Archive for February, 2013

“Rejoice, Dear Hearts!”

February 15, 2013

Dave Gardner

As any of our four daughters and eleven grandchildren would surely testify, my primary philosophical observation about life in general and any subject in particular all comes down to this: “It’s all in how you look at it. All in how you study it.” For me, this really does seem to say it all.

I herein pay tribute to my original source for such a deceptively simple and powerfully influential and inspirational saying, that being one “Brother Dave Gardner”.

“Brother Dave” was a singer/comedian from Jackson, Tennessee. After a one-semester term as a Southern Baptist ministerial student at Union University, he began a musical career as a drummer and vocalist. He started filling time between songs with stream-of-conscious commentary and was surprised when he discovered his audiences came to see his “comedic routines” rather than music, even though Dave had a national Top 20 hit in 1957 with an instrumental called, “White Silver Sands.”

Legendary RCA artist Chet Atkins was amazed with “Brother Dave” and produced a comedy album in 1959 that catapulted Gardner into national prominence. “Rejoice, Dear Hearts!” sold a million copies. Numerous appearances on “The Tonight Show” continued his ascent into the entertainment stratosphere, but arrest for marijuana possession in 1962 brought his career to a screeching halt. This was seven years before Woodstock. He died of a heart attack in 1983 at the age of 57.

Many folks considered Dave Gardner to be blatantly Conservative. In the early 1980s, Texas Oilman H. L. Hunt moved Brother Dave and his wife to Dallas, but soon became disenchanted with Gardner’s alcohol and drug abuse. Simultaneously, Gardner was often quoted in the Liberal press for “telling it like it is”, particularly his strong opposition to American involvement in Vietnam. Referencing his own experiences, Gardner would say, “ I was in World War Two and I saw lots of blood spilled, but it never sent anyone to Heaven.”

Those who knew him report it was impossible pinning Gardner down on anything given his amazing proclivity to verbally dance between subjects, positions and ideas with lightning rapidity, juxtaposing all elements at every turn. The universal consensus was — Brother Dave Gardner made you think.

I’m sure that’s why I took to him so quickly. Brother Dave Gardner was like a Jesuit!

I was particularly blessed in my youth receiving the benefit of a four-year Jesuit education at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. I still often tell friends, “The Sisters at Cathedral School taught me WHAT to think, but the Jesuits at Le Moyne taught me HOW to think.”

The essence of Jesuit instruction is to present as many sides of a given topic as possible, then insist you make up your own mind without claiming absolute certitude. The Jesuits are often said to be “the intellectual vanguard of the Catholic Church” — a distinction historically supported by being booted out or suppressed individually and as a group by The Vatican more than once. A Doctor of Philosophy from Syracuse University who taught one senior class in Theology at Le Moyne was an atheist.

So I delight in talking with everyone about everything.

I just finished communicating with John Pero, Central Valley Tea Party Coordinator, about a “Gun Control” meeting scheduled for Oakhurst. I enjoy my conversations with John and have applauded his dedication to civic involvement in print as well as in person, even though we hold widely disparate views on many national issues.

I look forward to hosting Madera County Sheriff John Anderson, a fine Republican, at our March 2nd Meeting of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst. With the Ole’ Kettle gone, we’ve moved to Sweetwater Steak House for a while. Sheriff Anderson will be bringing us all up to date on various local law enforcement fronts and will be glad to answer any questions raised.

I remain continually impressed by District Five Supervisor Tom Wheeler’s Town Meetings at our Community Center and again urge everyone to be at the next one here or in Ahwahnee, Coarsegold, North Fork or Raymond. Tom does more shows than Elvis in his prime.

And I wish that our Congressional representatives in Washington in both Senate and House could put us first in their thoughts and learn to listen to — rather than talk at each other. They might just find out they share much more in common than not and that hard work and cooperative effort over time can bring brilliant consequences. I haven’t given up yet.

“Don’tcha know a diamond ain’t nothin’ but a piece of coal that’s stuck with it?” —
Brother Dave Gardner (1959)

“Fairly Unbalanced At The Speed of Lies”

February 2, 2013


It sometimes seems half my old friends are three-quarters nuts, but few of them watch FOX.

Given a career background in broadcasting and advertising from the late ’50’s onward — “Mad Men” being outrageously authentic — this might not come as a complete surprise, but I should offer further subjective commentary that these particular vocational endeavors did and do require a certain degree of basic smarts, however jaded.

And so it was I found myself not thoroughly mystified near the end of last year when a “Press Release” was released by an outfit identifying itself as “The Intelligence Institute” stating that its researchers tested 5,000 people measuring everything from cognitive aptitude to common sense and found that people who identified themselves as FOX News viewers and “Conservative” had, on average, significantly lower intelligent quotients. The results of this “4 year study” were said to solidly establish the fact Americans who obtain their news from FOX News channel have an average IQ of 80, which would represent a 20 point deficit from a norm of 100 — not that far from special needs.

But there was no Santa Claus. Such dramatic testimony quickly turned out to be a fanciful hoax concocted as a Pre-Christmas prank by who knows whom, but I am happy to report that investigation into the authenticity of such a delicious allegation did establish several unchallenged findings by the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.

It seems Conservatives regularly demonstrate their proclivity for accepting without challenge many outrageous falsehoods presented by FOX personalities and their foam-at-the-mouth counterparts in Talk Radio due to enlarged — and here’s a word you don’t often hear at the barber shop — “amygdalas” — such condition being associated with greater emotional inflexibility and accelerated danger response.

Amygdalas are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located within the media temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates. That includes us. Have you checked yours today?

This physiological variance would seem to account for many Conservatives displaying a greater susceptibility to conspiracy models of thinking, “they’re coming for our guns” being a timely case in point.

Absurdly spun tales driven by anxiety and fear find immediate, almost pleasurable acceptance in the minds of our enlarged amygdala brethren, perhaps making more understandable ready acceptance of such novel concepts as “FEMA concentration camps”, “Obama otherness” and “enhanced interrogation.”

An excellent book entitled, “The Republican Brain” by Chris Mooney ((John Wiley & Sons – 2012) tends to strongly echo the idea of congenitally impaired cognizance, as does a Fairleigh Dickinson University study which reveals that FOX viewers are the worst-informed media consumers in the America they profess to love. PBS came in first, just ahead of “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. How ’bout that? And the Colbert Report is right behind. Pun intended.

Mooney offers fascinating elaboration, but it pretty much comes down to ready Republican acceptance of only those thoughts, ideas and philosophies that offer comfortable conformity with already established, often pre-conditioned beliefs. Ultimately, it seems more a case of “nothing new” than “low I.Q” — Resurgent Isolationism — the last mind set we need as ready or not we accelerate our collective slide through time.

Paraphrasing the late Bette Davis as she so brilliant spoke of aging — “The 21st Century is no place for sissies.”

And perhaps no place for FOX News without substantial changes in programming and presentation.

Check out this — “Breaking News!”

In January of 2013, FOX News had its worst prime-time ratings in the coveted 25-54 demographics since August 2001 and its lowest total day ratings since June 2008. And — gasp — MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow beat “Studio B” and the 11 PM repeat of “The O’Reilly Factor” for the very first time. Even many “Republican Brains” have had enough — FOX’s interpretation of the famous phrase “fair and balanced” finally perceived as the hideously cruel joke it always was.

As for a concluding analytical summation, I love the quote Mr. Mooney chose to open his book and close this week’s column with it here:

“Reality has a well-known liberal bias” — Stephen Colbert