A Tipping Point?

I am CharlieThis week’s attack on the offices of the Paris based magazine Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the murder of 12 people, followed by the dramatic firefight that ended the lives of the two alleged murderers again pits mainstream Western culture v. radical Islam. On the one hand, freedom of speech allows anyone to say or write practically anything freely; on the other, a thinking that severely limits it.

The two orphaned brothers who plotted and executed the assault on Wednesday had traveled to and trained with Al Qaeda operatives who’s strategy is to seemingly wish to take society back to the dark ages. Any dissenters are eliminated.

This continues a disturbing trend where violence in many forms steals headlines nightly around the word: from two year old children accidentally shooting their mothers by reaching into a purse while in a shopping cart, to the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of of children in the Central African Republic to the beheading of people while on camera. The list goes on for miles…

What’s disturbing is that while humanity ambles it’s way forward, there a large tracts of people who wish to ‘get medieval’ upon those who disagree with their way of thinking. Where is the love and happiness that Marvin Gaye sang about a generation ago?

In last week’s issue of The Economist, a story entitled Bangers v. Bullets says that the Center for Disease Control reports that if recent trends continue, this year deaths by guns will overtake deaths on the road for those under 25 years of age.

The only possible positive result of all the death and suffering caused by violence worldwide is that it may, at some point, act as a catalyst for the vast majority of people to stand up and say enough is enough – violence is not acceptable in any form and we as a species must end it.  How is the larger question, when being less so.  Let’s say NOW to that.

The (Progressive ) Party’s over

SFBG cover

Today came the news that the San Francisco Bay Guardian weekly newspaper published its last edition. It’s yet another sign of a changing time.

Established in 1966 by Bruce Brugmann, who served as editor and Publisher for many years, it was one of the first and most authentic alternative weeklies to exist in North America.  Throughout the years, the SFBG was a champion of the people, fighting wrongdoing by politicians, corporations and the greedy.  It was also one of the reasons why I went into the newspaper business.

As a tadpole back in the 1980’s I remember sitting in the lobby of the Guardian waiting to meet Bruce – at the time I was in ad sales and was working with a group of others to develop a group network so that we could approach major and national accounts who needed multi-market solutions to their advertising needs.  After a short wait, Bruce walked out of the back offices with Senator Alan Cranston at his side – the two shook hands, slapped each other on the back and off the Senator went.  That  left an impression on me that lingers still.

Whether fighting PG&E on their plans to raise rates or degrade the environment or telling Willie Brown that he’s not always right, the Guardian told it like they saw it every week, irrespective of how it would affect their business.  They were in it for the readers.

Bruce Burgmann

For many years, Bruce had Tim Redmond, who was a pit bull of news in the Bay area, as the paper’s editor.  But Bruce, and his wife Jean Dibble (who was the operations maven of the newspaper) were more than involved in every aspect of the operation, they were committed.

They were sued and sued back many a foe, sometimes winning, sometimes losing (at least when it came to having to pay attorneys) but always with a positive, determined outlook.  They knew that what they did mattered.

 It was during a time when newspapers had swagger, Bruce loved his martinis and to chat about the news of the day.  He also used creativity to get his point across – the Read My Paper Damn It campaign a while back put Bruce’s face all over The City.

I’ll miss the paper, not in its recent anemic and pablumated form but in its historic incarnation, which was that of championing the rights of people and of causes that were important to the Bay Area.  The town won’t be the same without it.


Kick ‘em when their down










Interesting cover story this past Sunday in The L.A. Times about Donald Sterling’s advertising campaigns, touting his foundation and the donations made to worthy causes. This story has been a long time in coming and begs the question as to why Times’ writers have not explored this before. The obvious reason: ad dollars.

One of the reasons why such donations are made is to keep in good graces with those who would normally air dirty laundry about Mr. Sterling and his enterprises. One of the reasons why such ads are placed is to keep the hounds of inquiry at bay who might normally be asking the tough questions about such purported philanthropic donations. “The most beautiful apartments in the world?”  Millions of dollars benefiting minorities, kids and others?

It appears that the Los Angeles Times either swallowed these hook, line and sinker, or was enamored of the significant ad dollars such ads generated to the point whereby such investigation would prove financially disadvantageous. Since being exposed, Mr. Sterling is unlikely to continue with such puffery in print, so now is the time to let the cat out of the bag. Better late than never I guess…

Agnotology – Sewing the seeds of ignorance

In Sunday’s L.A. Times, Michael Hiltzik writes about the ever evolving culture of ignorance, in the media, to win the hearts and minds for insidious reasons.  The piece cites Stanford professor Robert Proctor, a leader in the field of agnotology  (the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data).  Proctor, who has studied famous propagandists from the Nazi party to big tobacco, the attack on Obamacare to the immunization hysteria , shows how the message and the messenger can lead large swaths of people to believe the unbelievable, by design.  “You need to teach (children) that some people lie…And why do they lie?  Because some people are greedy.”

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” ~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan


Shoot when the ducks are flying

Phil Robertson

There’s been quite a flap (pun intended) over the comments of Phil Robertson, senior beard on the A&E hit television show Duck Dynasty. It appears that Mr. Robertson said some bigoted and racist things, was reprimanded and temporarily suspended by the network for that, and was quickly reinstated once he apologized (and the network learned that the rest of the Robertson family would rather walk than go on without their beloved dad on TV with them).

How TV like this generates $80 million in ad sales revenue in nine months and more than $400 million the series has generated overall in merchandise sales is beyond me. Then again, I may give the public too much credit for their intelligence.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes a good piece is the Pasadena Weekly on the topic.

Lessons learned:
Many people still harbor racist/homophobic opinions, some are even willing to say so in public.
Money wins over correctness too often.
Controversy is good for some businesses.
You really don’t need an education to get ahead in life.

America, we can do better.

Don’t believe everything you read…

Don't believe everything you read...

As of Saturday morning, the Los Angeles Times website is still reporting that the gunman was killed in the LAX shooting Friday. yet on the front page of the website, it clearly says the gunman was injured.

From Pink to Read?


Today the daily paper made good on a promise to deliver its pages in pink. The problem must have been how to make those pages pink and hit your delivery deadlines. In this case, the latter didn’t happen as planned. In observation of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Star marketed to its readers and clients that it would print today;s edition on pink pages, similar to the green sheet that the SF Chronicle does/did in the past. A novel idea. Alas, the paper was delivered to many readers well after 10am, making the regular morning read not possible. And if you’re like me, reading the moring paper in the pm just feels wrong,, so I suspect that the advertisers who bought into today’s book, didn’t get all that was promised. Chalk another one up for that  old saying – “No good deed goes unpunished…”

Like the wind over the steppes

An unusual man died this two weeks ago and I’d like to take a moment to remember him. Kongar-ol Ondar, a master throat singer, hailed from a small Russian republic but toured the world once his gift was discovered. A happy man later in life, Ondar had a tough start of things but like many with a certain determination, overacame adversity and became respected in his craft. Here’s a sample of him singing on David Letterman’s show about fourteen years ago. Like so many gifted people, he makes multi-harmonies look easy.  Give it a view…

Testosterone Lite

Stallone poster

Mary McNamara writes a good piece on the Calendar Cover today in the LA TImes.  Hasta la vista, He-Men tells of how macho is out and smart is the new sexy, at least when it comes to media.  That’s a good thing, because we’ve had more than our share of role models who, while filling our cup with entertaining adventure, use anger and physical violence to make their point.  What with all those things in the real world, do we really need to escape reality by watching the very same thing only with a script?  Hopefully, not.


Now, if they could only put those MMA commercials only on late night TV…

A more modern Christ

Jesus Christ

A nice family came to my home yesterday with a message and flyer.  Well actually, it was the soon to be teenagers of a family that knocked on the door, the parents were busy knocking elsewhere.  We took the flyer and thanked them for their time.  The piece they left behind was an invitation to a special talk a local religious group is having next month. 

What caught my eye was the way that Jesus was portrayed visually.  All of my life, I’d only seen one version: the rock star look with long hair.  Unlike Santa Claus, for which I had seen several renditions (jolly gentile, mall latino and the rare African version), this was different.  Christ had gotten a haircut and was looking manscaped like never before.  Why, I wondered?

This is all part of marketing, and let it never be said that religious organizations don’t know how to market.  They have to – to the uninitiated, the main product is elusive, sometimes never showing up.   Talk about intangible; aside from a good book and people who are third-party references, the main product (God and his son) are elusive, shall we say.

Christ lived about 2,000 years ago (although a modern calendar is not tied to his birth/death, estimates of his period on earth range from 7–2 BC to 30–36 AD), and photography wasn’t around so it’s anyone’s guess what he actually looked like.  But most illustrations of him show a man with longer hair and a beard that is less tended than the version I received.  I’m guessing that they feel that if Christ was more handsome, it might help to bring more followers to the flock.

Earlier versions of Christ make him look like he lived in a time where running water and showers were hard to come by.  The man in the new likeness looks to be well coiffed and manicured.  Even his nails look perfect.

‘Who is this man” indeed?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.