Monday, February 28, 2005


1964 was a great year for me. Age had not yet wreaked its havoc on my face and body. I lived in a pension (boarding house) in downtown San Francisco that catered to foreign ladies. I was resting up from an 18 month tour in Viet Nam but figured to go back. In the meantime, I played around, did some civic work and worked in the Johnson presidential campaign.

1964 was a lousy year for Lenny Bruce. He spent days in court. Police were in attendance at his every performance. He had to spend much time in San Francisco because that’s where his trials were. But in the city there was only one club with the courage to hire him, the Off Broadway which, if memory serves, sat no more than 50 or 60.

I went there often, dragging friends with me. Bruce was amazing. He must have been the greatest extemporaneous story teller that ever lived. He never did his act. If he had been in court that day, his entire performance would be his interpretation of what had happened in that court. From his character sketches of the participants, his common sense evaluations of the laws, and his insights into what was going on, the presentation was brilliant.

It was a lecture but it was a lecture that kept the packed house laughing. Just as remarkable, it was structured. There was a premise, then he would carry us on until he wrapped everything up in his conclusion. Did I say amazing?

Everything had the ring of honesty. He’d tell us why the police and prosecutors and judges were doing what they were doing but he’d tell it from their side, very sympathetically. I don’t think he did that because there were police in the audience.

On that subject, Bruce several times mentioned that he had to tape every performance in case he had to defend himself again in court. I have often wondered if those tapes still exist. If they do, they are worth millions.

I was very sad that he died and the way he died. He had sworn to me, (as an audience member, I didn’t know him personally) that he didn’t use drugs. Perhaps drug use helped him to reach the heights of clarity that he achieved. I don’t know. But I would compare his efforts to the work of George Orwell in Orwell’s autobiographical books.

Rest in peace.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


Yeah. That really happened some years ago. My crime? I said people shouldn’t be jailed just for using drugs. Ah… Sweet, sweet irony. Let me reflect on that for a moment. Ah…

But I still support him.

Years later when, against my “advice,” Laura Ingraham joined the right wing’s ill-advised, poorly thought-out, campaign against indecency in broadcasting, I told her that I would still support her after she appeared in Playboy. She was not grateful or amused. Wonder why?

These are two reasons why the liberals will eventually come back. The right will move farther and farther to the right, gaining in arrogance as a result of election victories and lose all contact with the American people.

Even now, many right wingers despise moderate Republicans more than anyone else in the world.

Take Rush Limbaugh. (No jokes.) He has nothing but contempt for moderates in his own party. He often challenges listeners to name one moderate who has contributed to the growth of America. “No,” he will tell you, “it is the extremist who have made this country what it is today!” (I paraphrase.)

The catch is, he reserves the right to define who is an extremist. Name anyone who has contributed and he will claim him as an extremist. Even Abe Lincoln, of all people, he claims was an extremist. Who, in the history of The United States, was more of a moderate than Abraham Lincoln? The left has no lock on wackiness in politics.

Here’s a better question. Name one fat guy who has contributed to the growth of America. Well I did some research and I found some, much to my surprise. In the history of America there have been 1,037 fat guys who have contributed in some way. But at the same time I found 20,532 moderates who have been helpful. That’s a better than 20 to 1 ratio in favor of the moderates.

Even so, that many fat guys helping out surprised me. Then I realized my error. I redid the research to find out how many men who were fat in childhood were of value to the country. I found 54. That was more like it but it still didn’t satisfy me.

I thought and thought and finally came up with the answer. How many men who were fat as kids and as an adult were childless, have contributed to the good of the country? None. According to my research, not one.

So there you have it. The next time Limbaugh asks, “How many moderates have contributed anything to America?” you can answer, “20,532,“ and cite me as a source. Then ask him “How many men who were fat in childhood and grew up childless have contributed anything?” There you’ve got him cause there haven’t been any.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


When I was a kid growing up around San Bruno Ave. in San Francisco a bunch of the older boys formed a club called the “Vandals.” Despite its name, it was a very responsible boys club. They sponsored charities, had sports programs, and were active in civic affairs among other things.

It seemed like all the best kids in the area belonged to this club. By best I mean the ones with the best personalities, the non-bullies, the non-creeps, the non-schmucks. It seems as if that included almost half the kids in that age group. That was a great generation. (They all went on to fight in WW2.)

They had a club sweater which, I think, they all wore all the time. You could tell they wore it with pride. Belonging to that club made them even better people than they had been. Everyone, including grown-ups, admired and respected them. The sweater was like a sign that said, “Here is a good person.”

The other kids, the bullies-creeps-schmucks, lobbied continually to be let in the club. They even had friends in the club who lobbied on their behalf, all to no avail.

We would tease the ones who were left out. “You’re not good enough,” we would yell at them. They would give us the finger, or bully us, or swear at us in return, but they knew we were right.

Then one day we were shocked to see some of the bullies-creeps-schmucks wearing “Vandals” sweaters. It saddened me. The new members didn’t walk with pride, it was more like a swagger. We taunted them. “Looks like they’re taking anyone now.” “You guys don’t belong.” They gave us the finger, or bullied us, or swore at us in return, but they knew we were right.

Belonging to the club didn’t seem to make the new members better people. But the club seemed to deteriorate and pretty soon it was no more.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


(Not a revue, a mention.)

My cousin once asked me, “Why would you keep a movie that you’ve already seen?”

I visited friends one time and marveled that they had a VCR and only one tape which they used over and over.

It takes all kinds and I‘m a different kind. I brought with me to Bangkok more than a thousand movies and two VCRs. Blame a very low threshold of boredom.

Looking through my collection the other day I found my copy of “Coldblooded.” This is a movie that has grown on me. It’s one of those movies that I like better every time I see it.

“Coldblooded” is a sly, subtle, dark comedy almost completely devoid of jokes. Critics didn’t like it, generally, and it never found an audience, but it’s a very good movie. Quirky but good.

Jason Priestly plays a nerd who works for the “mob” answering the phone at a book. The boss calls him in one day and tells him he’s promoted to hit man. That’s funny but it’s done completely straight. Priestly, after a training period as a hit man, becomes adept but never gets over being a dead-pan nerd. He walks like a nerd. He stands like a nerd. He even sits like a nerd. I think it’s a pretty good job of acting, comparable to Peter Sellers in “Being There.”

Highlights are many. He has a pleasant, polite conversation with Michael J. Fox (who produced) and Fox’s wife before blowing them away. He pistol whips his girl friend’s previous boyfriend before inquiring about the girl’s likes and dislikes. Janeane Garafolo is very good as a prostitute who has a regular route, like a milkman, which she works with all the passion of a milkman.

The writer/director, Wallace Wolodarsky, is a multiple Emmy winner for The Simpson’s.

It occurs to me that perhaps my liking this film tells more about me than it does about the film. Naah.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


They should do a remake.

It was a great movie. One of the greatest. Remarkable performances. Jose Ferrer in a beautifully nuanced cameo as a Turkish officer. Claude Rains as a scheming advisor to generals. Alec Guiness hardly recognizable as an Arab prince. Anthony Quinn in a great performance as an Arab tribal chief. Omar Sharif in a career making role as an Arab sharif. And of course, on the screen almost throughout, Peter O’Toole.

The dialogue was inspired. There was one lightning bolt of a line, delivered flawlessly and angrily by Quinn: “There is no gold in Aqaba, He lied. He is not perfect.” That one line gave me chills. It explained more about Lawrence’s relations with the Arabs than could a thousand words.

So why do a remake? Lots of reasons.

1. It would make money (most important to Hollywood). Just the connection to the first would guarantee it some interest.

2. It’s been over 40 years since the first was made (1962).

3. Lawrence was a fascinating character. Fascinating characters make good movies.

4. Much of the first, though true to the spirit of Lawrence’s adventure, was not accurate. So what? So the truth will give just as dramatic incidents and give quite a different movie. One thing that was glossed over in the movie was the way Lawrence cut the Turkish communications and arranged a general uprising to coincide with the allied offensive from the west.

5. It’s a movie I would like to see.

I rest my case.


(There will be no singing during this rant.)

Whenever they question a journalist about his or her location on the political spectrum I’m reminded of a large lady I once worked with. She had eaten her way into a disabled license on her car and was gobbling her way toward life in a wheel chair. I tried to express my concern to her in a low key way, to no avail. It didn’t help that a couple of times a day an even larger lady passed by. My friend would turn to me and say, “See, I’m not so fat.”

So picture a fat farm. Dozens of oversized ladies frolicking on an expansive lawn. The least fat one would start thinking, ‘I’m not fat at all! I’m skinny!’

A news room reminds me of that fat farm. The place will be so full of liberals that an individual reporter would lose all perspective. The least liberal one would start thinking he was a conservative. Others could point to far out whack jobs and say, “See, I’m a moderate.”

Evidence was supplied by the media reporter of the LA Times, Tim Rutten. His first column (I think it was his first) on taking the job was to criticize The Fox News Channel for being too conservative! Was it a joke? No. He was being totally serious. He had no idea that he worked at one of the most liberally biased newspapers in America. That’s what happens when you become so totally immersed in the “Fat Farm” environment.

(Continuing, as Drudge would say.)

Saturday, February 19, 2005


It all started with this class in creative writing. It sounds pretty innocent but one thing led to another. They started off with poetry in this class. Actually, I came to find out, it was all about poetry. That wasn’t in the course description. But everyone else in the class seemed to know about it. They were regulars. They were a sort of poetry club, meeting every semester in this college classroom. Pretty slick.

It turns out I have this mental block concerning poetry. I couldn’t get over thinking poetry should rhyme. I know it’s stupid. I had that carefully explained to me. But I couldn’t get over it.
In the whole class I was the only one with that problem so I knew it must be me.

But I just couldn’t keep from rhyming. Not only would I get lousy grades on my stuff but the others were getting pretty hostile to me.

I knew I was the one who was wrong but I needed it explained to me why. So one day I asked in class, “So tell me, poetry that rhymes is bad, right? I‘m just trying to learn here,” I added so they wouldn’t think I was attacking them or like that.

“No. It’s not bad. It’s just inferior. There are too many constrictions that don’t exist in free verse.”

“Okay,” I said. Now here I had to be real careful because I didn’t want them to get more hostile to me than they already were. “So what happened to all that old poetry? You know, the stuff that did rhyme that they used to think was good? You didn’t burn those books, did you?”

“Oh no, no.” And here they forced some smiles and tried to look relaxed, you know, the way violent people do when they are trying to convince you that they aren’t violent. “That stuff is still around. It is good. It’s just not as good as it could have been.”

“If it didn’t rhyme,” I filled in.


I knew it wasn’t a put-on because I could sense their tenseness. Put-ons are relaxed. They were always up tight around me as if I were a threat to their beliefs. I know it sounds paranoid, but I always checked my car for a bomb when I left that class.

My work there was greeted with ridicule and loathing. No one would sit near me in class. Word got around campus. Students I didn’t know would snicker as I walked by. They called me “The Rhymer” behind my back. The professor suggested, in a sneering tone, that I should transfer to a song writing class. The students said I wrote greeting card poetry.

All the hostility and persecution finally wore me down. I couldn’t take it any more. I caved in completely. There was only one thing I could do and that was to write a blank verse poem. So I wrote one the regular way with everything rhyming, which was the only way I could write, and then I changed all the words that completed the rhymes. It only involved changing a dozen words or so. A typical stanza went like this:

The feel of spring is in the air,

Skies of brilliant blue.

Trails we walked, hills we climbed,

My thoughts are all of her.

My submittal was greeted with great surprise and pleasure by the instructor. He had taught me to unrhyme. He xeroxed my poem and distributed it to all the class. The other students looked at it with distrust, suspecting a trick. Once a rhymer, always a rhymer was their motto.
The professor was up front, going through my poem line by line, extolling its virtues. He was nearly finished when a guy in the back row stood up screaming, “It’s a trick! It’s a trick! He’s trying to make fools of us all!”
I knew I was in deep trouble. I stood up and dove for the door.
“Get him!” the professor shouted.
Four or five guys caught me and piled on. One punched me in the gut, knocking the air out of me. That hurt like hell.
“Don’t bruise him,” the professor shouted. “We don’t want any marks on him.”
They probably learned that from the last guy they lynched.
They held me while the guy from the back row went up front and explained what I had done, line by line. He must have been a crossword freak. He got it all right. “Then,” he said, “this guy would tell everyone how we liked it one way and didn’t like it the other without any basic changes in the poem.”
When he finished, the students started chanting, “Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!”
The professor raised his hands for silence and kept them raised until he got it. He strode over to me slowly, as if he were savoring every step. He stood over me with his legs spread and his hands on his hips.
“Okay, asshole,” he said. “I’m going to try to hold these animals in check for ten minutes. That’s how long you’ve got to get your miserable ass off this campus. If we ever see your worthless ass around here again, we’re going to kick the living shit out of you, comprendo?”
Wow. Those poets were a tough bunch. A little too anal aware but tough.
When I didn’t answer right away the professor kicked me hard in the ribs.
“Comprendo?” he asked again.
I nodded painfully.
“And then,” he went on, “You’ve got 24 hours to leave the country. We don’t want your kind in our America. If you think I’m kidding, stay and see what happens to you and your family.”
So that’s why I’m in hiding in Thailand. I understand there are still gangs of poets going around beating up guys who even look like me.

Friday, February 18, 2005


There’s a grabber headline for you. It’s not one you’ll often see, but in this case it is correct.

I’m talking what he said years ago about using “reaching base on error” as a statistic. He disdained and dismissed it. I think it would be a very useful statistic for these reasons:

1. Is speed a factor in “reaching?” (I’m going to use “reaching” or “reach” as shorthand for the whole phrase.) If so it would increase the value of speedy runners by a measurable amount.

2. Is there a hitter who consistently is among the leaders in “reaching?” Perhaps one who consistently hits low screamers to the left side? That would be valuable to know.

3. Is there a hitter who is unpopular with the press (think Ted Williams) who “reaches” a disproportionate number of times in his home park? Perhaps the victim of biased scoring?

4. Joe Dimaggio had more home runs than walks one season and more home runs than strikeouts in seven seasons. Wouldn’t a hitter who puts the ball in play that much “reach” far more than the average?

5. The reverse of (3), are there players who hardly ever “reach” in their home park? Who benefit from friendly scoring?

6. Would a hitter who hits into a lot of double plays because he hits hard ground balls also “reach” a lot for the same reason, which would negate the GIDP stat.

I think Bill James dismissed it as a stat because he saw it as a function of chance. He might be right. But if we don’t keep the stat, we won’t know, will we?

Thursday, February 17, 2005


During that OJ extravaganza I got involved in the effort to recall the nutty judge who awarded the custody of the children to the man who murdered their mother. (Her excuse: She was in a hurry because she was going on vacation!)

At one meeting of our group, on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, I mentioned that a police lieutenant had been helpful in our petition efforts.

It turned out some journalism students had been in the audience. For the next week I got calls at home every night from female journalism students asking for the identity of that officer. Someone had sigged them on to me in order to get that officer in some kind of trouble. What trouble, I don’t know.

After about a week of this, I got a call from a black man. At least I deduced he was black from his very strong accent. He said he was a former judge who was now teaching journalism at the university. He had assigned the class the project of uncovering the identity of that officer. I might as well tell because they would keep after me until I did.

I asked him, as a former judge, what he thought of the OJ case. “OJ be innocent!” he responded. No, that’s not exactly what he said, but it’s my memory and that’s the way I prefer to remember it. So there.

After the call my bullshit detector was rumbling and rumbling. Let’s see. A black guy. A former judge. Now teaching journalism. OJ be innocent. A bunch of female students. This was easy.

The next night a girl (of course) called and pumped again for the name of the officer. Instead, I asked her if there was any truth that their instructor had been making inappropriate advances to some of the girls in the class. I said I’d heard that was going on and I was going to make inquiries to find out if it was true.

I never got another call.

Never bullshit a bullshitter.

We didn’t get enough signatures for the recall but the judge was severely rebuked by a superior court on the appeal.

Monday, February 14, 2005


By Walter Guest
(This piece was published in the humor section of the LA times a while ago.)
I have to speak out. It’s time someone did. America is wasting one of its great national treasures, and it’s a disgrace.
I’m talking about the sad plight of the television, movie and literary critics. The recession has hit this group as bad or worse than any other and not one voice has been heard advocating its cause. Not one congressman has introduced a bill to relieve their distress. And yet the evidence of their plight is everywhere. I have never seen so many out-of-work critics.
Just the other day on the way to my office in Hollywood, I saw this poor fellow on the corner. He was holding a tin cup and had a sign that said, “Criticism: Five Cents.” I was wearing a large brass buckle and I wasn’t sure it went with my outfit, so I put a nickel in his cup and asked:
“How’s my buckle?”
“You could use a shine.”
I waited a moment but he didn’t continue, so I asked again, “How’s my buckle?”
“You only get one criticism for a nickel.”
I put another nickel in his cup.
“I’d change the tie.”
“I wanted to know about the buckle.’
“For nickel, I choose. For a dime, you choose.”
“It doesn’t say that on your sign.”
“It doesn’t need to. All my regulars know that.”
“When do you get to the buckle?”
“After you haircut and suit.”
“That’d cost 15 cents more?”
”OK. Here’s a dime. How’s my buckle?”
“Doesn’t work for me. I’d lose it.’
A couple of days later I saw a guy at the side of the road with a sign that said, “Will Criticize For Food.” He looked awfully hungry. Of course I pulled over right away because it looked like a great deal for me.
The guy was really good. Even before we got to my house he had straightened me out on my driving and told me everything wrong with my car. I had always like that car until then. If it hadn’t been for him, I would still be driving an inferior car and not even know it.
Just before we got to my place, on a whim, I decided to take him to a restaurant instead of my house. OK, it wasn’t just a whim. I had live in that house only a few months and didn’t feel like moving again.
But I made a mistake and took him to a restaurant that I kind of liked until then. Still, I found out a lot about the life of a critic.
Said he had a miserable home life. His wife wouldn’t let him alone. “Do you like this, dear? How was dinner, dear? Is my new hat all right, dear?”
He finally had to tell her, “Hey! I’m not working now. Can’t I rest?”
She wouldn’t quit so he had to leave her.
Friends were just as bad, he said, so he finally had to tell them: “If you made doughnuts, how would you feel if I kept asking you for free samples? Well this is how I make my living. No free samples.”
He also told me how he warmed up on the way to work: ‘There’s a nice car over there…. Look at that pile of junk…..Liked the way that light changed on time…. That driver is insensitive and obviously inexperienced.’
Our conversation certainly opened my eyes. These people are absolutely invaluable to us. There are countless things that we’d be perfectly happy with if a critic hadn’t pointed out their defects. There are many more things that we’re using right now that we think we like because no one has pointed out to us what’s wrong with them.
And that’s not right!
Things have gone bad, my critic concluded: The recession. There have been cutbacks. Lots of good critics are out of work.”
He sighed, then took a bite from his third piece of “barely adequate” pie.

Friday, February 04, 2005


I think the FCC has broken some laws. Probably the RICO anti-racketeering law among others.
Here is their M. O.:

They levied fines against a large communications corporation. The fines amounted to millions of dollars. That’s all right so far. Congress has given them that power.

The corporation didn’t think the fines were deserved and wanted to have a day in court. That is the American way. No commission is above the law and such things can be appealed through the courts.

But here is where the FCC broke the law. They refused to go to court and instead held up broadcast license renewals and refused to grant new licenses to the corporation.

This was a growing corporation and the FCC stranglehold on their licenses threatened to cripple their business. The FCC blatantly ransomed the licenses to an American business. Their behavior was disgraceful and some, if not all, of those commissioners should go to jail. They are no better than the mafia.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


I’m not an advocate of passing a lot of laws. I think there are far more citizens in prisons than need to be there. But something needs to be done about hackers. See this:

Jan 28, 4:55 PM (ET)SEATTLE (Reuters) - A federal judge sentenced a teenager to a year and half of prison on Friday for releasing a variant of the Blaster worm that was used to attack more than 48,000 computers.
Jeffrey Lee Parson, 19, appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle, where he was also ordered to perform community service, pay restitution and be placed under supervision for three years following the sentence.
It’s time we called these people what they are. They are internet terrorists. Whether or not their goal is to cripple communication and commerce and disrupt private lives, that is the result of releasing these viruses on the internet.

This 19-year-old young man was caught and got 18 months in prison. Did the punishment fit the crime? Further down in the story is this:

Attorneys from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, a Seattle suburb, said that damages could easily amount to more than a million dollars.

So the clown got 18 months for a million dollars worth of damage. That works out to about 1800 dollars a day. That doesn’t seem equitable. That asshole will never see the day he can earn that much. Why not sentence these domestic terrorists to a length of time in proportion to the damage they have caused? In this case ten years would amount to $100,000 a year. Still not enough but a hell of a lot better than a lousy 18 months.

I’m sure that giving them sentences like that would discourage a lot of the hackers.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I have often been bewildered by the reporting on CNNI (we only get the International edition here). The following helps to explain a lot:

« At the blog session Main Davos Man 2005 »

Do US Troops Target Journalists in Iraq?

Davos, Switzerland from the WEF 2005

This fiery topic became a real nightmare today for the Chief News Executive of CNN at what was an initially very mild discussion at the World Economic Forum titled "Will Democracy Survive the Media?".
At a discussion moderated by David R. Gergen, the Director for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, the concept of truth, fairness, and balance in the news was weighed against corporate profit interest, the need for ratings, and how the media can affect democracy. The panel included Richard Sambrook, the worldwide director of BBC radio, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, Abdullah Abdullah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, and Eason Jordan, Chief News Executive of CNN. The audience was a mix of journalists, WEF attendees (many from Arab countries), and a US Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd.
During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

I wondered why they had those unpleasant looking, seemingly hate-filled reporters constantly on the screen at CNN. Couldn’t their management see that it was driving viewers away? The only option here in Bangkok is the BBC which I go to often. The BBC is actually less anti-American than CNNI, at least in my unscientific opinion. But, where viewers have other options, isn’t CNN following a losing strategy?

The answer is yes. Here are some recent ratings:

CNN LARRY KING 2,474,000
FNC BRIT HUME 1,604,000
FNC SHEP SMITH 1,446,000
FNC GRETA 1,390,000
CNN ZAHN 837,000
CNN COOPER 506,000
CNN DOBBS 451,000

It wasn’t that long ago that CNN was the cable news network. How the mighty have fallen. And keeps on falling. The reason is obvious. Their top management would rather follow their liberal agenda than succeed in the ratings. They put politics ahead of business. That ranting man, who was obviously lying and demeaning US service men in front of a world audience, is the Chief News Executive of CNN! Some leader. Some leadership.

Will this nut be held accountable for what he said? I don’t think so. Why? Because he’s a liberal. It is generally accepted that liberals are child-like and are therefore not responsible for anything they say or do. IF you understand that you can understand why the main stream media (who are also liberals and child-like) almost never call fellow liberals on their actions.

UPDATE: Domestic ratings have gotten worse for CNN.


FNC GRETA 1,568,000
FNC HUME 1,446,000
FNC SHEP SMITH 1,327,000
CNN ZAHN 550,000

It has been pointed out to me that I am wrong about CNN’s programming not making business sense. CNN has become an international network so they play to (and probably help to create) the hatred of America overseas.

UPDATE: Eason Jordan resigned Fri. feb. 11. CNN is trying to distance themselves from him by saying he wasn't really in charge of their news department (although that was his title).