Sly, Orwell, Patton and even a little dose of Walter White…

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Mike Wiles, a friend of mine who has done stellar work on AMC’s “Breaking Bad” posted something on Facebook this morning that, as things often do, sparked a weird series of thoughts in my head.


It’s a link to the song, “Somebody’s Watching You,” by the groundbreaking 1960s band Sly and the Family Stone.

Now, most people familiar with the song realize that, lyrically, it smells like the combination of long hair, unwashed bodies, patchouli (which Patton Oswalt equates with the aroma of a hobo fucking a pile of dirt) and reefer of the counter culture: ladies with mustaches, the silver of your spoon tarnishing and your Sunday School lessons meaning nothing. Just a groovy, power to the people, let’s all love one another kind of deal. (unfortunately, Sly kind of turned out on the flip side of the hippie dream

But others, looking at the song title alone, will undoubtedly agree: someone is watching you. All the time. It’s Big Brother, with all of its chilling Orwellian, dystopian overtones (although as Neil Postman eloquently argued 30 years ago, we’re far closer to a drug-addled Huxlyean world than Orwells’). It’s the Police State. Your government, being something separate from you, being something that is your enemy, as opposed to an extension of yourself and your common citizens, is watching you. Intently.

If you’re in the latter camp,if you really fear that Big Brother is truly watching you, I have one question:

What are you doing that’s so motherfucking important?

I mean, really, if you’re doing something that you don’t want the government to see, it must be fucking awesome! Are you building a time machine in your garage? Are you feeding Kimba caviar and pate? Are you thisclose to cracking the code to the Philosopher’s Stone?

Yes, i know you believe passionately in privacy and being left alone and all that bedrock foundation of the U.S. Constitution stuff that really is important–when it’s not being appropriated by extremist nutjobs who sense a gun-grab in every sneeze from Lady Liberty’s nose–and i agree that government surveillance of citizens and out-of-control law enforcement agencies that fail to serve and protect (HELLO FULLERTON!!!) are serious issues that need to be addressed, but only in rational, reasoned daylight, not the dark halls and shadowy corridors that the paranoid conspiracy fringers spin their webs in.

But, really, if you are doing something so secretive, so sexy, so underground, so mysterious, that you don’t want the government to see what you’re doing, all i ask of this: be a real American and make money out of it. Upload some videos to
YouTube, start your own on-line subscription service. Whatever. Just get some kicks out of your peculiar obsession before the whole shithouse goes in flames.

Me? I’ll be sitting in my living room with the windows wide open just grooving to Sly…

Happy Birthday to a great Dick

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So, it’s Richard Nixon’s 100th birthday today.

220px-Richard_Nixon

I’ve long been fascinated by the guy. He resigned on my birthday, Aug. 8, 1974. I was just a wee lad then, but I remember mocking the guy with the long face on the TV and my mom scolding me. ON MY BIRTHDAY! Years later, my mom said it was a strong possibility we were related, quite distantly, to the Nixon family. The movie “All the President’s Men” was a major reason why i aspired to become a journalist. And I’ve read a great deal about him and have even written some things. My assessment: one of the smartest, and most insecure men to ever sit in the Oval Office. He accomplished great things, but also was a major force in establishing the imperial presidency, and was a deeply flawed man.

Here are some things I’ve written about him over the years…

A cover story in 1999 in OC Weekly in which I tried to find physical reminders of Nixon’s legacy in OC and Whittier…

http://www.ocweekly.com/1999-08-12/culture/dick-nixon-s-orange-county/

A story for KCET’s website in which I tried to do a similar thing at his presidential library and museum…
http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/orange/selling-richard-nixon.html

A review of a play at South Coast Repertory in 1998 about Nixon’s first run for Congress…
http://www.ocweekly.com/1998-11-05/culture/dis-nixon/

A review of the theatrical version of “Frost Nixon” last year at the Maverick theater…
http://www.ocweekly.com/2012-05-17/culture/frost-nixon-maverick-theater-peter-morgan/

The greatest political anthem ever.

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Muffin and Dick

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Two stories in this week’s OC Weekly.

Cover story on one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, former LPGA golfer Muffin Spencer-Devlin:

And a review of a play about  one of the most fascinating characters to traverse the American public stage: Richard M. Nixon

 

Good Reads on Current Events

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Twenty years ago, I subscribed to both these magazines, in hopes that I might become more aware of Big Things. And I also thought it’d be cool to be a foreign correspondent for a big newspaper (which I still think would be cool…) The Economist was a great read, but it came out every week and I couldn’t justify subscribing for more than a year. Foreign Policy was stodgy and dry and way too academic to get into.

But I’ve retained an interest in the Economist over the years and recently learned that Foreign Policy had been purchased by the Washington Post Co., which has greatly revamped its on-line presence.

 

Yes, the Washington Post is a favorite whipping post for those who smell the offal of the liberal ogre in its pages (which is bullshit). But the new Foreign Policy seems balanced, even offering a Shadow Government blog for conservative analysts.

Anyhow, each features in-depth explorations of a wide array of issues and should be required reading for those who wish to free themselves from the insufferable drone of the Echo Chamber.

Praise Allah for the Internet!

LA TIMES: LIBERAL TOOL?

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Gee, I guess the Los Angeles Times is a tool of the great, creeping, liberal ogre. Why else would it run a story on the Republican rebuttal to Barry’s state of the union address that feature prominent Republicans saying the most hackneyed, insipid, brain-dead bullshit? Newt’s is particularly brilliant, bringing up Obama’s association with Saul Alinksky. He must have studied that when he was thinking about leaving his disease-stricken wives and pocketing millions from Freddie Mac. Disgusting little hypocritical prick.

UPDATED: 4:01 p.m. And now this story

I mean, really, how can anyone take this guy seriously? I’m not about to say Ronald Reagan was a master at anything other than one-way communication, but for this mangy, discredited, wiffle-waffling, opportunistic, slimy scum-bag to cloak himself in the mantle of Reaganish conservatism–when he clearly railed on the chief–is absolute  bullshit. Newt supporters: when you wake up tomorrow morning, take a good long look in the mirror and recite the following: I am a fucking tool.

A primer on how to sift through the bullshit (caution: takes work and critical thinking…)

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(NOTE: AS I AM STILL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO FORMAT THIS BLOG, EVERYTHING IN BLUE IS A HYPER-LINK. Click on it and it will magically transport you somewhere else…)

     I am constantly amazed by the amount of disinformation, misinformation and paranoid, screeching,  the-sky-is falling blarney that zips around the internet on a second-by-second basis.

     

     The internet has given all of us an incredible tool to seek out information; unfortunately, the sheer glut of comments, posts, links, rants, ravings and assorted quasi-intellectual pablum and nonsense makes it very difficult to sort shit out without some kind of filter. We are exposed to all kinds of “information.” But the ability to process all that information is sorely lacking for most of us.

   

      It boils down to this: who can you “trust” to give you accurate information? Well, no one really. Every on-line magazine, blog, news source and site is created by human minds.  Those minds may have certain agendas or philosophies they wish to espouse; they may be staffed by people who get their information wrong; they may be in the business of merely pulling as much traffic as possible in order to lure on-line advertisers, in order to make money.

   

     Whether it’s the New York Times, deemed a bastion of liberalism by many, or the Wall Street Journal, the most conservative of large newspapers, many people may not trust the content they’re reading based on their own biases, perspectives and opinions that one site or another is pushing an agenda they don’t agree with.

     

      Which means that, by and large, we look for, and share, those sites that support our own contentions, and avoid those that we feel don’t. Basically, we choose to support anything that fits within our personal prism, and choose to ignore anything that doesn’t–even if, on some level, we may doubt our own assumptions.

   

       So what’s the answer? Seek out as many different viewpoints and perspectives as possible–particularly when it comes to “news of the day.”  See what champions of the so-called left and so-called right are saying. Look for the paranoid ranters. Look for the more centrist. Perhaps, by absorbing a variety of different perspectives and through applying “critical thinking” to what you’re reading, you might be able to begin sifting through all the screaming and yelling, and actually begin forming your own opinion. An opinion based on a sampling of many differrent opinions.

     

      And, above all else, READ!

   

       Here’s a list of websites that I try to hit on a daily or weekly basis. The ones in italics are sites I hit every day. I don’t agree with everything, and sometimes, anything, on any of them. But it’s a start in the rather challenging task of forming your own opinion in a world with so much clashing information.

FROM THE RIGHT

Drudgereport.com. It’s a news aggregator, meaning it links to a slew of websites around the web. But it’s a very influential website; if something is breaking, you’re more likely to see it here first as opposed to anywhere else. Matt Drudge himself is a slimy little conservative, but this is the first site I hit every morning.

Nationalreview.com Launched by conservative icon William F. Buckley in 1959, this is a must-see for conservative views on just about everything.

Weeklystandard.com.Self-professed neoconservative magazine of record.

Big Dumb Idiot. Much easier reading the vitriol that sprews from fat-heads mouth than listening to it.

FROM THE LEFT

Dailybeast.com, on-line magazine owned by Newsweek

Dailykos.com Tows the Democratic party line, but some good reading

The Nation: Self-annointed flagship publication of the left.

Tnr.com. On-line presence of the New republic flagship of the liberal intelligentsia since 1914. Mostly politics, primarily foreign affairs.

Slate.com On-line magazine started by a former editor of the new republic, now owned by the Washington post

Salon.com, On-line magazine, more liberal  leaning than slate, , more culture and arts than politics

PROGRESSIVE

Truthdig.com : progressive with links to some of the best political journalists in America , like Eugene Robinson, E.J. Dionne, Chris hedges, Robert Scheer.

Mother Jones.  Downright Commie at times !

ALTERNATIVE 

The Utne Reader. Great compendium of more than 1,500 alternative publications around the country and world.

Good old-fashioned investigative journalism:

The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Libertarian Mumbo-Jumbo

http://reason.com/ Reason Magazine.

WONKY NON-PARTISAN POLITICAL STUFF  

National Journal: Inside-the-Beltway, political insider kind of stuff. But if you’re a political junkie, you’ll appreciate it.

From the (somewhat) lunatic fringe

Prisonplanet.com also infowars.com. If you’r econspiracy oriented, check out Alex Jones rantings. I think he’s border-line insane, but he’s a lightning rod for any and all conspiracies. Many view him as a right-wing nutjob. But his particular mode of reasoning is always of interest.

Countercurrents.org, long essays usually anti-establishment, a little more centered than prisonplanet, but lots of paranoid ranting.

Then of course, there are the mainstream print media: New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone.com.

For an international perspective:

bbc.com

http://www.aljazeera.com

Foreign Policy used to be a stodgy, academic journal that was a real snooze-fest. It’s now owned by the Washington Post Co., and, contrary to what critics of the lamestream media might opine, has revamped into a very readable on-line presence. Seems pretty balanced, as there’s even a blog run by conservative commentators, Shadow Goverment

And the Economist is just the shit. Probably leans a bit to the right on global economic issues, but great writing and reporting.

And just to check yourself:

Skeptic Magazine. Most of the information on this site can only be obtained via subscription, but there is some free content. It’s slogan, “Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science” says it all.

Snopes. Ever get one of those annoying e-mail messages about some virus infecting a Christmas Tree app on Facebook that will crash your computer, or chicken jerky treats are killing dogs, or heard about kidnappers abducting kids at amusement parks by dyeing their captive’s hair? This website, which I believe is run by a married couple with no evident political or social leanings, diligently researches these and all kinds of other urban legends.

This is not a perfect list in any way, but if there’s a topic of interest or concern to you, these sites can absolutely be used as sources to at least begin your inquiry. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but, taken together, they can absolutely give you more of a perspective than simply clicking on some link that you see on your FB timeline or in your e-mail.