Trump and the Media

“Let Trump be Trump his aides has always insisted.  And let his convention serve as an unapologetic tribute to his singular, erratic, untamed persona.  ‘I want,’ the candidate has often said, ‘to be myself.’” (“In Trump’s Voice, It’s a New Nixon,” Michael Barbaro and Alexander Burns NY Times, July 19.)  But who is that myself?  If one looks to his political identity in the views that he has expressed over the years, one is baffled by their contradictions, incoherence and vacuous expression, unless, that is, one sees them as symptoms of a mental condition.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Like, A Prayer

“To the victor belong the spoils!” That was Camille Paglia’s reaction, reported in a May Salon article, to what she referred to as “the sexiest picture published in the mainstream media in years”—a photo showing a besuited Donald Trump looming possessively over his seated date at a banquet in the early 90s, his pendulous necktie practically tracing the word “phallus” in the air for the benefit of all easily impressed onlookers. Paglia apparently being one of them, although she wasn’t invited to the banquet—for her, the tie is a “phallic tongue” and Trump resembles “a triumphant dragon,” his “spoils” worthy of Rita Hayworth comparisons.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Norton’s Big Check

This story poem about a working class hero’s lost weekend, which First originally published in 2012, is a favorite of Mark Dudzic and it brings home class struggles that inform Dudzic’s analysis of Trumpism. (See Mr. D.’s post below.) Like Dudzic, Smucker is alive to the difference between the collective idea that still shapes aspects of working class culture and the ethos of “The Golden Boy on the Way Up.”

Smucker finds lyricism in lives at risk of being trumped now, if only in the society of spectacle. Whenever this editor re-reads “Norton’s Big Check,” I’m reminded of Hemingway’s memorable mockery of proletarian lit in the bar scene late in To Have and Have Not. But “Norton’s Big Check” is no joke. Though it’s not solemn. It even has something like a happy ending. While Smucker isn’t beamish, that finish is a sign he believes in more than Hem’s nada.  B.D.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

The Origin of the Species

Back in the day, two knucklehead members of my old union local at a Union Carbide plant in New Jersey fashioned KKK hoods out of chemical filtration paper and paraded through the lunchroom on Halloween. The corporate HR executive sent to investigate summarily terminated both workers within hours of arriving at the plant. She loudly proclaimed the company’s “zero tolerance” to racial harassment.

Now this was very interesting considering that her employer was the prime suspect in the unpunished industrial murder of 764 mostly African American workers on the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel in the 1930’s and its current corporate chairman, Warren Anderson, was a fugitive from justice wanted by the Indian government in connection with the 1984 criminal manslaughter of at least 15,000 Indians in Bhopal.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Pro Love

Corinne Bailey Rae’s husband Jason Rae died in his sleep, his breathing suppressed by an accidental overdose of methadone.  It’s difficult to listen to her singing “I’d Do it All Again” and not imagine you are hearing a woman coming to terms with the death of her lover.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Telegraphing the Future

Johnny Cash’s cover of “Sea of Heartbreak” fades out with the guitarist in his band (the Heartbreakers) locked on the familiar, insinuating riff from Bob Dylan’s “I Want You.”[1] Cash’s endgame mixes up his story of lost love with fanship. It’s a rootsy, Prousty lesson in counterpoint that hints what Dylan’s song owed to Don Gibson’s 1961 hit, even as it bows to what Cash’s old friend found down by the “Sea.”

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Overkill

Hard to argue with lefty sportswriter Dave Zirin’s point that players should be free to determine their own venues, but Kevin Durant’s move to the Warriors strikes at the heart of what makes professional sports interesting; dare I say “worthwhile”? Competitive balance and team cohesiveness.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Sexual Politics

I don’t know what to make of the Trump thing. I don’t think anybody does—not even Trump.  Its agenda is as yet unformed, but the model of a racist strongman is already there. Economic anguish, racial distress, status anxieties, terrorism—all play a part. Some of the anger is real, and some of it is a fantasy projection. Taking this apart will take some time, at which point it may be too late.

But let’s begin with sexual politics, not just because it’s such a powerful force to begin with, but because it’s clearly a motivating factor in this election.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

His Blood-stained Hands

In the moments before Donald Trump announced his choice of running mate, Vox’s Ezra Klein told us, reporters found themselves staring at “an empty podium and the Rolling Stones blasting through the speakers.” What was the song chosen for this momentous occasion? “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The song has been background noise for Trump’s rallies for months, even though the Stones asked the candidate to cease and desist back in February. What is it doing there?

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Humanist on the Bridge

Pierre Ryckmans (1935 – 2014), who also used the pen-name Simon Leys, is best known for his trilogy of truth attacks on the Cultural Revolution in China and the mindlessness of Maoism—Les Habits neufs du président Mao (1971), Ombres chinoises (1974) and Images brisées (1976). Ryckmans came to be known as the Orwell of the East and the revelations of Ombres chinoises  (Chinese Shadows), in particular, are worthy of Homage to Catalonia.

Ryckmans’ mind was as rangy as Orwell’s.  His variousness and lucidity are on display in his ABC Boyer lectures, which he gave in Australia back in 1996.  What follows is a transcript of his opening talk on “Learning.”

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Twenty-Something(s)

Charles O’Brien helps launch the new First Choice section focusing on our writers’ favorite things. 

“Twenty-Something” is the third track on Pet Shop Boys’ latest cd, Super. You can find it on YouTube in a few different versions. The two most obvious go-to versions are the “official video” and one remix. The “official video” is a b&w short about a gangbanger in San Diego, fresh out of the joint and trying desperately to adjust to the world. It’s about as efficient a short narrative as you’re likely to see, and as an illustration of these lyrics, not what you’d be likely to expect.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr