Donald practices his reading

crayon map
Well, at least now we know how he’s going to pay the Secret Service … he’ll make Pakistan pay them and foot the bill for his next dozen golf outings. Maybe he can also get them to pay for the Wall.

Wait, maybe corporate advertising could pay for the Wall. “This mile of beautiful concrete is brought to you” by Nascar or Koch Brothers Industries or Mountain Dew. Commercials could be projected twenty feet high from a Border Patrol van that plays them on an endless loop. We could install point of purchase displays in the middle of nowhere.  Hey, I’m thinking private sector! That’s good, right?

Is last night’s speech the longest piece of writing that Donald has ever read in one place at one time? Without going off script or getting so bored he just quits? I think he got about twenty minutes in before he did that repeaty thing he does and threw in an ad lib or two. But he caught himself and got back to the grueling business of reading.

Good job, Donald. Give yourself a soda and a candy bar. 

I don’t believe Donald Trump can find Afghanistan on a map. And the only parts of the speech that he wrote – or suggested – were statements like “As I’ve said before,” so he could pretend he’d had input on both the speech and the policy.  I also don’t believe that his prepared statement disclosed anything of importance regarding U.S. plans there. The military has decided that we need to stay awhile longer. They put the kabosh on the War by Voucher Eric Prince thing at the same time they put the kabosh on its principal sponsor, Steve Bannon. The only thing I know for sure is that Pakistan will be pissed both by Trump’s demand that they pick up the check and his praise of India.

The speech was classic Don Draper “change the subject” stuff and, from Trump’s somber demeanor, it looks like they also changed his meds. Switched out the adderall for a mild sedative, which they probably tucked inside raw hamburger and then massaged Donald’s throat until he swallowed.

I dislike this man so intensely that it’s increasingly hard for me to watch him and listen to him. I wish Fred Trump had followed HIS original instinct and pulled out 72 years ago.

But Fred finished what he started in Queens that night. And here we all are.

Closing the circle NeoNazis – Trump – Russia


I have written about this in the past, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been talked about more in the standard media, but there is a strong connection between America’s youthful rightwing extremists (especially those who aver White Supremacy such as Richard Spencer) and Putin’s Russia.

They see Russia as an example of White Supremacy in action and contemporary Russia’s high level of anti-Semitism is, needless to say, copacetic as well. The guy in the middle is actually Steve Bannon (and Gorka et al) not the virtually mindless Donald Trump, but Trump has the power and they vie for his brain.

NeoNazi leader Richard Spencer’s ex-wife is Russian and a disciple of Alexander Dugin, the fascist racist philosophical force behind Putin … and much of America’s so-called alt-right. To the extent, the alt-right has intellectual content that content is a mix of Hitler and Alexander Dugin. And the dots continue from Russia through the fascist and/or National Front parties of Europe and elsewhere to America under Trump/ Bannon/ Gorka/ Miller/ Spencer.

Google Alexander Dugin and read up. Bring your barf bag. Compare his thoughts and poltical desires with Steve Bannon’s. Get a second barf bag. And read the link below from Newsweek, which just connected a couple quick dots seven hours ago.

Heil! MAGA! Nostrovia!

Moreau est mort


Jeanne Moreau has died. She was one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century and carried/transported some of the most important movies ever made. Impossible to imagine the menage of Jules and Jim without Moreau in the middle, impossible to imagine La Notte at all, Elevator to the Gallows, Mademoiselle, Bertrand Blier’s Going Places opposite a Gerard Depardieu just starting his career.

Hollywood had no idea what to do with Jeanne Moreau. It never knew what to do with any great European female star back then unless they had big tits to stare at while they learned a little English. And could play the coquette. Come to think of it, Hollywood had no idea what to do with any actress who was a grown-ass woman and wanted to play complex characters. Fuck Them. Moreau was better than Them. Bigger.

I asked a once-famous friend (who worked for Life magazine during its heyday) what he considered the greatest day of his life. Without an instant’s hesitation, he said the day he spent smoking heroin and talking with Jeanne Moreau in a Paris hotel room while the 1968 student riots unfolded underneath their window. I think Didion and Dunne were also there.

My friend is long since dead of drugs. Jeanne Moreau lived to be 89, lived until today. Moreau was big enough to encompass everything, every experience. No one was bigger. Or better.


The rest of the world should declare war on us …

global warming

and take out our current Commander in Chief. Or least take away his cell phone. I certainly wouldn’t blame the world’s other countries for lining up against us if the global disaster called Trump (as rumored) pulls the United States out of the Paris Agreement today. This will put our nation in rarefied company … with only Syria and Nicaragua as fellow non-signators … among the world’s almost 200 countries.

Syria has been busy the last six years, so it is understandable that it hasn’t gotten around to signing. Nicaragua refused to sign because it felt that the Agreement’s regulations were not STRONG enough.

There is also the small independent state of Ijadaiatdgmm near Burptown in Kentucky, which is composed primarily of retired coal miners and Southern Baptists over the age of 50 and which is seeking independence from the rest of America, Ijadaimites believe climate change is a hoax and worry that a reduction in carbon emissions may delay the Rapture. NOTE: Their proposed nation name is an acronym for I’m Just as Dumb and Ignorant as the Day God Made Me. Also not signing are Randy Quaid and his wife, who believe that the Paris Agreement is a veiled attempt to get them to pay back taxes.

Rex Tillerson urged Trump to keep us in the Agreement. So did the current heads of Exxon Mobil and all other oil and gas companies, car companies, etc. (Although that may have been smoke and mirrors to disguise their own guilt in creating global catastrophe.) So did North Fucking Korea for Christ’s sake. But we have a President who emulates Slim Pickens and wants to ride Destruction all the way down while yahooing and waving his combover.

Twice this week I dreamed that Trump’s election had been “fake news” and we had a real President again. Then I woke up.

“I will study this dumb President!”


That is my vow. It’s a paraphrase of a tweet made by our dumb President, who was vowing to study a “dumb” deal the much smarter last American President made with the smarter and more effective PM of Australia.

You know, the Turnbull guy that President Clueless hung up on yesterday after bragging about his electoral college margin of victory and complaining about the U.S.-Aussie agreement to relocate a thousand plus Syrian refugees from the Land Down Under to the new United States Uber Alles. You know, the kind of deal that trusted allies make. The kind of deal signators to the Geneva Convention make.

It was The Donald’s staff’s fault for scheduling an hour with Australia. Trump can’t talk to anyone for an hour. He couldn’t fill an hour on the campaign trail without hecklers and someone to toss out. There is no topic (except himself) that he can talk about for an hour and, even when talking about Trump, he repeats himself endlessly. And these pesky leaders of other countries are constantly bringing up stuff he knows nothing about. No wonder he got mad and hung up.

(The staff should keep calls to foreign leaders brief, like the one today from Putin. Vladimir asked if Donald had gotten the check and Donald said yes. They traded diet pill stories and both agreed they liked adderall better. Vlad asked Don if “golden showers” were a “thing” in America and Donnie laughed. He said they were “very very” a thing. They wrapped up the convo in under five!)

The people of Australia are very very concerned about what’s happening in the U.S. On the night of Trump’s elevation (I can’t call it an election, because it was fixed six different ways), Prime Minister Turnbull addressed the nation on television, saying that the historic relationship between Australia and America might have to change. One thing he was thinking of, I’m sure, was that Australia (given the seedy, oil-greased, financial relationship with Putin) might no longer feel comfortable sharing military intelligence with an addled, Russo-compromised U.S. Commander in Chief. And that speech was given months ago, before Steve Bannon was promoted to the NSA and the Joint Chief of Staffs demoted. Can you blame Turnbull for being wary?

Can you blame any country (historical ally or not) for wondering WTF? On a daily basis, WTF? Moment to moment, WTF? The world in the last two weeks has become more dangerous than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis early in JFK’s Presidency.

Duck and cover, World. Here comes The Donald!

Can We Get to the Last Act Already?


The last act where the brain-addled (adderalled?) King Donald finally turns on Bannon and hangs his sorry ass for treason and general irritation? Hey, I’m not the one asking for Steve Bannon to hang. Bannon is. By comparing himself, grandiosely and pathetically, to the arch Tudor schemer Thomas Cromwell, who pulled the strings on an unwitting Henry the VIII until Hank summoned his last particle of brain matter and executed him.
“I am Thomas Cromwell,” Steve Bannon said in a recent New York Magazine article where he also compared himself happily to Darth Vader. I haven’t seen Star Wars in a long time, so I just remember a guy who talked low and breathed heavily as if he drank a little. So far so good. I can’t tell if Vader has trouble remembering to shave – like Bannon – because he’s always wearing that space mask thing. And I stopped watching those movies after somebody got his arm torn off. Was that Vader or the blonde good guy star?
Either way, the Cromell comparison seems to work better. And I know more about Cromwell than Vader, so let’s stick with historical Tom. Cromwell manipulates Henry into doing what he wants – for years – until Henry gets wise (or runs out of other people to hang) and offs Cromwell. Happy ending, right? Please understand, I’m 100% against capital punishment … even for treasonous lieges … so I’m only wishing and hoping here for the symbolic execution of “You’re fired.”

King Donald Trump is a licentious greedhead, a reality TV buffoon, who hates one at a time (when someone punctures the gas-filled balloon of his narcissism) not in groups. King Donald doesn’t really hate Mexicans. He hates the Mexican-American judge who ruled against him on the Trump School Fraud. King Donald doesn’t hate Muslims.He hates this Muslim or that Muslim who refused to offer him a building permit or complained about the service in one of his hotels.  Crown Prince Donald talked hate and scapegoated to get elected. And he does those things now to stay elected, while he loots the government coffers and cuts deals in foreign states.  He’s a crook, first, an idealogue barely at all.

But his Cromwell, Steve Bannon? Steve’s a hater. He hates Jews, Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants of all kinds.  He wants ALL immigrants banned … the green card thing wasn’t a “mistake,” it’s something Bannon insisted on.  As you will read in the linked article, he has advocated a hiatus on all immigration (including legal immigration) from all countries and a cessation of multi-nation treaties.  He thinks – and here is where a purportedly bright man shows himself woefully stupid – that the U.s. can cut deals one nation to another nation one deal at a time. And that we will have the upper hand, always, in negotiations, ’cause, you know, we’re Amurica.

Bannon seeks to ally the United State under King Donald with other haters around the world, most of whom are also fascist. Nigel Farage in the UK (a Bannon friend) and the Brexit crowd, fascist shithead Marine Le Pen in France, Putin and Putin and Putin until the last syllable of democratic time. Bannon is a big Putin fan and a disciple of Alexandr Dugin, who is Putin’s fascist ideological inspiration. The Breitbart crowd are also Putin fans, the self-proclaimed neoNazis, all the “National Front” parties in Europe and Latin America. Steve Bannon hates just about everyone, except fellow haters (as long as they’re white and not Jewish) and alt-right. sycophants. He probably even hates Trump.

“Cromwell” Bannon is a disaster in his current job. He is genuinely dangerous. And he owns the ear of an impulsive, deeply incompetent man, who hopefully will have a late Henry the VIIth moment and dump him. Hopefully sooner the later. It will happen because Trump’s ratings will continue to fall, his audience to shrink, the applause to fade.

After money – and sex, which might prove tricky in the White House, especially at 70 and in the days of cell phones and cameras – King Donald craves attention. And all-purpose hate – in the Bannon style – isn’t playing as well in office as it did on the campaign trail.

The early Trump ratings are poor and will continue to drop, I predict. When they fall too far, so will his Cromwell. Here’s hoping his fall is painful and spectacular. I can hate, too.

“Don, it’s Angela again …



Oh, dear, the terms of the Geneva Conventions (of which the U.S. is a signator) had to be explained to him by a foreign leader who assumed her own office prepared.  The current inhabitant of the White House has heard of Geneva – he looked into opening a hotel there once or his people did anyway – but he thought “conventions” were for salespeople and  were usually held in Vegas or some other place with tons of sun and lots of golf courses. Not Switzerland.

Come to think of it, sheltering freedom-loving people from war-torn areas like Syria, saving their lives, seems like such a Red-Blooded American thing to do, you’d think he (or his people) would have heard of it. And how it is sort of required of the world’s Good Guys.

Is this the kind of thing folks meant when they said they wanted a President who would “shake things up”? Someone who would defy the U.S. Constitution, ignore the Bill of Rights, and break International Law on a daily basis? Not because they have a “plan.” Or because they are trying to accomplish something postive. But just because they aren’t possessed of even the average high-school senior’s knowledge of U.S. government.

That level of ignorance in the Highest Office in the Land does shake things up. And not only domestically. When the ignoramus in the Highest Office in the Land is also the Most Powerful Person in the World, it shakes up foreign leaders, too. Gets them concerned.

The irony of the democratically elected, female leader of the reunited formerly Nazi Germany having to SCHOOL the alt-right assclown misogynistic pal of Putin is almost too rich to absorb.

Funny times we live in. Are we having fun yet?

This is how The Donald’s friend rolls …

Death of Russian Ex-Spy Who Provided Trump Dossier

We’re talking Trump’s bestie, Vladimir Putin, here. The guy who fixed the elections in the Ukraine, then generously suggested the men who did it help his American buddy Trump.  The guy who can’t wait to renegotiate that $500 billion deal between Russian oil and the U.S. And who better to handle the negotiations than Rex Tillerman, late of Exxon/Mobil?

Speaking of late. It’s too soon to connect the dots and be certain that the dead Russian ex-spy found in a car in London was murdered. But Oleg Erovinkin was the Russian source for a lot of what Christopher Steele put into the Trump dossier and people who cross Putin do have a tendency to wind up dead. Especially if they’re doublecrossing ends up in the media. Would Vladimir enjoy seeing Oleg on 60 Minutes? Would Trump?

Words on a page can be easily disparaged. Less easily when connected to a face.

Speaking of words. Wasn’t Trump saying nice things about Russia just yesterday? Or was it today? He says nice things about Russia a lot and has already indicated he’ll consider lifting their sanctions.

And The Donald thinks Vladimir Putin is “very, very smart.” Maybe even smart enough to poison someone and make it look like a heart attack.

The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!


That’s the title of a 1966 Cold War satire starring Alan Arkin as the commander of a Soviet sub that accidentally runs aground in new England, causing mass hysteria among the town folk. American kids back then had “duck and cover” drills just in case Russkie atom bombs were launched during Civics class, Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev could be seen pounding his shoe and saying “We will bury you” in a popular pre-cat-video meme, and the dicey (to say the least) Cuban Missile Crisis (Adios, Fidel) was a fresh memory for all.

We fought hot proxy wars with the Russia, the biggest of course being Vietnam. Southern California contractors got rich building missile system after missile system designed to protect us from the Russkies (and their little buddies, China) and stealth planes to spy on them. Devotees of spy stories are still talking about the Soviet mole who supposedly infiltrated the highest ranks of the U.S. intelligence services but was never found.

I could go on and on. But it’s fair to say that Russia is America’s most significant historical foe and – to young Republicans everywhere, especially in the Midwest and South – the most hated.

Now? Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are besties and rightwingers in the Midwest and South cheer? They cheer some more when Russian propagandists flood the internet with false stories against the Democratic nominee, which FOX and other rightwing outlets pass along, And they seem to think it’s just peachy that Russian hackers (under the direction of their present-day KGB) plagued the Clinton campaign with dirty tricks for the better part of a year and set out to rig the general election in favor of their butt buddy Trump.


Some of this stuff qualifies – by the way – as acts of war, but they have provoked no public outrage among the rightwing populace. And not much among the GOP faithful, traditionally Russia’s greatest opponents.Yeah, we know, the country isn’t Commie anymore, it’s mostly run by gangsters. But Putin isn’t Brando in his bathrobe during his retirement years. He’s John Gotti with a nuclear arsenal, a KGB that kills people overseas when it’s not busy hacking our elections, and military operations in Syria et al.

Putin’s a piece of shit. So it’s no wonder he’s attached himself to the biggest piece of shit to ever to run for public office in the United States of America. He wants Syria to himself. He has oil to sell and horses to ride shirtless. And he’s willing to cut good deals on hotels and the like in Georgia and other former Soviet regions that he rules gangster-style now instead of with tanks. Business is business.

I get all that. I just can’t figure out why no one in America seems to be upset about it. Especially the folks in those regions of America – many of whom favored Trump – who were historically most afraid of Russia. And alarmed by all the bad things Russia might do to us.

The Russians aren’t coming, they’re here. And they’ve done a bunch of bad things, not the least of which is installing their gangster-style business mole in the highest office in the land. And still no one’s upset. ‘Cause, you know, Mexicans. Muslims. Gays.

Welcome to Vladimir Putin’s America. Borscht, anyone?

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.

Hemingway, Fitzgerald … and Callaghan

Morley Callaghan (February 22, 1903 – August 25, 1990)

It’s a mystery why some authors survive in print and others fall away. I would like to report that it has to do entirely with the quality of their writing and that the literary cream always rises to the top as the decades go by. I would like to report that, but it isn’t true.

With the exception of those few dozen writers (Hemingway and Fitzgerald are two American examples) who take up permanent residency in The Canon, staying in print would seem to have more to do with what house published you, whether that house still exists, and whether someone at the house that owns your back list thinks money can be made by keeping it current. Movie adaptations used to rescue the occasional forgotten author from obscurity, but comic books are just about the only kind of “books” made into films these days … American films, anyway … so that lifeline has been cut.

I was both pleased – and very surprised – to discover that nearly all of Morley Callaghan’s novels and his collected short stories remain in print; and that his famous memoir of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other expatriate American writers (entitled That Summer in Paris) is available in a new, expanded edition.  Callaghan was one of Canada’s most popular and critically acclaimed writers from the 1930s until his declining years – his slightly pugnacious Irish face once adorned a Canadian postage stamp – and, during his lifetime, he attracted a solid readership in the United States for his novels and especially his stories, many of which appeared in The New Yorker during the heyest of its hey days. But I have not met a single non-Canadian under about the age of 50 who has even heard of Morley Callaghan, let alone read his books.

Callaghan was of Irish ancestry – his parents immigrated to Toronto – and a devout Catholic. His novels often have vaguely Biblical titles and (if you look closely enough) semi-religious themes, usually involving sin and the possibilities of redemption. His characters divide up about equally between criminal types and priestly ones. I suspect the Catholic flavorings may have something to do with Callaghan’s loss of readers below the border in recent years. He was most popular during the period when movie actors such as Bing Crosby were playing priests and Ingrid Bergman was playing nuns. Nice priests and nuns, too!

My favorite of the Callaghan novels that I’ve read are More Joy in Heaven (1937) about an ex-con who becomes a reluctant society’s darling; and Such Is My Beloved (1934) about two prostitutes and the young naive priest who tries to help them. The latter is considered Callaghan’s finest book. I highly recommend both novels and any collection of Callaghan’s superb short stories. His fellow reporter at the Toronto Daily Star, Ernest Hemingway, compared Callaghan’s short stories to James Joyce’s. I would compare them to Ernest Hemingway’s … and compare them favorably. Which brings us to that famous (or infamous) summer in Paris.  A late 1920s summer  that Callaghan spent with his friends (Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald) and during which he met just about every other prominent exiled writer of the time who put in time near the Eiffel Tower … from Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound to the aforementioned Joyce.

I’m going to take a wild guess that Callaghan wrote That Summer in Paris (1967), which appeared three years after Hemingway’s own bestselling memoir of expatriate Paris (A Moveable Feast), to cash in on the earlier book’s success. Callaghan achieved his presumptive goal – his own book sold well and still does, particularly when interest in Hemingway is high – but the book stands on its own. And his good but not great memoir has something that Hemingway’s lacks: veracity. Callaghan’s book gets some of the minor details wrong (e.g., where exactly the boxing match between him and Hemingway took place) but it is true about the events and the people it describes. A Moveable Feast gets most of the minor details right and that’s about it, although it is Hemingway (in a sort of late return to stylistic form) so a lot of the lies are beautifully written.

hemingway460This disparity between the two men’s writing had a parallel in their athletic prowess. Callaghan was a trained and experienced amateur boxer. Hemingway just pretended to be, especially when he was drunk and bragging to other delusional drunks. Papa badgered the younger and lighter Callaghan into a boxing match that was to be officiated by none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald. Scott was also to keep time: three minute rounds with one minute of rest in between. I’ll let Callaghan tell you what happened next.

“Our first round was like most of the rounds we had fought that summer, with me shuffling around, and Ernest, familiar with my style, leading and chasing after me. No longer did he rush in with his old brisk confidence. Now he kept an eye on my left hand and he was harder to hit. As I shuffled around I could hear the sound of clicking billiard balls in the adjoining room.”

(Fitzgerald called time and the three men joked around until it was time to fight again.)

“Right at the beginning of that round Ernest got careless; he came in too fast, his left down, and he got smacked on the mouth. His lip began to bleed. It had often happened. It should have meant nothing to him. Hadn’t he joked with Jimmy, the bartender, about always having me for a friend while I could make his lip bleed? Out of the corner of his eye he may have seen the shocked expression on Scott’s face. Or the taste of blood in his mouth may have made him want to fight more savagely. He came lunging in, swinging more recklessly. As I circled him, I kept jabbing at his bleeding mouth. I had to forget all about Scott, for Ernest had become rougher, his punching a little wilder than usual. His heavy punches, if they had landed, would have stunned me. I had to punch faster and harder myself to keep away from him. It bothered me that he was taking the punches on the face like a man telling himself he only needed to land one punch himself.”

(Callaghan noticed that other people at the club were starting to watch, and noticed that Fitzgerald seemed to be in awe.)

“I was wondering why I was tiring, for I hadn’t been hit solidly. Then Ernest, wiping the blood from his mouth with his gloves, and probably made careless with exasperation and embarrassment from having Scott there, came leaping in at me. Stepping in, I beat him to the punch. The timing must have been just right. I caught him on the jaw; spinning he went down, sprawled out on his back.

“If Ernest and I had been there alone I would have laughed. I was sure of my boxing friendship with him; in a sense I was sure of him, too. Ridiculous things had happened in that room. Hadn’t he spat in my face? And I felt no surprise in seeing him flat on his back. Shaking his head a little to clear it, he rested a moment on his back. As he rose slowly, I expected him to curse, then laugh.”

(It was then that Fitzgerald realized that he’d let the round go an extra minute.)

“‘Christ!’ Ernest yelled. He got up. He was silent for a few seconds, Scott, staring at his watch, was mute and wondering. I wished I were miles away. ‘All right, Scott,’ Ernest said savagely, ‘If you want to see me getting the shit knocked out of me, just say so. Only don’t say you made a mistake,’ and he stomped off to the shower room to wipe the blood from his mouth.’”

The friendship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald ended that very day – in that moment – and Hemingway attempted to exact a measure of revenge with a stupid, childish, reportedly false anecdote (in A Moveable Feast, of course) about the relative size of their penises. The friendship between Hemingway and Callaghan ended a short time later, when word of the boxing match’s result reached American shores. Callaghan was judged the liar at the time. History has reversed that decision. And Hemingway is most likely still petitioning the Afterlife for a rematch. A contest that everyone – except possibly the equally delusional ghost of Hemingway’s great admirer, Norman “Can’t Box Worth a Shit Either” Mailer – knows that Papa would lose.

Writers should stick to writing.

mailer boxing

It’s Not Easy Wearing Green

Molière ( 15 January 1622 – 17 February 1673)

On this date in 1673, the great French theatrical hyphenate Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (aka Moliere) was performing the lead role of the hypochondriac in his last play, The Imaginary Invalid, when he suffered a coughing fit, hemorrhaged, collapsed, then insisted on continuing to the end of the show. Moliere died at home – a few hours later – from the tuberculosis that (legend has it) he’d contracted while being imprisoned for debt. Argan, the character Moliere was playing in his final performance, was clad in green.

Debtor’s prison (or its moral equivalent) remains a standard job hazard for anyone attempting to make a living from theater or any of the Arts. Especially these days. In this place. And the irony of Moliere dying during a production in which he plays a hypochondriac has not been lost to history. It is also emblematic of the principal theme of  his profoundly comic plays – including his first The Learned Ladies, The Misanthrope, The Miser, and Tartuffe – which could be summarized as, “We are not who we think we are.”

Several highly effective treatments for tuberculosis have been developed since the 17th century; although not wiped out – and occasionally threatening to make a comeback – tuberculosis is not the hazard it once was. No such luck, however, with the human strains of hypocrisy and self-delusion. They are more prevalent now than ever. There would appear to be no cure. And they ensure that Moliere’s plays never date.

gop debatersActors are a superstitious lot. They say “break a leg” instead of “good luck” (which is considered bad luck). When appearing in a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, they live in terror of speaking the play’s name and refer to it only as “The Scottish Play.”  As an occasional actor myself, I share that fear and it scares me just writing Macbeth. (Twice now!  I think I peed a little!) And, because of Moliere’s death costume in The Imaginary Invalid, we actors don’t like appearing onstage wearing green. Costumers, beware!

I don’t know exactly why actors are superstitious.  I’m sure it has something to do with being present – in our bodies, live – while we practice our art, thereby risking the also-live slings and arrows of outrageous audience members. Or of slipping on our own flop sweat and falling to our deaths, metaphorical or otherwise. I do know, however, that if I’m ever lucky enough to perform the role of Argan in Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid, I’ll insist on a red costume and – just to be on the safe side – call it “The Hypochondriac Play.” I hope I break a leg.