Mr Smith Goes To LALALAND

emma-stone

Yesterday I went with my wife to watch LALALAND.

I suspect my blog is not eagerly sought out by Trump-leaning folk, but any readers of that mindset will already be thinking “There’s another sad, liberal snowflake in thrall to his wife”. I should, therefore, make clear the decision was mine. If that merely confirms me as a sad, liberal snowflake, then so be it. People who figure things that way are so past reasonable debate that the effort is hardly worth the candle.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, by the way, but this is not intended as a review. While watching, I couldn’t help but reflect on what is happening in America right now. If you were seeking a metaphor for the division between conservative and liberal America, Hollywood appears to lie along the fault line. As implied above, I think it a fair assumption that the core Trump supporter would not be a natural moth to LALALAND’s flame. Let’s face it, the film is in no small measure a paean to Hollywood, the creative process and, by extension, creative types. When Emma Stone sings about The Fools Who Dream, it could almost be a direct rebuttal to those, such as Trump and Piers Morgan, who consider actors as okay provided they don’t get above themselves and begin to speak out in matters political.  It’s as if, in some way, an actor is expected to sign a waiver agreeing to leave his or her conscience at the door. Now, you wouldn’t expect Piers Morgan to tell members of his audience “you’re a plumber, so you have no right to express your opinion”. Why, then, the special pleading for actors?

The answer is clear. Actors have, in abundance, what Trump and his acolytes fear most: an ability to connect, to communicate and to inspire; to tell a story that makes an entire audience wake up from an emotional and intellectual torpor; to point out, on some of the biggest stages in the world, that the emperor, indeed, has no clothes.

Trump is not going to win over more supporters by any of the actions he has taken thus far. His fan base in the US comprises those who were already turned on by those sorts of thing, and those who were not but saw no better alternative in Hillary Clinton.  As he is understandably loath to acknowledge, his ratings are already demonstrably poor, so, no matter how shrill the denials, it’s probable that he will only haemorrhage support from here.

Trump does not have intellectual rigour, he has intellectual rigor mortis. He is both educationally and morally moribund. To paraphrase Franklin, he died at 25 in both respects but has yet to be buried. He knows, and fears, that he lives with an ever-present Sword of Damocles: being irrefutably found out. Why else withhold his tax returns? Why else move to prevent his audit? He knows, and fears, that anything that keeps shining an unwelcome light on these matters can harm him immeasurably.

That is Hollywood and the entire entertainment industry’s power. Its own brand of populism scares him to death.

And if he thinks he is bigger than both, then he truly is living in la la land.

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Launch Code of the Woosters

With apologies to the great P.G. Wodehouse.

jeeves

“I say, Jeeves! What do you make of this Trump fellow?”

For perhaps a millisecond, the great man paused in the act of pouring my constitutional snifter. A less keen eye might have missed it, but I am hewn from more perceptive rock. Jeeves is renowned from Bombay to Beccles as an imperturbable cove, so this fleeting pause was tantamount to him rolling around on the floor and caterwauling like one of those tiny ankle biters one sees littering the park on Saturdays.

He placed the fruits of his labours at my right hand.

“I’m not sure it’s my place to say, sir,” he prevaricated. “He is the new President, after all.”

“Come now, Jeeves!” I chided, after an appreciative sip at my w and s. “You have your views. I daresay he’s the talk of the Junior Ganymede.”

“As you know, sir, to disseminate what the club’s gentlemen have to say about their gentlemen is expressly forbidden.”

“Yes, yes, Jeeves!” I replied testily. “But I am hard pressed to believe that this chap would recognise a gentleman, even were one to fall on him from atop the Chrysler Building. Leave alone have a gentleman’s gentleman in his employ. He is a classic example of the American business tycoon. You know the type: two hundred decibels in both speech and trouser.”

“Very amusing, sir. And you are correct. If he does, indeed, have a gentleman, the club has never heard of him.”

“Quite so, Jeeves. We Woosters have a nose for that sort of detail. Instilled in us by aunts through the generations, no doubt. But you, Jeeves, are an acute observer of the human condition. You’re a thinker, like me. What do you make of him? Warts and all.”

“There is something about him which is extremely familiar, sir.  We have run across his like on many an occasion. Not to mention hidden from him during several escapades.”

The Woosters are of stern stock. None sterner. Years of public schooling and the aforementioned aunts have seen to that. But as Jeeves spoke I am not ashamed to say that a platoon of chills performed a route march from my coccyx to my scapulae, before falling out in the general area of the nape of my neck. Every hair on my body stood to attention and saluted.

“Spode!” I gasped, expelling the dread word in much the same way as a Satanist might read aloud from the Grand Grimoire.

“Indeed, sir.”

Roderick Spode, the infamous Seventh Earl of Sidcup, is an odious oik and as close to a nemesis as yours truly has ever had, assuming you exclude various fiancées and Aunt Agatha. He is of the goose-stepping dictator persuasion and has frequently espoused the view that he would as soon squash me underfoot, like the worthless worm I am, as offer me tea and biscuits. His general vocabulary is one in which you suspect the words “vile” and “jelly” are never far from the head of the queue. One time leader of the notorious Black Shorts, he is not a man you would want to indulge with any form of power. If placed in charge of an entire country I have little doubt its populace would never again eat imported root vegetables, nor pass through any form of checkpoint with an unmeasured kneecap.  I mean to say, the blighter wears shorts!

“You are saying this Trump is an American Spode? By jingo, Jeeves, this is the very opposite of that Doctor Pancho fellow in that rum book by that French chappie!”

A frown breezed briskly across the mighty Jeeves brow. I knew his impressive brain was whirring and clicking just below.

“Doctor Pangloss, sir,” he said, after a moment’s thought. “From Candide, by Voltaire. ‘Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’.

“That’s the fellow, Jeeves! Except the opposite. This is for the worst in the worst of all possible worlds!”

“Alas, so it would seem, sir.”

“Is there nothing we can do, Jeeves? Would it be too much to hope that this Trump character has an Achilles’ Heel? Perhaps a sideline in lingerie? A ‘Eulalie’ to which he might be susceptible?”

“I have every certainty that there is, sir. One can only hope that it is discovered sooner, rather than later. The Americans have a Central Intelligence Agency, as implausible as that may sound. I believe they are working on it.”

“Well more power to their elbow, Jeeves! Let us agree to ponder upon it ourselves. Who knows, on the way to my club I might come up with some form of weapon to use against this blister!”

The Drones, sir?”

I drained the last of the single malt.

“Indeed, Jeeves! Fetch me another bracer, if you will! There’s a definite chill in the air.”

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Should Auld Acquaintance…

This blog has been recycled from a previous blog. Recycling is good for the environment. Fact.

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It’s Burns Night and later, after a few snifters, those of a more Scottish persuasion will no doubt be singing Auld Lang Syne. But what on Earth does it all mean? Fear not, my faithful follower! I studied Burns at school and, as my gift to you, I am happy to bring you the inside dope on what was going on amid that impenetrable thicket of Scots. You’re welcome.

**************************

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?

Should we forget our old friends and not remember them?

[Note how Burns uses this tautological device to drive home his point about forgetting things. Like the thing he just said.]

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Should we forget our old friends and Old Lang Syne!

[Old Lang Syne was a teacher of mathematics at Dalrymple Parish School where Burns first learned some of the things he later forgot. At that time, of course, Old Lang Syne was Young Lang Syne, second son of the headmaster, the original Old Lang Syne. To this day the debate rages furiously among scholars as to which of the Old Lang Synes is referenced in this poem. Some have even posited that Burns was referring to both. A sort of co-Syne.]

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

My best drinking bud, let us drink a cup of something alcoholic to the memory of Old Lang Syne.

[A cup of kindness is generally held to be a corruption of “a cup of Kidney’s”. Kidney’s Old Peculiar Dark Ale was a perennial favourite at the Tam O’Shanter Inn, Alloway, where Burns spent many a long day between poems.]

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For certain you’ll drink several pints of Kidney’s Old Peculiar, and so will I, to the point that we will toast Old Lang Syne over and over again with little memory of having done so already.

[The device of repetition is deployed by Burns throughout the poem, capturing the essential tediousness of a conversation between two drunkards.]

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;

Basically we’re both at that stage of inebriation where we’ve totally pissed our pants but don’t care because we’ve now moved on to the optics.

[Gowan’s Fine Scotch Single Malt Whisky was another staple at the Tam O’Shanter. After a particularly heavy session on it, Burns was once moved to write an ode to a louse.]

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

But we’ve come a long way since Old Lang Syne. Which reminds me, we must drink a toast to him.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;

We’ve been piddled in the pub all day

[The Burn was a tavern notable for being frequented by poets of all persuasions. After heavy drinking sessions a favourite line among locals was: “Aye! Burns is burned in The Burn again the noo!”]

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

And it feels like we’ve drunk an ocean of ale

Sin’ auld lang syne.

Jings! We really should drink a toast to Old Lang Syne, before we forget.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

Give me your hand, my best drinking buddy, I’ve just realised that after nineteen pints of Kidney’s and a couple of bottles of Gowan’s I am feeling such friendship for you that I might very well let you stroke my manhood. After all, it’s what Old Lang Syne would have wanted. Here’s to him!

CHORUS

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A Vision in a Dream. A Figment

My spirit guide, Bob, has been knocking urgently on my astral door ever since the inauguration. Seems Samuel Taylor Coleridge was on the Ethereal Blower with this report from the Other Side.

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Millions of people thronged the Capitol  last Friday. And a Christmas tree.

In Washington did Donald Trump

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

And Ralph, the White House dresser, ran

Through swatches to complete the plan

   Downtown in old DC.

With twice five miles of plate gold found,

The walls and rooms were gilded round;

And there were toilets bright with auric frills,

The toilet rolls were golden filigree;

And here were Donald’s photos, flattering stills

Staring down at whomsoever had a pee.

*

But oh! that cool reflecting pool which slanted

Across the green Mall beside the Lincoln shrine!

Trump hated it! The whole thing left him haunted

As e’er because his self-esteem was taunted

By great deeds of the past he could not outshine!

In his speeches, with ceaseless swagger seething,

Were countless porkies, natural as breathing,

Almighty whoppers, pan-handled from a stream

Of glinting fools’ gold, a never-failing seam.

Huge falsehoods vented in front of cameras,

No evidence, each claim bigly bold as brass.

Amid these diatribes the TV and press

Were made to sit in silence, witness the mess:

Five pages wandering with hazy notions

Through countless words the hapless visitors sat,

And gawped at each new shiny alternate fact,

Then sank at length, bewildered, in commotion;

And ’mid this tumult Donald heard from far

Journalist voices prophesying war!

   The shadow of the presidency

   Passed across the gathering;

   Nothing that was evidentiary

   Seemed to mean a single thing.

It was a miracle of rare device,

A White House pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

*

   A spokesman with a bone to pick,

   Sent out by the president:

   “We had two million. Period

   The multitudes were myriad!”

   Millions at the Capitol?

   Could I believe, within me,

   His rhetoric so strong?

   I knew the answer instantly:

Something here was very wrong.

I would put that Trump on air,

That White House dome! those caves of ice!

And all who watched should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His tiny hands, his stupid hair!

Beware this man who cleaves to power

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on Russian treats hath fed,

And drunk a call girl’s golden shower.

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Don’t Panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Donald J. Trump

With apologies to Douglas Adams

hhgg

It has been remarked by members of a certain bipedal species that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – despite being an indispensable repository of occasionally accurate knowledge for the intergalactic traveller – is somewhat terse on the subject of Planet Earth: “Mostly harmless” wrote the contribution’s author, Ford Prefect, after just fifteen years of research.

Seasoned observers of the Guide have commented that it’s what Ford Prefect did not say that is most illuminating – specifically, the unqualified exceptions to the word “mostly”.

Some scholars have suggested that, if only one knew where to look, the brusque entry would reveal hidden dimensions, containing a plethora of useful information about the types of harm one might encounter on Earth. Those more au fait with Ford Prefect’s work ethic consider that these scholars are misguided buffoons. Doctor Grizzlybald Spintlepook, Visiting Professor of Hyper-Cultural Awareness at Tau Ceti University, points out that Ford Prefect “could no more hide important information in a pan-dimensional footnote than he could paint a convincing forgery of da Vinci’s  La Giaconda with his rectum.”

Spintlepook, it should be noted, spent many of his formative graduate years sinking Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters in the company of Ford Prefect, so it is understandable that he developed a jaundiced view of his fellow student. Of his four livers, one alone survived the alcoholic onslaught – and only then by pretending to be a Rigelian sand weasel on vacation in Spintlepook’s renal system.

As it happens, both sides of the argument had it wrong. Ford Prefect had made extensive notes on how to have fun on Earth, with a lengthy side glance at some of the dangers. His editors, however,  who clearly favoured brevity as the soul of wit, pruned it back to just the two, albeit pithy, words.

Zarniwoop, one-time president of Megadodo Publications, reminisced in his autobiography, Megadodo Man, that his editors had striven to reduce it to just one word, but had failed to agree whether that word should be “mostly” or “harmless”. “In any event,” he observed, “the whole thing was rendered pointless when the Earth was demolished by Vogons, to make room for a hyperspace bypass.”

A series of shenanigans involving, among other things, the Infinite Improbability Drive led eventually to a restoration of Ford Prefect’s original work and the surprise appearance of another Earth. Insofar as the Guide was ever a truly accurate resource, it now remains the only link between the Earths, old and new. It may, or may not, contain useful insights into the human condition, and it may, or may not, throw new light through old windows. In a nutshell, it is business very much as usual for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It is in this spirit of uncertainty, therefore, that we delve once more into The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to see what it has to say on the subject of Donald J. Trump.

******

Trump, Donald J.

There are certain things that humans generally consider inexplicable: a complete theory of quantum mechanics; the true nature of God; the enduring popularity of American-style bacon.

Along with these imponderables must be included the continuing success of the life-form known as Donald J. Trump. With no discernible intelligence or ability, he has risen to unimagined heights: TV star, property magnate and plutocrat. Some have suggested that he might one day run for President of America and be successful, against all logic.

From a galactic perspective, these things are impenetrable to humans in much the same way that the success of humankind is impenetrable to more evolved and sensitive beings. It is an ironic fact that humans are generally considered the Donald J. Trumps of the universe. “How are they even still alive?” goes the whisper around the more erudite circles of galactic society. “How does a species so fundamentally stupid that it still thinks digital watches are a pretty neat idea even get out of bed in the morning without tripping over the dog and killing itself?”

A symposium was put together by some of the universe’s leading universities to contemplate this very question. Learned scientists – including some super-intelligent mice – put together a raft of virtual experiments. However, in each and every scenario, the virtual civilisation always destroyed itself in new and generally interesting ways. The researchers knew they were missing something important, but no one could put an appendage on what.

Then, one morning, the huge doors of the main debating chamber were thrown open to reveal an old, ragged man in old, ragged clothes. The scientists were in uproar at this unwanted intrusion, until someone recognised the man as one of their own, a scientist who had gone missing in the very early days of the symposium when an entire experimental Earth had literally vanished into the space-time continuum without so much as a by-your-leave. Now, as he staggered down the aisle amid his shocked colleagues, the chamber fell into an apprehensive silence.

Ranzelman Gnathobdel spoke.

“My friends and learned colleagues,” he quavered, “I am returned, miraculously, from the brink. As you know, I was lead researcher on the simulation known as Earth Eight.”

There was a hesitant stirring among the assembled scientists. The babel fishes in their ears were feeding back a horrid screech, beneath which it was difficult to pick out exactly what Gnatobdel was saying.

Here is what they heard:

“Greetings everyone! I am bigly pleased to be here! It’s been years since I went on holiday and I’ve had a blast!”

The untranslated Gnathobdel continued: “The last thing I remember was turning the dial of the Infinite Luck Generator to maximum before switching on the system…”

The scientists heard:

“I beg and implore you to send me back to Earth, where I am anxious to make it great again!”

“At that exact moment, it appears we intersected with some form of Improbability Drive and were transported clear across the universe. We should all have been killed, but I can only assume the Infinite Luck Generator kept us safe, for, no matter what happened after that – be it asteroid collisions, wars, plagues, the rise of idiot dictators, the proliferation of nuclear weapons – none of it made any difference. We kept on surviving. Ridiculously, but with absolute certainty! Ladies and gentlemen, friends and fellow scientists, I know without a scintilla of a doubt what happened to make humans so impervious to unkind fate. And, trust me, we have to find a way to stop them before it is too late! Please, somebody! Please help me! Help me stop them before they take over the entire universe with their wretched good fortune!”

“My name is Donald J. Trump and one day I will be President of the entire Universe!”

After much scratching of heads and great debate the symposium decided to abide by the avowed wishes of the weird man. The symposium itself was wound up as inconclusive and the budget it saved was turned over to Donald J. Trump’s travel and upkeep. He was sent back to Earth to continue his great work with the humans. No matter how he protested, all people heard was exactly what the luckiest man in the entire universe did not want them to hear.

He is still there, and doing very well, to his continuing despair.

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The Model of a Modern US President

trump

I am the very model of a modern US President,

Like some old farts once said, I hold this thing to be self-evident,

I know a lot of words, in fact my mind is a distillery

Of facts I gleaned from Wikileaks concerning Crooked Hillary.

*

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I’ve never paid a cent in tax because I’m bigly tactical,

I wrote the book on wealth, no shit, I’m pretty much the Lexicon,

I’ll make this country great again and charge it to the Mexicans.

*

He’ll make this country great again and charge it to the Mexicans!

*

My education knows no bounds, I owned a university:

It showed poor, starving salesmen how to win, despite adversity,

For thirty grand I showed them how to build a great portfolio

You know it’s true, I’m not the type to deal in braggadocio.

*

My properties range far and wide, from Scotland through to Istanbul

From Turnberry to big hotels with great big fancy swimming pools

The name of Trump’s emblazoned on the front of every edifice

I don’t exactly own them, I’m, like, more a friend with benefits

*

He don’t exactly own them, he’s, like, more a friend with benefits!

*

I’ve so much wealth I cannot count, I’m part of a plutocracy;

A billionaire for decades now, a credit to democracy,

My fingers in so many pies, from radio to NBC,

From steak to ‘The Apprentice’ and from there to beauty pageantry.

*

I’m something of a ladies’ man, my record is formidable,

The greatness deep inside me seems to make most women biddable,

Some say it’s just my bank account, but they’re just being cynical,

You might as well accept it, boys, The Donald’s at his pinnacle.

*

In matters of the heart, it’s true, I’m something of a prodigy,

The girls, they see this Alpha Male and line up for my progeny,

I’m known for grabbing second base, some see it as misogyny,

I’ve such respect for women I need offer no apology.

*

He’s such respect for women he need offer no apology!

*

My military instincts lean towards the interventionist,

I’ve learned a lot from Russian Vlad, and, trust me, he’s no terrorist,

He wants to bomb some Muslims in some shit-hole deep in Syria,

So what? Who cares? Those idiots are totally inferior.

*

In politics my loyalties rest, like any great Republican,

Upon the right to take up arms to make this country great again,

If I can get my small hands on the launch codes of our weaponry,

I’ll send a few reminders up the asses of our enemies.

*

So people of America, you aided my ascendancy

You huddled masses voted and ensured my campaign victory,

I am the new incumbent, in the White House I’ll be resident,

I am the very model of a modern US President.

*

Yes, he is the very model of a modern US President!

 

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Mobile Dicks

A reprise of a blog from several years ago. Based, as they say, on a true story. Names have been changed yada, yada, yada…

Kind of Lime

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Two Irish men who stole a fishing trawler after missing their ferry had to be rescued off the British coast where they were going in circles because they did not know how to sail. After hours at sea, the men called what they thought was the Irish coastguard for help.

 

“They thought they were just off the coast of Ireland,” said Ray Steadman, press officer of the Holyhead lifeboat in north Wales, about 66 miles east of Ireland.

In fact, the two were just 12 miles north of where they started in Holyhead and had called the British coastguard, Steadman told Irish broadcaster RTE Monday. Lifeboats and a helicopter were sent out to rescue the men, who were detained by police before being released.

They were later rearrested after the boat owner discovered some damage to his trawler.

Call me Mahoney. Some years ago – never…

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