Dr. Gonzo (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being Unplugged)

A principle familiar to propagandists is that the doctrines to be instilled in the target audience should NOT be articulated: that would only expose them to reflection, inquiry, and, very likely, ridicule. The proper procedure is to drill them home by constantly presupposing them, so that they become the very condition for discourse.” – Noam Chomsky, “Third World, First Threat” 1993.

I was hired by the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper to be a writer in 1993, and I worked in the sports section and also in the entertainment section. I saw a wave coming early on when our chief competition, the San Jose Mercury, launched the Mercury Center via AOL. It was the beginning of the end of the print news business, even if most of us, even the most forward thinking of us, didn’t really know it.

In those days, we got a lot of our stories off of the AP or UPI newswires, which were kind of like telegram cables. The quality of the content of the news had to be high. There were professional standards that must be adhered to. And, as my editors were quick to point out, the people who are in positions of power are our adversary, pure and simple. The media acted as a check in the grand scheme of governmental checks and balances: the executive and the legislative and the judicial branches ALL must be held to account by the media. My favorite practitioner of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, threw in his own style of literary flair to hit on truths bigger than What, Where, When, How and Why. For example, is it not right, or true, or in keeping with the duty of media, to call Ronald Reagan a stinking swine when he blabbed to People Magazine in 1986 that “This generation will likely have to face Armageddon,” or to say, quite simply, that Nixon was a bad drunk?

Yes, Hunter was a lot of things. But, I have to say, Hunter was authentic.

Few writers could boil down the essence of a campaign, a candidate, like Hunter S. Thompson

Few writers capture the essence of a campaign or candidate like Hunter S. Thompson

We were duty-bound and truths like the ones he’d write were important and informative.

Unfortunately, we were doomed. Time and technological advances made the public fall victim to rapidly accelerating media saturation…  and as such, the media’s relevance faded, and it’s duty was no longer to serve people with unbiased and direct information regarding our elected and unelected government officials.

Rather, media became propaganda for whoever paid the best. As such, media became a bad salesman, pitching a broken down lemon of a healthy, thriving, functioning society. And yet, the pitch is effective and accepted as truth.

Here's Donald being contrite for inferring this woman was on her period when she asked him a question he didn't like. Then she, like so many in the media, dutifully played her part in the fake ass show.

Here’s the Donald being contrite for inferring that this woman was on her period when she asked him a question he didn’t like. Then she, like so many in the media, dutifully played her part in the propagandist, fake ass show.

The media do not say things like: “The US always supports democracy, never aggresses against other nations, and always ALWAYS opposes terrorists.” Nor do advertisers explicitly say that the key to happiness and the good life is the unceasing and ever-expanding consumption of purchasable products.

But the message still comes through, loud and clear.

We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning. Contemporary society is dominated by computers and algorithms. There’s hardly a second that we’re not plugged in, in this “civilized” world. As mankind races toward achieving seamless virtual realities and artificial intelligence, it stands to make me wonder whether or not a simulation of reality is actually our new normal, now, and far beyond anyone’s control.

Most of us spend almost all of our time in highly artificial environments, far removed from nature. We move about, from one building to another. We travel in little bubbles: cars, trains, airplanes. Even while we’re in route we’re buried in our mobile, wireless phones, connecting to all of the information out there. Ours is a world of steel, brink, cement and glass, not that of mountain, meadow, tree, and stream.

The last Presidential primaries/general election have concluded, and what struck me most about that crazy show was that Dr. Gonzo is dead. So dead.

The evidence was in the unprecedented dominance of public relations and advertising in media, resulting in disinformation and propaganda, and, most importantly, increasingly brazen strong-arm tactics to make sure, absolutely sure, no matter what, that Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton would face Donald Jackass Trump. It didn’t matter who won. Not to the rich people who determine these things. Neither of them were a threat to current of the $currency$, the status quo would be preserved.

People scream that Russia “influenced” our election via hacks on the DNC (the contents from those hacks was never disputed, only who actually hacked & leaked that info.) People freak out because Russia propagandized and misinformed voters via trolls on Twitter? IS America truly any better?

What about America propagandizing via social, alternative AND mainstream media? Not only in MANY other countries, but even our own?

I could go through a million examples to show this was all pre-decided, pre-destined, but I refuse to list more than a few, because if you haven’t been paying attention, it’s your own damn fault. The most glaring example, to me, was the June 7, 2016, AP story and photo, written and photographed by, you guessed it, the Hillary Clinton campaign several days beforehand and then submitted to… the AP editorial team!… for publication.

Team Hillary, created the image and words that the AP dutifully reported / sold to the public on their behalf.

Team Hillary, created the image and wrote the story that the AP dutifully regurgitated / sold to the public on their behalf, 3 days prior to publication… and when did publication happen? One day before the California Primary.

Or how about this one, from the Hillary email vault:

“I just received confirmation from 60 Minutes that a piece on Julian Assange will air Sunday night,” Philip Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, wrote to Clinton in 2011. “He will be the only person featured. We had made a number of suggestions for outside experts and former diplomats to interview to ‘balance’ the piece. 60 Minutes assures me that they raised a number of questions and concerns we planted with them during the course of the interview. We will be prepared to respond to the narrative Assange presents during the program.” 

Her reply: “Too bad they’re showcasing him. See you tomorrow when we try making lemonade out of some pretty sour lemons!”

I’m left with three questions:

Do interviews even matter? Does the media matter? Is all the world but a stage?

Every time I unplug, I realize, more and more, that the entire world’s perception of what’s truly important and meaningful is getting more and more skewed by what all this media are selling.

I thank God for my nieces and nephew, for reminding me that the future is worth fighting for, as I don’t want them to inhabit a poisoned world with a shallow artifice. I’ll never give up on that.

My niece is at Camp Hammer in Big Basin Redwoods State Park right now, experiencing things that I hope are truly meaningful.

My niece is at Camp Hammer in Big Basin Redwoods State Park right now, experiencing things that I hope are truly meaningful.

Every time I unplug, I realize, more and more, that I’m a storyteller, and if I’m going to keep telling good stories, I have to be authentic. In order to be authentic, I have to detach, more and more, from the real truth (that people are the victims of deception and exploitation on a massive scale) AND the artificial reality construct of the media, used to control and enslave people.

I have to be free.

And how will I be that which I am?

I think I’ve got to leave the big city, walk amongst the free creatures and plants of this Earth, and remember to self-program, to decide for myself what sort of things I want, and what sort of person I will become.

 

 

Life is Serious. Life is Feast. And The Only Thing We Have to Fear…

When I was 19 years old my friend Matt Workman committed suicide.

We were best friends since the day we met in kindergarten.

Please keep reading. Because the reason that I wrote those last two sentences was not to bum you out. I wrote them to remind you, me, everyone, that, in a time of great fear and potential upheaval, this life – you know, the thing that ALL of us are doing? This life: that is ALL that it is – and it is only just that.

It’s only life.

This guy lived both seriously, fully and fearlessly

This guy lived seriously, fully & fearlessly

To err is human and MAN am I human! So I try my best not to render judgments, either on people I know, or on the homeless dude asking for change, or on people in positions of power, or celebrities, or people in completely different cultures, because I’ll never know why/how they’re in the position they are in. I’m a 42 year old man now. I know who I am and what I’ve done. One could make an argument that these are the only two things that I do KNOW.

I value my time, I do not suffer fools, I love my friends and family with all my heart, and I try to do the best I can with my art and my career.

Do I have opinions? Damn right. Do I make judgments? Of course. I already told you, I’m human as fuck. Do I sometimes indulge, either in myself, or in the illicit, or in the taboo? Yup – I’m not just human as fuck, I’m a writer! A writer with a chip on his shoulder and an almost animalistic type of determination to confront the reality of experience, to do things before the bell is rung, compelling the great scorekeeper in the sky to make a tally on the sum of the life of Jefferson Rich.

A German friend once told me: “Ernst ist das leben.” Translated: life is serious. Very German, yes? I misunderstood him at first, I’d thought he said, “Ernst ist das laben.” Translated: life is feast. Very American, yes? This launched us into a great philosophical debate on the banks of the Spree in Berlin.

It was at this exact place where I came to a profound realization: it's only life.

It was at this exact place where I came to a realization: it’s only life.

My friend made the case for “leben”, or serious. I think his argument was rooted in the newest German generation’s unbound feeling of remorse, guilt, anger, and sadness about the Holocaust. Life is all about what you are doing, he argued – you must see something for what it is, and if it is wrong, you must stand up against it. You must, because if you just passively observe, if you just live only for yourself, terrible, unthinkable things can happen.

I couldn’t dismiss what he’d just said. I thought on my friend Matt Workman, and how, he’d ascended from 15 year old high school partier in Santa Cruz to 19 year old major promoter in the rave/underground party scene with massive celebrity connections and making constant trips to LA, traveling all around the world. But he was only 19. And I saw my boy slipping. I’d ask, “are you okay?” He’d answer, “Yeah.” And then I’d let it go. I didn’t want to be his dad, or judge him, but inside, I knew he was dying and today, I do wish I’d just called him on out on his shit, and told him that he was lying to himself. But I knew it was his life to live… and, even though he never slept, he was seriously struggling with his drug use (back then, we called it X) and one day, he cracked, I knew deep inside, that there was nothing I could’ve done to prevent it.

So life is “laben”, or feast, I argued. And judgment is the enemy of enlightenment. Here I am, thousands of miles from my home, in a city that is an artist’s lucid dream, having a beer and a conversation that is incredible – a conversation that would not be happening if I didn’t believe life is feast, I said. It’s when people become purist, with their uninformed notions of good and evil, right and wrong, I continued, THIS is when life starts to become devalued. It is the puritanical, very serious people I said, that hold life in very low regard, unless it’s life that they can agree with. Look at our countries, I said.

But you just made my point for me! he countered, because people are so flighty with their sense of morality and are so passive, assholes like the Nazis could slaughter millions in the past. And, he said, ominously, something new will assuredly come in the future, most likely in America, because America’s sense of culture and morality was going into the toilet.

My friend warned me that if our moral center is destroyed, and the American public is passive about it, the vacuum could be filled by something unthinkably evil.

My friend warns that if our moral center is destroyed, and the American public is passive about it, the vacuum could be filled by something unthinkably evil.

WHOA! I said, that’s just plain looney, I countered. In a place where liberty reigns, where everyone’s ideas are considered, where self-determination and freedom of expression are held in high regard, yeah, you get your reality show garbage but you also get stuff like Space X, or Obama, and-

-Yeah that’s all naive bullshit, he interrupted. You really think you have liberty? You really think people in your country know how to think critically? Show self-determination? If you have no control over what you want – if you are unable or unwilling to discern what you value – you are a slave to someone else’s passions and you can’t act freely! You think you have any privacy at all? Even with what you think? (Important contextual note: this conversation took place pre-Snowden.) Wake up man. A war is being waged on the American people, and if you, a person who I consider to be one of the greatest, smartest artists in America, if you of all people can’t see it, then we’re ALL in real trouble. Seriously.

I held tight to the crux of my argument. Look, when people get so damn pure, so damn righteous, THAT is when people start rendering judgments about how other people live. And when that happens, what’s next? I mean, what’s so enlightened about that? For example, the white man came to America, used slaves to build up the country, slaughtered Native Americans, because of Manifest Destiny. America has never even started to deal with our addiction to our idea of our own purity, and you see it as we expand our empire. Hell, American soldiers have been in the Middle East for two decades (it was 2010 when we had our conversation) and will remain for God knows how long, all based on this myth of America knows best because America is right and you Muslims, you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing and we can’t leave you to your own devices, because you’re just going to come kill us. So before talking to you, you ALL must submit, you must bow, and surrender everything you are to us. (Another important contextual note: Isis did not exist when this conversation took place.) America had turned the entire world into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict because of our pure, just, American way.

Why wouldn't the entire world want to be as American as a bikini clad babe at a bbq scarfing down a juicy, thick, long... hot dog?

Why wouldn’t the entire world want to be as American  as a bikini clad babe at a bbq opening wide…for that juicy… thick… long… American dream?

Fuck that, we need to live as if life is feast I said, because we never know when it’s going to end. We need to embrace each other, and each others ideas, and refrain from judgment, because as I said, judgment is the enemy of enlightenment. We need to love each other. We need to talk to each other and we need to listen to each other, no matter who you are and DO NOT JUDGE IT!!

My friend laughed at me. Discernment, judgment, THAT IS THE WAY to enlightenment my friend, he countered. If you don’t have discernment, you know what you get? Velveeta instead of Petit Basque, Night Train instead of Burgundy, Ghost Dad instead of Ghost, Real Housewives of Wherever instead of The Wire, ugly, stupid, brutal porn instead of stimulating, sexy eroticism.

Okay, that’s a provocative point, but the world goes round based on both sides of the coin. And you NEED both, otherwise, you get that damn purist thing I’m talking about.

Check this out – when we were boys, my friend Matt and I, we would steal copies of his dad’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues, his Playboy and Penthouse magazines, and we stashed them in the woods, where no one else was around. We would look at the pictures (and NEVER read the articles) and we would talk about how we’d make love to each of the women contained inside. What moves we’d do. Which women looked like they were great lovers, compared with which looked like they were just okay. We both knew that we wanted to be great lovers when we reached manhood, and we knew we’d need practice in order to become great. But we were young and didn’t have girlfriends yet, you know? So we would eventually go home, with the vision of whichever woman we’d either seen in the photographs, or girls at school, or teachers, or whoever, we’d use those old Casio digital wrist watches, and we’d use the timer to find out how long we could masterbate before we’d ejaculate, and how long it would take us (if at all) to regain our erections, and sometimes we’d make a competition of who could ejaculate the most times in a night. Then, the next time we’d meet up, we’d report back our results. We kept pushing each other to go longer, to go more times. I even made a game for myself, to see how close to a certain time I could get, like 20 minutes, because I wanted to have the ability to control EXACTLY when I would ejaculate. And our drive in doing this was all in the name of the dream that when the day came, and we were with a woman, she would remember regard us as the greatest lover she ever had, every time.

Without discernment, artistic eros becomes unsexy porn.

Sans discernment, artistic eros becomes unsexy porn.

So, I said to my friend, was what we did wrong? Was it perverted? Was it evil? Because there are a lot of people who would think that if I told them what we did. Should I have been feeling shame for what we were doing? I didn’t. Why didn’t other people do what we did? Because they judged. And if I’d judged it, I would not have done what I did. Would I have become a great lover? It’s the people who listen to those people who say masturbating is a sin, that say that homosexuality is an abomination, that marriage is only a man and a woman… they’re the ones who are all fucked up, make other people fucked up, and have depraved senses of what’s sexy and erotic… because… why?

Because my friend was right – the big, huge, serious, very serious crimes against humanity keep popping up here, in America, and our moral decay is for real.

AND because I was right – we are more and more convinced of our pure, American ideals.

And it’s this purism that is sweeping the American body politic, our policy decisions, and our voting public that has me so deeply concerned. Whether it’s supporters of Delusional Donald, or Crazy Bernie, or Crooked Hillary, America is forging it’s way into a more pure, extremist, shaky land, ruled by fear, of either the candyass narcissistic billionaire who’d rather live in a gold tower with a Napoleonic complex and authoritarian aspirations, or the well-meaning septuagenarian socialist or a duplicitous, dishonest, equivocating, smart, but entitled pragmatist who shuns accountability and rarely demonstrates empathy.

I am concerned because the noise around our country is sending off vibrations of tumultuous conflict…a great disturbance in The Force…so much fear… so many stories of Mexican people getting shipped away… so many stories of a harsher and harsher American dogma… so much fear… a fear that I’ve not felt….since…

Days after Matt had died. I had a lucid dream, and to this day I think he was responsible. I think he pulled me into Nirvana, or heaven, or whatever. I was Neo before The Matrix existed, flying over greenery as far as the eye could see, being told by angelic types that I would be okay, that the pain of living through the loss of my friend would eventually subside, and the dream ended with a reminder of those old digital Casio wristwatches, and how, when we were little kids, we’d used those watches for a far more innocent use – we’d compete as to who could press the stopwatch buttons the fastest – DEE-DEET… .11 of a second… DE-DEET… .08 of a second…

DE-DEET… That would be my lifetime on Earth compared to the age of my soul. And my fear, ever since, has been pretty easy to check.

Life is serious. But it’s only life. DE-DEET.

Life is feast. But it’s only life. DE-DEET.

And the only thing we have to fear…

is losing our connection to what it means to be alive.

We have one world, and if there is but one way, and one right...

We’ve one world & if there is but one way & one right…

...it is that we must all love each other, despite the spite, with all of our might.

…it is that we all have the right to love each other, despite the fights and the spite… with all of our might.

Farewell, President Obama… Thank You… We Really Won’t Know How Good We Had It… Until We Do…

I was a believer in Barack Obama. I don’t make any bones about it.

And, if President Obama had been treated fairly by the opposition party, we’d have accomplished so much more than we did as a country over the last 8 years.

But the obstructionists won – whether it was on gun control after Sandy Hook, or a single payer provision to the ACA – the spin was, Obama wanted your guns, he wanted socialism, and this was all – ALL – a hot steaming pile of horseshit.

It is important to realize that the obstructionists didn’t hate Obama just because he was black. They hated him because he was black and popular and smart and measured and considerate and genuine and embodied all the best qualities of America’s promise rolled up into a leader who’d represent us as best as he could.

These obstructionists weren’t just racist; they were anti-intellectual, they were anti-progress, and they were willing to lie their asses off in order to demonize a person who was so much more like the people he represented than ANY OTHER PRESIDENT we’ve had – President Obama wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and he wasn’t a billionaire private school elitist. Barack Obama actually cared about the prosperity of the plurality of Americans.

So, as the fakers and the haters and the liars take the reins of our country to “make America great again,” I’m going to remember the hope and optimism that not only myself, but SO MANY PEOPLE in our country had, when Barack Obama was running and then won the Presidency.

What follows is my digital scrapbook of sorts — after reading all the communications that I did during the 08 run, literally thousands of emails, I dug out my favorite emails and photos that were circulated through the 2008 campaign but weren’t made public, starting with my letter to Barack in January 2007 urging him to run, and the response from him that I received in June 2007.

This country missed a huge opportunity to do great things, because there were men and women who’d rather have put our country in peril than see Barack Obama be the kind of President we all know he could’ve and should’ve been.

 

From: J Rich <j******@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Jan 28, 2007 at 8:27 PM
Subject: A New Kind of Leader
To: Barack Obama Exploratory Committee <info@barackobama.com>
Dear Future President Obama,
I feel that you represent everything that was, is, and can be great about America in the future. If you search your feelings, I believe you must sense that this nation needs you, your ideas, and your energy, and we need it right now. For most pundits and casual laypeople, your path to the Presidency may seem a most unlikely one, perhaps even as unlikely as Abraham Lincoln’s…
Too often Americans get the “opposing” message from politicians and the media… even our citizens themselves spend time saying they “oppose” gay marriage, or are “anti-war”, or “against a woman’s right to choose”…you sir, are the first candidate that I’ve seen in my
lifetime (33 years) that I feel is legitimately and genuinely
“pro-human rights”, “pro-peace”, and “pro-active” about doing things with the idea in mind that you want each individual American, and actually each individual citizen of this Earth, to strive to become the best person that each and every one of us is capable of becoming.

 

Your Senate campaign message of “Yes, we can” needs to be out there
again…it will resonate and fuel your candidacy sir, because it is a
universal truth. And no American will be able to deny the positivity
they will feel, for when they hear it, or when they say it with us,
and when they know that this man, this new leader who is getting us
all to say “Yes, we can!” ALSO wholeheartedly believes just that –
that we, as people living under God, CAN shape our future however we want, however we choose, and that our intentions now need to
change…

 
Sir, the way I see it, there is absolutely no way you can
lose this election.
Mr. Obama, you are an inspiration to us all, and you can help lead America back to being a beacon of prosperity and liberty. It is out of my love for this country that I ask you to do one thing: please run for President.
I, along with countless other Americans, will feel a tremendous sense of pride and purpose in dedicating time and energy to your election as the next President of this amazing nation of ours.
In closing, as you encounter those “times that try men’s souls” on the campaign trail, and in your life in general, I will hope that you would reflect on Abraham Lincoln’s political career (he had so much adversity…and was forced to act with true courage, much as you will have to continue to act), and I hope this quote, from President Calvin Coolidge, will resonate with you:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing in more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Yes, we can heal our nation.
Yes, we can mend the diplomatic relationships that have been fractured in this world.
Yes, we can usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity, peace, and liberty.
We can, Mr. ObamaAnd with your leadership, we will.

 

 

 

 

Best Regards,

J. Rich

from: Obama for America <no-reply@barackobama.com>
reply-to: Obama for America <no-reply@barackobama.com>
to: j*******@gmail.com
date: Tue, Jun 26, 2007 at 9:06 AM
subject: Response to Your Message to Senator Obama

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for your kind message and thoughts. Please pardon the late reply. My family and I have been touched by the outpouring of support we have received since announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.

As I traveled the country last year campaigning for Senate and House candidates, I spoke to people of diverse backgrounds from Rhode Island to Missouri to Washington state. I heard the same message in Omaha, Nebraska, that I heard in Orlando, Florida. The American people want a new kind of politics that replaces partisan name calling with honest conversation that seeks constructive change.

The cards, messages and calls I have received since the election from supporters like you reaffirm my belief that America is ready to put the era of bitter partisanship and the politics of division behind us, and that 2008 can be a watershed election for a new politics of principled, passionate, and civil debate about the future course of our country.

As we build this movement for change, please bookmark http://my.barackobama.com  and visit often.  Want to get involved right now?  We’ve built a set of easy-to-use web tools that empower you.  At My.BarackObama.com you can:

– build your own profile and connect with supporters near you
– find or create your own local or national group
– create your own personal fundraising page and track your progress
– find events near you or plan your own
– chronicle your campaign experience on your own blog

And there will be much more to come in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

THE CAMPAIGN STARTED, WE WON IOWA… AND THEN, WE LOST NEW HAMPSHIRE…
from: J Rich <j*******@gmail.com>
to: Los Angeles for Obama ’08! <LosAngelesforObama08@groups.barackobama.com>
date: Tue, Jan 8, 2008 at 9:05 PM
subject: It’s On…

Dear Obama Supporters/Volunteers,

Like all of you, I am disappointed with the outcome of the New
Hampshire Primary. I admit, I had to laugh and subsequently turn off
my TV as I watched Brian Williams and Tim Russert proclaim it a
“colossal” victory (of approximately 4,000 votes) for Hillary Clinton.

Punditry and declarations of victory or doom aside, let us all
remember that this is a marathon (18 miles of which will be decided on
Feb 5) and we must not take any stride for granted. We must make each stride count.

We all know what’s at stake. We all know which candidate will be a
representative of the people, for the people of the United States. We
all know which candidate inspired the record voter turnouts in the
first Democratic caucus and primary.

Now it’s up to us to convince California’s (and in the turn, the
nation’s) voters that Barack Obama is the better choice as the
Democratic nominee for President. It’s that simple.

Iowa was great result for us, but I submit that New Hampshire, January 8, 2008, is the day for us to truly remember…let us use the
disappointment of this day to our advantage, let it remind us all just
how much we want to see Barack become the nominee, and let that
motivate us all, that much more.

As disappointed as each of us must be today, can you imagine the
magnitude of disappointment we’d each feel if Barack does not win the
nomination? In that vein, can you imagine the utter phoniness that
would go along with a Hillary Clinton acceptance speech?

That is something none of us wants to see, hear, or feel. It  makes me
nauseous to even consider it a possibility.

We can do something about it now. It’s sooo early. Do not be
disheartened. We can win this thing…but let us not forget that we
can lose this thing too…this is, indeed, the urgency of now.

I close with the quote from my.barackobama.com profile…

Our campaign’s decided advantages in enthusiasm, talent, genius, and
education notwithstanding, we’ll need more to defeat Hillary’s
organization.

We have to outwork them in every way, every day, until the Democratic Convention.

It’s on… so let’s get to it. Let’s get our man the votes and
delegates he needs!

Wednesday, January 9th
What: “California Counts” Press Event
Location: Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring Street (on 1st Street steps)
Time: Noon

Best Regards To All of You,
J. Rich

WE WENT ON TO WIN THE NOMINATION…
AND THE GENERAL ELECTION…
AND THEN OUR FEARLESS LEADER, DAVID PLOUFFE, AFTER MAKING OUR UNOFFICIAL INTERNAL CAMPAIGN CREED “LET’S WIN THIS FUCKING THING” SENT OUT THE FOLLOWING EMAIL.
—–Original Message—–
From: David Plouffe
Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 12:16 PM
To: #Staff-All
Subject: One more thing
We WON this fucking thing.  Apologies for language.  But seemed appropriate.
NOW LOOKING BACK, THESE PICTURES ILLUSTRATE, SOMEWHAT, WHO OUR PRESIDENT REALLY WAS… A REAL MAN WHO REALLY CARED ABOUT HIS FAMILY AND HIS COUNTRY.

The campaign volutneer shirt…

My precinct captain’s t-shirt…

Yes, we did. And, yes, we can, again.

I Am One With Rogue One, Rogue One is With Me

**** THIS BLOG ENTRY CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ROGUE ONE ****

Like many children of the early 70’s, STAR WARS was an indelible part of my views on, well, almost everything. I said as much in a letter George Lucas, penned circa 2005, in which I stated I had a clear vision for what might come next in the good versus evil, rebels versus empire, new agey Buddhist allegory mixed with Greek tragedy mixed with Germanic opera, and set in space. He politely declined to see me for that conversation, it was ambitious of me, but it was worth the try. The story has always been ambitious, and as the Star Wars films churned out over the decades have shown, there were times that the story itself may have been too “careful not to choke on it’s own aspirations.”

However, if rebellions are built on hope, are not epic, society shifting mythos built on aspirations?

Which leads me to ROGUE ONE, which, in my mind, is the most “honest” of all of the Star Wars canon, because, to me, the biggest problem with the Star Wars canon was that the Wars part of Star Wars was never too, um, warlike. Wars are not glamourous; they are not elegant; they are messy, they require sacrifice, they tear families apart and they bring political in-fighting, unforeseen conflicting agendas, senseless, indiscriminate death; and, they are horribly tragic.

Bringing the Wars back to Star Wars was the best thing for this franchise...

Bringing the Wars back to Star Wars was the best thing for this franchise…

ROGUE ONE, somehow, captured all of these somber truths, while reclaiming the inspirational Star Wars magic in a way that was not a bummer, and gave just the right amount of nods to the old fans, while it was it’s own story (something that FORCE AWAKENS failed to do in my opinion.) Let me be clear: there is still a good bit of plot pilfering going on. While FORCE AWAKENS was nearly beat-for-beat in line with A NEW HOPE, ROGUE ONE is almost too close to being beat-for-beat in line with RETURN OF THE JEDI.

But, thankfully, there’s enough that’s different here that ROGUE ONE, finally, is the story that adds depth to the mythology, and reminds me that the Star Wars canon isn’t stiff, lame, immature romantic melodrama.

(Eps 1-3 missed the mark by a mile and would’ve killed most other franchises.)

No. Just. No.

No. Just. No.

Let me start with the moment where I knew this film would be different than all other Star Wars films, in a good way. There was no need for a scrolling preamble – after “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” – this film cuts right to the chase, which was, this guy, Galen Erso, who’s some brilliant engineer (film might’ve been helped by showing this engineering brilliance early on, but, that’s a minor quibble) was coerced into leading a team of engineers to help build a Superweapon (the Death Star) for the Empire: his wife is murdered in front of him. He’s already made plans for his daughter to be hidden from the Empire, and he agrees to help, knowing that if he can control the work done, then maybe, maybe, he can plant a deficiency into the Death Star that can one day be exploited. (Though, how Darth Vader would not sense this is not addressed.)

His daughter, Jyn Erso, has a rough and tumble upbringing that we don’t really get to see. We open on Jyn in a prison, years later, and she’s busted out by rebel forces led by Captain Cassian Andor and his quasi-trusty, dry-witted, reprogrammed imperial droid, K2SO. As Andor busts her out, K2SO clotheslines her as she tries to escape her escape-helpers, and wryly comments: “Congratulations. You’re being rescued.”

As an aside, this tone of dark gallows humor mixed with seriousness is maintained throughout the film, with just the right amount of it peppered in. Combine that with the easter eggs galore in the film (one or two were a tad obvious) and it’s more than enough for a Star Wars geek to be engaged.

From there, we come to realize that the rebellion has fractured into factions, and that backstabbing in the Empire is a thing, especially when Galen Erso sends out word that the Death Star is almost done and there’s one way to defeat it. He gets the info out via a “defecting” Imperial pilot to an old trusted friend, Saw Gerrera, who abandoned his daughter Jyn, when it became clear that the Empire might use her against the rebellion.

Clearly, at this point, one can tell that this is not “blue sky” Star Wars.

Yes. Just. Yes.

Yes. Just. Yes.

Gerrera’s betrayal of Jyn makes Jyn skeptical about the rebellion, and humanity in general. It actually makes it plausible that she would keep her head down even if imperial flags fly above her and the Empire murdered her mother and commandeered her father.

Gerrera convinces Jyn to take up the cause of fighting the Empire when he shows her the message that her father wants to deliver to the rebellion, a father she’s not seen since she was a young girl. She trusts the message and when she tries to get others to trust her, as the messenger, this is where the film really hits a different level in Star Wars lore. Suddenly, her saviors become her potential enemies, her potential enemies become her friends, and the rebellion reveals itself to be more a pragmatic, yet ineffectual political organization than a group fighting for freedom.

When Jyn’s father is killed by the rebellion and her faith in Andor is shattered, Andor (and others) must accept and support the ultimate sacrifice, the same sacrifice Jyn is willing to make, in order for them to regain her trust and redeem themselves.

And it is an AWESOME moment when it happens.

When Jyn Erso's warnings are turned aside due to lack of political will, her team is formed, and this is one of the best moments in all Star Wars lore.

When Jyn Erso’s warnings are turned aside due to lack of political will, her team is formed, and this is one of the best moments in all of Star Wars lore.

And it has NOTHING to do with special effects.

The final sequence is spectacular, nothing short of breathtaking if you’re a Star Wars fan.

Prong 1 of Final Sequence: The Ground War.

Prong 1 of Final Sequence: The Ground War.

Prong 2: Infiltration of the Empire

Prong 2: Infiltration of the Empire

Prong 3: The Aerial Assault

Prong 3: The Aerial Assault

Prong 4: And Then... Vader Goes Vader

Prong 4: And Then… Vader Goes Vader

In the end, when you find out just how hard it was to steal those Death Star plans, how many died just to get them to Princess Leia, somehow, I think it gives A NEW HOPE the right context.

Now, is this a great movie? I don’t know.

Is this a great Star Wars movie? 100% absolutely yes.