Hot Air

Up, Up and Away!

In honor of John Glenn (1921-2016), I wore my old, beaten-up NASA T-shirt. It’s been through many a wash-and-rinse cycle so the “meatball” is half-faded. No matter.


Dark Christmas, Part Deux

December is the toughest month for me. It’s cold — downright frigid today — and the sun is up, on average, a total of 16 minutes a day. That is, when it’s even out — which it isn’t today.

I can’t wait for the solstice. Then I can watch and hope as the daylight hours grow longer, incrementally, and tantalizingly slowly.

Dreaming Of A Noir Christmas

Accordingly, I exited the Blockhouse last night at about 10pm, after watching a radio performance of William S. Burroughs’ “The Junky’s Christmas” and Ray Bradbury’s “It Burns Me Up.” It’d been nighttime already for a good four to five hours. I leaned into the gale being funneled through the alley canyon behind Atlas and Serendipity. I jammed my hands into my jacket pockets, plumes of wispy snow pushed along the pavement by mini-gusts. The Blockhouse is indeed a back door type of joint. Intentionally ill-lit, bleak, with cinderblock walls and adjoining, mysterious vestibules, it was a perfect setting for the two decidedly-not-Hollywood-ish playlets.

The original Burroughs Century gang is responsible for what is now the third annual presentation of WSB’s O. Henry-esque fairy tale. Joan Hawkins played the femme fatale in the Bradbury piece, loyal Pencillista Becky Stapf played a nosy bystander in the same, and Shayne Laughter acted out a variety of roles in both. And if you haven’t seen Tony Brewer do his Foley bit at the Firehouse Follies or in these Burroughs et al productions, you’re missing a show in and of itself. Hunched over his table full of gadgets and noisemakers, his constant motion and herky-jerky reactions to whatever cues the voice actors throw his way become an interpretive dance worth the ticket price alone.

Do yourself a favor, write a note, stick it in your 2017 calendar, and make sure to go to next year’s performance. It’s the real deal.


Former bad-boy baseball manager Bobby Valentine, acc’d’g to news reports, is on L’il Duce‘s short list to become the next ambassador to Japan.

Wow. Just wow.

Then again, why am I acting all shocked? The incoming prez’s taps for his cabinet and to head various departments in his admin. thus far have been uniformly risible. What’d I expect?

If nominated, Valentine will replace Caroline Kennedy, who frittered away her pre-ambassador life doing things like studying at Radcliffe, getting her law degree at Columbia, writing a book on constitutional rights, serving on various education and school system boards as well as those of a number of cultural institutions, and working with the Harvard Institute for Politics.

So, yeah, I can see why L’il Duce‘d want to dump her in favor of a guy who earned himself a two-game suspension and was fined $5000 for this stunt:

Explanation: In the 12th inning of a 1999 game between his New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays, Valentine’d been ejected by the umpires for arguing a call. He left the field, as directed, but moments later was seen back in the dugout, this time disguised with a mustache drawn on with lampblack and wearing cheap sunglasses.

Yep, the kind of guy you want to represent our holy land’s interests to one of our staunchest allies and trading partners.

Along those lines, L’il Duce‘s recent pick of the wife of pro-wrestling promoter Vince McMahon to be head of the Small Business Administration has raised derisive snorts as well. Oddly, I can almost see L’il Duce‘s point: Linda McMahon was the president and CEO of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.) and did indeed shepherd the outfit from startup to multi-billion-dollar racket.


Linda McMahon

So, she’s not a small business person per se, not like a corner restaurant proprietor or independent bookseller, but she does know a thing or two about making an enterprise grow. So, I’m not really going to kick about her appointment on those grounds. Her pro-wrestling background, though, furthers the burgeoning image of the L’il Duce presidency as the ultimate reality show.

To Be Or Not To Be (Real)

Speaking of reality (and our national inability to distinguish between it and asinine fantasy), Deadspin has a nice take on the toxic business the WWE has become, and, unintentionally, illustrating the direct line between its tawdry dramatic storylines and today’s White House-in-progress.

The argument:

Historically, professional wrestling, with its screaming neon lunatics, potbellied big daddies, and tasseled “ring rats,” has been considered too absurd to be taken seriously — deprecated by  sportswriters and ignored by politicians, its fans derided as low-class marks.

This — the notion that pro wrestling is a fixed, low-rent travesty, undeserving of serious mainstream scrutiny — is the single greatest angle sold by the wrestling industry.

The story goes on to document the rise of Vince McMahon, the cut-throat, screw-the-help, éminence grise of the WWE, its face and driving force, crushing all competing promoters and reigning tyrannically over the “sport.” (A possibly apocryphal anecdote: When Ted Turner wanted to court McMahon so as to obtain broadcasting rights to the WWE, the good-old-boy owner of the TBS superstation phoned the wrestling boss. “Vince,” he drawled, “I’m in the wrasslin’ business now.” McMahon replied, presciently and correctly, “That’s nice; I’m in the entertainment business.”)

Anyway, the story posits:

McMahon was the slick corporate raider, a gorilla whose suit actually fit. McMahon doesn’t speak like a good ole boy; he sounds like Mitt Romney. This is no coincidence. In its aggressive campaign against state regulation, dislocating terms of employment, and poisonous, often fatal working conditions, the WWE is a corporation only a Republican senator could love. “I’m an entrepreneur,” McMahon [said]. “I’m what makes this company, my company and this country, go round and round.

Well, we’ve whirled deliriously to the point where Donald J. Trump, former WWE wrestling hero/villain, is now the goddamned President of the United States of America.

McMahon, back when pro wrestling was growing, explosively, as a TV show watched by the tens of millions, fought tooth and nail against efforts by state governments to regulate its too-often perilous working conditions, its contractual relationship with labor, and other issues having to do with the honest operation of a sports industry. McMahon’s argument? Pro wrestling is a fake, a scam. It’s no sport. It’s no competition governed by a rule book. It’s entertainment — therefore, leave us the hell alone. And — guess what — legislators agreed with him!

Donald Trump, Vince McMahon, Bobby Lashley

The POTUS-Elect [L] & Vince McMahon

More from the Deadspin piece:

The story of pro wrestling in the twentieth century is the story of American capitalism, filtered through a dreamy aspect, of gallant grapplers, of moustache-twirlers, of princesses and salt-throwers and masked spoilers. Kayfabe [pro wrestling’s “omerta,” the agreement among wrestlers never to betray the sport’s phoniness] is a slinky thing, in what it masks: it’s sheer enough to let us marks in on some of the fun, yet supple enough to obscure most of the human cost.

So, yeah, one of the architects of this entrepreneurial nightmare is now a high-ranking administration official. And her new boss was a big part of the WWE’s success.

Makes perfect sense. American government is no longer real. It’s fake. It’s a scam. It’s entertainment. And we, the voters, agreed to it all.

Would You Like To Fly…?

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