January 30, 2015

Put the Hippie Hall of Fame in Berkeley?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:22 pm

crop of long shot Gravy Best

Recently, journalist and political activist Mike Zint and some of his associates were recounting some of the best anecdotes about the good old days when the Occupy Movement was getting started. Then they started lamenting the fact that some of the oral history of all the protest movements are in danger of becoming lost. Shouldn’t someone (like those studying journalism or documentary film making at the University of California in Berkeley?) make a concerted effort to record some of the best stories on video while they still can? Simultaneously, some local merchants are busy trying to discourage and disavow Berkeley’s world wide fame for being in the forefront of the anti-Vietnam war protests.

Do large numbers of tourists go to Oxford England to see where famous scholars taught and did research? Is North Beach, the San Francisco neighborhood made famous by the Beat Poets, a bigger and better known draw for world travelers?

Sure Berkeley is full to capacity on the fall Saturdays when the UCLA football team comes to town, but what can be done to draw crowds during the summer months?

If an entity called “the Hippie Hall of Fame” is ever to be built, why not in Berkeley?

The list of famous artists, musicians, writers, and political protesters who were at one time or another part of the Berkeley community, is astounding and that, in turn, causes us to postulate the premise that if the Berkeley business community wants to increase tourism, they might want to consider the possibility of building a home for the Hippie Hall of Fame.

Is there an audience wanting to hear about the trials and tribulations of the Vietnam war protesters? Shouldn’t Berkeley be anxious to tell the world about various writers (such as Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guinn, Jack Kerouac, and Alan Ginsberg) who were Berkeley residents? The Hippie Hall of Fame might be a legitimate way to draw visitors to Berkeley. Isn’t Wavy Gravy (wavygravy dot net) a Berkeley resident?

Doesn’t a pioneer in the field of rock criticism call Berkeley his hometown?

Simultaneously while the business community’s hopes to bring more tourists to the area, they are also anxious to see the local homeless people go elsewhere.

Thursday, January 22, 2015, was a warm day filled with California sunshine and so when we walked into downtown Berkeley CA and noticed that the usual crew of homeless young folks was absent, we didn’t take much notice. The next morning KCBS news radio reported that the day before had been the day devoted to taking an annual census reading of the homeless. Such an odd pair of facts might be connected, we mused, and so we considered traveling to the secret location of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory located in the near-by foothills for an expert analysis of the odd coincidence.

Then we realized that since one of the objectives we hope to achieve with our weekly exorcises in online punditry is to prod the audience into doing their own thinking and commentary we should just ask the readers if they see any possible connection.,

We asked Ninja Kitty on Friday where the kids were on Thursday. He said that the police had made a sweep of Shattuck on Thursday and chased many of the panhandlers away. Why would they do that on the day when the Homeless census was supposed to be conducted?

A Berkeley cynic noted that since the new semester at the University of California in Berkeley had just begun, it was traditional for the local authorities to do sweeps of the downtown area to remove the homeless so that parents delivering their daughter for the new semester would not become unduly alarmed by the sight of the panhandlers.

Could it be that politicians don’t want to solve the homeless problem because the capitalists want homelessness to be a very unpalatable existence and thus provide disgruntle workers with a strong motivation for putting up with inconveniences just to keep their jobs?

We have asked several of Berkeley’s homeless if they agreed with our contention that the problem of homelessness is not meant to be solved. Most concurred. If, during the Great Recession, workers could not be manipulated and intimidated by the possibility of becoming one of the panhandlers, then there would be no great fear of becoming a rolling stone. As it is, a married man with a wife, kids, car payments and a mortgage has enough to handle and the thought of coping with that menagerie while living in the car can be very effective sword of Damocles.   Don’t most of the homeless perceive the poor schmuck as being played as a sucker? What single young man doesn’t fancy himself as the title character in a picaresque novel that tells the travels and adventures of the new Dean Moriarity?

Our fact-finding on the topic of homelessness has caused us to wonder why some top notch writer (think Tom Wolfe in the mid-sixties) doesn’t collect the life stories of the best known Berkeley homeless and put those stories into a book length form.

It seems curious that the business owners are very reluctant to even consider one idea that would help remove some of the panhandlers from Shattuck Ave. If a place could be found where lockers could be installed, that would give some of the kids a chance to go look for a job or even just go for a hike in the nearby foothills but the idea draws a considerably hostile reaction. No way, Jose!

If being homeless were suddenly to become a variation of the old rugged frontiersman’s existence, then the threat aspect of homelessness would disappear. Hence it behooves modern life to make the homeless an object lesson about the result of a lack of determination and hard work.

The hippies exemplified the concept of a happy-go-lucky existence that was not completely dependent on a weekly paycheck and thus it seems highly unlikely that a town where kids dig themselves deep into to student loan debt would ever build a Hall of Fame glorifying the idea that not being a cheerful wage-slave was a worthwhile endeavor.

Why then, doesn’t Berkeley CA become the future home of the Executive Hall of Fame?

Jack London would hardly qualify as a hippie, but wasn’t he a UCB drop-out? Could the famous world travel be considered a hippie prototype? Just because he never wore a tie-dye T-shirt doesn’t mean he didn’t share values with the hippie movement.

Were there enough success stories on the roster of college drop-outs to merit the possibility of establishing a Drop-out Hall of Fame?

What message are adults giving America’s youth? This week a major sports team seemed to concur with the philosophy of W. C. Fields: “If a thing is worth having, it’s worth cheating for.” Have ethics become extinct in the USA? We haven’t noticed any strong denunciations of the cheating aspects of this new controversy.

Now the disk jockey will play Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” Dean Martin’s “Bummin’ around,” and Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s “I ain’t got a home.” We have to go check the “First they came for the homeless” page on Facebook. Have a “Groovy” week.

July 20, 2012

“Hello, sucker!”

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:31 pm

Any man who hates small dogs and children can’t be all bad.

There is a sequence in a W. C. Fields movie (If memory servers, that would be “Never give a sucker an even break”) that shows a con man with a funny name (Fields) at a coffee shop lunch counter chatting up the fellow next to him. The rapscallion makes his move and says to the victim: “It’s been a pleasure talking to you; I think I’ll buy your lunch. When I get up to the cashier, I’ll tell her to charge me for your lunch, so you raise your hand when I point in this direction.” Then when he talks to the young hostess with access to the cash register, he says: “The fellow next to me offered to buy my lunch. It’s that guy.” He points to the gullible fellow, who raises his hand. Fields marches off in triumph leaving the film audience in hysterics.

All this esoteric film history would be relevant if we were trying to land a gig as the intern at the British film review website Cinesthesiac, if they ever expand their staff to include that position. However, since this column is going to be posted on sites that relish mordacious political punditry, we had better hasten to add that this vignette from the cinema vaults can serve as a metaphor for a newer and more pertinent swindle being perpetrated on gullible Americans and proceed immediately to the explanation of the symbolism involved.

A loveable rascal in the White House wanted to go down in history as a war President and so he convinces his country to start a quick war that (he assured the citizens) wouldn’t cost much and would be over quickly and successfully. Then, several years later, when his successor from another political party falls into the trap, the slick fellow tells the cashier: “He’s going to pay for my war!” and voila! the chump raises his hand and (eventually) gets a big surprise. Economic chaos ensues (Don’t the Republicans think that economic chaos is an example of knee-slap funny humor?) . . . .

If a W. C. Fields character where to be given a contract for security at a big world famous sports event, the cad would over promise performance, under deliver results, and then take the money and run leaving the host country to fill the security gap. What Conservative doesn’t believe in the old Woody Allen philosophy of “Take the money and run”?

Before America got into WWII, Fields ran a campaign for President. The thought of a fellow who is mostly known for bumbling, unscrupulous business conduct vying for a chance to move into the White House was a hilarious diversion for the American voters who had, in 1940, been coping with economic adversity for a decade.

One of the agents in the World’s Laziest Journalist spy corps recently filed a report saying that over at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, some of the more radical thinkers (?) on the staff are predicting that the Republicans are going to use a “Lucy van Pelt pulls away the football” type maneuver to take the nomination away from the presumptive (“never assume!”) nominee.

Gullible rubes refuse to consider the possibility that pundits are serious when the use the qualifying phrase “presumptive nominee” when they talk about Mitt Romney. Their naiveté is a crucial ingredient for the political blitzkrieg (allegorically speaking) that will be unleashed before the Republican convention is called to order in Tampa.

The folks at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, this week, were expressing the old Jimmy Durante line: “Everybody is trying to get into the act.” Where does journalism reporting rumors end and conspiracy theories start? Is there a cusp area? There were rumors online Thursday hinting that a certain front running candidate may have to contend with assertions he was given amnesty for some income tax evasion offenses and if this unfounded rumor turns out to be true, he might be ruled retroactively ineligible to be a participant in the Primary and General Election activities.

Americans have been anesthetized to any shock that might accompany proof that a politician is telling blatant lies. Suppose (AKA “What if . . . ?”) that a party’s front runner has to content with undeniable, irrefutable proof that he has committed a major misdeed (such as income tax evasion?) just days before the convention is scheduled to start? Could a fellow be ruled retroactively ineligible to participate in some Primary elections and stripped of his wins? (Did Mitt ever win the tour de France?)

It seems to some of the members of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Workers union that some amateur scabs were doing some speculating this week that come perilously close to infringing on their trade.

There could be major problems ahead for the Republican Party. If (subjunctive mood) Mitt is a rich kid who knows that where there is enough available money there is always a way to get what he wants and if the Republicans hint that it is time for him to be graceful and step down, perhaps the rich kid will become obstreperous. If Mitt comes unglued by the tax question, he might have a meltdown that would make the Howard Dean scream incident seem very tame in comparison.

What would the Republican Party do if a respected newspaper had a Pentagon Papers moment and published authentic copies of the tax returns in dispute? What if Mitt still wouldn’t step aside?

If that were to happen, then it might be time for a journalist-curmudgeon to say: “The kid’s not a real trooper; send him home.”

If a Mitt candidacy is unacceptable to Republicans how can they possibly expect to sell him to Reagan Democrats?

If Mitt wasn’t really shuttling between working on the Olympics and working at Bain, could that rascally old Mormon have been splitting some of his family values time with an extra wife?

Speaking of double standards, most Liberals don’t understand the Conservative philosophy of boardroom conduct. The executives, because of their “hands on” style of management, earn every last cent of their paycheck when things are rosy and profitable, but when things go sour, it must always be blamed on some underling who kept “the chief” in the dark about potential problems. Being a mid-level management executive these days is like being a human shield protecting the fearless leader from indictments and irate stockholders. When Republican industrial moguls say “You can’t loose,” that exactly what they mean. Unfortunately, that caveat doesn’t apply to managers who don’t sit of the board of directors.

Was it Fields or Laurel and Hardy that featured the shtick about flipping a coin and saying: “Heads, I win; tails, you loose!”? What conservative Christian can’t condone that example of how to bamboozle a sucker?

St. Ronald Reagan often said that the eleventh commandment was: Never speak ill of a fellow Republican. The recent rash of Republican ruminating about the Romney run makes skeptics wonder what’s up in that party. Either Reagan’s sway on the party faithful is waning or the Conservative Christians don’t consider Mitt to be an authentic member of their party. If that’s the case, the chorus of criticism will continue until Mitt is deemed disqualified for the nomination and then he and his supporters will have a WTF mind meld moment and start asking themselves the usual Charlie Brown questions about being fleeced of their campaign money and being rooked out of the nomination they considered rightfully theirs.

There is a bit of old conventional wisdom among film critics that holds that the key to watching any film about swindlers is to keep in mind that the iron clad rule for the genre which is: the con men are always the ones who get fleeced. Thus film critics who see Mitt Romney as a modern W. C. Fields patent medicine salesman expect that he will wind up (like the fellow in a particular Jerry Reed song) getting the shaft instead of the expected gold mine.

If the Mittster is looking for a slogan for his Presidential campaign, perhaps he can swipe the phrase that Texas Guinan used to use when she greeted customers entering her New York speakeasy: “Hello, sucker!”

For a column on swindles that will be posted on July 20, the disk jockey insists that his closing selection of songs starts off with “Springtime for Hitler” (from Mel Brooks’ “The Producers”), the Rolling Stones contractual obligation album [when they were committed to delivering one more album to a certain record company, they delivered a package of über-bawdy material and when the record company executives complained that they couldn’t release the album, the Stones lawyers indicated “That’s your problem.” (It became a top bootleg product for those people who sanction unauthorized products.)] and as a memorial tribute for country music fans, Kitty Wells’ breakthrough Country hit “It wasn’t God who made Honky-tonk angels.” We have to go check and see who the Republicans have available on the bench in the bullpen. Have an “I’ll hold the football for you, Charlie Brown,” type week.

[Quagmire, who may be the littlest panhandler on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, attacked the columnist after being given a “drop in the bucket” offering and bit the writer’s cane so we thought a picture of this ungrateful cur would be an acceptable illustration for a column about swindles. Why a cane? Isn’t a cane essential for projecting the image of a suave boulevardier?]

February 7, 2012

The Case of the Distinctive Voice

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:26 pm

A distinctive voice coming from a man walking in the shadows is a set-up if most of the people in the audience can identify the voice’s owner. The voice fans in the audience might identify the source before the actor steps into the light and be pleased they didn’t need to see the guy’s mug to I.D. the perpetrator. The celebrity dominated culture in the United States would have been sorely disappointed if the image of the speaker’s face didn’t solve the “who dat?”” puzzle of the familiar voice.

If, thanks to computer wizardry, Rod Serling had stepped out of the shadows most of the viewers on the younger side of the age demographics for the Superbowl audience would have known that it was the Twilight Zone guy.

What would the reaction to a technological cloning have been if it turned out that the voice and the face belonged to be Edward R. Murrow? How many kids on the outside of a School for Journalism would have recognized the “London calling” voice and associated it with daredevil reporting of the highest caliber?

Obviously using the voice and image of W. C. Fields would have had a sabotage effect. Would today’s hipsters recognize, let alone appreciate, Fields’ voice? Do they still sell the posters featuring the once famous comedian? They were ubiquitous in the late Sixties, don’t cha know?

If the computers had produced that Superbowl ad with St. Ronald Reagan stepping out of the shadows, Republicans all across America would have wept openly. It’s morning in America, again, folks and a cinematic cowboy is here to make you feel safe and warm.

Could the folks who want to see the Bush gang hang possibly misinterpret the Cling Eastwood commercial and see it as an endorsement of Dirty Harry tactics that include a complete disregard for the rules of war that were proclaimed at the Nuremburg War Crime Trials?

In some long ago news broadcast we heard a news story that asserted that female infants would pay more attention to the voice of a male stranger than they would to their mother’s voice.

According to a reliable source, over a decade ago a young UCLA coed, who was working as an interviewer for a phone survey, called the provided phone number and started to convince the young man who answered the phone to participate in the poll. He heard her voice and offered to come from New York City for a date in L. A. the following weekend. Since she wasn’t hurting for male attention, she politely declined.

When Johnny Carson made a casual comment about “the late John Carradine,” he got a phone call from the actor saying: “John, at my age it’s hard enough to get work without you announcing to the world that I’m dead.” Carson noted the quality of the voice he was hearing before he moved along to the fact that he then issued an invitation to come on the Tonight Show. Carradine got subsequent invitations to return to that show.

We have read somewhere a story that alleged that David Brinkley one time called into a Washington D. C. contest seeking a David Brinkley sound-alike. He came in second place.

When future radio fans look back on the Post Dubya era, we wonder which voices from 2012 will be the most recognizable.

Uncle Rushbo, of course. Who else?

We have, in past columns, lamented the fact that there seems to be room in the smorgasbord of contemporary culture for a competition for would-be voice over actors, but, alas, our suggestion has fallen upon dead ears.

The World’s Laziest Journalist has begun to do the preliminary fact checking needed as preparation for doing a column on story telling competitions. As luck would have it, the only item produced by several Google searches is something called the Porchlight competition held in San Francisco CA. So maybe we can enter that contest and get some material for a “been there done that” first hand account column about that competition.

Maybe some reader will have additional information to add to the comments for this column and thereby adding to the potential for doing a future column on story telling competitions.

We note that the Liars Hall of Fame seems to be an example of a variation on the tall tales in the field of exaggeration variety rather than an actual Hall of Fame whereby someone who spread the WMD alarm is accused of providing an entry for consideration by the Liars Hall of Fame induction committee.

Don’t some (all?) of the best raconteurs have bits of Irish ancestry in their blood?

Rather than a closing quote per se, we will recount a story that we heard St. Ronald Reagan tell in 1980. While he was campaigning in Iowa, he knocked on a farmer’s door. The man was flabbergasted. “I know you! You’re the actor. I forget your name.” Reagan suggested that as a hint he would supply his initials. The man heard “R. R.” and immediately turned toward the interior of the house and called out: “Mama, come quick and meet Roy Rogers.”

OK you won’t let it slide? You want a real quote as the closing quote?
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets out his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more’ it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

A friend in L. A., chef Teddy B. Owen, may have provided the best closing quote for this column when he said: “The voices in my head have the call waiting feature.”

Now the disk jockey will play Carly Simons’ “You’re So Vain” (Tell me you can’t hear Mick Jagger’s distinctive voice singing backup), Clint Eastwood’s recording of “Born Under a Wandering Star,” and Judy Collins’ version of “Amazing Grace.” We have to go gargle. Have a “stifle talk about unionizing” type of week.

March 3, 2011

Inverse Logic takes over in America

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 6:59 pm

Since we had always meant to see “The Magnificent Seven,” but have failed to catch it for fifty years, when the recent chance to see it in downtown Berkeley popped up on our amusement radar screen a little while back, it only took a New York minute for us to jump at the chance to fill that gap in our cultural accomplishments list.

It tells the story of how a bunch of loners band together to respond to an appeal by a group of Mexican peasants whose village is being periodically pillaged and robbed by some nasty bandits who act as if they have a divine right to the fruit of the poor people’s labors. The story is based on an earlier Japanese film about how some freelance samurai warriors helped out some poor farmers in their country.

“The Magnificent Seven” featured a young Steve McQueen and some ideals that have disappeared from the contemporary American culture.

We tried to imagine how a realistic new remake of that old film would look.

A collection of beleaguered American home owners reach the breaking point via a budget that is stretched to the limits by employers who exploit the workers by refusing to increase wages for years and years yet add unreasonable increases in production goal figures and by local merchants who have to boost prices just because they can. The victims see a bunch of banksters ride into town and offer to protect the worn out workers and their little remaining cash . . . by taking it all and keeping it for themselves.

In the new version, the Seven Cardinal Virtues would be lying, cheating, stealing, etc., etc. Hypocrisy would be something a Boy Scout honors and practices so that he can become a successful politician or bankster himself.

Honesty and Diligence would be a sucker’s idea of attractive qualities.

Bushwhacking and ambushes would be clever winning moves. Robert E. Howard, creator of “Conan the Barbarian” wrote a few obscure western novels in which the bad guy might mysteriously wind up dead when the lights were suddenly doused and no one could see what happened or who did the shooting. It wasn’t Garry Cooper waking down the middle of the street to confront hired thugs, it was very different in Howard’s books and the color of a hat didn’t tip off the audience to who was good and who was “one of the bad guys.”

The Zen of a continual war would produce a peaceful addictive complacency that would be expressed by hipsters via the slogan “War is Peace.”

At the end of a remake, the banksters would take everything they could get from the villagers, kill them all – maybe take scalps to use for boasting in the next boardroom meeting – and then so that there could be no final trace of the wasted lives, burn the foreclosed homes to the ground.

The cavalry would be assigned to protect the raiders from the workers and assert that they were there to uphold law and order.

Isn’t pulling the covered wagons into a circle to hold off an Indian attack comparable to forming a union to help maintain possession of worldly goods that the attacking capitalists want to strip away from the pioneers in this new inverted logic world?

Are the teabaggers the backbone of the new Republican Party? Does that mean that “Ignorance is Strength”?

Freedom is Slavery! If you let people have freedom of speech they will abuse it and you will have to listen to their hate-speech just as if they were the plantation master and you were their eager and enthusiastic slaves.

In the antique film, when the villagers don’t have much money to offer the renegade knights and they react to the attempt to short change them for their labor by saying: “We fight for the principles not the coins.” (or words to that effect.) These days the prevalent good guy philosophy is: “Show me the money!”

Don’t some conspiracy theory crazies suggest that the guy who pulled off the Enron scam, faked his death and after the best witness protection program style disappearance, went to Tahiti to live out his life in decadent splendor? Would the President of the USA authorize such a travesty of justice for an old friend? If you think that, then you might want to consider enrolling in a rehab for cynics program.

Is it truth or an urban legend that Owen Wister offered to pay good money for a newspaper article reporting a “High Noon” style draw-down in the middle of the street encounter. The shoot-out at the O. K. Corral was a brief intense close quarters fire-fight and not a variation of the slap leather and shoot-in-self-defense reaction of an attacked victim. No one ever collected the money from Wister.

(Note: according to one historian the contemporary newspapers which carried the account of that skirmish contained ads indicating that there were four telephones in the town at that time.)

The Western movies painted a distorted view of history. When the Sioux nation was restricted to South Dakota, it was assumed that it was OK to let them have that bit of geography because the American settlers couldn’t imagine any use for that land . . . until they discovered gold in the Black Hills. Then, it was time to rip up the peace treaties and take away the gold!

Reportedly only one tribe did not get a peace treaty which was broken by the Great White Father in Washington, all the Nez Pierce Indians were killed before they could sign a treaty.

Don’t forget the disease ridden blanket chapter of American charity for the Native Americans.

American strategy has remained consistent from the massacre at Wounded Knee to Mi Lai, so tell the Libyans: “The Marines are coming!” and they better get while the gettin’ is good. Don’t Republicans believe that American can never have enough wars?

Some folks will tell you that things have changed around completely since “The Magnificent Seven” was filmed and released in theaters and others will say that things were never like that at all. It’s just putting spin on history to catch a new generation of victims off-guard.

The American business man adheres strictly to the W. C. Fields’ famous business maxim: “If a things worth having; it’s worth cheating for.” In the Magnificent Seven one finds this line: “If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Do Not Forsake Me” (the Oscar winning song from High Noon), the theme from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” and Cher’s “Half-breed.” We have to go count coup. Have a “smoke the peace pipe” type week.

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