Category Archives: Donald Trump

Hot Air: The Real Identity Politics

Here it is almost three weeks to the day after the 2020 election and as The Loved One and I took our traditional Sunday drive through South Central Indiana we both were struck by how many people in these rural environs still are proudly displaying their Trump flags and yard signs. It brings to mind a meme I saw a couple of days ago that went something like this:

Okay, I voted for Biden, but I’m not going to keep a Biden sign up in my front yard for the next four years like a freakin’ idiot.

And, the truth is, many, many, many of those Trump signs we still see in the hinterlands have been there since 2016. A lot of them are faded and tattered from having weathered four goddamned frigid, windy winters and four sun-baked summers. Isn’t the whole idea of putting up yard signs and other candidate paraphernalia an attempt to persuade neighbors and passersby to vote for the person you think is best for the job? That argument needs only to be made every four years, not every day of every year from now until the end of time.

I guarantee you the vast majority of the Trump signs on display today will still be there the day Joe Biden gets sworn in as the 46th President of the United States as well as the day, November 5th, 2024, of the next presidential election, whether there’s a Trump running or not.

So, what’s the deal, what’s the argument these people are trying to make? My answer: They’re not making an argument at all; they’re making a statement. They’re telling the world who they are. These people now have a rock-solid, distinct identity. Before, they were just anonymous schlubs, mowing their lawns and reclining in front of the the TV to watch American Idol like every other schlub on the block or down the country road. They are somebody now because they’ve seen and attached themselves to an idol of their own, someone who talks like them and thinks like them and maybe even messes up like they would if only they had a billion dollars and didn’t have to give a shit about anybody else in the whole wide world. For all Donald Trump’s sins and peccadilloes, any and all of which should have precluded him years ago from any consideration as the leader of the last remaining superpower on Earth, for his ridiculous dyed combover, for his ballooning backside, for his contempt for the authority of experts, for his utter un-interest in books or reports or studies, for his proud ignorance of the needs and wants of anyone who’s not directly related to him, everything about him is exactly how tens of millions of people in America would see themselves if they suddenly woke up one morning with an unimaginably huge fortune and the keys to the White House in their pockets.

He is me. That’s what they’ve been saying when displaying Trump’s flags and signs every day for the last four or five years.

And there, finally, is the answer to the question, How can people still back Trump after all the shit he’s pulled? After he’s screwed up this nation’s relationships with its allies, after he’s dismantled the government’s environmental protection apparatus, after he’s rammed through tax cuts for hundred-millionaires, leaving the middle class to pick up a greater share of the burden of supporting America, after he’s defanged all the federal consumer and workplace protections he could find, after he insulted and demeaned handicapped people, fat people, brown people, foreign people, Muslim people, urbanites, immigrants, asylum seekers, women, veterans, prisoners of war, and everybody who, again, was not Donald J. Trump or anybody related to him?

The answer is they still back him because he is their avatar, their icon, their god, for chrissakes. Throughout human history, people have created gods in their own image, created them to validate who they were, to tell everyone else who and what they were. They still do it today. And their new god is Donald J. Trump. He is me.

That’s why you can’t argue a Trumpist away from the outgoing president. You’re asking them to deny who they are. You’re asking them to admit the identity they’ve assumed is warped. Nobody wants to lose their identity.

To tens of millions of Americans, He will always be me.

Hot Air: Torture & Tyranny, Happy Monday!

Two things, today. First:

Stuck

Back when I was a kid, I’d heard of Sérgio Mendes and Basil ’66. It was a small combo featuring a pair of female singers that produced a few bossa nova/jazz/funk singles and some LPs that the kind of self-identified sophisticates who read Playboy had on their hi-fi’s.

I didn’t pay much attention to the group because I was too busy listening to the Beatles and the Stones and even the Turtles. Or, I should say, especially the Turtles.

The Turtles, the Coolest Geeks Around.

Over the ensuing decades, my musical tastes have broadened and I’ve become extremely partial to the Brazilian sounds of samba and its stepchild, bossa nova. I delve regularly into the recordings of Joāo Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Walter Wanderley, Elis Regina, Gilberto Gil, and Gal Costa, among many others.

So, the other night, I was surfing through YouTube looking for new songs and came upon something called “Pretty World” by Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66. Hmm, I thought, let’s give it a spin. I did and the thing turned out to be the biggest earworm I’ve experienced in years.

It’s the most insipid tune imaginable, in terms of lyrics, melody, and arrangement. Here’s a sampling of the words:

Why don’t we take a little piece of summer sky,

Hang it on a tree.

For that’s the way to start to make a pretty world,

For you and me.

And for the sun we’ll take a lemon bright balloon, You can hold the string.

Oh, can’t you see that little world of ours will be,

The prettiest thing.

I want to scream!

Later, the two female singers harmonize that in this prettiest of worlds, “Nothing must be made but breakfast and love.”

I want to break things!

There’s a little one-measure keyboard bridge, repeated twice, that’s about as musically vapid and inane as the tinny canned calliope in a carnival merry-go-round.

I’ve got to control myself!

Turns out Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 churned out a kind of Disney-version of South American music. It’s sort of like the real thing but, all in all, it’s not really. That’s no sin. All I have to do is not listen to it — and I haven’t.

That is, I haven’t clicked the play button on my laptop. But the damned song has been playing over and over and over and over and over in my head for the last week! It’s insane, I tell you.

Get out! Get out! Get out!

Earworms are torture. It’s no wonder the US Army used blaring music to drive Manuel Noriega out of his compound back in January, 1990. Apparently George Orwell never thought of it, preferring his character O’Brien to torture Winston Smith to the point of madness via a face-cage containing a rat rather than, say, playing for poor Smith over and over and over again something like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me).”

I believe I’ll survive this bout of psychosis. “Pretty World,” one day, hopefully soon — very soon, dear god please! — will be forgotten. But, honestly, what a bizarre thing it is for us to flagellate ourselves so.

At least nine noted researchers and psychologists have studied and written about earworms, Oliver Sacks among them. There’s even a formal medical term for the phenomenon: Involuntary Musical Imagery, or INMI. Some 98 percent of people experience earworms. A study sponsored by the American Psychological Association actually found that the most common earworm among those polled was Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” I’ve never heard the song, thank goodness.

One group of scientists suggested in a paper doing anagrams or Sudoku puzzles can break the cycle or even reduce the occurrence of earworms. Another group actually advises sufferers to chew gum.

I’ll try anything.

Second:

Baby Steps

All great advances come incrementally. The electric lightbulb wasn’t invented without the discovery and understanding of electricity, the means to generate electric power, the ability to create a vacuum inside the glass bulb, the resilience and brilliance of a charged tungsten filament, etc. The automobile depended on the discovery and refinement of petroleum, the interworking design of pistons, rods and the camshaft, the transfer of torque energy though the drive shaft to the wheels, etc. That is, is if you consider the age of the automobile an advancement. As the planet warms and species die off and the weather becomes a horror show, we really have to reconsider whether it was all worth it for every-damned-body to have an SUV so they can go four blocks to the Kroger for fifty-five pounds of steaks and ground beef, which itself is destroying millions of acres of rainforest and arable land that might otherwise produce a healthy grain or two.

Whatever. Countless seemingly insignificant inventions and developments precede any great achievement. Nothing happens like magic, like a miracle, popping into existence so suddenly, so unexpectedly that people gasp in shock. Yeah, they may gasp in awe at, say, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module landing on the Moon in July, 1969, but no one was surprised because humankind had been toying with rockets for warfare and fun for the previous half century.

Robert Goddard and the First Liquid-Fueled Rocket, 1914.

Same goes for horrible happenings. Hitler didn’t climb out from a cave. Wars don’t start in the snap of a finger. And, of course, climate catastrophe has been racing toward a climax ever since the first internal combustion engine was built.

This year, today, the President of the United States is refusing to acknowledge that he lost the general election, both by popular vote and in the Electoral College. He’s tweeting and pouting and raging and suing everybody in sight. His federal administrator in charge of presidential transition is refusing to get to work. He’s moaning about voter fraud without producing any evidence. He’s shrieking about some huge, vague conspiracy involving the Democratic Party and the mainstream media and everybody else up to and including the Mexicans, BLM advocates, and Tom Hanks.

His gambit is not going to work. He will vacate the White House at noon, January 20th. We’ll say, Hurrah, democracy works!

But Li’l Duce, as he has in countless ways since he won the presidency on a technicality in 2016, has moved the bar, lowered the standard, muddied the waters. Pick a metaphor; it doesn’t matter. What does is the next guy who comes along and thinks himself greater than the nation, greater than the very idea of democracy itself, will stand on Pres. Gag’s shoulders and bring us even closer to authoritarianism, to tyranny than the outgoing president. He may very well push us over the edge.

So, yeah, cheer nine and a half weeks from today when Joe Biden swears out the oath. But don’t think we’re home free. The term of the disgraceful 45th President of the United States very well may be merely an incremental step toward a glum and alarming development.

Hot Air: It’s People, Not Dirt

Longtime Bloomington city council member Susan Sandberg has found a terrific image illustrating where people live in this holy land and why all those dumb maps that show Democratic voters segregated in tiny little enclaves here and there while Republican voters are spread over enormous tracts of land are, basically, full of shit.

Republicans often refer to those latter-mentioned maps to make the logically insupportable point that these tiny ghettoes of Dems somehow have connived their way into sharing power with the vast coast-to-coast swathes of GOP-ers and Trumpists. And, honestly, those maps do look alarmingly unbalanced. Let’s watch as the map Susan found transforms from a land representation to a population one:

 

Truth is, thanks to the Electoral College and the Republicans’ extremely effective efforts at gerrymandering and voter suppression, that party has garnered power far beyond its numbers. To wit: Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight United States presidential elections. If this were a true one-person, one-vote democratic republic, there’d have been a democratic president for 24 of the last 28 years. And, truth be told, the one prez race the Republicans actually won was the reelection of the incumbent in 2004. People, remember, tend not to like to throw leaders out unless there are dramatic or extenuating circumstances. Plus, we were still involved in two wars at the time, another reason voters wanted to stay the course. Had Al Gore been declared winner thanks to the popular vote in ’00, he’d have been the incumbent next time around and he’d have been the wartime C-in-C. (Of course, if Gore were the boss at that time, the Afghanistan war would have been wrapped to one extent or another without having been left undone by the Iraq war, a strictly Republican gambit.)

Not only that, if one totals all the votes earned by Senate and House candidates, the Dem vote far outnumbers the Republican even though the GOP has run Congress in part and wholly for the last ten years. Democratic candidates for the US Senate, for instance, in 2016 outpolled their Republican rivals by 53.8-42.4 percent, yet the Republicans held a firm grip on that chamber. That same year, Democratic candidates for the House bested their Republican counterparts, nationally, by 49.1-48.0 yet, somehow, the Republicans retained control of the House after that election.

Truth is, this is a Democratic nation.

Then again, throwing a bucket of ice water on this argument is the fact that some 70 million people have voted for Li’l Duce in this year’s election. That’s about 49 percent of the participating populace.

Here’s the biggest truth I’ll share herein: when it comes to President Gag and his fans, I’m baffled.

 

Hot Air: Our Two Faces

The 2020 presidential election is still up in the air as I type this.

Old Joe Biden is about 3 million actual votes ahead of Li’l Duce and leads the incumbent by a 248-214 Electoral College count.

From The Guardian at 4:20 PM EST, Wednesday, November 4, 2020.

Nevertheless, it’s nearly 24 hours after many polls closed and we still don’t know who’ll be taking the oath of office next January. A candidate needs 270 EC votes to win. The actual vote count is relatively irrelevant, something we have to remedy but won’t until a Republican wins the popular vote but loses the EC. Then we’ll see some action.

Anyway, President Gag already has amassed 4 million more votes than he did four years ago. This despite everything he’s done during his term in office: withdrawing from the Paris Accords; quitting the Iran-nuclear pact; dismantling many, if not most, federal agencies; trying to throttle the Postal Service; calling for a return to the darkest days of the nuclear arms race; voiding or annulling hundreds of environmental protections. The insults. The bizarre behavior. The obsessive tweeting. The pussy grabbing. The mocking of the handicapped reporter. The utter lack of respect for John McCain’s prisoner of war experience and the Muslim family’s tragic loss of a US soldier. The comical, if it wasn’t so awful, mishandling of the coronavirus crisis.

Some 67.7 million people at this hour have iterated that they want him as their leader, him as the symbol of America, him to steer the course of this holy land.

Perhaps Old Joe is on his way to victory. The Democrats will keep the House and just may take control of the Senate (although I wouldn’t bet on it).  Even so, more people went for P. Gag than did in 2016.

All this proves one thing: we are a divided nation, almost irreparably so. There are two Americas right now. One that says, beaming proudly, when they cast their gaze upon Li’l Duce, “There goes my leader.” The other, discouraged and fretful, says, “There goes my country.”

Hot Air: A New Perspective

Our long national nightmare may be over and done with after the polls close tomorrow. National? Hell, it’s been a planetary nightmare, for pity’s sake!

Then again, let me tweak the above statement a bit. Tomorrow may signal the beginning of the end of the nightmare, something I’ve been warning about for months. My pal Jeff Isaac cites this piece, making the same point in the conservative-lite website The Bulwark.

The point is even if Li’l Duce gets his well-deserved ass-whipping tomorrow, he’ll still be in office for another 89 days, plenty of time for him to dismantle our democratic republic even more than he has already.

So, to torture the analogy further, for the next two and a half months we may be trying to rouse ourselves out of the the troubled sleep we’ve been in since 2016 even as the gremlins and ogres and monsters and swarms of rats and bees, the falling from an airplane, the drowning in the backyard pool, the being caught naked outdoors, the looming high school semester final you’re not prepared for — all the beastly terrors that torment us as we repose in the arms of Morpheus — continue to flood our half-awake imaginations.

But, beginnings are good. Throwing President Gag’s sorry carcass out of the White House tomorrow at the polls will only be a start but, of course, a journey of a thousand miles…, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I realize I’m about to stun into catatonia the loyal followers of this global communications colossus but the hellish Trump regime just may have done something good for us. Not good in the sense of, say, ending world hunger or curing one or another of the cancers but, like the journey that begins with a first step, even the slightest good is a net positive.

Here’s the good thing: the presidency of one Donald John Trump has put politics in perspective for those of us who reside, metaphorically, on my side of the fence. See, when I first came to this bizarre state back in 2009, the Democrats, the liberals, the progressives and everybody else to the left of Dan Quayle (Hah! Bet you hadn’t thought of that name in decades.) viewed the relatively innocuous likes of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as the second coming of Joseph Stalin. Then, when Mitt Romney, Barack Obama’s white clone, challenged the incumbent president in 2012, we all gasped in horror that he’d take a page from Pol Pot and turn America into a westernized Killing Field. I’m exaggerating, natch, but not by as much as you might think.

Brethren?

We ran around like chickens sans tetes, worrying about the hell in a hand basket we were surely falling into under the malignant watch of Daniels or the putative reign of Romney. And what of John McCain, who ran the first broadside against Obama in 2008? He was close enough to his opponent on the political spectrum to flash him a subtle wink yet, in our petrified eyes, a win by him would surely have turned this holy land into a tyranny, or at least into another c. 1960s Alabama.

It must be conceded, though, that McCain selected as his running mate an unprepared, incurious, anti-intellectual dingbat of a half-term Alaska governor — and a wannabe beauty queen and aspiring small potatoes TV talking head at that. Sarah Palin was the Republican Party’s failed experiment in creating a franken-candidate, although they did learn from their mistake, bringing us to their successful model, our current president.

And herein lies the aforementioned good thing. Now we know what happens when the American electorate elects on a whim the worst possible person to take the reins of government. We get a vengeful, impulsive, ignorant, corrupt, pathological liar who appeals to all the worst instincts in humanity.

This, my friends, is what we should have been living in terror of for the last 25-50 years. The likes of Mitch Daniels and Mitt Romney were merely guys whose philosophy of governing were different than ours. Yet we shrieked and moaned about them as if they were sexual predators, tinpot dictator wannabes, and Constitutional vandals. Sickos. Terrorists in business suits. Family dynasty progenitors. All of which, BTW, we wound up getting in one package, known unaffectionately herein as Li’l Duce.

My guess is as P. Gag goes down in flames tomorrow, his party (if they have any sense about them at this point, which is a consideration after all) will commence to mend their ways and revert to something resembling a norm.

And, should that occur, mirabile dictu, we won’t have to live in panic at the prospect of every single Republican coming down the pipe. I say this even though I am deeply committed never, ever to vote for one so long as the party refuses to back the ERA, continues to appeal to white supremacists, pretends climate catastrophe hasn’t begun yet, and fights tooth and claw against universal, single-payer health care.

From now on, it is to be profoundly hoped, we won’t view all Republicans as a Stalin, even if their current top dog fancies himself a Putin.

Brothers.

Hot Air: Show’s Over

I’ve been so petrified by the rise and rule of Li’l Duce, fearing a hostile takeover of the US by him and his family, that the only logical outcome of his arrival on the scene escaped me. His people are getting tired of his act. They want to change the channel.

He’s never been anything but a cheap TV star, the 2010s version of Milton Berle. The TV audience ate him up and snickered in everybody else’s faces when he did the most outlandish things. But even his base is falling asleep in front of the TV (that is, except for the radical militia terrorists and the dyed-in-the-wool racists — they’re with him until the end of time). More people tuned in to Biden’s snooze-fest than Trump’s burlesque show. That’s just one piece of evidence bolstering my argument. Another is the long, long, long, long, long long, long lines at polling places across America.

Nobody in my lifetime has driven more people to the polls than President Gag. I’d like to kick them all in their asses for voting for him in the first place in ’16, or opting to sit that election out, but let’s bygones be bygones. We’re seeing a national cancellation of the show.

Hot Air: Loads Of It

The Illusion

I hate like hell to admit it, but John Steinbeck was right:

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

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Honesty, Honestly

Has it occurred to you that this Obama administration, now well into its eighth year, has been shockingly free of venal scandal? I mean, I can’t think of a single Obama White House functionary who’s been brought up on charges of swiping from the public trough or peddling his or her influence for personal gain.

Usually, presidential administrations in their second terms are wracked by accusations, investigations, and indictments of major and minor officials who’ve fattened their wallets thanks to their positions of power.

Not now, though. Not in this presidency.

Obama seems a decent human being. Perhaps his leadership imperative, communicated to all hirees from the get-go, was Do no wrong. It can’t be just dumb luck can it?

And, believe me, if there were even a hint of malfeasance, the vultures  who control the House and Senate as well as those in talk media and the blogosphere would have been on it like flies on dog droppings.

Phew, That Could Have Been Terrorizing!

Here’s something I just don’t understand. Perhaps you can explain it to me.

Yesterday, a mentally-broken man went on a knife rampage in Taunton, Mass., killing two and injuring four others before an off-duty sheriff’s deputy shot him to death. The man apparently went on the random spree after ramming his car into a truck outside a home in Taunton. He then entered the home and stabbed an 80-year-old woman to death and seriously injured the her daughter. He went out on the street, jumped back in his car, and wound up at a nearby mall. There, he attacked several other people, killing one before the deputy stopped him.

A horrible story, indeed. But, somehow, authorities wished to console us in our confusion and worry over the incident. Taunton police made certain to tell reporters the attacks were not related to “terrorism.”

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about the whole affair.

Was the aim of such an announcement to comfort us that no swarthy foreigners were responsible for the death and carnage, but simply a misguided poor soul from this holy land?

And if these attacks are not “terrorism,” what are they? Merely lack of impulse control on the part of a fellow citizen — who, thank god, happens not to be dark or unbearably different. That’s better?

Hillary’s Handiwork?

Have you seen that social media meme aimed at Bernie-ites purportedly showing them how to make home-made glow sticks but in reality is actually a recipe for a mini-bomb?

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No one knows where this ugly little “joke” came from but I guaran-goddamn-tee at least some Bernie true believers are convinced it was the handiwork of operatives from Hillary’s campaign. Hell, there’s gotta be some in this holy land who are certain Hillary herself posted the freakin’ thing!

The Stark Truth

The Loved One and I watched All the King’s Men last night, the 1949 movie based on Robert Penn Warren‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Willie Stark, a populist demagogue who rises to power from the dirt furrows of farm country. Stark becomes wildly adored, with wits and wags wondering if he’s a messiah or a tyrant. The movie based on the book won the Academy Award for Best Picture just four years after Warren won his Pulitzer.

Willie Stark is nothing like Donald Trump but the whole idolatry thing, the “outsider” challenging the powers-that-be, the snake-oil salesman promising a new way of running things, is at the core of Trump’s appeal.

Smart guys used to fear a new Huey Long (upon whom, it is said, Willie Stark was based) coming along, galvanizing the poor and the disenfranchised by telling them what a lousy deal they’re getting and how the big boys are laughing their way to the bank on the backs of the common clay.

It’s tempting to say ATKM is a harbinger of the 2016 presidential race wherein populist demagogue Donald Trump roars to the Republican nomination despite all the analyses of the experts who pooh-poohed his quest. But it’s not. Trump most certainly is not a man who came from dirt furrows and challenged the powers that be. He was a trust fund baby who inherited tens of millions of dollars from his slippery daddy-o and has always been one of the powers that be.

Sure, many of those going gaga over Trump are poor but many, many more are reasonably comfortable, at least in relation to the rest of the world. A Trump rally is not populated by modern day analogs to the subjects of, say, Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photos.

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Lange’s “Migrant Mother” (1936)

Trump’s fanboys and -girls, in fact, look awfully well fed and clearly have had a good night’s sleep in warm, comfy beds. King-sized, most likely.

They see themselves as unduly screwed, which is bizarre. And Trump keeps telling them they are, which is only the first of his bald-faced lies, of which he’s trafficked in an alarming many.

Guys like the fictional Willie Stark and the real Huey Long had an extremely limited appeal, touching the hearts only of those self-aware enough to accept that they were dirt-poor hicks — “Just like me!” Stark roared. Today, nobody wants to admit they’re a dirt poor hick. Screwed, yeah. Dirt poor, no. Let’s go to Faulkner again, who hit it square:

[The American poor] see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

And not only the Murrican poor see themselves that way. Even the well-fed and cozy comfy feel they’re only one lucky break away from sharing caviar and Moët et Chandon w/ the likes of Donald Trump or the Kardashians. These days, they desperately believe, those lucky breaks are being denied them which is a far worse injustice than mass starvation in Bangladesh or the kidnapping, raping, and killing of schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Only a borderline sociopathic liar like Trump could feed and reinforce in people this line of bushwa. Nothing Trump says is based on any set of acts or reality, which sets up his ultimate untrue punchlines. Murricans have been waiting breathlessly for an uber-rich man to come along and lie to them. Rich men, too many in this holy land deeply believe, are special, a higher form of life, nearly messianic.

Their words are scripture, their bank accounts proof of their divinity.

Naw, America never needed to worry about a fascist demagogue coming along and appealing to the poor. The real danger was the incendiary who spoke to the temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

May 11th Birthdays

Laskarina Bouboulina — Known as the heroine of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire, she commanded the rebel Greek fleet and, later, became an admiral in the Russian navy.

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Chang and Eng Bunker — The most famous Siamese (now, more acceptably, conjoined) twins. Both married (two separate women) and had, between them, 21 children.

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Harriet Quimby — The first women to be awarded a pilot’s license in the United States and the first female to aviate across the English Channel. She also was a Hollywood screenwriter, penning scripts for seven films directed by D.W. Griffith.

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Irving Berlin — Born Israel Isidore Baline, he wrote gazillions of standards now in the great American songbook including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and countless others.

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Martha Graham — Perhaps the most revered American dancer in history, she conjured the “Graham Technique,” a method of modern dance style and teaching that revolutionized the art form.

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Salvadore Dali — Painter and art world personality.

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Richard Feynman — Nobel Prize winning physicist, iconoclast, bongo player, and author of, among others, Six Easy Pieces. One of my favorite humans ever.

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Mort Sahl — Humorist who specialized in political and social issues, he used a newspaper as a prop onstage, opening it up and commenting on stories within. Steve Allen called him “the only real political philosopher we have in modern comedy.”

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Louis Farrakhan — Controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, an American organization dedicated to the uplift of Black Muslim young men. Farrakhan also has spouted anti-semitic and anti-gay lines. Many in the American Black Muslim community believe he was involved in the plot to assassinate Malcolm X.

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Martha Quinn — One of the original five VJs on MTV.

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And, finally, Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, died on this day in 2001.

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Hot Air: Sunday Sundries

History In The Making

I don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to me before but, no matter what, the Dems this summer will nominate either the first woman or first Jew as a major party candidate for president.

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Either Way

The Republicans, meanwhile, are going with the guy who calls women “fat pigs” and who has the support of KKK-types who believe the nation — and the world — are run by a secret cabal of Jews.

Yeah, there’s no diff. between the parties. Nah.

I’m surprised nobody’s making a big splash about this. It speaks well of the party, no? Then again, nobody wants to speak well of the party — either party — these days. Too bad.

Of course, the parties have nobody to blame but themselves.

Private Benjamins

Let’s just all agree right here and now that privatization is a dirty word, okay?

Case in point: The city of Seattle has hired a private firm at $240 and hour to tear down, sweep up, and otherwise trash homeless encampments. Yep. Hat tip to my old Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lampreys pal (and leader thereof) Kenneth Morrison for the tip.

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So, the city many of us view as the nation’s model of progressive goody-goodness would rather spend its dough thusly than on, say, maybe simply providing shelter for the poor souls who can’t afford a home.

Nah. That’d be government overreach, wouldn’t it?

Getting To Know Me

I’ve just come to the conclusion that I’m driven not to be driven. I suppose that’s why I never got a college degree or won the Pulitzer Prize.

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Nah, That’s Okay. I Don’t Need One. Thanks Anyway.

Yeah, sure, that’s it.

Getting Better All The Time

Another landmark in my recovery process. Yesterday afternoon I yelled at another driver for the first time in months. I was thrilled; my voice was strong and my tongue sharp.

The background. It’s been my experience that scads of left-turners in this sprawling megalopolis are loath to pulling out into an intersection on the green light while waiting for oncoming traffic to pass. This leads, often, to just one car making the left turn, which is criminal.

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So, yesterday I was intending to make the left turn onto Covenanter off southbound College Mall Drive to get to the Kroger Theme Park. The black Infiniti in front of me was going to make the left as well and, just as we hit the red light, it turned green. Fine, right? I’d make this light, right behind him.

Only he would not pull into the intersection. I gesticulated dramatically, hoping he’d catch my drift in his rear view mirror but, alas, he wouldn’t bite. But, I figured, I could tail him closely when he did make the turn at least after the light would turn yellow.

The light did turn yellow and he wouldn’t budge! So neither of us made the turn. I bellowed: “Fer chrissakes! Get out there you numbskull! Make the goddamned turn! Jesus Christ in heaven!”

Again, he wouldn’t bite. No glance in the mirror. No satisfying flash of the middle digit in response. No nothing. He must have had the windows rolled up. The jerk.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the satisfaction of reaming him verbally even if he couldn’t hear it.

Slowly but surely, I’m getting back into the swing of things. Wahoo!

Okay, Mother’s Day

Here are Ma and Daddy-o in 1945 with the old man home on a surprise leave. He looks like a kid in a candy store and she’s got that dewy-eyed look straight out of a romance novel.

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BTW: Daddy-o returned to his base to help the Allies win the war by scrubbing garbage cans and making sure his bed was properly made.

Priorities

Hey, we’re not the only country that’s tackling terribly important social problems (from Atlas Obscura):

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Hot Air: Democracy? Wow.

Words Hurt

Call me goofy but I would never eat something on a menu called a Garbage Salad.

I mean, it’s just the idea of the thing. Hey, chef, sweep up all your droppings and throw it all on a plate for me, wouldja?

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Why not offer me a shit sandwich?

It’d be like running an ad for a lite beer, extolling its rich amber color — Just like fresh urine!

So, yeah, okay, I’m goofy. But you’re eating Garbage Salad and I’m not.

Democracy. Now.

Lots o’people are saying the emergence of America’s Shart, Donald Trump, is evidence that our democracy is broken. Hell, even Russian former chess champion Garry Kasparov has chimed in, saying Trump and his gang are leading “an assault on democracy.” Kasparov, BTW, quit the chess racket last decade and became a leader of the anti-Putin movement which means, I suppose, he’s lucky to still be alive.

And, BTW again, Trump loves him some Putin, as does Trump’s stage door Jeannie, Sarah Palin. So maybe, Kasparov has a point.

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All Democratically Elected

Anyway, loyal Pencillistas know I’m not one to blame our ills on nebulous, all-powerful cabals controlling our thoughts and actions through media, drugs, and the eating of white bread. In fact, I pretty much blame none of our ills on those things, mainly because I blame us for what ails us.

If the media’s spoonfeeding us senseless garbage it’s only because we eat it up. And if “Big Pharma” is trying to hook us on every new anti-depressant that comes out of its evil labs, well, we’re the ones running to our doctors every half hour telling them how depressed we are and what can you do about it, Doc?

I won’t blame Trump for killing democracy, either. In fact, Trump’s rise is a testament to the strength of our democracy. We have two long-standing, major political parties supported by hundreds of millions of dollars of lobbyists’ and corporations’ dough and one of them could do nothing to stop the juggernaut that has been the Trump ascendancy this primary season. We’ll see if the Democrats can halt his steamroller in November. We can only hope.

No, the people have spoken, even if their language is a pidgin and their thought processes the equivalent of those of subfamily Arvicolinae. That’s democracy, no? The speaking of the people?

By golly, I think I’ve discovered the fatal flaw in democracy. People.

I Like It Here

Don’t get me wrong — I dig John Hamilton as mayor of this sprawling megalopolis. But I also dig his opponent in last year’s mayoral beauty contest, Darryl Neher. The young(ish) IU Kelley School of Biz senior lecturer and recent B-ton city council guy laid a big hug on me yesterday at Hopscotch Coffee.

He told me he was meeting with a couple of big shot sachems in our town’s LGBT community and, indeed, the three of them put their heads together for what seemed an eternity. Neher’s lending his support, natch, to that gang and is hoping to help them solidify their place in the city’s power structure.

Cool, ain’t it? There are tons of things that drive me batty about Bloomington — don’t get me started on the drivers here — but overall, this is a great place to live. Especially when big local dudes and dames like Neher are so dedicated to the issues and philosophies I endorse.

Sigh, our little island of goodness in the midst of the Indiana malum mare.

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May 6th Birthdays

Maximilien Robespierre — France’s big liberal before and during that’s country’s republican revolution, he was executed after the upheaval by even bigger liberals. Those liberals, of course, were themselves erased when Napoleon took charge of things. Napoleon, FYI, was not a liberal.

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Sigmund Freud — The guy with the cigar.

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Rudolph Valentino — The first cinematic sex symbol. He died young (aged 31) of peritonitis resulting from perforated ulcers. His demise caused scads of women to commit suicide and mourners rioted at his funeral.

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Toots Shor — Legendary restaurateur who was the guy to know among New York City’s entertainers and elite. He nicknamed his wife “Baby” and was a legendary drinker. One story has it that he engaged Jackie Gleason in a drinking competition one night that ended only with Gleason collapsing to the floor and Shor stepping over him to leave the premises.

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Shor (Left) With Gleason

Orson Welles — Film director who was forced to cast Charlton Heston as a Mexican in Touch of Evil.

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Willie Mays — Perhaps the greatest baseball player of all time.

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Rubin “Hurricane” Carter — Framed for a murder by Patterson, New Jersey, cops in 1966, his story inspired a Bob Dylan song and a Denzel Washington movie.

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Carter (Left) Battling Dick Tiger In 1965

Lætitia Sadier — Singer, keyboardist, and guitarist for Stereolab.

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Not to be morbid but Maria Montessori died on this day in 1952 — She was an Italian physician and educator who wrote the groundbreaking pedagogical book, The Montessori Method, in 1912. Simply — if not simplistically — she posited that children had a natural internal learning system that shouldn’t be interfered with. She advocated allowing kids to learn at their own paces, largely through practical play. If you want to know more about Montessori, the woman and/or the philosophy, I’d bet you couldn’t find a better source than my pal Linda Oblack who ran a school here in Bloomington in the hazy past.

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Hot Air: Advice For BS… And More

Personal To The Winner Of The Indiana Primary

Bernie, baby, please, please, please: Start organizing a slate of allies running for US Congress, governorships, statehouses, city halls, county boards, and dogcatchers.

Who are your cohorts? Who will help you make this hugely popular so-called revolution happen? The real revolution only will come when your ideas, your aims, will be put into effect across the nation by legislators and political executives all the way down to the most local levels.

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Who Are You With? Who’s With You?

I want to know who’s going to push through your revolution. I want to know who’s going to make the revolution an official part of the Democratic Party platform. Start acting like the effective leader of a movement. Make my vote for you count.

Shelli!

Congrats to Shelli Yoder who took the Dem nom for Bloomington et al’s 9th District US Congress seat. I like her. I also like the fact that Todd Young, who benefitted from the Tea Party mania that remade Congress in 2010, won’t be in the House come January. I worry, though, he may simply walk down the hall to get sworn in to the Senate.

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Yoder, Left

I can only hope the apparent coronation of America’s Shart, Donald Trump, as the Republican standard bearer in November, will depress GOP turnout and sabotage the hopes and dreams of Young and the rest of his Me Party brethren and sisteren.

Civil War

This day, 46 years ago, student protestors faced off against Ohio National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State University. By the time the confrontation was over, four people were dead and nine wounded.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young even got a hit song out of the affair:

The killing of students and other protestors appalled Americans, natch. That’s the myth we’ve come to believe. What we forget is the sheer numbers of citizens of this holy land who cheered the shootings and said the scruffy “unpatriotic” kids got just what they deserved. That swath of the Murrican electorate went on to help reelect unindicted co-conspirator and noted psychological piece of work Dick Nixon in one of the greatest landslides in the history of the United States.

Another thing we like to forget is the killing of two students on the campus of Jackson State University in Mississippi just eleven days later. Jackson State, like many campuses around the nation at the time, was beset by upheaval, including vandalism, arson, and attacks on uniformed law enforcement officers and firemen. The dramatic lawbreakers squeezed out the many more serious protestors, civil rights activists, and war resistors for news media attention. As at Kent State, authorities were itching to respond to the lot of them with overwhelming force and on the evening of May 11th, 1970, they did so. Some 40 Jackson city cops and Mississippi state patrolmen opened fire with shotguns and sidearms at a women’s dormitory building, killing two and injuring a dozen. Police claimed they’d been fired upon first by a sniper from a window in the high rise but a subsequent investigation found no evidence that any shots had come from the dormitory.

Mind you, this incident occurred long before the Black Lives Matter movement so the dead and injured were swiftly forgotten. They were black. The Kent State kids, OTOH, were white and so they live on in our collective memory. Such a shame, bleeding hearts may say, that youngsters had been cut down in their idealistic youth. Hardliners say, well…, you know what the hardliners have said for some five decades now.

No pop or rock stars, BTW, managed to get themselves a hit thanks to the Jackson State killings.

Winning For Losing

If Hillary is indeed the Dem frontrunner, as many wits and wags continue to insist on believing, she’s the most inept frontrunner I’ve ever seen.

I guess I grasp her supposed strategy: She and her strategists are certain they’ve got the Dem nom all wrapped up so they’re forgoing expending any time, energy, and — most important — dough on state primaries that’ll do little to pad her delegate numbers. Still, the seemingly constant onslaught of primary and caucus losses makes her look like nothing more than a loser. And believe me, her GOP opponent, Donald Trump (by god in heaven, I still can’t believe reality compels me to type those words) will hammer her with the L word every day and night from now through November.

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Strategist

No matter what makes strategic sense, anybody involved in a competition must maintain at least the appearance of, y’know, competing. How do Hillary’s various state volunteers and paid campaign workers continue to give their all when their candidate is shrugging her shoulders? Will Hill and her peeps be able to ramp up their ardor and work habits when crunch time comes versus America’s Shart?

Hillary’s likely to beat Trump in the general election. Or maybe that’s just me whistling past the graveyard. I dunno. What I do know is this 2016 presidential beauty contest is the most depressing, uninspiring national race I’ve ever seen. It certainly is no good advertisement for democracy.

Close One

My beloved hometown, Chicago, just may be losing its chance to be the site of a proposed George Lucas museum on the lakefront. Plans had called for the razing of the oldest of the McCormick Place exposition facilities, the Lakeside Center, and the construction in its stead of a modernistic-looking home for the paean to the man who imposed Star Wars upon the human culture.

I saw the original Star Wars at a movie theater in the summer of 1977 when it came out. I remember next to nothing about it other than understanding it was a cowboys and Indians picture set in the distant future. I’m not anti-Star Wars; I only suggest it was only a nice little light entertainment that helped me pass the time one night. Some people take a harsher view on what has became an American — and world — cultural touchpoint. Historian Rick Perlstein posits that Star Wars, along with the original Rocky, helped transform us into a nation of pollyannish eight-year-olds. Me? I figure we’d been eight-years-olds for decades before Han Solo and Princess Leia became known to every human being, dog, higher primate, and parrot in existence.

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Lucas, Right

Not that I dismiss Lucas out of hand. His American Graffiti was a revolutionary film, its continuous oldies pop hits soundtrack changing the way directors have made movies to this day. Now, rather than depend on old school mechanisms like story, character development, editing, or visual makeup of the scene (mise en scène), a movie’s music consultant simply plugs in an appropriate chestnut from our hazy, dreamy past to convey mood and advance narrative. AG‘s slice-of-life, featuring and glorifying otherwise utterly unremarkable high school kids, set the stage for scads of knock offs — some even far superior to Lucas’s effort; Barry Levinson’s Diner, for instance. We now gladly accept spending a couple of hours and upward of $15 skins a ticket to see hundred-million-dollar productions about people normally no more interesting than your thirty-something niece, her boyfriend, and their circle of friends. Call it the triumph of the humdrum if you’re a cynic; a long-needed celebration of the common folk if you’re…, well, a pollyanna.

Lucas became this era’s Frank Capra, another director whom I’ll grant was proficient and worthy of attention, but — like Lucas — spoonfed us happy horseshit, blurring the line between what we wished we were and what we are.

Since Lucas has been elevated to the Capra pantheon level, he’s become a zillionaire. He and his wife decided they should fund the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and staged a little competition between cities for the honor of hosting it. Chicago “won.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a break from fighting school teachers and enriching his Wall Street and LaSalle Street pals and granted the Lucases prime real estate on the city’s world-renowned lakefront for their ego monument.

When the original McCormick Place was built on the shores of Lake Michigan back in the late 1950s, public-spirited citizens kicked and hollered, citing architect and city planner Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan for Chicago. The Burnham plan, co-authored with Edward Bennett, called for Chi. to become a “Paris on the Prairie” with parks within walking distance of every citizen’s home and — the key here — a lakefront that would forever be free and clear of industry and development. Burnham and Bennett saw the lakefront as a lush green collar on the shimmering lake, open to all, its views unimpeded by smokestacks or ritzy apartment buildings.

But Chicago Tribune publisher Col. Robert McCormick and then-mayor Richard J. Daley wanted the huge exposition hall built on the lakefront at 22nd Street so Daniel Burnham, Edward Bennett, and public-spirited citizens be damned. Today, the Lakeside Center sits next to the water like a steel and glass aircraft carrier in drydock.

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McCormick Place Lakeside Center

(The original McCormick Place exposition hall, BTW, was destroyed in a spectacular late night fire in January, 1967, the second greatest conflagration in the city’s history next to the Great Chicago Fire, and was replaced by a more modern structure in 1971.)

The almost-original McC. Place hall is woefully out of date, so say the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority bureaucrats who run the place. Tear it down they say, most likely cued from offstage by Rahm. The Lucases appeared out of nowhere and last year granted Chi. the privilege of being home to their homage to himself. We’ve got just the site for you, Rahm told them, grinning.

Now, the Friends of the Parks, another gang of public-spirited citizens, one that carries a bit of clout as well, has filed suit in federal court to prevent the construction of the museum. If the Lakeside Center is to be torn down, many suggest, why, there’s our opportunity to reopen that stretch of the lakefront per Burnham and Bennett’s vision.

Lucas’s wife, Mellody Hobson, is a big shot, high-rolling investment banker who serves on the boards of Starbucks, the Sundance Institute, Estee Lauder, and DreamWorks. And, man, is she ticked off. Hell, she complained yesterday, the poor little “black and brown children” of Chicago will suffer now because they won’t get to go downtown to see exhibits on great modern art. To which, obviously, she’s referring to movies like Antz, American Beauty, Shrek, and the forthcoming Ready Player One. All of which have been or are being produced by DreamWorks. Did I mention Hobson sits on the DreamWorks board?

Anyway, she says she and her hubby are taking their ball and going home. “We are now seriously pursuing locations outside Chicago,” she told the Tribune yesterday.

Good. Take your monument to your husband and your favorite movie production company’s movies and go somewhere else. This is the second bullet Chicago has dodged in the last few years. The first being the decision of the International Olympic Committee not to grant the 2016 Games to the city back in 2009.

There are world class cultural institutions and there are international quadrennial events. There are, too, monumental headaches and blights on the city’s front yard. Chicago can do quite well without the latter two.

May 4th Birthdays

Bartolomeo Cristofori — Invented the piano around the turn of the 18th Century. Acc’d’g to one history, Cristofori wanted to name his invention the arpicembalo. Lucky for us he didn’t get his way.

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Audrey Hepburn — The only actress who could have played Holly Golightly.

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Pia Zadora — Child star of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and, later, a much-maligned grown-up actress and slightly-less-criticized singer.

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Zadora, Right

Will Arnett — GOB

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GOB, Left, With Buster

Erin Andrews — ESPN sportscasting figure who was surreptitiously videoed in the nude through a peephole in her Nashville, Tennessee, hotel room. The video went viral and Andrews suffered emotional trauma. This past March she won a $55 million judgement against the hotel chain (hotel employees had provided the videotaper the dates and times she’d be staying). The videotaper, a weasel named Michael Barrett, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

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