January 16, 2015

Gendarmes, terrorists and tourists in Paris

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:31 pm

Cartoon Museum shot




















In November of 1986, when America’s evening news featured scenes of gendarmes with submachine guns at the major intersections in Paris was like viewing a scene ripped from the pages of “1984,” that had come to life. A series of terrorist incidents had prompted coworkers to suggest that it might be a good idea to cancel the trip. Our reply was: “Yeah, but if I get killed by a terrorist’s bomb in Paris that will mean that my demise will be reported on the front page of the New York Times.” November in Paris in even numbered years means that the Month of the Photo will be celebrated and since we had waited all our life to check out the moveable feast in action, we scoffed at the idea of canceling the trip. A paucity of tourists meant that the traditional comedy shtick about Parisian waiters being rude to American Tourists had also been put on “Pause.”

An American in Paris, in November of 1986 didn’t get the royal treatment that American soldiers received in August of 1944, but any Gringo tourist who was there for the 1986 Month of the Photo was accorded semi-hero status. We hope that this year’s American tourists who want to make “April in Paris” one of the highlights of their life and not just a song title, won’t be intimidated by fear and trepidation.

On Monday, January 14, 2015, there was a report on KCBS news radio that a controversial ad juxtaposing Hitler and a Muslim had appeared that day on busses in San Francisco. It was reported that the ads would remain on display. We went to Fog City on Tuesday to get a photo of the newsworthy bus ad.

We spent some time trying to find and photograph the elusive ad. We changed plans and headed towards the San Francisco Museum of Cartoon Art. As we walked through the financial district, we noticed flyers, taped to various light poles, that depicted the prophet Muhammad as a cartoon stick figure.

The Museum, we learned, was trying to formulate their response to the attack on cartoonists in Paris.

Wasn’t Charles Chaplin known in France as “Charlot”? Didn’t he inspire the names for two brands of cigarettes? Tramps and Charlie?

Cliff Robertson won a lead actor Oscar for playing the title role in the 1968 film “Charlie.”

A source close to the Conspiracy Theory Manufacturers Association, speaking anonymously, told us that the move to portray the Hebdo Massacre as the French 9-11 as a way to start vaporizing French citizens rights is underway. It is time (as they used to say in the Sixties) to run that theory up the flagpole and see who salutes it.

As with all events these days, some people are suggesting that it was a false flag tactic.

Is it time to print T-shirts depicting Charlie Chaplin, General de Gaul, and Che and have the same dialogue balloon on each one that read: “Je suis Charlie!”?

On Wednesday, January 14, 2015, when the new issue of Charlie Hebdo magazine was in the news, the topic became which media were showing the cover and which were only describing it. We began to think that perhaps we should not post even the image of the right side of the flyer we saw Tuesday in San Francisco.

If American media can print the Pentagon Papers but not the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo magazine, you shouldn’t have to wonder if the terrorist attacks are being considered a success and will be continued.

We spend the better part of a day roaming around San Francisco trying to get a photo to illustrate this week’s column and we come up empty-handed. We’ll have to settle for an innocuous and non controversial image that is (hopefully) at least eye-catching.  What can a columnist do about a week’s search that delivered a Sisyphus’ type final score?

Then we had the brilliant idea that maybe it’s time to market an article titled “Being the World’s Laziest Journalist is hard work,” but then we asked ourselves: “Who’d want such an item?” and immediately we replied: “What about ‘the Idler’ magazine in Great Britain?”

Surely the Brits would grok to the concept of “editor errant,” wouldn’t they? We’ll have to pitch them on some story/column ideas we think they would dig and see what their reaction is.

Maybe we could become their editor at large in the San Francisco Bay Area and finally realize our goal of sitting around in a posh gin mill and have fawning fans besiege us with potential column items just like our heroes Herb Caen and Walter Winchell used to do?

That should be a hella easier than covering riots, such as we did in December, and encountering a phalanx of police officers in riot gear as we have done repeatedly in the last half dozen years.

The reassurance of a large police presence was contrasted by what happened in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdicts were announced. LAPD Chief Darryl Gates announced that the LAPD wouldn’t respond to the calls for help generated by rioting and looting that occurred the night the verdicts were announced. All f*****g hell broke loose in “Shakeytown” that night.

The slowdown by police in New York City recently would seem to be a limited example of the sit-down strike philosophy.

When workers at Ford, in the Thirties, called a strike action, a few were shot and killed and the strike was of short duration. Later workers at General Motors went to their work stations and remained idle, it was called a sit-down strike. It was a tipping point for unions and the Auto Workers Union became a viable entity in the history of Detroit.

The concept that police officers have the right to self defense while performing their dangerous job should be obvious. The fact that such a right can lead to egregious abuses of that right should also be obvious. Since discourse in America has disintegrated into a binary choice, compromise is rendered impossible to achieve.

(Can’t you just imagine the voice of Lenny Bruce suggesting that a study commission come up with an acceptable number of yearly police shooting totals? )

The goal of zero accidental fatal police involved shootings is impossible to achieve. It should be obvious that castrating the concept of policing is a bad idea, too.

This year will have a massive amount of feature story potential. It is very unlikely that this column will be the first and only mention of the fact that the Battle of Britain will be marking its 75th anniversary this summer.

It also seems quite likely that for political pundits, 2015 will be a bumpy ride with the use of seatbelts being mandatory.

If Obama is impeached, and if the Vice President is sworn in as President, what will Hilary’s chances be for landing the 2016 Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination? Don’t incumbent Presidents, who aren’t restricted by term limitations, have a lock on the nomination?

Wouldn’t it be more pleasant to be churning columns out describing delightful assignments such as (hypothetically speaking) a lunch/interview with an author in his hometown of San Francisco?

The closing quote this week is a famous line of dialogue from the film “Apocalypse Now:” “Charlie don’t surf!”

Now the disk jockey will play a the song with the title “Charlie don’t surf!,” the Kingston trio’s “MTA,” and Waylon Jenning’s song “Don’t you think this outlaw bit’s done got out of hand?” We have to go cover the 13th annual Noir City Film Festival (noircity dot com) which starts in San Francisco this weekend. Have a “no politically incorrect images” type week.

February 12, 2011

“We’ll always have Paris.”

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:24 pm

On Friday, February 11, 2011, the Paramount Theater in Oakland offered a program that looked like a prospect for a very pleasant evening of entertainment that was supposed to be the columnist’s opportunity to “take the day off.” Sitting in a single screen movie theater listening to a musician play the organ before the cartoon and newsreel are scheduled to start the show, was a déjà vu moment. When did movie theaters stop showing cartoons? When was the last newsreel made? The time travel thrill came to an abrupt halt when Ricky Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) made it clear that the Nazis were the bad guys because they would torture prisoners to get information about the good guys in the resistance. We wondered if the young American men who died in the European theater of operations during WWII would appreciate the irony of their own deaths if they could see their country now.

Before leaving for the movie, we had tuned into the Mike Malloy talk show program to hear what was happening to Brad Friedman of the Bradblog website and the vacation week substitute radio host. On Thursday liberal news websites had broke the story about how Friedman was being targeted by the United States Chamber of Commerce for some dirty tricks style attacks on his credibility.

During the day Friday, this columnist had zoomed around on the Internets to gather some material for a column about the phenomenon of the mindset that drives pathological liars to be used in a column that will be posted at a later date.

It seems that seeing Casablanca on the day when systematic attacks on newsmen looked like they were part of a premeditated plan to cripple the effectiveness of citizen journalists would only double down on the irony level contained in the patriotic message of the Academy Award (AKA Oscar™) winning film.

The film contains one of the few exceptions to the Hayes code ever seen on American screens. In the World War II era movie, patriotism trumped the rule that no movie must get away with murder. Whew! That must come as a great comfort to the folks who want to sidestep the treehuggers laments about civilian casualties as collateral damage in camel jockey country. Major Strasser has been killed? “Round up the usual suspects!”

Didn’t the bad guys shown in Casablanca make a point of stifling the publication of dissenting points of view?

Lately, both of the two biggest American political parties seem to be using the Nazi image for a reenactment of the old childhood wrangling titled “Your mother wears combat boots!” Heck, back then, most kids who participated in that Monty Python style debate had never heard the word “lesbian;” let alone understood the full implication of a mother who wore combat boots.

Like Ricky Blaine, this columnist prefers to sit on the sideline and make sarcastic observations rather than participate in political debates.

The Nazis style was: fight against communist. Use succinct short slogans. Tell lies so big that no one will believe the teller has the cajones to tell that big of a whopper. Shut down media that doesn’t use pre-approved propaganda. Rig or cancel fair elections. Make the message so simple to understand that a high school drop out can understand it. The Geneva accords were scraps of paper. It’s OK to use torture to find out what the enemy resistance is doing.

Heck, aren’t the Republicans and Democrats equally guilty of using that modus operandi at this point?

Brad’s website was disabled and unavailable all day Friday. Even if it wasn’t a major equipment failure (just like what happened to the Iran nuclear program hardware?), don’t most Americans say that all is fair in love, war, and politics?

If net neutrality rules are imposed on the Internets (just like the Hays code was forced on the film makes) does that mean that citizen bloggers won’t be free to spend their own money to go see the 24 hour race at Le Mans and write whatever they want? Isn’t the traditional headline for the World’s Laziest Journalist’s annual Columnist Day celebration: “I column as I see ‘em!”? Doesn’t that mean that no matter what, bloggers will always be protected by the First Amendment?

There are two styles of column writing; the Dionysian and the Apollonian. Which one would teabagger trolls say is used by the World’s Laziest Journalist?

The United States Chamber of Commerce might be willing to spend $2 million to stifle Brad because he insists on reporting esoteric stories, such as the one about the absent minded professor on the Supreme Court who misunderstood the complicated implications of putting a checkmark in the wrong place on an innocuous and informal office form, but it seems unlikely anyone would notice if the World’s Laziest Journalist writes a column comparing and contrasting the tourist destination ratings of Paris vs. Casablanca.

It’s just like what Ertha Kitt said about money. To paraphrase her: This columnist has been to Casablanca and Paris. I prefer Paris.

Won’t the Huffington Post always be an available venue for disgruntled liberal writers? Did some blogging curmudgeon make some crazy assertion about “First they came to get the Bradblog . . . .”? Don’t take those conspiracy theory nuts too seriously.

Oscar Wild said: “Good Americans think that when they die; they’ll go to Paris.” Why wait that long?

Now the disk jockey will play (you can see it coming a mile away – just like JEB moving the Bush Dynasty back into the White House in 2012) Dooley Wilson’s “As time goes by,” “The last time I saw Paris,” and “Le vie en Rose.” We have to go see when the Berkeley 7 Flashback series will be showing “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Have an “I was misinformed” type week.

August 2, 2010

Farewell to Kodachrome

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , , — Bob Patterson @ 4:03 pm

On the last Saturday in July of 2010, this columnist stumbled on a yard sale in Berkeley CA, that provided a chance to purchase cassette tapes at the incredibly low, low price of a quarter each and since there were a good many tracks from artists who were synonymous with the sixties, we glommed on to almost three dozen. That evening, while listening to the music, we thought of the fact that the last place in the United States that offers development for Kodachrome film will cease that service at the end of this year. That, in turn, prompted this columnist to realize that an old way of looking at the world would soon be shut down. Hmm. We started to wonder if the commencement speaker at our college graduation ceremony had warned us about how grim things were going to be forty-five years later. The class of 1965 had every reason to believe and expect that the era of unlimited growth and prosperity was at hand and that we could record the spectacle on Kodachrome for posterity. With the death of Kodachrome, it seems that people will have to adopt (both literally and figuratively) a new way of seeing the world. In May of 1965, the uber-optimistic commencement speaker sure didn’t lay it on about “no more Vietnams” because it wasn’t until the start of the following month that LBJ decided to send some Marine Divisions there to straighten up the mess.

The British Invasion back then meant Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five (how many members of that group can you name?), and Petula Clark, and not oily tar balls and dispersants.

The marvel of Kodachrome was that it used dyes and not an emulsion that produced grain which was a primitive chemical based form of pixilation. The difference between Kodachrome and Tri-X was similar to the difference between analogue (no pixels) and digital (grainy) music.

If the commencement speaker had told the class of ’65 that the United States was going to suffer a metaphorical Dien Bien Phu in the next ten years, he would have been laughed off the stage. If he has told this columnist, that within six months he would walk the streets of Casablanca, the young man would (most likely) have said: “Of all the gin joints in all the world . . . .”and had a good laugh.

One member of that particular class had been killed in a car wreck that happened between the end of final exams and the Sunday ceremony. At least one more was killed in Vietnam before the class of 1966 got to hear their commencement speech. Another fellow from the class of 1965 came back from Vietnam, used some of the money he had earned there to buy a high performance Corvette and learned it was more car than he could handle. Over the ensuing years, one recurring though has been to wonder (if time travel were possible) what it would be like to travel back in time to Berlin for the Christmas of 1938 and warn the German’s what lay ahead.

As July of 2010 became August, we read a piece by Ted Rall grumbling about how he is having a difficult time getting editors interested in stories relating to their audiences, just how things are going in Afghanistan. We realized that any time travel trip back to Berlin for the 1938 Christmas season would be an exercise in futility. “I’d sing out danger, I sing out warning . . .” and get the Sounds of Silence.

If you search diligently into the history of television, you will find that in Germany from 1936 to (approximately) 1943, there was a nightly newscast featuring officially state sanctioned information available to the few owners of TV sets in that city. The US has Fox News and they had lies from Wolfschanze.

One of the items we picked up was a copy of a Roy Orbison album titled King of Hearts. If we like Orbison so much how could we have missed a whole album? We wondered what else may have slipped under our cultural radar in the last forty-five years.

In college, we had used a 4X5 Speed Graphic to get photos for the 64 and 65 yearbooks. We had spent some time making extreme enlargements from small (about the size of a 35mm negative) portion of the image on the piece of sheet film (remember the notches code?) and so when we now say that carrying a Nikon Coolpix around in our pocket makes us feel like we have a portable studio with us at all times, we realize it sounds like hyperbole. Obviously the newer bigger more expensive digital Nikons would be commensurately better than the Coolpix, but the basis for this comparison is a very heavy and bulky fifty year old state of the art piece of camera equipment.

Listening to the pure voices of Joan Baez, Mama Cass, and Patsy Cline, counter pointed by the raw raspy sound of Janice Joplin, we got to wondering if the young DJ’s on KALX and KLXU could assert that artists like this Lady Gaga person (to the best of our knowledge, we’ve never heard her sing) has a voice that can deliver a song on key let alone has perfect pitch. Perfect pitch? Isn’t that what a baseball team gets when they deal with only 27 batters from the opposing team?

The famous Philadelphia curmudgeon W. C. Fields has been quoted as saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again . . . then quit because there’s no use looking like a damn fool.”

Is that all there is to say after a weekend soaked in musical nostalgia? Oh, no, my faithful readers, let’s break out the travel brochures and apply to the Gonzo Journalism Foundation (AKA my bank account) for a grant to subsidize a summer of 2011 trip to Berlin and let the roster of younger bloggers write about reviving the draft, a possible war with one of Iraq’s neighboring countries, and/or the possible existence of a pesky foreign student loan application from the past.

In May of 1965, all graduating classes were (I assume) promised a big wide wonderful world full of appealing possibilities unlimited opportunities and now forty-five years later, after attending the Academy Awards twice, having a Seven Up in Hemingway’s favorite bar in Paris and a diet Pepsi in Skimpy’s Saloon in Kalgoorlie, having a ride in the Goodyear blimp, chatting with a former co-worker at the Playboy West Coast Mansion (which gives us a chance to slip in a plug for Hugh Hefner’s new work-safe website called “The Smoking Jacket” here), giving my autograph to Paul Newman, asking John Wayne for his, and having Twilight Zone writer George Clayton Johnson ask if he could use a story line I had brought into the conversation, it might seem like there’s nothing left to anticipate but the impeachment proceedings that the Republicans are anxious to initiate in January.

Oh, no, my faithful readers, after a weekend of discovering never-before-heard songs by Patsy Cline, the Mamas and the Papas, and Sonny and Cher, it’s obvious that even though there were no guarantees given to the class of 1965, there might be (just might mind you) be some additional new thrills in this old world left to discover. Thrills? What if there are some unheard Janis Joplin tracks left to find? Are we sure that we have heard every Doors song in existence?

Look out, Isle de Levant, I’m on my way! Well, next summer, if I live that long. Is there any chance of bumping into any fellow members of the class of 1965, in a hostel in Prague, or Munich, or . . . Amsterdam? Most of my classmates went the family and house with a white picket fence route so they should be wealthy and retired now. What’s to stop them from going? Don’t think twice; it’s all right. Retirement’s just another word for nothing left to lose . . . by going on the road just one more time.

[Note from the Marvelous Co-inky-dink Department: at the same time this columnist was buying cassette tapes, Bard Pitt and Angelina Jolie were (according to the Berkeleyside website) also enjoying a relaxing day in Berkeley CA.]

Berlin on Christmas Day of 1938? Graduation Day 1965? January 2011? Janis Joplin summed it all up: “. . . because, as a matter of fact . . . as we learned on the train, ma-a-a-n, tomorrow never happens. It’s all the sa-a-a-me fu-u-u-cking da-a-ay, ma-a-a-an!”

Now the disk jockey will play Roy Orbison’s “Heartbreak Radio,” Sonny and Cher’s “Sing C’est la vie,” and Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.” We have to go look for a copy of “Europe on $5 a day.” Have a “U. S. out of Vietnam now!” type week.

February 22, 2010

Back when the good guys were the good guys

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , , — Bob Patterson @ 7:24 pm

Since it is slowly becoming obvious that the Bush Administration will accomplish what the Nazis couldn’t (be forgiven for committing war crimes); it seems concomitant to find some other topics for columns to be posted online. It would be best to come up with topics which will be previously untouched but will proved a “Eurika!” moment/reaction with this site’s regulars.

One hypothetical question which has always been a concern for this columnist has been: “If you could travel back in time to anyplace to see history happen; where would you be going when (not if) they actually invent and activate the “Wayback Machine”?

At this point we direct readers’ attention to the comments section below.

For this columnist, the first response has always been: I’d go to Paris to watch the Liberation during WWII occur.

We used to work with a guy who was, according to the judgment of the other workers, very boring. We made a specific effort to get to know him hoping that he would have some hidden trove of memories that we could get him to share. We’ve always been anxious to hear the experiences of the men who fought in WWII. When this fellow mentioned the Army, we hauled out our verbal questionnaire form. What theater of operations, what unit, what time frame, etc.

The guy didn’t offer any spectacular possibilities for combat stories. He had been wounded in action but it wasn’t life threatening. Then he proved my point by dropping a game winner: while he was in a military hospital, he and a nurse who spoke French went AWOL and snuck into Paris three weeks after the Liberation. He succinctly reported “We had a good time.”

The highlight, according to his reminiscences, occurred when he went into one of the best restaurants and ordered up a “once in a lifetime” dining experience. When the bill wasn’t presented, he asked for it. The waiter explained that it was impossible to present a bill to a member of the very same Army that had Liberated Paris. Sweet.

One might assume that living in Berkeley wouldn’t offer much possibility for finding some vicarious material for flashbacks to the aforementioned historical series of events that transpired in August 1944. Thanks to some items found in the Berkeley Public Library book store, such an assumption would be misguided.

In a copy of “By-line: Ernest Hemingway,” we found (on pages 382 – 3): “We ran through the road where the munitions dump was exploding, with Archie (his driver), who has bright red hair, six years of regular Army, four words of French, a missing front tooth, and a Frere in a guerrilla outfit, laughing heartily at the noise the big stuff was making as it blew. . . .

“We were going downhill now, and I knew that road and what we could see when we made the next turn. . . .

“‘Yeah,’ I said. I couldn’t say anything more then, because I had a funny choke in my throat and I had to clean my glasses because there now, below us, gray and always beautiful, was spread the city I love best in all the world.”

A day or so later, in “Wayward Reporter: The Life of A. J. Liebling,” we found (pages 4 – 5): “For the first time in my life and probably the last, I have lived for a week in a great city where everybody is happy. Moreover, since this city is Paris, everybody makes this euphoria manifest.”

We’ve read some of the articles that Albert Camus wrote for Combat, the resistance newspaper, but were surprised to find that Liebling had written a book that critically evaluated the journalism produced in Paris during the Occupation. Where the heck are we ever going to find a copy of “The Republic of Silence”? Now we have a reason to go to bookstores.

Somehow George W. Bush thought that the troops he sent into Baghdad would get the same tumultuous reception that the Parisians gave to the American troops who arrived in Paris in 1944. Unfortunately, Bush miscalculated. Bush ultimately came off looking like a guy standing in the rain watching his girlfriend and her husband boarding a train that was leaving Paris.

When we started flipping through a recently acquired copy of “Anthology: Selected essays from the first 30 years of The New York Review of Books,” we came across Bruce Chatwin’s piece titled “An Aesthete at War.” It tells about the life of Captain Ernst Junger who won Iron Crosses in both World Wars.

Part of fact finding for our imaginary time travel trip had been a reading of “Is Paris Burning?” many years ago. “An Aesthete at War” mentions that General Speidel “forgot” the order to V-bomb Paris. How did we miss that bit of trivia? It seems that Paris was doubly lucky to survive the Liberation relatively unscathed. We also just read (In Joseph Harsch’s book about covering WWII?) that the night they left Paris, the Germans did send some airplanes on a bombing raid over Paris’ outskirts.

Junger loved war, but he also loved Paris. According to Chatwin’s article it seems likely that Rush Limbaugh would cherish Junger’s book about WWI titled “Storm of Steel.” Apparently, if you like war; you will love Junger’s book “Storm of Steel.” A guy who was wounded 14 times in World War I and then fought again in World War II would be the kind of guy Uncle Rushbo would urge all American kids to emulate. Uncle Rushbo would agree with the warmonger aspect of Junger’s personality and it isn’t hard to imagine the fat man also wishing for an alternative history where Paris was leveled by the retreating German Army.

It seems that Dick Cheney will never stand trial for war crimes and that time travel back to the days when the Americans were “the good guys” will never be perfected, but a columnist can dream, can’t he?

Chatwin delivers an occupation era quote from Madame (Mrs. Paul) Morand: “For me the art of living is the art of making other people work and keeping pleasure for myself.” (Does Uncle Rushbo need a motto for his radio program?)

Now, we’ll pry the disk jockey away from his transistor radio (where the True Oldies Channel delivers a limited dose of time travel) and have him play “The Last Time I Saw Paris (the song was inspired by the fall of France),” “Paris vor Hundert Jahren” and Waylon Jenning’s song, “He Went to Paris.” (What? You were expecting “As Time Goes By”? The boss don’t like to hear that song.) It’s time for us to go do some fact finding about the new John Cusack movie with the intriguing title “Hot Tub Time Machine.” Have a “filled with those events which alter and illuminate our times” type week.

July 25, 2008

Obama Mia!

Filed under: Toon — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Volt @ 8:55 am

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