State of play: My analog weekend with Russell Crowe, Asparagus and the Tubes

Russell Crowe in his new movie “State of Play” is as pitch perfect as it gets in his depiction of the good old-fashioned journalist.

It was both nostalgic and sentimental for this old reporter. Like an old cowboy looking at a Western.

As Cal McAffrey, ink-stained wretch, Crowe uses the back seat of his aging Saab as a combination trash-can/file cabinet. He drives while listening to loud Irish music, so he has a touch of the ethnic journalist in him. He likes his car so much, his apartment décor resembles his car. Outward appearances be damned, McCaffrey considers fashion an affront to the truth, which of course, is all he cares about, no matter how painful it is.

The movie centers around a basic dilemma for journalists: Who’s a friend? Who’s a source? Who can you sleep with?

And the truth is found the old fashioned way. No guns.(Only the bad guys have those).  No superhuman powers. McAffrey Crowe just asks questions; of editors, sources, colleagues, himself.  In the end, what’s left are just the facts. No opinion. No blogs.

If you care about newspapers, you’ll like this movie. Other wise,  see the movie with all the money you’ve saved by going on-line and reading stuff free.Once in the movie house, twitter to someone that you’re in the dark, that Rachel McAdams has this weird mole by her left ear, and you can’t wait to see the new film with that other Aussie Jackman. No fate of journalism issues, privatization of  national security, corrupt politicians, etc.  Give me wanton mutant action anytime!


Stockton’s Asparagus Festival raises more than $500,000 for local charities. But I go to it mostly to honor the Filipino workers, like my Uncle Mel, who came to the U.S. in the ’20s and worked the fields with the now outlawed short-handled hoe. I lifted up a deep-fried spear to my late uncle and all those who toiled in the backbreaking Asparagus industry of California.

The Tubes

The added lure to the festival this year was the appearance of The Tubes, the 1970’s spoofy, arty, satirical rock band that made a name for themselves because they really could rock, produce great music. And they were funny.

These guys weren’t the Monkees. They weren’t Spinal Tap. They were better. A  real band that have been long underrated as one of the best non-disco pre-new wave  bands to come out of the U.S. in the ’70s when Brit-Rock was everything. (How else could Peter Frampton skyrocket to the top?) The Tubes were better than all the metal rockers who played it up like KISS or AC/DC.  The Tubes had something to say.

Adding to the nostalgia for me: In 1975 as a young Emil For Real spinning tunes as rock and roll DJ on KLOL Houston, I used to play The Tubes “White Punks On Dope,” as a music bed while I read the news, normally populated with the foibles and actions of white punks on dope, dopamine, or mere ego.  They were the white punks on dope. I was just the brown guy who was the messenger.

In Stockton seeing Fee Waybill as Quay Lewd made me realize he’s the the grandfather to the milk industry’s faux rock band, White Gold. Fee Lewd was great in his 18 inch heels. Just like I remembered him at SF’s Pagoda and Bimbos in the ’70s.  Drummer Prairie Prince and guitarist Roger Steen, also originals, sounded every bit as good as they did in the day.

It was clear, The Tubes, named after the TV type sets of old could still rock even in a flat screen digital age.

“You almost gave me and all my friends  a heart attack,” said a happy 60ish Asparagus Festival goer in praise to  Waybill after the concert. It was like the gent was discovering The Tubes for the very first time.

Waybill could only smile. What could be better than to be in your 50’s and 60s and play rock and roll to the pre-pacemaker set?