Trump, the Tangerine Prince, Decides (Sort of)


The Tangerine Prince

The Tangerine Prince

Not surprisingly, I don’t have many Trump supporters on my Facebook feed, but I do have a few, and yesterday afternoon, a Facebook friend emblazoned his wall with TRUMP 2016!!!

The responses were, shall we say, divisive:

“Has your account been hacked?”

“Of the two available, he is the only one who will stand up against these Islamic murderers and defeat political correctness that has built the presidency over the last 8 years. I have no choice.”

The two party system is screwed!!! Those are NOT your only two choices!!! [Link to Johnson/Weld website]

Also [Trump’s] the only one for the 2nd Amendment. He has actually stated he would like to see a National right to carry. Hillary on the other hand has said she will use executive orders to make it much more difficult or impossible to own a gun.


Anyone who thinks because Donald Trump lacks discretion, blusters, and blurts out whatever suddenly pops up in the tawdry casino of his imagination means that he will be a strong leader needs to look no further than his wishy-washy Hamlet-like[1] vacillation about whom to choose for his vice-presidential candidate, leaking that it was Pence, but then equivocating, but eventually opting for the Indiana governor an hour before Pence faced a deadline to file reelection papers. This inability to make up his mind underscores the fact that Trump is not a man of his convictions because he has no convictions. Take a peek at his various stances on abortion, or on Hillary Clinton for that matter, over the years. It’s as if he’s playing a game of Ping-Pong with himself, serving the ball and then rushing to the opposite end of the table to return it.

Sadly enough, the original Thursday press conference announcing Pence was pre-empted by the terrorist attack in Nice and the Saturday announcement overshadowed with the attempted coup in Turkey, two events that should give pause to anyone in a swing state thinking about throwing away a vote on Johnson or Jill Stein.

Anyway, Pence, who doesn’t believe in evolution nor that smoking kills, will, according to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, fix Washington, even though he had the chance when he spent 12 years there in the House of Representatives from 2001-2013, those glorious years which brought us the Iraqi War (which he supported) and the Great Recession, not to mention his views on gay rights, which correspond more closely to Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei’s than to Pope Francis’s.

Pence, according to conventional wisdom, will bring a sense of seriousness to the Trump extravaganza, help win over hesitant evangelists.

Here’s a snippet from a 2009 interview with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: I think you believe in evolution but you‘re afraid to say so because your conservative constituency might find that offensive.

PENCE: No, I‘ve said to you, Chris, I believe with all my heart that God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them.


PENCE: How He did that, I‘ll ask him about some day.

As my spiritual advisor James T Crow might say, “Okay then.”

[1] If Hamlet were an anti-intellectual and was known as “the Tangerine Prince” instead of “the Inky Prince.”

Uh, Lord, would you mind answering a couple of questions about your methodology in creating the universe?

Uh, Lord, would you mind answering a couple of questions about your methodology in creating the universe?

The Travails of Translation

la-fg-nice-france-crash-20160714-snapNBC news perhaps has an opening for a French translator. Whoever broke the story on their website about the tragic incident of a terrorist slamming his truck into a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks rendered the Mayor of Nice’s tweet of warning:

in English to read:

Dear nice, the driver of a truck appears to have made dozens of deaths. Stay for the moment to your home. More info to come.”

Obviously, the web workers were in a hurry.  Obviously, they fed the tweet through an on-line translator. Obviously, in light of the slaughter, complaining about a translation from French to English is petty — if not in bad taste.

However, I grew up on the National Lampoon.  I am a connoisseur of bad taste, so allow me to continue and offer this advice to anyone needing to quickly translate.  Render the awkward computer-generated translation into the vernacular.  You don’t need to know French to take the raw translation above to change the text to this:

Dear Citizens of Nice, a truck driver is reported to have inflicted dozens of deaths.  For now, stay home.  More info is to come.

Of course, the original tweet isn’t as specific as it might be.  The Major might have tweeted

It appears that someone has plowed a truck into a crowd, and he may be a terrorist, so stay home until further notice.

But for all I know the nuances of the French language would somehow subtly convey the nefariousness without having it literally spelled out, but chances are Mayor Estrosi was himself in a hurry, not weighing words, or even more likely, assigning the tweet to an underling.

[Sigh].  I fear this infectious mayhem isn’t going to cease anytime soon.  I fear that it will make us grow callous, that we’ll start to brush off the loss of individual human lives and start carping about minutia, as I have done here, albeit with half a tongue in half a cheek.

A Brief Peek at the Historic Lincoln-Trump Debate

cartoon debatepsd


Trump: I like Abe Lincoln. He’s a nice enough guy, though he’s ugly as homemade sin. What’s the matter with him? Does he have rickets or something? And that mole. Jesus. You think he’d have that thing removed. I’ve heard rumors about other causes of his abnormal physique, but we’re not going there. I can’t imagine a prostitute willing to sleep with someone that ugly, so I don’t believe the syphilis rumors. But then again, who knows?

Lincoln: MY FELLOW-CITIZENS: When a man hears himself somewhat misrepresented, it provokes him-at least, I find it so with myself; but when misrepresentation becomes very gross and palpable, it is more apt to amuse him. Alas, even Mr. Trump’s insults are inaccurate. Rickets causes stunted growth, and although I have been described as “thin as a beanpole and ugly as a scarecrow,” no one has ever accused me of being short.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump speaks as if he possesses the beauty of Adonis, but I suspect that neither one of us is going to win a beauty contest, so I suggest we turn the discussion to matters more concerning to our voters like the state of the economy and the challenges we face abroad.

Trump: Look the economy reeks as bad as the outhouse back behind the shanty Rickety Abe was born in. It stinks to high heaven. We’re going fix that. Let me tell you, people, I’ve made a lot of money, I know how to make money, I’m really, really smart. We have idiots running the country. That’s the problem. We don’t need a lawyer running the country. We need a businessman, let me tell you.

Lincoln: Although the economy is not roaringly robust, it has grown steadily, albeit modestly, for 72 straight months, and I need not thrash the dead horse of what led to the disastrous decline of ’08, the charlatan sham of trickle down economics enacted simultaneously with two disastrous wars. Cutting taxes while paying for armaments and raising an army, is not merely foolish, it’s deranged, yet Mr. Trump’s economic plan calls massive tax cuts for the wealthy and escalating our presence in the Middle East, a repetition of the disastrous policies of the past.

Trump: Let me assure you, Rickety Abe, that what I plan to do in the Middle East is not going to cost us much. I’m going Col. Kilgore on their asses from above. By the time my first term is over, they’ll be casinos and golf courses in Kandalar —

Lincoln [interrupting]: Kandalar is in Azerbaijan; don’t you mean Kandahar, which is Afghanistan? We certainly don’t want to be bombing one of our international friends –

Trump [interrupting]. Look, the man can’t even grow a decent beard. Look at him, a walking advertisement for birth control . . .

Deserts of Vast Eternity


And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; . . .
Andrew Marvell

“Me, me, me me,” squeals the toddler, waving his arms.

“Watch me!” demands the nine-year-old wobbling off on his bike.

“Who me?” snarls the adolescent, feigning outrage.

“Will you marry me?” asks the suitor, dropping to one knee, reaching in his pocket for the diamond.

“I need some time and space for me,” says the wife frowning, her back turned, her arms folded across her chest.

‘Why me?” wonders the patient in the hospital gown as his oncologist points to the mass on the x-ray.

“I gotta be me,” croons fedora-sporting Sinatra, a fading memory, a voice very few living have heard live.


Some argue rather narrowly that world only exists in perception, i.e., that if there were no you, there wouldn’t be a world. Well, yes and no. If I had been killed in that horrific wreck on Hilton Head in 1976, the Braves still would have lost the ’91 Series – though for my sons non-Harrison and non-Ned, there would be no world.

Nevertheless, given that wherever we are is the center of the circle of perception – despite the fact that we’re mere dots on a map of blurred dots – each dot forms the center of our universes, 7 billion centers of 7 billion universes projecting outward from Europe, Asia, the Pacific, South America, the circles intersecting, forming collectively what is, or, rather, what seems to be.


As our world becomes more secular, the surety of eternal bliss dwindles among the populace. As in the pagan world of Beowulf, for many the only path to immortality is through fame, but which one of us would trade places with Frank Sinatra or Steve Jobs?

No, as one of Flannery O’Connor’s characters put it, “You can’t be any poorer than dead.”

Given that oblivion looms for so many of us, no wonder we seek attention, desire to be noticed. So we have our photograph taken next to the Mona Lisa. We publish blogs, post photographs of our evening meals on Facebook, purchase red Corvettes to counterbalance the drop in testosterone. We struggle to leave a mark, whether it be a novel of lasting value, a beautiful building, a cure, an estate.

All the while the invaluable moments dissipate unseen like heat waves from the floors of deserts.

Mike Theiss: Tumbleweed and Patterned, Cracked Desert Floor, and Nearby Mountains

Mike Theiss: Tumbleweed and Patterned, Cracked Desert Floor, and Nearby Mountains

The global village underscores our ultimate insignificance. Back in the mists of time, among the few of our tribal community, among the savannas or in the forests, we didn’t seek notoriety but subsumed ourselves in rituals. However, now, like the toddler, we seek attention to prove that we exist. Once we’ve been gone a hundred years most of us won’t leave a trace – except for whatever genetic tracings can be found in our descendants or any bones that might show up in an archeological dig or construction project.

The paradox is that despite endless silence that awaits us, what we really need here in time is silence. Time to think. Time to feel.


The Age Old Anvil of Sorrow


When things get bad for me, I tend to turn to literature in the paradoxical quest to both temporarily forget my personal troubles and to delve deeply into someone else’s. Obviously, great literature universalizes the human condition and reminds us that violence, disease, and sorrow have always been with us and will always be with us.

“Blood will have blood,”[1] like Macbeth says, as if commenting on this morning’s headlines.

His Russian cousin, Ivan Ilyich comes to realize that disease preys on the undeserving just as often as on the righteous (even on the exerciser, the non-smoker).

Meanwhile, despairing Manley Hopkins’ anguished “cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief/Woe wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing.”

No, to cop out with a cliché – I am not sorrow’s first rodeo. Antigone, Isolde, Hamlet, Emma Bovary, and Alyosha Karamazov have all been there (in despair), done that (grieved) – as have their creators.


* * *

The Brothers Karamazov, which I finished yesterday, was June’s project, and Joseph Franks’ 5-volume biography of Dostoyevsky is July’s. The Brothers K offers all the vicarious sorrow anyone could ever desire – childhood abandonment, sexual exploitation, sexual betrayal, filial betrayal, insanity, alcoholism, adolescent angst, dark nights of the soul, and, of course, buckets of blood.



So far, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky’s life hasn’t been much happier. I’m only on page 70 (of 932), and already Fyodor’s mother has died of a lingering mysterious illness, he’s been sent off to a military academy he detests, and now his father has died, most likely murdered by his serfs, and Fyodor has a number of younger siblings who are now orphaned.

Dostoyevsky was a man of his convictions and held to them even when they were unpopular. Throughout his life, from coming to the aid of bullied cadets at the military academy, to reaching out and aiding the peasantry, he practiced what he preached. Or as David Foster Wallace puts it in his essay “Joseph Frank’s Dostoyevsky”:

For me, the really striking, inspiring thing about Dostoyevsky isn’t just he was a genius; he was also brave. He never stopped worrying about his literary reputation, but he also never stopped promulgating unfashionable stuff in which he believed. And he did this not by ignoring (now, a.k.a.” transcending” or “subverting”) the unfriendly cultural circumstances in which he was writing, but by confronting them, engaging them, specifically and by name.

This, DFW maintains, certainly isn’t the case nowadays:

But Frank’s Dostoyevsky would point out (or more like hop up and down and shake his fist and fly at us and shout) that if this is so [i.e., our intelligentsia abjures ideological passion], it’s at least partly because we have abandoned the field. That we’ve abandoned it to fundamentalists whose pitiless rigidity and eagerness to judge show that they’re clueless about the “Christian values” they would impose on others. To rightist militias and conspiracy theorists whose paranoia about the government supposes the government to be just way more organized and efficient than it really is. And, in academia and the arts, to the increasingly absurd and dogmatic Political Correctness movement, whose obsession with the mere forms of utterance and discourse show too well how effete and aestheticized our best liberal instincts have become, how removed from what’s really important – motive, feeling, belief.

In other words, our current condition is one of fragmentation. Both major national political parties are splintering, and the gulf between them ideologically is like light years. Congressional districts twist and turn across maps like wakes from drunken boats. Although you might think that our digital interconnectivity might bring us closer together, it seems to me it isolates us, as we sit at the bar ignoring our friend as we stare down at the screen cultivating some personal obsession. In other words, we suffer from what Dostoyevsky might call radical individuality: I perceive the universe from my perspective; therefore, I must be the center of the universe. Other lives don’t matter as much – white, black, Muslim, Christian, Jew, infidel.


This attitude of isolation, of course, is a recipe for unhappiness; just ask the diva who demands eleven red roses in a blue vase every time she books a suite facing east in a luxury hotel where some tiny little infraction is going to throw her into a tizzy.

She suffers from disconnection, different but in some ways not unlike the radicalized homegrown terrorist or the arsenal-amassing militiaman or the divorced, underemployed middle-ager attaching the hose to his exhaust pipe.

[cue Barbra Streisand’s “People”]

Here is Alyosha Karamazov after the funeral of little Ilusha addressing Ilyusha’s friends at the end of the novel:

And whatever happens to us later in life, if we don’t meet for twenty years afterwards, let us always remember how we buried the poor boy at whom we once threw stones, do you remember, by the bridge? and afterwards we all grew so fond of him. He was a fine boy, a kindhearted, brave boy, he felt for his father’s honour and resented the cruel insult to him and stood up for him. And so in the first place, we will remember him, boys, all our lives. And even if we are occupied with most important things, if we attain to honour or fall into great misfortune — still let us remember how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a good and kind feeling which made us, for the time we were loving that poor boy, better perhaps than we are. My little doves let me call you so, for you are very like them, those pretty blue birds, at this minute as I look at your good dear faces.

[. . .]

I say this in case we become bad,” Alyosha went on, “but there’s no reason why we should become bad, is there, boys? Let us be, first and above all, kind, then honest and then let us never forget each other! I say that again. I give you my word for my part that I’ll never forget one of you. Every face looking at me now I shall remember even for thirty years. Just now Kolya said to Kartashov that we did not care to know whether he exists or not. But I cannot forget that Kartashov exists and that he is not blushing now as he did when he discovered the founders of Troy, but is looking at me with his jolly, kind, dear little eyes. Boys, my dear boys, let us all be generous and brave like Ilusha, clever, brave and generous like Kolya (though he will be ever so much cleverer when he is grown up), and let us all be as modest, as clever and sweet as Kartashov. But why am I talking about those two? You are all dear to me, boys; from this day forth, I have a place in my heart for you all, and I beg you to keep a place in your hearts for me! Well, and who has united us in this kind, good feeling which we shall remember and intend to remember all our lives? Who, if not Ilusha, the good boy, the dear boy, precious to us for ever! Let us never forget him. May his memory live for ever in our hearts from this time forth!”




[1] Especially when purchasing an assault rifle is easier than buying a tube of cortisone cream.

Hillary, Barry, and Me

1101630614_400Like Hillary Clinton, I, too, worked for Barry Goldwater in the ’64 election, although I was only 12. Growing up in Summerville, South Carolina, I had inherited this tiny hamlet’s folkways, which is just another way of saying I was a racist, although a relatively benign one. In Summerville, not only could you encounter a “whites only” sign above the laundromat, but also patients in doctors’ offices were segregated into separate waiting areas, like dogs and cats waiting to see a vet.

My parents did not hate black folk – we were taught not to use the n-word and loved our “maid” Alice like an aunt – but my folks deemed “colored people,” as they called them, inherently inferior.[1] Obviously, given that he had voted against the Civil Rights Bill, Barry Goldwater was their man, so our 1964 Ford Falcon station wagon sported an Au(H20) bumper sticker because we wanted “a choice not an echo” and “in our hearts” we knew “he was right.”

The fledging Dorchester County Republican Party had rented the defunct movie theater as Goldwater headquarters where they distributed buttons and bumper stickers, and on a couple of Saturdays played the old Fay Wray King Kong movie for an admission fee of ten cents. Among other nominal duties, my job at the theater was to climb a ladder and position letters on the marquee outside. This theater didn’t have a balcony, and even if it did, I doubt if black children would have wanted to donate their pennies to the Goldwater cause. Once, when I took a short cut through one of their communities on my bike (which also sported a Goldwater sticker), I was pelted with rocks, a valuable lesson that freedom of speech can be dangerous.

Well, obviously, Goldwater lost, and I was heartbroken, but attitudes were slowly changing in Summerville. For one thing, the public basketball courts became integrated, even before the school became fully so. I played three-on-three half-court b-ball there after school and on Saturdays. The black kids had different rules – you didn’t take the ball back past the foul line if you got a defensive rebound – but we all got along well, and I got to be friends with these boys before they became my classmates when Summerville’s black and white schools finally merged in 1969. I remember passing a bottle of Boone’s Farm to my pal Mookie at my friend Adam’s one night as we took turns taking swigs. This action would have enraged my father if he could have seen it, even though he was Alice’s children’s Santa Claus, even when we couldn’t afford it.

And so, like Hillary, I switched political sides, I started cancelling my father’s vote out — my very first one cast for McGovern — and politics became a topic best not broached at the dinner table, along with race, and a host of other potentially explosive issues.

It’s hard to believe it’s been fifty years, and although things are much better now, obviously, white supremacy is still alive in darkened, un-Christian anti-intellectual cesspools, and I suspect I won’t see that change in my lifetime. But things do change; people do change sides. It will be interesting to see how many South Carolinians do in this election – if not completely change sides, go for the libertarian candidate.

[1] Alice, for example, called me “Mr. Rusty.”

You can't see it, but there's a Goldwater sticker on the back bumper

You can’t see it, but there’s a Goldwater sticker on the back bumper

The Podiatrist of Avon Quote Challenge



The Podiatrist of Stratford

The Podiatrist of Stratford

Okay, literary scholars, let’s see first if you can identify the play from which these misquotations appear and then rewrite them correctly:


A chiropractor, a chiropractor, my real estate for a chiropractor!


Alas, poor Sheldon. I knew him, Lenny. His stand-up slayed.


Because you’re such a goody-goody, does that mean they’ll be no more cannabis and cocktails? (A piece of cake!)


I ain’t used to getting bitch slapped. (Very obscure)


It is a plot narrated by a mentally challenged person, full of blaring leaf blowers and road rage, adding up to jack shit.


Reciting inaudible paeans to a godless, barren universe. (Fairly obscure)


What’s in a brand? Chanel No. 5 by any other brand name, would still be aromatically effective.


The bad shit you do sticks post-mortem, the good disappears in the crematorium.

On Our Nation’s 240th Birthday

Robert Fowler

Robert Fowler

In the 1980’s, my pal Robert Fowler had a radio comedy show on SC Public Radio that aired on Saturday mornings called The Hog Breeders’ Gazette . I remember fondly one 4th of July program that featured a parody of a school assembly celebrating the founding of our great nation.

One of the contributions to the mock school assembly was a brilliant piece of doggerel that portrayed western expansion as nothing more than undesirables, miscreants, getting booted out of a series of towns forever westward until they reached the Pacific Ocean. I wish I could replicate it for you, but the cassette upon which I recorded it has been lost, and even if it hadn’t been lost, I have no machine upon which to play it, from which to transcribe those rollicking rhythms and clever rhymes.


Anyway, the piece eloquently poked fun at the concept of American Exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is the New Jerusalem ordained by the Creator of the Universe as a shining city on a hill to provide the planet with a safe haven for individuals to live their lives in the open spaces that freedom provides. Fowler’s poem portrayed the early populace of these United States, not as idealists seeking religious sanctuary, but as the dregs of Europe, losers, crooks, neer-do-wells so out of synch with their original cultures that they’d risk the wild, treacherous stormy ride across the Atlantic in a desperate attempt to escape. These were the scalawags that inhabit The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, candidates for tarring and feathering, ungovernable, uneducated white people willing to do about anything to line their own pockets.


Obviously, the truth lies somewhere in between. I suspect for every desperado there have been ten Irish or Vietnamese mothers sincerely seeking the honest opportunity of hard work and upward mobility, but the truth of the matter is that we are a difficult bunch to govern as the recent occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge suggests.

Of course, we Americans have been indoctrinated to believe that our government’s fortunate birth in the Age of Enlightenment with its skeptical and rational check-and-balances insures stability, but now, given arcane and undemocratic rules of the Senate, it seems as if these checks-and-balances might result in paralysis, stagnation. In the current climate, we can’t even get that body to convene to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

And so, at least for now, both major political parties seem to be fracturing, heroin overdoses are all the rage among the middle class, victims of middle school bullying with shoulder-chips the size of Sisyphus’s boulder have easy access to automatic weaponry — but — and this is a very big but – there’s no more vibrant, alive, musically diverse, more interesting place on the planet, and I submit, we have immigration to thank for that and are very fortunate overall to call the United States home.

So happy 4th of July, dear readers.


Peeking Inside of Famous Writers’ Bedrooms

opening bedroom

I’ve only visited three famous writers’ domiciles – Yeats’ Tower, Thor Ballylee, in County Galway (1979); Shakespeare’s birth house in Warwickshire (1995); and a home Frost lived in on a side of a road somewhere in New Hampshire (2007).

It felt like calling on the dead – the houses restored, sort of Disneyesque, way too un-lived in.

A while back, a friend posted on her FaceBook page a photograph of Walt Whitman’s bedroom back in the day. Alas, the image somehow conjured the Muse of PhotoShopping, Plagiaria. Alas, I say, because no way I have the artistic talent to pull off the idea Plagiaria whispered in my ear.

Anyway, let’s take a peek into the Barbaric Yapper’s bedroom.

Whitman's bedroom

Whitman’s bedroom

(More about the bedroom later)

My idea, which I am bestowing to any 3-D artist out there, is to use the concept of a bedroom as a representation of an author’s interior life, his or her unconscious as it were, each installation with a window looking out (hence not an attic) onto the world the artist perceived – dingy Dublin brownstones for Mr. James Joyce/Lucy-in-the-Sky butterflies flitting just outside the window of Miss Emily Dickinson.


Take Ernesto Hemingway, par example.


His mother called him Ernestine and dressed him like a girl.


Here’s a crude approximation of Hemingway’s unconscious installed in EA Poe’s dorm room at UVA:

hemingway collage

Obviously, an actual artist could do better, perhaps creating a doll-house, each room devoted to a different writer from a different era, vestiges of influence sprinkled about, La Commedia on Eliot’s bedside table next to an overloaded ashtray of unfiltered Pall Malls.

Art On Pall Mall

At any rate, what strikes me about the actual bedrooms of these writers, except for Whitman’s, is how spartan they are. For example, here’s where Yeats slept at Thor Ballylee:

TPG392639 Bedroom with the bed of W. B. Yeats (b/w photo) by .; Thoor Ballylee, County Galway, Ireland; ( William Butler Yeats (1865-1938) Irish poet and dramatist; bed made by a local carpenter;);  out of copyright

Barely a step up from Thoreau’s:

Thoreau's Walden Pond bedroom

Thoreau’s Walden Pond bedroom

Of course, there are exceptions. Truman Capote lay him down to sleep here:


And Virginia Woolf in this swanky boudoir:

The interior of Virginia Woolf's bedroom at Monks House, East Sussex

Flannery O’Connor’s bedroom looks like just what you would expect:


And, finally, the bedroom where this barely published poet/fiction writer/blogger tosses and turns:

bedroom 3-2

At any rate, we all can be thankful that we’re not the inhabitant of this bedroom:

Marcel Proust on his death bed

Marcel Proust on his death-bed

Good night, sweet Marcel, and Happy 4th of July to the rest of you!