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Sex and The Single Beer Can:
Probing the Media and America Culture



Hardly anyone admits reading the supermarket tabloids, but someone—other than movie star publicists who "leak" infor­mation to the tabloids to create controversy—must be reading them because the combined weekly circulation for the six major weekly newspapers is more than 10 million.

I read the tabloids.

Usually, I read The National Enquirer and, occasionally, one of the other tabs. I seldom read the Weekly World News because in the USA Today world of splashy color and flashy graphics, the black and white Weekly World News front page just doesn't measure up.


Nevertheless, it was a hot August afternoon when I went into the local air‑conditioned supermarket to cool down and, perhaps, to find a few of the 30,000 advertised items that could translate into dinner for six, including two German Shepherds. (The pot-bellied pig came later.) Apparently, I wasn't the only one that afternoon who figured out how to get free air conditioning. The checkout lines were longer than a politician's lies, so there was only one thing to do.


I guessed I'd be able to read most of the 15 magazines and six newspapers in the "you got to buy this" point of purchase racks by the time it was my turn. I also figured that my two sons would have graduated from college, moved out of the house, although still needing weekly "loans," and had grandchildren by the time I finished checking out.


Thus, it was in the checkout line that I learned from the Weekly World News that a space alien had come to earth in 1992 to advise presidential candidate Bill Clinton. The alien had already advised President George Bush and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot early in the Summer, but had to wait until after the Democratic convention to find out which of the donkeys was going to run.


Being the alert reporter I am, I was upset that a competitor had scooped me on what could have been the most important news of the week. Just a couple of weeks earlier, I had covered the first Clinton Gore bus tour of America, and no one mentioned anything about an alien. Obviously, the Secret Service had covered it up once again.


That evening, Rick Renn, my nephew from Georgia, called. He had just read the space alien article, and knew I would be interested. The evidence was overwhelming. There were now at least two people who recognized good journalism. It was time to act.


For a few years, usually when I had too much time and not enough sense, I thought about writing a weekly newspaper col­umn. It would be a great catharsis of what I proudly knew to be a warped mind, fertilized now and then by my wife. With only 23,000 other columnists trying to pitch their own catharses, I figured there was room for another 700-800 words a week, espe­cially since newspapers appeared to be desperate for features. How else could anyone explain why they publish gossip columns and capsule summaries of soap operas?


 

Thus was born "Wanderings," a column that probes a small particle of society. Sometimes it's a satire; sometimes a wistful essay or a hard-hitting investigative report. Sometimes it looks into politics, the environment, health care, recreation, or whatever needs to be probed that week. About one-third the columns have a media focus. Occasionally, the media are the central focus, sometimes a supporting player, often an extra. But the media are always there­; lurking; sometimes playful, sometimes annoying; but most importantly, informing, persuading, and entertaining.


Sex and the Single Beer Can is a compilation of many of those media‑related columns. Most of the columns have been significantly revised for book publication. After all, each medium has its own language, structure, and parameters. Besides, newspaper columns stay around a couple of days, while books remain on the shelves, unread, for decades.


No one book—nor for that matter all the books about the mass media currently in print— can explain everything a reader needs to know about the mass media. However, these unique mini-case studies "slices-of-life" that comprise Sex and the Single Beer Can do present an understanding not just of the media, but of people in the media and others affected by the media. By understanding the broad perspective presented in Sex and the Single Beer Can , it's possible to better understand the nature of mass media.


For more than 30 years I have been proud to be a journalist. I believe in the American media and in the people I am pleased to call my colleagues and friends. For the number of obstacles business, gov­ernment, and public institutions put into their paths, the media overall do a splendid job. But, like any institution, the media have their problems, some inherent within their own structures. As a media critic and satirist, I have a responsibility to examine the media, hoping that by bringing the excesses and problems to light—something every journalist strives to do—the media will do an even better job of helping Americans better understand their own lives and issues that affect them.


Read the columns. A few now; a few later. No one will rat on you if you read them out of order or if you fall asleep while read­ing the one column that has the secrets of the universe.


Many may wonder where the sex and beer are that the title promises. It's a logical question—after all, the Introduction talks about the origin of the column and its relationship with the tabloids. Like tabloid headlines, book titles are meant to grab readers; more than half of all paperback books are sold on the basis of the title and cover design. In this case, the title is meant to grab two specific readers—my sons, Jeffrey and Matthew Gerber, wonderful children who usually enjoy my columns, usually don't read my books, but are fond of what the book title promises. Let them search this book, reading every column until they find what the title promises. For the rest of my readers, there really is a column about sex and beer; more important, it is a key discus­sion about one part of the media and of the American people.


While reading this book, I hope you find yourself not only informed, entertained, and persuaded, but also mentally stimulated and ready to act against stupidity and injustice .




Critical Acclaim

Critical Praise from Journalism Professors


"In Sex and the Single Beer Can, Walt Brasch is both refreshingly irreverent and irreverently fresh. Little escapes his attention. This is a book about the media, politics, government, war, political incorrectness, religion, the injustice system, the health industry, and other corporations, Miss America, and yes, sex and beer. He ties these subjets together under and double-barreled heading of the foibles and strengths of American society. His approach is both biting criticism and healthy respect, both creative imagination and deep understanding. Most of all, Sex and the Single Beer Can is a plea for a better media and a better place in which to live.
Because it is broad in its scope, it's also suitable for a variety of journalism/mass communication classes either as a primary or secondary text. It could add important perspectives to classes in ethics, media management, media economics, media and society, media criticism and a variety of other subjects of journalistic interest."

— Dr. Ralph Izard, associate dean, Manship School of Journalism, Louisiana State University; professor emeritus and former director, Scripps School of Journalism, The Ohio University


"Effective and powerful. In Dave Barryesque fashion, Brasch weaves sights, sounds, feelings, and attitudes into clever, playful, entertaining essays. Brasch provides an excellent guide for students trying to learn the art of writing. For a teacher, this collection offers models of tone, dialogue, description, narrative voice, and point of view."
— Beverly Pitts, provost and professor of journalism, Ball State University


"Insightful, readable and tightly written."
— R. Thomas Berner, head, journalism program, Pennsylvania State
University


"A pleasant respite from the overly academic dissections of media events that allows the reader to learn thorugh laughter. A great book of readings for students who are trying to learn how to tell it like it is."
— Pat Heilman, chair, Department of Journalism, Indiana University of Pennsylvania



Critical Praise from the Media


"Skewers the American media [in a] satiric romp [that is] hilariously funny and deadly serious. You will never read a newspaper or magazine, listen to the radio, or watch a movie or TV in the same way again."
— Sally Mattero, Koen Books


"Satire is a dying art [but] Brasch has rekindled some and directed it against the media. For those seeking an insider's look at the media with the irreverence of the public, this is, above all, a book to enjoy."
— Jeff Inglis, Burlington, Vt., Mountainview


"Brasch Illuminates the dark, and often absurd, sides of society and the media with a style that invites laughter and encourages the reader to look beyond reality to the truth."
— Nancy Baumgartner, Williamsport Sun-Gazette


"Wonderfully humorous essays."
— Lee Lawrence, WFPR-AM, Hammond, La.


"Exposes some of the most common journalistic foibles, and the impact they can have on the way the rest of society sees the world around them. Nothing is safe or sacred."
— Jane Alison Havsy, American Reporter


"Interesting, refreshing and...highly irreverent...Includes a potpourri of down-to-earth stories about America, some twisted completely out of shape by the media when they first took place."
— Hazleton Standard-Speaker



Walter Brasch is. . .


"The most informed, opinionated, witty, and delightful commentator on the media scene today."
— John Noonan, Aspen Media Review


"Entertaining and informative, and fun for everyone."
— WLW-AM, Cincinnati


"A real treat to interview. He has a wonderful way of cutting through the media hype to clarify the 'real' culture."
— Jack Holcomb, WEEU-AM, Reading, Pa.


"A dynamic journalist in the tradition of Andy Rooney."
— Gil Bratcher, WYSP-FM, Philadelphia


"[Someone who] has a wonderful way of cutting through the media hype to clarify the 'real' culture and media in a manner that can be understood by all."
— Jack Holcomb, WEEU-AM, Reading, Pa.
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