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October 16, 2005 - " ...or run naked through the streets, screaming all the way..."

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World's Laziest Journalist

October 16, 2005

By Bob Patterson


The first time I ever heard The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan was in a movie theater many years ago.  Instinctively and immediately it became one of my favorite songs of all time.  As someone who had always planned on getting to Paris somewhere, somehow, some day, the song about someone who realizes, at the age of thirty-seven, that she ain't never gonna make it, was so sad.  In the song, Lucy handles the pressure of everyday existence by slipping her moorings and going off into her own private universe.  At the end of the song the men in white coats are putting her in a big white limousine, but she thinks that she's in a sports car with the top down riding through Paris.


After hearing the song, I insisted that we sit through the credits and learned about it.  That particular song was a cut on Marianne Faithfull's album, Broken English.  So we bought a copy.


[The guy on background vocals does a great job.  Isn't he the same guy who sang backup on Carly Simon's song You're So Vain?]


Madness has always fascinated people, but I've often wondered… if there is a national psyche, what would happen if a whole country went off the deep end?  Not talking about Germany in the Thirties here folks - the Germans were hoodwinked.  Being tricked by a bad guy doesn't count.  I mean, what would happen if, all of a sudden, the majority of some country just bought into total madness?  It might be kindda exciting at first.  Big deep discussions over matters that were not really that important.  Think along the lines of men deciding about abortion, while deals were being made that would frost their cajones to the max if they were known.  Need an example?  Let's imagine, for the sake of the analogy, that Zorro made a deal with the local honcho, Captain Monastario (played by Britt Lomond), that if the Captain lets Zorro escape capture, Zorro wouldn't do anything bad to the captain's house or family.  How would the locals feel about such a deal?


Meanwhile a free press spends their day ("she could clean the house for hours or rearrange the flowers") debating things such as: Did Goebbels have the best credentials to be appointed Minister of Propaganda?  [Don't they not think that the nation's leader possessed the supreme judgment needed to make such a call?]  Didn't the conservatives want someone more conservative than Herr Goebbels? 


When they weren't spinning their wheels at the Voelkischer Beobachter on meaningless stories about unimportant issues, back then?  Wasn't the staff of that newspaper busy congratulating each other on how great their job performance scores (which they give to themselves) were?  Wasn't that kinda an exercise in futility?


[Somewhere on the Internet, there used to be a story that, after the Berlin Wall was torn down, a trove of kinescopes of the evening news television broadcasts from the Third Reich was discovered.  Somewhere, there was also a story that the 1936 Olympics were televised.  Not live, they ran film, according to the Internet story, through a camera on top of a truck, and then the film went down to a lab inside the truck body where the black and white film was processed into a negative, and then the image was reversed electronically (into a positive picture) and broadcast about a minute after being exposed in the camera.  It was like "tape delay" only using film instead of tape.  (Let's watch the fact checker suffer cardiac arrest on that last paragraph.)]


[Editor's Note: The story of that is here in detail, with even a picture of the camera used. No problem. - AMP]


Graham Greene wrote: "Everybody has to die and everybody fears death, but when we kill a man we save him from his fear which would otherwise grow year by year…"  (The Ministry Of Fear - page 152.)


Did the Germans torture American soldiers captured in North Africa to find out where and when General Eisenhower was going to invade Europe?  That would have been kind of mean and sadistic, of course, to do that because "Ike" wasn't very prone to sharing the specific details about such future operations with the privates and corporals who were fighting in North Africa, but hey, wasn't the old operative principle: "You never know, unless you ask!" 


[Aren't "Arabs" specifically prone toward "revenge"?  Wouldn't torturing some of them, (you know, a "round up the usual suspects" - type deal) to try to force them to tell things they have no "need to know," be a great way to insure that their sons would consider it a sacred duty to seek "revenge" and thus insure that the conflict will still be fought long after the present generation "goes to the happy hunting grounds?"  Is that "crazy" talk?  Does it make sense?  Heck you could think of it as insuring that future historians will have topics for research.  (How did that conflict begin a hundred years ago?)  What would historians study if the reasons for going to war were obvious?  They wouldn't have any work to do.]


There was a comedian who used to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show who maintained that most English tourists assumed that, when talking in a foreign country, the locals could speak English.  If they didn't respond, you simply talked louder.  It was a funny bit. 


When the TV showed footage of soldiers in Vietnam yelling at the locals in English, I knew that they must have been fans of the Sullivan Show and that bloody comedian (can't remember his name but he used to give my mom hysterics).  Nobody would laugh, when that bit was on the CBS Evening News from Vietnam.  Seeing that didn't give one a great deal of confidence that things would turn out well.


Seeing video of operations in Iraq, more recently, one gets a certain déjà vu feeling watching the guys yell, "Put your hands up!" 


One of the adults in the neighborhood where I spent my youth told a story from his experiences in WWII.  He had the chance to speak with a German prisoner of war.  The fellow spoke English and it turned out he not only knew about Scranton Pennsylvania, he also knew what street featured a bar that specialized in jazz music.  Do you think that guy got particularly good treatment?  Could he have told his captors what the German Chancellor for Life was thinking and planning?  Did they miss a valuable opportunity by not torturing that prisoner?


When the time came for this columnist to find out just what it was like to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, a funny thing happened.  You know all those stories about how "they hate Americans in Paris?"  Turns out, that if you use your high school (and a bit of college) French on them, you get decent service. 


Is it as simple as that?  You ask the price in French and they tell you?  None of that: "Goddamn, boy!  I know you understand me.  How much is it in dollars?"  That's all it takes to turn a bad trip into a great vacation? 


A trip to Paris can do funny things to your head.  After going there, you might take a word association test and when the person giving the test says "raspberries" you say "Paris!"


Hell, if it's that good there, they'd be giving tours of the sewers.  Do they have alligators in their sewers too, or is that only in New York City? 


This week's end of the column quote is "Hey, Ralph, wanna go bowling tonight?"


Now, while the disk jockey plays Art and Dotty Todd's hit version of Chanson D'Amour (from 1958), we'll get the letters of transit and split for this week.  Our next column might be about a new topic.  How can we write a column all about Orson Wells and do the usual political bashing in the same column?  You'll have to tune in to find out.  Until then … tell Mr. DeMille you're ready for your close up.



Copyright (including logo) © 2005 – Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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