Trump, Part 1

Spoiler alert:  I am a liberal.  I have been a liberal most of my life because I could not understand colonization or Jim Crow or why separate but equal was the “law of the land.”

I voted for the first time in 1968 after having marched against Vietnam and in support of Martin Luther King and after having kept clean for Gene. I was also a precinct delegate to the Michigan Democratic convention, my first and last try at politics.  Until I pulled the curtain across the voting booth, I was undecided whether to vote for Eldridge Cleaver or Hubert Humphrey.  I chose Humphrey.  In later years, as Cleaver’s life unraveled, I was relieved I had chosen Humphrey.

I never considered voting for any of the Republicans who have run for office during my voting life: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush the elder, Dole, Bush the younger, McCain and Romney.  Considering who the running mates of the last two were, I am particularly relieved that those tickets were defeated.

I wish I could see a Republican defeat this cycle, but, I can not.  I do not think either Bernie or Hillary can beat the  destructive energy of the trump campaign.

I do not understand the tsunami that is trump.  I am embarrassed for the nation by his success.  Although I fear him, I fear the people who support him more.

My first memory of trump doing anything was shopping with Ivana at K-Mart when they sent their oldest son off to prep school.  A few years later, a  former Boston broadcaster expressing  disbelief that this man  “talked like a fish.”

Since then, trump has been the butt of jokes.  Now that butt of jokes is making America the butt of jokes. Is that the meaning of making America great?  The Great Laughing Stock?

When trump declared his candidacy, I thought it would be like Herman Cain’s run, a publicity stunt.  Aside from keeping the tax structure amenable to the 1%, I could only guess at his politics.  Certainly, I would never have imagined the horror show that has unfolded.

Herman Cain is a self-promoter who is essentially a bald frat boy.  Once the nation realized he wasn’t serious, the nation laughed with him and Cain got to hang out with Stephen Colbert.

Cain is not trump. Cain speaks standard English.  Trump does not.  His linguistic ability is only slightly better than Sarah Palin’s.  He has bragged that, as a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he is very well educated.  He has also bragged about “having words.”  Imagine, if trump had not had the advantage of going into the family business and had had to apply for jobs, speaking his word salad, starting statements but never finishing them.  No one would have hired him.

But, back to words.   What words?  What value do words have?

Two very different men, Benjamin Whorf and Malcolm X, came to similar conclusions on the value of words from different starting points.  Whorf saw a link between language and cognition and that the structure of a language (this is language in the larger sense and not as idiolect) influences how its speakers see the world.  While in prison, Malcolm X came to admire another inmate for his knowledge and tried to learn through reading but was stopped by his own limited vocabulary.  His solution was to copy the dictionary.  Both men became influential because they understood words and how to use them.

Trump does not have good communications’ skills.  His followers say he speaks his mind, but, what kind of mind do the repeated and inconsistent  phrases reveal?  In his Vanity Fair piece recalling his own interview with trump,former Playboy writer Mark Bowden describes trump as “adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated and consistently wrong.”   Reading Bowden, I hear trump’s unmodulated and booming voice declaim, “This is the most beautiful apartment in the world.  Everything is plated in gold.”

At the beginning of the campaign, I thought he was simply a boor,  But, the more I heard him speak, the more I realized this is not an intelligent person.

I am not a reality television fan.  I never saw The Apprentice.  I just listened to the satirists take off on trump whose outsized voice, belly, persona,  reverse pompadour and John Boehner makeup make him an easy mark.  But the reality show, a serial display of contrived events meant to represent what happens in courtship or apartment sharing or in business, has become the new opiate  of the masses.

The reality show made trump a star and America loves stars and red carpets and mass adoration.  Americans are conformists.  If they weren’t, they’d be embarrassed that a reality television star is the most likely of the narrowing list of candidates to become president.

Wait!  I was embarrassed when a B movie actor became president.  Actually, that just proved my point.  Americans are difficult to embarrass, perhaps, because they have perceptual problems.

Earlier this week, I wrote on a thread that because of his poor language skills, I would guess trump’s IQ is average, or, between 95 and 100,  Another poster wrote that, based on his SAT scores and knowing that he was accepted at Wharton, his IQ had to be 156.

I asked the other person if he had seen trump’s SAT scores.He admitted he hadn’t then suggested I learn to read.  I decided to see if I could, even if it meant acting a bit like the birthers trump supported, discover trump’s IQ.  The poster plagiarized tje information from  Before It’s News, a blog site where one can learn the latest about UFO’s and Big Foot and Donald Trump.

The man behind the speculation calls himself various names, none of which are traceable because they’re pseudonyms.  He identifies as a former Navy officer and a therapist, a member of Mensa and of the Society of Professional Journalists.  If he is a therapist, his speculation on trump’s IQ is not just misguided but unethical.  If he is a member of the SPJ, his writing may violate its code of ethics, which is, perhaps, why he uses a nom d’email.

Then I found an article in from The Daily Pennsylvanian, the independent student paper of the University of Pennsylvania.  Dan Spinelli, while investigating trump’s academic career found that few people in his class knew him.  Perhaps, that was because trump had been a transfer student.  Spinelli quoted Gwenda Blair, a trump biographer and adjunct professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, who wrote trump was accepted as a favor.

Trump, the reality star, has begun to sound more like a character from a Dickens’ novel.
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Good-bye, Downton Abbey!

I loved Downton Abbey, but . . . not blindly.  Somewhere, perhaps in season three, I realized that very little was actually said in each episode.  Despite being set in the early 20th C., many of the scenes  echoed contemporary audience expectations, with characters talking while walking.  The big difference between DA and programs set in the second half of the 20th C., or later, is that rather than walking from one desk to another, the characters were strolling the grounds.  Taking the air, if you will.

What did I love?  As my daughter said, “It’s the house porn.”  And, yes, the exterior shots were wonderful, although I did wonder about all those bedrooms.  But, although the sumptuous  Abbey will continue to haunt our memories, I liked some of the smaller houses better, particularly the more modest home of the Dowager Countess of Grantham.  I would love the wing chair and the settee in her drawing room. I picture them in my home office . . . if my 31 year old son ever moves out so that I can have the room back.

I also loved the clothes.  Even one of the male actors, Tom Cullen, who played Lady Mary’s oversexed suitor Tony Gillingham, loved the bespoke suit.  Imagine, clothes that fit!  Frankly,  while I am glad to have lived through the death of the girdle, I miss wearing nice clothes that suit the situation.  Even a theatre matinee deserves something better than jeans.  And no one should wear a mesh wifebeater to a wedding.

And, I wanted Lady Edith to be happily wed, despite that she — as her mother and sister did as well — established herself as a career woman and despite  my own romantic history, which  was something I would rather forget.

But, now that I have arrived at Lady Edith, this is a good point to begin discussing what I did not like about DA.

The writing.

During the 13 years the series covers, Edith grows from a middle child  just out of her teens, whose adulthood seems a long way off, to an almost confident woman making her way in the male world of publishing.  We see Edith mercilessly chase a weak-willed man who is far too old for her and who leaves her at the altar.  Throughout, she is picked upon by her more confident older sister, a cold young woman who must make a marriage that will save the family estate from a ridiculous entailment.

She grows restless, as an intelligent woman would, and begins to freelance.  This leads to another involvement with an older man, this one eager for affection and sex with lonely Edith but with his own skeletons freely walking in and out of his closets.  They make love once and then he mysteriously disappears.  Or, is it conveniently?

He does leave her his London apartment and his magazine, which means that she will not be a spinster in the manor house.

It is just a little too deus ex machina.

She is also pregnant but, lo and behold, she has two advantages that a kitchen maid like Daisy would never have: sufficient money to hide the pregnancy and a sympathetic aunt to help keep her secret.

Let’s just shorten the phrase deus ex machina to DEM.

What really bothers me about Edith’s saga is the ending.  Of course, she became the glowing and glamourous (please, spell check, this word deserves the extra letter used in British English!) bride . . . but.

As much as she was attracted to the quick thinking and seemingly generous spirited and humble estate manager Bertie Pelham, she found it difficult to tell him that Marigold was her daughter and not her ward.  Of course she did.  She had had bad luck with men, particularly because she was too eager with Mr. Wrong.  And, it was early in the 1920s.

When her vicious sister feigns ignorance of what may have transpired in private between Edith and her now fiance Bertie (who has since — more DEM — come into an estate and a title) and reveals to Bertie in public that Marigold is Edith’s little girl, the engagement is broken off.

His reason is that he can not trust Edith.  She has concealed the truth from him.  He never says it is because she bore a child out of wedlock, which, would have been sufficient reason for the time.  But he is no longer the clever and easy going young man he was.  He is older, stiffer and far less engaging.

Soon, Mary, now happily wed herself, along with the sisters’ ever obliging aunt, brings the couple together.  They too easily forgive each other.  First, however, she must meet his Mater, who sounds more like the wife of an American evangelical pastor than a newly minted member of the nobility.

Lo and behold, the formerly offended Bertie now openly tells his soon-to-be in-laws that he and Edith will not tell MaMa just who little Marigold is.  Mater will not be able to handle the situation and little Marigold may suffer.

Really?  Am I the only one bothered by the contradiction?  Am I the only one who thinks the independent and strong Edith, who has made her way in publishing, and who is discovering new talent in the form of her grandmother’s butler, will not be long happy with the stiff and conforming Bertie?  What a surprise when MaMa, who seems to never look people in the eye, praises Edith’s honesty!  DEM, again.  Some of the older woman’s interior monologue would have been nice.

I have spent more time on Edith than I intended, but,  I would like to point out some more DEM.

Remember that butler?  Septimus Spratt has been secretly writing for Lady Edith’s magazine.  He is just one of many servants with hidden talents who will make the leap to the expanding middle class.  Mr. Mosely, after his comic attempt to dye his hair in order to appear an age more appropriate to his station as footman, emerges as a closet intellectual who becomes a teacher after taking what seems like the equivalent of an American GED test.

And, the middle class rises in other ways.  The former nurse, the sensible and salty Isobel Crawley, is courted by a man with a title, the dull and sleep-walking Lord Merton.  Opposites attract in the world of DA because there is no way this woman could love such a dullard.  And, more DEM, although Lord Merton has been diagnosed with pernicious anemia, he has garden variety anemia and some broccoli and steak will fix him!

And so the merging of classes and class distinction will continue as the curtain drops on the Abbey for the last time.

I have nothing against Julian Fellowes.  I think the story of how his first filmscript, Gosford Park, won the Academy Award for best screenplay is a bit over done as Fellowes had a long acting career.  I envy his success but am not jealous of it. I admire the organization it took to deal with a cast as large as the DA cast and to carry threads of stories over more than a decade.  I just find the melding of classes too easy.  I think that that many nice people — and most of them are nice and the ones who weren’t, like Barrow and Lady Mary did grow and mellow — living together with that amount of harmony is a bit of a fairy tale.

Still, I look forward to his next project, which I hope will rely less on deus ex machina and more on causality.

A New Venture!

As some of you may know, I am not teaching this year, which I miss.  I am, however, writing a play.

My play was inspired by the 2002 film, Huit Femmes, released in the United States as Eight Women.

It is a rather silly play that almost seems like a French satire on the English cozy mystery crossed with the 1950s edition of an American musical.

I wanted to write a play in which 8 of Shakespeare’s female characters meet — perhaps re-incarnated to a contemporary large city in either England or the USA — to discuss their childhood, their marriages and their parenting styles.  Along the way, a tragedy occurs which changes everything for the women.

Hmmm.  Perhaps, a later revision will eliminate the tragedy.

Anyway, today, I apply for a grant to support the writing.  Wish me luck!