A few words about “tactics”


In the current climate, I have no doubt I can piss off a bunch of different people for a variety of reasons in only a few words. Let’s see. But, before I talk about tactics, a few words about Boston.

Boston has a troubled history regarding race relations, more troubled than many Northern big cities and nearly as troubled as a few Southern ones. Don’t believe me, read the magnificent book by J. Anthony Lukas entitled Common Ground (1985) that chronicles the lives of three Boston families during the busing/ desegregation era.

That time wasn’t that long ago and I have no doubt things are still problematic, but 40.000 Boston folks showed up yesterday in counterprotest to the planned “Unite the Right” rally. That’s a nice number – on short notice – and is a fairly good indication of who’s winning the war of hearts and minds. Four hundred something doofuses with tiki torches in Charlottesville versus 40,000 folks in Boston inviting them to go home.

Numbers are important. They provide perspective. But numbers are increasingly hard to come by because the media often chooses not to supply them, hoping to gin up interest in an event (including, maybe especially, on social media) by magnifying its relative importance. If I were a Catholic, I would term the dearth of numbers in the mainstream media as a sin of omission rather than commission. But it’s still a sin. Tight camera shots are another malefactor.

Those are media tactics, which we should at least be aware of. They want popular stories to have “legs,” run a long time on those legs, and hopefully turn into a miniseries. It has always been thus, back to the little girl or boy who fell down the well in Radio Days while America listened glued to the set, praying for her or his safe return. But watching the miniseries … or listening to the rescue efforts … doesn’t provide us with the necessary information to make moral or even practical decisions regarding current events and their implications. That’s where longer magazine and newspaper pieces come in. Where books come in.

I’m fairly well versed in the “alt-right” movement and its antecedents. In the main room of my memory is a timeline of the American Civil Rights Movement and a map of Vietnam. In the near future, I plan to read up on the antifa (antifascist) group, the decision of the ACLU to withdraw support for the Unite the Right assembliers if they come armed, and I can’t wait for the arrival of longer magazine pieces on Charlottesville, for the first book on Charlottesville if it’s not a poorly executed rush job. I want to know more. I want the blanks of real-time media coverage filled in. Their lenses adjusted. Wider shots. I hate not knowing as much as I should know because things are always, well, ginned up. And then people start tweeting (i.e. taking a virtual pee) and, well, forget about it.

I told you the good news from Boston yesterday, here’s the bad news. The Unite the Right rally speakers were never able to speak. I had hoped they would be able to voice their hate as planned, so that folks could hear how stupid they are, make jokes about their hair, ask during breaks what’s up with Steve Bannon’s mouth (herpes?), speculate on when exactly was the last time any of these alt-white righties had a date.

The New Right Nation will, apparently, be an all dude thing. That’s gonna be a tough sell, even in the reddest parts of the South and middle America. No par-tay either. Just a lot of speeches and chest-beating and marching across bridges to nowhere. I wish we’d heard them talk. Hearing the bald guy with the weird mouth talk and talk (on that VICE video that’s been making the rounds) was the best non-advertisement for Unite the Right I’ve ever seen. Let Stupid talk. He’ll hang himself.

Stupid didn’t talk in Boston because scuffles broke out, the White Righties fled, the police shut things down. Better that than the barely supervised chaos of Charlottesville over an expanding time frame that was destined to lead to violence eventually. But better still would be letting them speak to a handful of hooded clappers while Smart and Reasonable speaks across the park to that crowd of 40,000.

Tactically, for me, the most effective counterprotest is to rally in opposition to the speakers you detest. Telling what you perceive to be the truth (while dissecting what’s wrong with what they profess) to a crowd ten, a hundred, a thousand times as large.

My ideal “better” entails no street fights. No physical attacks. No violence. Which is where antifa and I butt heads … metaphorically, of course.

I only know a little, so I concede in advance I may not know enough, but some of the antifa activists advocate instigating violence against the alt-right and actively shut down their events. In a lot of localities, the alt-righters and the antifas have scuffled at events in the past, yell at each other by name, so it’s like a monthly reunion of the Jets and Sharks but without the dancing. It’s parochial and not helpful at all.

I would prefer no scuffles, no physical attacks, no violence of any kind. From anyone. The Black Panthers (to name only one group from the past) did not run around instigating violence. They merely let it be known that force in their neighborhoods would be met by force. Not free speech in their neighborhoods. Force. Violence. And all or nearly all of the violence associated with the Panthers was started by police, up to and including the police murder of Fred Hampton.

Let the other side be the ones to instigate violence. Be the bad guys. Be the ones who do time. It worked during the Civil Rights Movement and it will work now. Not to mention that violence and the threat of violence begets more violence.

I heard people say they felt that the antifas at Charlottesville had “protected” them from Unite the Right members intent on violence. Maybe, but it also endangered them and others. The violence of the first days … some of which appears to have resulted in the alt-wrongers showing up heavily armed the last day … put hundreds of people in jeopardy. Watching all those stupid fuckers with automatic weapons in a tense crowd of mostly noncombatants was a nightmare. One I hope does not become a recurring dream.

Which brings us to the ACLU. They made a decision not to support Unite the Right type groups in their right to assembly if they choose to assemble armed. I know I am good with their support of the rights of such groups under peaceful pretenses. I think I also favor withdrawal of that support because of guns.

Providing legal support to their armed assembly … even in an open carry state (God how I hate guns!) … might open the ACLU up to legal action. And lawsuits if gun violence occurs. I think the ACLU also feared losing a significant part of their donor base like what happened to them after Skokie even though no significant violence occurred there. I think it was a business decision – on the part of ACLU – awaiting a philosophical justification, but I’m cool with that. Did I mention how much I hate guns?

My few words turned into a wide-ranging screed, which happens a lot with me. Sorry about that. As Pascal said, if I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. I’m open to corrections on facts and differences of opinion, but I’m not sure how much I’ll engage back and forth. I’ve posted too much this week and I’m sick of hearing myself talk.

It appears to be a nice sunny day outside. I think I’ll take a closer look.

Why a lot of comics won’t work colleges …

Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update - Season 1
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: WEEKEND UPDATE — Episode 102 — Pictured: (l-r) Tina Fey, Colin Jost and Michael Che at the Weekend Update desk on August 17, 2017 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

This latest twitter storm over Tina Fey is why. Or an example of why. And one reason why humor these days – in general – feels constrained, cautious, afraid.

It’s not conducive to art of any kind to live in fear of offending someone … having a joke taken the wrong way … upsetting the irony-challenged … pissing someone off because they don’t understand your historical or cultural reference … or just plain fucking up. By fucking up I mean actually crossing the line, saying something that might be or actually is offensive, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Saying something that even you – upon reflection and when no longer in the heat of comic battle – might well be offended by.

Comedy is hard. Making it up on the spot … or under network deadline … is harder. And mistakes happen when you try.

If fear consumes you, you won’t be able to write or tell jokes. You won’t be a comedian. Or not the kind of comedian I admire, anyway. Here’s a brief and very incomplete list of older humorists I admire: Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, Nichols & May, Dick Gregory, Lily Tomlin, The Smothers Brothers, Richard Pryor, Richard Lewis, Sandra Bernhard, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Paula Poundstone, Chris Rock, Bill Hicks and back through movie time to The Marx Brothers, Mae West, W.C. Fields on back through literature to Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift. Oh, and that Shakespeare guy.

I don’t know what the answer is. I just know what I do. If I hear a joke I don’t like or understand, I don’t laugh. Comics, especially, stand-ups, are like card counters. They can tell you exactly how many laughs they got that night and which jokes fell flat. Don’t laugh and they’ll hear you

I’m good with that. Only that. I don’t need to tweet about every joke gone awry. Or call on the global small town to assemble with torches and pitchforks. Or eat cake. Unless Tina’s buying.

Would you want the interwebs to vote on whether you get to keep your job?


Can we stop this?

We all now live in an early 20th century midwestern small town, where a person’s moral worth is discussed and decided over back fences by people with nothing better to do. And where a single sin gets you banned both from church and from drinking at the American Legion.

Take a break from the daily outrage, everybody, and make sure the rent is up to date on your own glass house.

I Count the DeVos Fight as a Win …


What could have been a routine appointment became anything but routine. We turned a vote or two (lots of votes if you count Democratic votes that became noes instead of go along to get alongs).

We put the entire Democratic Party on notice that their job is to RESIST the Assclown in Chief and everything he does if they want our support in two years. They will be primaried if they cut deals or try to straddle the fence, just as moderate Republicans were primaried by the Tea Party. We need Leaders not ass-coverers.

Mike Pence had to leave his Presidential duties (which he shares with Bannon and a couple of others while the Orange Queen signs shit and poses for photos) to cast the deciding vote. Any minute or portion of a minute of these guys’ days that we can tie up with resistance are minutes or portions of minutes they can’t devote to fucking America.

Sean Spicer had to use the word “unprecedented” to describe Democratic behavior that was de rigeur Republican behavior for nearly the last eight years. Even FOX viewers (who know what unprecedented means) knows that one is bullshit.

Betsy Devos (SCAmway heiress and bigtime Dark Money donor) was exposed as an ignorant dunderhead with an anti-public school zeal that is the opposite of her department’s mission. This is what the GOP does … puts people in charge to wreck the Department with nonsense and neglect … unless that Cabinet job is needed to pay back Putin for favors or to keep Mitch McConnell happily greasing the wheels.

Fuck you, Trump! Fuck you, Pence! And fuck you, Betsy DeVos! We’ll be in your faces until you’re gone. Letting you know you’re being watched. Obstructing your actions when possible. Reviling them when not.

Enjoy this moment, GOP Custers. This is your last stand.

I Hope This Happens …


Science March on Washington

And I hope that prominent scientists from around the world join U.S. scientists in a march on Washington. It’s important to make the point that America’s greedy, bone-headed, baseless anti-science bias is not only destroying our own country but everyone else’s.

Never ratifying the Paris Agreement, putting a ban on outgoing communications by EPA and other science departments, and nominating an oil robber baron (Rex Tillerman of Exxon/Mobil) as Secretary of State are the kinds of things that make so many other countries hate and fear the U. S.

Their hatred and fear comes from dreading what fresh dangerous, destructive, shit move we’ll pull next … not because we’re “free.”

Besides, I’m not convinced we are free anymore. This is not the nation I was born to.

With SCAmway Heiress Betsy DeVos …

poised to head the Education Department, where she intends to continue to hack away at public funding for public schools until there is none of either left, it’s good to look back a year. When Mother Jones published a good article on the looming crisis inspired by DeVos’s greedy ilk and looming as one of next big crises. Well, I guess if can’t find a decent high school to attend, you can always try selling Amway. It will make you RICH!


The “Last Tango” Twitter Storm


According to some, our current time should be called the Post-Truth Era, which has brought us our first Post-Truth President aided by (among other things) dozens of post-truth “news” stories, articles, statements, and tweets.

The “Last Tango actress was raped” story, which went viral these past couple days, is a good example of what Post-Truth looks like, how it behaves, and how hard it is to combat.

Some facts before I continue:

No, ‘Last Tango in Paris’ Director Did Not Say Marlon Brando Committed Rape
3 December 2016 5:54 PM, PST | The Wrap | See recent The Wrap news »

The 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris” was pilloried across the internet this weekend over the belief that director Bernardo Bertolucci had admitted that a rape scene between stars Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider was an actual rape. But in an interview a decade ago, Schneider herself said that no sex of any kind took place during the scene, in which then-48-year-old Brando’s character uses butter to have anal sex with the 19-year-old Schneider. In fact, she said she felt “a little bit raped” by her director and co-star because they manipulated and coerced her into doing the scene, »
– Tim Molloy

I had to search for the Tim Molloy retraction article above. Every other publication (and social media, of course) went with the click-bait version that Bertolucci and Brando raped Maria Schneider on camera in a movie you’ve seen. And Bertolucci is finally coming clean after all these years.

Except, none of that happened. There was no rape. There was no real sex, consensual or otherwise. And the Bertolucci interview was from 2013, not now. Oh, and he didn’t say what those articles said he said. He said what Tim Molloy said he said.

There is an interesting discussion in this general area. Several actually. About power relationships (and abuses of same) in Hollywood and the wider world. About what is permissible in Art to obtain (or hope to obtain) a great performance. We could bring up the recent Profiles theater scandal. And talk about Balanchine. And that horrid studio director who made child actor Jackie Cooper cry on camera by telling him his dog had died. And the butter scene in Last Tango will be a good addition to that discussion. Along with dozens of other mindfucking directorial stunts from that era and before and after. We can talk about the psychic price of emotional coercion. And the extra responsibilities one should feel toward a young person that you’re about to turn into an overnight star.Truffaut clearly felt such responsibility, Bertolucci didn’t. He didn’t care about anything but his film.

I would love to have these discussions .. and many more on similar topics … and you’ll probably find that we agree on most of them. I’m not a fan of the tactics mentioned above. Or of the behavior. In the service of Art or personal pleasure or anything else.

What we can’t have is a discussion about rape in relation to Last Tango in Paris (1972). Because no rape occurred. And no sex happened, consensual or otherwise. It was rated X for nudity and language and adult situations as portrayed by actors. Not C for Crimes.

Here, let Maria Schneider tell you. Again. She stated that not only was there no actual sex in the infamous “butter scene,” but no real sex in the movie, period. “Not at all,” Schneider said.

Who starts these things? Who sat in a room somewhere, happened to see a three-year-old interview with Bertolucci who’s nearly 80 now and hasn’t made a film in years, decided to distort his statements just enough to get attention, then watched the Internet version of the Telephone Game spin out. Who does this? And what do they get from it?

I lost friends over this, by simply stating that the story didn’t happen the way they had heard it did. They were only Facebook friends, but, hey, in times like these we need all the friends we have.

And here’s a depressing thought. If it’s this hard to cry bullshit on fake 50-year-old movie gossip, how the fuck are we ever going to correct the record on stories of national import.

How will we ever get a real President again? One who’s sort of friendly to the truth. Who’s Post-Post-Truth.You know?

If you wrote this shit as a movie, you’d be laughed out of Hollywood …


A clueless alleged President Elect totally in bed with the Russian Gangster Czar, cutting deals on hotels in former Soviet states instead of attending to his transition, having his kids sit in on important government meetings, interrupting other meetings for the really important stuff (so he can talk to Indian hoteliers about still more personal business deals), merchandising your upcoming Presidency 24/7 with everything from caps to cups to chia pets for christmas before you’ve even set foot officially in your new white home (which you’ve let everyone know is a big step down from Trump Tower and you’re not happy), calling a meeting of reporters to give them crap in a vocabulary so limited it would embarrass Koko the Gorilla. Koko’s nicer, too! And more worldly wise.

No one would believe any of this in a screenplay … even for a movie with “Bad” somewhere in the title, maybe Bad President starring Billy Bob Thornton … and then you throw in the Media pretending this is business as usual? Nothing to see here?

Welcome to America Through the Looking Glass. Fuck me. Please make it stop.


New EPA Head Myron Ebell Announces 1st Project Under Trump


Trump House Gang appointee and award-winning science denier, Myron Ebell, has set forth what he hopes will be his first act as new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ebell will ease the onerous regulations that the Obama Administration put upon the Noah’s Ark recreation in Kentucky and authorize it to sail the Seven Seas!

In the ongoing liberal campaign to squelch free enterprise and defy the will of the markets. Obama himself had personally ruled that the Noah’s Ark recreation (which contains replicas of baby dinosaurs alongside baby lions and tigers and bears) was technically a “museum” and would not be allowed to charter cruises.

After Ebell corrects this injustice, the first Noah’s Ark Caribbean Holiday Cruise will depart from Miami this coming June. Among those expected to be on board with the baby dinosaurs et al are top executives from all the major oil & gas companies, Glenn Beck, James Dobson (of Focus on the Family) and his children and grandchildren, all of Mike Pence’s surviving highschool teachers from Indiana, a to-be-named-later descendant of William Jennings Bryant (who argued for God at the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1928), and Eric Trump.

The Donald has respectfully declined to be a part of the cruise as the Noah’s Ark Caribbean jaunt will interfere with tee times he has lined up in June and a Gala “The Apprentice” Reunion Show filming June 17th at Trump Tower.

A Face in the Audience at Home

a face in the crowd tv

The “star” of a reality TV show I’ve never heard of was the first speaker at a major political party convention that will nominate the “star” of a reality TV show I’ve never watched. Followed by a former TV “star” I barely remember who played a character named Chachi.

Forty percent of the US public currently indicates that they intend to vote Republican and several of my friends say they won’t vote at all because of b.s. they read on internet “news” sites that also show pics of Sasquatch and UFOs. The segment coming up on the Convention Show is a repeat of the Benghazi Miniseries, which has aired at least eight times before and was most likely produced by the makers of Swiftboat, 24, or both.

Every bad thing I ever said (or merely feared) might happen to my country has happened. Including that the culture wars are now armed. And that half the population no longer knows the difference between what they watch on the boob tube and what’s really real. And that the other half isn’t too sure.

I type this not because I think it will make the slightest bit of difference, but to keep sitting up. Hoping that, if I stay vertical, inspiration might come. Light appear. And so I can hope against hope that my country is not this broken. Broken beyond repair.

So I can keep hoping that something, anything, can be done.

I Give You Donald Trump on Brexit …

US tycoon Donald Trump (C) is escorted b


I made myself read this, so I could feel the utter sorrow of how empty this man’s head is. Under the yellow chick-feather hair. What a boob he is. If Trump ever knew anything … about anything …. he’s forgotten it. I think Trump was trying to suggest that Britain build a wall between themselves and Europe, but he got distracted by the bagpipes or something.

The Brits who voted to leave the EU are stupid. Sorry. Ignorant is the right word, not stupid. Although some folks are both. Last night they were acting like they’d just beat all of Europe in soccer … sorry, futbol. When all they’d done is voted to take their ball and go home.

They got scammed. By emotional appeals divorced from reason and devoid of facts. A lot of the folks who voted LEAVE are busy googling EU today and wondering what it is exactly they’d done. Because, at the time, at the rallies, in the pubs, they were just chasing a feeling that they liked. Of rooting for the home club.

In sports, you don’t play well with others. You play well against others.

I could feel superior, I guess. But then I look around. At my fellow Americans, many of whom get their news from Fox, which announced the Brexit vote with the headline “Britain votes to leave the UN.” And then I see who received the nomination for one of our two major political parties. Currently starring in The Apprentice Goes to Scotland. And I want to throw up. I’m that afraid.

Death to Memes!

Okay, so maybe your friend is having a bad day and you decide that posting a little inspirational message (in pretty type or accompanied by a nice photograph or funny drawing) on facebook might be just the thing to cheer them up.

That is a nice thing to do. Sending good thoughts over the interwebs.  And, you never know, it might cheer your friend up. So I guess I don’t want death to all funny pictures and quippy quotes. But can we, please, stop trying to elect our President by meme?

First of all, posting memes for your candidate doesn’t accomplish anything … really … except to remind all your friends, yet again, who you’re voting for. I don’t know of a single voter who (upon being polled regarding why they support a particular candidate) replied, “I saw this meme on twitter and just knew – right then – John Kasich was my guy!”

kasich 1

And it’s not like you’re starting a meme discussion. You post a Hillary meme, then your cousin posts a Bernie meme in response, then you answer her with another Hillary meme and she Bernie-memes back, and so on and so on  until one of you finally concedes and says, “Okay, your memes win. I’m changing my vote!”

If you take my advice and stop meming, think of all the time you’ll be freeing up in your schedule. Time to spend with loved ones. Or getting exercise. Or thinking up something of your own to say. And who can tell where all that stuff might lead? ‘Cause, you know …

today meme

Which Guy Always Needs His Phone?

And which guy could safely leave it at home?

If you guessed that the ER doctor on call needs his cell phone with him at all times, you win! Having his phone could save lives. And your prize for picking the ER doctor is your choice of a) a library card; b) a trip to a museum; or c) a romantic evening with your significant other.


If you picked this guy, you lose. And you’re probably one of the 6 billion or so non-ER doctors who pretty much never need their phone. Everything that’s happening on it can wait until you get home. Your punishment for picking loser guy is a) a library card; b) a trip to a museum; or c) a romantic evening with your significant other.

Biff! Bam!? POW!!! Tom Wolfe***!

Thomas KennerlyTomWolfe, Jr. (born March 2, 1931)

I think it was 2004 (when he was in  Los Angeles promoting the novel I Am Charlotte Simmons) that I saw Tom Wolfe in Skylight Books. He was seated alone at a small table in the back of the store (where the staff sets up microphones and chairs for writers who are having readings) and he was signing copy after copy of his book for the store. Tom Wolfe was wearing his trademark white suit, which looked immaculate, and his hair was dyed more or less blond. He looked healthy, but his hands shook as he wrote.

Tom Wolfe was one of a relatively small group of mostly magazine writers (mostly based in New York) who were credited in the 1960s and 1970s with creating something  called the “New Journalism,” which in its broadest sense was defined as the practice of applying fictional techniques to nonfiction reportage. Wolfe was foremost among New Journalists (i.e., the first to achieve fame and make serious money at it) and some of his better fellow practitioners included Gay Talese, Joan Didion, Jimmy Breslin, David Halberstam, Dan Wakefield, Gail Sheehy, and Hunter S Thompson. Established novelists such as Truman Capote and Norman Mailer also jumped on the New Journalism train.

Never mind that nearly all of the genre’s so-called innovations (including said use of fiction-style storytelling and immersion in the subject matter) had been around since at least Charles Dickens and Sketches by Boz (1836), which also included another New Journalism staple: trippy illustrations by an avant-garde (for his day) illustrator. Every generation has to pretend they are tearing down the opera houses and beginning anew. And every generation of publishers knows a good advertising gimmick when they see it.

What Wolfe and Talese and Didion and Thompson were doing did at least FEEL new and provided the impetus for some extraordinary books and possibly the most exciting period in magazine history. I can’t tell you the thrill I felt – from the late Sixties until whatever date we decide to pinpoint as the End of Print – when I’d open a new edition of Esquire, New York, Ramparts, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone. You never knew what you’d find but you knew a lot of it would be good and there would be something you didn’t know, something you’d never thought of in that way, something that changed your mind, and occasionally something that ripped your head off. Oh, and you could count the misspellings and typos on the fingers of one hand.

Tom Wolfe (depending on your view of his work, including the later novels such as the Dickens-style serialized The Bonfire of the Vanities) is either a jumped-up reporter and fortunate beneficiary of a certain zeitgeist or a great American writer. I’d say he’s both and I’d make that assessment solely on his New Journalism period. Those early books – from the collections of magazine pieces such as Radical Chic through the two book-length excursions, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) and The Right Stuff (1979), were among the best books of their day and have already stood the test of time.

Wolfe is also a good example of a writer that I mostly disagree with and still mostly admire. (Celine would be an extreme example.) Born in Virginia, he was a bit of a dandy and a Southern gentleman … if that’s not being redundant … and his pronouncements on social and artistic matters tend toward the conservative. Even, at times, the social conservative. I like a lot of 20th century architecture and design, but Wolfe doesn’t and I still enjoyed From Bauhaus to Your House. I love modern art and still (almost) love The Painted Word. And posterity is tremendously blessed that there was one person with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters who was “on the bus” to write and only to write.

Tom Wolfe seemed happy as he signed his books. I got the feeling – based on nothing other than a feeling – that he enjoys writing and likes being Tom Wolfe. A Southern gentleman in a white suit with impeccable manners who has written books that ripped my head off. I decided not to ask for his autograph. That would have felt redundant.


A Combover in the Crowd

combover in the crowd

Fear and Loathing on the Trump Trail, Part I


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow… Chick, Chick, Chick!… Somewhere Around Barstow… A Rose Is a Rose… A Guest Star Better Late Than Never… Barstow Redux… A Face in the Crowd?… It Can’t Happen Here!… And Now a Word from Our Sponsor….

steadman draws trump

You have to look at it, you can’t help yourself; but you mustn’t look too long or too hard.  Bad things can happen if you do. Right now – in the moment of which I write – I’m focused on the fluffy front part of Trump’s hair (he’s facing the camera on a show called CBS This Morning) observing how a spun-sugar wave of it drifts down over his upper forehead and how it resembles nothing so much as baby chick feathers. It’s not just the consistency that invites this comparison, it’s also the color: a soft, seemingly back-lit hue of yellow-white that appears nowhere in Nature except on two-day-old chickens and the head of Donald J. Trump. It should also be noted that his front hair appears glued together to form a sort of uni-bang. If you lift up one part of the bang, the rest will follow.

I realize I’ve been staring when I begin to see stars and hear odd mechanical clicking sounds that drown out what the group of actors around Trump is saying. The cast of the TV show – two attractive women with good hair and an older man – are seated with The Donald around a glass table that has a stencil of the CBS trademark eye painted on it. I know I should know all the people around Trump – they’re important – but the only one I recognize (and it takes me awhile) is the man, whose name is Charlie Rose and who used to have his own show where he interviewed people for very low ratings very late at night.

Charlie Rose might still have his own show. I’ve fallen behind – in recent years – on my TV viewing, a failing which I hope to rectify this season. So far I’ve only missed the Election Show segments in Iowa and New Hampshire (where Trump finished third and first in the ratings) and it’s clear that Charlie and the other regulars on CBS This Morning are very excited to have him on as a guest star.  One of the female regulars (sorry, I didn’t catch her name, but she’s black, very pretty, and was costumed for this episode in an expensive belted dress) remarked, “Finally, live and in color.” The other woman (white, pretty as well, with long hair and a blue dress) indicated she was delighted and, although Charlie didn’t say anything just then, he nodded happily when the first woman quoted him as having remarked upon Trump’s arrival: “What took you so long?” Trump was gracious in response, congratulating everyone on their show and saying that he watched it. I think he lied, though: Trump is all about “winners” and the morning show on CBS is a loser. It only has an average 3.85 million viewers and trails the morning shows on ABC and NBC. But it was nice of Trump to say he tuned in and you could see how it gave the whole cast a lift.


snapshot cbsI’m trying really hard to focus on what everyone’s saying  – it’s important, for God’s sake, and I’m a professional! – but I’ve gotten caught up again in examining The Donald’s hair: there’s a different camera angle now and you see it in profile, the left side profile, and you can actually pinpoint the place where the part begins. Oooph! Suddenly, I can’t hear the voices on the TV over the noises in my head and I’m once more seeing stars, but – before it gets really bad – CBS switches to a different camera (without Trump in the foreground) and I’m able to shift my own focus to Charlie Rose. Rose used to favor red ties but he goes in now for light purple – almost a lavender – and his face now is the tired, slightly hangdog visage of the aging philanderer. Rose’s receding gray hair is slicked back and held tightly in place, as if his mother had wet it with spit and smoothed it down right before the show. But as I study his hair – and mentally contrast it with Trump’s – Charlie is stating that people are saying “Donald Trump has changed American politics” in New Hampshire, where he captured a 35 share using his own money and without having to thank a single sponsor. The camera guys switch back to a closeup on Trump and I quickly press pause.

FaceInCrowdOne reason I pause the podcast is because that thing is happening again … the optic flashes and the clicks, which are becoming more frequent and starting to overlap into a droning buzz … but also because something Charlie has just said to Trump reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, A Face in the Crowd (1957). It stars Andy Griffith as an American TV personality named Lonesome Rhodes, who acquires political influence as his popularity with the viewing public grows.

In the film – set during 1950s America – everything gets jumbled up: celebrity, power, business, sex, advertising, violence, politics, an ignorant poor populace, a rich ruling elite, all of it sprayed with a thin but scary varnish of latent fascism. As I’m writing this, I’m getting embarrassed: A Face in the Crowd has nothing to do with Donald Trump’s run for the Presidency and I can’t imagine why I thought it did in the first place. But memory is weird that way and the sequence that popped into my mind is the one after Lonesome Rhodes gets his first TV show, sponsored by a local mattress company who wants him to read their ad copy straight. Rhodes refuses – he makes fun of the Mattress Guy on air – and gets fired. His refusal to kowtow to his sponsor makes Lonesome Rhodes even more popular with the people, however. His fans break windows at the mattress company, burn mattresses in the street, and vow to follow Rhodes to bigger and better things.

Like I said, it’s an old movie that can’t happen now and certainly not here. And I was stupid for thinking there was any sort of connection.  A Face in the Crowd is fiction, the Trump Show reality-based. The movie’s hero started out broke and in jail; our hero got $200,000 straight out of college and as much as $200 million more when his father died. Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes is preserved on celluloid and in black-and-white. Donald “The Donald” Trump is live and in color.


Coming Soon: Things get scary – in Fear and Loathing on the Trump Trail, Part II – and Randall Smoot has to go for a walk.