photo Editor:  A distorted image of a skyscraper in San Francisco can serve as a metaphor for reality in the age of talk radio and messages with a 140 word limit.]

In the 1927 movie “The Jazz Singer,” actor Al Jolson said:  “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”

Now the disk jockey will play the Zombies’ “Care of Cell 44,” the Kinks’ “Holloway Jail,” and AC/DC’s “Jailbreak.”  We have to go protest the jailing of the Pussy Riot band.  Have a “no trace of them was ever found” type week.

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