Bring in the Clowns

Probably no creative artist in history can match the universal adoration that Master Will Shakespeare enjoys (well, would enjoy if not dead for 403 years).  However, a recent biography claims that when his theatre company, the King’s Men, travelled to Whitehall to entertain James I, the actors actually served their royal patrons meals between performances.

Imagine the author of King Lear approaching some drooling Hapsburg-lipped hemophiliac with the greeting, “Hark, I’m William Shakespeare, and I shalt be thy server this evening.”

His much scrutinized signature?  An autograph unsought.

The fact is that Elizabethans and Jacobeans looked upon actors and playwrights the way we old folks do fire eaters and tattooed bearded ladies.  Amusing, perhaps, but not the sort we want visiting our homes.  Of course, nowadays, entertainers are the royalty: Sir Mick Jagger.  Sir Nick Faldo.  Sir Johnny Rotten (just wait).

Johnny Rotton sporting slimming vertical stripes

On the other hand, poets remain as impoverished as ever.  For example, when appointed, Poet Laureate Billy Collins taught at two different universities to make his mortgage. As my man, Willie B, whined so exquisitely in “Adam’s Curse”:

[. . . ] A line will take us hours maybe;

Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,

Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.

Better go down upon your marrow-bones

And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones

Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;

For to articulate sweet sounds together

Is to work harder than all these, and yet

Be thought an idler by the noisy set

Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen

The martyrs call the world.

[muffled sob]

Well, if you happen to be reading this post on lifted wifi in a drafty garret as you warm your hands over a burning pile of rejection slips, here’s a suggestion in how to augment your income.  Start touting yourself as a body language expert.

It’s as easy as lying.

Just apply the analytical process you use in interpreting poems to the dress, postures, and mannerisms of celebrities.  For example, courtesy of Us magazine, here’s body language expert Patti Wood on winsome Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock.

She is gripping the coffee cup very high up [. . .] That’s what you do when you really want to grab a hold of something and show your power.  She’s really making it obvious and playing toward the camera to show that empty [i.e., ringless] finger.

[snip]

Bullock also is wearing a black North Face jacket, black ball cap and scarf around her neck.

She’s chosen a heavily padded jacket and has it zipped up very high,” observes Wood. “The choice of her scarf, which is tied over heart, means that she is hiding her heart window and throat window, which is the communication window.”

As you might know (and congratulations if you don’t), Sandra Bullock’s story book marriage (as in Creepy Comics story book) to dashing motorcycle mechanic/television personality/daredevil Jesse James ended when she discovered hubby James had been trysting with “tattoo model and stripper Michelle ‘Bombshell’ McGee” [Wikipedia].  James’ previous, not-so-winsome wife, adult film star/producer Janine Lindemulder, had battled James the year before for custody of their daughter Sunny.  James, whose cocky sneer might outnumber Shakespeare’s pate in a Google image search face-off, has conceded having “made bad decisions” (i.e., committing adultery over an 11-month period with someone who goes by “Bombshell”) but blamed his transgressions on his abusive father, who once when 7-year-old Jesse tripped over a wire, “laughed at [him] and called [him] a dummy” New York Daily News.

No wonder Sandra has shrouded her heart window, opened the trench coat of her naked ring finger, and covered her communication window in tinfoil.

* * *

Poets, I guarantee you that Body Language Guru Patti got paid more for her analysis of Sandra’s ensemble than you did the last time you got published.  What was it? Two complimentary copies of the flimsy issue that featured your open wound of a love poem?

I bet we can do just as well as Patti Wood.  All we need is a degree from an on-line university, and we’re in business.  Let’s give it a shot.  Here’s a photo of disgraced Ponzi Master Al Parish in his glory days before the hook of law-and-order yanked him off the stage of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce production of No New Taxes. He’s in his eleventh years of a twenty-four year sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Raleigh.  Bernie Madoff is also an inmate there.

 

Al Parish, aka Economan

Piece of (purchased cheese) cake:

Falstaffian in appetite, Professor/Post Courier columnist/ official Chamber of Commerce economist Parish wraps himself in regal purple to accentuate his ties to the powers-that-be.  Even though his 300-plus pounds of sidewalk dominating heft might catch the eye of the blind man selling pencils on the corner, grey and black swirling patterns on purple demand even more attention, screaming I’m comfortable in my 24-square yards of skin, parachute-sized fabrics, jumbo-sized Cadillac.  Note how jauntily he cocks the angle of his right jowl across the 12-lane highway of his lapel – lapels that steeply climb his belly, that Great Divide of his torso and legs.  He’s at once a king and sycophant, a mogul and court jester

 And yet – and yet – the ensemble displays Rorschach-like signals of chaos ahead, his left shoulder bearing a hurricane-like swirl, his tie twisted like a cyclone, both boldly streaked in ominous black . . . 

Like, I said, it’s as easy as lying.

In Populous City Pent

 

Far from our southern border where children torn from their parents languish in cages, the din of a Midtown Manhattan construction project is wreaking genuine havoc.

Think Noah’s Ark:

How for so many bedlam hours his saw

Soured the song of birds with its wheezy gnaw,

And the slam of his hammer all the day beset

The people’s ears.

But here, we’re talking jackhammers, pile drivers.

Dig this from yesterday’s NYT:

Ms. Brown, who has lived on the block since 1969, blames the cacophony in part for her new $5,000 hearing aids.

Her miniature poodle, Dorian Gray, has been even more affected: he’s taking Trazodone, a tranquilizer. (“One tablet orally up to three times daily as needed for calming during construction,” the bottle helpfully directs.)

[snip]

Apart from Dorian Gray’s anxiety, Ms. Kelly’s dog, Lola, now shakes even when the jackhammers are idle. The cat living at No. 66, Titania of the Greil, is “overgrooming” and fighting irritable bowel syndrome, while Meadow at No. 51 is a “nervous wreck.” Birds on the block have stopped singing, one resident complained.

Poor Dorian, no more languid lolling, alas.

Late Empire Un-Fun: Superbowls

If ever an event exists that epitomizes this Late Empire decadence, it is the Super Bowl, the trashy teenage illegitimate daughter of Walt Disney and Joan Rivers.

First, there’s the obscenity of the salaries of these gladiators who essentially entertain us through ritualistic war, a string of overhyped “battles,” each becoming less memorable as the Roman numerals march on to Super Bowl oblivion. Admittedly,  it can be fun to watch these impressive specimens of predatory machismo smash into one another, sidestep tackles, propel perfect spirals, and make acrobatic diving fingertip grabs (though their inability to master the snap count can become tedious), but you can’t help but wonder if the over-compensation for these essentially physical skills is indicative of some sort of skewed cultural atavism that harkens back to Spartacus.  Why, for example, does the secondary coach of the Baltimore Ravens, whoever he is, earn considerably more per annum than Pulitzer winning novelist Richard Ford?  Not to mention Deion Sanders[1] whose career earnings undoubtedly dwarf Cormac McCarthy’s, Toni Morrison’s, and Philip Roth’s combined?

Because our priorities are fucked-up perhaps?

Can you guess which house belongs to Deion Sanders and which to Robert Frost?

Second, there’s the Roman circus of the halftime show, which began innocently enough in the late Sixties with marching bands, but now features antediluvian rockers like Steve Tyler and the Who or commercial hiphoppers like the Black-Eyed Peas.  These performances nearly always end up flat (Prince and Springsteen being exceptions) and occasionally can be painful to watch (Grandpa Jagger frenetically cavorting back and forth across the stage as if it were strewn with red-hot coals).  I’m far too lazy to research the cost of these extravaganzas, but I suspect we could coax the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn to meditate on the grass at halftime for free, which would be more entertaining than 90% of the halftime shows I’ve suffered through, including last Sunday’s performance by Maroon 5.

The Eminently Mockable Brittany Spears Passing Gas at the 2008 Spectacle

Third, there are the commercials, the highlight for many who watch.  These advertisements virtually all traffic in irony and celebrate inebriation and sex, which Late Empire denizens crave sitting in their soulless subdivisions on the Sabbath day.

What, may you ask, binds all of these facets of this undeclared national holiday – the verbal jostling of the interminable lead-ins (Terry Bradshaw bickering with Howie and granite-haired Jimmie Johnson) – the game itself, the outsized attempt at halftime entertainment, the pratfalls of the commercials?

Aggression, that’s what.  Aggression is what separates the winners from the losers, those who pay sticker price from those who browbeat the salesperson into surrender, those who claw their way to the top from those who rely on honor to guide their lives, those who smash helmet-to-helmet from those who wanly attempt an arm tackle.

Aggression is what fuels capitalism, and sports is a wonderful training ground for aggression, from the bestial grunting of tennis players returning volleys to the narcissistic celebratory endzone fandangoes of wide receivers.  No wonder these gladiators (who are worshipped in their high schools, wooed by head coaches who banter with mothers they would never actually associate with otherwise, and marshaled through college by cadres of underpaid tutors) possess Caligula-sized egos.  These mannish boys have clawed their way to fame and fortune (the latter thanks in part to their labor unions).  Who can blame them for copping the Conan the Barbarian look?


[1]I had the misfortune to share an elevator with Deion once, who exuded all of the warmth of a Secret Service agent as he avoided eye contact with the children asking for his autograph.

 

Reefer Madness

A member of the SC Medical Association and Attorney General Alan Wilson experimenting on a marijuana user

Alas, I find it necessary yet again to haul down from the attic James Petigru’s way-too-often quoted description of my native state:

South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.

What prompts today’s revival of Petigru’s apt observation is Attorney General Alan Wilson’s idiotic proclamation that marijuana is “the most dangerous drug” in America, edging out, it would appear, crystal meth, cocaine, crack, heroin, and [drum roll] aspirin.

[1]

 

Here are some 2017 numbers from the CDC:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, using data available for analysis on September 5, 2018, there were a reported 70,652 deaths attributed to drug overdose in the US for the year ending December 2017. Some deaths were still under investigation. The CDC projects that the total for 2017 will be 72,222.

Of these:

Opioids were detected in 47,863 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 49,031 deaths.

Synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, were detected in 28,644 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 28,644 deaths.

Heroin was detected in 15,585 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 15,941 deaths.

Natural and semi-synthetic opioids were detected in 14,553 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 14,940 deaths.

Cocaine was detected in 14,065 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 14,612 deaths.

Psychostimulants with abuse potential were detected in 10,420 reported deaths, and are predicted to be involved in 10,703 deaths.

Methadone was detected in 3,209 reported deaths, and is predicted to be involved in 3,286 deaths.

Here’s what the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology has to say about marijuana:

Tetrahydrocannabinol is a very safe drug. Laboratory animals (rats, mice, dogs, monkeys) can tolerate doses of up to 1,000 mg/kg (milligrams per kilogram). This would be equivalent to a 70 kg person swallowing 70 grams of the drug—about 5,000 times more than is required to produce a high. Despite the widespread illicit use of cannabis there are very few if any instances of people dying from an overdose. In Britain, official government statistics listed five deaths from cannabis in the period 1993-1995 but on closer examination these proved to have been deaths due to inhalation of vomit that could not be directly attributed to cannabis (House of Lords Report, 1998). By comparison with other commonly used recreational drugs these statistics are impressive.”

What prompted Wilson’s injudicious misrepresentation of the facts was not a call for the legalization of marijuana in South Carolina but merely the introduction of legislation “that would allow patient’s to obtain it with a doctor’s prescription.”

More from Wilson’s press conference:

[Users employ] words like stoned, high, wasted, baked, fried, cooked, chonged, cheeched, dope-faced, blazed, blitzed, blunted, blasted, danked, stupid, wrecked — and that’s only half the words they use,” Wilson said. “Are these consistent with something that describes a medicine?”

Now that’s what I call scientific!

The truth of the matter is that your chances of croaking, bellying-up, kicking the bucket, cashing in chips, joining the invisible choir, buying the farm, and shuffling off the mortal coil are infinitely greater from a perfectly legal prescription of OxyContin than it would be from medical marijuana.

I’m in no way advocating the use of marijuana but merely pointing out the inanity of our public officials, how the Republican Party ignores science in formulating policies.

Speaking of gateway drugs, I’ll leave you with this:

 

 

On the Slave Ship Lollipop

I used to stuff my face with candy

when I was a little boy,

couldn’t cop enough Mary Janes,

would kill for an Almond Joy.

 

Then I graduated to the Real Thing – Coke.

I was popping five cans a day,

plopping nickels and dimes upon the counter

under caffeine and sugar’s sway.

 

Now I’m hooked on heroin,

am little more than a thug.

Wish I’d known then what I know now –

that sugar is the gateway drug.


[1]According to a recent study, “Taking a daily aspirin is far more dangerous than was thought, causing more than 3,000 deaths a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Advice, Take It or Leave It

Hendrik Jacobus Schotten, Good Advice

Don’t be in a hurry. Who cares if you’re late? Well, a few might: your employer might, your date might. The judge at your preliminary hearing.

On the other hand, oblivion is fine with it.

Norman Rockwell

Learn how to hold a fork. Note the difference between how Nick and Nora Charles deftly handle silverware as opposed to how prisoners in Russian movies fist wooden spoons as they slurp their swill. You don’t want to be eating like that in a cafeteria. Or maybe you do. Maybe you’re antisocial. If so, at least in the privacy of your lonely kitchen, mind your manners.

Nick and Nora Charles in After the Thin Man.

Don’t leave your Bo Diddley Beach Party LP (recorded live at Myrtle Beach) unsheathed, naked on your dormitory floor. Crunch.[1]

If you’re going to purchase Costa sunglasses, be mindful. Don’t perch them on the top of your head on the roller coaster ride. Buy cheap shades instead. Only the most shallow of consumers, like me, pay attention to the quality of your eyewear.

***

Never wash your hands more than four times a day – and that seems excessive to me. Cultivate immunity. Make friends with Mr. and Mrs. Germ.

Pilate Washing his Hands 1663 by Mattia Preti

When you read, slow down. Pay attention to the sound of of words.

***

Try not to lie unless you’re in dutch deep. Say vague things like you can’t come after all because “something’s come up.” If there’s a follow up question or remark, like, “I hope everything’s all right,” say, “Well, not really, but I’ll be okay.”

***

Floss your teeth before you go to bed. Then brush them again, this time with Listerine. Those receding gums will make you look creepy, predatory, Nosferatu-ish.

Don’t engage in political arguments on social media. Don’t post what you eat on social media. Don’t smugly say not a bad seat when you’re sitting at ringside.

 

***

Avoid advice dispensing know-it-alls.


[1] Thornwell Tenement, University of South Carolina, 1972.

 

My Linguistic Reign of Terror

photoshopped from left to right: Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Betsy Devos, Mitch McConnell,Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump

Most people my age have cleaned out the attic of their overblown aspirations, have gotten rid of the ridiculous notion that they’ll write the great American novel or sell an original screenplay that wins an Oscar (which, in my case, would include getting shitfaced at the Vanity Fair after party and going home with Myrna Loy).

Not me. I still dream of single-handedly overthrowing the US government, declaring myself a Sun God, and initiating a reign of terror to punish those who have offended my delicate sensibilities.

Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with detailed descriptions of the exquisite tortures I have concocted for the likes of Mitch McConnell (staring into a mirror), Paul Ryan (translating Atlas Shrugged into Finnish), or Donald Trump (taking away TV and Internet privileges until he has memorized word-for-word the 1855 edition of Song of Myself).

Once the heavy-duty guillotining was done and the nation had settled down to the thousand years of bliss I had promised, I would issue several proclamations concerning the use of language.

* * *

It would be unlawful to end a declarative sentence with an interrogative lilt. Like, no more, “I have never had a toe amputated?”

Incorrect pronoun cases would be allowed (e.g., me and Timmy went, between you and I); however, not making the distinction between less and fewer would be punishable by having to sing at one sitting “10,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”[1]

Except for vacations to all-inclusive Jamaican resorts, there would be no more laying in the sun.

Tattooed proclamations could no longer be rendered in gothic script.

Adolescent boys would be required to dot i-s with hearts.

* * *

Oh, my God. Lord Acton is right about absolute power! Obviously, it’s past time for me to pack up this fantasy and put in on the side of the road to be transported to the dump of broken dreams.

Hey, I got plenty of more productive things to do with my time, like researching Medicare supplemental insurance policies/walk-in tubs.

Go ahead, brothers and sisters, say what you will. Dig on that First Amendment.

Do it!


[1] I was delighted yet dismayed to hear my grief counselor’s 9-year-old tell me that on a recent fieldtrip they sang “100 Bottles” (delighted) but beer had been replaced with milk (dismayed). Yet another example of political correctness run amok.

myrnaloyhair2Myrna Loy

For That Hard-to-Buy-for Failson

 

failson boy cave

Let’s face it, there’s one in every family. The failson, flunked out, holed up in his childhood bedroom, laundry strewing the floor as if SLED had just stormed in looking for narcotics. Game cartridges with titles like “Postal 2” and “Thrill Kill” scattered around in a dystopian array of cultural decline as if some future museum curator had decided to create an emblematic space screaming Age of Trump!*

If you’re unfortunate to have a failson on a holiday or birthday shopping list, what in the hell are you supposed to do? The easiest copout, of course, is money, but that means you’re probably aiding and abetting the purchase of some illegal substance or enabling the boy’s insatiable addiction to sadistic or pornographic images. This option, especially if you’re a godmother, borders on moral dereliction.

On the other hand, you want to make him happy, which means gifting him with something that’s countercultural; however, for your conscience’s sake, you want your gift to offer some sort of practical positive attribute.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have a suggestion.

Last Saturday, at my favorite anthropological outpost, the bartenders were playing a game of surreptitiously attaching clothespins to each other — to the tail of an untucked t-shirt, to a dreadlock, to the back brim of my signature panama fedora.

I mentioned that although clothespins seem pretty damned obsolescent, I use them in the pantry to help seal opened bags of potato chips, etc. One of the bartenders called them “the poor man’s roach clip.”

I hadn’t seen a roach clip in probably a quarter of a century. Most readers of this blog won’t need a definition, but just in case you’re a graduate of Bob Jones University, a roach clip is a small device designed to hold what might best be described to the uninitiated as “a marijuana cigarette.” The idea is to consume as much of the product as possible without burning your fingers.

I wondered aloud if in the age-of-vaping roach clips had gone the way of Blockbuster, so one of the barkeeps produced for me a piece of clothing, which, as it turns out, would be perfect for that hard to please failson on your shopping list.

Please note the image below.

Check out the cords for securing the hood of the sweatshirt. Attached to each is a roach clip.

So on the rare occasions when the failson leaves his lair to go outdoors on a chilly day to fetch from the mailbox some abomination he’s ordered from Redbubble, he can continue toking away right down to the bitter end.

Also, the sweatshirt provides a secret hiding place in the hood itself for his stash.

can’t figure out why this came out in black-and-white

And, not only that, unzip the pocket in front, and there’s a hard surface for rolling joints.

Now, let me be clear. I don’t condone the use of cannabis, which studies have shown affects the amygdala in a way that reduces your ability to experience pleasure, which means overuse might render you incapable of appreciating a glorious sunrise or a Muddy Waters groan. Why not embrace mediation to naturally enhance your perceptions of the everyday wonders we so often ignore?

However, explaining this possibility to a failson is like trying to convince a Koch brother than the destruction of the planet from global warming is more important than his personal wealth. In other words, doomed to failure.

At least with the Nugg It sweatshirt, you’re providing warmth  in the context of perhaps the most innocuous illegal substance in states where the use of cannabis is outlawed.

Hey Jude


  • Here’s a description of Postal 2 from the blog ask.men: [Postal 2]  is a game in which it is not uncommon to drop-kick grenades and whip scythes at unsuspecting civilians if they refuse to participate in your everyday life story (which is, after all, the plot behind the game). Of course, this includes using cat carcasses as silencers on your gun, hitting people with anthrax-laden cow heads and playing “fetch” with dogs using the severed heads of your dismembered victims. Postal 2 is the epitome of senseless, over-the-top video game violence.