April 17, 2013

Ernie Pyle or Herb Caen?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 6:19 pm

San Francisco named a street for a famous local columnist

[Note: The annual task of writing something to be posted honoring National Columnists’ Day on April 18, which was the day that war correspondent/columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action on the island of Ie Shima in the Pacific Theater of  WWII, is always a challenge because the intention is to keep the tone lighthearted and upbeat but this year, because it falls at a time when the national mood is very somber, we will, after a moment of silence, proceed with this year’s installment, for the same reasons that Boston will hold their marathon again next year.]

A hint of scandal for this year’s America’s Cup Races in the San Francisco Bay area will provide us with a chance to examine how two of our favorite columnists might take different approaches displaying their unique styles to the task of informing their readers of the looming potential for an economic blunder with dire implications for the taxpayers in the town Herb Caen dubbed “Baghdad by the Bay.”

While preparing to write this year’s installment of our annual National Columnists Day posting to mark the day which honors both war correspondent Ernie Pyle and the vocation of being a columnist, we decided to focus this year’s effort on legendary San Francisco scribe Herb Caen who served in the Army Air Force during WWII.

Pyle wrote from the point of view of the G. I. in the foxhole, while Caen, in his civilian phase, preferred to let his audience participate vicariously in his life as a flâneur, a boulevardier, and a bon vivant, who hung out with and traded gossip with “the swells.”  Caen’s first effort was published on July 5, 1938, and ended with his last column in 1997.

Obviously if both of them were still alive and churning out words, they would both take very different approaches to the growing grumbling about the Americas’ Cup races scheduled to be held later this year on San Francisco Bay.

The race’s lawyers seem to have outwitted the ones working for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and so the two parties signed a deal that, upon closer reading, will leave the citizens liable for a large financial shortfall.

We assume that Caen would look forward to rubbing elbows with the “swells” who will conduct the races and hold the accompanying “invitation only” parties and maybe he would also describe the spectacle as seen from a private airplane flying overhead.  Isn’t it logical to conclude that Pyle would side with the taxpayers who can only use binoculars to see some (three?) sailboats on the bay?

Caen’s pioneering approach to celebrity journalism made him a star in the ranks of columnists.  He coined the word “beatnik” and quite often his witty way with words won him a mention in the monthly “towards more picturesque speech” feature in the Readers’ Digest.

Caen was a staunch supporter of iconoclastic wit and provided a continuing source of publicity to Lenny Bruce for his pioneering efforts in the realm of “sick” humor.

In addition to honoring and remembering Ernie Pyle each year, the day is also intended to draw attention to the career of being a columnist, which in the Facebook era should make Pyle the Patron Saint of Facebook, since the mission statement for a columnist is essentially the same motivation for churning out the keystrokes for a Facebook page, i.e. tell the world what you are doing and thinking.  Ernie Pyle, Herb Caen, and Bill Mauldin all have a Facebook page.

Can a Facebook blurb make or break a restaurant?  Once, many moons ago, Caen wrote a blind item blurb about a restaurant that incurred his wrath.  After it was published, the owner of another restaurant that fit the vague description of the offending culprit, contacted Caen’s office and begged him to explain that their restaurant, which had suffered a consequent crippling of their usual business level, was not the one that folks should boycott.  He immediately cleared up the misperception.  Can a Facebook writer have that big of an impact on a community?

The fact that Caen’s style of quick verbal jabs was dubbed “thee dot journalism,” because he used the punctuation of three dots (called an ellipse) to separate items, preceded the Internet phenomenon of catering to an audience with an attention span that demanded items with the complexity level of a bumper sticker and that should endear him to the new generation that operates with a self imposed 130 word limit.  For example, isn’t just the fact that Anthony Grafton wrote a scholarly book, title “The Footnote a Curious History,” enough information for a great Herb Caen-ish column item?

A fellow who went AWAL from a military hospital, three weeks after the liberation, and went into Paris with a nurse who spoke French told us about going into a fine restaurant and ordering a “once in a lifetime” meal.  When the fellow asked for the bill, management considered it a matter of honor to refuse to let the sergeant pay for the meal.  We like to think that Ernie Pyle, if he heard about it, would have devoted a full column to that incident.  He would (we assume) have compared and contrasted the best that Paris had to offer with the famed K-ration that the GI’s often disparaged with very salty language.  (If the disk jockey is alert he will play “Moose Turd Pie” as part of the “outro” music at the end of this column.)  Herb Caen, who served in WWII, was a gourmet who savored fine meals and shared his enthusiasm with his readers.

Many Facebook entries include a snapshot of a meal.  Would young folks appreciate the subtlety if an Ernie Pyle wannabe posted a photo of a K-ration being served?

Once, according to an anecdote provided by one of Caen’s contemporary rivals in the realm of column writing, the two competitors for the right to the title of “Mr. San Francisco,” were out cavorting in some fog city bars after WWII.  They became a bit rowdy and a rookie policeman started to arrest them.  They simultaneously asked if the youngster knew who he was trying to arrest.  He didn’t know and didn’t care.  He led them down to the local station.  When the trio entered, the desk sergeant began to laugh boisterously and asked the newcomer:  “Do you know who you are trying to arrest?”  Case dismissed!

The San Francisco Chronicle would, when Caen was on vacation, run a box on the front page above the fold saying “Herb Caen is on vacation” to cut down on the number of complaints from people who would call and bitch about not being able to find that day’s installment of the column simply titled “Herb Caen.”

Once, back in the season when the Oakland Raiders won games when George Blanda would kick a last second field goal, a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune rushing a “starter” copy of the day’s publication, noticed that at the beginning of the lead story, the words indicated that the story was about the will a local celebrity had written “after” he died.  The ME had a “Stop the presses!” moment and the word was quickly changed to “after” and one of the typesetters was given a stern lecture about the rule that only editors could change copy.  The incident was quickly forgotten until the next week when the secret goof-up was prominently mentioned in Herb Caen’s column.

According to Barnaby Conrad, in his book “The World of Herb Caen,” the Frisco phenomenon produced enough columns of approximately 1,000 words (about three takes) that Caen’s lifetime total would verify this boast: “If laid end to end, his columns would stretch 5.6 miles from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

At the height of his popularity Ernie Pyle was read by approximately 3 million readers nationwide.

Facebook posters might note with extreme envy that in his prime, Caen received 45,000 letters a year.  Isn’t a fan letter better than a quick “like” click?

Herb Caen wrote:  “If I do go to heaven, I’m going to do what every San Franciscan does who goes to heaven. He looks around and says, It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.

Now the disk jockey will play the “Vertigo” soundtrack album, the “Moby Grape” album, and the Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealist Pillow” album.  We have to go reread Ernie Pyle’s very gruesome and lugubrious columns written on the Normandy Beach (as foud in the Random House book “Ernie’s War: the Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Dispatches” edited by David Nichols) immediately after the D-Day Invasion.  Have a “soldier on” type week.

February 2, 2013

SFPD busts nudists

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


KCBS reporter interviews protester Friday

On Friday morning February 1, 2013, the first page of the San Francisco Chronicle’s newspaper’s Bay Area Section carried a headline that read:  “Nudists hope City Hall protest will get them cited.”

The noon protest of the law that the Chronicle reported was scheduled to be held on the steps of City Hall but because it is a city law and because the steps are under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Sheriff, the lunch hour protest was quickly moved to the adjacent sidewalks which are under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Police Department.

In a city where the news media has featured saturation coverage of the Supebowl  football game which will pit a team from San Francisco against a team from Baltimore, the arrests drew a large contingent of journalists from a vast assortment of sources that feature news stories.

On Friday, in the town Herb Caen dubbed “Baghdad by the Bay,” a worker (or protester) would have been more noticeable if they weren’t wearing some item of clothing that proclaimed support for the San Francisco Forty Niners Football team.  The protesters wore shoes and not much else.




The Chronicle story plugged protester Gypsy Taub’s TV show, “My Naked Truth,” and her book, “Free Your Body, Free Your Mind,” which is available in the Kindle format.

Ms. Taub asserts that Freedom of Speech rights permit her to protest in the nude.  Was Lady Godiva the first nude protester in History?

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener wrote the anti-nude law and the San Francisco Examiner on Friday February 1, (accurately) predicted that a nude George Davis would officially announce his intention to run for the Board of Supervisor in Wiener’s District.

Some protesters wearing clothes vocally protested the arrests for being a waste of precious funds which would be better spent (they asserted) for other different facets of law enforcement such as drug laws.

The arrest drama was put on a temporary hold while protester Trey Allen helped a bind woman up the City Hall stairs.  It was a visual media opportunity that provide a human interest angle to the day’s events.



August 23, 2012

“If you are going to San Francisco . . .”

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:32 pm

While tourists chase beatnik ghosts, they often ignore aspects of the current pop culture scene, such as graffiti artist Elvis Christ. Wouldn’t it be ironic if future tourists envied the folks in 2012 because of their opportunity to see contemporary San Francisco art history as it was being made?
Elvis was hard at work in San Francisco, earlier this week.

Finding a story on the Hispanic Business website about a trust fund that the Republican Party’s presumptive Vice Presidential nominee had “forgotten” seemed like a good topic for a column but since the Republican Party’s “presumptive” nominee has based his campaign on his business record and has refused to release his tax records which would clarify questions about his qualifications for the Presidency, and since that clever bit of coyness seems sufficiently alluring to earn the fellow a virtual tie in polls; we deem the prospect of doing the work to produce a column that offers intelligent analysis of the implications of an overlooked trust fund an example of absurdity for inclusion in the Dadaism Hall of Fame.

The fact that this week’s polls show that the Presidential race is a toss-up, means that the only people who will question the final results that are produced by the electronic voting machines in November will be conspiracy theory lunatics. It also means that it is too late to present facts which might help informed citizens change their mind about which candidate will get their votes. As the croupier would say when the roulette ball hits the wheel: “No more bets!” The die is cast. It’s time to write columns about sailing ships (the America’s Cup competition has started in San Francisco Bay), sealing wax, cabbages, and kings.

Would people who doubt the existence of global warming because it is based on the opinions of scientists be likely to consider the validity of an effort to use Schrödinger’s cat as a metaphor that explains the three card Monty game Mitt Romney is playing with his tax returns? “Ah, hah, Mr. Romney. you have the Maltese cat? You are a card, sir.”

We sent a link to the forgotten trust fund story off to radio talk show host Mike Malloy because he has more media clout and a bigger audience.

People seem to find the fact that TMZ found and published a photo of Paul Ryan without a shirt more interesting than the forgotten trust fund (or the completely ignored story about Paul Ryan’s girlfriend while he was in college. [Google News Search hint: “Paul Ryan girlfriend college”] Keli Goff at The Root seems the reporter who got the scoop)

We have been intending to shift the focus of our columns to feature topics such as the effect the death of singer Scott McKenzie might have on tourism in San Francisco because that, at least, might lure some new readers from across the big pond, to this website.

Tourists from all over the world arrive in San Francisco and, equipped with maps, and then go walking around the various neighborhoods trying to imagine what it was like being there in the past during the Beatnik era.

Back in the Sixties, one had to dig deep to learn that the area around the Bus Stop bar had been called “Cow Hollow.” That was the past. The Beatniks had come (the location of the legendary Six Gallery was about three or four blocks away) and gone but who cared about the writers from the past when everyone was hip to Flip Wilson’s comedy routine about “The Church of What’s Happening Now!”

Learning to drive a stick shift V-dub on the streets of San Francisco at the time when folks were still chuckling because of Bill Cosby’s comedy routine on that very topic wasn’t funny because you could very easily get into a car crash whilst learning to make the deft maneuvers with the clutch pedal and the brakes. Yeah, forty years later it may seem amusing, but not when it was actually “going down.” There were laws governing how the front wheels of a car had to be positioned when parking on one of the famed hills.

Who cared about Beatniks when the cast recording of “Hair” was ubiquitous? Beats were from a different decade. Jack Kerouac was an old man in his forties reportedly living in Florida. The Mamas and the Papas, the Doors, and the Jefferson Airplane were young and most likely would be playing a gig at the Filmore West very soon.

Back in the Fifties, when the Beat Generation in San Francisco was a popular media topic, the beats would have been talking about topics such as: the Bay area disk jockey Don Sherwood, Herb Caen’s columns, and the arrival of the New York Giants at their new west coast home.

The beatniks had had their day and when the hippie era arrived it was time to enjoy KFOG and KABL radio, read Herb Caen’s columns, talk about Benny Bafano’s sculptures, see the Fantasticks, and voice an opinion about the War in Vietnam.

Young folks who stay this summer at the San Francisco Civic Center hostel will see a poster listing the lineup at the Filmore, for a concert on the 1969 Labor Day weekend. They can look at the poster and just try to imagine what it would have been like to be able to go see that show. About three and a half years ago, we were in that hostel, looking at that poster and thinking that very thing: “Wow! What would it have been like to be in San Francisco that weekend and have the option of seeing that show?” Then we remembered, we had been seriously considered buying a ticket to that particular show until we got the chance to spend that weekend going for a job interview at the newspaper published in South Lake Tahoe.

On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, while doing some fact checking in the Beatnik North Beach neighborhood, we noticed a local artist using masking tape to make some political statements.

The map wielding tourists were searching for Beatnik ghosts and ignoring a fellow who was doing some street art. We wondered if, forty years from now, tourists would be wandering around the same neighborhood wondering what it would have been like to stop and chat with Elvis Christ. Since we can’t rationally expect to have that opportunity in 2052, we decided to take some photos and asked about him and his work now whilst we had the chance.

When we started back to the Transbay Bus Terminal, we encountered a photographer named “Grant” who had been shooting an assignment at the City Lights Bookstore for Interview magazine. He had been taking photos of the store owner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was also a poet, a book publisher, and a genuine member of the group of pioneers who started the Beat Era back in the Fifties.

It would have been a great photo-op if we could have gotten the chance to take some pictures of Grant and his subject, but it has always been a tenant of the World’s Laziest Journalist’s philosophy that (as they used to say in the Sixties) you have to stop and smell the (pop culture) flowers along the way. “Be here, now!”

Writing about the pop culture is similar to writing about horse racing. In the future, historians will look back on the summer of 2012 and focus on specific stories which will have become significant factors for inclusion in books about the election of the President in that year, but for a columnist trying to writing about the summer of 2012 as it is happening; an encounter with Elvis Christ will provide a desperation chance to solve the weekly dilemma “What will this week’s column be about?”

Ayn Rand has said: “Whoever tells you to exist for the state is, or wants to be, the state.”

Now, the disk jockey will play a Pussy Riot album, a Jefferson Airplane album, and Scott McKenzie’s “(If you’re going to San Francisco) Wear a flower in your hair.” We have to go check out the column potential of the Blackhawk Auto Museum. Have a “California Dreaming” type week.

May 25, 2012

Barroom Brawl Business Ethics in America

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:28 pm

The Golden Gate Bridge turns 75 this weekend.
The Oakland Bay Bridge is the other San Francisco Bridge.
Tough times in the land of endless opportunities.

Barroom brawls used to be an integral part of the cinematic formula for a Western movie, but the one and only time the World’s Laziest Journalist witnessed a real life mêlée in a tavern occurred just about fifty years ago. The long dormant memories were quickly revived this past week during an effort to assess the trend spotting potential for connecting several business news stories from the San Francisco Bay area.

The Golden State Warriors (née Philadelphia Warriors) announced that since they have gotten a sweetheart real estate deal in Frisco, it was time to say adios to Oakland. It seems that the team owners will be gifted with some prime property on the waterfront and will provide their own funding for the construction of a new sports stadium entertainment complex in the postcard perfect setting.

The dramatic business news development occurred in “sucker punch” quick fashion this week. On Monday, the sports reporters were saying that something was developing. On Tuesday, a press conference on a pier on the bayside of fog city was being held.

The Sacramento Kings are scrambling to get a development deal from their hometown. In Los Angeles, efforts to get the L. A. City Council to build a football stadium in the downtown area and make offers to lure a new tenant into it, are a recurring political refrain. The Forty-niners football team has announced plans to split from San Francisco.

On Tuesday morning, John Madden, on his daily radio commentary show on KCBS radio, noted that Oakland had been there for professional sports in the past and that some reciprocal loyalty seemed to be conspicuous by its absence.

Meanwhile the business news seemed to be obsessing on the Facebook stock imbroglio. It seems that one particular company advised their best clients to sit on the bench while the suckers took a bath. The good ole boys take care of their own; the rest can fend for themselves. Business has adopted W. C. Field’s advice, “Never Give a Sucker and even break,” as the new code of ethics.

Jamie Diamon (Jamie Diamond sounds like a good name for a go-go dancer, eh?) and his merry band of pranksters seem to be positioning their company for a new rendition of the ever popular “Too Big to Fail” song and dance routine that precedes a bid for a government bail-out.

Legally the paper work for home foreclosures (at least in California) seems questionable at best and possibly unlawful, but the foreclosures roll on like a bad dream.

President Obama led supporters to believe that he was sympathetic to the needs of people who derived medicinal value from cannabis. Now, the government efforts to shut down the sites where pot can be sold as a remedy for a variety of medical conditions are occurring much more frequently.

What politician was the first to use the philosophy: “Don’t listen to what I say; watch what I do!”?

In 1968, Richard Nixon got elected President by promising to end the war in Vietnam. He used the same platform to get reelected in 1972. President Obama intimated to the voters in 2008, that he would take care of two unpopular wars. In 2012, Obama seems content to recycle the Roosevelt slogan “Prosperity is just around the corner.”

During the Vietnam War, the clergy of the Catholic Church was more concerned with the birth control issue than with the morality of using Agent Orange. Now Notre Dame is drawing a line in the sand over the inclusion of contraceptives in health programs rather than worrying about any possible similarities between America’s drone strikes and the Condor Legion’s bombing of Guernica.

The paradigm for all this is that capitalists use the barroom brawl ethics of a motorcycle gang to content with any opposition. If you pick a fight with a motorcycle gang member other members of that club who are there will respond en masse. If you take on a one percenter, he and the politicians, the police, the press, and the clergy will form a line of defense that will wear out any attacker.

On Tuesday, a very random casual poll of folks in San Francisco indicated that the person in the street didn’t care about where the Golden State Warriors called home. (One year, several decades ago, they played six “home” games in San Diego.)

A one percenter sports team owner realizes that sports fans are just like the motor oil used to lubricate an engine. A complete change is recommended for maximum efficiency or to increase profit margin.

Isn’t it rather poignant to note that immediately after the Facebook debacle, President Obama showed up in Silicone Valley to solicit campaign donations and the folks who bought the stock without the benefit of the brokers’ warning for high rollers have to hope some long drawn out law suit helps them recover their losses?

The good ole boys network survives! Wasn’t there a Johnny Paycheck song that noted “the big man plays while the little man pays”?

Isn’t it very odd how politicians seem to be oblivious to the little people getting fleeced in America, but they get their panties all in a wad when some Secret Service members sew their wild oats in a foreign country? (Isn’t prostitution legal in the country where the incident occurred?)

Is there one TV network that is becoming synonymous with sports?

Is there one TV network that is synonymous with politics?

Is there one TV network that has the audience with the lowest “well informed” ratings?

Wouldn’t it be a co-inky-dink if one name was the correct answer to all three of those questions? You know; the network with the motto: “We deceive; you pick up the check.” What was the country song with the line: “Six rounds were bought, and I bought five!”?

This columnist has heard that the police in Berkeley have started a program of waking up sleeping vagrants in the middle of the night. (Who else got the sleep deprivation treatment?) One source indicated that tickets were being issued but our efforts to fact check that aspect of the story have been inconclusive.

How many politicians talk to the homeless? We have seen one member of the Berkeley City council talking to a homeless man recently, but when was the last time that President Obama talked to a homeless person? When was the last time the governor of California talked to a homeless person?

In the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” a turning point came when the congressman got some fellow politicians to visit a refugee camp and talk with some of the victims of the Russian Invasion of Afghanistan.

Wait! There is a subtle difference here. The one percenters can make a profit on a war in a foreign country and feel good about helping the poor wretches who live near the battlefield, but they are also making scads of money on the foreclosure trend so why change that?

If the owners of the Golden State Warriors can turn a profit on the valuable real estate, could any subsequent sizable campaign contributions they might make to the politicians who helped expedite the change of venue be misconstrued as being “commission checks”?

The fact is that capitalists don’t care who get hurt by their ruthless pursuit of increased profits, but barroom brawlers do have some regard for innocent bystanders. In the aforementioned donnybrook in the gin mill, in the mid Sixties, the columnist and his buddy were surrounded by ten to fifteen pairs of guys engaged in fisticuffs, but since we were perceived as two outsiders (it was our first visit to that city and that “watering hole”), who were not recognized by either of the fray’s rival factions, as being members of the opposition group, we were able to stroll away from the fracas unscathed. Our reaction was to resort to the common cliché of “wow that was just like a scene in a John Wayne Western.”

[Note from the Photo Desk: Reportedly the Golden State Warriors will use the Bay Bridge in their new logo. The Golden Gate Bridge will celebrate its 75 birthday this weekend.

If the battleship Iowa’s departure for its new home in San Pedro and the Golden Gate Bridge’s birthday celebration occur simultaneously, during the Memorial Day Weekend; do ya think that an aerial photo showing the Iowa approaching the Golden Gate Bridge (this will be the last time an American battleship ever passes under the Golden Gate Bridge) will be used above the fold on page one of the next day’s edition of the New York Times? That image for the Memorial Day issue would be priceless.]

Oliver Goldsmith wrote: “Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.”

Now, the disk jockey will play “Ballroom Blitz,” Roger Miller’s “Dang me!,” and the Sir Douglas Quintet song “I’m Just Tired of Getting’ Burned.” We have to go donate some of our used satin sheets to the local shelter for the homeless. Have a “posh soiree at Wayne Manor” type week.

April 13, 2012

“Howl” again?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:57 pm

Daniel Macchiarini holds a manuscript copy of The History of The Place
“Howl” was read from this balcony which is now a storage area for a boutique on Grant St. in San Francisco.

[WARNING: This column has been found to contain trace elements of irony.]

The corporatization of the Internets has meant that unique voices must be marginalized into extinction because of the “there is no I in the word ‘team’” philosophy that has become mandatory for all Americans now that corporations are persons. Any individual who thinks he has the same rights and freedoms as a corporation (for example British Petroleum) has a lesson in the meaning of equality in contemporary American culture to learn.

Leaving workers feeling like they are beat when they lose their home to a bank via foreclosure may not be a new phenomenon. Their howls of protest may hearken back to some previous more poetic rebellions.

Back in the Sixties, Playboy magazine published a cartoon (by Shel Silverstein?) showing a line of hippies stretching back to the horizon all carrying the same sign which urged: “Protest the rising tide of conformity!” The Sixties are over and the Establishment has won. Good patriotic Americans must become vigilant and ever alert to help immediately stifle any possible examples of nonconformity.

It took some time but Nixon and California Governor Reagan have been vindicated and American Presidents are no longer shackled if Walter Cronkite is not enthusiastic about the potential of victory in the latest American military venture.

When the Republican National Convention starts in Tampa, and the town is swamped with hippies protesting the War in Vietnam (or whatever) we wonder if the mayor will urge patriotic citizens to circle the venue with a wall of human shields (as the Liberals wanted to do to protect Saddam Hussein) and urge them to stand their ground and not let the protesters get near the entrance, let alone onto the convention floor.

The fact that conservative talk radio has become almost all pervasive in the talk radio area may mean the death knell for the Beat Generation. The progressive radio station in the San Francisco area has started carrying Glen Beck during the morning commute drive time and has pushed Mike Malloy’s three hour shows into the 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. time slot. During the day you will hear ads from a web site that offers to help listeners make the right choice about which guns to buy.

After writing a suggestion pointing out the opportunity for a fund raising effort to help Americans who have lost their homes in foreclosure, we noticed recently that a web based effort titled Home Aid will be conducted this fall.

The Democratic candidates want to focus attention on the economy and fair taxation for the Presidential election. The Republicans traditionally prefer to use issues less complex than the allocation of tax benefits and restrictions on services offered by banks, hence they prefer to select other issues that are easier for the less educated to understand, such as racial prejudice. While President Obama is busy giving speeches urging changes that would mean millionaires pay the same rate of taxes as their secretaries do, news broadcasts were headlining a Florida shooting.

Could it possibly be that the compassionate, Christian conservatives’ prayers have been answered? Would the Republicans reap any political benefit from delaying a trial for George Zimmerman until October? Would American voters let a racially motivated murder have an effect on their ballot choices? Will conservative pundits be disingenuous about admitting that concentrating news coverage on such a trial might be a variation of the Willie Horton effect? Will the final verdict be as controversial as the acquittal of OJ? Will future political historians assert that the Zimmerman trial had an effect on the Presidential Election?

Will conservatives use the George Zimmerman case to establish a reverse version of jury nullification and call it jury validation of the stand your ground laws? We should know the answer to that question by Election Day.

Some liberals tend to think that if they don’t mention the possibility of such a coordinated Republican strategy, then it won’t happen. We tend to think of the “let’s not talk about that” philosophy as being an integral part of the conservative game plan and so we bring up some uncomfortable parallels as a way of providing spoiler information so that the Democratic Party officials can make plans to counter such a gambit, rather than playing along and ignoring the elephant (GOP symbol alert!) in the room.

Is it naïve to think that America’s Free Press will go along to get along and deliberately shape or avoid news coverage that might favor one party over the other?

The Huffington Post French Edition ran a story last week about an accident at the Penly nuclear plant in France. We did a Google New Search and learned that Bloomsberg was reporting that the fires had been extinguished. Did you happen to see any reports on that bit of news anywhere else in American owned and controlled media?

If you have not become informed about this story is that because of the dumbing down of American Journalism or is it because the corporations that promote the use of nuclear power have the right to be free from any pesky protests that might be inspired by such irrelevant information? Don’t the rights of those persons (corporations) trump your puny personal rights to criticize how they run their businesses? Keep your hands off our nuclear reactors!

After learning that Jack Kerouac’s first book length manuscript has just been published with the title “The Sea is my brother,” we decided to go on the Internets and look up the location for the Beatnik bar that was named “The Place.” We tried putting the words in quotes and adding the words Beatnik and Kerouac. The results produced an avalanche of irrelevant links.

On Saturday, April 7, 2012, we decided that it would be easier to hop on an AC Transit bus and go to San Francisco and get that bit of information. We peeked in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s guide book “The Beats in San Francisco,” while we were in City Lights Bookstore but failed to note that our goal was within walking distance.

By Wednesday, April 11, 2012, we had consulted the Google maps online and returned to the North Beach area of San Francisco to take some photos of the site where The Place used to be. We learned that the business next door down, Macchirini’s Designs has been owned and operated by the same family since before the Beat writers arrived in the area.

Daniel Macchirini was delighted to hear that the new book, “jubilee hitchhiker,” by William Hjortsberg corroborates the information in an obscure book that tells the history of “The Place” and that the poem Howl was read in public at The Place before it supposedly debuted at a poetry reading at the 6 Gallery. Macchirini showed us his copy of the copyrighted manuscript for the history of the famed Beat bar called “The Place.”

[Note: since this columnist did not have photo pass access to the President’s speeches this week, nor did he have a chance to take any news photos of legal proceedings in Stanford Florida, the photo editor will have to use some photos from the North Beach Beatnik area of San Francisco, taken on Wednesday, as illustrations for this column. Doesn’t the current philosophy of the Internets hold that any image with a tenuous link to the content is better than no photo at all?]

The R & D Department at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is working around the clock to come up with a plausible explanation for how the JEB team will deliver the nomination to their chosen one despite the unexpected departure of Rick Santorum from the list of active candidates earlier this week and the rapidly disappearing opportunity for a deadlocked National Republican Convention.

Isn’t thinking that JEB could still be handed the nomination just as absurd as thinking that a President could usurp the Congressional power to declare war and lead the USA into a war with Iraq just to settle an old score that was part of an International family feud?

What’s the worst that could happen? Won’t the well informed voters use the electronic voting machines with no means of verifying the results to prevent any possible political disaster if by some miracle JEB becomes the Republican nominee?

Didn’t Jack Kerouac say that if he had been registered to vote, he would have voted for Eisenhower in 1956? Didn’t Kerouac support the troops in Vietnam? Didn’t Kerouac prefer William F. Buckley Jr.’s political views and denounce his friend Alan Ginsberg for being pro-Commie? Here is a hypothetical question: Would Kerouac vote for JEB?
Is America becoming immune to the need for analyzing? Was part of this week’s entertainment news about the selection of an actor who is over forty to play a musician who died when he was 28?

In 1938, Mao Tse-tung said: “Our Principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.” He was not a Republican, that’s for sure.

Now the disk jockey will play Chuck Barry’s “Wee Wee Hours” (It’s on the flip side of “Maybellene”), Pat Boone’s “Ain’t that a Shame,” and Elvis’ “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone.” We have to go write a column for April 18, which will be National Columnists’ Day. Have a “real cool, daddy-o” type week.

January 13, 2012

Do Republican Candidates have Vertigo?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:30 pm

Is the Republican Presidential nomination “the stuff dreams are made of”?

Has the Democratic process in the USA become a zombie sham that will remind mystery fans of the plot for the classic film “D. O. A.”? Thanks to the magnificent voting machines that leave no paper trail, Democracy seems to be alive and well just as Frank Bigelow (Edmond O’Brien) did at the beginning of the classic noir movie. A closer look reveals that he has been poisoned and his days among the living are numbered. Is voting in the USA also an example of “dead man walking”?

The lofty goal of gaining the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination seems to be scaring some away from the selection process. Should the Republican attempt a cure of this curious example of political Vertigo by hiring someone who will remind them of the glory days of the past and the achievements of the Bush Dynasty? Would JEB Bush fit the bill?

Perhaps the Republicans should, as Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) did in the Maltese Falcon (1941 version directed by John Houston), and seek the help of Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and hire him to solve the case of the missing acceptable frontrunner?

All of these potential column themes presented themselves in disguise as the art exhibition at the Bancroft Library on the University of California Berkeley campus, which marks the beginning of that library’s centennial anniversary. We went to see the exhibition, which will continue into February, as a way of doing some fact finding in preparation for the Noir City Film Festival which will begin with showings (separate admission required) of “Dark Passage” and “The House on Telegraph Hill” on the evening of Friday January 20, 2011 at the Castro Theater.

Part of the Bancroft exhibition is a DVD presentation of a cinematic fugue of highlights of noir films shot across the bay in San Francisco.

How many times can a columnist get away with being the only pundit predicting that JEB will be the guy who not only gets the nomination but will see the win check mark by his name on Election night later this year? In all the excitement about the turmoil of the primary season, we’ve lost track of all our attempts to do with political commentary what Hans Brinker did with loud shouts. Have we posted five warning columns, or was it six?

How many times can a mystery fan/car buff be thrilled by the spectacle of a Mustang going airborne in the streets of San Francisco? Especially if the green machine is being driven by Steve McQueen? Particularly if the columnist lived in the Pacific Heights area of that city at approximately the same time that movie (reportedly the first Hollywood feature to be filmed entirely on location [San Francisco]) was being shot. Furthermore, what if the writer had been a passenger riding around that city, in his high school and college buddy’s car which was an identical twin to the one seen in Bullitt?

The Noir City Film Festival is presenting this columnist with an existentialistic budget crisis. Should we buy a series pass and see all the movies (some of which we have seen before)? Should we buy a pass and see enough of the films to make it an economically feasible choice? Should we carefully asses the series schedule and only see the crème de la crème of the selection and wind up spending less than the pass would cost?

Recently, choosing a column topic has caused us another existentialistic panic attack. If we write a column featuring some aspects of the contemporary political scene, such as pointing out how the American media seems to be singing a very coordinated chorus questioning Mitt Romney’s lack of universal appeal within the Republican Party, will we lose our audience for not running with the wolf pack of jackals who apparently want to help do to Romney what was done to Howard Dean in the 2004 primary season?

Howard Dean became an inconvenient frontrunner and so the press was ordered (“and ask ‘How high?’ on the way up”) to declare the man for whom the Republicans had made extensive preparations (like the legal paperwork for the swiftboat groups?) to defeat the new “frontrunner.” The press responded in “your slightest word is my command” fashion.

Could America’s diverse and independent voices of political commentary, in the corporate owned realm of mass media, be coached on what they can and cannot say in America’s Free Press? We seem to be the only one saying: “You bet your sweet, weekly paycheck that can happen!”

If, however, we write a column about contemporary culture that features some new information about a celebrity (such as some possible Banksy [or Blek le rat?] murals spotted recently in Berkeley CA) then in the one venue we get perceptibly more hits.

If we write a column with a unique bit of political opinion and/or information, that gets more hits which type of column suits us best?

What if, among the anemic hits the digital auditors notice that it got some log-ons from the New York Times computer? Well then maybe the site management can overlook some anemic total hits numbers and give the columnist the amount of tolerance for eccentricity that Dirty Harry got? Does it impress the site M. E. if a writer scoops the great gray lady?

In the solipsistic world of content providers, who knows?

We recently talked to a well informed political activist who predicted that not only is fascism and martial law coming to the United States, but, she warned, it will start with some newsworthy events in Oakland CA. The way she sees it, things will spiral out of control there and the authorities will (like Watts in 1964?) be forced to call in troops to restore order. The crisis will be prolonged and the troops will stay in place with little or no voices of alarm coming from the (allegedly) pro-Liberal media.

If a writer is the first to mention a prediction that comes true, does that count as a scoop?

What if a columnist peppered his work with obscure cultural references that meant that (hypothetically) half of the Google searches that landed new readers on the site were a result of his idiosyncratic “Google bait”? What’s not to like about luring fresh eyes into the tent?

According to an urban legend in the photojournalism community, LIFE magazine offered to pay $100 per roll for undeveloped film shot in Watts during the civil unrest of 1964. Young and daring photographers had the opportunity to use that dangerous photo op to make good money and firmly establish the foundation for a lifetime career in photojournalism.

Young photographers have the attitude: “We can run over to the scene of the action and shoot a few pictures and make some money!” Older photographers tend to employ the philosophy that “we can walk around San Francisco on a warm winter day and get some good feature shots and if Jalopnik doesn’t use them, so what, we will have had the fun of being there and taking the pictures.”

Scoops, predictions, commentary, feature photos, and news pictures all fall under the classification of content. Have “hed counts” become as extinct as the American Buffalo?

The citizen-journalist fad means that some content providers will function as a one-person news organizations and thus have the chance to fulfill the early Intenets hopes for the development of unique voices.

The obsession with finding items that will go viral tends to indicate that the trend is toward a digital popularity contest and the likelihood of a thought provoking column from a unique voice, getting a massive amount of hits is considerably diminished. “Go viral or die!”

Speaking of “going viral,” did we miss an online video that purported to show banksters urinating on some mortgage loan adjustment modification applications?

In the time that it took to write this column and take some photos for possible use as accompanying illustrations, we could have cranked out an alternative column that lamented the pathetic possibility that a hand full of voters in two small states have put the Republican Party’s seal of approval on someone who is perceived by some cynics as being “a member of a cult.” Instead, we choose to go searching in San Francisco for something that could (metaphorically speaking) be considered as the columnists’ McGuffin of accompanying column illustrations.

We would like to thank John’s Grill for their permission to take a photo of “the Black Bird.”

We’ll post a few links for those readers who might like to do the work to find some additional facts and information about the month of noir events in the Bay Area.
(There is a reason we are called “The World’s Laziest Journalist.”)

Since none of the Republicans attacking Mitt Romney have said “Mr. Romney, you are a card, sir,” we will have to resort to a closing quote from Auric “the ultimate 1 percenter” Goldfinger: “Mr. Bond, you are a card, sir!”

Now the disk jockey will play the Vertigo soundtrack album, the Birdman of Alcatraz soundtrack album (if it exists) and the Jefferson Airplane album “Surrealistic Pillow.” We have to go see if we can find Bill Cosby’s recording about driving around in San Francisco. Have a “stuff dreams are made of” type week.

September 20, 2011

Is “boring news event” an oxymoron?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:37 pm


Tourists who visited San Francisco on the afternoon of Monday September 19, 2011 were rewarded with a warm (Indian Summer?) day with clear blue sky that provided snap-shot shooters with postcard perfect conditions that brought Paul Simon’s song “Kodachrome” to mind. You don’t have to speak their language to know when a skyscraper has impressed some foreign travelers.

News Photographers who were at San Francisco’s BART Civic Center station to cover this week’s installment of the regularly scheduled No Justice No BART political demonstrations came away from the event with images that might have disappointed many of the photo editors in the area because the latest protest did not disrupt BART service and no arrests were made.

Pictures of the protesters handing out leaflets outlining their assertions about the BART Police Department made it seem like the demonstrators have achieved celebrity status and their efforts naturally drew a contingent of paparazzi to record their everyday activities for posterity.

The very fact that any blogger covering Monday’s “demonstration” has to ask if images of some mundane advocacy efforts are newsworthy may indicate that digital journalism is mature enough to face the same question that have been being asked at city desks for years: what is new?

According to hearsay evidence the concept of digital images was developed by some computer pioneers who worked on the second floor of their building and wanted to be able to tell if the coffee maker on the first floor had finished its chore. If those images are still available, they will have some historic value.

When Mario Savio leaped into the headlines with an extemporaneous speech almost fifty years ago, the citizens in Berkeley had a specific example that a cusp area where political activism and celebrity often overlap does exist.

The aim of political activists is to draw attention to a specific cause and so spokespersons faces a double edge sword when they start to become a certified celebrities. They can draw massive news coverage but they also risk drawing attention away from the cause they are working to achieve.

Meanwhile bloggers have to start thinking like photo editors.

If there are approximately three dozen people who cover activists handing out flyers does that mean that the photos have news value?

If bloggers are becoming concerned with questions of news value is that evidence that the phenomenon of citizen journalism is maturing?

Local TV stations have been accused of adopting an “if it bleeds; it leads” philosophy of journalistic judgment.

If a local event doesn’t produce eye catching dramatic images does it deserve play?

If the Internets are providing a venue for citizen journalists to cover issues that the national media ignore, doesn’t that mean that protests that don’t result in mass arrests deserve coverage?

Are the No Justice No BART protests getting coverage on Fox Views (AKA Fox News) Network?

What if the next No Justice No BART demonstration features an adorable kitten playing the Kingston Trio’s song “(Charlie on the )MTA” on a piano? Would an online video of that “go viral”? Would it be newsworthy? Would folks fwd that to their friends on Facebook? Would it help publicize the effort to disband the BART cops?

When it becomes obvious that without a large number of arrests an event loses news value, then some home-truth aspects of journalism start to become apparent.

Maybe before covering the next No Justice No BART event, we should read the classic short story “The Lady or the Tiger” to see if there is some subtle journalistic symbolism in it?

September 16, 2011

More work for less pay = road to recovery?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:22 pm

SF Tourist attraction is background for stike photo, Kazoo for the cause, and bullhorns deliver the strikers’ messages.

A noisy racket at 7:40 a.m., on Wednesday September 14, 2011, in San Francisco’s Embarcadero district was designed to remind guests at the hotel across from the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street that they had crossed a picket line when they checked-in. It also reminded one columnist of some San Francisco history and that it was time to take some photos and to collect whatever tidbits of information about union busting were available and not worry about a topic for the next installment of his continuing series of assessments of contemporary American Pop Culture.

One of the strikers described a recent confrontation with a critical citizen passerby who disparaged the strikers’ efforts. She replied by offering the opinion that by supporting the management’s position he was actually supporting Osama bin Laden’s efforts to destroy America’s economy. The citizen went and got a cop to provide the arbitration for the street debate.

The early morning commotion included the use of a kazoo amplified by a bullhorn augmented by some chanting and a striker who used another bullhorn to state her grievances. Nearby some of the famed cable cars prepared to “climb half way to the stars.” So did the noise level. (We have to fact check and see if it was Keith Moon who played drums on the recording of “Stairway to Heaven.”)

Later on Wednesday (according to information found via a Google News search), the workers held a rally and agreed to return to work while continuing to express their grievances to company management.

San Francisco tourists (and some of the city’s younger residents?) might be unaware of the fact that Fog City had been, during the Thirties, the site for one of the few general strikes in the annals of the American Labor movement. Do the folks, who are planning the protest in Washington D. C. for October 20 of this year, know about the general strike that was held in San Francisco?

When Teddy Roosevelt would mumble the word “Bully,” was he offering conservatives attitude advice on how to respond to complaints about working conditions such as those described in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”?

During World War II, there was a Broadway production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” that featured juvenile actors. Will the repeal of child labor laws speed the demise of union?

The description of the striker’s involvement in the curb side example of freedom of speech reminded this columnist of a pro-management conservative in Los Angeles who also happens to be well versed in martial arts. He often cites kung-fu movies as being an example of how individuals should be prepared to fight their battles with management alone. Is the legend about one lone Texas Ranger single-handedly backing down a mob based on a true incident?

The fellow in L. A. ignores the implications of the axiom: Negotiate together or beg alone. He seems blissfully unaware of just how unrealistic those movies are. In a film, Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee may beat-up a group of thugs but the bad guys always come at the hero one at time like the “take a ticket and wait for your number to be called” customers at a busy deli. In real life (fact questioning trolls are referred to Hunter Thompson’s book on the Hell’s Angeles), if a karate expert blundered into a confrontation with a motorcycle gang, they wouldn’t fight him one at a time. They would swarm over him (insert bear, bees, honey metaphor here) and beat the crap out of him.

Fact checking trolls who challenge this are invited to go into a biker’s bar and learn first hand how inaccurate the kung-fu films’ level of reality is. Do the actors in those quaint films belong to the actors’ union? Can’t they fight their own labor disputes by themselves?

Reality has never been a serious consideration for those presenting the conservative point of view and it never will be. Fox Views (News?) has legally established their right to tell lies as part of their efforts to report and let the audience decide. If they really want you to decide about important issues, then we have a question: How would you rate Fox’s coverage of the Murdoch hacking scandal?

We know of one particular conservative in L. A.’s South Bay area who asserts that the voices in his head have the call waiting feature.

If annual awards for hypocrisy are ever initiated, conservatives will be expected to dominate the yearly results.

Take Uncle Rushbo and Sean Hannity (please, take them!). Earlier this year they indulged in diatribes railing against unions. Were we surprised to hear Mike Malloy mention that those two fellows were members in good standing in the very same union to which Malloy pays his membership dues? Do wild bears . . . . Conservatives and hypocrisy go together like . . . what? Conservatives and hypocrisy go together like bikers and free concerts at the Alta Mont raceway!

We haven’t listened to Uncle Rushbo lately but we are curious to know if he is explaining how extending work hours and reducing wages can provide a logical basis for starting an economic recovery. How the heck can people be out in the malls spending America into recovery if they have to put in extended hours at their desks to earn less pay? Oh! Yeah! Run credit cards up to the limit! What conservative doesn’t approve of that solution for a way to handle a tight budget crisis?

Are the Republican members of Congress going to use the classical “sit down strike” strategy from now until a Republican is elected President? Isn’t that like holding the recovery hostage and using that as a basis for a “You’ll get a recovery, when you elect a Republican President” type (implied) ransom demand?

If the Republicans use the union tactics of a sit down strike to bust unions, shield the rich from taxes, and regain the White House, would that be an example of irony or hypocrisy?

Speaking of San Francisco how did William R. Hearst’s efforts to break the union strike at the L. A. Herald Examiner work out?

In an effort to track down an appropriate closing quote from either Eric Hoffer or Harry Brudges (gotta help the conservative trolls earn their pay by providing them with deliberately misspelled names), we stumbled across the fact that Woodrow Wilson (wasn’t he a Republican?) told congress: “The seed of revolution is repression.”

Now the disk jockey will play Woodrow Guthrie’s “Sticking to the Union,” Roy Orbison’s “Workin’ for the Man,” and the “Cool Hand Luke” soundtrack album. We have to go make plans to attend the San Francisco Public Library’s 47th Big Book Sale September 22 – 25 at Fort Mason. Have a “never heard Herb Caen’s name mentioned once” type week.

September 13, 2011

Bartcop columnist skips (latest) BART cops protest

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


Photo from a BART cop protest last week

Back in the Sixties, the New York Times had a daily box listing the books that were officially being published on that particular day. When the Internets were younger, this columnist made some feeble efforts to contact Amazon and see if he could interest them in paying him to provide an online version of the newspaper’s daily listing. One of the joys of a bookstore is the serendipity factor when a buyer stumbles across an item that makes a strong case for indulging in an impulse purchase. Since Amazon seems to lack a method of making a direct approach to impulse buys, we thought a listing of new books could be a strong unique, drawing feature for the online firm. Our efforts to be the Internets pioneer who started such a daily draw for the book selling firm were for naught. They didn’t hire this columnist and they still don’t offer such a listing.

Since everyone loves the idea of winning free stuff in a contest, we also assessed the potential for doing the work necessary for starting a web site where contest fans could find a daily resource for news and information about exciting (isn’t there a law that requires that adjective to be attached to all contest announcements?) new contests.

One of the negative aspects for both these ventures was the large potential for ultimate boredom. If we had undertaken (pun alert here?) either of these monumental tasks, it seems likely that we would have eventually used up our initial adrenaline burst of enthusiasm and energy and then be froced to rely on the all American motivation of greed to carry the task to completion. Only large gobs of money can cure boredom and inertia, eh?

When we got a gig being a columnist errant for Delusions of Adequacy online magazine, we envisioned it as a chance to help that magazine duplicate the Rolling Stone magazine success story by becoming the digital version of an ersatz Hunter S. Thompson. The web site’s management (AKA el jefe) decided to concentrate their editorial content exclusively on music and we had to move our Don Quixote efforts elsewhere.

In the process of providing book and film reviews, photos, and political punditry to the management at Just Above Sunset online magazine, we were able to scratch two items off our bucket list: a ride in the Goodyear blimp and a ride on a B-17 G bomber. Soon, we were cross-posting our political punditry efforts on both Just Above Sunset and Smirking Chimp. Later we added cross posting on Op Ed News and Bartcop to our online “to do” list.

It seemed to the World’s Laziest Journalist that, in an era of specialization, an effort to imitate online what columnist Herb Caen had done for San Francisco for almost six decades by providing a string of rather short snarky tidbits about one particular city could be expanded to appeal to a more geographically diverse audience, and that it would work well in the digital era because skimming has become ubiquitous.

Last week, this columnist took some photos and did an item on a group of protesters in People’s Park who were conducting their efforts while living up in one of the park’s trees. The day after Labor Day their efforts had vanished. We learned that one of the protester’s had fallen out of the tree during the night (Monday to Tuesday morning). The Cal Berkeley student newspaper reported that other park residents had said that the girl broke her back in the fall. We should do a Google news search for a more authoritative update.

We also ran an item about the past weekend plans for the Northern California group that wants to bring out the truth about what happened on 9/11. Their promotional literature mentioned a Toronto Hearing. We should do a Google news search for information on that unexplained aspect of the 9/11 topic. As this column is being written, we have skipped an opportunity to take a photo of their Sunday parade down Market Street in San Francisco and have chosen, instead, to do the first draft of this column.

As the overwhelming aspect of doing all that simultaneous work became more and more apparent, we considered doing an entire column asking if the overworked writers for liberal web sites were facing a situation that could be compared to the task of the reporter who was with General Custer when he was surrounded at the Little Big Horn river by attacking Indians.

(Would it be worth the effort to do some fact checking on the idea that the American soldiers only had old obsolete muzzle loader weapons and that the attackers had repeater rifles supplied by an unethical gun dealer or is that something on display in the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory’s “Hall of Fame” display area?)

On Monday September 12, 2011, we knew that there was going to be another protest at the BART Civic Center station, but we decided to skip the chance to take new news photos that would probably be very similar to the images we had recorded at several other recent similar protests.

Is there a potential column topic in the possibility that Karl Rove and Rupert Murdoch are conspiring to work liberal writers to death (like the dog in “Cool Hand Luke”?) by inundating them with bullshit that needs to be refuted with extensive fact finding and careful logical analysis?

Could we do an issues oriented roundup column under with a headline reading: “Has American Democracy been scuttled by the Republicans?” It seems that Democrats must now simultaneously mount efforts to revive interest and enthusiasm for: the unions, the social security program, verifiable election results, voter registration, fair taxation rates, ending extraneous wars, providing social welfare programs for the homeless, and maintaining affordable quality education while the Republicans flash their “Just vote No!” bumper stickers and head for the golf course with campaign donors?

With all the pandemonium surrounding the P. T. Barnum approach to selecting next year’s Republican Presidential nominee, shouldn’t it soon be time for Barbara Bush to hold a press conference and admonish all Americans to come to their senses, get serious, and nominate her son JEB? Hypothetically wouldn’t even Edward R. Morrow himself have to utter a subservient response to such a clarion call? “Yes, mom, we’ll get to work on that right away.” (Wasn’t last weekend’s terrorist alert a delightful bit of Bush era nostalgia?)

Recently we learned online that Herb Caen’s typewriter is on display in the San Francisco Chronicle’s newsroom. Unfortunately the public can’t drop in to see it. William Randolph Hearst made an exception to his own iron clad rule for a columnist named Bob Patterson. Is it worth all the effort it would take for the World’s Laziest Journalist to get a photo of Caen’s Royal to use with one of his own columns?

In a world where solipsism rules and where Sisyphus is the citizen journalists’ team mascot, it seems to this columnist that it might be worth the effort to shoehorn an appointment with a typewriter into a schedule that is already an insurmountable challenge to efficient time management.

After we do our next installment of volunteer work for the Marina (del Rey) Tenants Association, check out the statue of an alligator in the El Paso town plaza (or is it a crocodile? They look alike in the dark.), we will start holding a schizophrenic style debate with ourself about assigning ourself to doing some columns about the earthquake recovery efforts in New Zeland.

If it seems that such a gig doesn’t have any connection to American political punditry, perhaps we can ask some of the relief workers the Goldwin style question: “How much do you love America’s latest war crimes?”

Writing about the same topic, over and over, such as what books are new or what contests are new, might earn a columnist an opportunity to be cross posted on one particularly big aggregate web site, but, to this columnist, that seems too much like a job and we prefer to continue our efforts to build a collection of readers who ask: “What did he write about this time?”

Recently a fellow blogger in the Berkeley area noted with trepidation that the three dot (it’s called an ellipse) style of column writing often triggers skeptical responses from readers. If some fiddle head conservative troll, who tries to evoke the old high school bit of humor about the world’s smallest violin playing “My Heart Cries for You” or accusations such as “You are crazy!”, can do better aren’t they free to submit such efforts? It seems that those who can, do; and those who can’t, post troll comments.

When the manager of a hotel informed the music group “The Who” that there had been complaints from other guests about noise in the rock stars’ room, legendary drummer John Bonham (allegedly) threw the TV out the window and said “That was noise; this is music.”

Now the disk jockey will play Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” and a bootleg recording of the Rolling Stones project sometimes called “The Contractual Obligation” album. We have to go post bail (again?) for a friend. Have a “OR’ed” type week.

September 9, 2011

BART Cop Arrests continue in San Francisco

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:35 pm

Scene at BART protest Thursday in San Francisco

Kristof talks to the press

KCBS radio in San Francisco, on the evening of Thursday September 8, 2011, reported that numerous arrests were made at the No Justice No BART demonstration at the Powel station and that journalists had been among the arrestees.

Since it is newsworthy that the demonstration ended in numerous arrests and since it is unusual for journalists to be included in among the arrestees, there will be a demand for accounts of what happened there on the evening of September 8, 2011.

This will be a subjective report from a fellow who was there trying to simultaneously function as a photojournalist and a writer covering the events.

One of the habits we accumulated back in the Seventies when we did some paparazzi style photography, we would make it a point to take a moment and check to see if, when all cameras were pointing in one direction, it would make a good shot to turn around and look in the opposite direction. There is a tendency among photographers to flock to “the shot.” (We remember one Lakers game where the L. A. Times, the L. A. Herald Examiner, the Long Beach paper, and AP Photo all featured a shot of the same play.) If you can break yourself of the habit of becoming obsessed with following the crowd, you might get a distinctly different photo by turning in the other direction.

Since we have that habit, and since we don’t have a press pass, we made it a point to take a look around as the demonstration story was developing. We didn’t think it would be a good idea to be caught in a round-up if we didn’t have a press pass. There was a massive police presence on the perimeter. (We even noticed that the large contingent of San Francisco and BART police had been augmented by some officers from the Homeland Security agency this time.)

Younger journalists tend to favor getting close to the center of the activity and using a wide-angle lens to illustrate stories about a particular event. Older photographers tend to want to get an overall shot from above the edge of the crowd to have a different perspective on the images being produced.

A close up shot of one particular protester with one particularly eloquent sign may summarize the event. Conversely, if an overall shot shows that there was only two people participating in the protest and that there was a gigantic mob of media surrounding them, that tells the story a bit more accurately.

On Thursday in San Francisco, there was a contingent of journalists that indicated assignment editors around the city expected an important story to develop.

Since we have covered similar stories earlier in the year, we recognized some of the protesters as well as some of the police commanders.

At first the story seemed to be a routine demonstration one. Then we noticed that some on the gates to the station were being closed indicating that access in and out of the area was being restricted.

We decided to go outside and see if we could get some of the photos in the “overview” category.

As previously, mobs of people with video and still photo equipment were trying to get very close to the center of the activity.

Outside the station we observed more police arriving.

According to a report heard later that evening on KCBS, the police announced that it was an illegal assembly inside the building and that people and newsmen were being asked to vacate the premises. The KCBS reporter, Mike Fillipe, noted that he heard the announcement advising journalist to leave, so he did. It is unclear if the other journalist heard the announcement and chose to ignore it or if they didn’t hear it.

Outside the station, protesters and bystanders occasional chanted urging the police to “let them go” or “let her go.” We heard rumors that examples of police brutality had occurred but since we didn’t see (or get photos) such conduct that provided us only with an example of how unsubstantiated rumors play a role in such events.

There was a flurry of activity produced by a loud debate between some citizens.

Gradually the number of observers outside the station diminished and we determined that it was time to go elsewhere and get a bus back to Berkeley CA.

If journalist were actually included among the arrestees, various journalism groups such as the folks at the Columbia Journalism Review web site and the people who run the American Journalism web site will become interested in the long term implications of the arrests of working journalists and they will try to monitor a large number of accounts of what transpired in an effort to piece together an overall view of what happened and why.

If news publications such as Time and Newsweek magazines become interested in doing a story about this particular No Justice No BART protest, they will have to use photos provided by photo agencies or new services such as AP Photo and do their own stories based on police reports and the available stories from journalist who were there.

For journalism students at various institutions of higher learning in the San Francisco Bay area, Thursday’s events provided a noteworthy example of gathering valuable experience while working at the student publication level. Perhaps some will be able to do freelance articles and add valuable tearsheets to their portfolio.

For a photographer/writer who covered the Thursday event seeking material to post on several web sites, the event produced numerous adequate shots and several topics which might be expanded into columns or column items in the days to come.

If the World’s Laziest Journalist spends any time reviewing the other coverage of the event in the hopes of revisiting this particular protest in future columns, he will loose the time and opportunity to search for yet more recent news as it is happening and thereby seem to be a shoddy example of citizen journalism in action.

If, on the other hand, the World’s Laziest Journalist posts some photos and a perfunctory subjective report on Thursday’s event and then proceeds onwards to other topics and news stories, he will be open to allegations of shoddy and slapdash methodology. It’s what TV folks call the “Q and D” (Quck and Dirty) approach to journalism.

Is it any wonder that a lot of journalists are perceived by their friends to be total nihilists?

August 30, 2011

Calls for BART Cops to disband in San Francisco CA

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:32 pm


This photo of protesters in San Francisco was taken Monday, August 29, 2011 near the Embarcadero BART station.

BART Protests continue in San Francisco CA

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:18 pm




For an individual attempting to provide web sites with both news stories and photo coverage of the continuing series of protests against the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Department by the group called “Anonymous,” the inherent dangers to the art of journalism are becoming apparent.

On Monday, August 22, 2011, this columnist went to the BART Civic Center station to get some news photos. Through a combination of experience, intuition, luck and skill we took, and subsequently posted, photos that illustrated the events from the early part of that night’s events.

To augment our after event fact finding process, we attended the Special Meeting of the BART Board of Directors held in Oakland on August 24, 2011. That provided us with background information from both sides which will help improve the quality of any subsequent news stories. We took photos of the massive media coverage of the meeting that started at 9 a.m. According to statistics provided by one reporter, there were 32 members of the media, 18 BART PD officers, and 14 members of the public who submitted speaker cards, and a Board of Directors quorum in attendance.

We took photos that illustrated the heavy TV presence at the Board meeting, but since the board took no direct action, we didn’t see any news value for making the effort to post photos of a bunch of video camera operators at work.

At that meeting a protest spokesperson, Kristoff, said that the protests would continue, so on Monday August 29, 2011, we traveled to the Civic Center station to take photos if something newsworthy occurred.

The protesters changed tactics and no arrests were made in that station.

The protesters moved above ground and the responsibility for security changed from the BART Police Department to the San Francisco Police Department.

Various people spoke to the multitude of reporters about the Anonymous and No Justice No BART criticism of the BART PD. Several representatives of other protest groups (such as nudists and Native American Rights) with other causes, tried to avail themselves of the easy access to the large media contingent on hand to draw attention to their issues.

The protesters decided to walk to the Powell Street BART station and did so.

When it seemed to the World’s Laziest Journalist that the evening was drawing to a conclusion, we took a bus to the downtown area to catch an AC bus back to Berkeley. As the bus approached the Embarcadero BART station area, we observed another phase of the BART protest and took some more photos.

For an individual writing about the event has to be a subjective report. You can’t take photos of arrests and talk to the PIO (Public Information Officer) at the same time. You can’t be on the scene and get an overview from the sidelines simultaneously. When another reporter says that arrests were made earlier at the Embarcadero station ticket booth, you can’t categorically state hearsay evidence into a news story without either your own visual confirmation or an official police statement. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in its edition for Tuesday August 30, 2011, that two arrests were made at the Embarcadero station.

In the old days, a photographer would have to go develop the film and have an editor “AKA the photo desk” select a frame to make a print which would then “move on the wire” if it was good enough to meet their standards of excellence. Now, a digital photographer has to get to a computer, download his work, and for vertical shots, rotate the appropriate files. Then he edits his own work. We know of one instance where an editor used the opinion of a stringer to confirm “the desk’s” selection from the available frames.

A photographer can’t do the digital file clerk work and (if he is working at ome an lacke internet access) simultaneously monitor Internet news organizations at the same time. KCBS news radio indicated that the protesters had changed tactics for their protest on August 29, 2011.

We will use the ominous implications for the Journalism Industry that we see in the shrinking number of professional journalists as a topic for a future column. We will revisit the BART PD vs critics’ dispute as events warrant. We will, as time permits, use the topic of online photojournalism for some future columns, as time and inspiration permits.

Taking photos of the arrests that occurred on Monday August 22, 2011, provided a bit of nostalgia and the sense that “we still got it,” for a photographer who was reminded that some things haven’t changed much since doing similar work in the L. A. area in the seventies.

Covering the BART board of directors meeting was similar to covering Santa Monica city council meetings back in the days when Clo Hoover was the mayor and covering Culver City council meeting when that group shared their building with a branch of that city’s fire department.

Liberal media relies on altruism to provide content. Conservative media uses money to tailor their content to their ulterior motives. In an extremely long and extended contest, human nature tends to indicate which group will survive an endurance contest.

August 16, 2011

BART PD vs Anonymous in S. F.

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:14 pm




When the BART Police Department faced a demonstration by folks from Anonymous, the World’s Laziest Journalist was among the throng of writers and photographers recording the event for posterity.

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