Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The News Today, Oh Boy!

John Lennon said it best when he sang the line "I read the news today, oh boy." The fact that the line states he "read the news today" rather than "saw the news today"  or  "I tweeted the news today, oh boy." suggests a time when news was delivered differently.  I'm not sure the difference is a better way, what with fewer and fewer people getting the news from papers there is less time to gather the facts of the news. Today news is  not gathered, collected, researched or compiled, it is just regurgitated with no more background information than raw video from a Go Pro strapped to a daredevil.

I remember when Ted Turner first announced he was going to fund a television station that would be 24/7 news called CNN. At the time it seemed to me that one hour of news a day from the existing networks was more than sufficient.  It took  at least 24 hours to gather the relevant facts, check them out and report them during the next full broadcast.  Somewhere along the line the news reporters and broadcasts stopped reporting on the news and became participants.  Instead of a knowledgeable journalist analyzing a story that had been researched and dissected, the job was replaced by observers giving knee jerk reactions to a story still unfolding.

We have been lulled into the fact that when CNN cuts live to a Breaking Story, it is not very informative.  They are just showing the same video over and over repeating the same cursory information.  Until officials have a chance to investigate what happened there is no facts for the news.   But with a 24/7 news cycle you will never hear "details at 10:00".  The situation continues to play out live on the air, as details trickle in as they are received. There is no way to know in that moment if the detail is correct or merely a speculation.  In their rush to be the first to report some fact the 24/7 news cycle more times than not they broadcast opinion or at best a semi-intelligent guess.  The same can be said for all the other 24/7 new stations the only difference is the political slant that each station attaches to the occurrence.

With this philosophy for what passes as the news plays out we are more apt to get the wrong information. In the heat of the event rumor and speculation get disseminated. Later when that "fact" is repudiated the correction is buried.  If a person only hears the early stages of a crisis what they know of the situation is not complete.

By the time the correct information has been gathered the error, the speculation and the rumor are flying around social media repeated so often it begins to have a ring of truth.  It has been said that a fact becomes true to the believer when a story is repeated by three different sources. If you consider all your friends on Facebook to be a "different source" then you have hundreds of reinforcements with dozens of comments to boot.  I have seen posts stated as absolute fact when a quick check with would prove the opposite.  It has never been easier to find the truth, but you can not find it by just listening and accepting everything you read.

So here is my hope. Take it upon yourselves to know what is true and what is not.  Don't take the news reports at face value. The goal of 24/7 news is not to keep the public informed.  The goal of all news today is to sell product advertising.  Why tell the important facts about a story in 10 minutes when you can sell advertising all day by covering every moment waiting for the next piece of information to come.  With all forms of instant communication there is no way to miss the next important turn in the story, it will be plastered in notifications all over a smart phone the minute it happens.

The day after the Brexit vote Google was overtaken by British searchers trying to find out more about the EU. That was too late to be informed after the vote had been taken.  The very same information existed the day before the vote as it did after the vote.  Where were the reporters of old before the vote? Where were the reporters who tried to give all the researched facts about what this vote would mean?  They were around but were drowned out by emotional posts and trolling tweets that had none of the facts but plenty of the popular jingoism.

The difference in the vote for Britain to leave the EU and votes to stay was only 4% points.  In todays' world when gossip travels as fast as the news I would suggest that at least 4% of the voters in Britain were totally uninformed by the facts before they voted. To me that's a low number and the actual percentage of ignorant voters is probably much higher.  The point is, WE THE PEOPLE can not allow 4% of the "uninformed" to decided the future.  WE THE PEOPLE must be informed voters, not emotional voters, we must be long sighted and not myopic.

As you were,

Friday, June 17, 2016

Enough is Enough

Our political and social world seems to be upside down right now. Two great Religions at war with each other for centuries,  seem to find agreement on two things.  Their love of weapons and their hatred of LGBT people. This unresolvable issue is all that anyone is talking/tweeting/posting about right now.  Enough is Enough so this post is not about any of that.  Stop reading here if you are in need of having a hateful fire fanned.

I have blogged about it before but I was performing at a Comedy Club in Atlanta, Georgia when a middle act named Jeff Foxworthy asked me if I thought an idea of his was funny.  He opened a spiral notebook and recited "You might be a Redneck" jokes he had written.  It was hysterical.  Two of my favorites: "If your family tree does not fork... You might be a Redneck."  And "If your mother does not take the Malboro out of her mouth when she tells the Highway Patrol officer to kiss her ass... You might be a Redneck".  He went on stage later that night and killed (comedy term for performing very well).  It caught on and Jeff Foxworthy now owns Georgia, or so I am told.

Although I do not think of myself as one, I am PROBABLY a redneck.  But you decide, here goes.  

At the Johnson Estate we do not have a formal dining room/living room. That space was converted years ago into a pool room. The pool table once belonged to Harry Anderson. Stories associated with this pool table can entertain people for hours and you never have to rack a ball or chalk a cue.  

It was not a hard sell, getting Sandi to agree to put a pool table in the dining room. In fact she was all for it since that formal area was not used very much. And with the boys growing up, it would be great place for them and their friends to hang out.  Twenty years later I can not imagine living in a house that does not have a pool table. I love to play the game but there is more to it than that.
A pool table is the perfect place to do all kinds of things. When there is not a game going on, I put a cover over it and the pool table becomes a waist level, perfectly balanced 8' x 5' table with 40 square feet of flat surface to work on. I use it to lay out and work on props, sort through files, arrange pictures and stack the mail when we have been out of town. But I mostly use it packing up my act for a trip and, oh yes, folding laundry.  No other area, so useful to fulfill these tasks, exists in the house.

The laundry day usage came about when Sandi became tired of the boys leaving their laundry in the drier for longer than necessary or mostly to get them to empty their stuff out of the drier for our clothes.  To get them motivated one day Sandi put the dried laundry on the pool table so they would have to move it (by folding and removing it hopefully) before they could play a game of 9 ball, and a new function was born.  By now this domestic use of a game table has been well established in the Johnson house. 

Okay, by now you are wondering what any of this has to do with the mass shooting in Orlando or Jeff Foxworthy. The answer to the first question is "nothing".  Here is the answer to the second question. it actually happened to me yesterday and I have to phrase it as a Foxworthy redneck joke. 

"If you are playing 9 ball on the pool table, that's in your formal dining room, and you find a fabric softener dryer sheet and a sock in the corner pocket..... You might be a Redneck.."

Love more, Laugh more, hate less,
As you were, 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Is it BEER or ART?

In Lilly Tomlin's solo show, "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" her homeless shopping cart character, holds up a a can of Campbell's Soup and a painting of that same can on an Andy Warhol canvas.  As she looks back and worth at the two items she asks the audience, "Is it SOUP or ART?"  It is ultimately up to the audience to answer that question for themselves.  What is very clear is that her performance of this question is absolutely art.

If you know me you know that I am a big supporter of the arts.  I think art is the nourishment our soul needs to keep us from dying of reality. Art is the way our imagination speaks to the world.  Art is thought expressed in form.  To me any skill or craft that is taken to its ultimate expression becomes art.  Those who dedicate themselves to the achievement of this goal are artists.

There is something that happens when artists come together.  A synergy is created when people, who have dedicated so much of their time and passion to something as intangible as art, express themselves collectively.  The same passion is present whether the artist deals in oil, acrylic, music, dance, photography, sculpting and yes even ventriloquism. That very phenomonon is happening Saturday. 
The Art Walk and Night Market  happening Saturday, June 4, 2016 from 5pm to 10pm in Reseda is a place and time when artists of every discipline will assemble and share their talents. This time the walk includes beer artists as well.  There will be examples of this "new age old world art" at the Beer Garden during the Street Fair/ArtWalk on Sherman Way.  Beer has finally come of age with the introduction of "craft beers" and "micro brews". The pallets of new age beer drinkers have become as sophisticated as wine connoisseurs.  With the heightened  tastes of a new audience of consumers, the Beer Artist has appeared.

The idea behind this gathering of Artists is the brain child and production of 11:11 ACC.  11:11 A Creative Collective is a non- profit organization dedicated to the idea that art in LA is found in more places than just down town.  The  San Fernando Valley being much bigger in geography than down town, has its own squad of home grown artists. A Valley Boy like myself doesn't have to go "over the hill" to find a little food for my creative soul.  11:11ACC is making it as close as my own valley back yard.
In keeping with that mission the Beer Artist of The Art Walk and Night Market are all local SFV brewers. That's right... Art you can drink made right here in the artistic heart of Southern California.  So even if you do not understand why Andy Warhol thought a can of soup was will probably understand why the beer from these valley Brew Artists is art.
Enjoy the art of the brew and browse art displays,  listen to music, buy your own original art from a local artist, have some food, watch some interactive performance art and see some of the antique commercial Art of the Valley from neon signs to classic cars. There will truly be something for every taste, artistically, emotionally and viscerally.
So, Saturday, come to the Reseda Art Walk. and Night Market.   Here is a map and list of the things going on:

So is it BEER or ART?  You tell me. I'll see you there, Saturday, June 4, 2016. 
As you were,