Tag Archives: Donald Trump

The Further Adventures of Ben

Yesterday, I related to you an occurrence in my day…

“I just got a call from ‘Ben’ at ‘Appall sek-yoor-rah-tee’. Ben says my computer is ‘sending a vi-russ ah-lert to the main serrrverrr’. He seemed concerned.
I asked Ben ‘What server – where?’
(pause)
‘Noo-Jerrzee’
‘Is that where you are, Ben?’
(click)

As Jules Feiffer says in his clever play ‘Little Murders’; ‘If they’re that easy to destroy, you have to ask yerself if yer gonna miss’em when they’re gone.’

Waitaminnit!
What if Ben’s tellin’ the truth? Maybe my Dell elected Trump!
……I anticipate a sleepless night……”

 

Well, it was.

So, I got up this morning, blearily called one of my geekier friends, and we investigated the Dell. Yes, before you ask, we notified James Comey of the impending investigation.

On the hard drive we discovered;

  • 331 emails from Hilary Clinton – mostly recipes and ambiguous limericks
  • Snatches of Noel Coward lyrics from unpublished songs – not so ambiguous, but quaint
  • A video of Citizen Trump in a Russian hotel room (sign on the door in the background stating room rates and check-out times in Cyrillic) – not even in the same area code as ambiguous
  • An offer to forgive my student loan in exchange for a small deposit – who says this is not a kind world? It almost makes me wish I had ever had a student loan.
  • An interactive map of coffee houses in Raqqa.
  • George Martin’s next installment in The Game of Thrones.
  • An offer to forgive my still non-existent student loan for thirteen bananas and a big rubber snake.
  • The football playbook of Davidson University.
  • The rest of Coleridge’s “Xanadu”
  • Lesson plans from the University of North Carolina (these were just blank pages).

I felt pretty good when we had finished. Our discoveries were bizarre and vaguely unsettling but that seems “de rigeur” in today’s world. I couldn’t see anything that suggested my computer moccasins had scuffed the planet any more than others I could name.

Thus encouraged, we explored further; actually opening the box of the pc.

Oh my…

We found;

  • Al Capone’s whiskey bottle
  • A floppy drive (no, my younger friends, this is not something Viagra can fix)
  • Nixon’s missing eighteen-and-a-half minutes
  • 14 pounds of cat and dog hair
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • A chord, previously mislaid
  • Pluto (the former planet, not the pup)

Though it seemed we could go on quite a bit further, we stopped there. As intriguing as our discoveries were, they seemed benign compared to what I could see 24/7/365 on CNN under the heading of “Breaking News”.

Also, I was feeling a bit antsy proceeding in this wonderland without Carl Sagan or Joseph Campbell as a guide…or maybe Robert Langdon.

I did want to call Ben at “Appall sek-yoor-rah-tee” and thank him for opening a hidden world to me.

Is this how the archaeologists of the future will spend their time? If so, perhaps the City of Lexington’s computer dump facility on Versailles Road will be the Egyptian pyramids of the 22nd century.

Cool.

Please file this under “alternative facts”.

I Invented Love

“I thought I knew what love was, but…these lovers play new music; haunting me and somehow taunting me. My love was never half as true.” – RAGTIME.

 

I invented love.

That probably comes as a surprise to you, but it’s true.

It happened sometime in the early 1970s – I don’t remember the precise moment – odd considering the importance of the event. Oh yes, I am fully aware that love has been written of by poets for hundreds of years before that. I myself have performed and recited and sung words of love written by Shakespeare, Cole Porter, and Harry Lauder that were written long before I was born. All I can say is there are far more prophets in the world than talk radio would lead us to believe.

I invented love.

I invented it a few years before I invented sex.

Didn’t we all?

I could make a big deal out of it. In a Trumpian mood I could say it was “huge”. Channeling my inner Al Gore I could aver that the movie “Love Story” was written about me. But why? I don’t need it. The glory, the satisfaction, the thrill of knowing that no one else had truly known love before I invented it is enough.

Oops.

How does Bob Dylan say it? “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

I had a tiny role in a production of RAGTIME. It required me to immerse myself every evening in a room full of 40 to 50 impossibly young dancers and singers who insisted upon calling me “Mister” and “Sir”.

I hated them.

I loved them.

Utterly.

I could not have been more pleased with my companions.

There are moments in RAGTIME precisely……painfully about just that moment of knowing that you are old and successful and still able to grow and experience new things if only you will allow yourself to do so.

At the age of 21 I knew the full glory of what love could be. How could I not? I invented love.

At the age of 65, I was just beginning to get a glimpse of what the full glory of love can be. That doesn’t denigrate or belittle the loves and passions of the past. It reveals and exalts the fact that we can grow at any age if we allow ourselves to do so. It validates the idea that we can move toward something better and that something better may not be that far away. It may be as near as lyricist Billy Rose says; “back in your own backyard”.

In RAGTIME (America of 1906) characters are confronted with the disturbing possibility that (as the Firesign Theater puts it) everything they know is wrong – or at least could be better and bigger. How do these RAGTIME characters react? It’s the whole story.

On CNN/Fox/MNBC (America of 2016) we are confronted with the disturbing possibility that everything we know is wrong. Can we be better and bigger? How do we react? It’s the whole story.

How did the writers of RAGTIME know that we would need their guidance at this time?

There are far more prophets in the world than talk radio would lead us to believe.

Maybe we can invent a love twice as true as we believed possible. To do so we would have to first accept the tantalizing promise of “new music”.

I’m good with that.

“You Nugatory Nullifidian!” – Walt Kelly

It seems the primary news topic (nay, make that the only news topic) of the last week is the litany of peccadillos and self-inflicted crises of the Trump campaign, all of which auger impending doom, whether we elect him or don’t – doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t.

I’m as fascinated (a useful euphemism for “terrified”) by all these revelations and speculations as the next guy, but I wonder if in the maelstrom of threats to the Trump campaign, we’re not missing a couple.

A friend of mine posted today about the very real possibility of Mr. Trump running out of voting groups to insult. Oh sure, he has yet to attack Eskimos or the Amish, but at the rate he’s proceeding he’ll get to them within days and then what? I have no good suggestions to offer on this quandary…except…meekly, mind you…to suggest terminating the insults and attacks? It’s just an outré thought.

And there’s also the problem of the sameness of the insults themselves, from everyone. I weary of hearing about people being “dopey” and “losers”. I’m tired of hearing Mr. Trump describe everything Trumpian as “incredible” and “huge”. I glaze over hearing his detractors describe him as “narcissistic” and “misogynistic”. We have 90+ days to go before we vote. If vocabularies don’t expand, we’ll all go nuts. If that happens, we’ll vote for a nut. That can’t be the best business plan.

Sometimes, when faced with a serious consideration like this, I seek outside guidance. Unlike Doc Ricketts in Steinbeck’s CANNERY ROW, I can’t go visit the Seer, and Oracle of Delphi is not on my speed dial. But, I do have a shelf-ful of Pogo books from the 50’s and early 60’s. In the Pogo strips, two of the denizens of the Okefenokee Swamp are the Cow Birds. These unsavory critters are uber-critics of everything wholesome and have a tortured vocabulary with which to express their views. I’m not encouraging any plagiarism here, just looking for inspiration. Imagine Mr. Trump referring to his myriad enemies as; “lesser pipsqueaks”. Or Ms. Clinton casting; “a pox on absentee landlordism!” Or Anderson Cooper decrying Mr. Trump’s answers to his questions as; “benighted paternalistic infantilism.”

Now THAT would lively.

And would keep me running to my dictionary.

Dictionaries.

Remember those?

A Tale of Two Conventions

After watching two weeks of political conventions. My head is not spinning. I have a plethora of thoughts but they seem pretty clear.

  • It was the best of conventions: it was the worst of conventions. I confess I plagiarized and paraphrased that.
  • I enjoyed seeing Paul Simon and Carole King while flinching at hearing them. Gettin’ old sucks.
  • The Trump family is lovely to look at – sans pere.
  • One of the things I enjoy about traveling is hearing languages and accents I rarely hear in Lexington. It humbles me a bit (always useful in my case) and reminds me I’m part of something bigger than the blissful bubble Janie and I live in and cherish.
  • In his late eighties, my grandfather was taken hunting by one of my cousins. When they emerged from their hunting ground, they were confronted by a game warden waiting by their car. He asked for my grandfather’s hunting license and in the ensuing confusion about the existence of such a document (not to mention any relevant emails, birth certificates, or tax returns), the warden said he would need to have my grandfather’s gun/rifle/bazooka/whatever. My grandfather responded by cocking his gun/rifle/bazooka/whatever and saying “I don’t think so.” I think my mom had to bail him out on that caper.

I relate this to point out that I, like many of us, come from a culture of personal weaponry that is not even in the same area code as rational thought. I, like most of us, would like to see some improvement in the number of weapons of mass destruction currently in the hands of dangerous people (toddlers and terrorists alike). But I also think this is one of the two “third-rail” issues in US politics today. This issue will be tough for Democrats.

  • By the way, the other “third-rail” issue is Social Security. Republicans might want to tread warily here. This geezer would respectfully suggest/bellow they get offa my lawn.
  • A wall. Really? A wall? Didn’t Russia try that in Berlin? If we’re gonna build something, let’s RE-build our infrastructure. Bridges, roads, and airports – yes! Wall – not so much.
  • I’ve witnessed history-making things in my lifetime.
    • Humans bounding on the moon.
    • Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
    • John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
    • Barack Obama’s election to the presidency.
    • Hillary Clinton’s nomination for the presidency.
  • I’ve also seen a good many balloon drops in my lifetime and I always like’em. Yesterday’s Democratic Convention balloon drop was the best.

Finally, I’m watching a couple of films by Danish director Carl Theodore Dreyer. In his film GERTRUD, one of the characters advises;

“Two things have been and still are more important to me than anything else. These two things are love and thought. You’ve spoken about love. As far as thoughts go, we should have courage to think good thoughts for the good thoughts bring us to the summit of truth, and truth is the only thing worthwhile.”

Michelle Obama might have said that more succinctly; “When they go low, we go high.”

No, my head’s not spinning…I’m goin’ high.

A Pragmatic Proposal for Peace (Mine)

“Pragmatism! Is that all you have to offer?” – Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).

I have always enjoyed presidential campaigns. The first I remember paying attention to was the 1964 race in which Lyndon Johnson, riding a tide of popularity as he succeeded the recently assassinated John Kennedy, resoundingly defeated the radical (by 1964 standards) conservative Barry Goldwater.

Then in 1968, at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, I died in Grant Park along with Phil Ochs, Jerry Rubin, the yippies, and Pigasus. Oh, I was home watching convention and the demonstrations on the tube in Lexington, but I died. I was crushed. It was the last time I failed to vote. Nixon was elected. Lesson learned.

I was avid in following subsequent campaigns. I lived for every daily detail. Of course this was before the cable TV 24/7/365 news cycle (glut) and well before the internet. Daily details had to be gleaned from the evening network news half-hour or the morning newspaper. Smoke signals and tea leaves were a poor plan B.

It was the ultimate reality show before reality shows became a reality. I thrilled to it.

This year…not so much.

I’m looking ahead at the next four-plus months at a campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. TV, newspapers, Twitter, and my Facebook feed will be flooded with pictures, information, pseudo-information, out-and-out lies, pundits, and idiots. Stupefying amounts of money will be spent. Friends and acquaintances will share their opinions and their memes. Too often that sharing will not reflect well on the mental acuity of the sharers. I will be dismayed by that.

To what end?

Do we really think anyone’s mind will be changed?

All that money, all that noise, and all that vituperation…what an ordeal.

May I posit an alternative?

Let’s don’t.

Let’s simply stipulate to the logical outcome of the presidential race, save that campaign money (or use it in races for other important elective offices), and give ourselves a peaceful autumn to enjoy the changing leaves and the resurgence of University of Kentucky football (hey, we can dream).

There are clear realities in this year’s race that I believe make this a pragmatic choice.

  • Trump will be the Republican nominee. I know 20% of the population will disagree, envisioning a convention miracle. I also know if you ask the population which coin is worth more; a quarter or a dime – 20% will choose the dime. This is willful contrariness – we can move on – nothing to see here.
  • Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. I know 20% of the population will disagree, envisioning a mathemagical Sanders miracle. See above.
  • Clinton will win the general election. I know 20% of…you know the rest.

I’m not commenting on the rightness, fairness, or wisdom of these realities. They are what they are.

Let’s stipulate the results and spare ourselves…and maybe heal ourselves.

Winter Light on the Summer Solstice

It’s Movie Night in Central Kentucky. It’s summer with 132% humidity; just the night for a cold beer or Ingmar Bergman’s WINTER LIGHT.

I have radically mixed feelings about the films of Ingmar Bergman. Some of the longest and most tedious decades of my life have been spent watching PERSONA and FANNY AND ALEXANDER and THE VIRGIN SPRING…and yes, THE SEVENTH SEAL. Some of the most interesting times have been spent watching THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, SUMMER WITH MONIKA…and yes again, THE SEVENTH SEAL (scratchin’ my head).

And then there’s WINTER LIGHT.

I love this film. I first saw it in the summer of 1969. It sank its claws in me and has never let go. I’ve watched the film about a half-dozen times since then.

It is small, intimate, exquisite, painful story-telling about the largest of issues. It would never make it in today’s United States of Donald Trump, AK-14’s (or 47’s, or whatever), Kim Davis, or ark parks.

It whispers – it doesn’t shout. It agonizes – it doesn’t sneer. It lingers and ponders – it’s not a sound bite or tweet. It thinks for itself – it doesn’t meme (is that even a verb?). It’s not reality TV – it’s reality. No need to fake it for the judges or a hidden camera or the voters at home – just tell the story in the unforgiving glare of truth.

I’m reminded of Carl Theodore Dreyer’s captivating film; JOAN OF ARC, which tells its story as a ballet of faces. You cannot look away.

WINTER LIGHT takes it further. Bergman uses his faces in excruciatingly long shots – but his characters also speak – directly and unblinkingly. There is no escape from their story; not for you as the viewer, and certainly not for Gunnar Bjornstrand, the faith-challenged priest of the story or Max Von Sydow the faith-bereft farmer he attempts to counsel.

Faith is hard. It’s available to everyone, but not granted to everyone. It has value. It will save/redeem/inspire…but not everyone.

Mr. Bjornstrand’s performance is wondrous to me. I totally believe Bjornstrand’s discomfort with his cold/flu. I believe his discomfort comforting his parishioners. I believe his weariness and desperation. I believe his doubt. I believe his desire to believe. I watch the film waiting for his epiphany like a boy raised in a Southern Baptist Sunday School should. I wait for Godot as a child of the sixties should.

This is great storytelling and nothing gets blown up and there are no super-powers…not that there’s anything wrong with that.