December 6, 2013

Big Brother and the end of Liberal talk radio

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:21 pm

A two pound dog provides an image symbolizing Liberal Talk radio.

LIFE magazine would be the logical source for some classic photos of the attack on Pearl Harbor which occurred 73 years ago Saturday, but for a writer starting out to accomplish that chore on the day before that column is scheduled to be posted is an impossible assignment.  Time magazine and the New York Times newspaper both have staff members who are employed full time to handle such editorial needs but if an online pundit notices on Thursday, December 05, 2013, that the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is a timely topic, it is too late to try to get permission to use a historic photo of that event.  Devoting an entire column to the “inside baseball” aspect of the task would run a high risk of boring readers and that provides an example of how and why the concept of “citizen journalist” is a red herring for those who want to reassure the general public that an alternative source for news is being formed in the realm of pop culture.

Ideally, glitzy photos accompanying a thoroughly fact checked article that has been quickly produced is possible on a one time basis but logistically doing that consistently  is like saying that a football quarterback can play an entire game with two minute drill intensity.

Initially when the Internet was in the formative stage, expectations were expressed that the new form of communication would spawn strong unique voices that would help provide citizens with the information they need to make competent choices when the elections are held.  The ideal of a rugged individual who can turn in a championship performance makes for the basic material of a wide variety of examples of urban legends such as the movie “Rocky,” and others of that ilk.

The fact that a lone wolf journalist isn’t going to consistently land interviews with the news making politicians is something that average reader won’t consider.  Then when a TV network shows a President’s wife answering a question put to the President, most folks won’t stop to think that there is some heavy duty game playing going on off camera.

An online pundit who points out that the sound byte provides an example of subconscious image building (or destroying?) that indicates the President is an example of the “hen pecked” syndrome will go as unnoticed as the sounds of a tree falling in the remote wilderness.  So why bother?

At 0600 hours on a Sunday morning, there isn’t much happening in Berkeley and running off to San Francisco isn’t usually going to provide a much greater smorgasbord of interesting diversions, so why bother?  It is, however, a good time to write a rough draft of the next scheduled column, if the writer has scoured the media and, on the preceding day, visited San Francisco looking for tidbits of information.

Why spend the time and money to go to looking for items in a column?

Do readers in London, Kalgoorlie (in Western Australia), and Concordia Kansas really care about a trend spotting item about the pizza at the Golden Boy bar in San Francisco?  Didn’t someone from Oakland land in Bartlett’s for saying “A trend, is a trend, is a trend!” or something quite similar?

The décor in the Golden Boy is heavy with slap art and it would take a considerable amount of work to expand that topic into column length but if we use it as an item, perhaps the assignment desk at the New York Times features desk will be inspired to assign that topic to one of the available writers and then we’ll just need to find and read the article to learn all about slap art.

Cold winter’s nights in Berkeley are an excellent time to read the classic novels that were assigned reading in high school and college many moons ago.  We might get a good column if we complete our reading of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”  We fully intend on writing a column as a review of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” when we finish reading it.

On Thursday December 5, 2013, another aspect of the pathetic plight of the citizen journalist became apparent when it was announced that the supply of Liberal voices on the radio was being considerably diminished.

Is an online pundit criticizing Compassionate Conservative Christian propaganda on hundreds of radio stations a fair fight?  Did anybody bet on the rebels holding off the Mexican army in the Alamo or was that situation so lopsided that the bookies declined any attempt to make such a long shot wager?

Many moons ago the World’s Laziest Journalist facetiously suggested that eventually the effort to present the Liberal point of view on radio for Americans would eventually lead to a modern pundit doing a Wolfman Jack style of “voice in the wilderness” program on a very powerful signal being broadcast from outside the USA.  Our reasoning was that it did happen in Germany in the Thirties and it would happen again in the USA eventually.

If a fellow happens to be a digital hermit living in a pad without Internet access how will he be able to monitor Liberal radio?  It ain’t gonna happen.

We could still write about news that intrigues us such as the possibility that Tom Cruise will play Carroll Shelby in film to be title “Drive like Hell.”

We could write a column that features a “Twilight Zone” fan reading some forbidden Liberal Punditry about the Republican long range game plan and mutters:  “It’s a cookbook!”

We could (maybe) find a two pound dog and use an image of that beast to symbolize Progressive Talk in the dog eat dog world of the contemporary scene on the radio dial.

There was a comedian back in the day who did a routine speculating about what would happen if the only rule parents gave to their kids was:  “Don’t put beans in your ear.”  Maybe Liberal talk show hosts should hawk T-shirts advising:  “Don’t put clandestine radio ear candy in your brain!” and watch their ratings soar.

When will the Republicans learn the lesson Rev. Gene Scott taught the audience in L. A.  Shouldn’t some forward thinking radio station be using the old “Best of” trick to broadcast Rush Limbaugh 24/7 every day of the year?

Watching Progressive Talk radio do the Cheshire Cat disappearing act, we are reminded of the last two sentences in “1984:”  “He had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother.”

Now the disk jockey will play Dave Van Ronk’s “Romping through the Swamp,” Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” and Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “The Cruel War.”  We have to go to a hootenanny.  Have a “Kumbaya” type week.

November 15, 2013

Triple J, Sky Rock, and Radio Caroline

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:26 pm


Many disk jockeys say that there is no “there” in Oakland but a columnist says otherwise.

[Note:  We leave it up to other pundits to write columns about the latest developments in the ACA political donnybrook.  A nostalgic look at radio may not be cutting edge commentary but that’s the way the cookie crumbles for this week’s installment of a column from the World’s Laziest Journalist.  Who knows?  Maybe a change of pace in the midst of a tsunami of facts about health insurance will be a breath of fresh air.]

Norman Goldman, the talk radio host who promulgates the philosophy that labels are inaccurate and confining, asserts that radio personalities are entering a new age when radios are superfluous.  Since we heard Triple J radio online long before we used a small battery operated Sanyo to tune in to the source for Australian music, we grok what he says but it was a much more visceral experience to hold the radio and work the tuner to listen to that unique blend of voices and music.

When we think of going to visit friends in close proximity to the Big Apple, our heart leaps up at the chance to hear Harry Harrison reassuring the audience that they live in the greatest city in the world but that Eastern Airlines (“The Wings of Man”) stand read to whisk them away to far away places with strange sounding names.  We have to take a deep breath and say:  “That was then; this is now.”

Armstrong and Getty boldly assert that they have “the hottest show on the West Coast.”  There was a time, though, when things were different.  Living at Lake Tahoe as the Sixties came to a close, radio reception was very limited because of the basin which meant that very few AM radio signals could be picked up.  The two local stations were on opposite ends of the AM dial and so it was that switching from one to another meant a sweep of the AM dial and in that process you would hear a third signal.  Fine tune it and you would hear a raspy voice claiming that his radio show was heard from coast to coast and border to border.  A signal wall to wall and tree-top tall was heard in 38 states.  The people who heard Wolfman Jack before seeing American Graffiti know what the true definition of “the hottest radio show” used to be.

How could Wolfman Jack possibly have been that popular if he never took a position on the Affordable Care Act?

Heck, now folks with Internet access can be in South Lake Tahoe and listen to Triple J in Australia, Sky Rock in Paris (France not Texas), and Radio Caroline.  It’s no wonder that Pan Am has vanished.  Radio fans don’t need to travel to hear those radio stations.

We did listen, whilst in Sydney Oz, to Skid Row Radio but we have not fact checked listening to them via the Berkeley Public Library computers.

When we went to Paris in 1986 (how can a 28 year old columnist remember a trip to Paris almost 28 years ago?  [Trade secret.]) we packed a comparatively bulky portable radio to enhance the “we are really there” aspect of the experience.

Some other time we may expand the question “Why do Internet sites aggregate only American radio broadcasts and not include ones from outside the USA?” into a full column but not today.

Norman Goldman uses sound bytes of politicians to punctuate his broadcasts and that often reminds us of the first time we heard the version of “What the world needs now” augmented by various sound bytes.  We heard it on WABC and they usually played only one song at a time and when we heard that version of that song for the first time, they quickly followed with another song.  We have always assumed that the DJ, like us, had been caught off guard and was knocked on his ass by what he heard and couldn’t say anything.  Is the Pan Am building still called the Pan Am building by old timers?

That was just about the time WICK in Scranton had changed to the talk show format.  We called in to ask Evel Knievel which of the many hospitals he had stayed in had the best looking nurses.  He said the one in Las Vegas.  I had stayed in the hospital in Carson City Nevada and the nurses their all talked about what a good patient Kenivil had been.

WICK had been a sensation when they were one of the first stations in North Eastern Pennsylvania to play “Rock’n’Roll” music.  They used some Polish language broadcasts on Sunday morning to pay the bills and more than a few Irish Catholic Democrats picked up on phrases in Polish while waiting after Sunday Mass for the format to change back to the usual new music.  What ever happened to Fats Domino?

Their arch rival WARM used the WARMland shtick to excess during the winter months.  WARM ridiculed sports news by giving the results of a fictional match up between the Honeypot Cheaters and the MacAdoo Stompers every week during football season.

Before Dick Clark’s American Bandstand was picked up by the ABC TV network, they expanded from their Philadelphia flagship station to one other area TV station, WNEP in the Scranton Wilkes Barrie area.

A Southern California high school football team with the Fighting Arabs as their mascot have been in the news lately and since there really is a town called Honeypot we wonder what their high school’s mascot is.  What about Intercourse Pa.’s high school’s mascot?

The mascot of the Whittier CA college is “the Poets.”

Lately with the ACA 24/7 marathon we have searched in vain for KFOG but can’t find that old stalwart radio signal from the Sixties.  Can’t seem to find KABL either.

We didn’t hear Don Sherwood until he got his gig up at Lake Tahoe.  They had called his radio program the “Will Sherwood Show?” show because more than once the city’s top disk jockey called in sick.

Then the “shock jock” era began.  Whatever happened to Don Imus?

Did Westwood One and the count down format really get started in a former rug store in Culver City?  The last time we heard Dr. Demento we were living in L. A.  We should try fishing around to see what station carries his Sunday night show in the San Francisco area.

Since political punditry from Uncle Rushbo’s clones seems ubiquitous on the radio, we think a new radio format or a resurrected old one might be like rain in the desert for listeners who have been pummeled by nonstop criticism of Obama and have nothing but more of the same to look forward to for the next three years.

Why doesn’t some intrepid radio format wunderkind implement a format that uses a bilingual approach.  Folks who want to learn English could learn English and the gringos who want to know what the Spanish speaking employees are saying could benefit from such a style of newscasts.  We had an Aunt in Santa Monica who knew enough about baseball that she could have coached a high school team so she learned Spanish by turning on the TV, turning down the sound, and listening to the Dodger games on Spanish language radio.  She got to be quite proficient at it.

We can remember working at a large University in the Westwood Section of Los Angeles and we picked up a fair degree of proficiency in Spanish.  Once when the head honcho’s lackey came into the room the manager announced to the room in Spanish:  Watch what you say because she’s the department head’s spy.  The interloper didn’t speak Spanish so the general announcement went right over her head.  Since our Spanish was good enough to know what was said we felt like we were “one of the group.”

In the Seventies, one L. A. radio station played only big band era music.  We loved the music but since the commercials were all about Depends, denture adhesives, and hemorrhoid medicines, we opted out.

If some San Francisco station went to all Sixties music, now, we’d be tuned in to them in a New York minute.  What if they played Sixties music and ran news from 50 years ago today?  Could they call it Nostalgia Radio?

A column about radio and nostalgia reminds us how annoyed a friend used to get when, in 1968, we would often say:  “Back in 1968 . . .” and he would get mad and say “Damn it!  It is 1968!”  He died several years ago.

[Note from the photo editor:  Is the gigantic “THERE” in the East Bay actually proof that there is a “THERE” in Oakland or is it actually in Berkeley and a confirmation of the folk wisdom that, in Oakland, there is no THERE there?  Ask your favorite DJ.]

Back in 1968, a one-liner that was ubiquitous went;  “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

Now, our disk jockey, who really appreciates good guitar work, will play us out with Link Wray’s “Rumble,” Henry Mancini’s “theme from Peter Gunn,” (that’s Duane Eddy on guitar), and Jody Reynold’s “Endless Sleep.”  We have to go buy some strings for a friend’s sitar.  Have a “we’ll do it live!” type week.

February 19, 2013

Doublethink für Dummkopfs

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:21 pm

When the Berkeley Barb was busy railing against the Vietnam War, the editors would have to throw in some change-of-pace items to provide readers with a bit of serendipity outrage and so occasionally lefties would be asked to save a ration of their activist energies to become upset with the fact that some kindred spirits were being given life sentences for possession of a single marijuana cigarette.

The conservatives were adamant that the hippies in flyover country were getting what they deserved.  Now they wonder if they’d catch the liberals off guard by suggesting that any of those lifers who are still in prison should be given a pardon and their freedom.

Any kid who was given a life sentence in 1968, will if he or she were 20 years old at the time, be turning 65 this year.  What conservative wouldn’t be a walking example of schadenfreude in action if the folks who have been in prison all this time are given a full pardon (and thus save their state the cost of their incarceration) and face a life of retirement coping with a monthly Social Security check of Zero?

Isn’t it odd that in the states that had a liberal attitude towards pot smokers back when LBJ was the president, they are now experiencing a wave of change that indicates that rather than bring a liberal attitude to the states where some pot heads may still be serving out their life sentences, the states that were liberal are now being urged to fill their privatized prisons with culprits who wanted to toke up.  Would that be a retroactive “win” for the states that handed out life sentences for pot, all those years ago?

The CBS Evening News recently reported that many youths who are detained on possible violations of gun laws in Chicago must be released because of crowded prisons which make incarcerating the gun packing kids impossible.

No liberal or conservative will ever suggest sending the pistol packin’ punks from Chi to a privatized prison in Cali because the folks who run the privatize prisons aren’t going to want to deal with thugs.  Doesn’t it make sense that running a prison for space cadets who just want to chill is a much more appealing prospect than supervising a building full of toughs who know all about zip guns, shivs, and gang war brawling?

So it is that after all these years, the life sentences for pot are being retroactively ratified rather than revoked.

The kids who got a life sentence in the Sixties for a single reefer are now reaching that stage of life where constant medical attention will be subsidized by the states where they reside.  What conservative would not endorse the cost reduction option of cutting them loose at this late date and teaching them the value of self reliance via the old sink or swim tough love pardons?

If filling California privatized prisons with pot smokers while cutting shooters loose in Chicago doesn’t make sense to the readers of this column, perhaps they can start to change their thinking by rereading George Orwell’s novel “1984” and paying particular attention to the passages explaining the concept of “double think.”

At first the challenge of simultaneously holding two contradictory thoughts may seem like an impossible assignment, but if a white belt in a “double think” class watches the Republicans holding political offices it soon becomes evident that proficiency in “double think” can be achieved.

Students of double think, naturally, start their journey to enlightenment with the most difficult assignments.

For instance, a student will learn that George W. Bush didn’t have to have provide a coherent explanation for how the World Trade Center buildings fall down and go boom, other than “fool me twice . .  . won’t get fooled again!,” but President Obama must explain where he was and what he was doing (and with whom) when the attack on Bengazi was first being reported and then he must provide a full minute by minute account of how it was permitted to occur.  A double standard for explanations?  Are you really baffled by the question of “Why would one standard be applied to ‘Tex,’ and another to a Democratic President from . . . Hawaii?”

Students start shouting “Tell us!” and repeat the chant over and over again until they work themselves into a frenzy.  Try this at home and see if, after a couple a strong drinks and a few hours of chanting, you aren’t ready for a good old fashioned “necktie party.”

If a country is full of frustrated long term unemployed people, why not open up the employment market more by giving citizenships to resident illegal aliens?

Why would Americans believe that sending troops into harm’s way in a country where it is are just as likely for the locals to blow them up as it is for the enemy to set off an IUD, is a matter of necessity?  Isn’t it obvious that a country that has been reliant on the patriarch tradition that is centuries old, they’ll be ripe for change and anxious to try this Democracy fad?

If invading Iraq in a search for nonexistent WMD’s worked out so well, what’s the delay for doing a replay in Iran?

In a nation that fought WWII to preserve the Four Freedoms, isn’t it obvious that as the liberal media does the Cheshire cat disappearing act there will be growing need for liberals to buy a copy of “Conservative Thinking für Dumbkopfs” before they get tossed into Room 101 for a bit of attitude adjustment?

Speaking of that, it seems to us that the St. Patrick’s Day festivities at O’Kelly’s bar (and the nearby Tiki bar?) at Guantanimo will be the wildest blowout since the good old days at the Purple Porpoise.  (If you have to ask, you don’t have the security clearance to get an explanation.)

That brings to mind an old perplexing question:  Was Felix Rodriguez pulling our leg when he bragged that, oh so long ago, a member of the Berkeley City Council (whom only he called “Che”) was causing a sensation singing at amateur night at the local C&W bars?

Rather than spinning our wheels futilely on liberal causes that will be filibustered in the court of pop culture, the new thinking at the World’s Laziest Journalist headquarters is that we should point out that Mick Jagger has song numerous noteworthy duets and Willie Nelson has had an album using all famous singing partners (“Half Nelson”), so why haven’t they teamed up with each other?  Who wouldn’t like to hear them do a duet for a rerecording of “On the road again”?  Or “Crazy”?  Or “Satisfaction”?

What would it sound like if a clever recording engineer, spliced together the Mick Jagger (from “Ned Kelly”) and John Wayne (from “The Quiet Man”) versions of the song “Wild Colonial Boy”?

If it’s true, as we have read in James Michener’s novel “Texas,” that when Texas joined the Union, they included in the agreement, a clause that says at their option they could break up into five separate states (which would mean 10 men in the Senate), we wonder if the talk about secession might not take a surprising new turn someday soon.

We have been told (hearsay evidence isn’t admissible in court)  that at one time in the past, the airplanes at a Texas Air Force base were picking up the AM band broadcasts (on super station XERF) of Wolfman Jack.

Speaking of going in new directions and doublethink, we might start to do some market research fact finding to learn the potential for forming a group to promote and appreciate hypocrisy.

Liberals who have never even tried doublethink can not conceive how a gay, pot smoking, Republican could ever endorse his party’s agenda, but if the liberals ever embrace hypocrisy it will be “game over” for the Republicans at election time.

Meanwhile, until that day comes, we have an FDR utterance for our closing quote.

Bartlett’s quotes a speech given, by FDR, on October 30, 1940, as saying:  “Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

Now the disk jockey will play George Hamilton IV’s “Abilene,” Dean Martin’s “Houston,” and Marty Robin’s “El Paso.”  We have to go do a Google News search for Sgt. Sunshine, the SF policeman who toked up on the front steps of City Hall way back when.  Have a “I’m a rich boy now!” type of Giant week.

October 5, 2012

Was Mitt a bit too frenzied?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:24 pm

In contemporary American Society fact checking has become passé and so this column has not been fact checked.

Attempting to write a column that adds new and perceptive insights to a discourse that has already disintegrated into BS gridlock is a fool’s errand, but at 0530 hrs on a Friday morning in Berkeley CA, there ain’t much else to do. You can make some coffee and start writing or you can go back to sleep, which sometimes is something you can’t do by sheer force of will.

Sometimes after a middle of the night trip to the bathroom, we turn on the radio to see what Mike Malloy is saying on XERB, where his show follows the Wolfman Jack show. On the broadcast for Thursday October 2, 2012, heard in the San Francisco Bay area between 1 and 3 a.m. PDT on Friday monring, Mike was offering the opinion that perhaps President Obama had to make a concerted effort to not look like an angry black man.

Norm Goldman reminded his listeners of a similar situation and noted that President Obama’s personality is one of being a quiet and thoughtful person who does not get drawn into any brawls verbal or physical. Norm pointed out that the President has earned his nickname “no drama Obama.” He suggested that perhaps the President should have done an imitation of St. Ronald Reagan and said something like: “there you go . . . fibbing again.”

News media reported that several different instant polls had given a decisive win to Mitt Romney. Last week polls that showed the President had an impressive lead in swing states were loudly denounced for being slipshod and unreliable, but the ones that made Mitt look good were apparently and suddenly impeccable examples of what the polling industry is capable of producing.

Norm criticized the fact that many people were closely analyzing the body language of the debaters and not paying close attention to the substance of the dialogue. All the body English criticisms seem to be directed against only one of the participants in the boring debacle. How, we wondered, did Mitt earn a pass?

Long ago a political pundit in Germany wrote: “All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.”

President Obama seems to have assumed that the folks watching the TV show had a policy wonk level of comprehension of tax policy. Mitt seems to not want to bother his listeners with information that reaches the “pick the fly excrement out of the salad” level of preciseness.

The people who insisted on evaluating the speakers’ body English as a method of judging the debate itself, seem to have focused exclusively on the President. The World’s Laziest Journalist noted during the split screen segments that quite often Mitt seemed to be exhibiting the nervous frantic mode of operation. Would Mitt’s jittery behavior have aroused any suspicion if it was observed by a policeman during a traffic stop? It’s not that he appeared to have been inebriated. Quite the opposite. His extreme animation couldn’t possibly have been chemically induced . . . could it?

(Didn’t the aforementioned German political pundit use some performance enhancing substances?)

What was with the black spot on his American Flag lapel pin? We looked online and found some speculation but we did not find a plausible explanation of it. (Could it have been a tribute to the oil industry?)

Many years ago, a Military Police Officer casually mentioned that when he and his fellow officers were, during off hours, playing a friendly game of mind-fuck with each other, the most devastating criticism they could offer was: “you are acting like a hysterical old lady.”

We were reminded of that nostalgic bit of advice on Wednesday night as we watched Mitt’s lightening fast jerky movements and wondered if the old disconcerting assertion was relevant to the debater’s demeanor.

Many years ago novelist Norman Mailer made the assertion that the most damaging thing a celebrity (or politician?) can do is to go against type and that might explain why “no drama Obama” didn’t unload a verbal knockout punch but sometime an unexpected reaction can be very effective.

In a different galaxy many moons ago, we knew a young lady who we had never once heard use the word “fuck.” When we heard her say “Fuck off, Bob,” it was very effective oratory and it got its intended result immediately.

The trouble with the 2012 Presidential election snapped into focus when we heard Merle Haggard sing “Drink up and be somebody” while writing the column on a “crash cloes” basis.

There are two candidates trying desperately to win the votes of guys who wouldn’t touch either one of them with a ten-foot pole.

Can anyone really imagine either candidate going into a honky-tonk bar to do some campaigning?

The two lawyers from the Harvard-Yale axis back east are trying to convince the good ole boys to vote for either one of the two who would be called “slick” in a bar that plays C&W music on the jukebox.

Do you really think that a guy with a horse that participates in dressage competitions can sing the lyrics to “I turned 21 in prison doing life without parole”?
The other guy tries to debate as if it is an exercise in etiquette. He should listen to the words of “Colorado Kool-Aid” and then tell Mitt that he should wear his knife-proof earmuffs to the next debate.

Seeing Harvard-Yale lawyers trying to mix with just plain folks in the local diner is theater of the absurd cubed.

Either one of them would do better to imitate the English poet who was regarded as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” than to pretend they might qualify for votes from the “Ladies Love Outlaws” crowd.

In a bar with Waylon and Willie’s song “Clean Shirt” on the jukebox, could Bishop Romney really carry it off if he ordered sarsaparilla? That would be fun to watch.

When will either the Romney or the Obama campaigns release the tie-breaking photos of the candidate clearing brush on his ranch?

Luckily the electronic voting machines can take all these various factors into consideration before awarding an indisputable result to the eagerly waiting journalists around the globe.

In “Kingdom of Fear,” Hunter S. Thompson wrote: “On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”

Now, the disk jockey will crank up the volume and play: Tony and the Bandits’ song “I can’t lose,” the Partridge Family’s song “Something’s wrong,” and the Grateful Dead’s song “Throwing Stones.” We have to go be one of the million and a half visitors in San Francisco this weekend. Have a “this must be bat country” type week.

December 23, 2011

Can the homeless spend America back to prosperity?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:42 pm

Sophie in San Francisco

There is a statue in San Francisco named “Sophie” (in front of the hotel at Geary and Mason) and we have always thought that it should have been named “statue of a weary Christmas shopper.” We made an effort to get another photo of it to use with a Yuletide column that will be the columnist’s equivalent of a bunch of “stocking stuffers” because going and taking a new photograph was easier than trying to sort through a massive amount of digital files trying to find an existing image file of that statue.

As Christmas day approached we learned that the San Francisco radio station that presents liberal talk radio was about to change its lineup and format. It will go for a balanced format that will diminish the effectiveness of the few liberal radio programs available and help the conservative majority of radio gain even more air time. Glen Beck will become their 6 – 9 a.m. morning drive time show. Stephanie Miller will be moved from that time slot to an evening tape-delayed rebroadcast time of 7 to 10 p.m.

Mike Malloy will be moved from being a live feed from 6 to 9 p.m. on the West Coast to being a taped delayed version at 1 – 3 a.m. We have thought about doing a column comparing Malloy to other legendary radio personalities from the past. If you haven’t heard his show you are missing a contemporary American culture phenomenon.

We have also dabbled, many moons ago, in conjecture about the possibility that liberal radio might eventually be relegated to the “underground press” mode of existence and become a clandestine pleasure/source of real news. We imagined that in America’s drift towards fascism, true journalism might be forced to revert to the use of a high power signal originating from a transmitter in Mexico.

It would be as if the concepts of Combat newspaper (of French resistance fame) and the Wolfman Jack radio program were combined to provide Americans with news that can’t be heard in a country that is world famous for its free press.

That, in turn, made us wonder if the concept of Liberal political punditry has become extinct. If that is true, then it seems expedient that the World’s Laziest Journalist should concentrate on mundane matters and expand the scope of the columns to include topics such as speculation about the Oscars™ (look for a heavyweight championship bout between Spielberg and Scorsese this year), automobiles, travel, and feature photography.

Recently we raised a concern that the Occupy protesters might receive a much more harsh treatment than usual and wind up occupying some of the privatized prisons cells. We were assured that such concern was unwarranted alarmism. Now we see where some of the folks from Occupy Los Angeles are making an appeal to get financial help with their bail. They have to come up with several thousand dollars each. Is bail for trespassing usually that high? For more information on the topic of how to contribute, click this link:

Did the news coverage of the “tax cut” issue leave you feeling like you had been played in a manner that brings to mind the song Pinball Wizard? Were you alarmed by the fact that the (Murdoch owned) Wall Street Journal and Karl Rove brought the teabag congressmen in line very quickly?

If our concerns two years ago that JEB would be the Republican nominee in 2012 are summarily dismissed as the work of a conspiracy theory nut-job, then perhaps the few regular readers will be quick to encourage this columnist to apply for the press credentials needed to cover the annual 24 hour endurance race at Le Mans in the middle of next year.

If we are going to deemphasize political predictions and focus on feature stories, perhaps we could get a column out of a visit to the 941 Art Gallery in San Francisco (Geary St. at Larkin) and do a story on Blek le Rat, the artist who is credited with being a major influence for the British artist named Banksy.

(If Blek le Rat was in San Francisco preparing the exhibition that ends January 7, 2012, then perhaps he did the recent works in Berkeley that we have noticed and assumed to be from the Banksy school of contemporary art. Whatever happened to the old tradition of signing a signature on an artists’ work? If Broke does that, why can’t Banksy and Blek le Rat also provide that help for their fans?)

Would the time that it takes to write a column that contains some spot-on political predictions for a few dozen readers, be better spent by reading Hans Falada’s novel “Everyman dies Alone”?

If this columnist predicts that the Yankees will play in the World Series next fall, will friends or foes accuse him of being out of line? Do they use the electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail to select the participants in the annual baseball competition? How is the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame done?

Speaking of Christmas gifts, we are wondering if it is time to do a trend-spotting column about a new candidate for addition to the list of winter solstice holidays. It seems that the Native American culture is now promoting the Winter Pow-wow. It will celebrate peace and the brotherhood of all tribes (i.e. humanity). Native Americans have always been strong supporters of non-pollution. You can find the “Iron Eyes Cody” PSA on Youtube. The Apaches were anti-consumerism and believed that if a possession couldn’t travel with you on your horse, then you didn’t really need it.

In 2011, we missed our chance recently to do a column about Herman Cain, Citizen Kane and the fellow in the Columnists’ Hall of Fame named Herb Caen.

If it is a far, far better thing to drop political punditry, then perhaps we should do a column comparing and contrasting Los Angeles and San Francisco and use a headline referencing “Tale of Two Cities.”

Were more people killed during the riots at the 1968 Republican convention or the 1968 Democratic convention? Our fact checking department says that two people were killed during the Florida convention and none during the fracas in Chicago.

We thought that next year’s Republican Convention (as it was in 1968) would be held again in Miami, but upon further fact checking, we learned that it will be held in a Florida city where the Police Department has acquired a vast amount of military style equipment (just in case?).

Australians celebrate Christmas in their bathing suits at the beach. Do the Kiwis in New Zealand follow the same tradition? Not bloody well likely since New Zealand has just had two new earthquakes and will be busy with cleanup.

If, as we have been predicting, JEB Bush wins next year’s Presidential Election, we don’t intend on being the political punditry version of Hans Brinker. We will (like the tea bagger congressmen) accept Karl Rove’s decisions and focus our columns on feature topics and not kvetching about the restoration chapter in the continuing saga of the Bush Dynasty.

We note with great sadness that George Whitman of the famed Paris bookstore “Shakespeare and Co.” died recently. If, as we have been urging, the Existentialist Philosophers of Paris ever make up their minds to start work on the Nihilists’ Hall of Fame, there should be a plaque with this bit of the philosophy of life from Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “Oh laugh, Curtin, old boy. It’s a great joke played on us by the Lord, or fate, or nature, whatever you prefer. But whoever or whatever played it certainly had a sense of humor! Ha! The gold has gone back to where we found it!… This is worth ten months of suffering and labor – this joke is!”

Now the disk jockey (who dabbles in Existentialism himself) will play Duane Eddy’s version of “Ghost Riders,” the Rolling Stones’ “contractual obligation album,” and Edith Piaf’s “Le vie en rose.” We have to go buy a ticket for “The Wizard of Oz,” which will be playing in Oakland next Friday. Have an “It’s a wonderful life” type week.

February 19, 2011

“This isn’t fair!”

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

Getting a job in New York City in the mid Sixties presented a young man with a smorgasbord of delights and temptations. We were aghast to learn that a bottle of beer was three times more expensive there than in Scranton Pa. We encountered on enterprising fellow who had set up a gambling casino on top of a portable table. He was soliciting bets that you couldn’t keep up with the movement of the cards he was moving about. The Ace of Spades had a bent corner and it was child’s play to see where it had ended its wanderings. He wanted folks to bet on their powers of observation and he singled me out of the crowd for a personal challenge. Not wanting to take unfair advantage of the fellow, we offered to teach him a lesson for the symbolic wager of $1. He belittled us mercilessly and said we lacked the chutzpah (whatever that was) to make a substantial bet. Some other fellow in the crowd had the cajones to bet a double sawbuck. The tip-off flaw somehow failed to provide the intrepid soul with a windfall profit and the operator of the table top gambling casino reaped the rewards of his labor via some slight-of-hand magic.

When the fabled decade ended, we were living at Lake Tahoe and the greatest dog who ever lived (Baron Siegfried L. von Richthofen III [a sweetie when sober]) was a roommate. There were ample opportunities to play games of chance that were more closely regulated than the rouge operations we had seen in New York City, but as the Sixties came to a close, our efforts to duplicate the cynical W. C. Fields philosophy of life had taken firm root and we limited our gambling experiments to an annual loss of $35 and considered that an entertainment expense.

One time we walked into the office of a Public Relations official for one of the local casinos carrying the props for a photo which would illustrate a story about a local charity event. Since one of the props was a genuine shotgun, the PR official asked: “How did you get past security?” We told her “we just walked past.”

The other human roommate and I hosted weekly poker games. New decade; new vices?
There were some brief scurrilous rumors that Siegfried would eyeball the other fellows hands and then silently say what they were holding so that we could gain, via lip reading, an unfair advantage over our guests. It was one of the wildest conspiracy theories we have ever heard.

We were unaware of the FM revolution occurring in radio and since South Lake Tahoe is surrounded by a ring of mountains, the reception of AM stations was extremely limited. There were two stations in the basin and we could on good nights pick up clear signal KFI from Los Angeles and some station in Texas with a wild disk jockey with a distinctive voice who touted himself with the phrase “coast to coast, border to border, wall to wall and tree-top tall.” “They say” you could hear him in 38 states.

Times have changed. Things are different. Back then folks protested the Vietnam War. We understand that there will be a new protest for the latest war in Washington on March 19th this year. Is there a new war to protest or is it a display of sentimental nostalgia for the “usual suspects”? We presume that the artists will include Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and . . . perhaps the Kinks?

Some folks, who seem to be as naive and trusting as the aforementioned “rube” in “swinging” New York City was, think that only conspiracy theory nuts (Hi, mom!) distrust the results of the paperless electronic voting machines.

This columnist realizes that his efforts to emulate the jaded cynical paranoid attitude of the hero/victim in Hemingway’s “The Killers” is a tad maudlin, but the fact that the crimp in the corner of the card still bothers us.

If hustlers believe that only big stakes make displaying their talents worth the effort, then couldn’t one political party play with reckless abandon if they were playing with a marked deck? The marked decks in magician supply stores are sold for entertainment purposes only – but some Svengali types find it very entertaining to “separate the suckers from their money.” Don’t look now, but aren’t the efforts of the capitalists very similar to the mad scramble images conjured up by the phrase “Great Oklahoma land rush”?

If (subjunctive mood) one Party wanted to cheat, wouldn’t they try to lure the suckers (“a measly dollar?”) into playing for major bucks? Why go to all that effort just to win $10? If the stacked/mark deck guarantees a sure win, why not put abortion, collective bargaining, and tax breaks on the line?

We didn’t intend writing a new column today. Rather than get up at 6 a.m. we slept in until 7. We took some snapshots of the snow in the higher elevations of Berkeley CA. We put some old music on the sound machine and . . . well, what else is there to do on a cold and wet morning in a city where the local University will soon start their baseball team’s last season. Budget cuts make sports fans unhappy, but just think how happy the billionaires are this morning.

“They say” things will get tougher before they get better. To which optimists and preachers of self-reliance only say: “You can bet on that!”

Nelson Algren is credited with being the original source for this bit of folk wisdom:
“Never play cards with any man named ‘Doc.’ Never eat at any place called ‘Mom’s.” And never, never, no matter what else you do in your whole life, never sleep with anyone whose troubles are worse than your own.”

Now the disk jockey will play Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Thirty-nine and holding,” “I wish I was 18 again,” and “Who is going to play this old piano?” We have to go see if we can score a pres pass to the Rolling Stones Concert (“what would you pay to hear a living legend sing?). Have an “abracadabra!” type week.

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