John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Friday, September 24, 2004
Effin' RANT: Rather Annoying News Television

Now, like his hair, the truth is many shades of gray
The latest big news scandal should only reinforce the obvious and constant complaint coming from all the ingredients and constituencies that make up the U.S. political melting pot -- the post-World War II tradition of objective journalism is either fubar or officially dead.

If you're not hip to the military slang term, fubar, which became popular around same the time that George Dubya Bush was celebrating his short timer status in the National Guard by pretending to work for the political campaign of his daddy's friend, Alabama Senator Winton 'Red' Blount and getting fubar drunk every other night -- about the same time which these infamously fake memos cover, the Vietnam War era of tie-dye, Jimi Hendrix, and LSD, -- fubar means fucked-up beyond all recognition.

The only consumers of the American News Media Product that are surprised or disappointed by Dan Rather's Memo Gate are the 50+ year old baby boomers who grew up during the warm, fuzzy, overly-protected innocent years of American culture with the notion of objective journalism as a evolutionary reaction to the obvious government propaganda in the media during World War II.

Investigative journalists and news organizations were the government watchdog.  Their job was to cut through the propaganda of government and beauracracy.  It was journalism that exposed Watergate, illegal and corrupt acts of politicians in the U.S. government, and caused U.S. president Richard M. Nixon to resign. Watergate is the origin scandal, patient zero, after which all subsequent political scandals in the U.S. reported in the media have been cutely named something-gates.

Everyone else on the planet understands the obvious bias in the American News Media Product. Younger consumers, people living outside the U.S., and students of politics, media and culture of all ages are not overly surprised or outraged by memo-gate, or Rather-gate, if you prefer that name.  While yellow journalism may only be a history question on a pop-quiz, it is the reality of american news media again.  News media outlets around the planet carry some agenda or bias.  They may be the mouth-piece of that particular government, or the mouth-piece of any political party within that government, or the mouth-piece for causes and groups not yet represented in the government.  The American News Media is no different.  Conservatives will tell you.  Liberals will tell you.  I'm telling you.

Most people that lived through those Cold War years, then the Vietnam era years, and then Watergate, would tell you that it was very disturbing and troubling.  It marked an end of innocence.  The U.S. goverment had won the big world war for liberty, peace and democracy.  It was actively protecting the good people of the world from the Evil Empire of the Soviet Union, the communist aggressors, and the assured destruction of mankind with nuclear inter-continental ballistic missiles during the Cold War.

If the idea of objective journalism really was an evolutionary reaction to blatant government propaganda, the current psychology of the American Samizdat marks a slide backward into the slimy journalistic puddle of goo out of which it had once crawled.  But, does it matter?
Journalism changed that comforting notion.  A single photograph of a naked child running down a nameless road in Vietnam on fire from napalm made the average person think twice about the wisdom of the Vietnam War.  Journalists exposing military lies at the highest level turned unquestioning patriotism into civil dissent.  Watergate was just the final blow for goverment credibilty but it was a benchmark of sorts.  While it was troubling for the people living and dying during those troubling times, most people appreciate the fact that someone investigated, someone reported, someone told them the ugly truth.

Wednesday, 2004 Pulitzer Prize winning author, Anne Applebaum, makes a good case that it does not matter -- as far as television news is concerned -- in her Washington Post column, Rather Irrelevant (registration required: use bugmenot to read it, or register). She begins:
Try as I may, I am unable to conjure up a single shred of nostalgia for the once-fabled network evening news programs. Walter Cronkite is a name to me, not a symbol of reassurance or stability. Edward R. Murrow is a historical figure. As for the hallowed idea of "the six o'clock news," it means nothing: In my adult life, I've never had time to watch the daily news at 6 or 6:30, at least not with any regularity. When I watch television at all, I switch without any particular loyalty from CNN to Fox to C-SPAN, depending on who is doing the talking, and I feel reasonably cynical about all of them.
Anne Applebaum's column is worth the effort to jump through the online registration hoops at the Washington Post in order to read, no matter if your favorite media watchdog or commentator hangs out with Noam Chomsky or William F. Buckley.  [Update: Watch RealVideo C-SPAN interview with Anne Applebaum discussing this topic.] But, since she makes some astute observations which just happen to agree with my own (snicker), I'll quote her conclusions here for you:
What became clear, as the story wound down to the inevitable apology on Monday night, was that Rather and his fellow network newsmen are stuck in a Vietnam/Watergate-era time warp. Most of us regard network anchors as faintly pompous talking heads, people who read other people's prose off teleprompters. But the anchors, rather extraordinarily, still regard themselves as the conscience of the nation. They aren't mere "journalists" who have to use authentic documents to prove their allegations but rather people whose fame and large paychecks and unchallenged power entitle them to some kind of automatic credibility, even if their documents are fake.

I'm sure we'll see this episode as the final collapse of network television's dominance over the news, and the final triumph of something else, something that is in some ways better, in some ways worse. On the one hand, the media are reverting to a more combative, pre-television norm, a time when partisanship was normal and you picked up your newspaper in the morning with a clear idea of the writers' opinions -- which did at least allow you to compensate for them. On the other hand, in this more competitive, post-television age, partisans expend a great deal of energy fact-checking others, and have more outlets on the Internet, on the radio, in the press and on TV for their findings. You don't like Rather? Click on You don't like Fox? Read Al Franken.

Much has been made in the past few years of the networks' "liberal bias." More dangerous, it seems to me, was the fact that the networks held a virtual monopoly over the most powerful form of communication. By its nature, television news has had far greater influence on politics, particularly national politics, than any newspaper or magazine could dream of. For that reason alone, more viewers watching a wider range of channels has to be better for the political health of the country.

I expect the death throes of network news will be long and drawn out, and there will be tedious weeping and wailing while it happens. But once it's gone, think of all that might go with it: the stories that are simultaneously pompous and superficial, the atmosphere that is at once grave and silly, the too-famous faces, and the too-brief stories. With any luck, the really good television journalists will survive and migrate elsewhere -- and the rest of us can channel surf until we find them.

And surf I do.  And surf you must, if you want to catch a few fish of truth swimming around in the slimy pond of yellow journalistic goo.  The only thing I truly regret is the automatic disdain and dismissal of journalism by one side of the political sprectrum when it happens to come from their political opposite.

Tens of thousands of boos and jeers toward Michael Moore during the Republican National Convention may have felt exhilirating to those GOP faithful and made for a few repeatable minutes of tape for Fox News, but to me it was indicative of a sad uninformed polarization of American politics when even John McCain admitted he has not even seen the Fahrenheit 911 documentary film.  No one was happy to read Woodward and Bernstein's investigative journalism about Watergate at the time when they reported and published it, either.  If a movie of the week is made about this time in American politics some years down the road, maybe John Goodman can put on a hundred pounds and portray Michael Moore.  I loved John Goodman doing Babe Ruth.

[Headphones] :: On the Sunny Side of the Street - Louis Armstrong

Thursday, September 23, 2004
Detroit's African Town: Racist?

Xavier laying around Detroit and taking pix

Spotted on Plastic and Tongue Tied: The Detroit City Council voted to go forward with a controversial $30 million annual economic development plan that would fund the creation of a business district called African Town.

Whenever race, ethnicity, politics and money are swirled together in a sentence, it's a good recipe for controversy.  In the metro Detroit area, that's a given.  I've already recycled my plastic opinion about this topic.  Twice.

You'll just have to read those comments to know why I think the whole thing is a matter of perspective.  Whites are editorializing the idea as being racist or illegal.  Besides the Freep link in profwhat's Plastic write up, the Detroit News carps, Council Embraces Racism as a Development Strategy and Laura Berman predicts doom and doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.

These clueless crackers must have been too busy putting Dubya bumper stickers on their mini-vans and suburban terrain vehicles that they missed the sea change in Black Politics this year.  It's not like they missed reading a Loius Farakhan communiqué -- Bill Cosby was speaking very plainly about it this summer in a language even a dumbass white bricklayer, like me, could understand.

Is it just that the News and Freep writers can't stop whining long enough to friggin' google up a few phrases and people from their own damn stories to look into this from a different perspective -- or is it more likely that these people wouldn't have much to write about -- if they didn't continually play the race card in the Detroit media like they were getting drunk and playing Texas Hold 'Em on Celebrity Poker with George W. Bush's recently approved election-year tax-cut fun bucks?

[Headphones] :: Black Sunshine - White Zombie and KMFDM

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Ellis Marsalis Sr.

Marsalis Family Jazz CD
According to Reuters News Service, Ellis Marsalis Sr. died Sunday at the age 96 in New Orleans:

"Marsalis was a poultry farmer who converted a barn into a motel in 1943 along the Mississippi River.  The 40-room motel catered to blacks, who were not allowed to stay in New Orleans hotels because of racial discrimination.

The Marsalis Motel quickly became famous for its well-appointed rooms, fancy restaurant and shaded gardens.  Its clients included civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

The motel saw its fortunes turn for the worse in the 1960s when civil rights legislation allowed blacks to stay at New Orleans hotels that formerly catered only to whites.

In 1986 the facility closed and was later demolished.  But the motel also attracted some of the best musicians in the United States, who helped foster a love of jazz among the members of the Marsalis family, including his son Ellis Marsalis Jr., another jazz great."

Shown above is The Marsalis Family CD, released just last year.  Ellis Marsalis Sr's son, Ellis Marsalis Jr, recorded this great music upon his retirement from teaching at the University of New Orleans.  Not only do jazz superstars Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis play on this jazz celebration, but also another Marsalis protege, Harry Connick Jr.

The funeral for Ellis Marsalis Sr. is scheduled to take place tomorrow in New Orleans.

Nah'lins Funeral March

What song do you want the band to play to herald the arrival of your own dirt nap?

[Headphones] :: Banana Split Mix - BaD DoG

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
One Iraqi liberated - of her little arm

Israa Abdul Amir
Photographer Alan Pogue took this striking photograph of an injured Iraqi child in March of 2000.  He had traveled to Iraq to participate in a Veterans for Peace and Voices in the Wilderness project to rebuild a water treatment plant in Basra.  In December of 2002 he returned to Iraq and found her in the remote southern village of Abu Floos, where she lives with her family.

Her name is Israa Abdul Amir. Israa was severely injured in a missile attack conducted by the US military on the morning of January 25, 1999.  She had just finished a test at the Al Najed primary school and was walking home from school when the missile struck.  A large piece of shrapnel severed her right arm below the shoulder and she suffered chest and abdominal wounds.  A metal fragment remains lodged in her skull, a souvenir of the American Empire; doctors could not remove it for fear of killing her.  Israa was nine years old.

Cole Miller and Alan Poque went to the Middle East in March of last year in an attempt to bring Israa to the United States for medical care and a prosthetic arm.  They stayed in Amman and went to the Iraqi embassy each morning in the hope that visas to enter Iraq would be made available to them.  However, the visas did not come through before the invasion began and Israa was left behind.

On August 9, 2004, Cole Miller and Alan Pogue began a Journey to Basra, Iraq to bring Israa, the girl in the No More Victims poster, to Shriners Hospital in Houston, Texas.  Read their daily posts from the Middle East in the Journey to Iraq Journal.  You can help support this project by making a tax-deductible contribution.

I'm posting this because Alan Poque and Cole Miller have just returned.  Their trip blog is an interesting and compelling thing to read.

[Headphones] :: Seven Nation Army - White Stripes

Monday, September 20, 2004
Linking to Thunderstorms

Thanks for taking an interest in linking Thunderstorms in the Imajica.

Below are the various graphic images I use for Thunderstorms.  Since I prefer a black background color (#000000) and sometimes design the images with that in mind, I've also displayed how they might look on a medium tone or color (#999999) and a white (#FFFFFF) background color.  Some of the images are animated, some are not.  Some shown are one of two similar static images that are animated, or made dynamic in some way, by using mouseover html code.

In order to create a link to Thunderstorms using any of these images, you must first save the image on you PC.  Click your right mouse button over the image you want and select save as.  Put it in your own file space for the images you display on your web site.

Don't hotlink.  I have a habit of moving my images from one server to another and that would cause you to have a file/image missing error message appear on your web pages, if you hotlink the images here. You don't want that.  It's annoying and lame.  After you have the image displayed on your own web page where you like it, simply wrap the image in the normal A HREF html code to link to a web address (URL) here.  An example:

<A HREF="" target=_blank>
<IMG SRC="" border=0>

I suggest linking to the main page.  But, I also have a few menu style pages.  You can honestly link to any web address (URL) on this site.  Simply click on the [Permalink] on any blog entry here and the permanent web address (URL) will be displayed in your browser's address line near the top of your browser's window, when that individual page is displayed.  The permanent web address will end in a URL like this page: /archive/231.html.

If you have any questions, you can TAG or Contact Me on the left side panel for help.  Also, if you're a regular contributor to the comments around here, I will consider making some images for you, if you're totally clueless about how to create images or add them to your web site.  I'm actually a more generous person than I like to let people think I am.  Most people read the blog and think I'm grouchy -- which I am, don't forget -- but I have made web graphics for people in the past.  Ask me on a good day. 

Link to Thunderstorms

125x50px - YCMTSU

Fraggin' Friday

Digital Art and Pix

Sexy Blogdrivers

Bugs n Cheese
Link to Thunderstorms

125x50px - YCMTSU

Fraggin' Friday

Digital Art and Pix

Sexy Blogdrivers

Bugs n Cheese
Link to Thunderstorms

120x50px - YCMTSU

Fraggin' Friday

Digital Art and Pix

Sexy Blogdrivers

Bugs n Cheese

(125x125)px - YCMTSU

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