The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Interesting times we live in, aren't they?

Well, it has certainly been an interesting few weeks, as few weeks go, I think.  You don’t generally see the President of the United States of America or his Secretary of State make complete asses of themselves on live television, to be sure, and you certainly don’t see both of them make complete asses of themselves on live television in the same week.  You also don’t find the President of the Russian Federation writing op-ed pieces for the New York Times every week, especially op-ed pieces in which he chides the President of the United States of America for calling America exceptional, invokes the blesses of the Lord upon us all, and makes it clear that he is laughing up his sleeve at America and the putative leader of the Free World. The former junior senator from Illinois probably does not recognize the fact that Tsar Vladimir II is laughing at him, of course; a man of Senator Whilom’s monumental self-regard cannot process the idea that he might be the object of fun, or worse yet, mockery, and if the idea did penetrate the mental screen somehow He would ascribe the cause to racism. Racism is The One’s security blanket, the all-purpose reason for everything that might conceivably go wrong, although He will to make it clear that nothing has gone wrong.  It would be racist to think something like that, you see.

The month began with our erstwhile Illinois Incitatus doing His impression of Lewis Carroll’s Humpty-Dumpty, which I thought was very good, followed by His impression of Chico Marx telling us all who are we going to believe, me or your own eyes, an imitation I thought less than credible, but then few people can do Chico Marx well these days.  There was no red line, you see, when it came to the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria, none whatsoever, or maybe there was a little red line, but it had nothing to do with anything of any importance.  This brought up an interesting discussion of what exactly a red line actually was, with various and sundry spokespeople pointing out that red lines are not red lines when soaked first in lemon vinegar and a nice wine sauce, and then washed with a detergent with bluing for extra whiteness. This was a wonderful discussion, far more interesting than the discussion of whether or not the IRS should investigate asparagus farmers for the right-wing political proclivities of their produce. And then…someone in the media, oddly enough, produced the videotape of our prairie solon using the words red line in a sentence that had nothing to do with college basketball and everything to do with what this our Great Republic would do if the Assad thugocracy used chemical weapons against its enemies. Faced with the evidence that He had, however inadvertently, drawn an actual red line, He then said that he did not build that red line, it was Congress’ red line, although no one had asked the Congress about red lines one way or the other, and it was the world’s red line as well, even if no one had consulted the world about the matter.  In fact, it was everybody’s red line, yes it was, just as long as it wasn’t His red line.  This argument flew in much the same way that a side of beef pitched out of a twelfth story window does not, and yes, I did shoplift that bit from Douglas Adams, who lifted it from P.G. Wodehouse, and thank you for noticing. So the former junior senator from Illinois began to lay his case for military action against Syria, recycling President Bush’s arguments about going to war with Iraq in an apparent attempt to achieve a sustainable green war environment in the Middle East without anyone noticing that He was using President Bush’s arguments about going to war with Iraq. I’m not sure why He did that; perhaps He thought no one would remember a time before He blessed us with His numinous Presence. It’s as good an explanation as any, I guess.

As is His wont, however, He did mention that He did not need Congress’ permission to bomb Syria; bombing Syria is one of the perks of being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, like unlimited golf time and free drinks at the White House canteen.  The Congress, suitably surprised that The One was even deigning to notice that they existed, said this interpretation of the Constitution might not be the case and that they might want to have a chat about it amongst themselves before committing to anything one way or the other.  His Elective Majesty then declared that He did not need Congress’ permission to bomb anyone He felt like bombing and permitted his Secretary of State to make the case for His bombing anyone He felt like bombing to those parts of the world He does not choose to bomb at this time.  His Secretary of State, a man borne to the purple heart and married to a ketchup bottle, thereby decreed that yes, the Leader of the Free World, which is not an amusement park in Edison, New Jersey, but is a strip club/auto repair shop in Spokane, Washington, or so I hear, did not need Congress’ authorization to bomb whoever He felt like bombing. The Secretary delivered this bit of bilious Botoxed bombast, a Secretarial specialty for those of you not paying attention, even as His Kumquat in Chief was strolling around the White House grounds ignoring the Do Not Walk on the Grass signs and deciding that instead of not going to Congress to get their unnecessary authorization to bomb anyone He felt like bombing, He would go to Congress for their unnecessary authorization to bomb anyone He felt like bombing.  And all of God’s children would say, Amen, but to do that everyone would have to be on the same page in the missal, which doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Well, the Secretary of the untaxed swift boats, which sounds a bit Homeric, now that I give it some thought, disguised his nonplussment, if that’s even a word, and began to make the case for Congressional authorization without so much as batting an eyelash, an act that may well be impossible for the Secretary to perform until the shots wear off. In addition to this, the avatar of Jake Lingle proclaimed on one of the Sunday morning chat shows that the former junior senator from Illinois had wrought a political miracle by making the Republicans responsible for another war if they voted yes and responsible for mass slaughter if they voted no.  Mr. Lingle’s avatar, a greasy Chicago political hack who would give greasy Chicago political hackery a bad name if such a thing were possible, rubbed his hands with glee at the prospect I've just mentioned, or he did, until it became apparent that the Democrats in Congress wouldn’t support Senator Whilom’s urge to bomb Syria either. Such an outright repudiation would be an outrage—everyone who was anyone in the Democratic leadership said so—a massive political calamity that would undermine The One’s credibility throughout the world, as if He hadn’t done that Himself by selling Twizzlers to everyone involved and then claiming that the item in question was cotton candy. Oh, what to do, what to do, boys and girls?!  Illinois Jones is about to fall into a vast pit of GOP snakes! How will He make His escape?  The audience cowers in fear as Our Hero dangles at the edge of the abyss, trying to think of a way out of His predicament.

And then, miracle of miracles, the cavalry comes riding over the hill to save the day…well, okay, if you want to be technical about this, it’s not the US Cavalry, God bless every man jack of them, it’s the Cossack cavalry, with a shirtless Tsar Vladimir II in the lead. I wonder why Vladimir Vladimirovich hates shirts so much. You’d think a Russian would love shirts, what with the Russian winter lasting for fourteen months out of the year. Well, there’s no accounting for tastes, I suppose.  In any case, Vlad comes sweeping in and offers Illinois Jones a deal: Syria will eliminate the chemical weapons it used to say it didn’t have, young Bashar Assad will not face a war crimes tribunal, the United States will not have to bomb anyone, and the United Nations will come in and do something suitably vague and high-minded.  Our erstwhile Illinois Incitatus gives the deal the cold once over and immediately accepts, as it gets Him away from the snake pit with His swash, His buckle, and His backside intact, in a sideways sort of fashion. Of course, the downside to the deal is that Vlad looks like the Man on the Strong Horse, the Iranians think that our Elective Majesty is a weak sister, and all those Syrian rebels attending English as a Second Language classes now know the meaning of the expression, getting the shaft. On the upside, though, after years in reruns the Not Ready for Prime Time Players are back on live television and Our Leader, the Duke of Plaza-Toro, can go back to perfecting his golf game. Makes you feel all warm and mushy inside, don’t it?  

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Monday, September 09, 2013

A dog's life, or why bother?

This may or may not be of any importance to you or to anyone else in these trying times, but I do wonder why anyone would want to write a biography of Rin Tin Tin.  For those of you who know nothing of the history of American cinema, and I am sure such people must exist somewhere, Rin Tin Tin was the wonder dog who saved Warner Brothers studios back in the 1920’s. Movies featuring the heroic pooch saving the poor, the innocent, and the leading lady from Indians, outlaws, lecherous bankers and other assorted riff-raff were absolute box office gold during the Jazz Age.  Rin Tin Tin was so popular that in 1927 he got the most votes for Best Actor in the balloting for the first Academy Awards, a result the Academy disavowed because they feared no one would take the award seriously if a dog won it. The Academy polled its membership again, this time stipulating that the members could not vote for Rin Tin Tin, no matter how much money the mutt made, and so it came to pass that the German actor Emil Jannings became the first recipient of the Best Actor Oscar, as well as the first winner not to show up to receive his Oscar, which, just to be historically accurate here, was not called Oscar at the time he won it.  Coming in second to a dog must have ground on Jannings’ sensibilities no end, as did knowing that Rin Tin Tin was even more popular in Berlin than he was. Jannings returned to Germany soon after scoring an undisputed second place win, another victim of the sound revolution in films. Neither Jannings nor Rin Tin Tin spoke English very well, but the American public was more willing to overlook the lack of adequate English language skills in a German Shepherd than they were in a German, so Jannings went home to Germany to star in Nazi propaganda films and Rin Tin Tin went back to making money for the Warner Brothers.

All of which is very interesting, of course, but it still does not explain why anyone would write a biography of a dog. A dog’s life, even a dog as celebrated as Rin Tin Tin, is not particularly interesting, and yes, I can hear all of you dog lovers sharpening your knives out there.  Allow me to ask a question: did Rin Tin Tin even know he was a movie star?  Of course he didn’t—he was a dog, remember?  Whether the dog in question is Rin Tin Tin or Ace the Incredible Wonder Dog or that yipping little mutt next door that pisses in my mother’s geraniums every day, they are still dogs. A dog’s life is easy to understand: you eat, you sleep, you evacuate your bowels, you smell other dogs’ backsides, and on occasion your owner shows you how to do something, and if you do it right, you get a treat. Except for that bit about smelling each other backsides, there’s not much difference between Rin Tin Tin and your average Democratic voter. A dog’s life is not an unhappy one, all told, because it’s just the same old same old every day, which might get monotonous for you and me but doesn’t seem to bother dogs one iota.  

Given the monotony of such an existence, why would you want to read a dog’s biography?  If you are interested in Hollywood history and the scandal that often attaches itself to that history, there’s nothing to beat Flipper’s biography, not by a long shot. The dissolute dolphin was apparently an accomplished orgiast and probably a rapist as well, a common trait amongst his species, apparently, and reading about the lengths the studios were prepared to go to in order to cover up the craven cetacean’s wallowing in the moral gutter at Hollywood and Vine does make you marvel at the extent people will collaborate with squalor if they think they can make a profit from it.  Or you could read the biography of Seabiscuit, the darling of the 1930’s racing world, which is such a story of moral uplift and triumph against long odds that it will bring tears to your eyes and you will want to read the book to your children so that they might profit from the great horse’s example. But Rin Tin Tin? Or any other dog? Frankly, I would prefer to read Flipper’s confessions that he scored with his human co-stars than know that Rin Tin Tin barked on cue on Tuesday, August 6th, 1929, and I think everyone else will probably feel the same way. I could be wrong about that, of course; there’s lots of dog lovers out there, you know.

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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Rhetorical question, isn't it?

I should get off my ass and write something for here, shouldn’t I?