A Dwarfish Thief vs. a Man of Integrity

like a giant’s robes upon a dwarfish thief

I suspect that you would be hard pressed to find two individuals as diametrically antithetical as Donald Trump and Robert Mueller.

Granted, they’re both New Yorkers of German descent, prep schools alums, and Ivy leaguers.

Also, Republicans.

On the other hand:

Mueller

A family man, married (and is still married) to his high school sweetheart

Trump

Multi-married, adulterous, a pussy-grabber and porn-star aficionado

Mueller

Marine Corps, Vietnam, Purple Heart, Bronze Star

Trump

Bone Spurs, Studio 54, tangerine tan, gold-plated foyer

Oh, yes, and there’s this: Mueller is learned, patriotic, and meticulous. Trump, on the other hand, embraces ignorance, has attempted to sell out his country for personal profit, and impulsively spews from his mouth whatever his gut secretes.

The distinctions that define these men will ultimately lead Mueller to triumph and Trump to disgrace. While Mueller has been assembling a staff of formidable prosecutors, amassing a mountain of documentary evidence, and demonstrating laser like focus, Trump has been appointing hacks to positions for which they’re not qualified, playing golf and multitasking, (i.e., watching Fox News while tweeting).

29 November 2018, was the beginning of the end for Donald Trump. Cohen’s guilty plea makes it clear that Trump and son lied about his negotiations with the Russian government in the prospective building of a Trump Tower in Moscow, which goes a long way in explaining Trump’s embrace of Putin, despite the annexing of Crimea, and why the Republican Party deleted anti-Russian planks from its platform right before the convention.  Trump even considered offering Putin a $50 million penthouse in that tower to sweeten the deal.  Oh yeah, also today, Deutsche bank, Trump’s biggest lender, was raided. Besides himself, it’s Mammon that Trump worships, money before country.

Foolish man, house of cards on sand, ka-bam.

So, I suspect, in a matter of months, we’ll be able to exclaim, like Angus in Macbeth, “Now does he feel his title/ Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe/ Upon a dwarfish thief.”

Despite the weaklings in an enabling Republican Congress, it appears that thanks to one patriotic Republican, Robert Mueller, the rule of law will triumph.

Tied to a Stake

 

Tied to a Stake

 

“They have tied me to a stake: I cannot fly,

 But bear like I must fight the course.”

                                                                        Macbeth

Insomnia’s got me tied to the stake,

And the dogs of thought are snarlin’.

 

Is 3 AM too early, or is it too late?

How about fronting me a Klonopin, darling?

 

Too much screen time, not enough exercise,

A gumbo of gone-bad cod bubbling in my head.

 

O god, three hours from now, I’ll have to rise,

and shuffle off to class, the walking dead.

 

Open your books to page 77

Let’s see what John Berryman has to say

 

in this poem that he directs towards heaven,

in this poem where he pretends to pray:

 

Forsake me not when my wild hours come;

grant me sleep nightly, grace soften my dreams.

 

My speed freak heart’s drowning him out like a drum,

Way too much caffeine, not enough cream.

 

Peek-a-Boo

During a scavenger hunt to cop some eye-arresting images for a commentary on our Orwellian world, I ran across this rather disquieting tidbit.

For the past few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting all images will be discarded as soon as they’re viewed.  The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that “scanned images cannot be stored or recorded.”

Now it turns out some police agencies are storing controversial images after all.  The U.S. Marshal’s Service admitted last week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.

Way to go fundamentalist Islamic terrorists! Thanks to your penchant for slaughtering innocents,  your females’ burka-shrouded mysteries (including ankles, knee caps, and eye-brows) are now on display for gawking infidels stationed at TSA monitors. Worse, downloaded images of your wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers are being passed along to police agencies where they’re no doubt swapped like baseball cards, ending up on the hard drives of buzzed-cut, steely-eyed cretins who joined the force hoping that working in law enforcement would stem the perverted sexual fantasies that have haunted them ever since that fifth-grade Boy Scout campout.

Obviously, most reasonable people value their lives over their modesty as evidenced by our trips to proctologists and gynecologists; however, I wonder if these scanners might be a bit of  (if you’ll forgive the expression) overkill.  After all, we have metal detectors, pat downs, etc, and it’s not as if planes are dropping from the sky like confetti.

Of course, whenever we discover that we’re being spied on, whether it’s by the government or the cookie-dispensing porn site we you visit, George Orwell comes to mind. Most would agree, I think, that when it comes to winning the dystopian prophecy contest, we have to award the laurel to Eric Blair (Orwell) over the estimable Aldous Huxley. All in all, Late Empire America c. 2018 resembles Orwell’s Oceania of 1984 much more than it does Huxley’s London in the Year of Ford 632.

Not that Huxley’s novel isn’t impressively prophetic.  Brave New World certainly foretells the cult of consumerism, the proliferation of recreational sex, the consumption of hallucinogens; however, we don’t live in a peaceful World State where citizens consciously eschew individuality and discount death, and although genetic engineering does exist, our legions of pizza delivery drivers and cosmetologists haven’t been pre-programmed into those occupations by soulless biologists in state-run human hatcheries.

Orwell, on the other hand, gave us newspeak (Reagan officially dubbed the MX Missile with its 300-kiloton W87 nuclear warhead as The Peace Keeper); perpetual war against inscrutable, unconquerable, and sometimes interchangeable enemies (e..g., terrorism /our sometime friend Saddam); and a society in which its citizens are monitored (see above).

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Yukking it up antebellum

But what Blair/Orwell failed to foresee is that Big Brother would have a fraternal twin, Big Business,  who seems the more dominant of the two and who also is gathering information about you and me with more zest and much more efficiently.

Lots of entities keep track of our seemingly insignificant gestures.  E.g., our monetary gift to John Spratt’s reelection campaign of 2006 has been dully noted, digitalized, and appears on the Web.  No telling who’s monitoring your Facebook shenanigans, scrutinizing those photographs of you posted by your ex-girlfriend’s husband documenting that unfortunate evening at your recent high school reunion.

And, who really minds a security camera recording a thug snatching your purse at the Kwik Shop?  Like virtually everything nowadays, surveillance poses complicated questions.  Whatever the case,  whether you’re picking your nose as you hurry across the parking lot of your campus or purchasing online an audio recording of De Sade’s Justine, your action has been recorded and duly noted.

Privacy is impossible is the wired world.

Weekends

In contemporary American society, many citizens endure a dualistic existence in which the work week stretches forth like some dreary dust bowl landscape.  Punctuating these dismal five-day journeys is the weekend, that carnival luridly lit on the horizon, its distant Ferris wheel and roller coaster barely in view.

You trudge through the sands of the days, Monday, Tuesday – Humpday –  Thursday, the carnival getting closer, the music audible, Pink singing over a calliope:

Just when it can’t get worse, I’ve had a shit day (NO!)
Have you had a shit day? (NO!), we’ve had a shit day (NO!)
I think that life’s too short for this, I want back my ignorance and bliss

David Levine: The Thunderbolt

Like the work week itself, the weekend possesses its own life cycle, beginning with the boundless hope of Friday afternoon, the happy hour gathering, dinner and a movie, snuggling with your baby sipping something intoxicating on the sofa as Lester Young blows his tenor Saxophone through those Bose speakers you shouldn’t have indulged in but did.

Saturday is just slightly less hopeful – unless, of course, if you’ve slept deep into the afternoon and awaken to the desolation of strewn clothes, unbrushed teeth, and a WC Fields-grade hangover. In that scenario the weakening October afternoon sunlight is as tragic as Van Gogh reaching for the razor.

On the other hand, if you’re older, chances are you wake up feeling fairly upbeat, peruse the paper (digital or otherwise) leisurely on the porch, deck, or patio. Yard work, a fishing excursion, a novel, quilting, football, cooking, model airplanes – it’s up to you because you live in the land of the free and don’t need to set that alarm tonight.

And, as the pop songs say, Saturday nights are made for dancing or getting behind the wheel of your Oldsmobile as you barrel down the Boulevard with Tom Waits cranking on the stereo:

Then you comb your hair
Shave your face
Tryin’ to wipe out ev’ry trace
All the other days
In the week you know that this’ll be the Saturday
You’re reachin’ your peak

Oh, but the night is going, going, after midnight – that means Sunday, Sunday with its tolling church bells and lengthening shadows. The weekend balloon is leaking helium, wrinkling around the edges. [cue Nato King Cole]: The party’s over . . .

nat-king-cole-anthology-3cd

The philosopher, Robert Grudin, has thought long and hard about our perception of time. He offers this bit of wisdom:

The years forget our errors and forgive our sins, but they punish our inaction with living death.

Here’s that self-righteous celibate Thoreau:

Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly acquired force and aspirations from within, accompanied by the undulations of celestial music, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance filling the air–to a higher life than we fell asleep from; and thus the darkness bear its fruit, and prove itself to be good, no less than the light. That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way.

 

 

Portrait of the Drudge as an Old Man

 

God knows how many hours I’ve spent grading essays over the last 33 years. [1]

Outside of faculty meetings and writing report cards, assessing essays, — i.e., untangling twisted syntax, striking through flaccid phraseology, performing CPR on near-dead verbs (not to mention dealing with grammar and mechanics)[pant, pant] – is for me the least enjoyable aspect of teaching English.

How many essays over the years are we talking about?  Let’s see.  Seventy some odd [2] students writing ten compositions a year comes to – drum roll – 700.  Multiply 700 by 33, and you get 23,100.

[Cue the Godfather, James Brown]: Good Gawd!  That be way more than an ass/shit/truck load!

How high would they reach if stacked one-on-one?  My pal Horatio is cutting me off: ‘Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.”

Let’s just leave it like this: I’ve spent approximately 5,775 hours of my life correcting papers – i.e., 240 days, the equivalent of eight months, i.e., three-quarters of a year, one percent of my life.

But here’s the thing. That percentage is going down.  I’m retiring.  I only have 232 to go!

[Sigh]  An ass load.


[1]God knows precisely, but goddammit, I’m going to try to figure it out.

[2]And some odder than others

An Embarrassment of Riches: Pat Conroy, Log-Heaving Lowcountry Highlanders, and/or James T Crow?

If I were a decent human being, someone who cared about his unborn grandchildren, I would be out canvassing, ringing doorbells door-to-door and begging voters to cast their ballots because, if Republicans control Congress and the Presidency, we’re up the River Styx for sure.

But, the thing is, I sort of look like a homeless person.  My hair, though scant, is unruly, like my beard, and my clothes, no matter how hard I try, always look like I’ve slept in them.

I’d be afraid that when I rang a doorbell and the working mom checked me out through the peephole, she’d call the cops.[1]  I’m a suspicious looking person.  Salespeople stalk me at department stores.

And anyway, hey! [Cue the Beach Boys] I wanna have fun fun fun, /Till my sons take the car keys away!

Too much with too little time.

Caroline and I drove down to Beaufort Friday afternoon for the Pat Conroy Literary Festival. There, we got to see Megan and sit at the same table with her and her Uncle Tim and meet her mother Barbara for the first time.  I absolutely adore Megan, whom I consider the funniest woman I know outside of showbiz. There were speeches I couldn’t hear, but it’s not the PA’s fault.  The folks at my table laughed at words that to me were less than whispers.  Maybe I need to go do something about my hearing?  Afterwards, you could buy books and get them signed.  A tribute volume for Pat has just come out, Our Prince of Scribes.

Megan Conroy, Caroline, and I-and-I

The B and B where we stayed was .6 of a mile from the dinner at Tabby Place, so we walked Saturday morning to retrieve Caroline’s car. We had expectantly bumped into a couple of former students at a bar and took an Uber “home” to the B and B.  The inn itself I’d call Southern-Gothic Lite, with the proprietor a California transplant taking over dead mama’s mansion. He blinked very slowly a good bit, but he didn’t resemble Anthony Perkins, and the bath wasn’t equipped with a stand-alone shower.

Oh yeah, the walk.  What a beautiful day.  What a beautiful city.

IMG_3039.jpg

So we left Beaufort without breakfast or coffee to pick up Brooks and meet Caroline’s dad at the Scottish Games on the grounds of Drayton Hall.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long enough to enjoy the complete array of contests and parades. We had to catch some of Porch Fest, Jim Crow’s set at three followed by Brother Fleming’s at four.

Too much with too little time.

For me, Porch Fest ranks right up there with the X-mas parade as Folly’s premiere parties  This year marks its 5th anniversary. It’s a community-enhancing exercise; musicians are booked to perform at various houses on Folly Beach simultaneously.  Luckily, Jim and Fleming were playing at different times and only a couple of blocks apart. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to catch Danielle Howle because she was playing at the same time as Fleming.

You just wander into the someone’s yard, meet some new neighbors maybe, open a beer, and listen.

Here’s a peek.  First Jim, accompanied by Timmy Morris, and then Fleming.

Like I said, Too much with too little time.


[1]Of course, my Joe Cunningham for Congress sweat shirt might have made me look more legit.