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The Voice

This Issue

Introducing Payson Road's newest column, The Voice, the successor to 2005's, The Gripe column.  The Payson Road Voice is an editorial column focusing on social, political and cultural topics.   This new column is an opportunity to express your opinions to the fullest.  So by all means do it! 

If you are interested in contributing content to The Voice, please contact thevoice (@paysonroad.com).

To view all 2005 articles for the Gripe column visit The Gripe 2005.

Index:  2006

November 12, 2006 - My One and Only
October 2006 - Does Geography Define Friendship?
June 20, 2006 - Baseball, Apple Pie and Dixie Chicks
May 4, 2006 - Few Spew Truths Better Than You Hunter
March 2006 -  Judge Ye Not for Thou Art Full of Crap
February 2006 - Where Have You Gone Herb Brooks?
January 2006 - Super Bowl vs. Oscars

2005

December 2005 - First Passion
s Never Die
November 2005 - Where Have All the Murrows Gone?
October 2005 - Who's Your Crony Now?


November 12, 2006

Bruce Lee Broke My Heart and All I Have to Show for It Is a Butt Load of VHS Tapes
by Sarahelizabeth Mason

Reality and I started fighting when I was seven.  It's been a cold war, no clearly defined winner as yet, just a lot of displaced socialism.  Television was my first refuge.  My brother Paul was an accomplished cartoonist for a 12 year old and used his unique artistry to create armies of television cop-show characters.  He would draw them on pieces of paper and cut them out and we would write our own live-action story boards for Columbo, Kojack, Baretta, Hawaii-Five-0 and more. It was pretty elaborate actually.  He drew all the cars, buildings, pets, we had a virtual set on my bedroom carpet.  I spent hours in my room building stories out of little paper men. I can only imagine what Paul could have done with a piece of software. His interests evolved and he ultimately abandoned his art but I still have all the boxes containing every one of those characters he drew.

My family was on the verge of a meltdown and anyone who thinks a child isn't aware is a fool.  Living between paper and electronic images shielded me from the existing battle of my childhood reality but it was celluloid that would prove to be my white knight. 

My father loved movies, and sports.  Being the youngest I was often left behind especially when our extended family came into play.  My oldest cousin is 20 years older than I am.  My father took pity on me by taking me on special excursions, just the two of us.  He would take me to football games, basketball games, baseball games.  I loved every minute of every event, probably because I so desperately wanted time with my father. Whatever the reason, I gained a true thirst for the thrill of the game.  

One day, instead of going to Fenway Park Dad told me we were going to the movies.  I had been to the movies of course, but kids movies.  Harmless fluff--babysitters that any mother would feel safe leaving their child in front of for 90 minutes.  Well, not this day.  Dad packed me into his 72 convertible Dodge Dart and we headed downtown.  We drove through the theatre district and quickly thereafter the restaurant windows changed from Irish pub names to Chinese lettering.  Of course, at the time, I wasn't aware that Chinatown was Boston's red light district.  

The theatre was on the corner next to Grand Chau Chow, a well-established Chinese eatery.  On the opposite street corner was another theatre, The Pussycat.  We parked in a nearby garage and stopped for Chinese pastries on the way.  Dad took my hand and walked unaffected past the prostitutes and homeless people.  We got to the theatre on the corner and the sign up above read, "Bruce Lee Triple Feature".  Let me recap my age at the time, seven. To this day, I believe my mother thinks Dad took me to see Benji. 

We got into the theatre, Dad bought me a coke and some popcorn which my mother would surely disapprove of after all the Chinese pastries I'd consumed, and we sat in the middle of the theater in great anticipation.  There he was, this little, funny looking man, jumping around kicking people.  I was mesmerized.  I was intrigued, not by the story or the action per say, but by the sheer grandeur of what was appearing before me.  The screen was enormous and Bruce Lee (despite his size) was larger than life.  I felt like I could jump up there and be in the picture with him.  I begin writing myself into the scene.  It was amazing a visual orgy, even at my youthful age I was seduced.  I wanted more.

What followed was a never-ending string of totally age inappropriate films; Cabaret, Network, Three Days of the Condor, James Bond!  My father took me to everything.  As my imagination grew he expanded the curriculum.  He exposed me to film noir, Hitchcock, silent movies, early talkies.  In this world I was free. I could be anyone, do anything, there was no reality in those two hours in the dark.  There was no one to remind me that I was alone.  I wasn't alone. My new world was overflowing with new friends. 

As I got older my father spent less and less time with me.  By the time he finally left my mother, I was so deeply in love with the moving image I no longer needed a reason or a companion to go to the movies.  Eventually I started writing my own stories because watching wasn't fulfilling all my needs.  My desire to be a part of the process of filmmaking stemmed from my insatiable appetite for movies.  For this, I thank my father for introducing me to a medium that has, both as a participant and observer, enabled me to find my voice.

Tonight I was skipping channels and came upon Cool Hand Luke, another one my father took me to see.  Although, I abandoned the idea of making an omelet after revisiting the famous egg eating scene, I was totally engaged by every utterance of the brilliant dialogue. I must have seen the film 50 times, yet I'm equally thrilled at the 51st viewing.  Film, if you let it, will eventually tap into every human emotion; anger, lust, fear, pain, contentment, indifference, love.  This power has intoxicated me and it breathes life into my wounded soul.  Movies keep me feeling alive.  

They say you never get over your first love. As long as there's a big screen and stories to be told, I'll never have to.   

index


October 20, 2006

Does Geography Define Friendship?
by Sarah E. Mason

According to Websters, the word "friend" is defined as, a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.  That's just the beginning.  If you've ever felt as though a black cloud was looming over your life, or that maybe you were in serious debt to a guy named karma, then welcome to my life!  The events of this past year have helped me to clearly define my understanding of friendship and also identify who, in my life, fits into that definition. 

When I was a little girl, I would give everybody the benefit of the doubt, trusting to a fault.  Oh who am I kidding?  I'm still the same.  Thus, I tend to bruise easily when people disappoint, which they do frequently. One thing I've discovered, as a result of living in Los Angeles, geography plays a role in how people view friendship.  

When I first moved to LA in 1994, it seemed as though I had entered paradise.  It was warm and sunny all the time, people smiling, saying hello--stark contrast from the grumpy disposition and weather we have in Boston. Instantly, I made friends and it seemed as though I had found a new community to embrace.  What I learned the hard way was that the community did not return the favor. About six month into my relocation, my car broke down on the freeway.  Naturally, I called my new friends for help.  Their response was so incredulous to me. One person told me that he had already gone to bed. I think another said they were too far away (20 minutes).  It was shocking and definitely a wake up call reminding me of my worst fear, I'm really alone out here. 

If your car breaks down on the highway in Massachusetts, no matter what time of night, no matter how far, how sleepy, how entertained your friends might be, they will come get you. I'm sure this to be true for other communities as well.  There's something about LA that is unlike any other community.  It is defined by its lack of community.  I've analyzed this point endlessly over the years.  Here's what I've come up with as the determining factors; the weather, the geography, the industry. Anyone of those three components alone is not enough to shape the persona of a city, but together they make one powerful mood ring.  Let me break them down.

The weather - it is sunny ALL THE TIME.  We get the occasional rainfall but for the most part, the weather is not a main character in anyone's script.  You do not have to create backup plans due potential bad weather conditions.  This sunny atmosphere puts a smile on ones face more than not thus making it very deceptive. 

The geography - the city of Los Angeles is so spread out and the public transportation system is so archaic that you simply can not function practically without a car. And generally, you're in that car alone.  Being by yourself, in a metal box 40% of your life tends to cut one off from familiarity and interest in engaging with other people. 

The industry - 80% of the economy in Los Angeles is driven by the entertainment industry.  Yes, there are other professions in LA but the overall vibe of the city is all about Hollywood.  Thus, the general character of the city is overly focused on materialism, appearance and fantasy.  

I'm gonna throw out another element, the wild wild west.  The west, as revealed by history, has always been synonymous with the concepts of pioneering, entrepreneurialism and fulfillment of dreams.  These are great things and in fact, largely the reasons why I made the move out west myself.  But the dark side of that freedom brings selfishness, disinterest in community, greed and loss of awareness.  

Throw all these things together in a big pot, stir it around until it stews, spice it up with a lot of diverse and competing cultures, and you've got a very skewed sense of what it means to be part of a community.  

Now, I'm not throwing a blanket over the entire city saying that everyone is self-centered and materialistic.  Like any stereotype, my illustration of my experiences are quite possibly the extreme.  That said,  things are different back east.  Back east, when you're friend calls you from the hospital and says they have a life threatening infection, you drop everything and get to that hospital fast.  In Los Angeles, the reaction is somewhat different.  You figure out when you have time to get there and then you go.  This could be hours later, or days it's all about what one is able to do.  These are two very opposing philosophies, each has its own set of problems. 

In New England, we're raised with the notion that others come first.  This presents obvious problems down the line.  But it's a nice concept and does lend itself nicely to an overall tight community feeling.  Again, I'll break down those three factors, this time for Boston.

The weather - it sucks, pretty much all the time. Like the Red Sox, there are moments of greatness that sneak up and surprise you when you're not looking.  Then...the choke hold comes followed swiftly by the rain, and possibly slush, ice and hail disguised in the form of a multi-million dollar termination machine called, the Steinbrenner.  This bad weather makes for a lotta cranky personalities.

The geography - it's tight.  The city is not spread out.  Nobody wants to drive in it, especially now since the Big Dig leveled the psyche of the city.  So we're packed into the T like sardines. Of course, the IPOD makes it easier to endure the ride, but you're still elbow to elbow, sweat to sweat with people who are determined to beat your ass onto that last remaining subway seat, resulting in, more grumpy people!

The industry - it's not as monogamous as LA.  Medical, legal and corporate are all supporting cast members but Education is really the lead role.  This means there's more of a cerebral overall tone. People are a little snotty, but more interested in where you went to college then what you drive and whether your boobs are real.  People don't care as much about their appearance.  

My friends in LA feel that they are doing what they can when they come to my rescue...the next day. My friends back home in Boston don't think, they just do.  And no matter what's going on for them, they are always there when I need them.  They also don't need a medal for getting out of work, or rearranging their schedules, or merely showing up to help.  They see it as part of their life obligation to people.  That's probably the defining difference.  From my experience, people in Los Angeles do not have the same feeling of obligation to other people that I do.  That's not to say they aren't they for you, it's just that they are there for you on their terms.  This is a hard thing to live with especially when you're far away from your family. 

The drama of the past year for me has shown that I really only have one person in my life in LA that I can count on completely.  Maybe that's all I need. It has made for a lot of soul searching.  Who knows, maybe I'm being too rigid in my requirements for being a friend. Hmmm....nah.  Perhaps I need to add an addendum to that Webster's definition.  I will settle for simplicity, "a friend who doesn't ask why or how, a friend who simply says, I'll be there."

index


June 20, 2006

Baseball, Apple Pie and Dixie Chicks
by Sarah E. Mason

Journal Entry - January 20, 1981

Today the hostages were released from Terran after 444 days of captivity.  I am so glad they are finally coming home and will be safe.   On a related note, Reagan is being sworn into office.  It will be the demise of the nation.  We're doomed.

I wrote this when I was twelve. Funny, I always regarded myself at that age as a silly girl obsessed with Sting.  Guess I had more depth than I thought. Having a father who is a professor of Islamic history might have affected my perspective slightly.  Frankly,  I always thought I ignored my parents liberal ranting.  My memory of our family dinner conversations were that they were boring and lacking normalcy like that of my friends families whose hot topic of discussion was local soccer politics. Of course, now I'm grateful for all those nights spent thrashing out the holes in supply-side economics, even if I didn't see the benefits at the time. 

Recently I've discovered a door to my past through my old journal entries, like the one above.  I've kept a diary since I was seven years old and have managed to save all of them...thanks to my mother's obliging basement.  I just now retrieved the entire collection as well as letters and scattered writings.  It's been eye opening, a window into my child mind.  Isn't that what our therapists are constantly trying to get us back in touch with...Information that would have been helpful before I dropped hundreds of dollars on therapy.

The January 20, 1981 journal entry was particularly fascinating because it fell on the eve of what would be the most tumultuous year of my life.  My parents were on the verge of a divorce, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly thereafter, and I was about to head down a long and lonely path with a scary companion named ED.  

One thing prevalent in all my journal entries was the voicing of my opinions, however lame, or misguided they may be. I always had something to say, and believed that it was our duty and right to voice our beliefs. This got me thinking, how would twelve year old me react to a recent current event which deals with this very point? 

What came to mind immediately was the Dixie Chicks.  If you're out of the loop, the "Chicks" are a multi-platinum selling Country music trio.  Several years back, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Chicks lead singer, Natalie Maines made a now infamous comment at a concert they were performing in Germany.  Maine's words, "Just so you know, we're ashamed our President is from Texas", cost the Chicks a lot more than the made from record sales.  Patriotic country music fans started boycotting the Dixie Chicks music, radio stations held CD burnings, and even the Chicks received death threats.  Why? Well, at the time Bush's popularity rating was a lot higher than the 36 percent it is now.  The country was still licking its wounds from the attacks on September 11th.  Patriotism seems to ebb and flow like the economic tide, well, the tide was coming in on the Chicks.  Personally, I think it was an example of how McCarthyism never really died out in this country, and for that matter, witch burning.  We are so desperately afraid of everything, not in the norm. Anyone who speaks out against that norm, look out!

I'm not sure I would have voiced my thoughts on this matter quite the same way at twelve but, I did come across an interesting entry with similarities.  Please note, the spelling is left uncorrected, for posterity of course.

April 4, 1978

The Oscars were on last night. I got to stay up and watch the whole thing on TV with Paul and the kitties. It was good but Star Wars didn't win so I was kinda mad. Some movie with Annie in the name one instead by Woody Allan and he wasn't even there to say anything.  That stinks.  Vanessa Redgrave one an Oscar too an she made everybody in the audience boo at her cause she said some bad stuff about people who don't like Palestinians. I don't know what the big deal is about what she said. Isn't America supposed to be the home of the free? So that means we can say whatever we want. If I didn't think something was right, I would say it. Maybe I can win an Oscar someday and then I can tell everyone what I think about stuff.

Oddly, at age eleven, I managed to spell Palestinian correctly, but was unable to differentiate between "one" and "won".  Glad to hear my reasons for wanting an Oscar were purely political. 

As I continued reading through journals, my previous suspicions about my overactive fascination with boys were confirmed. In addition to boys and the teenybopper's guide to politics, a chief concern for me was baseball.  Perhaps because baseball was one of the biggest connections I had with my father.  Clearly influenced by my surroundings (Boston), at a young age I wrote about my intense dislike for the Yankees. 

October 3, 1978

OOOO I'm so mad!!! That big dummy Bucky Dent came in and messed up everything. And Yaz worked so hard!  It's not his fawlt that he ended up losing the game. And that other big jerk, Reggie Jackson. He is a fathead.  He has a big blow up conseeded head that someone should give a punch. I'm never gonna go to New York again unless he's not there. I hate the Yankees!

Wow.  Hot head at 11.  Frankly I'm impressed that I called Reggie Jackson a fathead.  Baseball is so easy to get passionate about, especially for Red Sox fans. Today I use more explicit words to describe my feelings toward the Yankees.  But there's no question, the reaction's the same then and now.  In a strange way, it comforted me to discover how much passion I did have at a young age.  Despite it's occasional misplacing.

It's easy to go to pick up a book or google historical events online, but there's nothing like reading the words of an eight year old describe how ashamed she was to be an American citizen when our prezident made us all look like turkeys when we voted for him after he lyed and was really dum. 

That was in 1975 after Nixon resigned.  It's amazing I made it through my band concerts without being booed after them fighting words!  Before you get too excited, I go on for several pages to talk about how much I love my Bionic Woman Dome House.  Even still, this exploration has been quite a confidence booster. I love that I talked about Nixon when I was a kid.  Had my parents been different I may have had a framed picture of Nixon on my wall with the inscription, "I love Dick".  Luckily for me, they voted for McGovern. 

It may take me several months to get through all the journal entries.  It' worth it.  I'm finding explanations to so many things. It's like finding a map to my life and each clue gets me closer to the treasure.  Not sure what the treasure is yet, self awareness?  Peace?  Forgiveness maybe.  Hmmm, understanding would do it for me, and of course the satisfaction of knowing I had a sense of irony before Pandora's box opened. 

There are a few clues, however, that just don't seem to add up. My 8th grade diary had a political cartoon clipping of Alexander Haig dressed up as a woman with blond hair and enormous breasts.  Maybe I mistook him for Dolly Parton.  Or maybe it really was Dolly Parton.  I better go look at that picture again.

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May 4, 2006

Few Spew Truths Better Than You Hunter
by Sarah E. Mason

Most writers and artists can point to at least one great artist who has influenced their work.  I've got several.  Although, they would never hang out at the same party together, Jane Austen, Hunter S. Thompson, Jean Shepherd, George Elliot, Frank McCourt, Oscar Wilde, Rhys Bowen, George Sands, J.K. Rowling. ;)  It would be one hell of a party if they were all there.  Whenever I fall into the obligatory writing rut, I go on a quest in search of inspiration via my favorite writers works.  Choosing the writer to drown my ambiguity in depends largely on what's going on in my life and/or what kind of writing I'm doing.  Lately, I've been all about Opinion Editorial (Op Ed).  When I'm in this kind of mood, there's only only place to go...into the gonzo mind of Hunter S. Thompson.

As a Generation X, liberal minded, satirist, it's almost a cliché for me to say that one of my favorite writers is Hunter S. Thompson.  Hunter fans are notorious, sometimes self-important and always territorial.  There's a general public opinion on Hunter and then there's a "in the know" take on him.  I wouldn't categorize myself anywhere in that mix.  I'm a late bloomer as a Hunter fan.  I got turned onto his work through his ESPN column, Hey Rube.  Of course I knew who he was and I'd read The Rum Diaries, and Fear and Loathing... but my true appreciation developed after reading his column.  What grabbed me was his raw honesty.  Writers, particularly journalists, today rarely, and so nakedly spell out the truth.  Hunter always spoke his truth. 

This is an excerpt from Thompson's Rolling Stone Magazine obituary of Richard Nixon:

"He Was a Crook"
By Hunter S. Thompson

It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he's gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive--and he was, all the way to the end--we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.

That was Nixon's style--and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don't fight fair, bubba. That's why God made dachshunds.

Don't forget, at the time, and despite his crimes, it was still considered controversial to so ruthlessly bash Nixon. When it was still 50% popular to love Bush, Hunter referred to him as, "a half-bright football coach who goes into a big game without a Game Plan".  Once I discovered his ESPN column, I found myself constantly searching for his opinion on just about everything.  I knew that the only journalist I could count on to give it to me straight (and with the most humor) would be Hunter. 

This is from his Hey Rube column "Shotgun Golf with Bill Murray", "The death of professional hockey in AMERICA is a nasty omen for people with heavy investments in NHL teams. But to me, it meant little or nothing-- and that's why I called Bill Murray with an idea that would change both our lives forever."

He goes on to recount his 3am conversation with Bill Murray about his idea for Shotgun Golf.  It's hysterical. What's so great about that opening line is, he's writing for ESPN, smack in the middle of the NHL lockout.  Instead of getting into professional hockey's dark little secrets, (as most sports writers were doing), he talks about his big plan: Build vertical driving ranges in the U.S. and create a new sport, "Shotgun Golf", in which the goal is to pick off the other players balls with a shotgun.  Brilliant.

What's so great about Hunter is that he seemed to be dedicated to no particular principle, except perhaps debauchery and truth. Edward R. Murrow was also a great speaker of truths.  He was passionately committed to fighting injustices by revealing all the facts.  I think I love Hunter more because he had no primary purpose.  He just said whatever thought came into his mind and his twist on things, though crazy, was pure genius.

Lately I've been having a hard time figuring out my place in the writing world.  My recent work has been predominantly non-fiction/editorial as opposed to fiction/screenwriting (which is where I started).  When you voice your opinion, you're opening a can of worms that you have to be willing to lose before you go fishing.  That's been a tough one.  I've also been flirting with the idea of getting back to my roots and writing more scripts.  I don't profess to be half the writer Hunter S. was, but re-reading his work has given me buoyancy in this new direction I've taken. 

In honor of Hunter, and all who appreciate his particular rantings, here's the entirety of his last Hey Rube column,  published not long before his death in February 2005.  It displays everything I love about Hunter.  When Hunter writes, you're dragged into his bizarre psyche, [often against your will] yet always left satisfied and entertained.
 

Shotgun Golf with Bill Murray
By Hunter S. Thompson

The death of professional hockey in AMERICA is a nasty omen for people with heavy investments in NHL teams. But to me, it meant little or nothing -- and that's why I called Bill Murray with an idea that would change both our lives forever.

It was 3:30 on a dark Tuesday morning when I heard the phone ring on his personal line in New Jersey. "Good thinking," I said to myself as I fired up a thin Cohiba. "He's bound to be wide awake and crackling at this time of day, or at least I can leave a very excited message."

My eerie hunch was right. The crazy bugger picked up on the fourth ring, and I felt my heart racing. "Hot damn!" I thought. "This is how empires are built." Late? I know not late.

Genius round the world stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round.

Herman Melville said that in the winter of 1914, and Murray is keenly aware of it. Only a madman would call a legend of Bill Murray's stature at 3:33 a.m. for no good reason at all. It would be a career-ending move, and also profoundly rude.

But my reason was better than good ...

* * * * *

BILL: "Hello?"

HST: "Hi, Bill, it's Hunter."

BILL: "Hi, Hunter."

HST: "Are you ready for a powerful idea? I want to ask you about golf in Japan. I understand they're building vertical driving ranges on top of each other."

BILL (sounding strangely alert): "Yes, they have them outdoors, under roofs ..."

HST: "I've seen pictures. I thought they looked like bowling alleys stacked on top of each other."

BILL: (Laughs.)

HST: "I'm working on a profoundly goofy story here. It's wonderful. I've invented a new sport. It's called Shotgun Golf. We will rule the world with this thing."

BILL: "Mmhmm."

HST: "I've called you for some consulting advice on how to launch it. We've actually already launched it. Last spring, the Sheriff and I played a game outside in the yard here. He had my Ping Beryllium 9-iron, and I had his shotgun, and about 100 yards away, we had a linoleum green and a flag set up. He was pitching toward the green. And I was standing about 10 feet away from him, with the alley-sweeper. And my objective was to blow his ball off course, like a clay pigeon."

BILL: (Laughs.)

HST: "It didn't work at first. The birdshot I was using was too small. But double-aught buck finally worked for sure. And it was fun."

BILL: (Chuckles.)

HST: "OK, I didn't want to wake you up, but I knew you'd want to be in on the ground floor of this thing."

BILL: (Silence.)

HST: "Do you want to discuss this tomorrow?"

BILL: "Sure."

HST: "Excellent."

BILL: "I think I might have a queer dream about it now, but ..." (Laughs.)

HST: "This sport has a HUGE future. Golf in America will soon come to this."

BILL: "It will bring a whole new meaning to the words 'Driving Range'."

HST: "Especially when you stack them on top of each other. I've seen it in Japan."

BILL: "They definitely have multi-level driving ranges. Yes."

HST: (Laughs.) "How does that work? Do they have extremely high ceilings?"

BILL: "No. The roof above your tee only projects out about 10 feet, and they have another range right above you. It's like they took the façade off a building. People would be hanging out of their offices."

HST: "I see. It's like one of those original Hyatt Regency Hotels. Like an atrium. In the middle of the building you could jump straight down into the lobby?"

BILL: "Exactly like that!"

HST: "It's like people driving balls from one balcony to the next."

BILL: (Laughs.) "Yes, they could."

HST: "I could be on the eighth floor and you on the sixth? Or on the fifteenth. And we'd be driving across a lake."

BILL: "They have flags out every 150 yards, every 200 yards, every 250 yards. It's just whether you are hitting it at ground level, or from five stories up."

HST: "I want to find out more about this. This definitely has a future to it."

BILL: "They have one here in the city -- down at Chelsea Pier."

HST: "You must have played a lot of golf in Japan."

BILL: "Not much; I just had one really great day of golf. I worked most of the time. But I did play one beautiful golf course. They have seasonal greens, two different types of grass. It's really beautiful."

HST: "Well, I'm writing a column for ESPN.com and I want to know if you like my new golf idea. A two-man team."

BILL: "Well, with all safety in mind, yes. Two-man team? Yeah! That sounds great. I think it would create a whole new look. It would create a whole new clothing line."

HST: "Absolutely. You'll need a whole new wardrobe for this game."

BILL: "Shooting glasses and everything."

HST: "We'll obviously have to make a movie. This will mushroom or mutate -- either way -- into a real craze. And given the mood of this country, being that a lot of people in the mood to play golf are also in the mood to shoot something, I think it would take off like a gigantic fad."

BILL: "I think the two-man team idea would be wonderful competition and is something the Ryder Cup would pick up on."

HST: "I was talking with the Sheriff about it earlier. But in one-man competition, I'd have to compete against you, say, in both of the arts -- the shooting AND the golfing. But if you do the Ryder Cup, you'd have to have the clothing line first. I'm going to write about this for ESPN tonight. I'm naming you and the Sheriff as the founding consultants."

BILL: "Sounds good."

HST: "OK, I'll call you tomorrow. And by the way, I'll see if I can twist some arms and get you an Oscar. But I want a Nobel Prize in return."

BILL: "Well, we can work together on this. This is definitely a team challenge." (Laughing.)

HST: "OK. We'll talk tomorrow."

BILL: "Good night."

So there it is. Shotgun Golf will soon take America by storm. I see it as the first truly violent leisure sport. Millions will crave it.

* * * * *

Shotgun Golf was invented in the ominous summer of 2004 AD, right here at the Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colo. The first game was played between me and Sheriff Bob Braudis, on the ancient Bomb & Shooting Range of the Woody Creek Rod & Gun Club. It was witnessed by many members and other invited guests, and filmed for historical purposes by Dr. Thompson on Super-Beta videotape.

The game consists of one golfer, one shooter and a field judge. The purpose of the game is to shoot your opponent's high-flying golf ball out of the air with a finely-tuned 12-gauge shotgun, thus preventing him (your opponent) from lofting a 9-iron approach shot onto a distant "green" and making a "hole in one." Points are scored by blasting your opponent's shiny new Titleist out of the air and causing his shot to fail miserably. That earns you two points.

But if you miss and your enemy holes out, he (or she) wins two points when his ball hits and stays on the green.

And after that, you trade places and equipment, and move on to round 2.

My patent is pending, and the train is leaving the station, and Murray is a Founding Consultant, along with the Sheriff, and Keith Richards, etc., etc. Invest now or forever hold your peace.

* * * * *

As for Bill's triumphant finish at Pebble Beach, I am almost insanely proud of him. He is an elegant athlete in the finest Murray tradition. Bill is a dangerous brute with the fastest reflexes in Hollywood, but he is suave, and that is why I trust him even more than I trust all his brothers. Yes, I say Hallelujah, praise Jesus. Where is Brian? I will need him for this golf project, if only to offset Bill's bitchiness. We will march on a road of bones.

OK. Back to business. It was Bill Murray who taught me how to mortify your opponents in any sporting contest, honest or otherwise. He taught me my humiliating PGA fadeaway shot, which has earned me a lot of money ... after that, I taught him how to swim, and then I introduced him to the shooting arts, and now he wins everything he touches. Welcome to the future of America. Welcome to Shotgun Golf.

So long and Mahalo.

Hunter.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. He died on February 20, 2005 at his home in Aspen. His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America" and his last book "Kingdom of Fear" He was a regular contributor to various national and international publications. Shotgun Golf with Bill Murray was his last column for, "Hey, Rube," which appearead regularly on ESPN, Page 2.


Sources:  ESPN.com, CNN.com, The Huffington Post Blog

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March 2006

Judge Ye Not, For Thou Art Full of Crap
by Sarah E. Mason

Irish playwright Samuel Becket once said, "Words are all we have."  I feel the significance of that statement lately more than ever. Not in regards to the turbulent world climate but for me personally.  I've been dating a little bit since my boyfriend and I broke up last June.  It's mostly been an parade of bad clichés from a thousand romantic comedies for the over 30 year olds.  But I don't think this particular scenario has been written about yet, or at least enough. 

We met of all places at an AA meeting.  A mutual friend relayed his interest in me.  He asked, through the friend, for my phone number.  I obliged because I was intrigued.  Although part of me was a little weary of the situation.  I've just gotten out of a relationship with an alcoholic.  This guy has been sober for over 20 years so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Never did I image it would not be reciprocated.  The call never came. It was so strange because our mutual friend was so encouraging of his interest in me.  I think the word he used was "smitten".   A few weeks went by, still no call, then I saw him at another meeting. The spark was there and he showed interest so I decided to take that bold move and call him.  He was happy to get my call. We made plans then during the course of our date I asked why he didn't call me.  He responded by recounting a detailed story about his honeymoon and how his (now) ex-wife threw up after every meal.  Ahh, the plot thickens.  Apparently he Googled me and found Payson Road.  The jig was up!  Yes, I did have an eating disorder and I don't make any secret about it, kinda like him not making any secret about being an alcoholic.  Didn't we meet at an AA meeting? 

"So you were spooked?" I said.  He nodded vigorously with a smirk.  He went on to explain that in AA, food is all they have left and how he can not fathom how someone could do what she did (always using his wife as the example not to point to me specifically).   I quickly commented on how I thought it fascinating that an alcoholic would be so judgmental.  He defended himself by supplying further detail of what his wife did to herself.  As if that would clarify his point. 

SLAM !

I was shocked.  Not so much at the time but as time passed and I was able to process what he had said.  I told him about my eating disorder when we first met so I don't know how it comes as more of a shock to read about it.  Maybe he thought I was referring to "erectile dysfunction".  ED either way.  It can get confusing.

This is exactly the kinda crap people with eating disorders deal with everyday.  We are literally on the bottom of the addicts food chain...no pun intended.  Hmmm, let me think about this.  Left hand: Alcoholic; causes pain and suffering to their friends and loved ones, breaks the law, physically harms not only themselves but others, contributes to the overwhelming drunk driving related car accidents,  fatalities, which in turn results in increased taxes to pay for resulting treatment programs, local government services, law enforcement, etc. etc.  Right hand:  Bulimic; secretly goes into bathroom after eating and throws up all their food causing internal and psychological damage to themselves for years.  Tells no one.  Lives in shame however maintains high functioning life.  Treatment programs aren't instituted or paid for by the government.  Essentially only affects themselves.

I don't know. It's a toss up. I think he's right.  We are pretty damn spooky!  The thing that kills me the most is, I didn't hold any of that against him.   Now I'm not going to deny the damage eating disorders cause to ourselves and loved ones.  There's a chain reaction with every addiction.  But come on now lets face reality.  I think pound for pound the scale tilts slightly in alcoholics favor for overall destruction.  But that's not the point.  Goes back to that Bible saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." 

I wrote a piece recently about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) called A New Look at Some Old Steps.  In the article I talked about my respect for the AA program and my envy for the community they had developed.  I still feel that way but I also feel somewhat sucker punched.   There was no prejudgment on my part going into those AA meetings.  I went with an open mind and heart.  Despite having just gotten out of a relationship with an alcoholic, (who put me through hell),  I was willing to take a chance with another alcoholic.  I didn't even see it that way at the time.  I didn't have a preconceived notion about who he was and his past. I just thought he was a funny and nice man who I could have fun with.  What has the world come to if I can't even get a drunk to date me?  Kidding.  I have tried to see this from his perspective.  I don't know all the dynamics of his relationship with his ex-wife.  Perhaps her eating disorder did impinge on their relationship.  She is also an alcoholic.  Did I mention that?  Hmmm.

Look, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and choices.  It just saddens me because I feel we have so far to go in this quest for spreading awareness and understanding of eating disorders.  One and three persons in the U.S. suffer from disordered eating.  It's a pandemic.  We're a country of overabundance yet we have no appreciation for what we have.  We're told to be skinny but we ram the concept of overindulgence down our throats in every medium possible.  How could anyone not be confused?  Fact is, in my humble opinion, none of us get what we need. We live in a fast paced, uptight, unhealthy culture that leaves us literally starving for anything fortifying.  Where do we turn but to food?!  We turn to drugs and alcohol but that's bad so we recover, then replace it with more eating.  I've said this before I'll say it again, alcoholics can stop drinking alcohol, we all have to eat to live. 

I don't harbor bad feelings toward this man.  In the end, I chalk it up to, it wasn't meant to be or as we over 30 year olds say,  Red Flags!  To me it's a sobering, ah hem, commentary on the long history of misunderstanding and lack of compassion for what people with eating disorders face.  When we free our minds of judgment beautiful possibilities arise.  Spread that.


 

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February 2006

Where Have You Gone Herb Brooks?
by Sarah Mason

Usually I'm excited to watch the Olympic games--the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. Mostly because of the stories behind the medals.  There's always some great Cinderella story.  You know, some little known athlete coming outta  nowhere, battling the evil Gold medal grabbing Eastern European empires and winning.  But things have changed in Olympic land, particularly in regards to the U.S. team. In the past, the news media would spotlight athletes after achieving extraordinary feats.  Now they champion athletes before they step out of the gate.

Gone are the days of Olympic spirit, hello future endorsement deals. There is so much hype around these athletes you almost forget what they've done to earn it. At these Olympics games we've seen many who have not earned it.  Look at the list of unfulfilled Olympic triumphs at the Turin Olympics; Bode Miller and his hang over, Lindsay Jacobellis and her showboating snowboard, Johnny Weir who literally, and figuratively, missed the bus, Apollo Anton Ohno who's Gold skated off to Korea...twice, the Women's US Hockey team failing to make it to the Gold medal round, the two man Bobsled team wiping out their dreams of medaling at three consecutive Olympic games, and the icy rivalry, (similar only to that of Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton) between speed skaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick--both won Gold, but their bitter feelings for each other got in the way allowing Italy to claim victory in the Men's 1500.  All of these athletes, and others (who will remain nameless until their competitions are completed) were thrust into the spotlight continuously on the heels of past achievements and future promises.  Several of them appeared on shows like the Today Show, the day of their competitions! Now that's just nuts, in my humble opinion. 

In fairness, there have been several unlikely heroes on the U.S. team who managed to escape the buzz.  U.S. skier, Ted Ligety, emerging from the shadows of his infamous teammates to win the Men's Combined in Alpine Skiing,  Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto giving the U.S. its first Ice Dancing medal in 30 years, U.S. Skier Lindsay Kildow competing despite two near disastrous falls.

Still, I find myself uninspired by the overall lack of Olympic spirit on the U.S. team. Gold and Silver medalist Peekoboo Street commented on this year's U.S. Ski Team saying, "they need to grow up".  I concur.  When I was thirteen, I was captivated by the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.  As history has proven them worthy, all eyes were on the now famous U.S. Hockey team.  There's no greater Cinderella story then this one;  A bunch of unknown, unprofessional, unproven hockey players breaking the ultimate and unbeatable opponent...the Russians!  They won by pure will, heart, focus and determination--those last two must be attributed to head coach Herb Brooks. If you saw the film, MIRACLE, or the HBO documentary, both depicting the story of the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team, you'll know what I mean about Brooks.  He was unyielding in his purpose and unapologetic of his methods.  He had a goal in sight and nothing was gettin in his way.  Most crucially, for me, Herb Brooks was a humble man who believed that hard work and commitment would bring about great things.  Sadly, Brooks was killed in a car wreck in 2003.

What I remember very distinctly about the Lake Placid Olympics (despite it being on U.S. soil) was there was no hype surrounding the athletes and no haughty display of patriotism.  In fact, quite the contrary.  There was an over-abundance of humility. It was a tumultuous time in the world, much as it is today with the U.S. image tarnished and diminishing prospects for peace.  Yet, unlike today, the country was untainted by, what would be, the effects of emerging technology.  The combination of a hollow and expanding news media, the advent of the sports agent and an ever-increasing desire for money and power, has created a sports star monster.  I'm sure it must be tempting to go on the Today Show and teach Al and Matt how to luge.  But couldn't they wait till after they made a successful run themselves? 

Like Hollywood, paving the way before it, the sports world has become all about celebrities.  I don't think we'll see another story like the 1980 U.S. Hockey team.  We've lost something that can't be found amidst the climate of today's star athlete.  The 2006 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team, made up of NHL pro players failed to make it to any the medal rounds winning only one of their games in competition.  It was a combination of factors that made that 1980 team thrive, the fact that they were all amateurs I truly believe had something to do with it.  They had no ego, nothing to lose and they were pure.  They were at the Olympics for all the right reasons, represent their country by playing a game they love more than anything else in the world.  The 1980 team saw their chance to compete as a gift.  This was largely due to Herb Brooks who was without a doubt the driving force behind that winning team.  He was an unsung hero in many ways and he had a profound influence on my life. I've never had a mentor. I often look toward the accomplishments of well-known people to fill the void.  Brooks was adamant about keeping his boys focused and humble.  He would not let any of them do interviews during the competition.  In the HBO documentary they show Brooks pacing back and forth in front of the players chanting, "Play your game. Play your game."   Several of the players, in the film, talk about how he would repeat that phrase over and over again whenever they got discouraged, or cocky.  It stuck with me.  So when I'm feeling like I can't pull something off, I hear Herb Brooks' voice in my head, "Play your game. Play your game."  It works!  It gets rid of all the voices in my head spinning some BS, preventing me from keeping my eye on the puck. 

Cynicism aside, I wish all the U.S. athletes success and in all sincerity, I am in complete awe of anyone's ability to make it to the Olympics.  You are an inspiration to many young girls and boys around the world and for that, I applaud you.  That said, in true Olympic spirit, I offer these suggestions: To the news media; Can't it wait? To the sports agents; Unless you're prepared to don a skirt and a pair of skates and attempt a triple axel, back off.  To the athletes; "Play your game. Play your game."

 

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January 2006

January 2006

Super Bowl vs. Oscars: And the Clear Winner Is...
by Sarah Mason

It's that time of year again, the NFL playoffs culminating in the grand finale that is the Super Bowl. Unfortunately the thrill of the playoffs is marred by some overzealous attention grabbing competition, the Hollywood award shows. These tired events kick off with the Golden Globes ceremony, which aired, January 16th, Monday night. Have they no shame?

At the start of every year we are forcefully subjected to Hollywood’s colossal ego and desperate attempts to re-coup operating costs by parading its stars around in tuxedos and boob dresses. I'm so sick of it. I'll take football over award ceremonies any given Sunday.

At least with football there's a clear winner. There are some bad calls, and maybe a few upsets, definitely some sore winners and some unexpectedly soft offense. But football is never about politics--at least not on the field. On that day, given the DL and wind conditions, it’s anyone's game. Not true for the Oscars. It's not enough to be the clear favorite or the best. You've got to promote your cause like it’s an election year and even that's not a guarantee.

The campaign is tedious. There are endless ads in the trade magazines and constant commercials telling us why this film or that actor deserves to win. If, in fact, it did simply come down to economics I may be less offended. But it's worse. It's a popularity contest at its most superficial degree--where the only reason someone wins Best-Most-Likely-to-Whatever is because they're on the buzz of the A-listers tongues that particular week. It's all about the buzz.

For example, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, Ang Lee's film about two cowboys who fall in love, swept most of the big awards at the Globes. Why? Smart buzz. The studio/producers cleverly delayed the start of their campaign. George Clooney's film, GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, about newsman Edward R. Murrow's showdown with Senator Joe McCarthy (which in my opinion was the best film of the year), took a different approach by promoting the film early on in the season. Unfortunately, it was a strategy that did not pay off at the Golden Globes. The film received lots of praise and early buzz, but timing is everything during award season.

It's also not enough to be critically acclaimed. Look at Ron Howard's biopic about boxer Jim Braddock, CINDERELLA MAN. What idiot decided to drop that film in the summer? Everyone knows Oscar/Globe contenders are released right before the start of the New Year. As a result, it was overlooked for the big awards.  And since the Globes often serve as forecast for the Oscar nods, it probably means it will be snubbed there as well. Although, in this case I feel the alleged critical acclaim, (reported dutifully through the films marketing efforts), was slightly exaggerated. This was a better film when it was released in 1976 under the title, ROCKY. 

A mediocre film or bad actor can make it to the table if there's great buzz attached. I can think of many examples over the years. The one that sticks out the most is Kim Basinger's Oscar win for LA CONFIDENTIAL--wonderful film, unbelievable buzz, so-whats-the-big-ffin-deal performance. Basinger beat out, amongst other superior actors, Kathy Bates, who was nominated for her role in PRIMARY COLORS. As brilliant as Bates is ALWAYS, I thought this was truly the performance of her career. PRIMARY COLORS is a perfect example of bad timing. It was a hot potato, given the fact that it came out on the heels of the Monica Lewinsky affair. I've always thought it was the unsung hero of that year (1998).

There's always a dark horse, much like Pittsburgh and Denver, looming in the sidelines waiting to unravel the sure bets. WALK THE LINE, the biopic about the life of Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash, seems to be this year's unlikely potential upset. I love Johnny Cash but that movie didn't have enough soul to wear black. And it certainly shouldn't win an Oscar--with the exception of Joaquin Phoenix as Cash.  However if we're awarding art imitating life roles, I'm partial to David Strathairn's Murrow.

Sometimes consolation prizes are given.  This year that award went to George Clooney who won the Globe for his best supporting role in SYRIANA.  I predict a repeat at the Oscars.  Deserving as Clooney is, his passion project this year was clearly GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK.  A similar incident happened at the Oscars back in 1982 when Jessica Lange was awarded the Best Supporting Actress for TOOTSIE.  She had also been nominated for Best Actress for her performance as the title role in FRANCES but lost out to Meryl Streep for SOPHIE'S CHOICE. Now who could beat that?  I remember attending an event for Jessica Lange in which she talked about how she poured her heart and soul into the role of Frances Farmer.  Although she was disappointed to lose, she was even more upset that she took the best supporting win away from her co-star, Kim Stanley.  Stanley's performance as Frances Farmer's mother was a tour de force seen few times in cinematic history.  But I certainly don't begrudge Jessica Lange an Oscar.  She is a gifted actress.  I guess from the Academy's point of view, it all evens out in the end...unless you're Black or Hispanic. But that's another argument...soon to find its way onto this column.

Truth is, I don't give a f**k about the Oscars or any of the award ceremonies. I used to obsess over them. I would leave work early to watch, (this in the days before the ceremony was switched to Sundays).  But now, I'd rather lament over a second viewing of the Broncos destroying the Patriots threpeat chances (I'm a Pats fan), then subject myself to all that vanity. At least with sports, the arrogance can be traced to testosterone and steroids. 

If Mr. Clooney does harbor resentment for GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK being snubbed at the Globes, I offer this riddle as solace;  What do Pia Zadora, Twiggy and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common?  They all won Golden Globes.

 

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December 2005

First Passions
by Mary Grimley Mason

This piece was written, by request, for a friend's 50th wedding anniversary.

Dear Rosie,

When I first tried to think of a memory of a first passion or love, I could only think of brief moments. Then I remembered the summer of 1950 at the Tanglewood Music Festival in the Berkshires when, between my sophomore and junior year at college, I sang in the Festival Chorus and was part of the Berkshire Music School community for the summer. That was the time that music became a sustaining part of my life.

I had always heard and liked all kinds of music because my father loved music and played it constantly at home on all the latest record players, which we had. He worked for the RCA Victor Company. But when I entered the community at Tanglewood, I experienced something I had never known before. I was surrounded by young people who were absorbed in one passion, their music. I was just an observer, just a part of the large choral group and not there to further a career. The other students knew their summer was a chance to advance and even break through to a higher level of their vocation. They ate, drank and slept their music, performing, practicing, and participating, day and night. I was infected with the intensity and passion that such devotion can bring and which I later experienced myself in an artist colony where I practiced my own art of writing.

I remember the evening I left the campus with friends and was stunned by the eerily beautiful soprano voice of the aria in Bachianas Brasileirias, no. 5, of Villa Lobos. The voice followed us across the lawn, disappearing mysteriously into the darkness as we left.

I remember singing Mahlerâ 2nd symphony, conducted by Leonard Bernstein All the women were fainting by the end of the rehearsal. Bernstein seemed to look directly at each one of us, extracting from us our last ounce of energy and engagement. It was a love affair.

It was a haunting summer. Beautiful and tragic, too. My brother died during the last weeks in August. When I returned to the campus after his funeral, we were in rehearsal for the Brahms Requiem, conducted by the quiet but intense Robert Shaw. Our rehearsals and the performance became for me an anthem for my brother and some solace for my grief. The Requiem has remained for me a sustaining piece in times of loss.

After the summer, I continued during my last two years of college my amateur choral singing. In the Radcliffe/Harvard chorus, I sang the Bach B Minor Mass with Koussevitzky the last time he conducted that work. And Bernstein came to the Boston Symphony and led the chorus in the Mahler 2nd symphony.

I loved being part of those events. But I never recaptured the awe and wonder of those weeks at Tanglewood.

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November 2005

Where Have All the Murrows Gone?
by Sarah Mason

"Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit". -Edward R. Murrow. 

There's no truth more naked then the reality we live in today. Perhaps this is why the news media chooses to leave it clothed. Cynically, I think journalists today are impotent--and not for lack of truths to disrobe.  Renowned newsman, Edward R. Murrow set the standard for television journalism.  He gained notoriety for his gutsy reporting during World War II and his television programs, Person to Person and See it Now.  Murrow was a journalist intent on unearthing the ugly, hard truths no matter the consequences. George Clooney's film, Good Night and Good Luck, dramatizing Murrow's infamous showdown with Senator Joseph McCarthy got me thinking...Where have all the Murrows gone? 

We know that things have changed. Emerging technology has reshaped the way people receive news.  The internet is quickly becoming the standard source for daily news and information.  Even newspapers are becoming a thing of the past as a top source for news seekers--in terms of immediacy.  Television news has become entertainment.  It is woven its way into the fabric of pop culture and it's not getting out.  Sensationalism, not news drives the media--something Murrow foresaw. 

I feel that we've come to an end of an era in terms of television journalists.  Murrow has become 20th century folklore. His picture hangs on all good TV reporters walls so they can admire him, not emulate him. Al Franken (The Al Franken Show), Jon Stewart  (The Daily Show), and Bill Maher (Real Time with Bill Maher) seem to be the only ones willing to take on the Bush Administration no holds barred.  Maybe its that protective cloak of comedy that gives them their nerve. It's disturbing to me that no so-called "serious" television journalist is willing to step up and challenge the disturbing lunacy that is the Bush Administration--not only uncover the outrageous lies and misconduct but hold them accountable as Murrow did with McCarthy. 

The Edward R. Murrows of today are clearly using a different format to get their message across. Online magazines such as Slate, are pioneering what once was considered an underground movement. And it's not even about websites anymore. It's all about the blog, or weblog, defined as a personal or noncommercial web site that uses a dated log format and contains links to other web sites along with commentary. (ref Ask Yahoo)  Blogs have developed into powerful tools. The majority of online magazines or news sites have blogs. Disenfranchised citizens seeking more critical discussions now have a forum in which they can contribute as well as learn.  

Certainly convergence plays a role in the changing news media atmosphere.  Today, everything is owned by one giant conglomerate.  The movie studios, television networks, record companies, magazine publications, consumer products, are all under one roof.  Wasn't that what Reagan was trying to abolish by busting up the Ma Bells and creating a free market trade?  Oops, guess that didn't work.  With one company owning the majority of channels, we're only receiving one message.  So in that respect, there's not a lot of room for chance-takers. On top of that, it's not just the advertisers pushing their products on us anymore. How many times do you see product branding on network television shows these days?  That was never happening when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.  Rock Stars never sold their songs to advertisers.  That used to be considered the ultimate sellout.  Now new record releases are debuted on IPOD commercials. 

There are many factors contributing to the shifting priorities in news media.  Although I'm not sure what came first--emerging technology diminishing the value of the news media or the news media's conversion into a source for pop culture creating an opening for new technology.  Perhaps the blame is on us.  Have we become all encompassed by consumerism to the point where we've lost our voice completely? 

Clooney's film, Good Night and Good Luck, stirred yet shamed me.  I thought the film was striking, poignant and vital.  Still, the more I've pondered the elements the more I feel responsible, in some small part, for what's happening with the news media today.  Truth is, we are all responsible.  It is not enough to complain.  It's not enough to slink into numbness.  We have more power than we allow ourselves. If we stop using our voice, even on the tiniest of scales, we lose.

What can we do?  Take advantage of the resources we have.  Network journalists aren't getting the job done?  Get involved!  Read newspapers, read as many online publications as you can, contribute to their blogs, write Op Ed pieces--there are thousands of websites that will publish your piece.  And guess what, if they won't, you can build your own site for free!   But don't stop there, keep questioning, keep pushing.  Write letters to the editors, write letters to the networks.  If something pisses you off, if something is irresponsible, if some network journalist doesn't do his or her job, speak out!  It is our obligation as citizens of this planet to question those who speak for us and to use our own voice in every way possible to incite progress.

There will be compromise, even Murrow had his to make.  Person to Person acting as ying to See it Now's yang depicted humorously, and painfully, in Good Night and Good Luck with Murrow taking a break from fighting McCarthyism to interview Liberace.  In the end, Murrow took a stand. 

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything." -Alexander Hamilton

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Sarah Mason is a writer and columnist. She is the founder and President of the Payson Road Organization (http://paysonroad.com). To read more of Sarah's columns visit, http://www.sarahemason.com

 

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October 2005

Who's Your Crony Now?
by Sarah Mason

The nomination of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor as Supreme Court Judge confirms all my suspicions--Cronyism RULES!  I don't know why I thought the Bush Whitehouse had learned its lesson with mistakes the likes of Brownie.  That is, Michael Brown, former Arabian horse judge, oh and also former Director of FEMA. 

Who is Harriet Miers? Well, we know she graduated from SMU Law School.  She was appointed Chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission, by Gov. George W. Bush. She represented Bush and Cheney in a law suit pertaining to their dual residency in Texas while running in the Presidential primary. She's served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy in the Bush Administration and most recently White House Counsel. *

Basically all we know about Harriet Miers is that she's got a law degree, plays the Texas Lottery and most likely has been to the Kennebunk house--in short, crony.

What chutzpah! Appointing his own lawyer to the Supreme Court. That's one way to keep your interests protected.   Did I mention that Miers helped draft the Patriot Act?**

The list of Bush crony appointments is long and ridiculous. Let’s take for example, John Snow, Secretary of the Treasury. Snowy recently stepped down as CEO of CSX, a multi-million dollar supplier of rail and container shipping components. Under Snowy's watch, CSX soared to nearly a billion dollars in profits yet in the last three out of four tax years CSX paid NO FEDERAL TAX INCOME.  But it doesn’t stop there!  CSX also managed to take a sweet tax rebate to the tune of 164 million dollars...on taxes the company never paid. ***

This man is Secretary of our Treasury.

There’s also former Utah Governor, Mike Leavitt, Secretary, Department of Health & Human Services and former EPA Administrator.  This is a man who boasts one of the worst environmental records of any Governor.  He's famous for his lax enforcement of environmental laws against major polluters and his keen ability to keep the public out of the decision making process. One of the worst offenses was his blind eye to US Magnesium's emission of over 42 million tons of Chlorine per year--which is nine times the Chlorine emissions from all other states.  Despite public outcry, Leavitt and his environmental department failed to bring the offenders under control. The EPA was forced to step in, filing a $900 million lawsuit against MagCorp for alleged environmental violations. ***

This man was our EPA Administrator.

Then there's Gale A. Norton, former mining industry lobbyist and current Secretary of the Interior.  She is a fierce supporter of "self-audit" laws, which allow industries to determine themselves whether or not they comply with environmental regulations.  Here's a quote from Norton summing up her philosophy on environmental issues, “there is a homesteading right to pollute".  She once proposed "the transfer to private ownership of federally held, so-called public lands", meaning, abolishing the Bureau of Land Management, and thus selling off fish and wildlife refuges.  She is a registered lobbyist for NL Industries-- a defendant in approximately 75 governmental and private actions associated with waste disposal sites, mining locations and facilities. ***

This woman is the Secretary of our Interior.

So this got me thinking, hey, I could be in the Bush Administration.  The fastest way to success in the U.S. today is by joining the George W. Bush Crony Club.  You want the American dream, and you don't care if it's at other people's expense?  Well, this is your ticket baby!  You don't have to have credentials.  In fact, you don't even have to take responsibility for your mistakes if you screw up--even if those mistakes cost lives.

Every upper class resident of the US regardless of race, sex or age (religion is questionable) could become a Bush crony.  Of course, you've got to have at least six degrees of separation from one or more Bush family members or top Bush cronies.

Example: Your bosses, wife's, ex-boyfriend's roommate got drunk and made inappropriate comments to Jeb Bush's housekeeper at party.

That's a perfectly valid connection. 

Now that you've identified a link to the Bush Administration, there are a few other credentials you must possess:

·        Entitlement.  You must have received at least one of the things you've gotten in life (i.e. your education) by virtue of something you didn't actually earn through talent or hard work but rather through some entitlement, (i.e. family stature, cronyism).

·        Unyielding quest for power.  You must be willing to do whatever it takes at any or anyone’s expense. You've got to be entrepreneurial and ambition in spirit.  Intelligence is optional.  What matters most crucially is your ability to seize opportunities regardless of your qualifications. 

·        Narcissistic in nature.  Your position, or the position that you have embraced (because it has elevated you to your place of power) is always right no matter what.  Your world is all that matters.  No gray, no way.  Even if there is irrefutable proof disputing your claims (like a drill you participated in, a report you read and signed off on, newspaper articles, books etc.), you've got your story, and you're stickin to it.

·        Selective Loyalty.  You've got to know when your friends are your friends and when they are people whose association with you has become a liability.  This can be due to a number of factors; they've been indicted for a crime, they've done a bad job (verified by public outcry and CNN), they've done something embarrassing (confirmed by public outcry or Saturday Night Live).  A good way to avoid future problems would be to refrain from using crony nicknames in public.  That way you have an easier time disassociating.

Like former FEMA Director, Michael Brown, I too know nothing about natural disasters.  I've never been in one, or been involved in efforts to clean up after one.  That aside, I think I could be an effective FEMA leader.  I'm personable.  I can deliver speeches. I'm media savvy.  I can operate a fire extinguisher and I've always got my first aid kit in the trunk of my car.  Besides, wouldn't the people under me know the ropes?

I'm not sure I really want to be Director of FEMA.  I'm just speculating on my career options after joining the Bush Crony Club.  I was perusing the different job possibilities as listed on the Whitehouse website.  While scanning the directory of appointments I came upon, Deputy Assistant Sec. for Oceans and Fish.  That sounded pretty cool.  I've always liked marine life.

Do I have what it takes to be Bush crony?  Further thought provokes some questions; would I be able to adopt the Bush Administration ideology?   If I disagreed with Bush Administration policies, could I keep it to myself?  Is my thirst for power strong enough to override my intelligence and sense of decency? 

Politics aside, I know I've got what it takes to be appointed to a key role in shaping this country via the Bush Administration.  If I could draw a parallel between my qualifications for the job of Deputy Assistant Sec. for Oceans and Fish and many of the Bush Administration appointees, it seems the only requirement for me would be that I eat fish.  Well, they've got me there.  I'm allergic to fish.  But I have swum amongst the fishes.  Given that this position is merely a "deputy assistant" title as opposed to a full fledged Secretary that may be enough.

I'll keep plugging away, trying to climb my way up the crony ladder.  Who knows, with a little less humility, someday I could be appointed Supreme Court Justice. 


Sources *MoveOn.org, **The Boston Globe, ***
Project for Old American Century

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