It was with some surprise but also relief that I
opened yesterday’s mail and beheld the letter emblazoned with the seal of the
United States Senate.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
It was with some surprise but also relief that I
opened yesterday’s mail and beheld the letter emblazoned with the seal of the
United States Senate.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Sometimes Trump accidentally gives us real,
hardcore truth. I don’t mean about himself – in fact, he is remarkably
transparent about his own fetid self, and he reveals more psychological skin than
anyone wants to see – but about the mess we’re in.
But while my kids are staring at me, I offer a moment of candor: I actually like the orderliness of this world. I would like the rules to be this simple. Who wouldn’t? Because it suggests we could trust the company and we could trust its products. And maybe not without reason.
So what happened? Well, the last forty to fifty years has changed all that. Pretty much since the baby boomers took over running things. I’m not just talking about the rise of basic rip-off culture -- all the plastic crap I bought at Toys R Us for my kids, the fact that we’re jammed in like sardines on airplanes, the fact that we wind up doped on high fructose corn syrup just for drinking what we thought was lemonade, or that we drive cars that are – literally – plastic. I’m talking about the sheer downfall of consumer products as well as corporate engineering.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Starting Tuesday, October 13, a novel I have written is being released over the internet. In installments. For free. To anyone who wants to read it.
The reason for such a release in such a timeframe is simple: I’m convinced everyone who has any views or concern about the shitshow that is taking place in America needs to get into this story as soon as possible.
Because that’s what the novel is about: the shitshow. That said, I would point out that my shitshow makes that shitshow look like a Gymboree birthday party. And I’ve been living with this shitshow long before the other really took flight.
Let me explain.
The book is
called The Feast of Wolves and Wild Dogs and starting tomorrow it can be found at www.
It was kind of like that Twilight Zone episode where a writer discovers that the things he describes to his Dictaphone become real. Naturally, this guy dreams up the ideal woman, the ideal house, and so on (I actually always thought this was a bit lame and limited in its scope, but it was 1962 and perhaps that’s all people thought about then: marriage and suburban housing).
Unfortunately, in the case of The Feast of Wolves and Wild Dogs, the things being dreamt up were a hell of a lot darker than anything in the Twilight Zone episode.
To explain that, I need to tell you what the novel is.
The Feast of Wolves and Wild Dogs is a huge, loud, vulgar, funny, dark, and I hope readable novel built around a very simple premise, clearly based on my read of the news at that time: what would happen if there was a French Revolution in modern-day America - complete with guillotine? Yep, an 18-foot-high head-cutting blade on the steps of the United States Capitol building.
My hero was going to be a guy who was brought in to fix the situation, one of the twelve last reasonable people in America. His group would literally be called The Reasoners. I thought this was kind of funny.
Oh, and it was going to be a novella. About 120 pages.
So, I went to work. And naturally it went through a few changes. And 800 pages later, I was done.
In those pages I wound up describing and explaining a lot of truly unsettling things, most of which I assumed came off the top of my head. As a result, I employed them with a kind of vicious whimsy, like a drunken God: mass executions on the steps of government buildings; the abduction of government officials; a nationwide virus; citizen militia who stormed state capitols and took over the State houses dressed up in cammo and tactical gear; folks rioting on the streets of midwestern towns demanding justice and fairness; Black civil rights organizations shooting it out with cops; the invocation of the 25th Amendment; National Guard on city streets; and, of course, that guillotine on the steps of the U.S. capitol.
Maybe you can now see the reason for my delusion and paranoia. A lot of these things seemed to come true as I was writing. So, I had to wonder if I was some amazing Nostradamus or a Cassandra, or just a truly with-it scribe?
I finally decided that the answer for this collision between my jumped-up fantasy and reality could be found in why I wanted to write the book in the first place. I wrote it because I was truly worried about where America is going and what might be discovered about the darkest corners of the American mind.
So, with pencil and paper, I was doing what most of my friends were doing, although I was doing it in fiction: grappling with the idiocies and stupidities that are threatening the very country we love. Those idiocies include such ideas as “right” and “left,” or the extreme partisanship which is ripping the place apart, some pretty ugly elitism, and, let’s face it, sheer incompetence.
But rather than just yack about it at the dinner table or on my Twitter, I followed these ideas down the rabbit hole to what I imagined were some of their darkest conclusions and wrapped it all up in this crazy-ass adventure story. At first, I thought maybe I ought to hold back, but as the daily news seemed to support where my story was going, I decided to just let it rip. Good or bad. And the result is that 800 page book and a very unsettling resemblance to the world in which we find ourselves.
I admit I’m somewhat frightened by this book for a bunch of reasons. 1: what if no one finds it entertaining and a good read? Okay, that’s an obvious one. 2: what if bad people take it the wrong way and decide to do crazy shit? Naturally. 3: what if good people take it the wrong way and think it’s just about the bad people? That concerns me the most. Because that idea is just too simplistic and keeps the shitshow cycle going.
Because let’s face it, the world in general but the United States specifically is in a lot of trouble. We have lost our mooring, and when we lose our mooring, we look for someone to blame, and when we look for someone to blame, we always find it. Over the last few years, radical xenophobic nationalism has run rampant both in the United Sates as well as Europe. And it’s not just a political pose on the part of those seeking power. As the maniacs in Michigan revealed to us this week, this is now grassroots stuff, which means we may have as much to worry about Biden winning the Presidency as losing it. There are people out there who want to continue the rebellion, and with a real cause at their backs – the defeat of their deity, Donald Trump – who knows what madness will prevail?
Fortunately, my novel doesn’t get into this kind of stuff specifically. Nor is it a recipe for what we ought to do to save the republic – any republic. It’s just a novel, and we all ought to remember that the most wonderful thing about a novel is that it’s just a big shameful pack of lies to entertain you wherever you may happen to be. It’s just a story, and I believe in story more than I believe in the sun rising and setting. (Outside of a University lecture hall, story can be clinically defined as ‘and then Davey was taken by the pirates – yeah?? – and then they found this mysterious island – yeah??? – and then…’)
But I’d also be a liar if I denied I wrote this tome from a certain viewpoint. There is a stance here, and the stance is that there are Good Guys and there are Bad Guys. Now, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about Us Vs. Them in not particularly dismissive terms, but I was talking about cultural differences then, and the importance of artists; I wasn’t talking about rationalizations for genocide. Because that’s what Good Guys vs. Bad Guys always turns into. That particular card trick is one the world has fallen for again and again, and I fear we’re going for it one more time - just like we did in 1939, or 1914, and just as we’ve done through the ages since Sparta and Athens and before. Ask the Rwandans about Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. Ask how it worked out for them.
The question, of course, is, do we have the wit to recognize the danger in this path and stop ourselves, or did we already drink too much of our own Kool-Aid?
That’s why I wrote the book. That and something more fundamental.
That fundamental thing can be summed up by Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol. Remember Scrooge in the graveyard after his rather unpleasant journey with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come? He asks if the horrors he’s seen are the images of things that will be, or may be? (Shrewd customer that he is, Scrooge knows there’s a world of difference). This, in the end, may be what I’ve tried to do: act as the three spirits, and see if I can persuade Scrooge just what unbelievable hell lies up ahead if he doesn’t change his ways.
Because this week I saw a President of the United States standing on a balcony and saluting, and more public officials telling us that black is white and white is black, and a doctor lying through his teeth about just how healthy the emperor is, and just how much the emperor loves us.
Which brings me to the best thing I can say about the book. THE best thing.
There are a lot of words in this book and I’m sure some of them are upsetting, but one word that isn’t in this book is... Trump.
Maybe a good enough reason, right there, to read it.
OCTOBER 13, 2020 -
OCTOBER 13, 2020 -www.
Saturday, October 3, 2020
This is a moment of complete bullshit. It’s also one of our most sublime moments.
Let’s just check where we are: Trump has tested positive and who knows what’s going on behind closed doors at that naval hospital. This morning I saw the little minions – those yellow guys from the movies – scurry out in their white doctor coats and do an unbelievably good imitation of talking like White House press spokesman, obfuscating with the best of them. This is kind of amazing, especially for doctors, who aren’t known for their verbal dexterity. If these guys are doctors, right? It’s always good to feed the Twittersphere with possibilities.
The fact is, this medical minion appearance capped an incredible week. In just a few days we have witnessed the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice who shouldn’t be there; found out that Trump is a complete and utter fraud/failure as a billionaire (albeit a very successful tax cheat); witnessed a Presidential debate which debased not just the Presidency but our species in general; saw the President run around the country telling us the covid virus is gone; then found out his top aide Hope Hicks contracted it probably from running around the country claiming that it was gone; then we discover HE has it, and his wife; then we find out all sorts of members of his staff have it, and various GOP Senators; and today, like God on the seventh day, we get a rest.
The bullshit part is that we’re even having to live this. That we’re governed by such awful, miserable, egocentric morons. That we have to tolerate such people, the Hyper Sure and Belligerent, all of whom seem to have an endless supply of incredibly expensive sunglasses.
The sublime part is this: despite everything, despite what so many of us feel for this man and his deplorable family, many of us woke up to discover that we don’t – after all – wish him dead. We wish him out, but most of us don’t wish him dead. And I bet it’s a shock to a lot of us. It sure is to me. And kind of a wonderful revelation.
Let’s be clear: I’m not one of those who likes to express their shock and outrage and daring by talking about killing anyone, or how it would be good if a brick fell from a high building, or any of that. I have friends who send me this kind of stuff about Trump in the form of “funny” memes, and I admit I don’t find it funny. Instead, I am unsettled by it. I wish I could say it’s because of some deep seated Christian or humanist instinct, but I don’t think it is: it’s just a basic sense of ‘No.’ (Like the time my friend Dave beat up a guy in the Frank Vetere's Pizza Parking lot for looking at his girlfriend, then stealing his wallet; no, Dave. We all knew the beating was perfectly reasonable - after all, the guy had looked at your girlfriend - but the taking of the wallet was just plain wrong).
I’d also be a liar if I didn’t admit that, in the safety of my house and in my heart, I have thought and said some pretty awful things about the President, who I do believe is a murderer (second degree anyway) and perhaps even guilty of genocide. He’s certainly one of the most odious people our society has run across in the last seventy-five years, and maybe longer: after all, Joe Stalin knew how to throw a dinner party and Hitler enjoyed art and had a dog.
But then, Trump himself got this virus and I’m surprised to discover that I do not wish him to die. Nor his abominable wife, she of Shakespearean depths of smoldering hatred and designer evil.
And I am not alone! Tons of people in the public sphere have stepped forward to express the same thing, and even if you chalk a good half of it up to public form, then at least the other half of us are acting out of basic decency. Sure, GOP Senators have every reason to wish the President well, but Joe Biden? Biden himself may have been infected by the guy (knowingly!), yet he’s publicly expressed goodwill and bonhomie and even pulled his negative ads on Trump for the duration of Trump’s illness – leaving us, I guess, just those turgid tearjerker spots about the seemingly endless number of dead members of Joe’s family, apparently doomed to an eternity of being exploited for political gain. And Al Franken? What benefit is there to Al Franken to be decent about Trump?
No, I think we’re discovering that underneath all the slime and sludge, there are more decent people than deplorable people out there, as long as you stay off Twitter.
The irony, of course, is this:
Trump is not one of them.
Let’s be honest. There is not a sentient being on this planet who believes that if the shoe were on the other foot – “BIDEN ANNOUNCES HE’S TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19” – that it wouldn’t be a shower of indecency. “Looks like the basement and the phony mask-wearing didn’t save Sleepy Joe, who we can count among the dead before the election. WEAK!” Or, “Looks like Dem Disease is going to put an end to Biden’s socialist plans to destroy America. SAVED!”
This is all too easy to imagine.
(Easier than you think: while Biden’s campaign has decided to pull their negative ads, the Trump campaign has said they will not pull theirs).
So, to make the irony greater, the recipient of all this goodwill doesn’t deserve any goodwill at all.
And he’s got company. We are now zeroing in on where and how all this started, and it appears to have been the hilariously unsafe maskless ceremony in the rose garden ‘announcing’ Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the court. As a result, all the Gods were there, a full pantheon: Kellyanne, Hope, Melania, Chris Christie, Bill Stepien, Senators Tillis and Lee, etc. etc.
Then Fate hurled its forked lightning bolt, and for all their hubris and arrogance every single person I listed has been struck with COVID, Trump (Zeus) prime among them, of course. William Barr was also at the event, but so far he’s not announced infection. As readers of mine know, I maintain that Barr can’t be infected as he’s not actually a human being, but is, instead, a full on Rankin-Bass character.
It is to laugh. Or cry.
One final thing, seemingly unrelated, but trust me, it ties in:
Let’s cool it with the hyperbolic insanity regarding the President being sick. Of course it’s time to stop the hyperbolic insanity about the majesty of the Presidency in general, but the sick thing is too much. Particularly for this President.
In general, Presidents are pretty disposable. We not only have a spare one ready, we have many spare ones, most of whom will do just as good a job in a pinch. Seldom is a President as a person indispensable. There are some exceptions: I think we’d all agree that if it were 1943 and FDR came down with COVID, we’d all have good reason to light our hair on fire; JFK in October 1962 might be another moment; certainly Lincoln throughout his entire first term; Harry Truman a couple of times during the Cold War; George Bush right after 9-11. Like it or not, these were moments when it mattered who the guy was. But Trump? Trump??
Trump as a President is best when he does nothing. Only when he’s conscious are we in our greatest danger. So this hysteria over “the nation in crisis” because Trump has coronavirus, or even might be dying of coronavirus, is a childish national reflex action, all of us remembering back to a time when it mattered.
The truth is that the President himself doesn’t matter, if in fact the Presidency matters anymore at all. Certainly the last few years shows that a bad President can do very little good and tremendous bad, and yet that’s who we’re boo-hooing about now, he and his miserable familiars.
So I don’t want anyone to die, I just want them to go away. There’s a difference. And thank God that most of us know, and can feel, instinctively, the difference. Because he can't.
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