A peek at 2017’s Folly Gras celebration
A peek at 2017’s Folly Gras celebration
Look, boys and girls. I know you’ve given up reading Shakespeare in its unvarnished King James glory. I’ve seen clandestine copies of No Fear Shakespeare with its facing page of soulless translation next to “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.” Most of you don’t even go that far but instead check out Sparknotes or CliffsNotes or Shmoop. Let’s face it, no matter how faux hip they try to make the summaries sound, they’re still tedious.
Well, I have something better. Here’s a sneak peak of my summary of Othello. The cool thing is it’s a song. You just click the arrow below and in under two minutes you get all you need to know about the play.
Check out this free preview:
Sung to the tune of “Volare” or you can click below and hear it sung in the author’s gorgeous coastal South Carolina baritone.
Othello, woe, woe
He strangled Desdemona
For sleeping with another fell-a.
That dark-hearted Dago
Whose name was Iago
He poisoned the pliant Moor’s ear.
He told him his sweetie
Had been indiscrete
With someone he once held so dear.
Othello, woe woe
The climax comes in Act III
Thanks to a mislaid hanky.
Susceptible to a deadly sin,
The green-eyed monster does the Moor in.
He stabs the circumcised dog thus,
Ending the entire ruckus.
A corpse-strewn bed, not okay,
So villainous Iago dragged away
To face some badass torture
For creating such a tragic rupture
Othello, woe, woe,
Lascivious Mo-or . . .
 To my Italian friends: sorry, but Iago has very few rhymes.
In the second month of my 64th year,
I awakened in an all but abandoned
strip shopping center
where a scrawny hound
limped up and growled
Suddenly, a screech — an owl?
The hound turned around,
so I stepped away leaden-legged, slowly
away, inching straight ahead
with great effort, like in a nightmare,
petrified with dread.
Looking up, I noticed the car,
a cab, parked in the shadow
of a dumpster. “Sir! –“
“Shhhh, chill, thyself,” the driver said, “whoa.”
“Let me introduce myself.
I’m pretty sure you know
“The name Catullus. I’m here to help,
to be your guide,
but sushssssssssh, you whelp,
“you’ll awaken the dead
with that loud mouth.
C’mon, man, don’t be scared,
“Hop in. We’ll head south,
tour the hellscape,
the land of the uncouth.”
Over her lifetime, my mother, bless her soul, accumulated an abundance of spurious wisdom based on a combination of unscientific observation and intuition. Sometimes she’d have forebodings and forbid me from doing rather pedestrian things like riding my bike home from the gas station where a flat tire had been patched. “No, I just have this awful, awful feeling,” she’d say. “Something’s bad’s going to happen if you ride that bike.” In other words, I was doomed to be flattened by an 18-wheeler or smack into a tree and spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. So we’d cram the bike in the back seat and drive on home.
Undoubtedly, her sense of doom has contributed to my rather pessimistic view of the world. You know, irrational thoughts like thinking your team’s going to lose the Super Bowl even though they’ve racked up in the third quarter an insurmountable lead the likes of which has never been overcome in a half-century of Super Bowls.
Sometimes, though, I think Mama did hit the mark with her unscientific conclusions — for example, her contention that time etches people’s ultimate personalities onto their faces by their habitually assuming certain telltale expressions, e.g., the angry, scowling malcontent’s mouth carving a perpetual frown, the bland sweet matron’s pleasant expression blanking away wrinkles — the equivalent of the warning I received as a young child that my “face was going to stick like that” if I kept making grotesque faces.
[Warning: Neck-breaking Segue]
Just for the hell of it let’s take my mother’s theory and apply it to President Trump’s closest advisors.
Ladies, first. Kellyanne Conway.
Okay, I know I’m pulling a Trump here, criticizing a woman’s looks, but I’m not saying Kellyanne’s unattractive, just that she looks mean. She’s a brittle-looking 49 to me, and no doubt being the target of so much ridicule will only harden her more, turning sinister those ersatz smiles aimed at the cameras of MSNBC. Perhaps once she possessed a “sunny disposition” but something has soured it. Working for Trump can’t be good for your soul.
To me she looks like she could be the illegitimate daughter of Phyllis Diller, though without Diller’s self-deprecating wit – a commodity that seems to be lacking across the board among Trump and his staff.
I’d cast Kellyanne as the wicked stepmother in the Snow Whites of New Jersey.
As far as looks go, I think Steve Bannon comes off as the coolest. I like the way his abundant whipped-back hair sometimes falls in his eyes. He’d, make a great character in a Tennessee Williams play, the rugged terrain of his face blotted with gin-blossoms, his eyes puffy, his spinal fluid pumping white supremacy.
Banner’s the absolute opposite of Mitt Romney – disheveled, disorganized, paunchy, atheistic, hungover.* Sure, he’s evil, but if I had to have 10 beers with one of these dark apostles, he’s be the one I’d choose.
Would definitely choose him over Steven Miller. I don’t know a thing about Steven Miller, who supposedly works hand on hand with Bannon, but certainly he and Nosterafu share a common ancestor. His vulture-like demeanor precludes the possibility of empathy.
Then there’s Reince Preibus.
I predict he’ll age in warp speed like Abe Lincoln. Like, I say, working for Trump’s toxic.
*Full disclosure: *Psychologically it could be that I’m projecting my own self-description on Bannon the way that Trump kept calling Hillary crooked.
“As far as I am concerned,” she said and glared at him fiercely, Christ was just another D.P.”
Mrs. May to Father Flynn in Flannery O’Connor’s “The Displaced Person”
The most heartbreaking of all Flannery O’Connor’s stories, “The Displaced Person,” seems particularly poignant given the ban on Muslim refugees instated last weekend. Set right after WW2, the story dramatizes the attempted assimilation of a Polish refugee into bigoted backwoods Georgia.
As David Griffith points out in his excellent essay on the story in The Paris Review:
O’Connor takes her title from the Displaced Persons Act, which, between 1948 and 1952, permitted the immigration of some four hundred thousand European refugees into the United States. President Truman signed the bill with “very great reluctance” for what he saw as its discriminatory policy toward Jews and Catholics: the Act stipulated that, in order to be eligible, one must have entered Germany, Italy, or Austria before December 22, 1945, which, according to Truman, ruled out 90 percent of the remaining Jewish people displaced by the war. Similarly excluded were the many Catholics who’d fled their largely Communist countries after the December 22 deadline.
“The bad points of the bill are numerous,” Truman wrote. “Together they form a pattern of discrimination and intolerance wholly inconsistent with the American sense of justice.” He called the decision to enforce the December 1945 deadline “inexplicable, except upon the abhorrent ground of intolerance.”
In the story, O’Connor’s displaced person’s work ethic so far exceeds that of the slothful, under-compensated blacks and whites who work on Mrs. May’s farm that he threatens their livelihoods. Worse than that, he violates Southern taboo of racial purity when tries to contract a marriage between a black field hand and his young Polish cousin languishing in a camp back home.
When an outraged Mrs. May confronts Mr. Guizac about the proposed interracial marriage — “You would bring [that] poor innocent child over here and try to marry her to a half-witted thieving black stinking nigger” — he says quite sensibly, “She no care black [. . .] She in camp three year.”
In the end, xenophobia and bigotry triumph over charity as the displaced person – the one good man to be found in that collection called A Good Man Is Hard to Find – is done away with.
She had felt her eyes and Mr. Shortley’s eyes and the Negro’s eyes come together in one look that froze in collusion forever, and she heard the little noise the Pole made as the tractor wheel broke his backbone.
* * *
Obviously, refugees rank as some of the planet’s most vulnerable souls, driven from their homelands — from their familiar cultures — into alien worlds of gibberish, incomprehensible mores, and worse.
The refugees turned away this weekend had undergone as much as 48 months of vetting from several agencies and pose virtually no terrorism threat whatsoever. No one from the banned countries has ever committed a terrorist attack on US soil – unlike citizens from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Pakistan, who weren’t included in the ban, people from countries where Trump has business interests.
Imagine the refugees’ heartache after so much suffering, boarding a plane headed for their dreamed of destination, only to be turned away and sent on a long, long flight back to perdition.
Of course, it’s not surprising that the sadist Trump would shatter the hopes of the dispossessed to score political points. After all, as many have pointed out, he’s cruel, hosted a reality TV show in which he lovingly embraced the chance to humiliate people with the words “you’re fired.” No one would expect him to take refugees’ plights to heart.
On the other hand, you might think Paul Ryan, who embraces his Catholicism the way Steve Bannon does his booze, would take Jesus’s words more to heart. But Ryan has come out fully supporting the ban.
I’ll let Jesus – the ultimate Displaced Person – have the last say:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. (5:6)
Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. .5:11-12
Oh, by the way, what was the percentage of evangelists’ votes Trump garnered?
 The Trump’s claim that it’s not a ban on Muslims rings hollow when the administration offers exemptions to Christians and Jews.
Boy, I really didn’t realize how dark Trump’s vision the US is until I read his inaugural address:
Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories, scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge . . .
I first Trump may have actually written this himself. I couldn’t think of a professional speechwriter who would come up with a simile so imagistically clunky as “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.” But it turns out Miller and Bannon are to blame.
Anyway, are you visualizing the image?
Perhaps there are more than a few rusted-out factories in Michigan, but down here in South Carolina where I live I couldn’t locate one to save my life. I asked my son who drove up from Orlando yesterday how many rusted-out factories he’d see during the seven hour trip, and he said that the only factory he saw had smoke coming out of the smokestacks.
Also – and I’ll move on – the children in South Carolina suffering from poverty aren’t huddled in inner cities but eking out their existence without Medicaid expansion in shacks that litter the landscape.
Okay, now that I got that off my chest, I’d like to offer brief synopses of how three thoughtful pundits perceive the Trump presidency, and I’ll go from darkest to brightest for sanity’s sake.
Sarah Kendzior, the author of The View from Flyover Country, is an anthropologist who specializes in authoritarian states and writes for various newspapers. She considers the accession of Trump as nothing less than catastrophic. She foresees a coming kleptocracy as a fragile democracy succumbs to fascistic institution-gutting by Trump and his mob-like nationalistic white-supremacist cronies.
In 2014 she served as an expert witness for an Uzbek refugee. Here is her account:
My job was to tell the judge about Uzbekistan: a country ruled by a dictator who abuses executive power to obtain personal wealth, threatens independent media and protesters, spies on real and perceived enemies, packs his administration with lackeys and relatives, refuses to disclose his financial holdings, molds public opinion through media domination, persecutes innocent Muslims under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and distracts the citizenry with pageants and spectacle, often proclaiming that he is making Uzbekistan great again.
She goes on to note
American authoritarianism will not be a carbon copy of other states. Mr. Trump’s authoritarianism will exploit pre-existing vulnerabilities – corporate corruption, institutional rot, systemic racism, a weakened economy, a struggling media, celebrity worship – and exacerbate them until our nation is no longer recognizable.
Should this occur, it may look like home, but it will not feel like home. What may be wrenched from us is a fundamental sense of security and sovereignty. When cable outlets are not promoting white supremacists or debating the humanity of Jews – yes, this is what our media airs now – they occasionally document Mr. Trump’s kleptocratic behaviour.
It’s almost dark enough to drive me to the nearest burnt-out strip mall to see if I can score some smack; however, Dr. Kendzior preaches resistance, not submission, and yesterday’s massive protests offer some hope that we’ll not take Trump lying down.
But we are still here, we the people, the inconvenient background players in Donald Trump’s self-serving shakedown of the American dream. We the people have been calling our representatives, demanding to know what is going on. We the people never did form that more perfect union, but we are not about to trade in the red, white and blue for the gold-plated facade of a tyrant tycoon.
We the people look out for each other – even when no one looks out for us.
Chances are you’re familiar with David Brooks, the affable guy-next-door conservative columnist for the NY Times and frequent contributor to the soon-to-be privatized PBS.
Brooks is considerably more upbeat about the survival of our democracy:
Some on the left worry that we are seeing the rise of fascism, a new authoritarian age. That gets things exactly backward. The real fear in the Trump era should be that everything will become disorganized, chaotic, degenerate, clownish and incompetent.
He sees hope in the possibility that the polarization Republicans and Democrats will end as the two join forces to quell the megalomaniacal maelstrom that will be Trump’s governing style:
We’ve wondered if there is some opponent out there that could force us to unite and work together. Well, that opponent is being inaugurated, not in the form of Trump the man, but in the form of the chaos and incompetence that will likely radiate from him, month after month.
Brooks ends his most recent column with this Panglossian hope:
With Trump it’s not the ideology, it’s the disorder. Containing that could be the patriotic cause that brings us together.
According to his by-line, Peter Leyden “is the founder and CEO of Reinvent, a media company.” He sees Trump’s inauguration not as “the beginning of an era – but the end.”
He posits that Trump’s atavistic wish to flip the calendar back to the USA’s manufacturing heyday is doomed because of the evolution of technology into an ever-increasing interconnectedness of digital technologies, which “will be totally global and operate on a planetary scale.”
Whereas Brooks sees Trump uniting the Right and Left, Leyden foresees him being the “vehicle that will finally take down right-wing conservative politics for a generation or two” by “completely and irrevocably alienat[ing] all the growing political constituencies of the 21st century: the Millennial Generation, people of color, educated professionals, women.”
He goes on to say suggest that it’s actually ultimately fortunate that Hillary lost because she “would not have been able to finally bring down the conservative movement and its archaic ideology.”
Wesley Moore is a very confused and woebegone blogger. He has no earthly idea what’s going to happen. You can find him at any number of Folly Beach drinking establishments or loitering in the parking lots of burnt-out strip malls.
[H]owever unlimited the power of the court may seem, it is far from being wholly arbitrary; but its discretion is regulated by law. For the bill of rights has particularly declared, that excessive fines ought not to be imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted . . .
from the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution
I have always loved the sound of the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment.” Sonically, you get all four of the basic metrical feet in four words, a trochee, an anapest, an iamb, and a dactyl, in that order. Plus the delicious elongation of the long U sounds of cruel and unusual, not mention the internal rhyme of “un” and “pun.”
Mr. Tom Waits, would you please indulge us with a recitation?
Something so horrid shouldn’t sound so enticing.
To me, it’s amazing that some state approved punishments aren’t considered cruel and unusual. Take death by the electric chair, for example.
For execution by the electric chair, the person is usually shaved and strapped to a chair with belts that cross his chest, groin, legs, and arms. A metal skullcap-shaped electrode is attached to the scalp and forehead over a sponge moistened with saline. The sponge must not be too wet or the saline short-circuits the electric current, and not too dry, as it would then have a very high resistance. An additional electrode is moistened with conductive jelly (Electro-Creme) and attached to a portion of the prisoner’s leg that has been shaved to reduce resistance to electricity. The prisoner is then blindfolded. (Hillman, 1992 and Weisberg, 1991) After the execution team has withdrawn to the observation room, the warden signals the executioner, who pulls a handle to connect the power supply. A jolt of between 500 and 2000 volts, which lasts for about 30 seconds, is given. The current surges and is then turned off, at which time the body is seen to relax. The doctors wait a few seconds for the body to cool down and then check to see if the inmate’s heart is still beating. If it is, another jolt is applied. This process continues until the prisoner is dead. (Wikipedia).
Here’s a link to a more thorough explanation via video.
Although only 9 of the 45 executed in the US in the last 15 years have gone to the electric chair, it is still used, and, therefore, not all that “unusual.” The rest of the state-sponsored offings were rendered via lethal injection, but now that drug companies are balking at providing lethal drugs, the good ol’ electric chair might make a comeback.
To me a truly cruel and unusual punishment would be something like this, not lethal, more like an “enhanced timeout.”
Let’s say some miscreant has mocked someone with a physical disability.
You strap him into an electric chair, inject him with an amphetamine, and force him to watch ten consecutive episodes of Little House on the Prairie.
I guarantee you he’ll never do it again. In fact, he might prefer the actual electric chair and its 2000 volts.