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)

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Benchley Memorandum, not by Robert Ludlum

For reasons I am not sure I fathom, the following thought popped into my mind last night. Maybe it was the asparagus that caused the popping; I dislike asparagus intensely and I only ate the slimy things last night because my mother cooked them. I should point out that my mother refuses to believe that the usual regimen of Honey Nut Cheerios, sausage pizza, and sugar-free orange Jello constitutes a healthy diet and routinely demands that I eat something green, if only to demonstrate some ethnic pride every so often.  As I prefer my meals without the slightly bile flavor of maternal nagging, I gave in and ate some of Mom’s asparagus. It being late, I promptly went to bed.

This was not such a good idea; sleeping with the asparagus working its way through the old organism caused no end of restlessness and bad dreams, and as I awoke this morning the following thought popped into my still exhausted brain: the former junior senator from Illinois is the Robert Benchley of American politics, sideways, sort of. The thought seemed strange at the time; I usually think of Himself as the Jackson Pollock of American politics, which is to say, a man utterly untalented at his chosen profession whose stellar reputation large numbers of people support because admitting that He is utterly untalented at His chosen profession makes them look very stupid.  After all, what is the difference between Lavender Mist and the drop cloth Joe the Painter puts down on the floor when he paints your kitchen that stupid shade of lavender your significant other insists upon because lavender is so restful? Not much really, other than the large pile of filthy lucre it takes to buy Lavender Mist. And once you’ve parted with that much loot for a painting, then the artist is going to be the greatest thing since beer in a can. He (or she; let’s not be sexist here) just is. Absolutely no two ways about it. 

But how is our Illinois Incitatus the second coming of Robert Benchley? Benchley seems to be an unlikely candidate for a solonic avatar. Benchley was a real mensch, whereas Himself is many things, but a mensch is not one of them. Benchley was funny and self-deprecating, whereas Himself is not funny without His teleprompter (most of the time, anyway) and wouldn’t know what self-deprecation was if it bit Him on the backside. Benchley was famously at war with the technology of the Industrial Age, while our prairie solon wields the new digital technology in the same way that Merlin the Wizard wielded his magic wand.

So how is He like Robert Benchley, sideways, sort of? “It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous,” said Mr. Benchley (maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t; all funny remarks whose provenance are not completely clear are, in the United States, attributed to Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, or Anonymous, in that order).  The former junior senator from Illinois deeply resembles that remark, I think, in that by the time the rest of us discovered he had no real capacity for governance, He was already President. Of course, the point of the quip is that Benchley discovers after fifteen years of working the writer’s trade that he has no talent for writing, which realization depends on a certain amount of self-knowledge, whereas I am certain that the occupant or current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thinks He’s doing a wonderful job doing whatever it is He thinks He’s doing these days and no one around Him is going to tell Him any different.  In any case, I think I will stop eating the damn asparagus after eight o’clock at night; it clearly doesn’t agree with me.

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  • At 2:11 PM, Blogger Akaky said…

    Tat, I think you are the 60,000 hit on this site. Many congratulations! It means nothing in the real world, of course, but I appreciate it. And to everyone else too, for showing up here despite my desultory attempts at keeping this place up, thanks a lot!

  • At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The pleasure is entirely mine.
    I have to say, your very nice comment is much appreciated; so far it has been the only pleasant thing in my day.

  • At 5:19 PM, Blogger miriam sawyer said…

    all funny remarks whose provenance are not completely clear are, in the United States, attributed to Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, or Anonymous.

    Not so. You are leaving out Mark Twain and de Tocqueville. Thoreau too.

  • At 2:13 PM, Blogger Akaky said…

    de Toqueville and Thoreau were not funny, Miriam, and yes, I did forget Twain. I don't know how, but I did. Sorry.

  • At 10:51 AM, Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said…

    Just came to say (belated) Merry Christmas, Akaky, and a happier, organ replacements - free New Year. And here I see a new post. Cool.

    All the best.

  • At 4:02 PM, Blogger Dick Stanley said…

    A nightmare, truly. The Worm, as I prefer to think of the One, isn't self-effacing in the least. Let alone deprecating.


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