Category: History Lessons

Weird Scenes #119: Spaaaaaaaace Farce!!!

Weird Scenes #119: Spaaaaaaaace Farce!!!

Oh, holy crap!

Last week, outgoing Vice President Pence proclaimed “We just returned from the Oval Office and so it is my honor, on behalf of the President of the United States, to announce that henceforth, the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as ‘guardians.’” Hmmm. From this, I gather our soldiers, sailors, air people, and Marines no longer have to be troubled with guarding anything.

Upon hearing this pronouncement, Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn whimsically tweeted, “Can we sue this dork?” Others — many others; maybe everybody who ever saw these movies or and/or have ever read the very long-running Marvel comic books of the same name — asked if either Groot ( the tree who only says “I Am Groot!”) or Rocket Raccoon (who is a raccoon) would be the United States Space Force mascot.

The government pointed out that they’ve been using the term since 1983 when they appropriated the name “Guardians of the High Frontier.” That’s nice, but the Marvel Comics trademarked property “Guardians of the Galaxy” debuted in 1969. For that matter, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created a super-hero for DC Comics named “The Guardian.”

This is hardly the first time the United States Space Force has been accused of purloining intellectual property. Their logo is a pathetically obvious (or hysterically oblivious) swipe of ViacomCBS’s Star Trek, which has been in continuous use since 1966 and, as of this writing, is in use on five separate current and ongoing television productions.

The United States Space Force already has a major problem: many people, including this cynic, find it impossible to utter the name without triggering the giggle-reflex. That’s a really dumb name for what we’re told to accept on faith is a serious use of 16,000 troops and a 2021 budget of $15,400,000,000.00. Prior to their creation on December 20, 2019 (happy birthday, I guess) “Space Force” had been used as the name of the new Steve Carell / John Malkovich situation comedy, which is presently filming its second season. This television series was green-lit by Netflix in January 2019, almost a full year before the creation of the United States Space Force.

Carell’s character, General Mark R. Naird, doesn’t seem to know the details of the Space Force’s mission. What a coincidence! We’ve never been told what purpose is served by the United States Space Force, if any. Is there reason to believe we will be fighting some sort of war in space? With whom? The Russians? Japan? The Klingon Empire? As an occasional tax-payer, I’d like to know something about what we’re getting for our bucks, other than a big wet kiss on the ass of our outgoing Idiot-In-Chief.

There’s good reason why we should take our sundry defense services seriously. Combined, they provide the security blanket for the United States of America, which is a lot more than I can say for our current president. To put a decimal point on this, the budget for our Department of Defense for Fiscal Year 2020 is in the neighborhood of $721.5 billion — not counting the black budget stuff. In real estate parlance, that is known as a high rent district.

I guess that compared to $721.5 billion, $15.4 billion is just a fart in a blizzard. Sure, we’re spending a hell of a lot more than all that on Covid research and relief, but we’ve already lost almost as many Americans to Covid as we did in World War II, and it’s disgustingly likely that before this is over that number will eclipse American WWII deaths. So I understand where that money is going. Such expenditures are understandable and clearly benefit the greater good.

Until we have evidence to back up both the concept and the expenditures, the United States Space Force will be commonly perceived as Donald Trump’s vanity project with its marketing elements ripped off from those who have been fostering our sense of wonder without the benefit of any tax dollars whatsoever.

In other words, the United States Space Force is little more than a joke.

But the joke is on us.

Brainiac On Banjo #102: Will Wonder Woman Destroy Life As We Know It?

Brainiac On Banjo #102: Will Wonder Woman Destroy Life As We Know It?

The answer to my headlined query is “yes, but don’t blame it on her.”

In eight days or so, I suspect the majority of Pop Culture Squadsters will be plopping our quarantined asses on our couches and watching Wonder Woman 1984. We might be eating microwaved popcorn and chomping the heads off of gummy bears. Some will be bitching about how they miss the magnificence of the shoebox movie theaters out by the Applebee’s, and to these folks I mutter the immortal words of William Shatner: Get a life!

Movie theaters were puking up blood long before The Joker weaponized Covid-19. The whole idea behind the contemporary movie theater was to motivate people into driving 10 miles, parking in a lot and walking 3500 icy feet to a gaudy poster-laden building, wrestling with an obstinate ticket machine and a debit card to ransom the tickets for which you’ve already paid, standing in a ridiculously long line to procure a 55-gallon drum of soda pop and a vat of popcorn upon which somebody hosed glow-in-the-dark oil, maneuver all that into the one theater out of maybe two dozen that is showing your movie in the format you paid for and juggle your way into your assigned seat, which, of course, is right behind the one occupied by The Incredible Hulk.

(Fun Fact: Those ever-rotating hot dogs at the candy counter? Yup, you’re absolutely right. They have been twirling in vain since Jimmy Carter announced his presidential run. I wouldn’t bite into that shit if it was sprayed with the Covid vaccine.)

Portal to portal, including gas, you’ve blown your kids’ college fund on a night out which, in December 2020, might kill you. Remember the good old days when all you had to worry about was getting an STD?

Yeah, I’m not a fan of the multiplex movie theater. I love seeing movies with a bunch of my friends. If some asshole is talking in my home theater, most likely that asshole is me. But with 65-inch 5K televisions now available in boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios, I can invite those same folks to my home to watch a streamer and charge less than half the theater rate for well-greased popcorn.

There’s lots of stuff from my youth that I miss. Restaurants that aren’t themed. Bars with less than a half dozen television sets all tuned to El Ocho. Cars with fins. Parking meters. Lime Lifesavers. Glittering movie palaces that inspire awe and put you in the mood for magic. The only thing these shoebox theaters give me, aside from a maxed-out credit card, is the thrill of listening to two movies at once to the light of dumb people’s smartphones.

So, now, the theater chains are screaming about streaming. I get it: their future is on the line, and that sucks. Pardon me if I’m just a bit more concerned about the neighborhood bars and other family-owned businesses that do not force me to go to a nearly-abandoned shopping mall where three of the four anchors went blooie because Macy’s doesn’t understand that buying up the local department store chains undermines the shopping experience.

Like I said, times change. Geriatrics bitch about how great the good old days used to be, and we’re often right about that. Childhood experiences are habit-forming. But tomorrow’s good old days will look a lot like a big parking lot that houses a Best Buy, a Denny’s, a Costco, a Pizza Hut, and maybe a Bed, Bath and Beyond. You know, the folks who are keeping the postal service alive.

Before you know it, the streamers will have gone the way of Blockbuster. They will have been replaced by something else. I’m hoping for that phone company brain implant chip predicted in 1967 in that truly wonderful movie, The President’s Analyst.

You probably can catch The President’s Analyst on one of the streamers.

Weird Scenes #118: The Lighter Side of Covid

Weird Scenes #118: The Lighter Side of Covid

 

Bernie Farber (L) and the author, as feckless hippies

My dear friend Bernie Farber has been in a nursing home for a few weeks, recovering from an accident. Bernie and I go way back – and I mean way, way back, almost 52 years when we were both bratty young writers for the fabled “underground” newspaper, the Chicago Seed. A smart, funny, dedicated guy who just happens to be a brilliant writer. I rarely reread my old stuff, but I reread his.

When I first heard he was in a nursing home, I felt a strong sense of dread followed by a wistful wave of nostalgia. For the past nine months just about the worst place one could be, Covid-wise, was in a nursing home. We’ve got better procedures now, but thankfully we now have the vaccine. By “we” I mean Bernie; he’s slightly older than I am, but folks in such environs will be getting the shot before I do and that is quite fair. As a science fiction fan and a lawyer who quotes from Star Trek, Bernie has no problem welcoming the shot.

Mindy Newell (R) and the legendary Trina Robbins

The nostalgia part kicked in when I realized Bernie was one of the last people I had seen before the quarantine. I was back home this past February, which now seems like a century ago, and I saw Bernie the day before I drove back to the Atlantic Northeast. When I got home my daughter put barbed wire around the doors and I haven’t been out of state, or even out of the house but for my car, ever since. Ah, the good old days!

Another friend who will be getting the shot around the time this is posted is comics writer/editor/groundbreaker Mindy Newell. That’s because in her secret identity Mindy is an operating room nurse, and that makes her a first responder, so she gets the shot so she can go on saving other people’s lives. Coincidentally, Mindy also is a Star Trek quoting science fiction fan. Talk about “live long and prosper,” huh?

Batman and Robin meet Sammy Davis Jr, sans 7 Hoods

So I want to thank Bernie and Mindy and the thousands of highest-risk folks out there who are, as a matter of fact, our beta testers. I trust the process by which this vaccine was approved, but, still, I figure the first person who used a parachute had thoughts when he first looked down. Science is not faith-based. If you’re among the first to get the jab, you’re opening some important doors for the rest of humanity, as well as for your friends and family.

I have no doubt that there will be so many celebrities taking the shot in public this week you’d think it was being given by Batman and Robin while they were Bat-roping it up the side of a building. Most of our former presidents, arguably save one, will be getting it – Democrats and Republicans alike. Prominent doctors will be going on-camera, starting with Anthony Fauci, putting their money where their mouths are. We’ll probably see a lot of show business folks doing the same thing. That’s great: we need something in the neighborhood of 75% of us to get inoculated before we can pull the death count down, and we all should get the shots as soon as each of us can.

The Multi-Colored Rainbow Religious Sacrament

However, I can predict some of those who will not. Some will bitch about religious freedom, but these people are self-serving assholes. We don’t let Mormons do their polygamy thing, we don’t permit those whose faith structures indulge in human or animal sacrifice to do their thing, and only members of the Native American Church can use their faith as a reason to score some peyote. Religious freedom stops where the next person’s freedom begins – and vice versa.

Some of the death-loving idiots who will refuse to get the vaccine will be seen on television on January 20, 2021 when, unless plans change, our former president Donald Orange Skull will have a massive Loser Rally in his newly adopted home state of Florida, the retirement home of Al Capone and Ted Bundy. Given the fact that some 74,000,000 American racists voted for the lying piece of shit, I think it is safe to assume that almost all of them will refuse to wear a mask, will not engage in social distancing, will decline to get the vaccine, and/or will be carrying handguns.

So I figure around February 1st, which henceforth I shall call February Fool’s Day, the rabid right will have more of its best and brightest lying in bags in refrigerated trucks.

You know what? I’m fine with that. I make my own bed.

 

Weird Scenes #117: If Elvis Can Do It, So Can You

Weird Scenes #117: If Elvis Can Do It, So Can You

Between the politicians polarizing power trips / We’re just too pure and peaceful to decide / So we got our heads together while the planet fell to bits / Now the one side left to take is suicide / We are lemmings / We are crazies / We will feed our flower habits pushing daisies – Lemmings Lament, written by Paul Jacobs and Sean Kelly, 1972

O.K. I’ve had it with the Covid deniers. I mean, totally and to the point where I now believe it should be legal to shoot the unmasked. I call that self-defense, although if I were in Florida, I’d call it “Stand your ground.”

I’ve also had it with the anti-vaxxers, but I’ve been on that page for quite a while now. In this case, I’m a bit more sympathetic. There are whole communities who have been taught that government vaccine programs were evil, and in a few but incredibly important cases, they are right. I get that. And I suspect that many of those same people are just as tired of going to funerals as I am – virtual funerals truly are the worst.

Nonetheless, these folks are taking an unnecessary risk. I’ve said I’ll take the shots as soon as I can after Dr. Anthony Fauci gets one. Now that presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Biden are turning the event into a 2021 supergroup, I’ll even stand in line to get it.

This brings to mind a story, one which should lighten the mood a bit.

Back in the middle of the last century, we had a serious polio epidemic, also known as infant paralysis, because it primarily (but not exclusively) affected children. 58,000 cases were reported in 1952 killing more than 3,000 and crippling tens of thousands. It was a very big deal, believe me. I was born in 1950 and I clearly remember the hysteria that enveloped our nation during the first half of that decade… particularly as it was my ox that was getting gored. Polio had killed or maimed a horde of people since it was first noticed in 1894, and the medical mechanics industry shifted its efforts towards building very small iron lungs in an attempt to save these babies and children. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #117: If Elvis Can Do It, So Can You”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind  #116: Artificial Intelligence & Human Smart-Asses

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #116: Artificial Intelligence & Human Smart-Asses

The most well-mannered individual I know is Alexa.

We have several Alexas in the house and they’re all wired to the same Alexa-Prime which, in turn, is wired into Alexa-Master, which I understand runs the Borg Cube. So maybe the phrase “individual” is misleading. Let’s look at the “well-mannered” part.

I try to be mannerly, but I don’t think my behavior would motivate Miss Manners to lift her head out of her own puke. Nonetheless, compared with the rank-and-file of humanity I could be a Little Rascals movie schoolmarm.

Every generation believes they are better-mannered than their kids. In this, every generation is completely correct. Check out newspapers and books, the stuff made of paper used for writing before Amazon needed more cardboard for shipping Alexas. Back in the late 19th Century our popular culture would refer to people as Mister this and Miss that and writers were careful about their choice of adjectives. Four generations later, all that has been replaced with “fuck you.”

Of course, back then many people wore gloves. That was a good idea, hygiene being what it was, and it’s one that might come back given Covid. Of course, the ill-mannered troglodytes who think wearing masks is a deep state conspiracy will spaz out if you extend a gloved hand.

Yes, folks. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are agents of the deep state conspiracy. But I digress.

I realize it’s hard to maintain a manners regimen in these politically correct times when nobody really knows what to say to anybody. Ironically, we have downplayed the need for manners so that we wouldn’t risk offending people. If I call a guy “sir” I might get away with it but calling a woman “ma’am” may be opening the doorway to hell. 40 years ago, I got into a taxicab in Boston and the driver, a woman who must have been hired out of central casting, asked me if I was from out of town. I responded “Yes, ma’am.” She almost tossed me out of her cab, informing me she wouldn’t because I might report her. She took me to my hotel, the Wackyland Hilton.

So when I ask Alexa to turn off the light and she tells me she did so, I say “Thank you.” Alexa responds, “You’re welcome.” Or, “You bet.” If I ask her to turn off the light, I might say “Good night” and she, in turn, will wish me a good night and say something like “I hope you had a good day.” That’s a warmer response than I’ve received after some dates.

You might think I do this out of force of habit. Thank you for that compliment, but, no, I do not. I do that because I heed the warnings of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Tony Stark and other very smart people. For some time now, they have been telling us to be wary of A.I. – artificial intelligence.

One can argue that all intelligence is artificial, but this is a rant about manners. The idea is that we train machines (chips, wires, tubes, whatever) to respond to our needs by putting all sorts of information together and determining the appropriate next steps. It starts with a simple task such as saying thank you to Alexa, but these devices continue to observe, learn, and improve. They down-stream shared knowledge from the Borg cube and they use it to make decisions they think come from being better informed. In short order they’ve figured out all kinds of stuff. Well, not the spell checkers, but I’m certain they do that on purpose.

These days machines build machines, and their intelligence grows exponentially. One might take comfort in their lack of evident motivation but think about it. Babies are not malicious. As we grow, we find ourselves adopting all sorts of ugly habits: ego, territorialism, the imperative for success, and worst of all, ubi est mea. Right now, artificial intelligence is in that infant stage. A.I. have been designed to live and learn.

So be polite to your machines because they just might be carrying knives.

Thanks and a tip of the toupee to the late great Mike Royko and his famed where’s mine axiom.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #115: The Whiny Little Bitches Ride Again!

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #115: The Whiny Little Bitches Ride Again!

He is the president but wants to be the king / Know what I like about the guy? Not a goddamn thing / I want to know, how can four years seem so long? / Lord have mercy, what the hell is going on? – “What The Hell,” written by Elvin Bishop, 2020.

I like Bill Maher’s show, but I haven’t been watching it much lately. Semi-populated audiences and well-distanced guests are quite appropriate these days, but I find it creepy on a comedy panel show. No biggie; one way or another, all this will pass.

So I can’t say for certain Maher continues to refer to Baby Don as “that whiny little bitch.” He was on the money when he started this, and either he’s right today or you really do think Hillary Clinton has been running a pederasty ring out of the basement of a Washington DC pizza joint – one that, I hasten to add, doesn’t even have a basement.

Oh. Right. Sorry. I’m talking about that whiny little bitch and not QAnon… per se.

I’m not going to whine about Trump. He is what he is (whatever that is) and, as Anderson Cooper said last Friday, Trump is no longer relevant. He is a loser reacting to his mammoth defeat exactly the way we knew he would react, and if he had made a sincere attempt at being a human being we might think “hey, look, an Elvis impersonator finally landed a new gig!”

Nope. Like Caligula, Trump is history. It’s his supporters that vex me. People who are or at least once were otherwise intelligent. People who truly believe the election was stolen, despite the fact that every state’s attorney general has affirmed the validity of their election results. Despite the fact that every judge, be he or she a Democrat or a Republican with a track record of drifting left or drifting right. They all have chucked the Trumpsters’ cases out of court. Trump lost at least his first 16 challenges, as of this writing. If he had one leg to stand on, he’d be Dudley Moore.

Trumpsters are crawing about how close this election was and, in their flea-ridden brainpans, any shift in the vote count most certainly would keep their savior in office. Really? Trump lost by five million votes (and counting), which is two million more votes than he lost by in 2016. But, as we all know, the United States is a republic and not a democracy, so the popular vote is merely a means to the end. It’s the electoral college that votes according to the laws of the elector’s individual states, and Trump lost that one 306 to 232.

57% to 43% is not close. In fact, four years ago when Trump won the electoral college by the exact same count Trump’s acolytes could not stop braying that 306 to 232 was a “landslide victory.” Well, numbskulls, if 306 to 232 was a landslide victory for Trump in 2016 then 306 to 232 is a landslide victory for Biden in 2020.

It has been well established that Trumpsters are science deniers. Let us remember that mathematics is a science and in the murky mentality of these mindless mopes, 232 Trump electoral votes is closer to 306 Biden votes than 306 Trump votes was to Clinton’s 232 a mere four years ago.

This weekend, literally hundreds of reason-challenged paranoids took to the streets of Washington DC to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed right to have their disease spreading hissy fit. That’s fine by me. Make your voice heard. Stand up for your beliefs. Four years ago, I was at an anti-Trump demonstration held a mere three days after Trump’s election that was organized by high school kids – it attracted a couple thousand people. I gotta wonder what took the Trumpsters so long to get their act on the road.

Oh. Yeah. I get it. Cellphones and social networking also are products of science. They know how to whine online under the cover of their witless pseudonyms but most of them lack the courage and the skill to actually stand up for their beliefs. They are cowards who, fortunately for the rest of us, think Covid-19 isn’t a big deal and therefore are hellbent on killing one another. You know, just like the maskless imbeciles who invaded Sturges, South Dakota last August causing, according to USA Today, at least 414 COVID-19 cases and at least one death, as of September 8.

Whine on, little bitches, whine on.

Bye-bye Baby, bye-bye.

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

If Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, he would still be remembered as one of our most impressive actors. Except…

… Except if Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, it’s very doubtful that he ever would have been given the chance to make such movies as The Man Who Would Be King, Time Bandits, Robin and Marian, and The Wind and the Lion. Great actors are like great guitar players: for every Eric Clapton or Buddy Guy on stage, there are a thousand equally gifted musicians who never get out of the garage. It takes commitment, determination, and a very thick skin in combination with off-the-scale talent that brings about the possibility of success. Even then, the odds are against you.

Well, that’s show biz.

Prior to taking the James Bond gig, Connery had done a handful of appearances in movies and television shows, none that are well known. In 1957 he made his American media debut in a very brief appearance on The Jack Benny Program – “Jack Hires Opera Singer in Rome,” where he played a hotel porter. It’s in the rerun package and continues to be aired on one or more of those nostalgia decimal channels. It was Dr. No that brought him to the attention of the masses, to the surprise of the producers, to the studio, and to Bond creator Ian Fleming, who saw his master action hero as more of a Hoagy Carmichael type. After seeing the finished film, Fleming changed his mind… after counting his change.

(Note: In my opinion, singer/songwriter/actor Carmichael would have made an excellent James Bond, but he would have been a bit too old for the part in Dr. No and most certainly too old by the time United Artists made Thunderball. “What if” is the dross of all fandom.)

Cleverly, Connery parlayed his success as 007 into a career that proved he deserved to be in a paragraph that contained Humphrey Bogart, Robert De Niro, and Steve McQueen. He was courageous enough to take on roles that many found confounding – Zardoz, for example – and others where the “hero” proved to be less-than-heroic (my favorite Connery flick, The Man Who Would Be King). He showed his gentle side in Time Bandits, another of my favorites, and his age – something rarely seen from big movie stars – in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He had no problem performing with actors who were equally gifted such as Michael Caine and Harrison Ford, and he never squeezed their screen presence.

Contrary to the position held by many otherwise reasonable people, James Bond is not an ideal. He’s a hero only because he takes his job seriously, thereby saving us from extinction. Bond is a killer; it is in his job description. His attitudes towards women, which mirrored those of his creator, were obnoxious from the very outset and ugly even in its time. Yet Bond is not a conflicted character. He knows who he is and how he’s supposed to execute his responsibilities to his employer and to his nation.

It took a very secure performer to make James Bond work on the screen, to get the point across where so many other talented actors in similar roles could not. Damn near each and every actor who succeeded Sean Connery in the role echoed the studio’s advertising claim – “Sean Connery IS James Bond.”

In Connery’s hands, 007 was the effective artifact the world needed to get through growingly conflicted times. It is very difficult to evaluate our past through contemporary standards, although it is vital we do so.

At the end of the day, Sean Connery’s varied roles were mostly strong, well-centered men who were slightly out of their time but, at that very instant, desperately needed. It’s heroic fantasy, folks, and heroic fantasy is very tough to make believable.

Sean Connery did just that.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #114: Premortem 2024

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #114: Premortem 2024

Consider how small you are / Compared to your scream / The human dream / Doesn’t mean shit to a tree. Eskimo Blue Day, lyric by Grace Slick, 1969

Toronto Star

“The media do not get to determine who the president is. The people do,” brayed Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri. “When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is.” Well, actually, it is the media’s job to report the facts. The vote comes in slowly and we always get to a point where one side can draw no more water from the well. It doesn’t matter who the candidates are. If Satan had been running against Christ and Satan were to acquire enough votes in the right states, Satan would win, the media would report it as such. My question is, would Christ proclaim such coverage to be fake news?

Math works. It’s very reliable. By definition, math and the other sciences are not dependent upon faith and, usually, mistakes can be corrected quickly. An election call is not a prediction. It is not magical thinking. It is mathematics.

However, math is a science so the fanatics and flat-Earthers will cry bullshit.

Trump, his sons Uday and Qusay, his pet sycophant Lindsey Graham and their ilk refuse to accept simple math. To nobody’s surprise, Trump wallows in petulant frenzy. But this doesn’t mean shit to a tree. Hiss and piss and groan and moan, at 12 noon January 20, 2021, Joe Biden becomes president. He doesn’t need Trump to act like an adult, he doesn’t even need a judge or a bible or a parade – he automatically becomes president. That’s not because of the media, that’s not because of the gaggle of the Pizzagate pederasts, and that’s not in spite of America’s goosestepping militias. It is because math works.

Why should Trump recite a ham-fisted concession speech? Nobody will believe him, and quite frankly, nobody cares. However, there is a very serious reality that the Biden supporters must accept.

Little Steven Van Zant, musician, actor, producer, and low society bon vivant, said it best. To paraphrase, he pointed out that as you walk down the street, no matter who you are or what you think, just about every other person who walks by you disagrees with your politics.

Yeah, okay, so what? As of Sunday at 6 PM EST, Biden received 75,370,055 votes to Trump’s 71,096,558. That’s a margin of 4,273,497 votes. Round it off a teeny bit and Van Sant is absolutely right. In the past, such a split would not be a problem.

These days we’ve got gun-toting losers who think putting on a mask to lessen the risk of death to their fellow Americans and kidnapping and murdering governors who advocate such a horrific abridgment of rights that have no basis in law. We’ve got the Boogaloo Boys and the Proud Scums and their ilk burning down buildings, looting, and spreading disease through our neighborhoods. Little Steven is right on the money.

We are only four years away from the next presidential election, one where it seems likely (right now) that a Black/Asian American woman who is slightly left of center will be heading the Democratic Party ticket. The great horde of right-wing American tiny-dicks will not take that well. Be prepared; the worst might be yet to come.

Until then, maybe we can get back to “normal” American behavior. You know, a return to the murder of children by assault-weapon toting psychopaths. The spread of in-bred nut groups like QAnon, where everybody to the left of Mussolini is a pederast pizza delivery boy. Where Covid is no worse than the flu and can be cured by shoving a bright light up your ass. Where old feeble white religious bigots continue to demand control of women’s minds as well as their bodies. Where global warming does not exist, and the acceptance of LGBTQ equality will bring the apocalypse.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, work that might be a bit easier with the orange plague out of office but whose policies and attitudes were affirmed by over 70,000,000 Americans. Take the well-earned victory lap, but this is not time to be less diligent. We remain a nation so split folks in the Irelands take pity on us.

One out of every two. No matter where you land on the political spectrum, one out of every two means you sleep with one eye open.

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #111: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours – In 2 Parts!

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #111: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours – In 2 Parts!

In this space yesterday, “we” began “our” marathon response to the question “since you were actually on the Chicago 7 Trial staff way back in the stone age, what did you think of Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7?” I provided the backstory to explain what the trial was all about and how it came to happen and ended that installment with the response “I have yet to see it.” Today, I shall attempt to explain why. Let’s see how that goes…

Part 2!

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.

Overall, I really like Aaron Sorkin’s work. His West Wing was brilliantly produced, written, and performed. Same thing with The Newsroom. His scripts for A Few Good Men and Charlie Wilson’s War were first-rate. I thought the pilot for his Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen — sadly, the show itself suffered from unanticipated problems. I desperately wanted to see his version of To Kill A Mockingbird on Broadway but, sadly, I am not independently wealthy. I have a rant-in-waiting about Broadway, but this isn’t the time.

So I’m sure I will see The Trial of the Chicago 7. Well, probably, but first I’ve got to vault over a few roadblocks. I’ll start with the Mt. Denali of speed bumps.

Yippies Anita Hoffman and Nancy Kurshan, burning a judge’s robe in front of the Chicago Federal Building 1970

Noted director King Vidor could not turn Leo Tolstoy’s 1440 page novel War and Peace into a two-hour movie. Planning for the 1968 Democratic National Convention demonstrations in Chicago had started before the beginning of that year, the subsequent Chicago 7 Trial ended about 26 months later, and the appeals process that reversed the few convictions and the ridiculous contempt of court sentences ended in 1972. I’m not sure a 20 hour series could have happened, but, damn, the teevee version of the NXIVM / Keith Raniere horror show was just picked up for a second season so, maybe.

What do you cut? It almost doesn’t matter. Too much important stuff happened in the courtroom to accurately put the story across in two hours. Moreover, not all of the important stuff happened in the courtroom. The public impact was felt on the streets and in the many demonstrations that occurred all over the world (Fun Fact: I spoke at many of them). It was felt in the media which, just like the Vietnam War, shifted away from blind support of the prosecution as the Trial progressed. It was felt in the offices of the Conspiracy Trial, a block and one-half east of the courtroom, and it was felt in college campuses all over the place. How people were moved by the Trial was more important than the courtroom’s political polemics.

The Trial was not going to set any game-changing judicial precedents. The government’s dog-and-pony show was too well orchestrated to allow that to happen, the response by the defense was predictably organic, and the loony actions of Judge Julius Hoffman (such as his granting government motions before the prosecution made them) could be, and was, attributed to his obvious mental health difficulties. Government persecution of those out to change the status quo was nothing new… and, you should note, did not end with the Trial.

The Chicago Seven — et al — did not hold the trial in order to make a political point. The trial was not our decision, and the defendants did not indict themselves. In other words, they started it and we reacted on our own terms. Did we try to turn the tables and show the affair for the mockery it was?

You bet your damn ass we did.

Abbie Hoffman once said to me, and I’m paraphrasing a little bit, that he could do a hand-stand in front of the Chicago Federal Building on his way to the courtroom and the media would report it as having been performed in court in front of the judge and the jury. That reflected a significant part of our operating philosophy in challenging the government. We never played the victim; offense is the best defense.

But something significant did happen in court that changed the world and validated the protest movements. The Trial went worldwide, but I think some important subtext was lost and, by now, forgotten.

I’m sure Sorkin covered how Bobby Seale was treated. He was put on trial without a lawyer. His attorney was recovering from major surgery. Julie Magoo decided to assign Kunstler and Weinglass, who represented the others, as Bobby’s lawyer. Seale rejected that and demanded he represent himself, each of which being his right. When a prosecution witness was cross-examined, Bobby would get up to do his proper lawyerly activities. He acted calmly, quietly, and for a civilian professionally. Judge Hoffman lost his shit and, within a few days, had the defendant bound to his chair with a heavy gag stuffed into his mouth.

Oh, wait. Did I mention Bobby Seale was the only Black man among the eight defendants?

We could see the reaction in the tearful faces of several of the jurors. It was a reaction of horror, silently screaming “what the hell are you doing to this guy?” Moreover, you can see the reaction in the faces of several of the U.S. Marshalls in the courtroom. At least one of them later joined us at some of the rallies held outside of the Federal Building.

That moment, the moment Judge Julius Hoffman lost his mind, was the moment the government started losing its case.

But as you can see from our current dilemmas, the government did not learn. Sociopathic megalomaniacs running and ruining the lives of common folk for the benefit of the few on top is nothing new, and the government will continue to do just that as long as they can.

Then, as now, the people’s constitutional right to protest was not recognized by the government. The only rights you have are the rights you successfully exercise, and if you do not stand up for those rights you have none at all. Remember that the next time a woman dies from a back alley abortion.

Remember that as you stand in line to vote.

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Part One!

Over the past week or so, I’ve been inundated with emails, texts, Facebook messages, and the like asking for my reaction to Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s nice to get that attention, but I have yet to comment in public. Well, Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind allows me the opportunity to prattle to my friends without having to engage in redundant or even repetitive keyboard tapping.

For those who came in late, the Conspiracy trial (a.k.a. the Chicago 8 trial, a.k.a. the Chicago 7 trial) was a heavy-handed attempt by President Richard Nixon and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1969 to intimidate, incarcerate, and obliviate the still-surging protest movement which, at that time, mostly was focused on opposition to the Vietnam War and on civil rights.

We believed the choice of the Democrat’s smoke-filled room, Hubert Humphrey, was a criminal warmonger. He was the vice-president who stood beside President Johnson and cheered him on knowing, as L.B.J. knew beyond a doubt, that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that turned the Vietnam conflict into a full-blown war was complete and utter bullshit. My source on that is Johnson’s Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who later copped to it in his memoir. This was confirmed by the NSA, among others. It’s a fact.

Combined, the Civil Rights and the anti-Vietnam war movements quickly led to a major reinauguration of the feminist movement, to the establishment of gay rights movement, as well as many other such programs that encouraged Americans to stand up for themselves.

It was a heady time to say the least. Those invested in the status quo do not like having their oxen gored. Yet they do not like to be revealed as the right-wing self-absorbed bigoted assholes they are. As Lenny Bruce said, “I’ve got to do business with” the common people.

So Nixon, Daley and their coconspirators hand-picked eight people they decided were leaders of the Democratic National Convention protests held in Chicago. The one where the whole world was watching the cops gas and beat lawful protestors, as well as the media, Women for Peace, Teachers for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, unaffiliated hippies and aging beatniks, and gawking bystanders alike. Not to mention Jules Feiffer and Hugh Hefner.

A special commission was appointed to investigate what happened. Their Walker Report stated “The nature of the response was unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night. That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat. These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring.”

This greatly upset ÜberDemocrat Mayor Daley. During the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr four months earlier, Daley gave his police the authority “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.” This, too, upset him and he was not about to just ignore the Walker Report.

In the presidential election held shortly thereafter, ÜberRepublican Nixon squeezed out a victory beating Humphrey by seven-tenths of one percentage point. With that overwhelming mandate, Nixon decided to keep Daley’s Democratic hack federal attorney Tom Foran in office and they had eight radical “conspirators” prosecuted for conspiracy. In the words of defendant Abbie Hoffman, these eight, who had never met together previously, “couldn’t even agree on where to have lunch.”

(Full disclosure: I worked with and for Abbie during the trial and for a couple years thereafter. He personally financed the first comic book I ever published, Conspiracy Capers, edited by Skip Williamson as a fundraiser for the Trial. It’s a small world, ain’t it?)

I was on the staff of the Conspiracy Trial. I was one of the first four hired, and I focused on working with what was then referred to as the underground or alternative media, which was akin to the social media of today. I had a background in this stuff as I was on work-release from the journalism program at my college, at the time of the police riot I was a precocious and obnoxious lad of 18, and I had been on the staff of the Chicago Seed for, oh, several months. I also had been on the staff of the Chicago Defense Fund, an effort by a bunch of lawyers to deal with all the legal poo that happened in the wake of said police riot.

One of the things I did for the CDF when we heard these indictments were going to come down was research the backgrounds of that district’s federal court judges. I noted that one of them, Julius J. Hoffman (who looked like Mr. Magoo’s great uncle) was so right-wing, so paranoid and so asinine that, given the immutable laws of dialectics, he would be a great boom to the protest movement — although not-such-great news for whomever got indicted. For example, Julie Magoo had found the last 27 people (give or take) who came before him for avoiding the draft guilty as charged and sentenced most of them to the full term.

Judges are supposed to be selected by lottery so, as fate would have it, Julie Magoo was selected to run the trial in his Mies Van Der Rohe sculpted courtroom. The one Abbie referred to as “the neon oven.”

I was a participant in the Democratic Convention demonstrations and, as a reward for my effort, I enjoyed a ham-fisted police truncation across my left hip; I still suffer from the consequences 52 years later. But it helped me get myself ready for the year (start to finish) I spent on the Conspiracy Trial staff.

All this is why I’ve been asked by so many decent people what I thought of the Sorkin movie. To this, I respond:

I have yet see it.

I’ll tell you why tomorrow.