Just Above Sunset
June 20, 2004 - A poltergeist guest and a feast of paranoid speculation...

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World’s Laziest Journalist

June 21 2004

By Bob Patterson


[This column is a work of fiction and like the astrological forecasts in the newspapers, it is meant to amuse and entertain.]


While I was surfing the net, I contemplated buying a book recommended by a friend. 



Then I began reading a blog that asks What Would (Philip K.) Dick Think?  It was an intriguing premise and I was very absorbed by the concept.  If Philip K. Dick were alive and writing today, what would he be saying?


It was bedtime.  I tucked myself in and was still pondering the premise, as I dozed off.  A voice in my room startled me.  Dennis says you’re pretty good with conspiracy theories, yourself.”  I jumped up and turned on a light.  It wasn’t Jacob Marley, so I asked, “Who are you?”  He introduced himself as being the ghost of Philip K. Dick.  It’s always nice when a phantom provides the name of a mutual acquaintance as a reference.  You need help with next week’s column?” he asked settling into a chair.  What columnist in his right mind could turn down help from the ghost of Phil (as my pal Dennis calls him)?


Well, yeah.  I just started doing the weekly column for Just Above Sunset online magazine and already I find I’m resorting to themes and leitmotifs I had previously used in my columns for the online music magazine, so, Yeah!, I could use some help coming up with something new and original.


He walked over to my computer.  Fire this sucker up!  I wish they had these gizmos when I was writing.”  I pushed the start up button and he watched the beast boot up.  My start up sound file is Bela Lugosi saying the “I am Dracula” line.  That amused Phil no end.


For starters, let’s dream up a bar where the newsies hang out.  That way we can start it in ‘Media Ray’s.’” he suggested. “We’ll throw in some predictions to get things rolling.”  He chuckled. 


I asked him: “What do you think?”

I’ll give you two; No. 1 - They won’t catch Osama.  No. 2 - There won’t be any suicide bombers in the US before the November elections.”  He wondered over to my tapes.  “Do you know what quid pro quo means?”


I’m not a lawyer, but as I understand it, it’s like ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ type of phenomenon.”


The ghost was fiddling with the tape player.  He slipped a Willie Nelson album into the machine.  He sang along when they got to the part that goes:


“All the federales say

They could have had him any day

They only let him slip away

Out of kindness I suppose.”


He shrugged and stopped that song.


If you know about legal stuff, why don’t you write a column about the possibility of jury nullification in the Iraqi trial of Saddam?  If they want to repudiate the Americans, they could just let the rascal walk, no hard feelings.  That would send a message to Washington about the way they feel and it would send a message to the world that they are, indeed, not a Bush’s puppets.”


[As the O. J. trial was getting started, the Wall Street Journal carried a story about jury nullification.  It was very interesting and informative and as thing turned out, also very prescient.  Try googling “jury nullification.”]


That might be too deep for my audience.”  I refuted his suggestion.  What about Al Qaeda?  Any thoughts about them for me?” 


He was on a roll, let’s mine this for all it’s worth was my attitude at this point.


The PKD spectral oracle looked through my New York Times for September 12, 2001.  You think another tragedy like this will help or hurt the incumbent?” he asked.  The longer we talked the more he seemed more like a flesh and blood human and the less he seemed like visitor from the spirit world.


After Sept. 11, the country united behind the president in an unprecedented manner.”  I replied.


Where would be a good place to hit?” he probed. 


While I thought about that challenging question he began tapping a more recent newspaper with studied nonchalance.  It reminded me of the sequence in The Third Man, where Harry Lime is talking to Holly Martins on the Ferris wheel.  I noticed he was tapping on a story about the Democratic Convention, which will be held in Boston.  Oh, God, NOOOOO!” I screamed.  He shushed me saying I’d wake the neighbors.


He gave me the innocent smile routine.  Would you really, old man, care if the Democratic Party stopped moving…  forever?  If ‘they’ wiped the lot of them out with a new catastrophe?” 


This was beginning to creep me out.  Can ghosts do mind reading?  Phil was even beginning to look a bit like Orson Wells.  Or would the thought of winning a second term without effort, without effort,t old man – it’s the only way to campaign these days – be enough to convince you know who?”


That’s too far out, even for me, Phil.” 


He flopped down on the couch.  He flipped through my copy of The Black Museum.


Is this any good?” 


I nodded. 


He tucked it into his jacket pocket. 


My poltergeist guest continued his fearless forecasting:  Suppose, old man, that the Americans wanted to cause confusion.  If they broke the Iranian code, wouldn’t they know for sure if Chalabi was or was not an Iranian agent?  If they used him as a Judas goat to ‘trick’ the US into starting the war, and then when he had served his purpose, they exposed him as a spy, and chucked him out of the game.  Then, the way is open for an ostensibly anti-American guy to become the unacceptable ‘bad guy’ leader of the interim Iraqi government, who will then ask our army to leave.  We get out by October.  Bush welcomes the troops back home and gives them a ‘Well Done!’  Then he gets re-elected and reluctantly promises to work with the guy who has ‘embarrassed’ the American leader.


Suppose that this story happens to be an accurate guess?” I asked my guest.


He was really channeling Wells, now.  He shrugged.  I’m dead, old man, what can I do?”  My head was spinning.  I felt like I was in the time slip mode.


So they get Chalabi to manipulate them into a war to get rid of Saddam, and then they make him look like an unacceptable choice, and thereby put in their own ‘hole card’ guy?  Then he kicks the American army out PDQ?  It boils down to the old ‘He may be a sonofabitch, but he’s our sonofabitch’ ploy once more?  Gees, you have a devious mind.  Are you sure you’re the ghost of Philip K. Dick and not Ian Fleming?


Phil took a soda from my refrigerator.  You’ve got enough for the next column.  If you want me to come back, you’d better get some jazz albums.”  He riffled through my Rock’n’Roll tapes.  This crap won’t cut it.  Get some Coltrane.”  Then he walked through the wall leaving me to wonder if my friends were right when they said all the conspiracy stuff was going to push me over the edge.


In The Ganymede Takeover, Philip K. Dick wrote (on page 10):  . . . the future is unknowable after all.  It’s easy enough to utter vague and frightening words that nobody really understand, then later on say, ‘You See?  That’s what I meant all along.’”


The disk jockey holds up the sound track album for Blade Runner.  Like a baseball pitcher I wave off that choice.  The disk jockey knows what I’m thinking.  He hates it when I call for a 78 rpm record, but this week only one will do.  He’s gotta play the soundtrack for The Third Man. 


That’s it for this column, come back next week and remember, “It’s you I want to see….”


Have a clairvoyant week. 




Editor’s Note:

The lead review in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review for June 20 is this:


The truth as he knew it

'I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick'
By Emmanuel Carrère;
Translated from the French by Timothy Bent
Metropolitan Books: 316 pp., $26

… review by Francie Lin

Her comments, in part…


"Often people claim to remember past lives," Philip K. Dick told a sci-fi convention audience toward the end of his life. "I claim to remember a different, very different, present life." This statement, in all its koan-like paradox, mystified his listeners, for what could it possibly mean?

It meant, for one thing, that the author of mind-bending works like "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" was perhaps not inventing anything when he wrote about the dark alternative realities and nightmarish government conspiracies in which his characters, over the course of some 50 novels, are freakishly ensnared.

That is, at least, French novelist Emmanuel Carrère's take on the life and works of Dick in his brilliantly inventive biography "I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick."  Carrère combines fact and fiction to form a new sort of genre, blending literary criticism and cultural history with a novelist's earnest speculation.  He emerges, somewhat bloodied by the experience, with a picture of a life by turns pathetic and heroic, but most of all plagued by a sense of feverish doubt and emptiness that nothing — not heroin, not psychotherapy, not marriage, affairs, religion or any of the other standard panaceas of the 1960s and 1970s — could quite subdue.


You get the idea.


So go get the book.


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. 
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