April 30, 2015

The more things change . . .

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 5:49 pm

crop of Lolita glasses notched neg

Playing sound bytes that promote opposing points of view and then making the assertion that presenting facts and letting the audience form an opinion might be manipulation via flattery but it seems to be too esoteric and limiting for journalists to ask a long time Irish Catholic Democrat how might a Supreme Court Justice with a similar history vote on the issue of gay marriage. If the object is to let an announcement just before the Forth of July holiday catch many Americans by surprise and achieve maximum dissatisfaction and precipitate another chance to build a contentious atmosphere that will end with the (temporary) establishment of martial law, then feigning an inability to accurately assess the most likely ruling that will end the debate seems like a smart gambit.

If a writer can do research that produces an overwhelming picture of mismanagement and inappropriate conduct by Hillary Clinton that involved the Clinton Foundation while she was serving as Secretary of State few reporters will use that curious new development to ask why then couldn’t investigators find out who profited from the 9-11 events by short sales of airline stocks?

Presenting facts and letting the audience decide sounds like an admirable mission statement so John Stewart would be the only well know personality who could casually mention that the civil unrest in Baltimore was caused by a death while the Watts riots of fifty years ago, which led to many deaths and extensive property damage, was precipitated by a single traffic ticket.

Did the recent photos from Baltimore of a phalanx of soldiers remind older folks of a similar photo (cover of LIFE magazine?) taken in L. A. in June of 1965?

Is it prejudicial to note that after many thousands of lives have been terminated by collateral damage caused by drone strikes the loss of one American life has caused the journalists to seriously question the need for drone strikes? Does that disparity constitute prejudiced reporting or is it just subtle racism in action?

Remember Agent Orange? Isn’t a large protest against Monsanto scheduled to take place in May?

Do the anarchist protesters from Berkeley stand out by wearing tie-dye handkerchiefs over their faces?

American media seems to relish showing forty year old footage of the evacuation of Saigon in 1975 while ignoring the poignant scenes surrounding the commencement speeches given in May of 1965. How would the optimistic words from those speeches play in today’s world when politicians enthusiastically suggest sending American troops all over the world, and riots are plentiful? Would those speeches sound nostalgic today or would they sound very relevant?

What’s happening to the ship that Iran intercepted?

If you liked the video of the mom slapping her kid around that went viral this week, then you will get your jollies from a vintage video on Youtube. Search for “women self-defense 1947.” The actress, who has a passing resemblance to Alice Kramden (on the Honeymooners TV series), knocks around a thug just as easily as she would toss around a rag doll.

The college class of 1965 entered a world that was just about to witness the Watts riots and the start of military action in Vietnam that wasn’t sanctioned by Congress. We wonder if members of the class of ’65 would get a feeling of déjà vu from this week’s events in Baltimore and recent military actions in various countries in the Middle East.

There is one thing certain in today’s world: If people are still debating the same old topics fifty years from now, the World’s Laziest Journalist won’t be writing columns that recycle the same old facts in a new order of presenation.

If you think voter fraud is a new topic, please make an effort to see “The Great McGinty,” from 1940.

If Hillary Clinton sees Bernie Sanders get the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination, will she feel like a jilted bride (for the second time)?

The flap over a prisoner’s death in Baltimore seems to be a moot topic now after the authorities have found that a second prisoner is saying that theFreddie Gray fellow died of self-inflicted injuries. Will the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory public information officer issue a press release Friday hints/suggests/asks about the possibility that a quid pro quo agreement involved an immunity deal in return for the “walk off” revelation?

The mainstream media will immediately issue a “game over” assessment of the debate over the incident that incited civil unrest.

Has the mainstream media become extinct in the land of free speech? For folks in Berkeley who read the New York Times, it may seem that “the Great Gray Lady” has become the modern day substitute for the Berkeley Barb. If you aren’t reading that daily paper, then you don’t have a clue as to what’s happening to the country.

On Sunday, April 26, 2015, we put on our Aussie hat, mirror sunglasses, and activated the required cigarette holder (with the same unlit cigarette that we have used for the last three years) and plunged into some fact finding and photography efforts at the How Weird Street Faire held on (pun alert!) Howard Street in San Francisco. It was worth the effort.

Roaming around the San Francisco Bay area with a Nikon Coolpix may not be making America safe for Democracy but it is an effective (temporary) cure for boredom.

If gay marriage is ruled to be un-Constitutional, will dissention in San Francisco be more newsworthy than it has been in Baltimore?

Making snide remarks about national politics may not sway one single vote, but it sure is therapeutic for a perennial malcontent.

This week’s column is being posted earlier than usual because on Friday May 1, we intend on going to San Francisco to cover various May Day activities such as the tip that a member of the Merry Pranksters will announcean attempt to become Frisco’s mayor.

For the class of 1965, they could relish the feelings liberals experienced when, on Nov. 7, 1962, Richard Milhous Nixon said: “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

Now, for members of the class of ’65, the disk jockey will play Iggy Pop’s “I’m (the Chairman of the) bored,” Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” and Lynn Anderson’s “I beg your pardon (I never promised you a Rose Garden).” We have to hustle back to the Fortress of Solitude and resume our binge watching of “Rocky and Bullwinkle and friends.” Have a “self inflicted injuries” type of week.


April 1, 2013

Purple Haze: Putting the ghosts of Savo Island to rest

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 4:27 pm

Did you know that one of the first American naval battles fought in the South Pacific against the Japanese imperial fleet during World War II took place in the Solomon Sea, off the shore of some god-forsaken volcanic outcropping called Savo Island — and right next to another god-forsaken rocky island called Guadalcanal? And that the American navy lost that battle — bigtime? And that 1033 American sailors and Marines died from wounds received at Savo Island? And that four Allied heavy cruisers were sunk?

According to naval historian Lt. Col. David E. Quantock, “The Battle of Savo Island occurred early in the morning on 9 August 1942, when the Japanese 8th fleet surprised the Allied Task Force shortly after the landing at Guadalcanal. In approximately 37 minutes, the Japanese Navy destroyed four Allied heavy cruisers and killed more than 1000 American and Australian sailors, handing the U.S. Navy the worst defeat in its history. There were many strategic, operational, and tactical reasons for this debacle; however, the one common thread through the entire disaster was the poorly framed command and control relationships.”

Soon after this tragic event, a new housing project for naval personnel was constructed in Berkeley, CA, and named after that sad and humiliating battle. According to the January 3, 1945 Berkeley Gazette, “Located across the street from the WACs barracks, [Savo Island] will consist of 192 units [where] some combat personnel returning to shore jobs may rent a single-bedroom unit for as low as $11 a month.”

And one of the children raised in this new housing project was Jimi Hendrix. And we all now what happened to him.

And then Vietnam came and went. And Nick Terse’s excellent new book, “Kill Everything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam,” tells us the most accurate story to date about what really happened in Vietnam. As one reviewer put it, “‘Kill Anything That Moves’ is a hard book to read. You want to look away but finally turn the pages and read of mass killings and targeted assassinations of Vietnamese civilians, rape committed casually and coldly in sight of officers, sport killings and road rage incidents.”

And the ghosts from Savo Island, Vietnam and all the other bloody and unnecessary “wars” perpetrated by greedy corporatists and/or their “poorly framed command and control” have just kept on piling up since then. The 9-11 blunder, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq — and now Syria, Iran and North Korea are also in the mix

And these ghosts of more and more dead people from more and more unjust American wars seem to keep showing up at Savo Island. Why? Because “someone had blundered” on War Street (again) — or because someone else on Wall Street had gotten greedy (again).
In 1974, the old Savo Island housing project in Berkeley was torn down and then Jimmy Carter (my hero, he built housing like this in every single city and town in America in 1979) gave orders to build a new, renovated Savo Island right on the same site — but as a housing cooperative. However, somehow I think that the ghosts of the old Savo Island still remain. There have been murders here. And suicides. And cancer victims. And hoarders. And addicts. And all-too-many cases of people going bat-shite crazy — perhaps even me!

The current Savo Island housing project is supposed to be an idealistic neighborhood cooperative, a perfect example of neighbors “caring and sharing” — yet now the only thing that we neighbors seem to do together is to bicker and quarrel night and day about every single little thing.

And now that our extensive new re-hab in progress and I’ve been forced to move out of my sweet little home for a month, I’ve also come to notice that every time I even set foot back on the property even for few minutes, I start to get this irrational feeling that it’s time to either fight or flee, almost like I was back on Guadalcanal myself!

Perhaps all the ghosts of all the dead from all those unnecessary American wars are still coming back to haunt us.

Can anyone recommend a good exorcist?

PS: And during the period that I have been out of my apartment during this re-hab, I’ve also been taking quite an extensive tour of Berkeley — renting rooms in people’s houses and apartments, sleeping on people’s floors, staying in cheap motels and house-sitting people’s dogs. It’s been quite a wild ride. But the squabbling at Savo Island has still remained a constant in my life. For instance, some of my neighbors at Savo have just accused me of staying up at the luxurious Claremont resort and spa in high style — at our co-op’s expense! Don’t I wish. Up there in the hot tub. Just me and a million or so ghosts.

PPS: I was watching a documentary on the Holocaust in Germany during World War II the other day — such inhuman brutality. In Nazi Germany, corporatists treated living and breathing men, women and children as mere instruments of profit, and all compassion was gone. This cold and brutal objectification of human life serves us as an obvious example of cwhat happens when orporate profit-driven motivation is taken to its extreme.

And so here is a warning: What German corporations did to the Jews — worked them to death, callously starved them and even stole their gold teeth — all in the name of making a profit? Then American multinational corporations may be about to do this to you and me too.

When profit alone is allowed to be king, hatred is then thrown into the mix and all compassion is dead, then no one is safe.

April 18, 2012

Yet Another Republican Hypocrite: “Braveheart” Ted Nugent


June 10, 2011

The Torch is passed (again)

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

People who graduated from high school fifty years ago this month may want to indulge in a bit of nostalgia by exhuming a transcript of their commencement speech and having their lawyer take a closer look at it. Were all of that year’s inspiring words more of a variation of the “campaign promises” concept or did those inspirational words come with an implied guarantee? If so, it might be time to adhere to one of the basic principles established in the Constitution, by America’s founding fathers: “Sue the bastards!”

Would it be an example of poignancy if a kid who got a brand new car as a high school graduation present in June of 1961 were still driving that same car today? In the Spring of 1961, the last B-52 rolled off the Boeing production line and many of them are still in use to this very day.

What else hasn’t changed since the class of 1961 was promised a better world?

Before turning the keys to the White House over to Jack Kennedy, the departing president (a general from WWII), had warned folks not to let the military industrial complex become America’s guiding light (at the end of the tunnel?). It didn’t take long for the new young President to send American troops, as advisors, abroad doing the political version of what “location scouts” do for movie making.

Radio soap operas were transitioning into TV series, but when that class had started high school in the Fall of 1957, many of them were still available on radio. The radio audience had wondered, like Helen Trent, could a woman, after her 35th birthday, find romance? It would be well into the 70’s before that question would become relevant to the class of 1961.

What ever happened to “Our Gal Sunday”? She was, as listeners were informed at the start of each broadcast, someone “from the little mining town of Silver Creek, Colorado,” and she had “in young womanhood married England’s most handsome lord, Lord Henry Brinthrope.” How did that work out for her?

What ever happened to: “Aunt Jenny,” “Young Doctor Malone,” “Just Plain Bill,” “Ma Perkins,” and/or “Nora Drake”?

The members of the graduation class of 1961 are sure to be retired and collecting their Social Security checks by now and so they will have plenty of leisure time to look up the fate of those fictional characters on the Internets.

Was it a remarkable co-inky-dink or symbolism that one high school in Scranton Pa, for their class trip, went to New York City and saw “Pollyanna” at the Radio City Music Hall”?

For the class of 1961, it was just like Bill Graham would put it a bit later in time: “Ladies and gentlemen; it’s all about to happen!” Back then, the Nostalgia craze wouldn’t start until Susan Suntag’s essay “Notes on Camp” got published.

By the time the class of 1961 would celebrate the tenth anniversary of their graduation, America would make numerous cultural changes. The Beatles would erase Duane Eddy from the position of favorite guitarist. The Ford Motor Company would produce the first Mustang (and Carol Shelby would work his magic on them). Folks would also learn the geography lesson that answered the question: “Where the hell is Vietnam?”

When the class of 1961 entered high school in the Fall of 1957, one of the Dorsey brothers would release the last Big Band hit, “So Rare.” By the time they graduated, “On the Road” had been reprinted in a paperback edition and coffee house poetry was all the rage. The adults were very alarmed that the beatnik lifestyle seemed to have a hypnotic appeal to the youngsters who wanted to be “hep.” Hep became hip and that generation embraced all sorts of aberrant behavior that didn’t sit well with true Americans such as those who lived in Muskogee.

In the Fall of 1963, Capital Records, in Hollywood, handed out 3,000 layoff notices to the folks in Scranton working at the record pressing plant because record sales were in a slump. The layoffs were to take effect the day after Thanksgiving. While the nation mourned the assassination of its young President, the layoff notices were rescinded on the Monday before Thanksgiving because of a music phenomenon that was spreading like a highly contagious disease. It was called “Beatlemania.”

Rock and Roll was battling to replace the folk songs that dominated the pop music charts. Eventually, Rock got it very own separate chart and Fats Domino shared it with newer, younger musicians.

Tail fins on cars had reached their high water mark with the 1959 Cadillac. At one point the J. C. Whitney catalogue offered champagne glasses made from the distinctively shaped ’59 Caddy bullet style tail lights.

While getting America from the Marshall Program to the Bush Doctrine, patriots would come to realize that charity is permissible only if it also functions as a bribe or is part of an extortion plan.

If a person graduated from high school in 1961 and proceeded directly on to a four year college, he would graduate just in time to see President Johnson, in June of 1965, send several (was it six or eight?) Marine Divisions to Vietnam to straighten out that mess (it was well understood that they would be home in time for Christmas).

In 1961, all was well. The World’s Laziest Journalist knows of one member of the class of 1961, who joined the Navy, was assigned to a destroyer that circled the globe, came back home to Scranton and declined all additional opportunities to travel. “I’ve been around the world. I like Scranton. Why would I want to leave?”

Soldiers from Scranton, in the 28th Division’s 109th Regiment, had fought at the battle of the bulge and so America was determined to make sure that those war atrocities, such as the ones that Germany had committed during World War II, would never again be permitted in the world that was beckoning to the eager and enthusiastic members of the class of 1961.

The world in 1961 wasn’t perfect. The designers at Chevrolet were trying to develop a coupe model for the popular Corvette roadster. America didn’t need a Desoto car. TV would be better in “living color.” Pan Am, Eastern Airlines (“The wings of man”) and TWA stood ready to fly America’s youth to places where they could face the “Europe on $5 a day” challenge.

Americans didn’t have to buy a WMCA t-shirt to know that they were one of a special breed. Who didn’t want a T-shirt that proclaimed that the wearer was a “Good Guy”?

Wasn’t “The Ugly American” a Commie propaganda ruse? Didn’t the East German authorities have to build a wall to hold back their young people with curiosity about freedom?

The graduates who got married and started having kids didn’t have to worry about the draft. The guys who went on to college did. Did the lamestream media do feature stories about the last guy to be drafted? Who was it? Lord knows the lamestream sure did cover the story when Elvis got drafted and when Cascius Clay turned down his draft board’s invitation. When Elvis left the Army, there was a TV special on which Frank Sinatra welcomed Elvis back home.

There was one TV special (was it part of Ford’s 50th anniversary celebration?) that featured the best science based predictions for the future. As we recall it, that program predicted that newspapers would deliver their stories directly into homes via a machine that was a combination of calculator, telephone, TV set, and printing press.

Back in 1961 the icon of the American Dream was expressed in visual terms by a home with a white picket fence around it. That house has been seized by the foreclosure process. The lefties who are losing their homes think that Sarah Palin is dumb. How did they come to that conclusion? On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural address, said: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

The disk jockey went to the Flying Dutchman’s web site for a list of the hits from 1961. He culled out: “Big Bad John,” “Wonderland by Night,” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

We have to go put some dead flowers on a friend’s grave. Have a “The torch is passed to a new generation” 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.

December 28, 2009

The Joe Namath Lesson for Political Pundits

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:28 pm

Back in the (Rolling) Stone Age (AKA the Sixties), the late lamented publication Editor & Publisher reported that a study had produced the fact that reporters, who are “on deadline” every day, had a more stress producing job than a jet test pilot and that may explain why newsies have the reputation for having some very enlightening conversation at a nearby gin mill, after they clock out from work.

In those days, when there was such a concept called journalistic ethics, some of the participants may have prefaced their information with the admonition: “this is off the record but . . .,” which explains why there are some things from the Sixties which this columnist still feels honor bound to disregard when it comes time to pound out a new effort.

For instance, when Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was running for President, he complained to his staff that folks perceived him as being short. After hemming and hawing, his staff found the courage to explain why that was. He was told that it was so because he had a big head. The staffer explained that if you park the Goodyear blimp on top of the Washington Monument, that would make it look short.

Sometimes journalists, after several hearty libations, may kid around and test their coworkers’ limits of credibility. When a fellow who would later become Time magazine’s White House correspondent told this columnist about the strange fans that are part of the Hollywood scene, he believed it when he was told that there was one person who had a collection of genuine authentic stars’ fescues. When we got the chance to try and validate that story with a contact at Playboy magazine who knew the fellow in question, the reaction was: “that sounds like something Doug would say.” He had never heard our mutual acquaintance utter that outrageous bit of (supposed) Hollywood lore. He added that Doug always did love putting people’s credulity to the test.

One sports writer, in the waning days of the Sixties, told a story, in a Carson City Nevada watering hole, about an argument he and another writer had, in his cub reporter days, about the legendary horse “Man of War.” The disagreement was deadlocked. The bar tender turned around and settle the dispute by giving them the answer in a very definitive and authoritative voice. Since the barkeep had actually been that famous horse’s trainer, he not only ended the bickering, he became a source for some freelance work that earned handsome monetary remunerations.

One sports editor in Pennsylvania, solemnly admonished a rookie reporter that if he were ever to work on the sports desk (sometimes sarcastically referred to as “the Toy Department”) as a reporter, he must never (as in NEVER) say that something can’t happen.

Common sense would dictate that the writer must say “very unlikely” or “a long shot possibility” but that infallible predictions were an invitation to a humiliating journalistic lesson.

After having that journalistic commandment engraved into his memory by rote, this columnist, while working at a truck company headquartered in New York City, noticed that many, many sports reporters and commentators were assuring their audiences that Joe Namath and his team could no way, no how, ever even hope to defeat the future Hall of Famer, Johnny Unitas and his (almost) invincible Baltimore Colts team.

With the “never say never” dictum in mind, an attempt to make an illegal off track wager backing the much maligned quarterback was unsuccessful. Bookies didn’t have Yellow Pages ads, so we watched the chance to cash in on the old sports editor’s advice go by without any bet being placed.

The day after Superbowl III was broadcast; the guy at the next desk over called in sick. Rumor had it that he had been a bookie who didn’t lay off bets since the outcome was a sure thing. He never came back to the office. We can never think of that curious bit of office lore without thinking of the line in a Jerry Reed song that wondered about a guy who went into the swamp and never came out.

Dang! A modest $10 wager would have produced a lucrative January bonus, but alas it was not meant to be.

A recent column by Carl Hiaasen brought these memories alive again because it seconded the assertion made in Foreign Policy magazine that Obama’s surge was futile effort.

It seems that all the commentary and stories about the fact that no one has ever successfully conducted and invasion of Afghanistan make us wonder do the casinos in Vegas let folks bet on wars? If so, perhaps, just for old times’ sake, it’s time to see if the sports editor’s wisdom also applies to politics. Who knows? Maybe Obama can make the surge seem more like the Jets’ victory moment than a bit of Vietnam déjà vu?

Since everyone seems to be discouraging any opinions in President Obama’s favor, how can folks object if a columnist just wants to make a wager backing the President of the United States?

It could be that all the pundits who are strenuously insisting that it’s never been done before, just haven’t had contact with a sports editor who would have advised them to never say: “never, can’t, won’t, or impossible” in a column that is speculating about a future turn of events.

At two a.m., the bartender at Hurley’s bar in Rockefeller Center, used to say: “It’s closing time! You don’t necessarily have to go home, but you do have to get out!”

Now, the disk jockey will play Frank Sinatra’s “Quarter to Three” and we will get out of here. Have the kind of week that sounds like it came straight out of a Bukowski novel.

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