Thursday, June 14, 2012

It May Be Time To Start Up Again

Since I no longer will be doing a column for Hustler due to financial considerations in hard times for the publishing industry, I felt I needed an outlet to continue practicing the art of writing.  It's something I have come to love.

As opposed to my previous life on this page, this time I will only write when I feel like it and not force myself to update the page daily.  If I do, great.  If not... hey why say something when you have nothing to say.

So check in now and then to update yourself on my musings.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Suspension Of This Blog For The Time Being

I started this blog because I wanted to see what it was like to do one. What I found was, that it was a lot of work.

If this were the only thing I did, then I could put all my energies towards it, but because I also have a radio program and a monthly column in Hustler, the time I could devote to such a product was limited. I also found that my "Facebook" page was giving me the most fun and support and served some of the same purposes.

So for the time being I am suspending work on this blog. It will continue to exist. I will from time to time when the mood strikes me write something and post old Hustler columns here.  I am not against people like yourself contributing to this page and if you send me a piece to , I will publish it.

Thanks for your interest.

Alex Bennett

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Sunday Funnies 3/8/2009

This sunday, we once again look back at my old friend Bill Hicks who I consider to be the best standup comedian of all time.  That's one hell of a boast but it's true.   I didn't say alive because Bill died of pancreatic cancer in 1994.   A while back David Letterman righted a horrible wrong and played a standup routine that was done for his show and then dropped because Dave was afraid at the time to play it.  I'll write more about Bill and Dave later on, but for now here are two shots of Bill Hicks, the first is the banned standup from Letterman and the second is from his club act.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Confessions Of A TV Pundit

Here's another column from Hustler by Alex Bennett and edited by the esteemed Bruce David

In this multimedia world, finding the truth can be a tricky thing. Everyone claims to be offering up the truth, from the right to the left and from the news sources. The big question is who is right and who is wrong.

To believe that people on the left tell the truth all the time and the right is lying is a liberal conceit. To feel the opposite is a conservative one. The truth be said neither left or right has a franchise on the truth and both probably distort as much as the other. Yet both sides believe they are correct and honest in their presentation of what they perceive as fact.

So who do you believe? Truth is subjective and is in the eye of the beholder. I’m a leftist and because of those beliefs George W. Bush was a foul, immoral, international criminal. To a right-winger George was just doing his job of protecting America and fighting for democracy and capitalism in a world beset by terrorist. By the way the reason according to them that the world hates us is because they are jealous. Of just what I haven’t figured out.

The worst example of this can be found on cable TV where we are beset on all sides by pundits. This is an entirely new profession created out of the laziness of the news networks who have to fill their airwaves with a little something called journalism and haven’t quite gotten the hang of it. This in case you didn’t know, in most cases is a paid position. Paul Begala, Bill Bennett, Ed Schultz and Donna Brazile are just some of the mouths for hire. They don’t do this out of a passion for truth, they are grabbed from the pool of radio talk show hosts, journalists and former political advisors all chasing TV Careers.

The pundit is expected to be provocative first and accurate second. You see them all the time in little square boxes surrounding the host, sometimes as many as four at a time, looking like a bizarre version of “The Brady Bunch”. They fight with each other and present their arguments as fact. The host, loving a good fight, just lets it go on without challenging the fucked up conceptions or errors in accuracy of either side.

Then there is what cable feels is diversity. Liberals and Neo-cons in equal numbers. Never a lefty or true conservative, they might say something that in bad taste (read “something you don’t want to hear”), they are much too boring and God help us, they might have some accurate facts to contribute. It really is lazy television. Just start these guys talking and then sit back and watch the minutes fly by.

I admit that I too have on occasion been one of those pundits. For about 10 weeks in a row I pretended to know what I was talking about on “Tucker” over at MSNBC. First let me say that my experience with Carlson was very pleasant and no matter what you say about the guy, he treated me well. I was always paired up with a guy from Florida who had an opinion 180 degrees from mine and about 90 degrees from Tucker’s. It was fun but disconcerting. I was in New York in a bathroom-sized studio with a robot camera and a earpiece so I could hear everybody else. I couldn’t see anything but had to pretend like I did. I was in the “Big Apple”, my opponent was in Florida , Tucker was in Washington and the control room for all of this was in New Jersey. The art was to make it look easy and to look good under such disconnection. I suppose the other downside was that, even though they gave you the topics in advance, you had to have an opinion on everything they threw at you.

Fox News believe it or not has always been civil to me in spite of my “lefty” leanings. Oh sure one time the makeup woman jokingly remarked “Gee a liberal, we don’t see them a lot around here”. I was doing the Neil Cavuto show and the subject was the wearing of Flag pins. Cavuto thought that as a leftie I would be against them. When I told him that I wasn’t, he tried to push me into his preconceived notion that did. He wanted a confrontation and even though I kept telling him that liberals in general don’t look down on people who wore them, he kept trying. In the end he didn’t get his pound of flesh. I don’t know, it just may be paranoia on my part, but I’ve never been asked back by Cavuto again.

Pundits are a dime a dozen, but a few of them make real good money at it. The really smart people rarely make to these forums, either because they aren’t into putting on “The Big Show” or they just don’t want to be seen in the company of fools at any price. Until they do, the circus will continue.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Entertainment Report For This Weekend

I have some reviews for your weekend entertainment:


Battlestar Galactica: Finally the long wait is over and the "Toasters" and "Skin Jobs" are back for a final go round with the colonialists. No longer are they looking for Earth.... they've found it and it's a mess, completely decimated. They don't see the opportunity as a "fixer-upper" so they set out to find another planet to call home. In the meantime depression is setting in and the humans and they are fighting each other and committing suicide. Now there is an insurrection and people who were there from the beginning are getting killed off. Hate is the order of the day at this halfway point towards the end of the series. Quite frankly I can't figure out where this thing is going. Maybe that's a good thing, then again maybe not. And now we are finally getting to the real history of the Cylons. Only four more episodes so they better move this ting along. SCI-FI Channel on Fridays at 10 pm and then rerun throughout the week. Grade: B+ (so far)
Flight Of The Conchords: You just have to say this is the most adorable if not funniest show on the air. I love this show and so will you unless you don't have a central nervous system. HBO on Sunday at 10:00 pm Grade: A

Big Love: Back for third season this hour long drama about the Hedricksons' that is a polygamist family got off with a bang and presented us with a whole new set of problems as well as some of the old. The series is finally revealing what is the motivation behind their group marriage and as always their family secret is in peril. Sunday at 9pm on HBO. Grade B+

The International: I wish I had stayed awake long enough to tell you what it was about. I think it's about a bad bank that kills people. Clive Owen wins in the end. Anything in between was a blur; Grade: F+(the + is for a good two hours sleep)

Coraline: More 3-D, this time animated puppets. Years ago George Pal pioneered the use of stop action shorts which had only been done earlier by Willis O'brien in order to bring life to "King Kong". Pal called his shorts "Puppetoons" which utilized the laborious technique of moving puppets one frame at a time to animate them. The work was amazing then and even more amazing now as Henry Selick ("James and the Giant Peach" and "Nightmare Before Christmas") takes this art further and more artfully than it has ever gone. At times you wonder how he accomplished all that he does in this superbly crafted story about a little girl who finds an alternate world on the other side of hers. At first the world is warm and accepting but soon turns into a horror. I know this is a family picture but be warned, some younger kids may be traumatized. The 3D is spectacular. Grade: A
My Bloody Valentine 3-D: The last time 3D was in fashion was in the '50's. It was short lived be because most of the pictures they applied it to were B-movies that without the process would have failed to get an audience. Only towards the end of the fad with the musical "Kiss Me Kate" and Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M For Murder" was the gimmick taken seriously, but by then it was too late. I love the process and have seen almost every 3D movie made and collected a shit load of 3D comic books. Cut to the present where 3D has been used by some pretty good films. Up until now they have mostly been animated since computer generated cartoons are in fact 3-D in their creation but shown flat. The notable exception was "Journey To The Center Of The Earth" which was live action and a fairly good kids picture. Now with this picture in live action, 3-D is transmogrified (one of my favorite words) into the horror genre. Blood spatters, young healthy kids scream and then run as fast as they can only to be caught up with by a guy loaded down with a gas mask and pick axe. That's almost as real as when people run faster than fire. A remake of the 1981 film of the same name, this is your typical slasher fare. The 3D used today is less profound the the '50's version in order to minimize eye strain as a result the effects are just so-so. Nothing comes out past the proscenium of the screen. The best thing about this movie, lots of full frontal female nudity in one scene. If they keep doing 3-D like this much more, the medium will be dead just as fast as it was the last time. Grade:D+

Valkyrie: If what you want is accuracy then that is what you will get in this true story about the attempt towards the end of the war to assassinate Hitler. Trouble is that the accuracy is at the expensive of a dramatic narrative. Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg who attempted to blow up Hitler as he planned maneuvers with his Generals. Cruise is fine if a little low key. The picture is stuffed with fine British actors like Tom Wilkenson and Kenneth Branagh. But it just doesn't get up to speed. I was really hoping for more because I love the subject matter. You would be better served just watching many of the fine documentaries on the subject. Grade: C+

Doubt: ......and the Oscar for best actress goes to Meryl Streep. I can't think of a better female performance this year than that of Streep's in this compelling motion picture about a nun who accuses a priest (Phillip Seymore Hoffman) of child molestation. Hoffman is great but the spotlight falls on Streep who runs away with this film. Taken from the play by John Patrick Shanley and written for the screen and directed by him, this film seems to come off as pretty much a stage play done on the screen. He does very little to open it up, but that doesn't minimize it's impact nor its greatness. Amy Adams is also marvelous as the younger nun who uncovers the possible misdeeds. But this film is all about doubt and there in lies the core of it's soul. A good film made great by the performances of two of our best actors. See it! Grade: A-

Defiance: Jews fleeing the Nazis is always good Oscar fodder right? Well not this time, it's really just one long dull trek of misery, bullets and typhoid. Daniel Craig and Liev Shrieber play two Jewish brothers on the run from the Germans who have invaded Russia and are killing every Jew in sight. They wind up in the forest where they just can't say no to every escapee that comes their way. Soon they are fighting for their lives and trying to keep their army of wards safe. To say this is dull is perhaps to harsh, but you can see dull from here. You might want to save this for a DVD rental which by the looks of this one is about a month away. Otherwise go see something else unless you have a hemorrhoid and need to numb your butt. Grade: C-

The Reader: This is one of those pictures that begs "Please give me an Oscar". Somber, depressing and overwritten, this opus just tries too hard. That's not to say that Kate Winslett (in her second depressing picture of the season) doesn't do her usual yeoman job and Ralph Fiennes is never bad playing the boy in the picture as a grown man, it's just the material is overwrought about a German boy (David Kross) who loses his cherry an older woman. She then disappears only to resurface in a courtroom on trial for concentration camp atrocities. The picture is all a bit much, plus it's just downright depressing and if you're going to depress me make it worth my time. If you are out to see all this seasons Nazi pictures then this is a must see, but if you aren't, in the words of my girlfriend it's a "must miss". The only positive is lots of nudity by Winslett. Grade: C

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button: This is a hard one to call. It's a big budget picture with big budget stars that succeeds in a big budget way. It is fully entertaining with a craftsmanship performance by Brad Pitt as Button a man born old as a baby who gets younger as the years go along. Peter Abrahamson and the entire makeup staff for this saga deserve an Oscar and the actors which includes Cate Blanchett, much credit for playing the various ages they go through subtilely. The screenplay by Eric Roth seems to follow the same formula as his earlier work "Forrest Gump". David Fincher directs with a deft hand at a much bigger picture than anything he has done before. Hey I liked it, but after it is over there are a lot of empty calories. Go see it but not before the better pictures on this list. Grade: B

Revolutionary Road: The big deal as they flack it is that Leonardo DeCapprio and Kate Wnslet are back together for the first time since "Titanic" 11 years ago. The really big deal is that this is a crackerjack of a motion picture. Directed by Sam Medes ("American Beauty" and "Road to Perdition"), this is the tale of the Wheelers, a couple who move to the suburbs when that big move by the population was made in the early '50's. April takes care of the home and Frank heads off everyday to a dead end job in New York City. Then April hatches a scheme that they should move to France where she can work and he can pursue whatever his life's dream is. It is the futility of suburban life that weaves the tapestry of this story. To tell you any more would be to ruin the journey. But beware, this is not a happy tale, but one which will keep you thinking for days to come. The film has an aftertaste. We just have to mention a standout secondary performance by Kathy Bates as their realtor with an equally sad tale to tell. This almost becomes a feature version of the territory staked out by TV's "Mad Men". Based on the award winning book by Richard Yates, this might be a picture you hadn't planned on seeing, but don't be deceived, this is good stuff! Grade: A-

Last Chance Harvey: Simple. Older man (Dustin Hoffman) has his last chance at love (Emma Thompson). Hoffman likeable. Thompson charming. Movie good but forgettable. Grade: B

The Wrestler: Next to "Slumdog Millionaire" this may well be the best picture of the year. Darren Aronovsky ("Requiem For A Dream") has created a compelling tale of a beaten up professional wrestler 20 years after his great fame. He is living on one night exhibition bouts from town to town and in his spare time sells what memorabilia and autographs he can. Mickey Rourke makes a great comeback as "Randy the Ram" Robinson. At first you wonder if it is Rourke playing himself, but after a while you realize he is giving a bravura performance. Marisa Tomei is stunning as a lap dancer fighting within herself not to love this wreck of a human being. She always brings greatness to any part but this time she hits a career high. By the way, not that it matters, but she is topless at least a third of the time in the film (thanks Darren). Both should get Oscar nods. In the end though, it is the story that is the most compelling not only for it's simplicity but it's understanding of the lives these people live. Grade: A+

Gran Torino: I wish I could say this was a great picture with a lifetime crowning performance by Clint Eastwood, but I can't. This a good movie, a very good movie but falls short of great. It's a simple movie about a man of great prejudices (name a race, he has something bad to say about them) who has just buried his lifelong wife and befriends, much to his resistance, an Asian family next door. Problem is that Eastwood is way over the top. He seems to be channeling "Dirty Harry Callahan" as an old man much as he did with "No-Name" in "Unforgiven" and then giving these old characters resolution. He growls (that put me off the most) and chews up the scant scenery. I'll buy what he did with the part, just don't tell me it's an award winning performance. The picture is engrossing but you could wait for the DVD. Grade: B

Frost/Nixon: You might be turned off by the subject matter either because the subject doesn't appeal to you or you are afraid you are just going to see a movie of a play. Forget your fears. This is as gripping and involving a film as you can get. Based on the famous interview that British TV personality David Frost (Michael Sheen) arranged and paid for with the then resigned Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). Both have something to gain, Frost a failing career and Nixon, his reputation in history and the ability to appear in public without scorn. Only one can come out a winner. Peter Morgan ("The Queen" and "The Last King Of Scotland") wrote the screenplay which he opened up from his Broadway play. It crackles and Ron Howard who I usually don't like as a director plays it just right. This film has opened in New York and Los Angeles and opens wide on Christmas Day Grade: A-

Milk: The story of Harvey Milk a San Francisco gay businessman who became the city's first openly gay supervisor falls a bit short but is close enough to the mark that it should warrant your attention. Milk is played by Sean Penn who does his usual professional job. Most people are overwhelmed by how well he plays full gay (as opposed to full retard), but I would have rather seen a gay actor play the role as it becomes at times a form of sexual blackface. Besides in the true spirit of the truly great Milk, wouldn't it have been more appropriate to give the part to a deserving gay actor? In any event, the film is fine and Penn will surely be nominated for an Oscar. James Brolin as Milk's nemesis Dan White is superb. It falls short of great but is a good watch. Grade: B+

Bolt: Do You like 3-D? Do you like dogs? Do you hate cats? Do you find pigeons funny? Then this a Disney film for you and your family. I have seen almost every 3-D film ever made. I love the process and the current technology has taken a lot of the kinks out of the it. While the 3-D isn't as profound as in the '50"s, the eye strain is less and the glasses vanish esthetically with use. I really liked this film. It's no masterpiece but it is fully entertaining. It's really the first animated film completed at Disney since they took over Pixar and is overseen by Pixar's John Lassiter after he took over Disney animation. The Pixar touch is all over it. A movie star dog runs away and is thrust into the real world but he still believes he's superhero. It's fun and if you are a parent taking your kid to this thing you won't feel trapped. Grade: B

Slumdog Millionaire: Everyone asks what is the best movie so far this year? The almost universal answer by anyone who has seen this amazing gem agrees that this is it. I usually hate happy slurpy endings, but this one is the best. Directed by Danny Boyle, it's not exactly what you would expect from the guy who did "Trainspotting". Then again Boyle always surprises you with his range with "28 Days Later" a zombie film and "Millionaires" a kid's picture. A poor boy, brought up in the most depraved and dismal surroundings ever, our hero winds up on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". Against this background his life story is told and we eventually find out his true motive for being on the show. Dev Patel who turns out is a british actor plays the boy. The stunner here is Freida Pinto who may just be the most beautiful actress I have ever seen on film. This is her first film and like everyone else in this masterpiece is up to the task. If you miss this picture, you're just cheating yourself. Grade: A+

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Face it, terrestrial radio is on life support

This is a rerun. 

This another one of my columns from Hustler Magazine and was edited by Bruce David

Did you know that radio has gone HD? Better sound and many new channels all on one signal. You didn't? That's probably because you, like so many people, don't listen to radio anymore. Listenership is down 14% in the last 10 years. Today you listen to your I-pod, programming on the internet, a CD or perhaps commercial free music on one of the Satellite systems. There are so many better options, especially since your local radio station has done nothing to maintain your interest. 

How did this chasm come about? Back in the mid 90's, Bill Clinton, in one of his more stupid moments, signed a Telecommunications act that deregulated broadcasting. In doing so he changed the way broadcast companies operate.

Until that time, these companies were limited in the number of outlets they could own. The rule was 7-7-7: seven TV, seven AM and seven FM in total with no more than one each in a market. If you owned all three and a newspaper in the same market, you had to get rid of either the newspaper or one of the broadcast outlets. Deregulation opened the floodgates; all of a sudden you could own as many outlets as you wanted. The newspaper rule still held, sort of, but Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. (Fox) is trying to get that waived too.

The rush was on. Broadcast groups gobbled up broadcast stations faster than you could count. When the dust settled the winner was Clear Channel Communications with 1250 radio stations. Burp!

That's where everything unraveled. In the past, if you owned a station, you competed against all the other stations in your market. They were your sworn enemy. Now they became your compatriots. With some outfits owning as many as 8 stations in a market, sales departments were combined as were marketing, accounting and the like. Even programming was consolidated with, in some cases, a single program director in charge of more than one station. It goes without saying that tens of thousands of broadcast professionals across the country found themselves out of work. All "redundancies" were eliminated.

What about the radio personality? You can't replace them right? Enter a nefarious practice known as "voice tracking." For years radio owners had wet dreams over the possibility of automation, but nothing seemed to work...until voice tracking. With this technology the personality comes in to record just his voice. A computer adds the music later. Not only does he do the voice for the shift on his station but also for stations in maybe 3 or 4 other markets. Now one employee has replaced as many as three others. The station saves even more by paying the jock only for the time he spent working. 

Previously, a live 4 hour shift paid for 4 hours. That same time block now pays talent only for the hour he worked recording the show. Remember: music is added later. Did you know that the personality on your local station isn't even there? Usually the only live shows are in the morning where a certain immediacy is required.

What if a company owns two stations with the same format in the same market? Before degregulations those stations would compete, each trying to out do the other. Now, owned by one master, the lesser of the two is told to hold itself back in deference to the one considered a "cash cow." Cost saving and conglomeration dragged down a medium that once thrived on competition. 

Talk shows remained the only live programming but even they replaced hundreds of people because most talk is syndicated by satellite. In the process, localism was killed; talk shows now speak to the nation, not your home town. Diversity was another casualty: Clear Channel was politically conservative, even contributing money to George W's campaign. Not surprisingly the only hosts allowed on Clear Channel stations were of a right wing bent.

And what about the single station owner? They just couldn't compete with the evil empire. They had to sell. Before degregulation it was these stations that served the small towns with local news and needs.

In time all things become obsolete. Just try and find a pay phone these days. The record store is all but gone. Terrestrial radio survived the onslaught of TV by adapting. This time, however, it may just be the end. Technologically, radio is a wireless medium with higher quality than the internet or MP3's. But the medium that survived TV may just have been undone by its biggest foe, greed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Felix The Cat’s Plot To Bankrupt General Motors

By Tom Yamaguchi

The following story was told to me by a witness to some strange events in the 1960s and 1970s who prefers to remain anonymous:

The first political demand for General Motors to go into bankruptcy was issued sometime in late 1970 or early 1971. The bankruptcy for General Motors political demand was included as part of a marketing campaign for GrassMasters, the brand of marijuana cigarettes marketed by Felix The Cat, who proclaimed GrassMasters had the “GM Mark of Excellence.” 

Felix The Cat, also known in the media as Mr. Felix, was one of the public pseudonyms used by an anarchist marijuana dealer known to certain residents in Berkeley, Calif. Someone made a mistake in early 1970 by raving some Abbie Hoffman-style rhetoric to Felix The Cat about the fun of manipulating the media. For some strange reason Felix took media manipulation jokes seriously. 

Mr. Felix first decided to manipulate the media by buying advertising to sell marijuana. He placed a one-half page ad in the Berkeley Tribe underground newspaper for Park Lane brand cigarettes. The alleged “barter” ad was placed by Felix The Cat as both a political campaign contribution supporting the Tribe and as an act of conceptual art. Felix claimed he was the first person to advertise the commercial sale of marijuana in a newspaper. 

Park Lane was a brand of cigarettes not normally sold in this country. During the Vietnam War, Vietnamese peddlers sold packages of Park Lane where the tobacco had been emptied out and replaced with marijuana. Park Lanes were “high test” even with filters. The cigarettes were smuggled into the United States by homeward bound servicemen who stuffed them inside of stereo speakers. During the summer of 1970, the supply of Park Lane marijuana cigarettes dried up. Rumor had it that the mastermind of the smuggling operation had been shipped home by the Army, as the United States started its years' long withdrawal from Vietnam. 

After the Park Lane ad, Felix The Cat's love for media manipulation continued. He decided to create a media scam, and see how far he could carry it out. Felix decided to market GrassMasters cigarettes, which came complete with the “GM Mark of Excellence.” GrassMasters were made from a short-lived brand of cigarettes at that time called Laredo. 

Laredo cigarettes came as a package of loose tobacco, a set of cigarette filters, and a set of cigarette papers shaped into tubes. The Laredo starter pack included a hand-operated machine which shoved the loose tobacco and filter into the paper tube. Felix The Cat had some of his girlfriends go out and buy all the Laredo starter packs they could find. He put them to work stuffing the Laredo papers with marijuana to produce GrassMasters. The Laredo system included boxes to hold the handmade cigarettes. Felix sold his cigarettes in packs made with the Laredo boxes. He replaced the Laredo logo with his own GrassMasters labels that he had printed on bumpersticker stock. Felix The Cat stuck other labels to the packs with messages such as “Caution: Cigarette Smoking Will Get You High!” and “GrassMasters use the GM Mark of Excellence!” 

Once he had a supply of sample GrassMasters ready to go, Felix The Cat went out on his mission to manipulate the media into publicizing the GrassMasters marketing launch. Felix got a radio scriptwriter to create a half dozen 30-second radio spots. He visited the top rock station in San Francisco and waved around $300, trying to buy airtime for his commercials. The station didn’t take his money, but it did give GrassMasters a half-hour of airtime on a public affairs show. A very stoned Felix was interviewed by the radio station’s News Director.

GrassMasters managed to get a story on the coveted front-page, middle-column of the Wall Street Journal. GrassMasters got half-page articles in Rolling Stone and Playboy. GrassMasters and Felix The Cat ended up getting a wide variety of other media coverage that seemed to be mostly cribbed from those three reports. 

The College Press Service wrote that Felix The Cat, "told a radio station interviewer that 320 dealers in the Bay area are handling his first consignment of 5,000 cartons. A packet of 18 joints now sells at $7.50, but he hopes to pass on savings to the smoker as the business grows. By early spring they plan to have an automated rolling factory in Mexico and two more, underground in San Francisco and Berkeley, with distribution centers coast to coast." CPS furthered quoted Mr. Felix who was referred to in the article as a spokesman for a consortium of pot dealers known collectively as Felix the Cat, "We turn about a ton of grass a month in the San Francisco ares (sic). That's worth $250,000." The article expressed optimism on the possible legalization of cannabis. "Mr. Felix claims to have a bail fund reserve of $125,000 and is prepared for two supreme court appeals in the next couple of years. 'Then we'll be out in the clear.'"

The Wall Street Journal story recited a series of allegations that Felix The Cat had made to their reporter. Felix claimed GrassMasters cigarettes were created from a blend of four different types of exotic marijuana. He boasted that fleets of aircraft were used to import many tons of the raw material to GrassMasters' warehouses and an assembly line of Hippies worked in these warehouses to produce massive quantities of the finished product. The Wall Street Journal reporter noted that, if his financial allegations were correct, then Felix The Cat was making over one thousand percent profit. He poked fun at Felix's other improbable assertions. The Felix The Cat cartoon copyright holder was quoted, complaining about the betrayal of children’s trust. The Wall Street Journal article lamented that other media received GrassMasters packages from Felix, while denying the Journal had received the product itself. 

The Journal quoted police sources, stating that Felix The Cat was a fraud. The police agencies had apparently expended a considerable amount of effort in unsuccessful attempts to buy GrassMasters or find out anything about the GrassMasters brand. The Journal reporter had contacted General Motors for a comment about Felix The Cat’s use of the “GM Mark of Excellence” marketing slogan. The reporter apparently baffled the General Motors spokesperson who later called back to announce the company was beginning an investigation into the misuse of its trademark. Somewhere in his attempts to continue use of the “GM Mark of Excellence” slogan, Felix The Cat publicly demanded the bankruptcy of General Motors. No one took him seriously at that time. 

Media stories about GrassMasters would continue to trickle out for months. By the time the last story had come out, Felix The Cat had left Berkeley, not to return for several years. He did return for a short time in 1976, insisting to everyone who knew him that he never be addressed by them as Felix The Cat and that he should never be identified to anyone else by that name ever again. After a few months of engaging in alienating behavior, that person fled Berkeley. 

There are no reports of anyone seeing or hearing from Felix The Cat ever since. It was a matter of intermittent discussion for years among those who knew Felix as to whether it was more likely that he would end up getting murdered or catching some fatal disease. None who knew him consider it likely he could have managed to stay alive for long. No one would have ever guessed he was ahead of his time in his call for the bankruptcy of General Motors.

My source has informed me of another piece of San Francisco marijuana mythology. During the late 1960s through mid 1970s, it was a commonly held belief that pot smoking was responsible for the continued integrity of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Smoking a joint while crossing the bridge prevented the structure from collapsing into the water below. That the bridge continued to stay intact was proof that, at any time of the day or night, someone was smoking a joint while driving across it. Performing the duty of holding the bridge up was made easier by the knowledge that the police are very reluctant to stop vehicles mid-span. The corollary of this theory was that individual drivers did not feel obligated to smoke a joint during every bridge crossing as someone else was always on the bridge smoking one for them. 

My source has documented that since the mid-1970s this myth has been largely forgotten. It only seems to be known to those of the counter culture who lived in Bay Area during that time and not to those who lived there before or after. It may have been forgotten to the bridge's detriment. In 1989, part of the eastern span collapsed during an earthquake. Timing may have also been a factor, the collapse having occurred at the beginning of the World Series. Bridge traffic was relatively light, and commuters may have rushed home early to roll joints in anticipation of the baseball game. 

The old structure is now being replaced with a new eastern span linking Treasure Island and Oakland. My source suspects that changes in demographics and commute patterns may have reduced the number of marijuana users crossing the span. This could be counteracted by a public service campaign to bring awareness of the need to secure the new bridge's structural integrity. For example, a message could be flashed on the toll plaza's electronic sign that reads "Smoke 'em if you got 'em."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Funnies: Seth MacFarlane

Here's a Sunday treat albeit a week late but hilarious from the creator of family guy Seth MacFarlane on the "Spike Feresten"  Talk Show on Fox.  Fill in the bleeps.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fuck G.M.!

Is that plain enough?  Those are my feelings about the whole sorry mess.  Let them rot in hell and go out of business!

Hey Alex why so pissed off?   Because dear reader they came begging for more money, $16.6 billion to be exact and maybe more in the future.   They are coming hat in hand to dig more money out of your pockets but this time they promise to clean up.  What do they say is cleaning up?  They want to close down plants and fire 47,000 workers and congress will probably give it to them.

Aren't we trying to save jobs not obliterate them?   What we should say is "here's the money but you can only use it to save jobs", but do you think any of those morons on Capitol Hill will have the balls to say that?

Look, G.M. has been running a bad business for a long time and on top that they kept putting out shitty cars.  The only thing that has saved them in the past were give backs by the unions and now they are out to screw them in this deal by letting 47, 000 of their number go.

Enough with the myth that if they go out of business subsidiary business' will be hurt by not supplying G.M. with parts and so on.  The cars will still be built just by the other car companies who will absorb the gap.  By the way if G.M. is selling and producing less cars as they say, then I suppose those business' have been impacted already.

So let G.M. die and give the $16.6 Billion dollars to those who will be out of work as a result. The money will be better spent.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Talk, Talk, Talk

Here is yet another reprint of one of Alex Bennett's monthly columns from Hustler Magazine and as always edited by Bruce David.

I’m a talk show host. I like to think of it as the lowest wrung on the show business food chain. We’re paid to act like we know what we are talking about, but truth be known, the only reason we are experts is because someone gave us a microphone. Take that microphone away from us and we are nothing more or less than anyone else, just another asshole with an opinion.

For years my peers have really been bothered by my inclination to demystify the talk show host mystique, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t. 

One night I was on the Alan Colmes radio show on Fox debating Sean Hannity about the California Governors race. He was going crazy at one point and I said “Sean, calm down, we’re just tap dancers, you know just entertainers at best”. He went Ballistic “I’m no tap dancer” he yelled at me and during a break he told Alan never to put him on with me again. I suppose I should be proud of that. But what amazed me was how seriously he took himself.

I suppose that the most well known and most popular of the political talk show hosts is Rush Limbaugh. Among the lefties he is the most vilified of the right-wingers. In many ways it is unjustified. Not that his opinions aren’t a piece of shit, but that right wing radio isn’t really his fault.

Talk hosts with strong opinions were nothing new when Rush hit the scene in Sacramento, California in 1984. The difference was that there had to be balance because of a rule called the “fairness doctrine” which meant that when Rush editorialized an opposing position had to be given airtime. But in 1987 President Ronald Reagan ended that rule and to Rush’s credit he saw an opening to go where no other talk show host had gone before. You’re going to wince when I say this, but as one radio guy looking at another, Rush is a talented, entertaining and savvy radio professional. Best of all, I never thought for a moment that Rush took himself seriously. At his best he is self-mocking and funny. The bad part is that he is an asshole right-winger. I say all this to distinguish him from the “wannabees” that capitalized on his success.

Those that came after him and tried to copy his formula were the real jerks. As an example I like to cite Stepin Fetchit. He was a black comedian in the early 1930’s who invented a shuffling, slow-witted, bug eyed black man that became a negative stereotype. But it wasn’t his fault. He was only doing an original comedic character. It was the literally dozens of actors that copied him that created the stereotype. Everybody blamed Rush for the copycats like Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and the lot rather than the copycats themselves.

Sean Hannity is number 2 and basically a man who takes himself way to seriously. One gets the idea that he feels he can use his “bully pulpit” to change the world. Hannity would be harmless if it weren’t for the fact that crazed neo-cons listen to him in the millions to have their cockeyed anti-social opinions validated by this egotistical megalomaniac on a daily basis. Added to all of this is the rumor that he has political ambitions for the next decade. I honestly believe there should be a law prohibiting a person in show business from running for political office before taking a 5 year hiatus from the world of fame so as to not trade in one notoriety for another. By the way, that includes yours truly.

The final talk show on the hit list is number three in the ratings, Michael Savage. By the way this is the only one of the weasels I have actually met and to call him a weasel is probably a slight to weasels everywhere. This guy is a truly nuts. Yes he’s entertaining but only because of his Brooklyn accent and because he is so off the wall that you pay attention to him as you would a car wreck. He’s anti-immigrant, a misogynist, psychiatry (which he sorely needs), puts down autistic kids and really has a hard-on for the left. 

What makes Savage particularly onerous is that is that he is syndicated by a right wing cult out of Grants Pass, Oregon called “The Foundation of Human Understanding” founded by radio apostle Roy Masters who for years preached the same kind of garbage that Savage seemed to adopt. The FHU was listed as a cult by “Cult Awareness” after he started urging people to move with him to Grants Pass because America was coming to an end. Masters then created “Talk Radio Network” to syndicate himself and later turned it over to his son Mark who hired Savage and runs it to this very day. Among the others they syndicate are Laura Ingraham, Monica Crowley and Others.

In the end today’s talk show constitute nothing more than a place where people can come to have their half-assed feelings in life validated by some host who is always willing to accommodate them instead of challenging their pre-conceived ideas with new ones. So take us down off a pedestal and put us in the toilet where we justly belong.