Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The September 26th "Debate" Take

For hours and hours punditry is discussing "who won", and lame tools like Chuck Todd are harping on Trump's amazing first 30 minutes because he made a few dings about NAFTA. Screw that. It was such an absurd contest that "win/lose" is ludicrous. Here's what's comparable: the Yankees vs. drunken Sunday softball aholes. Or how about Ali vs. the 47 year old neighborhood bully. Or Secretariat vs. the sway back nag that was pet to the Our Gang kids in one episode. She did her job - she's an accomplished states person, respected worldwide and by most Americans, despite the trashings of asshats like Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Fox and the rest of our idiot media. Donald Trump, always a bellicose nothing burger jackoff, should not have been anywhere near that stage (forget about being anywhere near nuclear footballs, God help us). He's a fraudulent demagogue, representing the end game of this sociopathic birther bullshit party of not Lincoln, but of the crass greedy lynchers Lincoln abhorred. He suckered a bunch of David Duke acolytes, and has been enabled by craven libertarians like Paul Ryan who need an empty suit to sign Ayn Rand Fantasy bills. It's shameful for to waste words or breaths on handicapping this goddamn thing. It's embarrassing for America right now. I hope I didn't leave anything out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Stochastic Terrorism: Stochastic Terrorism: Part 1, triggering the shoot...

Stochastic Terrorism: Stochastic Terrorism: Part 1, triggering the shoot...: Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistical...

Monday, August 8, 2016

Another excerpt from forthcoming Funny is Money: Life on the otherside of the TV screen

Fernwood 2Night was a mock talk show starring Martin Mull and Fred Willard. It was actually a spinoff of the quirky late night show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, which took place in Fernwood, Ohio. Fernwood’s name came from a small street bordering Metromedia Studios, once located on Sunset and Van Ness in Hollywood, and at the time home to Lear’s company of numberless classic TV shows. Mull played a character named Garth Gimble on the show, who was actually killed by being impaled I think on a fireplace poker, or something like that. Google it. On the Fernwood 2Night talk show, Mull plays Garth’s twin brother, Barth. The basic premise is a bit pathetic, as it’s about a wannabe who’s fallen on hard times, and is trying to keep his show business hopes alive by doing this talk show, and all sorts of sidebar businesses, generally subtly promoted by the various guests (weird products are a “product of Gimbleco”).  It was all very weird, wacky and fun – at once capturing a small town, inexpensive talk show – complete with a TV tray as a desk – and great parody. It was very unlike the hefty Norman Lear shows – like One Day at a Time or All in the Family – so perhaps it explains why, and is perhaps good that, Norman left it alone. It was, after all, a syndicated show. Who knows if it was a big time money maker? But people of college age at the time remember it fondly. So I’m told.
And I fit right in, at long last – the irony of it all, that it was a Norman Lear company production. We picked up on the formula right away – a seemingly straight interview that turns funny. The first bit we wrote was about a popular local restaurateur in Fernwood whose competitors are mysteriously disappearing, or catching on fire. And of course it’s soon obvious the guy is a mobster.
The quirky interviews – bogus authors and such – were the bread and butter of the show, and then there were local eccentrics who would come on the show regularly. It was really very entertaining, and much fun to work on.
Meanwhile, we had been around long enough to try and help acolytes get started in the business. I learned much later that the great Larry Charles, who worked a great deal with Larry David, and directed several Sacha Baron Cohen movies, had been one such acolyte who met with us during the Fernwood days (I guess after sending us material), and we gave him encouragement. Who knew??
Head writer? Alan Thicke. Yeah THE Alan Thicke, now often known as Robin Thicke’s father.  Thicke was a very big deal in Canada before he moved south. I think I first met him when I was doing the Sonny Bono show – he probably knew Bearde and Blye, all being Canadians and he was wearing a suit. A writer wearing a suit; I knew he must be from some other country. He later played the Dad of Kirk Cameron, former child actor and current religious wack job, on Growing Pains. But I knew him when he was a genius, herding cats as head writer of Fernwood. He would field the pitches, re-write stuff, cast people, and schedule a show that was on nightly.  My understanding is that Norman Lear & Co. (and by the way, Norman Lear was never a presence during the production that I can recall), wanted the show to be completely improvised, but Thicke insisted on scripting.  Thicke won out, under threat of firing. But of course that didn’t stop Mull from insisting it was improvised. It wasn’t. All the script was on cue cards, and Mull would read them. Now of course there was some meandering off the script, especially during “interviews” but the show was far from being improvised, since the interviews were really small sketches that required set ups and punch lines, so to speak. People like Ken Mars, who played the crazy mayor of Fernwood, would meander quite a bit. Let’s say Mull and Willard, and the superb regular cast and guests, did a fantastic job of making it seem like it was improvised, like, I suppose, the Tonight Show is (but even Johnny had cue cards on the floor for his nightly monologues).
We caught on quickly to the tone and the satire of it all, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We would dictate our scripts into a tape recorder – not really my preference - and a staff of assistants would transcribe them into scripts. There was a hot Asian assistant who would work on the transcribing, Leslie Winner, and we or some writers would throw in a few flirtatious remarks onto the tape.  We had a good time collaborating. 
I didn’t especially like that system, but no doubt it was done in the interest of time. There was a huge maw on this monster, as it was a daily show, although of course not done live.
The audience for the show was two-tiered, partly because indeed it was a “show within a show”, and partly because some people saw the parody, and others didn’t. The Lear people cleverly brought in an audience of mostly retired folks who did not see the parody aspect.
The formula for the show, at least as far as our writing of the basic “guest interview” bits was to slowly suck people in that a guest was legit, and then eventually reveal the craziness, i.e., the actual parody part. For instance one of our bits was an author who wrote a book called “Winning Through Acting Crazy” wherein one can manipulate or negotiate with people by seeming to be unglued, which is not far from a book called “Winning Through Intimidation”. Of course the interview ends with the “author” holding a gun on the hosts, sticking them up. They think he’s merely demonstrating his methods, but he doesn’t relent. Another of our bits was a guy, played by Fred Grandy, later of Love Boat and the U. S. House of Representatives (!), who was supposedly a doctor who treated glaucoma with marijuana. He said it was alarming how many people have glaucoma, and really should take their medicine. Barth points out how the band is taking their medicine. Of course by the end of the interview, the guy is really just a dope dealer.
On Grandy - I also played soft ball with him once, in a qausi-show business pickup game, wherein we had to let his daughter, who was about 5, play. Well okay. But he remembered well the glaucoma doctor bit, and as I say he went on to get elected to congress from Iowa.  I assume his daughter is now a lovely 39 year old.
There were regular bits and characters on the show, the main ones being Barth and Jerry themselves. Jerry, the sidekick, masterfully played by the comic genius Fred Willard, was a dim bulb who would go on comic, kookie rants. Barth was equally hilarious doing the opening monologue – generally written by Harry Shearer.
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Get more stories about crazy fun times in Funny is Money published by The Ishmael Tree soon.

Monday, July 25, 2016


This story was republished in Wonkette.

DNC CFO Brad Marshall suggested it might really help give Hillary an advantage if Dems started having God fights just like Republicans:
It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.
As a follow-up sent a few minutes later, Marshall explained a little further, because apparently he thought he wasn’t being quite clear enough:
It’s these [sic] Jesus thing.

Read more at http://wonkette.com/604630/genius-dnc-staffer-who-suggested-painting-bernie-sanders-as-atheist-can-go-to-very-religious-hell#geuh15qx5Asj7SHA.99
Like all hacked emails exposed, it reveals much dickheadedness, racism or whatever (remember the Sony Pix hack?) It is indeed embarrassing and unacceptable. And d'uh, so convenient for Trump's BFF Putin (allegedly) to have engineered this leak (allegedly) on the eve of Philly, to continue fucking with our elections (allegedly).
But here's the thing. Sanders, while "caucusing" with Democrats, has been NOT a Democrat, but an "independent" till very recently. The DNC works for Democratic candidates. And most certainly the DNC has been stacked with acolytes who consider Clinton the best candidate they have. So in that light, they did not have a warm feeling for Boine, atheist or not (that's just shitty campaign blue sky talk IMO). Now despite Brad Marshall's views as expressed, and I suppose the scheduling of "holiday" debates, there's no indication of serious undermining - rigging elections, suppressing votes, other forms of fraud, Donald Segretti dirty tricks. These were repeatedly given as excuses for Sanders losses, but no proof of such. Whereas there were many unforced Sanders errors. His not having his followers register as Democrats so they could vote in "closed" primaries is his fault. Still, he seemed to have nevertheless won a number of contests, became a big fucking deal, and is now, despite this hack, all in with Clinton (exploding many Bernie Bro heads), Was not the Nuremberg in Cleveland rally last week enough of a convincer to not to try to undermine the better party further? Sanders is NOT going to suddenly be nominated. So what's the play? I know there are fevered Nader2000 dreams of swinging the election to Trump because serves her right... but that'll be fun till January 21, 2017, when the armored tanks start rolling in.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Bern lost, we must move forward

Clinton vs. trump may be your nightmare, but HE LOST. Somebody wins, somebody loses. You and he and Jane cand Rosario Dawson can spin it as "rigged" (except for the contests he won). He did do a great job, and had a great message - and still does. He made major mistakes, and eventually lapsed into being a whiny politician (he was against the super delegates before he was for them). I'm not going to bother fending off the Bernie wilding that is inevitable, and seems determined to make this rather cool guy into the next Ralph Nader. "The lesser of two evil is less evil". Occupy reality. Hold Clinton's feet to the fire. Right now, she is the best hope against TrumpKochFascism. There is not the luxury to be "never Hillary" and shout down speakers at the convention and all that crap - all this, and the fantasy of the emails being the July surprise has already damaged her candidacy. So congratulations on that.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Happy 140th Anniversary of the Battle of Greasy Grass, Little Big Horn, Montana

140 years ago today, General George Armstrong Custer lost his bid to be 1876 Presidential timber.


Like Frankenstein Fearing His Monster

Apparently, Bernie Sanders has decided that a priority even bigger than beating Trump is to "change the Democratic Party" starting with its platform. The Democratic platform is important to the extent that it introduces the voting public to the current ideals of the current Democratic Party and its nominee, in front of generally a very large viewing audience. So fine, if Bernie can effect those changes without rancor (from himself or Rosario Dawson or Cornell West, et al.); they are really issues all Democrats have sought for decades — even Clinton, who has been sadly damaged by his fans, damage that only he can and must repair.  But, that said, on the whole, the “platform” is not binding nor is it long remembered. It is also not adhered to by the candidate once elected because of personal priorities or the blockage of congress (the changing of which should be part of a big, two prong effort by both Sanders and Clinton). Meanwhile, demonstrations are being planned by the most ardent fanatics of the Bernie realm — and I hear, so far, no cautions by Sanders to moderate such hijinks. I never have heard him seek to mitigate the excesses of his acolytes — in fact after Nevada, he ginned things up IMO. Could it be that Sanders, like Frankenstein, fears the monster he created?  But he has finally, yesterday, declared he will vote for Hillary Clinton, “most likely” (always wiggle room with this guy), so unless that was a 74-year-old brain fart, it’s a good indicator of where things are heading.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bernie's End Game II

Why is this going on and on? Let’s get together and beat Trump (OR WHOEVER). I'm not sure if Sanders is actually delusional. But he knew the rules (including “super delegates”) when he decided, as a “revolutionary”, to try and gain the nomination of a major national political party to which he never belonged until just after breakfast. He made a fine appeal, got a lot of folks engaged (who should god damn well be engaged anyway), and demonstrated that progressive policies are popular and not frightening.  He has underscored corruption — mainly he has focused on his “own” party. And no doubt there’s some truth to that. But democracy in its most basic means somebody wins and somebody loses. He knew this rule too. But instead of grace, first he took to a Rubio-style strategy of declaring victory if Clinton didn’t win big enough in a particular primary.  He then took to a Trump-style strategy, declaring assorted elections fraudulent, the system “rigged” (except for the ones he won), and Clinton a warmonger.  He refused to tamp down the excesses of his fervent acolytes (damaging Clinton, rioting in Nevada, etc.)  And now, in the face of a Donald Trump presidency looming, he holds a meager hand up against this same Democratic Party wherein his opponent has won more votes, more delegates, more states, more everything.  Yet he keeps making demands of both platform policies and for the head of Barney Frank, and even hocking those same “super delegates” to flip — the ones he derided as part of an undemocratic rigged system of the “establishment”.  He’s become the Black Knight of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  And in the process, he has demonstrably discouraged and enraged all those new voters he has bragged of bringing on board. Hopefully in the end his insurgency won’t have done more damage than good — that is arguable. I’ll try it again: “Fuck sides. What we really need right now is a little solidarity." - Mr. Pink.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bernie's End Game

The first woman is the de facto nominee of a major party, and all Sanders can say we’re going all the way because shit could happen — boo Hillary!  Now Barack Obama is the titular head of the “Establishment”. Unlike 1968’s LBJ, he is not mired in a land war in southeast asia. He hasn’t invaded Iran lately, he made peace. The economy has been in a positive move since 2009. He pushed through the first national health care program with great political cost. He and the Democratic party or even the Clintons are not the problem.  So why is he revolting against them?  Is it that “they”, led by this treacherous woman, are denying the prize he thinks is rightfully his because reasons? (Certainly not because of votes but then, you know, “rigged”).  It’s the Republicans, now personified by Donald Trump, who have been the problem, and the true existential threat to the nation’s progressive well being.  They have raised obstructionism to an art form on a federal level — and on state levels, sociopathic capitalism runs rampant.  Never could understand that about Sanders, this misdirected fire. I liked him very much, but I’m stunned that his “all about me” end game is this delusional demagoguery. He could go out like a hero, a champion, a real catalyst for important change.  Instead it appears his goal is to bring the spirit of the Nevada Convention to Philadelphia, with fervent hopes of Clinton’s indictment mixed in.