Monday, January 30, 2017

Books in the Age of Trump

I'm curious about what books people are turning to in these, the early days of the Age of Trump.

"1984" seems to have assumed pride of place, Amazon having sold out of Orwell's volume. Some critics want to challenge that book's primacy, one of whom writing that Kafka's "The Trial" was much more apropos.

The unstated subtext of that argument is that readers are only capable of one book. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fascinating Fascism

The left — & I use that term very advisedly—has always been subject, marked, perhaps even defined by factionalism. Less so the right. The left, moreover — loosely, on average, and with notable exceptions — tends to display, at least in the context of the United States, some respect for democratic niceties, norms, goals, and aspirations.

The right, not so much, if at all.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump Day

As to all the arguments, put forward blandly on NPR and elsewhere, by guests or call-ins, about giving Trump a chance, seems to me he's had plenty of chances, and is consistent only in using them all disgracefully.

Not to be churlish or to splutter — does spluttering convince anybody? — but we're supposed to forget Trump's sick racist Obama birtherism? It never happened? His pussy grabbing? His sliming John McCain for being the wrong kind of fighter, the kind who gets captured? His sliming Hillary for all the kinds of things he, not she, is guilty of — thievery, fake philanthropy?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thank You Thank You Seven of Nine

Remember Seven of Nine? Sure you do, if you watched Star Trek. Seven of Nine was the charismatic Borg played by Jeri Ryan. Turns out Ryan has a leading role on the current, quite good Netflix series "Bosch," where, inevitably, she's quite a presence.

Seeing her on "Bosch" made me want a bit of background. I don't understand why what I tumbled upon hasn't been a headline, or perhaps I missed it.

What I found is that in a sense Seven of Nine is the Borg behind a President Obama.

Jeri Ryan was born in Germany (1960), nee Jeri Lynn Zimmerman, her father a sergeant in the American army, her mother a social worker. In the United States, she gets a fairly successful career in acting going, and winds up married to a rich, rightwing banker named Jack Ryan, from 1994 to their divorce in 1997.

The grounds for the divorce are initially under seal. But it leaks that she wanted out because Jack wanted "her to perform sexual acts with him in public, and in sex clubs in New York, New Orleans, and Paris." According to the wiki,  she "described one as a bizarre club with cages, whips, and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling."

Too much for this Borg.

Ryan wanted to run for the Illinois Senate seat, then vacant. When the salacious material comes out, he drops out.

Barack Obama, unopposed, wins that Ohio Senate seat, which then serves as the stepping stone to his historic White House bid.

Thank you Jeri Ryan.
Thank you Seven of Nine.
Thank you Rodenderry.
And thank you, Barack Obama

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sheepshead Bay High School

"Sheepshead Bay High School was a large, multi-cultural high school in Brooklyn, New York that closed in 2016."


I never knew it to be multi-cultural. When I graduated, class of '63, it was entirely white. When I started going back to the neighborhood, though the neighborhood remained white, the school was entirely black.

And then it closed in 2016

Friday, January 13, 2017

This sick freak means war

Trump means war.

This freak called Trump is meaningless in so many ways except for sure he means war, is directed toward and destined to it.

Big war.

Not that he knows which war, exactly, and not that it will be anything like a rational choice, perhaps having even less to do with reality than Bush's wacky invasion of Iraq.

Right now:

- chances of conflict with China have gone up, since Trump wants to tease it about Taiwan.

- with Russia way down, given the economic cum sadomasochistic tie-ins between Trump and Putin (money plus, so it is rumored, golden showers, about which I can only ask, who was top and who toilet.)

- with Iran, should Trump tear up the nuke deal, close to a certainty.

The Orange Fuhrer won't be satisfied waging war against CNN or BuzzFeed, or even invading the NY Times. Such conflicts will not come close to draining him of his inexhaustible belligerence. Sooner or later — for sure —he'll go for the harder stuff. Count on it.

Yes, he'll do other, how shall I put it, evil stuff, too. But war, as I see it, takes precedence. War is what you can't look away from. War is trauma. For the individual, the state, the globe. Forgive me for putting it this way, but war trumps peace.

This freak means war.

Big war. Including nuclear.

Of course I could be wrong and this episode in world history will pass away into a fog of peace.

I don't think so.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

No, he's not Hitler

We're in the twilight zone, hall of mirrors, bizzaro dimension, fun house time. To call Trump's ascent Orwellian dignifies it: for Orwell there were truths and ways of expressing them that had been twisted into usage as their opposites.

We're into a further, quantum dissolution, diminution, with  Particles of truth floating around indistinguishable from anti-particles.

I'd like to try to ignore the whole thing but it's fascinating and beyond that there is a duty.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


Freud felt all jokes at bottom had for their purpose, however hidden, either hostility or exposure—all jokes, in other words, for him are ultimately acts of aggression or derision. I don’t happen to believe that. Michael Krasny quotes Theodor Reik remarking that all Jewish jokes are about “merciless mockery of weakness and failing.” I don’t believe that, either. What I do believe is W. H. Auden saying that the motto of psychology ought to be “Have you heard this one?”

Joseph Epstein, "Jokes: A Genre of Thought"

Friday, January 6, 2017

Phillip Lopate — Trump, Dostoevsky, etc..

Phillip Lopate is justifiably renowned for  his essays — graceful, searching probes of life and culture — but I've never turned to him for political insight, until recently. Lopate's writing about the presidential election show him to be more subtle, honest, and discerning than most any pundit, including some I look to regularly.

It's to Lopate's advantage, I think, and his readers, that he's likely to turn to literature and not just to the ordinary stuff of punditry — polls pols and more polls — for his views.

He's always been a contrarian, sometimes a bit too doggedly so, as if he was going to rub history hard enough against the grain to light a fire, but in not hewing to the tried and true norms of political commentary his contrarianism pays off.

I'm pleased to have happened on Lopate's entries in The American Scholar and look forward to father installments.

Here are two pieces I found refreshing:

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Governor Cuomo, Judy Clark

Why, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo asked, when he met with Judith Clark at Bedford Hills women's prison, where she had been detained for decades, had she participated in the 1981 Brink's robbery that left two cops and one security guard dead? What drove her, he wanted to know. The Vietnam War was over, wasn't it, he might have been thinking, a war that drove people of her generation to crazy acts and expectations.

"Were you on drugs?" he asked.