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WHY FRANK SINATRA MATTERED

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

by Alex Bennet
from HUSTLER Magazine January 2011

AT HIS BEST THE CROONER HAS NO CONTENDERS.

For around a year or so I have been obsessed with Frank Sinatra. It started when I programmed him into my iPod. I would put it on shuffle, and as it played I would click past my other choices, past Amy Winehouse and Elvis Costello, until I reached a Sinatra track. Finally saying, “Fuck shuffle!,” I just played nothing but Sinatra.

There’s something about the singer that never gets boring. Listening to him at his prime—the ’50s and ’60s—he’s utterly amazing. Sinatra may have had the most perfect voice ever. The interpretation, the control, his use of the voice as an instrument and the absolute attention to craft are unbelievable.

You’d think having all that talent would have made Sinatra’s life complete bliss. However, in reading about the man, you discover he was absolutely miserable most of his life. Perhaps it was that pain that made him amazing. You take the bad because it influences the good.

The early Sinatra—the late ’30s and ’40s—is quite uninteresting. Sure, the voice was pure, but it wasn’t until the 1950s— after his career took a dive—that he became great. He was dropped by both his movie studio and his record company, divorced his wife Nancy and married actress Ava Gardner. He even ruptured his vocal cords, temporarily rendering him unable to sing. Worst of all, he lost his confidence. I recently saw him in a 1950 Bob Hope TV special, and he came across as a real honest-to-goodness, washed-up has-been.

Then Sinatra garnered 1953’s best supporting actor Academy Award for his performance in From Here to Eternity. With the confidence of that win, he came back better than ever. The pain had added something to his abilities. The boy was now a man. It was one brilliant album after another. This was his “golden age.” It was perfection, and for no small reason. The man strove for it. He wanted to be the best there ever was.

With a few exceptions, really famous performers today don’t have that devotion to craft. They aren’t trying to be the best there is. They settle for popularity and tons of cash. Take Amy Winehouse. At her best she’s remarkable, very reminiscent of Billie Holiday. But she seems to have no respect for her talents. Not giving a shit, she’s letting it all fall apart. In the end this attitude may wind up killing her.

Very few performers can hold on to those powers as long as Frank did. In their heyday the Rolling Stones were the best rock ’n’ roll band ever. In them I heard that same perfection you find in Sinatra. But he retained it for 25 years; the Stones couldn’t.

Sinatra’s career spanned longer than six decades, although his final 15 years saw a pathetic loss of his powers. Woody Allen once said that by the time he finally got to meet his idol, Groucho Marx, the man had suffered three heart attacks. By then, Allen said, “There was nothing left.” It was depressing, he elaborated, to see that no matter how much talent you have, one day it will be taken away from you.

I remember feeling that way the one time I actually saw Sinatra perform live. It was in May 1992, six years before he died. My acquaintance, comedian Tom Dreesen, was in the San Francisco Bay area opening for Sinatra at the Circle Star Theater, so he invited me to see the great man at work. I was supposed to meet him that night, but no such luck. Tom told me Sinatra’s best friend Jilly Rizzo had died that day, and the grieving singer wasn’t seeing anyone, although he forced himself to do the concert. But the figure onstage was depressing. I remember thinking that when the light hit him just right and he hit a note on target, I was seeing the old Sinatra. But mostly I was just seeing the old Sinatra.

At one point I thought Frank was staring at me as he sang. Then I realized I was sitting behind one of the teleprompters that surrounded the stage, and he was reading from it. “She gets too hungry for dinner at 8, Jack,” he sang. On the teleprompter I saw the word Jack had been inserted in an effort to evoke his past hipness.

On my iPod I once had a bootleg of a Sinatra concert recorded in Milan, Italy, in 1986. When you hear him sing the first lines of “Night and Day,” he’s off-key. There’s nothing left of him. Historically, it is known as the worst concert he ever gave. I have deleted it from my playlist.

Today’s entertainers should learn from Frank Sinatra: Strive for perfection. That would be the one true

Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, can be heard on Sirius Left. 146 (9 a.m. to noon ET) and XM America Left 167 (midnight to 3 a.m. ET).

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I, LUDDITE

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

by Alex Bennet
from HUSTLER Magazine December 2010

THE FUTURE IS HERE, BUT IS IT THE ONE WE WANTED?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with technology. I bought my first PC before they had hard drives; all it had were two 5-inch floppy disks and virtually no memory at all. I was thrilled. If it was electronic, I reveled in the fact that I was living in the future I had always dreamed of. My Web site went up before most people even knew what the World Wide Web was. I had to learn the code that it took to put a page online. No short-cut programs—just hard code.

Nor was my interest in technology limited to computers. I remember buying a stereo TV adapter before there was any programming and a DVD player before there were any discs. Yes, I was crazy about tech and walked the walk. Now, however, I’m morphing into the kind of person I once eschewed. I’m becoming a Luddite. The term derives from a group of British weavers in 1811— led by a man named Ned Ludd—who destroyed textile machines in the belief that they would cost jobs. Today the term has come to mean anyone who opposes technology or technological change.

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, was the ultimate Luddite. In his manifesto he raged against technology, claiming it would erode human freedom. It wasn’t that old Ted didn’t have a point; the problem was that he blew people up. Now locked up in the Supermax prison, Ted can languish for the rest of his life technology-free.

The question I had to ask myself was were these advances a blessing or a curse? Let’s examine some of them.

Cell phones are great. On the one hand, we can take them anywhere, talk on them anytime. On the other hand, we are always at somebody else’s disposal, especially bosses who can now keep us working regardless of where we are.Then there’s the question of quality. How many times have you yelled the phrase “Can you hear me?!” into your phone? The damn thing keeps dropping calls or, worse, the calls start breaking up. I think of the smartphone as a less sophisticated computer that makes lousy phone calls.

Let’s talk about the beloved Internet. It’s the world at your fingertips and an endless repository of information. Right? Wrong! It’s actually a cesspool of misinformation. No one’s out there to vet the material. When I write something here, I have editors who fact-check what I’m saying. Who’s doing that for people writing on the Internet? Pure lies can be disseminated, and you wind up telling a friend “It must be true” because you saw it on the Internet. The biggest beneficiaries of the Internet are scammers and pedophiles.

While we’re on the subject of the Internet, we should talk about communication. In our quest for instant gratification, nothing beats e-mail. You type it, you send it, and someone gets it. No more cramps from pesky handwriting, no stamps to adhere and no mailbox. But e-mail doesn’t have the same impact as a thoughtfully written or typed letter. Even rejection letters seem nicer when they come through the postal system. E-mail just doesn’t transmit emotion very well. Things like love and sarcasm don’t come across unless you use those stupid emoticons like :( .

Then there’s texting. You have to abbreviate your thoughts: Mk yr spellng shrter. And how do you tell when it’s over?

“See you later.”
“Okay.” “Bye.”
“So long.”
“Are we through?”
“Yes.”
“Thank God.”
“There is no God.”

It’s maddening. I asked somebody why he sends text messages when they’re going to phone numbers that could just as easily be called. The answer was “I don’t have to talk to them.”

The worst may be social networking, which isn’t very social at all. It’s really just a way to avoid human contact. Facebook allows for a couple of sentences, which go out to all your “friends.” (“Hi, everybody. I just jerked off.”) To its credit, however, Facebook also permits the sending of longer private messages to a single individual. Also on the plus side, I have touched base with people I haven’t talked to in years. That, however, is usually a onetime deal. You never communicate with them again—at least until there’s a new Internet craze.

Twitter, on the other hand, just cuts to the chase, only allowing 140 characters per message. It’s the less sociable Facebook.

Two last things: How many times does your high-def cable stutter and freeze? Did that ever happen with your analog TV? And digital audio doesn’t sound better than your old LPs, which had a great dynamic range and weren’t compressed. You think it’s better only because today’s manufacturers have numbed down what you expect from audio.

Sure, I suppose we are in a technologically better age, but have life’s simple pleasures been the tradeoff? Or is it possible to still have both? Well, don’t worry. I’m not off to my mountain cabin to make bombs.

Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, can be heard on Sirius Left. 146 (9 a.m. to noon ET) and XM America Left 167 (midnight to 3 a.m. ET).


A Bite Of A Rotten Apple

Monday, December 6th, 2010

by Alex Bennet
from HUSTLER Magazine November 2010

HOW STEVE JOBS RUINED A COMPANY WHILE MAKING IT SUCCESSFUL

When it came to computers, I was a PC guy. Apple was some kind of off-brand that women and touchy-feely “new age” guys seemed to love. Nor did I change my mind when Apple, aware of my on-the-air criticism, gave me one of its computers in an effort to win me over. It was the worst computer I’d ever used.

I steadfastly remained a PC guy until, having lost my radio gig, I took a job as a video editor. Now I had to use an Apple Macintosh with an Apple editing program called Final Cut Pro. Spending hundreds of hours editing, I soon fell in love with my Mac. So I bought an iMac, then a Mac Pro, another iMac and of course iPhones for both the girlfriend and myself. I am saying all this to let you know I no longer hate Apple products. I just hate the manufacturer.

Two Steves, Jobs and Wozniak, started Apple in a garage. What came out of that garage was the first practical personal computer. Recognizing true visionary entrepreneurs, a cult sprang up to root for the underdogs.

However, in spite of Apple’s innovations—a graphical user interface and the mouse—it was still an also-ran. Microsoft and the PC had become huge, largely by stealing from Apple. But through it all, the company’s legion of acolytes and dealerships hung tough.
By 1987 the two Steves were out. Although profits increased under CEO John Scullery,Apple lost whatever charm it had left. And that charm did not return when Jobs was brought back as CEO in 1997 due to declining profits.

Jobs turned the company around by improving its computers with a new and better operating system, but his real success wasn’t in computers at all. In 2001 Apple produced a music player called the iPod. Within six years it had sold over 100 million of them. Then came the iPhone, another great product. However, what had started out as a pretty hip and humane company turned into just another ugly corporate bully.

In the beginning there was the good Steve and the bad Steve. Wozniak was the lovable computer nerd who envisioned a fuzzy computerized future. Jobs saw only money—and lots of it. In combination they were amazing, but now that Woz is out and Jobs is in, Apple has become one mean motherfucker.

If there was ever a company asking for antitrust action, it’s the newly minted Apple Inc. Apple’s operating system can only be installed in machines it manufactures. No clones allowed. Because the Apple system uses an Intel processor, common to all PCs as well, Microsoft Windows can be used on a Mac, but the Mac system can’t be used on a PC because Apple put in a code making that impossible.

Apple’s owned and operated stores are another problem. Gorgeous temples to their leader, Steve Jobs, they are forcing out of business the loyal dealers who stuck with Apple when times were tough. I talked to one dealer, who said he still gets products to sell, but only weeks after the Apple stores get them.

A flagrant example was decades-long Apple dealer MACadam in San Francisco. Apple rewarded the dealer’s loyalty by opening a store just down the street. MACadam went out of business. Granted, MACadam had a crappy reputation, but even assholes should be protected from unfair competition by the very entity that supplies them with products.

A few months back an Apple employee accidentally left a prototype of the next iPhone in a Redwood City, California, bar. It wound up in the hands of a blogger, but not before the guy who found it supposedly tried returning the device to Apple. (The company refused, for who knows what ego-driven reason, to even admit having made it.)

The blogger, Jason Chen of Gizmodo.com, published photos of the misplaced iPhone before returning it to Apple. Next thing you know officers from California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team knocked down Chen’s door while he was out to dinner, confiscating everything electronic the blogger owned.

I must also mention Adobe, a company that makes Flash, the program you use when watching YouTube and such. Apple refuses to allow Flash to work on any of its products, thereby stifling Adobe’s business. Thanks to a suit filed by Adobe, the government is looking into the matter.

Jon Stewart recently said, “Microsoft was supposed to be the evil one. But now you guys [Apple] are busting down doors in Palo Alto while Commandant Gates is ridding the world of mosquitoes. What the fuck is going on?”

Yes, Apple has become the asshole of the world. Now excuse me please. I’m off to the Apple Store to buy an iPad.

Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, can be heard on Sirius Left. 146 (9 a.m. to noon ET) and XM America Left 167 (midnight to 3 a.m. ET).


CNN HITS BOTTOM

Monday, November 8th, 2010

by Alex Bennet
from HUSTLER Magazine October 2010

AS THE SAYING GOES, “THE BIGGER THEY ARE, THE HARDER THEY FALL.”

There was a time not so long ago when CNN was the only game in town. But that was then, and this is now.

Ted Turner, an Atlanta media mogul and visionary, didn’t mind being called nuts. So on June 1, 1980, he launched a crazy notion: the 24/7 Cable News Network. I remember watching CNN when it first lit up. The newscaster opened by announcing: “This is CNN signing on for the very last time.” He was right; it hasn’t signed off since.

Even so, CNN limped along for years. There was some extensive live coverage of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, but CNN didn’t get on everyone’s radar until the Baby Jessicatrapped- in-the-well story. Then, with its 24/7 coverage of the first Gulf War, CNN suddenly morphed into the most important television news organization of them all. It was where the world turned to get the news. Saddam Hussein watched the daily bombing of his country on CNN.

The network became the gold standard for quality news reporting and fairness. It was hard to define where CNN stood politically, and that’s the way a news organization should be. That’s precisely why it was so good.

Alas, today CNN is the lowest-rated cable news network, and its reputation for quality and fairness has vanished along with the numbers. What the fuck happened?!

Turner Broadcasting was gobbled up by media giant Time Warner. Soon Ted Turner, who had been the soul of the network, was gone. What was left was a corporate bureaucracy ruled by unimaginative bean counters. Sure, other operations like Fox News entered the scene as competitors, thus peeling off viewers. But it was CNN’s lack of focus and purpose that led to its downfall.

CNN has the worst anchors in the business. Let’s start with Ali Velshi at 1 p.m. (Eastern Time). This bald-headed creep started out as a financial reporter. CNN decided to compound the error by handing him an anchor slot as well. Given Velshi’s apparent discomfort in front of the camera, not to mention all the really good newspeople who are out of work, I can’t figure why he is even there. At 3 p.m. (ET) the brainless Rick Sanchez goes on the air. This is the guy who, while covering the Chilean earthquake, asked a scientist, “By the way, nine meters in English is what? Meters is an English word, you dope! On the same newscast, Sanchez pointed to an island chain off the coast of South America and said, “This is Hawaii, where the tsunami is headed.” In fact, he was indicating the Galapagos Islands, more than 4,500 miles southeast of Honolulu.

During coverage of Iceland’s ash-spewing volcano, he erupted with this bit of Sanchezian wisdom: “When you think of a volcano, you think of Hawaii and long words like that. You don’t think of Iceland. You think it’s too cold to have a volcano there.”This guy is anchoring a newscast for an outfit that calls itself “The Worldwide Leader in News”?

From 5 to 7 p.m. (ET) Wolf Blitzer, who has zero going for him, helms CNN’s most-watched show, The Situation Room. (This, by the way, is an amazingly stupid name for a news program.) Every other word out of Blitzer’s mouth is “um.” His personality is that of a dead carp. If it weren’t for the oddity of his name, absolutely no one would have ever paid attention to Wolf Blitzer. As a journalist, he is simply horrible. With Velshi and Sanchez, he rounds out a trio that accounts for six inept hours of “news” a day.

Meanwhile, anchors John King and Campbell Brown appear to have had a charisma bypass. Dull and uninspired, these anchors have hardly presented a challenge to the guys over at Fox, who at least know they’re in show business as well as news. That, no doubt, explains why Brown recently parted ways with CNN.

Then there’s Larry King. Do I have to say any more? The only thing interesting about King is his soon-to-be (or not-to-be) ex-wife. Let’s move on. Anderson Cooper’s only real accomplishment was being shot out of socialite Gloria Vanderbilt’s twat. He constantly acts as if he’s looking in a mirror. His newscasts are showy, and the globetrotter loves to fawn over orphans and stand in the rubble of some ravaged country. However, what looks like empathy is really just an ego freak getting in the way during trying circumstances. Rumor has it Cooper is the number-one choice to replace Katie Couric as host of the CBS Evening News. With thinking like that, CBS could be the next CNN.

My advice to CNN is simple: Fire everybody from the anchors to the newsroom staff to whatever idiot is at the helm of this unholy mess. Otherwise just close down and air cartoons. After all, the Cartoon Network has higher ratings than CNN.

Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, can be heard on Sirius Left. 146 (9 a.m. to noon ET) and XM America Left 167 (midnight to 3 a.m. ET).


THE WORD FOR TODAY IS RETARD

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

by Alex Bennet
from HUSTLER Magazine August 2010

DID SARAH PALIN GO ON THE WARPATH WITHOUT FIRST CHECKING TO SEE IF THERE WERE ANY ARROWS IN HER QUIVER?

Hell froze over a while back: Rush Limbaugh said something I agreed with. Can the apocalypse be far off?

Limbaugh was talking about Sarah Palin’s snit over a comment made privately by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The ever-mouthy Emanuel had said Dems who disagreed with him were “fucking retarded.” Palin, who will use anything to get publicity—including the Down’s syndrome issue from her already-overworked womb—demanded Emanuel be fired and that the word retarded be banned from usage.

Limbaugh, presumed to be in the Palin camp, took her to task with a rant about political correctness. During his tirade he used the word retard over and over again. I was astonished. Was the most hated enemy of liberals correct? Were Palin’s remarks just another instance of political correctness out of control? Of course they were! So which is worse: Emanuel’s evisceration of some Democrats or the way Palin uses that poor kid of hers? Armed with information the child would be born with Down’s syndrome, she chose to have it anyway, citing her religious beliefs. Palin did this after already giving birth to a litter of four. And despite breaking water in Texas, the “mother of the year” still got on a plane to Alaska, thereby putting the fetus in danger. (Some believe she actually wanted it to die.)

I believe the real reason Palin didn’t get an abortion was because it would look bad to her base. This outweighed the reality that the kid, who’d never have a normal life, would become the responsibility of her other children after she was gone.

As for Palin’s motherhood credentials, they’re not great. Her daughter Bristol got knocked up. Where was the birth-control discussion that should have taken place when it was apparent she was coming into sexual maturity? There was none.

Any other unwed girl her age (17) might very well have gotten an abortion, but not poor Bristol. Mommy was running for Vice President, and it just wouldn’t look good. So Bristol had the baby to keep Mom’s career intact. Then there are the rumors surrounding her son Track’s enlistment into the armed forces. Some say it was a courtordered choice in an alleged case of school vandalism. The record is muddied because, it’s believed, Palin used her position as governor to cover things up.

Meanwhile, Trig—the Down’s syndrome baby—was schlepped around the country so his mom could hold him up at every campaign stop like Simba in The Lion King. She used the kid’s handicap as a prop. This is the woman who finds Rahm Emanuel in bad taste? Somebody should call Child Protective Services.

A few weeks after her tirade against the White House staffer, Palin targeted Seth MacFarlane and his blissful creation, Family Guy. She was reacting to the episode in which the Griffins’ son Chris becomes enamored of a girl at school with Down’s syndrome.The fact that Chris loved the girl in spite of her condition was lost on Palin. She was livid because, when asked by Chris what her family did, the girl replied, “My dad is an accountant, and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.”

Surprisingly, voice actress Andrea Fay Friedman—who like the character she portrayed on Family Guy was born with Down’s syndrome— came forward to blast Palin for exploiting people with the condition. Friedman scoffed, “My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.”

Even more perplexing was how Palin excused Limbaugh’s statements. She claimed they were satire. I’ve got news for you, Sarah: Rush wasn’t using satire; he was using commentary. Family Guy was using satire. I guess Palin just didn’t want to piss off the right-wing’s number-one megaphone.

So why all this political correctness over a perfectly legitimate word? Even medical dictionaries describe Down’s syndrome as “mental retardation.” Yet we’re no longer able to use the word? Now we’re supposed to say “developmentally challenged.” People are no longer “handicapped,” they’re “handicapable.” I ask you: How much of this is politically correct, and how much is pure condescension and mock sympathy?

Rahm Emanuel’s only sin was that he didn’t get the memo, and Sarah Palin’s biggest problem is that she epitomizes the C word: CRAZY!

Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The twotime Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, currently calls Sirius Left 146 his radio home.


COMIN’ AT YA

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

3-D MOVIES ARE BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER. OR ARE THEY?

by Alex Bennett
for HUSTLER Magazine – June 2010

Technology has always fascinated me, but no technology has grabbed me more than 3-D.

Our two eyes allow us to see things from two different angles. When our brain puts those two images together, depth is perceived. When creating a 3-D movie, photo or comic book, you need to deliver two slightly different images of the same object to the appropriate eye. This is usually done with special glasses.

Remember the old red-and-green glasses used for comic books and some movies? In that system the red canceled out the red image while enhancing the green, and vice versa. Most 3-D glasses work on that basic concept. Three-dimensional motion pictures have been around since 1890 (in an impractical form), and stereo photography goes back even farther. The first films requiring colored glasses were primarily shorts screened at world fairs and similar attractions—basically for their curiosity value. 3-D feature films didn’t really gain speed until the early 1950s when movie theaters, threatened by the onslaught of television, looked for a way to fight back.

The craze was started by an insignificant independent producer and writer named Arch Oboler. He decided to make a movie, Bwana Devil, utilizing “Natural Vision” 3-D cameras, a system that had been, up until then, unsuccessfully flogged around Hollywood. Natural Vision achieved its effect by using two projectors while the viewer wore Polaroid glasses, which canceled out light waves in two directions. Bwana Devil was a smash, and the stampede, which included 3-D comics and magazines, was on. The movies were not without problems.

First, the incredible depth combined with objects coming out past the edge of the screen caused eyestrain as the viewer constantly changed focus. Next was synchronization. Because two synchronized projectors were needed, if either one went even a frame off, things got weird. God forbid either reel broke during projection. Stitching the film back together so it would retain sync was an arduous task. Worst of all was the lack of thought (and money) that went into making these pictures.

Rather than take great films and make them better, the studios decided to make crap. Most of the early 3-D releases were second tier films. By the time they started producing great titles like Dial M for Murder and Kiss Me Kate, the fad had worn out. Most of those later3-D films were shown flat, and by 1955 3-D had been relegated to the scrap heap of oddities.

A decade or so later a single-strip process was invented whereby both images were incorporated on one roll of film. Consequently, the resolution of a 35mm movie was cut in half, drastically reducing quality. This process was mainly used for hard- and soft-core porn flicks, the most notable being The Stewardesses, one of the highest-grossing sex films of all time. Andy Warhol also dabbled in 3-D, but for the most part 3-D movies were low-budget and cheesy.

In the 1980s IMAX revived 3-D with sensational results, and in the ’90s James Cameron had a camera developed for him that was purely digital. He used it to film Ghosts of the Abyss for IMAX in 3-D. It may have been a test for the best 3-D movie of all time: Cameron’s Avatar. This box office megahit is just one of the many new releases that have nurtured the latest 3-D craze. Most of these new 3-D films have been made as computer-animated features since they are the easiest to convert, having initially been created in a 3-D mode.

One of the biggest problems with the current processes is that the 3-D imagery isn’t nearly as profound as it once was. It doesn’t come out past the screen or go back deep enough because the effects have been watered down to eliminate viewers’ headaches and eyestrain.

At a time when the movie industry has been in a downturn, 3-D has once again come to the rescue. Theaters charge around $4 more for 3-D films, and the cheap bastards don’t even let you keep the glasses. They’re sent back to the manufacturer, which cleans the specs before returning them to the theater.

Hollywood is bullish about its 3-D movies, and even TV manufacturers, especially Sony, are ready to roll out 3-D sets using Polarized glasses. In lockstep, Discovery and ESPN have announced the creation of 3-D channels. Even so, I wonder if3-D will remain a limited-use process relegated to animation and big-budget features. I doubt it would be suited to a film like The Wrestler.

I’ve seen enough cartoons. Bring on 3-D porn!

Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, currently calls Sirius Left 146 his radio home.
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THE SATAN FACTOR

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

OR WHY I LOST MY FAITH IN GOD

by Alex Bennett
for HUSTLER Magazine – July 2010

After years of doing talk shows about wars I arose one day to find that all this chatter about God being on our side was getting to me. The constant invoking of a deity prompted me to ask myself a major intellectual question: Is there a God?

I know there is (spoiler alert) no Santa Claus. There is no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. So how come I believe in God? In my case, I realized, it was because I wasn’t taking any chances. If there were a God and I hadn’t believed in Him, I would spend eternity in Hell with George W. Bush and Hitler. But that wasn’t a good enough reason to believe. So my logical and ostensibly divinely created brain finally decided, “There is no God.”

My belief in science is why I can’t wrap my brain around the notion that a sentient being brought about what Bible-thumpers call “Intelligent Design.” If God were such a design genius, why did He create man with a prostate that is wrapped around the urethra so it’s harder to pee as men get older? Good going, God. A few inches either way would have solved that problem.

Meanwhile, there’s never been a war where the name of God wasn’t invoked. Every army in history has believed God was on its side. So how come a God-fearing army loses?

I’m amazed how many people don’t know that Muslims pray to the same God as Christians and Jews. Both sides are fighting each other over who has the covenant of God.

The covenant was handed down from God to Abraham. It was God’s promise to protect His people and allow them to multiply if they, in return, would obey two simple rules: worship Him as the single God (monotheism) and circumcise all males (apparently to correct a defect in his “Intelligent Design”). Muslims, who are also descended from Abraham, believe they are the only true owners of God’s covenant because the Jews broke it when they worshiped the Golden Calf while Moses was out hiking.

European noblemen launched the first crusade to take back the Holy Land from the heathen Muslims. George W. Bush triggered the most recent crusade. I’m sure Bush thought he was doing God’s work. In fact, while President, W. even mentioned the word crusade in one of his speeches. That went over well with the Muslims, escalating their fears and justifying their jihad.

Like it or not, what we have created in the Middle East is a holy war. Two God-fearing peoples have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in His name. As Edward G. Robinson asked in The Ten Commandments, “Where’s your God now, Moses?”

Then there are the more trivial invocations of God’s name. For example, “In God We Trust” appears on all our nation’s money. Don’t we believe in the separation of Church and State? What does money have to do with God? Oh, yes, I forgot: In the United States, money is God! My bad.

How about those awards ceremonies where the winner runs onstage, grabs the award, looks upward and says, “Thank you, God.” I don’t think God had anything to do with the outcome. It was a combination of talent and the bad judgment of those who did the voting.

Then there’s the baseball player who crosses himself before swinging the bat. Does he really think—with the host of things God must attend to, like all the deaths and natural disasters in the entire universe!—that He has time for a ballplayer’s shitty little turn at bat?

It bothers me when people pray. Most of the time it’s for themselves and not for others. Most praying is simply a selfish act. I admit that even though I now consider myself an atheist, I say a prayer every night. But it’s to send out a good thought, always for other people and very rarely if ever for myself.

There’s nothing wrong with the concept of a loving, all-powerful deity. But when a country gets too invested in the idea that God is a reality, people get hurt. They are misled into thinking someone or something else they can’t even see has power over their lives when the real power is within themselves.

But what if there actually is a man with a beard and a white robe? What will I do when my time is up? Well, if He is the God as advertised, He’ll forgive me and praise me for using the wonderful brain He created, albeit to a wrong conclusion. Then He’ll say, “Come right in, and if you turn left, your friend Bruce David is waiting for you.”

Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, currently calls Sirius Left 146 his radio home.

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HUSTLER Magazine - July 2010

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BREAKING NEWS: THERE IS NO NEWS

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

WHY IS IT THAT EVERY TIME I TURN ON CNN, FOX NEWS OR MSNBC, THEY’RE ALWAYS CLAIMING TO BE ON TO SOMETHING BIG?

by Alex Bennett
for HUSTLER Magazine – May 2010

While I’m doing my radio show on Sirius XM, we usually have a TV tuned to CNN. More often than not, when I look over at it, there’s a graphic announcing “Breaking News.” But the story it heralds is usually very inane. That’s one of many things wrong with TV news. Because of their need to fill the airwaves 24/7, producers take a small news item and make it into something big. Breaking News: Obama Pardons a Turkey; Breaking News: Balloon Boy Speaks; Breaking News: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Has H1N1.

I often feel like a dog chasing a ball that my master only pretended to throw. I see “Breaking News” and jump to attention. Ninety-nine times out of 100 it amounts to nothing. Television news is becoming a kid who cries “Breaking news!” The words news and breaking have been cheapened. As a result, real news gets obscured.

The “Breaking News!” tag should be reserved for blood, carnage or Joe Lieberman caught in a tryst with a young boy. It should signal an event that impacts my life, not another car chase down the Santa Monica Freeway.

Am I complaining about nothing? Am I turning into Andy Rooney? I’m concerned that when there is something really important, it’s going to be difficult for us to fully grasp. One minute the “breaking news” is that H1N1 is a horrible killer; the next minute it’s just a bad cold. Mammograms are useless before 40; five minutes later they’re vital. I never hear the “breaking news” I really want: “Men should check all women’s breasts for lumps—selfexams found useless.”

The so-called news we’re being fed is trivial. The “Balloon Boy” hoax is a perfect example. This event would have had no traction if it weren’t for the networks’ 24/7 news addiction. First, the networks followed the dramatic saga of a six-year-old who may have stowed away in a balloon that became airborne. Never mind that the balloon was so small and flimsy, it almost certainly couldn’t carry the additional weight.

The networks wanted to believe the tall tale so they’d have something to report. It was only after the hoax was revealed that the story had any real news value. Although headlines blared that the parents were charged with filing a false report and other offenses, the people who actually should have been prosecuted were the network honchos who turned an obvious publicity stunt into a major story.

Another case in point: the news media’s obsession with Sarah Palin. This woman of dubious distinction was a city councilwoman and then mayor of Wasilla, the meth capital of Alaska. Next she became chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission only to quit after a year. Somehow Palin became governor, then had a stint as the Republican V.P. running mate of John McCain. Shortly after losing that race, she returned to the governor’s job and, true to form, resigned (amid rumors of malfeasance) after only two years in office.

Then this piece of Alaskan trailer trash writes a book. Her ability as an author makes Dan Brown look like Tom Wolfe, yet the news people are fish to the bait. Remember, she is now nothing—not a governor, not a congresswoman or senator. Palin’s only distinction is that McCain made the worst mistake of his life by choosing her as his running mate.

Even so, reporters flock to Palin like flies on shit. During the ex-gov’s recent book tour, they followed her bus around the country. At every stop she’d get off the bus, hold up Trig (her Down syndrome baby) like he was the Lion King, then get interviewed for local news shows. So-called journalists treated Palin as if she actually mattered—vaulting her to a status she scarcely deserved—while she was just using them to sell books. Reality was again superseded by the big distortion.

Apparently news is not news unless the news sources say it is. “Balloon Boy,” which had no effect in any way on your life, became news because it would get eyes. Meanwhile, a financial collapse in Dubai, which does actually impact your life, gets very little attention because it’s not a ratings magnet.

The bottom line is that the 24/7 news networks present only the illusion of news. Unfortunately, for most of us it’s the only news we get. Americans are not stupid; they’re just uninformed.

Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, currently calls Sirius Left 146 his radio home.

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MAY 2010 – HUSTLER Magazine

HUSTLER Magazine - May 2010
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THROW THE BASTARDS OUT!

Friday, May 14th, 2010

OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES ON CAPITOL HILL HAVE SCREWED US RIGHT AND LEFT. IT’S TIME TO SEND A POWERFUL MESSAGE.

by Alex Bennett
From HUSTLER MAGAZINE – March 2010

The other day I saw an interview with that enemy of the people, Glenn Beck. I’ve always believed the adage that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and Beck proved me right when he said, “Everybody is mad at Washington.”

The people who disgusted me at those televised town hall meetings and at the March on Washington—yelling and screaming their nonsense while clutching badly spelled signs— were angry at the body politic.Well, so am I.

Have I become one of them? My politics are different, but my ire is just as rich. I too share a hatred for that fools confederation in the legislative and administrative branches of government that makes our lives a living hell. I differ, however, in how I see the country moving forward.

Politicians! Day after day, week after week, year after year, they sit around playing a stupid little game using their dicks (and some vaginas) as swords to see who has the power. At the same time, We the People sit with our dicks in our hands doing nothing while getting screwed. The worst part is we put up with it thinking that eventually these jerks will fix the economy. In fact, they keep playing their games, and we keep suffering.

Once a U.S. senator gets elected, he stays in office for six years. When it’s time for reelection, he has accrued enough power (read: money from lobbyists) to retain his seat. This cycle repeats itself until one day the senator drops dead of old age—an age achieved due to a great healthcare plan paid for by us.

In the meantime lobbyists bought him lunches and dinners, paid for his trips to exotic lands and gave him who knows how many other perks that will allow his family to inherit millions. All that time he lived off the public dole while using his influence to wheel and deal. What do we get? An early grave and the debt we leave our loved ones.

These guys are a bunch of worthless fucks, and even the best of them doesn’t make up for the rest. It gets worse each year. The games get nastier, and less gets done. As of now this country is at a standstill, paralyzed by the greed and stupidity that is called Washington politics.

Are you getting the idea I’m pissed? Well, I’ll bet you are too—even if your politics are the polar opposite of mine. What we have in common is that we’re sick of the way business is being done in our name. Our politicians have ceased to care about us. It doesn’t matter whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.

Happily, we’re still able to fight back. Forget those well-intentioned letters to your representatives, and enough already with demonstrations and those cute placards with catchy phrases—they’re a waste of time. The good ol’ boys don’t care what you think. They’re way past that. What we need to do is vote the bastards out!

Our supposed two-party system is an illusion. The Democratic and Republican parties have almost finished their merge into a single, pro-corporate entity. The fighting between them is a charade designed to keep us thinking there is a difference. It’s time for a third party that responds to the needs of 21st-century Americans.

I wish that some of the other political parties— for example, the Green Party, the Labor Party—were viable, but they just aren’t. Ross Perot managed to catch that lightning in a bottle until he went off the rails. People responded to Perot because he was articulating the public’s frustrations.

Creating a powerful third party, and even a fourth or fifth party, would be a daunting task that might take many years. So what can we do in the meantime? I say we scare the shit out of them!

Let’s send a message to every incumbent in Washington, even if they’re doing a good job, by not voting for him or her.Vote for a challenger no matter who it is. That doesn’t mean Democrats have to vote Republican or vice versa. There are always other candidates, some of whom might not be that bad once you listen to them.

The message has to be sent to our representatives. We’re their employer, and they’d better shape up. Otherwise they’ll wind up on the same unemployment line with everyone else—the unemployment line created by the politicians. If we kick the bastards out in large enough numbers, they just might pay attention.

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Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, currently calls Sirius Left 146 his radio home.

HUSTLER Magazine - March 2010You may purchase the hard copy of the March 2010 Issue of HUSTLER Magazine (with free shipping) at HustlerMagazine.com. Comes with full length DVD and free shipping!

You may purchase a digital copy of the March 2010 Issue of HUSTLER Magazine at UnderCoverMags.com.


AMERICA LOST

Monday, March 29th, 2010

ONCE WE WERE THE GOOD GUYS. WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO CHANGE THAT?

by Alex Bennett
From HUSTLER MAGAZINE February 2010

A few months back I was watching one of those contentious town hall meetings. I can’t remember the congressman who was holding it, but I can remember the endless parade of mindless assholes reciting what they had heard on right-wing radio and TV talk shows. All I could think was, Where is the exit to this country?

I grew up in the ’40s and ’50s. My life was that of a suburban kid with a mom and pop, a cat, a dog and a bike that wheeled me around my naive and cloistered world. America had just come out of the Great Depression, and that made the nation more conscious of another person’s plight. Americans had witnessed suffering every time they passed a bread line or saw a homeless person on the street. Most Americans of that era knew they were just a paycheck away from being in the same boat.

Then came the Second World War. I remember seeing those Gold Stars in windows, signaling that the family had lost a son or daughter. People in the neighborhood would do what they could to honor and comfort them.We understood the need for individual sacrifice to protect the nation as a whole.

Even so, segregation prevailed beyond the walls of my pretty and neat world, and the House Un-American Activities Committee was taking aim at imaginary Communists.

I was luckier than most. My parents were very hip. Dad was a musician, and both he and Mom were bohemians. Some of the people who came into our home were the very people Congress wanted put away. My parents weren’t Communists, just real lefties. Yet the conservatives of that time would probably have called me a “Red Diaper Baby.”

I remember my father taking me down to City Hall when the House Un-American Activities Committee held hearings in San Francisco. We were standing out front with other good Americans to protest the idea of our country being overrun by jackbooted witchhunters. One time I snuck into the hearing and watched as one of my favorite radio personalities, a guy who told charming stories about San Francisco, had his life ruined with one simple question: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” The next morning I turned on the radio, but he wasn’t there. I was 15, and it was indelibly etched in my brain forever: They took him off the air!

I think this is when we started to lose our cherry. We were becoming paranoid, looking for evildoers in every shadow.

The Korean War wasn’t exactly the most ignoble of conflicts, but by the time we got to Vietnam, our imperialist impulses were in full flower. The only saving grace: Some Americans were vehemently opposing the war. There was still hope that good would triumph as people used their voices and bodies to protest the conflict in Southeast Asia. Eventually they chased a President from office. Once again we could look at the world with a sense of pride.

But even as we were patting ourselves on the back, a former die-hard leftist—who was mobbed up, had cheated on his first wife, ratted on his friends and, worst of all, was an actor—became President of the United States. Ronald Reagan created a supreme culture of selfishness and nationalism masquerading as conservatism. Since then, it’s been all downhill. Even the Clinton years didn’t stop the greed and dirty tricks that gained even more momentum under the Bushies.

All of a sudden, America was believing the poison spewed by right-wing radio talk show hosts. The Big Lie became the Big Truth. America had dumbed down. Oh, I know what you’re saying: “We elected Obama, didn’t we?” Sure, we did, because we succumbed to another Big Lie. He was going to change things, right? So what, exactly, has changed? Each passing day he stabs us in the back.

Look at us. We have become a country of selfish people. People who couldn’t care less about their neighbors. People who have long forgotten what right and wrong are. We have become a nation hypnotized by the media to believe whatever they tell us.

Worst of all, we live under the mistaken impression that America is the greatest country in the world when in fact that ended years ago. Today we are falling apart at the seams. Capitalism is devouring itself and our humanity. Morality has vanished.

How can we put the brakes on this downward slide to oblivion? I don’t know. Back in the days of my youth we were the good guys. Am I being too old-fashioned to want that back?

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Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, currently calls Sirius Left 146 his radio home.

HUSTLER MAGAZINE - FEBRUARY 2010 You may purchase the hard copy of the February 2010 Issue of HUSTLER Magazine (with free shipping) at HustlerMagazine.com. Comes with full length DVD and free shipping!

You may purchase a digital copy of the February 2010 Issue of HUSTLER Magazine at UnderCoverMags.com.


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