Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: the Anti-Trump

Ranting isn’t enough. Neither is reason nor wit. We need more. We need vision. We need fury. We need the Anti-Trump. antitrumpWhile the comedians do try – Bee, Colbert, Oliver, Noah – they always fail in looking for a laugh, such as Trevor Noah’s recent quip to alt-right spinster Tomi Lahren’s stating, “I don’t see color”: What do you do at a traffic light?trevor-noah

Elizabeth Warren is on the right track: Trump is not draining the swamp, nope. He’s inviting the biggest, ugliest swamp monsters in the front door, and he’s turning them loose on our government and our economy.elizabeth-warrenBut her rhetoric is too measured, too precise. The Anti-Trump must stare into the hateful void to find the words to break the spell.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie seems to have the right stuffThe election of Donald Trump has flattened the poetry in America’s founding philosophy: the country born from an idea of freedom is to be governed by an unstable, stubbornly uninformed, authoritarian demagogue. chimamanda-ngozi-adichieNow is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism; it allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility. Now is not the time to tiptoe around historical references. Recalling Nazism is not extreme; it is the astute response of those who know that history gives both context and warning. (The New Yorker Magazine, Nov.30/16)

Yes, now is the time.

Ice Friday: E. B. White’s “Writing as a Profession”

E.B. White wrote the following on May 11, 1929 in The New Yorker:

“Writing is not an occupation,” writes Sherwood Anderson. “When it comes to an occupation a certain amateur spirit is gone out of it. Who wants to lose that?” Nobody does, replies the semi-pro, sitting here straining at his typewriter. Nobody does, yet few writers have the courage to buy a country newspaper, or even quit a city writing job for anything at all. P1000813What Mr. Anderson says is pretty true. Some of the best writings of writers, it seems to us, were done before they actually thought of themselves as engaged in producing literature. Some of the best humor of humorists was produced before they heard the distant laughter of their multitudes. Probably what Mr. Anderson means, more specifically, is that life is apt to be translated most accurately by a person who sees it break through the mist at unexpected moments – a person who experiences sudden clear images. P1000739A writer, being conscientious, is always straining his eyes for this moment, peering ahead and around; consequently when the moment of revelation comes, his eyes poppy and tired and his sensitized mind has become fogged by the too-frequent half-stimuli of imagined sight. No figure is more pitiful to contemplate than the novelist with a thousand-dollar advance from a publishing house and a date when the manuscript is due. he knows he must invite his soul, but he is compelled to add, “And don’t be late, soul!”

Time for the Trump Shirts?

Trump isn’t Hitler. He just sounds like him…

Hitler: In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. Today I will once more be a prophet.

TrumpThey laughed at me when I said to bomb the ISIS controlled oil fields. Now they are not laughing and doing what I said.Time for the Trump ShirtsHitlerAs Fuehrer of the German people and Chancellor of the Reich, I can thank God at this moment that he has so wonderfully blessed us in our hard struggle for what is our right.

TrumpWe need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again. We need — we need somebody — we need somebody that literally will take this country and make it great again. We can do that.Time for the Trump ShirtsHitler: As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have
the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.

TrumpI have a great relationship with God. I have a great relationship with the Evangelicals. In fact, nationwide, I’m up by a lot, I’m leading everybody. But I like to be good.Time for the Trump ShirtsHitler: The Jew does not possess an inner spiritual life. I do not need to explain here what a Jew generally looks like. You all know him. In the most solemn moments he flickers his eyes and one can see that even during the most beautiful opera he is calculating dividends.

Trump: (The Mexicans) are sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.Time for the Trump ShirtsHitler: The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful, and unrelenting harshness.

TrumpAnd the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives; don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families. Time for the Trump ShirtsHitlerLet the nation know that its existence—which depends on its internal order and security—cannot be threatened with impunity by anyone!

Trump (To security staff, regarding protesters): Throw them out! Throw them out into the cold! No coats! Confiscate their coats!Time for the Trump ShirtsTrump supporters are getting the message; at a December rally in Las Vegas, a black protester was surrounded and threatened.

“Shoot him!”

“Light the motherfucker on fire!”

Sieg heil!”*

The Trump Shirts just need the command.Time for the Trump Shirts(*Cited from Ryan Lizza’s article The Duel in The New Yorker.)

Consuming Film: “The Mogul in the Middle”

Tad Friend’s recent New Yorker article The Mogul in the Middle reminds us that movies are like everything in this life: a business. Friend focuses on STX Entertainment founder, Adam Fogelson, who “is not interested in movies where they all talk too much, that Sundance shit of jerking off on the screen.” mementoInstead, Fogelson is celebrated for taking risks on films that larger distribution companies are scared of: “In 2012, If you asked a roomful of people ‘What’s “Ted”?,’ some might have said, ‘A conference’. Four months later, all around the world, a giant portion of people would have said, ‘A movie about a magical bear who comes to life.’ That is an exciting, terrifying, magical truth.” Ted movieFriend goes on to explain that “the six major studios have bet that the future on films that are predicated not on the chancy appeal of individual actors but on “I.P.”—intellectual property, in the form of characters and stories that the audience already knows from books or comics or video games. 29 sequels and reboots came out last year, many of them further illuminations of a comic-book universe. avengersFriend cites one studio head as to claiming,Movies may not have gotten better over the years, but they’ve gotten more satisfying.

Or to put it in laymen’s terms, they have become much bigger and far more dumber, exemplified in recent Oscar nominations for Mad Max, Fury Road and The Martian. Following the logic of these nominations, the 1981 Oscars would have expunged The Elephant Man and Raging Bull for Road Warrior and The Empire Strikes Back. LeiaR2SlaveHumanity, it appears, requires a better marketing department.

Reviewing the Reviewers

Truth be told, I stopped reading film reviews in 1992 when I stumbled onto a piece about The Crying Game and read, “You’ll never guess the big surprise!” thecryinggameThis of course left me guessing throughout the film – He’s a secret agent! He’s dead! He’s a murderer! – and ruined the experience.

The problem with reviews is simple: they are plot-driven. Even The New Yorker, highly touted for its prose, consistently offers lame reviews, all summary and no insight. douglas_liberaceRoger Ebert marketed his thumb well, but now that he’s gone, it’s all about the freshness of a tomato. The thing about reviewing is that anyone can do it; the only requirement is consciousness and barely that.

I developed a 8-Star system as a teenager. IMAG2711I must admit to a vagueness in my descriptors but would like to point out that I never handed out a “#” nor a “—“. Never. That said, I know that there was some inconsistency in my ratings.IMAG2714 I suppose, to my young eyes, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon just wasn’t as tightly paced as Orca. orca031010I went on to review a few films in college, one piece which I used in the development of my undergraduate thesis on Walt Disney.

Extract from "Sleeping Beauty" review

Extract from my “Sleeping Beauty” review

It was also in college that my penchant for reviewing the reviewers arose.

My letter to the editor

My first letter to the editor

Some things never change.

Words as weapons: “Eichmann in Jerusalem”

Hannah Arendt offers a devastating portrait of humanity in Eichmann in Jerusalem, an assemblage of five successive articles written in 1963 for The New YorkerWords as weapons: "Eichmann in Jerusalem"It is in this work that Arendt coined the phrase, “the banality of evil”, positing that the mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis was not as much a thing of malevolence as it was of bureaucracy. She explains how words were used as weapons, to indoctrinate and then engineer the mass murders. Death camp architect Heinrich Himmler referred to the Holocaust as follows: “These are battles which future generations will not have to fight again.” Eichmann believed the “battles” to be geflugelte Worte (meaning “winged words” or words from classic literature), when in reality they were only the tools of propaganda.

Words as weapons: "Eichmann in Jerusalem"

Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”

In other words, not only does Eichmann not acknowledge the evil of his work, neither does he understand how the evil was disseminated. Arendt goes on to cite a story of a leader speaking to Bavarian peasants in 1944: “The Fuhrer in his goodness has prepared for the whole German people a mild death through gassing in case the war should have an unhappy end.”

Words as weapons: "Eichmann in Jerusalem"

Goebbels family – all of whom died of cyanide

Arendt’s text reveals how the people of Germany were indoctrinated as a cult, who were willing to go to the bitter end to satisfy their leader not out of malice but because “honor is loyalty”. Therefore it should not come as a surprise that Eichmann maintained his innocence in the extermination of millions; he and his Nazi brethren were gassed by their own words.

The New Yorker’s Answers for Everything

The New Yorker is an excellent magazine; the articles are structured, the reviews informative, the cartoons most entertaining. Although somewhat predictable in its observational style – which can read like an extended Jerry Seinfeld stand-up – the point of view is always insightful and clear. new yorkerMost impressive of all is the remarkable diligence demonstrated in research; every stone is rolled again and again.

And yet something is askew; there is a fly between the pages. In being so thorough, so driven for the infallible, the reporting can fail in timbre. With the details pulled apart, the thing is no longer itself; the butterfly no longer flits. Patrick Radden Keefe’s story A Loaded Gun in the February 11/13 issue is a good example of this. While there is much to recommend this investigative piece on convicted murderer Amy Bishop – an effective, albeit predictable narrative, a murder mystery with facts and statements cited at every turn – there are questions that won’t be answered because the dead don’t speak, nor will Ms. Bishop and her parents. Amy BishopHowever Mr. Keefe presses on, substituting these key elements with damning scenes from Ms. Bishop’s unpublished writing as psychological evidence of hidden acts. He specifically cites a scene of a brother accidentally killed by a rock. “He fell back like a toy soldier,” Amy writes. “He never knew what hit him.” Mr. Keefe’s mission was to find what needed finding, whatever it took to close the gaps, to make a good story, and like a good New Yorker writer, he did just that. However in this quest, the butterfly flies too much like a jet. supersonic-business-jetIn reflecting on what Mr. Keefe divulged from the prose of Ms. Bishop, I wondered what he would ascertain about me, indeed anyone, if he were to New Yorker another. As my mother dubiously commented upon reading the title of my first novel, “The Sacred Whore? Hmm. Where am I in that?” Sacred25 years later, I have yet to figure that out. Maybe I’m in there too. I don’t know. But I do challenge the notion that another has the wherewithal to make that determination. No matter how hard the researchers might work, The New Yorker editors just have to accept that they, like anyone, do not always know best.