¡Verde Terlingua! part three

¡Verde Terlingua!
Life off the grid in a wild West Texas border town
Words and photos by Daniel Chamberlin

In April of 2009, Arthur contributing editor Daniel Chamberlin got down with the DIY homesteaders and off-the-grid outsiders of Far West Texas at the first annual Terlingua Green Scene. Find part one “No Winners, Only Survivors” by clicking here.

Part Three: The Warmth of the Sun


Now go out and get yourself some thick black frames / With the glass so dark they won’t even know your name

John Wells is a sixtysomething contractor, photographer and sculptor from New York, and a self-described press whore. He’s got a blog, The Field Lab, chronicling the last year and a half of his life, building a compound north of Terlingua on a plot of land surrounded by mountains and canyons. He’s been profiled by Make Magazine and his website’s been BoingBoinged, so he’s a celebrity by Terlingua standards. It doesn’t hurt that he’s remarkably photogenic with an epic beard, and reflective sunglasses under a sun-bleached straw cowboy hat.

He smokes cigarettes while standing around jawing with some portly good ol’ boy-types who are bitching about Obama and what they fear will be an increase in property taxes. Wells’ primary reason for leaving his giant house in upstate New York was an aversion to such expenses. Out here he pays about $100 in property taxes per year for his 128-square-foot hut and 40 acres of pristine Chihuahuan desert.

They’re gathered around Wells’ solar cooker, a giant wooden contraption lined with reflective panels that amplifies solar rays, directing them today onto a chicken sitting in a glass dish. It’ll be ready for sampling in two or three hours at about 210 degrees, though some heavy clouds may delay dinnertime. “Clouds are not your friend when you’re solar cooking,” he says.


John Wells’ solar-heated chicken shack.

Wells uses the cooker out on his compound—it’s officially known as The Southwest Texas Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Field Laboratory—for baking most of his meals, which range from heated up cans of vegetables to home-baked bread and lasagna. He invites me to swing by and check it out tomorrow afternoon, and then rejoins the conversation with his buddies, which has turned to aquaponics, or the use of fish tanks to fertilize and irrigate the greenhouse he’s building right now. For the fish in the tanks he’s considering catfish or tilapia, as they’d also make for good eating.

“There’s full systems you can buy for $5000,” he says, “but of course I found a YouTube video, some guy who built one with $20 in materials and his fish are there and his plants are growing. And so I’m gonna try one little setup of that, see how it works.”

He plans to live in the greenhouse once it’s set up. I ask him what he wants to grow and he talks about marijuana and meth. He’s kidding, but I’m also curious about what seems like a lack of meth-heads out here. They’re a staple in the California deserts, half-toothless burnouts in torn-up sleeveless T-shirts, often seen riding to and fro from their toxic trailer labs on ATVs and dirt bikes.

“It’s mostly just drunks down here,” he says. ” I haven’t seen anybody with any really rotten teeth—except for if they’ve never been to a dentist.”

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¡Verde Terlingua! part two

¡Verde Terlingua!
Life off the grid in a wild West Texas border town
Words and photos by Daniel Chamberlin

In April of 2009, Arthur contributing editor Daniel Chamberlin got down with the DIY homesteaders and off-the-grid outsiders of Far West Texas at the first annual Terlingua Green Scene. Find part one “No Winners, Only Survivors” by clicking here.

Part Two: Hot Tubs and Poop Buckets


Shannon Carter and her sunflower hat.

Green Scene organizers Shannon Carter and Mark Kneeskern—both somewhere in their 30s—met in Terlingua seven years ago. Carter grew up in Baytown, a city located on the humid coastal plains east of Houston, home to several massive petrochemical industrial complexes. She recalls the year that the river behind her house caught on fire and their family had to be evacuated. In high school she got involved with Future Farmers of America, where she worked with calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys and lambs.

After two years at the community college in Baytown, Shannon moved to Alpine, one of the two small towns north of Terlingua—Marathon being the other one—that offer the last chance for ranchers, hunters and hikers to patronize anything resembling fast-food franchises or fully-stocked grocery stores before heading out into the West Texas wilderness. She tells me she wanted to get as far from Houston as she could while still paying in-state tuition, and Alpine’s Sul Ross University satisfied those requirements. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Health Management and Wildlife Biology. She tried grad school for a minute, but soon dropped out and moved to Terlingua in the spring of 1999.

“I’ve lived lots of beautiful places,” Shannon says, and happily recounts an adventure-job-circuit C.V. that includes six seasons of sea kayaking in the Virgin Islands, four seasons as a river guide in Colorado and a year in Moab.

“But none of those places compare to the solitude and vastness of this desert,” she says.

Mark Kneeskern hails from Audubon, Iowa where he had what sounds like a fairly idyllic childhood, adventuring on the East Nishnabotna River and roaming the pastures around his parent’s farm. He got a BFA from a state university that he decries as “worthless.”


Mark Kneeskern handles Green Scene traffic control.

Mark first came to Terlingua to visit a friend who was working in the Chisos Mountains, the high country of Big Bend National Park. They hiked and camped and Mark got to see a bear. His friend took him on a tour of the local drinking holes and they had what he describes as “crazy times” that left him “shook up.” He moved to Terlingua three years later to become a river guide.

“Terlingua is a hard place to live,” says Mark. “No running water or electricity on most properties. Flush toilets are rare. At first, these factors seem like obstacles, but when you get used to things, you realize that ‘simple’ is the best and happiest way to live. You learn to make it work if you have the will. When it’s nice, it’s paradise. When it’s not nice, it really is a living hell.”

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¡Verde Terlingua!
Life off the grid in a wild West Texas border town
Words and photos by Daniel Chamberlin

In April of 2009, Arthur contributing editor Daniel Chamberlin got down with the DIY homesteaders and off-the-grid outsiders of Far West Texas at the first annual Terlingua Green Scene.

Part One: No Winners, Only Survivors


The entrance to Terlingua’s community garden.

The tiny settlement of Terlingua lays in the Big Bend country of Far West Texas, just north of the Rio Grande, a place that remains one of the most remote areas of the continental United States. In the interest of continuing to lessen the town’s ecological impact, in April of 2009 a group of local homesteaders and off-the-grid-types organized the first Terlingua Green Scene, a conference of sustainable living strategies, including demonstrations of cob house construction, solar cooking and desert farming. The events took place in and around the town’s thriving community garden, a refuge for vegetables, sunflowers and other plants that would otherwise quickly expire in the arid Chihuahuan desert climate. A sculpture of St. Francis of Assisi, created by a Vietnam vet named Spider and painted by local folk music icon Collie Ryan, looks on from a small ridge just to the west.


The beneficent gaze of Spider and Collie Ryan’s St. Francis.

The Green Scene organizers’ aim — at least in part — is to strengthen community ties as well as to establish Terlingua as a hub of homesteading and DIY sustainability, and to give the town’s other legacies a run for their money: Terlingua has been a footnoted way-station in tales of smugglers heading from Mexico into the United States from the days of candellaria wax and sotol cactus moonshine up to the modern era of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and migrant workers. It’s also known for an annual chili cook-off that attracts thousands of Budweiser-swilling “chiliheads;” as a retreat for the Texas country and folk music scene; and of course there’s the world-class river rafting, mountain biking, birding and hiking of Big Bend National Park — over 800,000 acres of mountains, deserts, bears, antelope and alpine forests whose boundary is 10 miles to the east.

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No Exit—from the Not-So-Great Depression


No Exit—from the Not-So-Great Depression
by Charles Potts

No Exit is the title of one book by Jean Paul Sartre, a French writer, communist and co-father of Existentialism that I’ve never been able to read, even though I have always admired the fact that he thumbed his nose at the Nobel Prize for Literature saying something like, “I don’t accept prizes, whether the Nobel or a sack of potatoes.” The Nobel Prize for Literature, as you’ve probably heard, is passed out by a pack of gunpowder academics from the net proceeds of the fortune of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, by confusing politics with literature. Each year they make some kind of difficult-to-decipher gesture toward one or another enclave in the Third World. They haven’t given one to an American for a long time—trying to snub the Empire, I suppose. Who knows what all they read on their way to spurious decisions.

To give you an example of how far into the mire language has fallen, I’m under the impression the Swedes delegated the awarding of the Peace Prize to the Norwegians, and as an old Swedish girlfriend of mine used to say, “He ain’t Norwegian” when she wanted to insult somebody, the way dweebs from Eastern Montana make fun of the hapless denizens of North Dakota. I mean, they gave the Peace Prize to the Boy Scout from Chicago and he had to pick it up the very week he announced he was sending an additional 30,000 troops to win the war in Afghanistan at a cost of $30,000,000,000, i.e. thirty billion dollars. I hope the unemployed are sitting down for this but my honorary degree in rocket science suggests that it is impossible to win a colonial war when it costs the Empire A MILLION dollars per soldier to put a pair of boots, as the talking heads put it, on the ground. Even if they were taking gold out of Afghanistan by the trainload, colonial war is a losing proposition. And there is nothing else there to “win” either. The last time I can remember that the Peace Prize went to such a warmonger was when the great war criminal Henry Kissinger accepted it, on behalf of the scut work he did for the scoundrel Richard Nixon in the Empire’s war on Vietnam. Americans have forgotten their own colonial history, if they ever knew it. Back in the day, early 1600s, with the importation of some good tobacco from the Orinoco River in South America, Virginia became the drug producing capital of the new world. Fortunes were made. Now the Empire has the effrontery to try to wipe out the opium producers in Afghanistan.

Colonial War in all its many disguises is one of the primary reasons why there is No Exit from the not-so-great depression. To give the Tea Party sympathizers among the audience an example they can get their red meat teeth into, the Cheney-Bush Administration started and lost three unnecessary wars simultaneously while bankrupting the Treasury and blowing a hole in the world economy that likely won’t get re-filled in the length of an ordinary lifetime. And Republicans wonder why they are out of office.

To take their undeclared wars one at a time… (By the way, this civilization declared war in 1941, two years before your author was born, and has never declared peace. We have war as a way of life, described in the political literature as “Peace and Prosperity,” going down in history as a violent parody of standards even double-talk can’t reach.) In their post 9-11 mind set in concrete, they launched the aforementioned War on Afghanistan, allegedly because the perpetrators of 9-11, mostly Saudi Arabians and Egyptians, once trained there. It was described by that half-an-asshole semi-Colon Powell as asymmetrical warfare, overlooking the fact that the asymmetry was provided by the Empire, when a handful of special ops could have taken out the survivors of the plot for chump change. At least that’s the way Eisenhower’s CIA used to do it during the “Peace and Prosperity”-driven 1950s. Discontent with starting a war they couldn’t finish much less win led them on to the War on Iraq, a regime changer if there ever was one, to depose a war criminal satrap the Empire had set up years before, one Saddam Hussein by name, who never made the slightest dent in his long war against Iran, even with the Rumsfeld-provided poison gas.

Lying their way into war is the modus operandi of the Empire, now in need of a theme. Voila! A War on Terrorism. A war on abstract nouns is the perfect setup for the Empire. The enemy can’t be found, so Osama bin Laden is still at large, generating funds for both sides. The siege mentality of the Paranoid Christian Fascists has them fighting Islamo-Fascists and the Fascists are winning. For every terrorist killed three new ones are created, an endless supply for an endless war, in an Empire presided over by endless fruitcakes. The Empire has 16 separate spy agencies, all gathering information and hoarding it from one another, much less the people on whose behalf it is purportedly gathered. If you have a secret and somebody else wants to discover it, that somebody else becomes pro forma an enemy. The interlocution of paranoia; the structure of political madness.

The algorithm for the end of empires has three integrals and derivatives. How fast the leaders burn through their assets, chief of which is the support of their populations; the size of the asset base; and the quality and focus of the opposition. Costs of empire are borne by the entire population while the benefits accrue to the very few with inside jobs: no-bid contractors who milk the sacred American cow. In other words, the calculus of empire and colonial war is an exercise in socializing the costs—socialized war, anyone?—while privatizing the benefits. This best of both worlds is a dream scheme for plutocrats and a nightmare for everybody else. An Alice in Wonderland foreign policy presided over by the presidency, no matter who holds the office, presages an epic disaster.

If you haven’t dropped out yet, it’s probably time.

Charles Potts: wikipedia

Previous work by Charles Potts in Arthur…

“The Recession and How to Live Through It” (Jan 2009)

“The Dope From Muskogee”

Shoethrower Muntader al-Zaidi named Arthur Magazine “Man of the Year” 2008; Charles Potts salutes al-Zaidi with new poem, “Balls Out.”

“A Case of Cheney Paranoia”

Poem in Arthur No. 5 (special “Arthur Against Empire” issue)

“Spasm Empire”

Charles Potts & SUNN 0))) at ArthurFest 2005 – video footage

Friday, Mar 5, W-burg 7-9pm: all-star artshow "TIME TUNNEL" curated by Pali Kashi opening at Charlie Horse



film still from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Pali Kashi

Charlie Horse Gallery presents:

Time Tunnel

Curated by Pali Kashi

Mira Billotte
John Brattin
Eric Copeland
Jeff Davis
Spencer Herbst
Pali Kashi
James Kendi
Adam Marnie
Keith McCulloch
Rich Porter
Leif Ritchey
Arik Roper
Francine Spiegel
Ruby Sky Stiler

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator, and lies in a tunnel 175 meters beneath the Franco-Swiss border. Physicists hope that the LHC will help answer the most fundamental questions in physics, concerning the basic laws governing the deep structure of space and time.
–Brian Greene reporting for The New York Times

“Time Tunnel” proposes a collision of art-making traditions with the uncertainty of time and space. The collective unconscious is infused with ritual and mysticism, and has become dislodged and reinterpreted. The reformed amalgam of paint, wax, clay, sand, and plaster that is presented here are artifacts of this convergence. Totem poles are now made of monster masks, images of prairie women have paint splattered on them, Roman relics are fractured, sand mandalas are blurred, and our spirit animals have been unleashed into the wild.

Mira Billotte is an artist and musician (White Magic) interested in the “Music of the Spheres”; the belief that the planets of the solar system and stars beyond each create a tone in perfect harmony. Mira’s installations and sand mandalas reference transcendental rituals practiced throughout time.

John Brattin is a multi-media artist who uses sculpture, drawing, and painting to further inform his personal stories and myths which are eventually made into short films. He is currently working on a western.

Eric Copeland’s collages are visual remnants of his pondering of the moon, phallices, faces, and piles of trash. His abstracted compositions use repetition and disjunction much like the music he is known for making.

Jeff Davis’s two-dimensional work usually takes on “mysteriously ceremonial and often orgiastic configurations”. His totem-like structures are made from casting rubber halloween masks with multi-colored wax.

Spencer Herbst’s dadaist videos are a microscopic look into our everyday surroundings. His magnification of objects strewn about his apartment, salt crystals lying on a countertop, and wood grain in the floorboards are examined so closely that they take on an other-worldly reality.

Pali Kashi’s work presents the natural world through the power symbol of the triangle, which grants the viewer a new kind of portal into frozen moments of time.

James Kendi’s photographic process begins with asking people what their spirit animal is. He then creates a mask of that animal and photographs his subjects wearing the mask in the animal’s natural environment.

Adam Marnie is a mixed media artist interested in the sculptural presentation of images. By splicing traditional still life painting with pornography, he can sharply pierce us with flashes of flesh where we are expecting to see stems and roses.

Keith McCulloch’s watercolors meander through a maze-like interior filled with strange yet familiar apparitions.

Rich Porter depicts an array of primordial figures, focusing on the unseen molecular network between our bodies and landscape.

Leif Ritchey is an archaeologist of the sublime accumulations of his everyday surroundings. The objects he extracts from puddles near a sewer or broken glass hidden under a bush are taken back to his studio to be corralled into his futuristic vision.

Arik Roper’s work depicts a fantastical reality filled with mythical warriors, smoky terrain, and decaying skulls. His paintings breathe life into our uncharted history.

Ruby Sky Stiler rummages the storage cellar of historical artifacts to incorporate classic iconography into the context of her own relics. Her fragmented reliefs of ancient Greek and Roman imagery question the potency of sculpting the human form.

Francine Spiegel’s performance, The Curse of the Century Old Egg, which took place at Deitch Projects this last fall, was a literal mish-mosh of the past and present. The eerie happening gathered six women together in a curious ritual of transformation. The repetition of slime-dumping and paint-slinging turned these prairie-esque women, in ruffled regalia, into monstrous beasts over the course of an hour.

Time Tunnel will be on display from March 5, 2010 – March 17, 2010
Opening reception will be from 7-9 pm on Friday, March 5, 2010
Live Performances by Mike Bones and Luke Roberts

Charlie Horse Gallery
28 Marcy Ave
between Metropolitan and Hope
Take L or G train to Union Ave stop, walk down Metropolitan Ave 3 blocks and make a right onto Marcy

YOUR HEART IS A PRISM by Peter Glantz, Becky Stark and Jacob Ciocci


More info:

“This print is the first in a series that Becky Stark and I are making together. We write slogans and turn them into prints and videos. This is the first print and is designed in collaboration with Jacob Ciocci.

Jacob is a founding member of the art collective Paper Rad and plays in the band Extreme Animals. Becky is the lead singer/songwriter of the folk pop band Lavender Diamond. We’ve been longtime collaborators and friends. We live across the country from one another and write these slogans via text message. It’s fun to get a random positive message, and our intent is for people who come across these posters to get the same feeling of unexpected joy.

Our work together is about giving off healing vibrations generated by humor and beauty. We hope it makes you smile.

Your Heart Is A Prism!”
—Peter Glantz

Chambo's Internet Activity Pages for November 16, 2009


Leonid meteor shower, Marfa, Texas 2008

The last time we wrote about a meteor shower here at Arthur, we lived in the middle of the sprawling, light-polluted metropolis of Los Angeles, where the only meteor-like streaks in the sky were the tracer bullets being exchanged between LAPD choppers and some of our gang-banging neighbors. Now we live in Marfa, Texas where we’ll be taking in the Leonid meteor shower — at its peak tomorrow night (that’s November 17) — as it rains across the dark skies of the Trans Pecos from the comfort of our back yard, frosty session brew in hand. Ahhh. Click here and a nerd will tell you where to look for the meteors. [Bad Astronomy/Discover]


Speaking of California, it was around this time last year that Arthur columnist Dave Reeves and I were … uh … “camping” on a nearly-destitute drug farm in Northern California. The paranoia, the backwoods misogyny, the nightly “who has the most bullets” shooting contests with the meth-head farmers over the hill … oh the memories. You can read all about it in his story — and look at my pretty, pretty pot pictures on my photo blog — from last year. But did you know that most people don’t have this type of extremely sketched out paranoid experience up on the pot farms? Redheaded Blackbelt writes about some of the less psychotic aspects of growing and trimming with “How long until you earn a million with marijuana and other things you can learn online,” a great jumping-off point for a variety of weed-head shop-talk blogs. And don’t miss the Redhead’s more recent posts, like the one about the time he accidentally sent his kid to school with a memory stick full of marijuana porn. Lotsa nice otter photos there too. [Redheaded Blackbelt]


Speaking of high quality marijuana, that’s one of the few things that the failed state of California has going for it these days, what with the quasi-decriminalization and all, and it’s definitely something it can hold over the weak produce and harsh sentences here in Texas. Though maybe not for long, as even mainstream Texas magazines are starting to get in line with long-standing Lone Star marijuanauts from Willie Nelson to Gibby Haynes, or at least that’s sure what this “Texas High Ways” (wokka wokka) article from the October Texas Monthly sounds like. [Texas Monthly]


We still get email about “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band,” my memoir of spending my high school years as a closet Deadhead, a lot of it looking for pointers on the noisier inheritors of their heavy improvisational legacy, or as Ethan “Howlin Rain/Comets on Fire” Miller put it in a follow-up article, you can listen to a lot of Dead and never “[mistake] it for Fushitsusha, ya know?”


As it happens, audioblog Mutant Sounds just put this thing up that is more or less the ideal entry point for noise-heads that want to “get” the Dead: It’s the Leningrad Psychedelic Blues Machine doing a 21-minute cover of the Dead’s long-form psychedelic masterpiece, “Dark Star.” The Leningrad Psychedelic Blues Machine, of course, is a Japanese noise-blitz apocalypse supergroup including members of Acid Mothers Temple, High Rise, Mainliner and Zeni Geva, and their version is expectedly rough, rugged and raw in what sounds like a tribute to the best of the crackly, fuzzed-out late ’60s audience recordings out there. [Mutant Sounds]


Sorry for the long absence. Shortly after arriving here in Texas our pal Lil’ Earl sent us this GI Joe PSAs video from way back in 2006 and it’s pretty much the only thing we look at when we turn the internet on. “Porkchop sandwiches!

PDF: Arthur No. 5 (June 2003)

ARTHUR NO. 5 (with David Cross on the cover as crazed jingoist god-blessed S.U.V.-driving soccer mom) IS SOLD OUT.

This was the issue we published back in June 2003 when 90% of the USA was in favor of invading Iraq.

Well Arthur No. 5 is now gone forever, peacenik fanboy.

BUT! you can download the entire issue in PDF (11mb) here:



Photographer Lauren Klain captures DAVID CROSS on his way to a Clear Channel war rally…

KRISTINE MCKENNA on the Tower of Protest, a Vietnam-era action on Sunset Blvd by celebrated artists. With photos by CHARLES BRITTIN…

Jonathan Shainin speaks with CHRIS HEDGES about the truths not being told about war…

ALAN MOORE comments on what the US and UK governments have been up to lately….

DAVID BYRNE writes about his life during wartime.


Art and comics by Steve Andersen, Tauno Blisted & Mac McGill, Robbie Conal, John Coulthart, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bill Griffith, Megan Kelso with Ron Rege, Peter Kuper, David Lasky, Sharon Rudahl, Patti Smith & Jem Cohen, art spiegelman and Carol Swain.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK on the fate of empires

DANIEL PINCHBECK on why he’s glad George Bush is president

Arthur film columnist PAUL CULLUM asks “Is George Bush addicted to cocaine?” as he examines “Horns and Halos,” “Journeys with George,” “Uncle Saddam,” “What I’ve Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy: The War Against the Third World” and “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.”

And — the fabulous GLAMericans are spotlit by Steffie Nelson…

Integrity is being obsoleted, examples 467 and 468

467. From Alessandra Stanley’s appraisal of this week’s appointment of Diane Sawyer to anchor ABC News, in today’s New York Times:

Patience is not normally a virtue in the news business, but Ms. Sawyer made it her ally, letting time smooth bumps in her résumé that at one time seemed insurmountable. She moved directly from working with former President Richard Nixon on his memoirs to CBS News back when the line between journalism and government was virtually inviolate — until, that is, Tim Russert and George Stephanopoulos came along and changed the rules.

This decline in basic journalistic integrity has been going on for longer than we—or perhaps Ms. Stanley—might care to know, or acknowledge. The great John Leonard wrote about it in a major thinkpiece for the Nation’s June 8, 2000 issue entitled “How the Caged Bird Learns to Sing”:

[S]tuck as I am on my periphery of books, movies and television programs, I can’t tell you for sure whether Tom Friedman, when he covered the State Department for the Times, should have played tennis with the Secretary of State. Or if Brit Hume, when he covered the White House for ABC, should have played tennis with President Bush. Or if Rita Beamish of the Associated Press should’ve jogged with George. Or if it was appropriate for George and Barbara to stop by and be videotaped at a media dinner party in the home of Albert Hunt, the Washington bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, and his wife, Judy Woodruff, then of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and now of CNN. Or if one reason Andrea Mitchell, who covered Congress for NBC, showed up so often in the presidential box at the Kennedy Center was that she just happened to be living with Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Nor can I be absolutely positive that there’s something deeply compromised about George Will’s still ghostwriting speeches for Jesse Helms during his trial period as a columnist for the Washington Post, and prepping Ronald Reagan for one of his debates with Jimmy Carter, and then reviewing Reagan’s performance the next day, and later on writing speeches for him. Or about Morton Kondracke and Robert Novak’s collecting thousands of dollars from the Republican Party for advice to a gathering of governors. Or John McLaughlin’s settling one sexual-harassment suit out of court, facing the prospect of at least two more–and nevertheless permitting himself to savage Anita Hill on his McLaughlin Group. Or, perhaps most egregious, Henry Kissinger on ABC and in his syndicated newspaper column, defending Deng Xiaoping’s behavior during the Tiananmen Square massacre–without telling us that Henry and his private consulting firm had a substantial financial stake in the Chinese status quo.
For that matter, who knows deep down in our heart of hearts whether the nuclear-power industry will ever get the critical coverage it deserves from NBC, which happens to be owned by General Electric, which happens to manufacture nuclear-reactor turbines? Or if TV Guide, while it was owned by Rupert Murdoch, was ever likely to savage a series on the Fox network, also owned by Rupert Murdoch, who was meanwhile busy canceling any HarperCollins books that might annoy the Chinese, with whom he dickered for a satellite-television deal? Or whether ABC, owned by Disney, will ever report anything embarrassing to Michael Eisner, the Mikado of Mousedom? It wasn’t the fault of journalists at ABC’s 20/20 that Cap Cities settled the Philip Morris suit before selling out to Disney. But nobody quit, did they? Nor was it the fault of journalists at 60 Minutes that CBS killed another antismoking segment, to be immortalized later in Michael Mann’s movie The Insider; it was the fault instead of the CBS legal department, on behalf of a Larry Tisch who actually owned a tobacco company of his own, on the eve of the big-bucks sale of the network to Westinghouse. But nobody quit there either, did they? Not even aggrieved producer Lowell Bergman, till two years later. Nor have any of the Beltway bubbleheaded blisterpacks on the all-Monica-all-the-time cable yakshows quit in embarrassment and humiliation, renouncing lucrative lecture fees, after being totally wrong in public about almost everything important ever since the 1989 collapse of the nonprofit police states of Eastern Europe.
Stop me before I go on about the petroleum industry and public television’s shamefully inadequate coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, not to mention Shell Oil’s ravening of Nigeria. Or say something I’ll regret about the $5-11 million a year that the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer gets from Archer Daniels Midland, the agribiz octopus whose fixing of prices and bribing of pols got so much attention in 1995 everywhere except on the NewsHour. How suspicious is it that so many Random House books were excerpted in The New Yorker back when Harry Evans ran the publishing house, his wife, Tina Brown, ran the magazine and all of them were wholly owned subsidiaries of Si Newhouse? Is anybody keeping tabs on what Time, People and Entertainment Weekly have to say about Warner Brothers movies? What else should we expect in a brand-named, theme-parked country where the whole visual culture is a stick in the eye, one big sell of booze, gizmos, insouciance, “lifestyles” and combustible emotions? Where the big-screen re-release of George Lucas’s Star Wars trilogy is brought to you by Doritos and the associated sale of stuffed Yodas, Muppet minotaurs, trading cards, video games and a six-foot-tall Fiberglas Storm Trooper for $5,000? Where the newest James Bond is less a movie than a music-video marketing campaign for luxury cars, imported beers, mobile phones and gold credit cards? Where Coke and Pepsi duke it out in grammar schools and Burger King shows up on the sides of the yellow buses that cart our kids to those schools, in whose classrooms they will be handed curriculum kits sprinkled with the names of sneaker companies and breakfast cereals? Where there is a logo, a patent, a copyright or a trademark on everything from our pro athletes and childhood fairy tales to the human genome, and Oprah is sued for $12 million by a Texas beef lobby for “disparaging” blood on a bun during a talk-show segment on bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?
And where, I might add, all of us “delirious professionals” sign away, in perpetuity, our intellectual-property rights, our firstborn children and our double-helix to synergizing media monopolies that will downsize our asses before the pension plan kicks in. Marx made a mini-comeback on the 150th birthday of his Communist Manifesto. But years before he wrote the Manifesto he was overheard to say: “Since money, as the existing and active concept of value, confounds and exchanges everything, it is the universal confusion and transposition of all things, the inverted world, the confusion and transposition of all natural and human qualities.” In other words, if money’s the only way we keep score, every other human relation is corrupted.
…The world of television journalism has been changing, not since O.J. or Monica or the Internet, but ever since they discovered that news can be a “profit center.”….

But, back to today’s New York Times…

468. From today’s “Public Editor” column by Clark Hoyt in the New York Times, regarding ongoing conflict-of-interest accusations against the paper’s “State of the Art” columnist David Pogue:

…In addition to [Pogue’s] weekly “State of the Art” column in The Times, and his blog and videos on the newspaper’s Web site, and his weekly e-mail newsletter, he appears regularly on “CBS News Sunday Morning,” CNBC and NPR. He also entertains lecture audiences with satirical ditties on the piano — he once aspired to be a Broadway composer — while informing them about the latest gadgets. You can even take a Geek Cruise to Bermuda with him next spring. Finally, Pogue originated “The Missing Manual” series of help books for the technologically challenged like me, who otherwise would never figure out how to get the most out of something like an iPhone.
His multiple interests and loyalties raise interesting ethical issues in this new age when individual journalists can become brands of their own, stars who seem to transcend the old rules that sharply limited outside activity and demanded an overriding obligation to The Times and its readers.
Two Thursdays ago, two of Pogue’s interests seemed to collide. In his Times column, he gave a glowing review to Snow Leopard, Apple’s new operating system for Macs. At the same time, he was writing a “Missing Manual” on Snow Leopard — two, actually — already available for pre-order on Amazon. If you are now running Leopard on your Mac, Pogue wrote in the review, paying the $30 to replace it with Snow Leopard “is a no-brainer.”
… [T]he better Snow Leopard sells, presumably the better Pogue’s “Missing Manual” on how to use it will sell.
…The Times and other news organizations are going to face more of these situations as journalists worried about the economic health of their employers seek outside sources of income and as the companies turn to independent contractors, like Pogue, for more of their content.
Pogue is by no means the only Times writer with other interests. Thomas Friedman commands $75,000 for a speech, and his books are blockbusters. Another Op-Ed columnist, Frank Rich, is a consultant helping HBO develop new programming. A. O. Scott, the film critic, is about to become co-host of “At the Movies,” produced by ABC Media Productions. Mark Bittman, The Minimalist, an independent contractor like Pogue, writes cookbooks and appears on PBS. John Harwood, who writes from Washington, is CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent.
In another era, many of these activities would have been frowned on as diluting the Times brand and draining energy from the paper. Now, with what seems a mixture of resignation and sensed opportunity, editors say The Times can be enhanced by all the outside activity. “We see their exposure in a quality venue as good promotion of The Times,” said Bill Keller, the executive editor.
…Larry Ingrassia, the business editor, said that, prompted by my questions, editors decided to make disclosures to readers regarding Pogue’s outside activities. On his Times Topics page online, Pogue posted a statement of ethics, saying manufacturers have no involvement in his manuals and that from now on, if he is writing a book about a product he is reviewing, he will disclose it to readers. It says his personal investments are in a blind trust to avoid any question of reviewing products in which he has a direct financial interest. A disclosure was appended to the Snow Leopard column online.
The old-school way — telling Pogue to give up the manuals or take a hike — was not realistic.