Trump: America’s Greatest Stand-Up

Like anyone with a brain, I have been flummoxed by the sensational rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. donald-trumpIn Donald McGrath’s New Yorker piece, We Have a Serious Problemit was surmised that Trump was trying to bow out of the race asap: “’I said that Megyn Kelly was menstruating. I insulted Carly Fiorina’s face. I did a routine about Ben Carson’s belt that should have provoked a psychiatric intervention. I proposed internment camps for the Muslims already here, and you’re telling me that my numbers are what?’” trumpmuslimsOthers have theorized that the American electorate always oscillates between extremes, making the bombastic Trump an ideal follow-up to Obama’s taciturn manner. But still…Donald Trump? The businessman who has spun his bankruptcies as “facts of life”? The guy who says whatever pops into his mind? That guy?The reality television star whose tag-line is “You’re fired”? It’s not possible. Is it? firedI admit to being transfixed by Trump’s pontificating, his meandering monologues that emphasize ADHD more than repetitive policy. He delivered a classic on Saturday, February 27 in Bentonville, Arkansas, stumping for the Super Tuesday primaries. He started with an attack on The New York Times for their stories against him: It’s the worst newspaper. It is a dead newspaper going out of business. These are really bad people. These are really bad.

He mused on how he might behave in the White House: The president is calling an air conditioning company. I may make some of the calls. They’re going to say it’s terribly un-presidential, but I don’t care, all right?

He reflected on the game of politics: They’re all playing games, folks. It’s cute, it’s fun. It’s life. It’s the way life is, OK, it’s the way life is.bentonvilleHe explained why he is the best choice: I went to the Wharton School of Finance, which is considered the best business school. You’ve got to be very smart to get into that school, very smart. The Rubios of the world could not get into that school, believe me. They don’t have the capacity. But I go to Wharton, I’m smart. You’re smart. But you don’t have to be smart.

It hit me me like a Trumpism. I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. I have believed that Donald Trump was running for president, actually running for office. But that’s not it at all. It’s a ruse. Trump isn’t campaigning for president. His statement is much bigger picture than that. He is on a tour not for political office but as a performance artist, on the greatest comedy tour of all time. He has amalgamated the bitter monologues of Lenny Bruce with the explosive delivery of Lewis Black and the unwavering hucksterism of Andy Kaufman to create a character for the ages – Donald Who Would Be Chief. kaufmanAnd we don’t even know it yet. Because he hasn’t told us. There’s been no reveal. Nothing. There may never be. That’s genius, right? Truly beyond belief. No doubt about that. As long as he doesn’t take this tour thing around the world. That could be bad…really, really bad. His shtick might go over their heads.

Ice Friday: Svevo’s “Zeno’s Conscience”

Zeno’s Conscience, by Italo Svevo, is a masterfully rendered novel, developing the essence of our self-obsession with expertise and wit:

An idea came to me. I told how, for those dizzy spells that had caused me such suffering in the past, I had discovered a remedy. When I saw a gymnast performing his feats at too great a height, or when I witnessed the descent from a tram of a person too elderly or too awkward, I freed myself from all anxiety by wishing them harm. P1000605I actually came out and said in so many words that I wished they would fall and be shattered. This had an enormously calming effect on me and enabled me to observe the threat of an accident with total detachment. If my wish then didn’t come true, I could consider myself even more satisfied.

“My Bad Side” theme song

Down the row of empty metal chairs/There’s only polished light/My bad side/The photographer at his best 20140314_130012I reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress/I reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress Summer 2012 100Escape this picture of me/Where nothing can be seen/Broken light/My silhouette/Against hergreece 085I reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress/I reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress. 
20150702_151606She doesn’t accept/Thinks I need something else/As I reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress IMAG4267A long way back/Holding to her light/Her hands on me/Reaching back to accept/My bad side/She reaches to caress

Doll Man: The Un-Pitch

Doll Man is the story of a hard-working carpenter who makes dolls that he sees in his dreams and slowly removes himself from everyone, his wife, family and friends. bushwick5The first arc features him visiting a friend who has a doll castle in the basement. The carpenter can’t focus on dinner, excuses himself again to look at it, until the host becomes concerned, goes downstairs and finds the carpenter, naked, playing with the figurines around the pink plastic castle. pinkcastleThe film moves from terse and intense dialogue of the real world – his mother in another city, his brother who visits from New York, his daughter and husband and family – to the luxurious fantasy of his doll world. dollworldThe carpenter becomes wholly absorbed in his doll existence, and the door closes the audience out in the final scene.

Ice Friday: Bauby’s “The Diving Bell”

Jean-Dominique Bauby’s tersely poetic memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, typed from the blinking of an eye, is harrowing and crystalline clear, moments chronicled by a man on the precipice of death:

I am fading away. Slowly but surely. Like the sailor who watches the home shore gradually disappear, I watch my past recede. My old life spurns within me, but more and more of it is reduced to the ashes of memory. IMG_4522I went to Paris and was unmoved by it. The streets were decked out in summer finery, but for me it was still winter, and what I saw through the ambulance window was just a movie background. Filmmakers call the process a “rear-scene projection,” with the hero’s car speeding along a road that unrolls behind him on a studio wall. Hitchcock films owe much of their poetry to the use of this process in its early, unperfected stages. IMG_4514My own crossing of Paris left me indifferent. Yet nothing was missing – housewives in flowered dresses and youths on roller skates, revving buses, messengers cursing on their scooters. The Place de l’Opera, straight out of a Dufy canvas. The treetops foaming like surf against the glass building fronts, wisps of clouds in the sky. Nothing was missing except me. I was elsewhere.

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Deep Cat Scratch

The phone was ringing. I knew it was her. I remembered standing stupidly on the pier in spring, the rain almost hard, cold, thinking I might actually be swept into the water, and looking desperately into the dark and asking God to deliver her to me. I had written a letter to my future, promising everything of me. I was to be with her, know her forever. Yes, I did that. I thought it was some kind of rite into adulthood when it was just delaying it instead. IMAG2364I waited in the thick leather chair some year later and watched an old movie on television. There was something wrong with the sound. She was hiding in the shadows. She had been dead for years. I was happy when she came out, almost a lion, her shoulders moving high on her back. After all of these years, her travels and disappointments, the magic of our days suddenly back in reach. She was aloof. Worse. And I thought she was going to go. It looked like she was. But then she was holding me and said, “I want this too.” The words were only half formed, but they were clear. It was a promise. She was sprawled across me, her entire body there, and I held her just to feel what it was like to touch a body I had loved and find the tremor gone.

Bowie’s Greatness in Songs You Don’t Know

You know about Ziggy Stardust, Rebel Rebel and poor old Major Tom, but there is so much you don’t of the sound of David Bowie. These are the songs that you should:bowiesound5. Sound and Vision (Low, 1976) Actually a song you probably do know but didn’t know you knew, sharp and compelling as anything you’ve heard..

bewlay4. Bewlay Brothers (Hunky Dory, 1971) Climbing out of earnestness with pain and delight, knowing something but not knowing what.

v2sch3.  V-2 Schneider (Heroes, 1976) Space-age, new-age from a distant planet, words so close and so far.

fascination2. Fascination (Young Americans, 1975) The rhythm and groove which every disco artist dreamed they might find.

bigbrother1. Big Brother (Diamond Dogs, 1974) Magnificent, poignant and magnificent again, what the conceptual album and song are dreamed upon.

Backseat Driver: Scene Outline

A deer and then another run across the road. L swerves hard, misses the first, but catches the second and seems to about to lose control, cutting across the shoulder and then stops.There is a long moment. No one says a word. 20150702_102837(Description details digging into the trapdoor of fear, the foundation of what it is that terrorizes the back of the brain, freezes the heart and lungs when the deep steps loom down, sucking everything in, stepping deliberately into it, terrified of the monsters and evils that haunt the shadows and walls, and continue into the dank cut-out pit, pressing face and limbs forward to look into the long rectangular holes where it lives, wanting to scream and scream and run but looking down into it, expecting the claws and horned head, the hunched back, the bloody arm to wrench you down and find nothing, nothing, but still held in the black, knowing that it will come from somewhere.) 20151007_175910L opens the door to search for the deer. It is raining hard. H follows her with a flashlight and then R. They can hear a rustling in the brush. L moves toward it. Three cars pass by. H continues to move toward the bushes, but she can’t hear anything. H shines the light. Another pair of cars (mobile homes) pass. R catches a glimpse of the animal fleeing. It is quiet. R mentions going after it. H disagrees. L says nothing and goes back to the car. H and R get back in. H offers to drive. L refuses. They continue on.

Ice Friday: Shakespeare’s “Tomorrow” Speech

Shakespeare wrote many soliloquies; although dark and depressing, his final speech for Macbeth is one of his best.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. P1000880Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Not Moving Ahead

Anticipation is the pleasure, what might be ahead, the silence, nothing more, thinking I might have that gold in the next hand. 20160120_213543It’s the arriving, getting to a place where there is nothing but quiet, losing money for no reason, the calm in that, not moving ahead, not the right way, but what is marvelous, empty and never-ending. 20140119_114914500 coming in. Those words, just like that.