Republicans developing a conscience?

Perhaps too good to be true…

It is good that a few Republicans are showing signs of conscience in roughly the last week that Donald Trump remains in office. Any progress, no matter how minute, deserves to be appreciated.

Still, if Republicans had shown conscience the first time Trump was impeached (nearly a year ago), five people would not have died in the Capitol riots incited by Trump and his cohorts.

Let’s be honest: Trump did not suddenly reveal himself to be a monster, previously hidden behind a mask of grace, charm, solicitude, and truth. Trump waxed ogrelike in innumerable ways in prior years. He became so famous for lying that statisticians gained full-time employment just tracking his litany of lies. His crudity, insensitivity, boorishness, bullying manner, and utter disregard for the laws governing his office were proved beyond a shadow of a doubt long before January 6, 2021. Aside from his abrasive personality, he adopted myriad policies both monstrous and idiotic, in a trail stretching clear to Normay.

What Trump was to Republicans was both a money tree and a power base. They loved gorging on leaves from the money tree, and sucking power from the power base. They also knew that Trump was the leader of an angry mob which he controlled and orchestrated; but most of them were never directly confronted with that mob (unless, like Giuliani and Flynn, they chose to be its cheerleaders). Many Republicans were country club types, happy to slop up the spoils of Trumpism, garnered in part from poor deluded slobs sending in their fivers and tenners in response to fundraising appeals filled with blatant lies, and stoking fears about the scary Other which must be kept at bay. (The Other was often a different race or religion than most Trump supporters.)

It went on this way for four years, Republicans gobbling up the money and sucking up the power (and sucking up to Donald Trump). He was, in many ways, a mafialike figure; but as with the real estate, construction and casino businesses from which Trump emerged, politics is also a dirty business. So, Republicans didn’t find it difficult to accustom themselves to the Trump family’s increasing stranglehold on Washington politics. Jared Kushner called it a ‘hostile takeover,’ but perhaps it was more like the seduction of a nymphomaniac. Only token resistance was offered. Most sang Glorias.

If what substitutes for truth in Washington is money and power, then Trump proved his right to sit astride the refuse heap by having tons of both. That he was ignorant to ten decimal places, with morals that would shame an alley cat, was considered of little consequence. He had the goods: money and power; and Republican country club types could keep a safe distance from the mob, while continuing to reap the benefits, guzzle the power.

The only thing Trump did to upset the system was to send the mob directly to the Capitol while Congress was in session, thus forcing these money-munchers and power-guzzlers to cower in their seats, fear for their lives, and gasp for air while ensconced in gas masks. Trump had made millions of citizens utterly miserable over the prior four-year period; but when he inconvenienced fellow Republicans by confronting them with the mob that was partly financing their junkets, that was too much to bear. In that moment, emerging from cover and stepping over the shards of broken glass, they spontaneously began developing faculties vaguely resembling a conscience and a spine — too late, perhaps, by any cosmic reckoning, but conveniently coinciding with the final days that Trump would be in office.

There’s a humourous meme from the old Star Trek series involving a song that goes “Eat all the fruit, and throw away the rind”:

Headin’ out to Eden,
Yea, brother!
Headin’ out to Eden,
No more trouble in my body or my mind;
Gonna live like a king on whatever I find;
Eat all the fruit, and throw away the rind;
Yea, brother, yea.

Quaintly expressed, that is nevertheless the practical philosophy of many Republicans. They ate all the fruit they could shake from the Donald Tree. Now that he’s accused of insurrection and inciting to riot, and has shown that he’s not averse to physically harming members of Congress, they’re only too happy to throw away the rind and move on to some other tree. Yea, brother!

The run-away-from-Jesus moment arrived with remarkable synchronicity on the same day we learned that some Fortune 500 companies are pledging to deprive Republicans of funding if they are (or continue to be) associated with false claims that Trump won the election by a landslide, that the election was stolen, and that Biden is not the legitimate president elect. These companies want a stable, coup-free environment in which to operate. It must be further noted that Trump can no longer tweet recalcitrant Republicans out of power, having been permanently (or indefinitely) banned from Twitter, as indeed from most mainstream social media platforms. (The joke goes that Trump violated Twitter’s “42,000 strikes and you’re out” policy.)

The Trump train was always headed for destruction. The ‘art’ of being a Republican (if art it may be called) lies (as any hobo could relate) in knowing when to jump off one train and catch another. The few Republicans who, thus far, have come out publicly in favour of impeachment, have demonstrated their alacrity and acrobatic deftness. Their base instincts for self-preservation have finally overruled their instinct to slop up money and power, causing them to leap from the Trump train at the last possible moment. This might be described as a ‘conscience-mimetic’ event.

I hope I may be forgiven if I don’t expend much energy cheering them for their courage and moral rectitude. Conscience? Perhaps. You may be scared of the mob, yet there comes a time when you just have to squeal.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

Earth to Pence!

Earth to Pence! Earth to Pence! Trump went well past being round the bend quite some time ago. Does he have to start eating kitty-litter or wearing his underwear on the outside before you’ll invoke the 25th Amendment?

Sending a mob to attack the Capitol while Congress was in session was proof enough. Five people died. That Trump did not (and does not) regret doing so is further proof that his narcissism has metastasized to the point where he poses an extreme danger.

Do we really believe that Pence is Mr. Responsible, just waiting for signs of erratic behavior from Trump before springing into action? Or is it more likely that Pence is looking for a politically opportune moment to drop the dime on Trump, without being branded a traitor by fellow Republicans?

Really Mike, it’s now or never. Because it’s getting to the point where outhouse rats are bragging that they’re saner than The Donald.

As recently as December 22, 2020 Pence was still parroting the Trump party line that the base should keep “fighting for election integrity,” and that Trump himself was a man who would “never stop fighting”:

Can you count the number of times Pence uses some cognate of “fight” in this speech? Do you hear the crowd chanting “Stop the steal!”?

I could be confused about the teachings of Jesus, but it seems to me that two thousand years ago when he arrived on the scene, he found the rich too rich and the poor too poor — much as we might find today. To make “rich people poorer and poor people more comfortable” is apparently heresy to Mike Pence, raising the bugaboo of socialism. But here’s a news flash for the Pences of this world: To comfort the poor is not an unChristian thing to do, and unlike Pence, Jesus did not preach trickle-down economics.

Like many slavish boosters and enablers of the president, Pence’s only objection to Trumpism and its core principle of governance by an elite (using the unwashed for muscle) comes in the final hours, when the unwashed start going after him:

Talk about the chickens coming home to roost! Lin Wood, described by the Anti-Defamation League as a “vocal Trump ally, lawyer and conspiracy theorist,” posted this on Parler:

The last-minute exit of Trump loyalists like Elaine Chao, Betsy Devos, Stephanie Grisham, Mick Mulvaney, and Chad Wolf (clutching their pearls, the lot of them) brings to mind a famous quote from the Firesign Theatre: “This is a line of Indians leaving Rancho Malario…”

Celebrity Gossip Dept.: After a lovers’ tiff in which Trump cursed Pence and sent an angry mob to hang him, the two men have now reconciled. Trump has promised not to have Pence offed if Pence agrees not to invoke the 25th Amendment. 😉

It is a tragedy that conservative Christians like Pence have thrown in their lot with political fascists. The resulting mix is neither freedom, nor compassion, nor salvation. Far from defending the Constitution, the Trumpists have trashed it; and far from believing in the sanctity of human life, the Trumpists believe in the aggregation of political power at the expense of human life. Under Trump, had Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus fled to the U.S., Jesus would have been separated from Mary at the border, kept in a cage, and misplaced by bureaucrats.

Mike Pence can bathe 10 times a day for the rest of his life, and still not get the strench of Donald Trump out of his skin (it is that deep). No one needs to hang Mike Pence. He has hung himself.

Topics for discussion (arising from Pence’s speech at Turning Point USA)

How do we define freedom? Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, France, and Germany are just five of the many nations which have some form or degree of socialized medicine. Are these nations not free? Broadly speaking, their citizens seem relatively free from the fear of medical bankruptcy, while U.S. citizens continue to suffer. Are there different kinds and degrees of freedom? If so, how important is freedom from medical bankruptcy to the general quality of life?

There are churches and temples in the five nations mentioned above. Are their churches and temples less visited due to the presence of socialized medicine? Does freedom from want necessarily mean less faith in God or love of God?

What were some of the reasons that Jesus was handed over to the Romans and crucified? Did it have anything to do with the fact that he overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple, and espoused unselfish, anti-materialist views?

Historically, have large disparities between the rich and poor led to revolutions? If so, do programs like Social Security and Medicare actually help strengthen the capitalist economic system (referred to euphemistically by Pence as “freedom”), by offsetting some of its negative by-products?

Does capitalism work better when we try to ameliorate the crippling poverty often experienced by those who can’t compete? Wall Street stockbrokers tripping over the homeless is not a good look for capitalism, and conservatives eliminating food stamps for new mothers who were forbidden to have abortions is not a good look for Christianity.

Personally, I find Pence’s speech of just three weeks ago disturbing. Amidst rallying cries of fight, fight, fight, and complicity in the stop the steal meme, he celebrates military buildup, tax cuts, and fabled success at combating COVID, while working in some homilies about the Christian faith. The speech is rendered rather more bizarre in retrospect, viewed through the prism of the Capitol riots:

What Pence seems to be selling is not love of God as I know and understand it, but rather love of wealth and privilege, and an attempt to legislate Christian beliefs which ought to be arrived at freely. Such beliefs are only resented by the general public when forced upon them. I do not think Jesus would recognize this overprivileged, intolerant, heavy-handed and authoritarian version of his teachings, artificially grafted onto political ideology.


Sidebar: Trump supporters: Don’t fight! Get married!

All together now: UNO, DUE, TRE, QUATTRO…

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

Brexit Deal: Full of Fish

In his now legendary Christmas 2020 message, Boris Johnson did not conceal the fact that his new Brexit deal is ‘full of fish’:

(click to enlarge to 1536×864)

But fish for whom? The devilfish is in the details, and few can claim to know for certain just how swimmingly this deal will pan out in the real world. Despite Johnson’s ballyhooed ‘tidings of great joy’, it could be a case of ‘One fish, two fish, Scotland few fish’.

The UK’s fishing industry, headquartered primarily in Scotland, is said to be unhappy with the deal. Scottish MPs from both the SNP and Labour parties comprised the main opposition to approval. The bill passed in the Commons by a vote of 521 to 73, supported by Tories and the majority of Labour, but opposed by the SNP, Scottish Labour, Liberal Democrats, and other smaller parties.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon refused to position herself ‘in the tank’ for the Brexit deal, instead decrying it in a Christmas Eve statement which read in part:

It beggars belief that in the midst of a pandemic and economic recession Scotland has been forced out of the EU Single Market and Customs Union with all the damage to jobs that will bring.

A deal is better than no deal. But, just because, at the eleventh hour, the UK Government has decided to abandon the idea of a no-deal outcome, it should not distract from the fact that they have chosen a hard Brexit, stripping away so many of the benefits of EU membership.

And while we do not yet have full details on the nature of the deal, it appears major promises made by the UK Government on fisheries have been broken and the extent of these broken promises will become apparent to all very soon.

Nicola Sturgeon

Future for Remainers

While Brexit may seem done and dusted, that doesn’t mean those who identified as Remainers will go gentle into that good night — nor should they. There’s a balance to be struck between getting on with Brexit reality (however shabby), and continuing to monitor the larger political problems of which Brexit is only a symptom. These include right-wing populism, use of social media to propagandise the masses into voting for policies which actually constitute self-harm, and the use of dark money (some from overseas) to swing referenda by a few crucial percentage points in the direction desired by billionaires and oligarchs.

On the one hand, it’s only right and proper to try and ‘make the best of Brexit’. On the other hand, the long arc of history demands that people examine those lines of thought which led to the consummation of major policy shifts. If Brexit is a disaster (and one hopes against hope that it isn’t), still, it’s not the only disaster which can proceed from the kind of thinking which gave us Brexit.

There is also the Law of Karma to be reckoned with. One wishes for a good outcome and the minimum of suffering by those affected by Brexit; yet one also knows that bad decisions taken by second-rate minds and put over through a high degree of deception and promise-breaking tend to bear ill fruit.

The Law of Karma, however harsh it may sometimes appear, is designed to help people learn and progress. So, even while making the best of Brexit, it’s important that people continue to monitor the outcome, learn from the experience, and make progress towards realising the highest ideals which informed Remainers: ideals about an interdependent world where global problems are solved through global cooperation; a world where a sense of brotherhood triumphs over a narrow sense of nationalism; a world in which nations demonstrate their greatness by what they can contribute in partnership with other nations, rather than by walling themselves off; a world where one can feel deep love and loyalty toward one’s home country, and yet also identify with the broader world beyond, without being called a traitor or collaborator.

If greater interdependence and closer partnerships are indeed the sunlit path of the future, then the long arc of history may show Brexit to have been retrograde motion rooted in archaic modes of thinking. Some short-term pragmatists may claim that there’s no hope of the UK rejoining the EU for at least 10 or 20 years, so Remainers should simply give up on their dreams. But long-term planners, while coming to terms with the present day reality, should always look ahead to what can be accomplished with insight, energy, and integrity. It may indeed take decades to build the ship of the future; but only the dreamers will know what that ship looks like and how it can be built; so they should certainly not give up on their dreams, nor their struggles.

As for practical matters: If the fishing rights component of Brexit smells rotten in Scotland, this may further the cause of Scottish independence. Here too, feelings can be understandably mixed. Many people love Scotland and cannot conceive of a UK without it. Yet, at the height of Brexit mania, opinion polls suggested that pro-Brexit voters supported the policy even if it meant Scotland leaving the UK. Here again, one hopes for a good outcome, and that Scotland can somehow manage to remain. But 62% of Scots voted to stay in the EU, so Brexit (which was always a project of English Conservatives) is a bitter pill for them to swallow, especially if their fishing industry should suffer.

LINKS

Brexit deal: Nicola Sturgeon says ‘major promises’ broken on fishing
‘Betrayed’: UK fishing industry says Brexit deal threatens long term damage
Brexit changed the game on Scottish independence
5 reasons the UK failed in Brexit talks

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

Boris Johnson Declares Victory

In a moving Christmas message, the Prime Minister held up the fruits of his long and difficult negotiations with the EU and proclaimed:

(click to enlarge to 1536×864)

It remains for Britons to figure out what the heck it all means come January 1st. Like sausage, the Brexit deal may be something you’d rather not see being made.

* * *

Happy Boxing Day – Do Not Adjust Your Set (video)

Before Monty Python there was Do Not Adjust Your Set, which featured many of the same players, and the same style of mod silliness — plus regular performances by the surreal Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

It was Boxing Day 1967, and UK television viewers didn’t know what hit them! That was the day a pilot for a new britcom debuted:

(Alternate link: https://archive.org/download/ChristmasSpecials/Do.Not.Adjust.Your.Set-A.Happy.Boxing.Day.1967.mp4)

As Monty Python would do later, Do Not Adjust Your Set pushed the envelope, ushering in a younger generation of performers who were tuned in to a richer palette of influences than traditional comics and variety acts. This Boxing Day special exists on the cusp of a generational change in British comedy. In 23 minutes, the players manage to tick all the boxes an audience would expect (including a closing song & dance number), yet there’s something fresh and new happening — a clear departure from the limited repertoire of Carry On Christmas specials and music hall rehashings.

The Internet Archive has a trove of UK Christmas specials on tap here, and the generational shift becomes more apparent if we zip through Christmas Night with the Stars 1964, and Carry On Christmas 1973:

These are not without laughs, camp appeal, and interest as cultural artifacts (e.g. bandleader Billy Cotton’s signature cry of “Wakey-wakey!”), but seem to belong to an older generation. By contrast, Do Not Adjust exudes Cambridge cleverness, art school madness, and a studied acquaintance with the theater of the absurd.

After the pilot, the series ran for two seasons: one done for Rediffusion, London and a second for Thames. The British Film Institute has been busy restoring and re-releasing this material. Better yet for the locked down and destitute, the free and legal Tubi TV is currently screening nine episodes from Season 1 on demand (ad-supported, no registration required):

https://tubitv.com/series/3772/do-not-adjust-your-set

By Episode 9, the cast (including future Pythons Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, and Eric Idle, along with Denise Coffey and David Jason) are lobbing more material in the direction of a hip young college audience. See (for example) this skit where Idle plays Conservative MP Daddy-O Smythe, fresh from the “Pad of Commons,” decked out in Sgt. Pepper gear, and trying to appeal to the psychedelic crowd:

The Tubi TV episodes have good video quality (unlike most copies kicking around the Net). Some have audio slightly out-of-sync, but that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. If you’re clever at watching Net videos in standalone players like SMPlayer, you can fix the sync issue by setting the audio to +170 milliseconds.

So take a cue from the gaudy patter of Daddy-O Smythe, grab your electrical banana, and head on over to the conservative freak-out conference happening at Tubi TV.

LINKS

Do Not Adjust Your Set (article on televisionheaven.uk.com)
Hatching Monty Python (article on rogersmovienation.com)
The Vicar of Dibley Merry Christmas – Top 10 Jokes
Miranda Hart and Agnosticism

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

The Vicar of Dibley Merry Christmas – Top 10 Jokes

After doing many good and noble deeds, you finally have to surrender to the spirit of COVID Christmas and ROFL. More laughs in less time with these carefully selected highlights, and a special shout-out to cat-lovers!

* * *

True Devotion, False Devotion

Is there such a thing as true devotion? How does the present political climate affect our perceptions about devotion as a concept or a way of life? Is there anything beyond the political/scientific sphere? If American life also has a spiritual dimension, how does Trumpism as a purported “personality cult” affect it?

The concept of devotion is sometimes foreign to the Western mind, and even to the Western heart. We value independence to such an extent that it can be difficult to learn from someone who has more knowledge, and who has already developed those qualities which we are striving to achieve — good qualities like purity of heart, love of God, and spiritual insight.

According to the proud Western view, to be devoted to someone means we have become inferior. Worse yet, we have lost our critical faculty and are “surrendering” to someone else’s so-called wisdom.

I wish to say that there is a difference between true devotion and false devotion. In true devotion, spiritual devotion, a spark within us is kindled by someone who has more knowledge and is able to guide us to the truth we are seeking. If we are devoted to a spiritual teacher, spiritual figure, or to a particular aspect or form of God, then our devotion is like a magnet which pulls all their good qualities to us and helps us grow into our own highest self.

False devotion we can observe in myriad forms, but this does not mean there is no such thing as true devotion. True devotion nourishes us and helps us grow into what we hope to become. In true devotion there is spiritual joy — a kind of joy in which we find genuine sustenance, and in which love and wisdom grow.

I wanted to write on this topic because one of the bad effects of the current political climate is that it creates an atmosphere of suspicion such that the concept of devotion is greatly diminished or undermined. Collectively, our plight is like that of the man who has repeatedly been given a false coin. He becomes so suspicious that he eyes every coin with a jaundiced eye.

In the old Charlie Chaplin silent comedies, fellow actor Eric Campbell often played the “heavy.” If Chaplin’s tramp character gave Campbell a coin in payment for a meal, Campbell would look at it with a jaundiced eye, and bite it to see if it was a solid silver coin, or perhaps a bendy counterfeit made of tin.

The rise of Trumpism as a so-called “personality cult” has created a similar effect. When we see this type of false devotion to an ignorant political figure, we begin to imagine that all forms of devotion must be false, and must be rejected out of hand. There is a tendency in the West towards extreme secularization such that much of daily life is governed or defined by politics and science. In politics, we favour democracy over despotism; in science, we demand proof not faith. These things are right and proper in their own sphere.

But we should understand that the various religions, faith groups, and spiritual paths have not disappeared (not should they!), even if they often seem invisible in a world dominated by technology and politics (as well as secular entertainment). The cultivation of the soul and the search for ultimate truth remain essential human concerns, even if they are overshadowed by much of the media which we consume, or which is beamed in our direction.

In the field of politics, we favour democracy over despotism; in the field of science, we demand proof not faith; but in the field of faith, true devotion still has a most significant role to play. As human beings, each of us has a divine spark within us, which is the essence of who we really are in the deepest and most profound sense. Within us is also the natural urge to worship the divine.

In the West, we sometimes reserve the word “worship” to describe religious or spiritual phenomena. In the East, there is often a broader understanding that worship occurs on many levels of human existence. An ordinary person may worship the five senses, or worship money and power, or worship popular celebrities like the Trumps or Kardashians (or Bollywood film stars). From the spiritual point of view, these lower forms of worship are false (in a relative sense) because they don’t lead to spiritual liberation.

People may also worship dictators like Hitler or Mussolini, or even worship demons knowing that they are demons. Worship of figures who are cruel and hateful brings destruction upon individuals and society.

The lesson is not that all worship is bad, and that only democracy and science hold the keys to human progress. The lesson is that we need to distinguish between lower and higher forms of worship. What we often see around us are ignorant forms of worship. Most of us have never seen true devotion in its own natural sphere; therefore, we fail to recognize that “personality cults” like Trumpism are a corruption of something which, at its core, is natural, beneficial, and meaningful.

Spiritual devotion in its natural sphere is something most beautiful, uplifting and enlightening. In spiritual devotion, we become close, closer, closest to the object of our devotion. We experience sweetness and delight. Finally, we go beyond closeness to oneness. In oneness, we actually grow into those divine qualities which we have worshipped. How is this possible?

Within us is a spark which is like a portion of God’s soul. When we become one with God, then we see that what is within us is not different from that which we have been worshipping. This is not a dry theoretical concept, but a deep and abiding realization, one which is quite rare among human beings.

Why do people worship the Christ, or the Buddha, or Sri Krishna, or other spiritual figures? It is because people see in them those divine qualities which they are trying to achieve in their own lives — that realization of the higher self which is so precious and so rare.

True devotion to a genuine spiritual figure is like a magnet which draws spiritual qualities to us, helps us to become more divine, helps us to reach our own cherished goal of self-realization. In politics we favour democracy; in science we demand proof; but when it is a question of our own spiritual progress, our inner cry for truth, then we have to know that devotion is a true path to enlightenment. It is not the only path, but it is a true path, a most significant path, and an extremely beautiful path.

Each sphere of human activity has to be judged in its own way. In politics, so-called “personality cults” are usually bad. Hundreds of times I have heard critics of Trump and Trumpism say that what we have in the White House is a “personality cult.” This may be true, but it tends to create definitional drift between the secular and spiritual spheres of human activity. The problem is not devotion per se, but the wrong type of devotion accorded to the wrong kind of figure.

Who is actually deserving of our devotion? He or she who embodies divine qualities in abundant measure. He or she who radiates God’s peace, light, and bliss. He or she who is a fount of wisdom and compassion. He or she who kindles within us the flame which inspires us to value truth over falsehood, the real above the unreal, who beckons us toward light and not darkness.

Such spiritual figures may be found in every religion and every spiritual path. For those blessed with a devotional temperament, devotion to a spiritual figure is not foolishness, but wisdom. When we surrender to divine light, love and compassion, this is a good kind of surrender which does not diminish us, but rather ennobles us.

In Hinduism, the path of love, devotion and surrender is also known as bhakti yoga, which the Gale Encyclopedia defines clearly and concisely:

Bhakti yoga is the path of love and devotion. An individual with an emotional temperament can transform those emotions, to be absorbed in spiritual service instead of being attached to physical or sensory gratification. Love can be centered on a familiar form of God, a great saint, or some great task in life. In bhakti yoga, the whole universe, whether animate or inanimate, is seen as permeated by divinity. Bhakti (meaning loving devotion) is the practice of self-surrender for the purpose of identifying with the source of love, the higher self.

What is being described here is a higher form of worship which should not be confused with political idolatry. We should not hate or fear devotion, nor those who follow the path of devotion. What devotion can do in our daily lives is unimaginable, only we need to practice the right kind of devotion.

Let me close with a story… Once there was a small town which was overrun by wild dogs, who were creating mischief everywhere. At the same time, most people did not care to fight with these wild dogs, round them up, or bring them under control. They considered the job distasteful and beneath their dignity. Finally, one not-very-bright fellow was located who agreed to be the town dog-catcher. He was hastily equipped with a leash and a truck, and a rather broad definitional mandate. First, it had to be explained to him: What is a dog? “Anything with four legs is a dog,” explained the town Mayor, somewhat absently. (He was on the phone making an important financial transaction.)

After a few days, the town officials decided they ought to check up on the progress of their new dog-catcher. They opened the door to the back of the truck, and found a motley collection of dogs, cats, goats, raccoons, and even one or two wrestlers who, being in the classic wrestling position at the time, appeared to the dog-catcher as fitting the definition of four-legged creatures. What’s more, of those actual canines rounded up, some were not wild dogs at all, but pedigreed dogs replete with licenses and collars, which the dog-catcher had somehow managed to round up anyway.

Clearly, the bureaucratic bigwigs needed to explain to the dog-catcher that not everything with four legs is a dog, and not every dog is a wild dog. In the same way, in the current political climate we need to understand that not every form of devotion deserves to be branded with the term “personality cult.” If we make the definition too broad, then rather than helping us identify only rogue political movements, it will have the unintended consequence of denigrating time-honoured practices which are of genuine benefit.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.


The group Shindhu performs “Kanu Rai Dao More/My Lord Krishna, Give Me Shelter” from their CD Fountain Creation. Words and music by Sri Chinmoy.

Related

Jesus is Born–in a world of many faiths
The Immigrant with Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance
John McLaughlin & Carlos Santana: 1975 Parade & Concert

* * *

Joke of the Day: French Fish or British Fish?

As Brexit negotiations go down to the wire, one outstanding issue remains fishing rights — though many consider it a ‘red herring’. The larger issue is the so-called ‘level playing field’ which the EU demands if the UK wants liberal access to the single market.

Still, if no deal is reached, one of the side effects of a no-deal Brexit would be the confuse-a-fish aspect. If a French fish accidentally wanders into British territorial waters, would it need a passport? How can you tell a British fish from a French fish, anyway?

Answer: If it asks to be served with chips, it’s a British fish. If it asks to be put in a pan with two other fish, it’s a French fish. (The latter arrangement is formally known as ménage à-trout.)


Haircuts and handbags, Batman! Looks like Boris and his mob are up to no good. With an Aussie Christmas for Britain in the making, that new Renault Clio you planned on parking under the Christmas tree may turn out to be a Rusty Holden Ute:

* * *

Oh Happy Day! Biden-Harris 2020 Mashup

I’m back with another video, continuing the victory celebration with some old time gospel music updated for 2020, with cool motion graphics and art fx. Thank you, Joe!

The video mostly speaks for itself, but you would expect me to prattle on about it… My theory of art is that an artist in any field doesn’t always know why he/she makes certain choices. After the work is finished, then the creator can discover things along with the audience.

One thing I’m noticing is that good gospel music has something in common with kirtan in that the repetition builds and leads to a feeling of joy and elation. The music is by Joan Baez and the Combs Sisters, who were separate acts at the Big Sur music festival of mid-September 1969. They joined forces for this closing gospel number.

Movie poster for Celebration at Big Sur

Footage of the festival was released in 1971 as Celebration at Big Sur, directed by Johanna Demetrakas. (Thus, the film might be dubbed “Visions of Johanna.”) Watch carefully and you’ll see cameos by Stephen Stills and Joni Mitchell, who were also performers at the festival.

Another thing I’m noticing is that this mashup is very woman-centered. If I ask myself what is the largest group which suffered under Trump, I might be tempted to answer African-Americans, or Muslims, or immigrants seeking asylum. True, all these groups suffered under Trump, but the largest group suffering were women. I hope it’s not a stereotype to say that women often show more gentleness and compassion than men. Those are good qualities which were eclipsed or threatened by the aggressive, merciless qualities of Trumpism. If women are especially passionate in their celebration of a Biden-Harris victory, it may be because their own best qualities have a better chance of flowering and gaining full expression under a Biden-Harris administration.

Among idealistic young people in 1969, there was much racial harmony being expressed and strived for. The cooperation between Dorothy Marie Combs and Joan Baez is like the cooperation between Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The struggle to overcome centuries of tragic history has been going on for a long time, and is carried on by today’s young people. There is gradual progress. As Obama notes, it’s sometimes like two steps forward, one step back. Yet, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. paraphrasing Theodore Parker (1810-1860), who was a minister of the Unitarian church, a reformer, and an abolitionist.

In the video, one can see some conceptual mapping between theology and politics. Biden is perhaps like the savior who we hope will wash our political sins (voting for Trump?) away. I’m not entirely comfortable with this metaphor, as I don’t think of most politicians (however good and likeable) as spiritual saviors. Still, the mapping is there for what it’s worth. Whatever the internal squabblings among Democrats, they did manage to pick a candidate who would make it over the finish line and depose Trump. Biden may be a middle-of-the-road candidate, but he seems like a very decent guy, which is a nice change from Trump. Based on the numbers, you could argue that had the Dems chosen anyone further left, they might have lost the election.

So I guess all that is the reason for “Thank You, Joe!” written in girly-girl script in hot pink on Joe’s face mask. Thank you for getting it done, thank you putting up with Trump’s insults, thank you for saving us all from (if nothing else) another four years of the Donald, and all the misery that would bring. In the words of Dorothy Combs, “I don’t know ’bout you, I had a happy day!”

Highlights and technical notes

In the second half of the video there are some good motion graphics and art effects. I’m more inspired or driven to work on a project if I can manage to stretch my abilities and learn some new techniques. I like the mini-tribute to Obama in the “Audacity of Hope” section, where a woman from a silent film suddenly appears holding a handkerchief, and the lettering H-O-P-E appears on it, accompanied by Obama uttering his magical phrase, plus a classic poster on the theme of Obama/hope.

Those who’ve read my post Celebration! know that I created some digital artwork based on a photo. In the video, I took this to the next level by animating the artwork using pan & zoom effects.

At the end of the project, I was having trouble avoiding colour shift when going from a Huffyuv RGB lossless encode (over 8 GB) to a smaller MP4 more suitable for uploading. I spent Sunday frantically reading up on colorspaces, BT.601, BT.709, YUV 4:2:0, YUV 4:2:2, etc. Eventually, I realized that I could get great colour fidelity by encoding using the H.264 high422 profile, within an application that supports YUV 4:2:2 internal processing.

I’m usually a big fan of Avidemux as a pocket knife for quickly slicing and dicing videos (and even doing some encodes), but in this case I needed a dedicated encoder.

Shutter Encoder – a great free encoder!

My research paid off, and I got a super high quality encode from Shutter Encoder. There are lots of encoders out there with lots of parameters to tweak, but here Shutter Encoder exposed those parameters I needed to solve the problem of colour shift. For x264 encoding geeks, these are the settings I used:

Shutter Encoder screenshot 1a

Shutter Encoder screenshot 1b

The key points of interest are:

Colorspace: Rec. 709
Force profile: high422 + 5.1
Force preset: fast
Force tune: grain
Enable fast start

As the screenshots show, I didn’t have to enter any parameters by hand, or hunt through pages of obscure menus. Shutter Encoder made choosing the 709 colorspace and high422 + 5.1 profile/level easy. Kudos!

The reason I use –tune grain here is that the video contains fine detail in the artwork, such as canvas texture and paint strokes. –tune grain may help preserve or even enhance the graininess of some videos where the grain is part of the desired look.

Shutter Encoder has lots of other great features (some not found elsewhere), and a series of tutorials on YouTube here. I’m looking forward to using it on other projects.

Of course, when YouTube re-encodes my uploaded video, it will obliterate some of the fine detail I worked so hard to preserve. Still, it’s good to have a high quality encode on hand, perhaps for uploading to a service that doesn’t use low, made-for-Homer-Simpson bitrates. 😉

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

Celebration!

Celebrating the Biden-Harris victory with digital art

(Click to enlarge)

This piece is based on a photo I saw on India’s WION News here. It’s of the celebration which ensued when folks got wind of the Biden-Harris 2020 victory on Saturday, November 7.

I did this in a couple of marathon sessions using Mediachance Dynamic Auto Painter and Adobe Photoshop. I used DAP to create a few variations, then brought them into Photoshop as layers and began combining them in various ways, painting on layer masks, adjusting layer opacity, experimenting with different blending modes, and applying texture and lighting effects.

Please view at full resolution by clicking on the small image until you get the full 1600×900 image. (Note: Due to issues with WordPress.com, you might have to click twice to see the full-sized image.)

If this sort of technique interests you and you like the piece, my advice is to spend the time and make it personal. When you spend a lot of time developing a piece (even using digital tools), ideally something magical happens. You begin to see how the piece could be, and after making many small changes it gradually comes to express something that comes from within you.

Using DAP, it’s not hard to get a canvas filled with a riot of colours, textures, and brush strokes. What is challenging is to work with that raw material until it becomes a composition which reflects the human person behind it, or even divine inspiration.

From the point of view of my own development, I’m happy that I was able to bring in some naturalistic elements (hands and facial features) that make all the difference between an abstract collection of shapes and colours, and a portrait of two women which can actually make you feel something.

Sidebar: Flag shirts censored and uncensored

There may be various ordinances against wearing the American flag, i.e. ‘desecrating’ it. In a 2014 article about politics and late-night TV, the Columbia Journalism Review referenced a 1970 incident in which “Merv Griffin hosted Vietnam-war protestor Abbie Hoffman, whose iconic American flag shirt was censored by cbs lest it run afoul of flag-desecration laws.”

But desecration is very much in the eye of the beholder. Abbie Hoffman was a yippie and political dissident. Other TV personalities, including Pat Boone, could wear Old Glory without getting rousted. And as this pic Tweeted by Dann Vasquez amply illustrates, low-rent politicians may wrap themselves in the flag without actually wearing it:

Having censored Hoffman in 1970, cbs seems keen to compensate with wretched excess, vis-à-vis this slideshow of 27 pics of flag-wearing celebs (none of them Hoffman):

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/flag-wearing-celebs/1/

Most of the displays are fairly tasteless, but I suppose Tilda Swinton manages to pull it off without looking like either a lady wrestler or country singer. 😉

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

The Election That Never Ends

Revisiting an hilarious meme from the Mary Tyler Moore Show

To political junkies, November 2020 will be remembered for the election that never ends, with hosts of 24-hour cable news shows becoming increasingly silly due to lack of sleep and too much caffeine. If elections normally make for a silly season, this one (on top of COVID-19, race riots, and rampant unemployment) makes for a season gone absolutely bonkers. Cue the Ministry of Silly Walks!

What the Mary Tyler Moore Show nailed back in 1970 was that point in the middle of the night when the TV station has run out of political experts, and is forced to interview the priest who’s come in to do Sermonette, or have the weatherman explain what makes it snow — all while the big board showing election results remains frozen, with no new results coming in, and no Steve Kornacki to make elaborate (possibly off-color) hand gestures.

If you’re not interested in the sappy preliminaries, you can get to the heart of election night coverage by advancing the video to around 9:45:

If you watched to the end, you saw the wonderfully satirical moment when Chuckles The Clown (who’s there to do the morning kiddie show) ends up announcing the winner, investing the proceedings with all the ridiculousness they deserve!

Of course, in contemplating The Election That Never Ends, one can’t help but be reminded (somewhat ominously) of The Transfer of Power That Never Happens:

We can only hope that our own 2020 presidential election has an ending which is neither farcical nor totalitarian. Watching the Donald Thursday night was like watching the flaccid ravings of a melted orangesicle ready to be binned. Trump is clearly past it, and his losing the election will actually be a kind of mercy or reprieve for him — though I suppose with his legal troubles it could be a case of “out of the frying pan into the slammer.”


To those familiar with Trump’s full complement of gaffes, I can only add: “The furniture’s ahead!”

Sensing the writing on the wall, some of Trump’s longtime political allies have already begun to desert him, hoping perhaps to falsely claim (in the grand Trump style) that they can’t remember ever meeting Trump, and were certainly never strong supporters. 😉

As Carol Framke notes in a trenchant Variety piece, patience is an uncharacteristic virtue for the cable news crowd. At the end of the day, whether we end up with a democratic republic or a dictatorship remains (in the argot of chyrons and talking heads) too close to call.

Alternate links for Mary Tyler Moore election episode (“The Snow Must Go On”)

The Internet being in a constant state of flux, it’s always a challenge or double-edged sword to include a video in a post. I spend a lot of time tracking down alternate links to videos which at the time seemed stable in their then homes, but went bad soon after — a.k.a. video link rot. So here are a couple of alternate links to the MTM episode in question. Hopefully they won’t all go bad at once:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9A3-xvj_Y4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CwdGsrIlV8

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

The Donald Syndrome

What to do when there are too many lies, and not enough fact-checkers in the kingdom

Few people outside the Trump bubble would question that his presidency has been characterized by lies and disinformation (known euphemistically as “alternative facts”). What is questioned is the broader significance of this phenomenon. Lies are not new to politics, but here a difference in degree amounts to a difference in kind. The large-scale firehosing of lies has sounded an alarm among historians sensitive to the signs of creeping authoritarianism.

Authoritarian political leaders tend to be obnoxious bullies. Strike one for Trump. They may orchestrate public displays of power in order to enhance their reign. The firehosing of lies is a form of mass bullying in which the ruling demagogue says, in effect: “I control the reality which you experience in daily life. Facts no longer matter. Science no longer matters. Only what I say matters.” Strike two for Trump.

Under ideal circumstances, allegiance to a leader can foster cohesion, cooperation, and a shared vision — the desire to work towards goals which are altruistic and represent humanity’s highest aspirations. However, authoritarian political figures often arise in times of trouble and uncertainty. They capitalize on divisions between people, and have no higher vision to impart. Instead, they create a kind of mob rule or mass insanity which leads people to destroy each other and themselves. Strike three for Trump and his super-spreader campaign events.

How to combat the firehosing of lies? One theory is that we need more fact-checkers and truth-squaders. This may be of some help, but is not a total solution. After all, with firehosing, the lies come much faster than they can possibly be debunked. Moreover, the purpose of firehosing as a propaganda technique is to get people to stop caring for the truth, or stop believing that there is such a thing as truth, or that the truth matters.

For many people, truth is a matter of convenience. As barfly Norm remarks in an old episode of Cheers, the three rules of advertising are lie, lie, and lie. So, does our crass commercial culture create the predicate conditions for authoritarian figures like Trump? Are we so used to being lied to that 40% of Americans don’t see a pathological liar as unfit for office?

As individuals and as a society, we need to care for truth. Parents should teach their children to value truth, strive for truth. The need for truth (the struggle to know what is true) should be emphasized in school curricula.

In the meantime, those wimpy chyrons in the lower third of TV newscasts, or Twitter flags of false claims made by his nibs the Donald, are simply not up to snuff. To get through to people who’ve succumbed to the “firehose of falsehoods” (and become despondent), we need to raise a bigger ruckus every time we spot a lie. We need “bigly” warnings as loud and crass as Trump himself!

Make your own “Trump Is Lying” video

If you have even the most rudimentary video editing skills, or can use a free wizard-based video editing program, you can make your own “Trump is Lying” video, and upload it to a social media site.

The basic ingredients are:

– A Trump campaign speech or presser filled with lies (i.e., any of them).

– A really over-the-top warning alert, replete with flashing red light and klaxon sound.

Simply cut the Trump speech into bite-sized bits of lie, place them in a broiling pan, and insert strips of flashing red light with klaxon between them. Cover with tin foil, bake in a video editor at 350 degrees until Trump’s pants are on fire, and a pleasing aroma fills the room. If you have trouble finding a flashing light with klaxon sound, you can always use this one I cobbled together:

Finally, we should note that today is Election Day. This affords each individual an opportunity to send a loud, nay unmistakable message to the powers that be. If you think they’re lying, throw them out of office!


Sidebar: Techniques of falsehood

Strange to say, sometimes two truths can make a lie. In his brilliant book Gödel, Escher, Bach, at one point Douglas Hofstadter wanted to illustrate how even truthful statements need to be linked together with great care, lest they lead to a falsehood. He offered this example:

Tortoise: We must be careful in combining sentences. For instance you’d grant that “Politicians lie” is true, wouldn’t you?

Achilles: Who could deny it?

Tortoise: Good. Likewise, “Cast-iron sinks” is a valid utterance, isn’t it?

Achilles: Indubitably.

Tortoise: Then, putting them together, we get “Politicians lie in cast iron sinks”. Now that’s not the case, is it?

LINKS

A Chilling Theory on Trump’s Nonstop Lies
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/08/trump-nonstop-lies/

Illusory Truth, Lies, and Political Propaganda: Part 2
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psych-unseen/202001/illusory-truth-lies-and-political-propaganda-part-2

The search for truth in politics…
https://ethicsandspirituality.wordpress.com/2019/12/29/the-search-for-truth-in-politics/

The Truman Show and Finding Reliable Spiritual Sources
https://ethicsandspirituality.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/truman-show-and-reliable-spiritual-resources/

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

Top 10 Anti-Trump Posts

Breaking: Ethics and Spirituality blog endorses Joe Biden.

UPDATED! I’m not much of an activist (more of a satirist, really). But desperate times call for desperate commentary, so I’ve tried to pitch in by demonstrating why Donald Trump is not fit for office. There are folks who make more eloquent spokespeople, or have bigger megaphones, but I try and do what I can.

There’s an erudite discussion going on in some circles about whether or not Trumpism constitutes a form of fascism. We should remember that fascism tends to take on characteristics particular to the nation in which it arises. We should not expect American fascism to look exactly like German or Italian historical varieties.

Regardless of political classification, one thing I know for sure is that Donald Trump is an obnoxious bully. How is it possible that such a man came to be the leader of America? What does this say about our national character?

Although it says much which is unflattering, there is a ray of hope: America is not one thing or another; not this or that. It’s a complex amalgam of forces, and like most nations, it has it’s own personality, not unlike a human personality. It has its own internal struggles which can be likened to the struggle between the id and the superego.

Barack Obama was a superego president. He represented balance, calm, maturity, restraint, intelligence, diligence, empathy, self-control, and a higher vision for America. After eight years of his excellent stewardship, there was a rebellion from America’s dark id. Donald Trump is the id president. He is unbalanced, agitated, immature, impulsive, foolish, lazy, callous, reckless, and blind — lacking any higher vision for America.

The hopeful note is that as the individual gradually progresses through struggle between the id and the superego, so America may progress through periods of strife — flirting with the darkness, but never quite descending into it.

History will look on the Trump reign as an ignominious period; but that doesn’t mean America is an ignominious country. It only signifies that we have our depths, just as we also have our heights.

With the election a week away, I offer my personal endorsement for Joe Biden, because I have faith that he can help restore decency and good character to the White House and our nation, and help repair our reputation abroad. He’ll need plenty of help to do it, so I hope people will elect a democratic ticket. No politician or political party is perfect; but by and large, the democrats as presently constituted represent a more compassionate and inclusive vision for America’s future. This is the direction in which we need to move in order to make progress.

It is in this spirit that I offer links to my Top 10 Anti-Trump posts, plus Dishonourable Mentions.

TOP TEN

Donald Trump vs. Ferris Fremont
Trump’s America: Teachers With Guns
Drain the Swamp or Pad the Reptile Fund?
Donald Trump as Mr. Clean
Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels, Kellyanne Conway & Bad Energy
Will The Real Mr. Magoo Please Stand Up?
No, Cuco No!
Trumpy Bear
The Trump-Cohen Reptile Fund
Trump Your Pumpkin!

DISHONOURABLE MENTIONS

The Trump Base: Young Fascists In Love
Scott Pruitt Jokes
Is Donald Trump a Sharkophobe?
Forbes magazine unveils Stock Talk with Stormy Daniels
Remembering Teddy Roosevelt in the Era of Trump
Trump’s Mental Fitness: An Expert Opinion
Queen Elizabeth Plans for Trump Visit
Schiller’s Ode To Trump (rude song parody)
Political Potpourri for Presidents Day 2018
What Donald Trump could learn from the Blues Brothers
Anthony Scaramucci: First Day Report Card
Trump vs. Australian PM
The Twelve Days of Trumpster

SON OF DISHONOURABLE MENTIONS

Lev Parnas Slideshow FUNNY!
In Praise of a Free Press and an Open Society
Scott Pruitt Epitaph
Scott Pruitt Of Mattresses and Moisturizer
Trump Doctors Parody #1
Breaking: Revamped Kodak company announces two new COVID cures
Breaking: Trump Opens New Golf Course on Indian Land
Breaking: Trump Team Snags A-List Inauguration Talent
Shutdown over border wall – Would you believe…
Justice Kavanaugh: Private Swearing-In Ceremony
On Fox News, Giuliani Confirms Slush Fund, Plausible Deniability
A River of Gratitude

ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT DISHONOURABLE MENTIONS

Ruminations on Trump’s Visit to Japan
Alan Dershowitz Funny #1
Alan Dershowitz Funny #2
Trump administration: The quality of thuggishness is not strained
Impeachment Memes: T.S. Eliot, Paul Newman, Woody Allen
Two AHCA Memes: Mystery Meat and Dead Parrot
Trump’s new acronym VOICE: What could it stand for?
Operation Faithful Patriot – Genesis of a Name
Donald Trump – A date which will live in infamy!
Attorney General William Barr Funny #1
Tea For The Tillerson – Poison Variety
Donald Trump’s Fave New Fast Food: The Nothingburger
Bad, BAD Federal Reserve Chairman (according to Trump)

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

Sri Chinmoy – “The Buddha and Ananda”

On the 13th anniversary of his death, we reread Sri Chinmoy’s moving dialogue between the Buddha and his dear disciple Ananda, from the book of plays Siddhartha Becomes The Buddha.

Scene 1

(The Buddha and Ananda.)

BUDDHA: Ananda, I am now an old man. I am eighty years old. Ananda, for fifty years I have been teaching and preaching. The time has come for me to depart from this world. I am weak. I am an invalid. My whole body is shattered, Ananda. This body can be of no more use here on earth.

ANANDA (shedding tears): No, Master, no. You have to stay with us for quite a long time more. Your very presence is a great blessing to humanity. This sangha is not yet well established. This sangha needs your physical presence.

BUDDHA: Ananda, do you mean to say that the sangha expects something new from me? Do you mean to say that I have not spoken in clear terms what I have to say about this dharma? I have not kept anything hidden from you people. Never have I shown any sign of reticence, nor any indifference. Besides, I never thought that I would have to conduct and manage the sangha, and that it would always depend on me. So why should I stay? Why should I be involved any longer in the activities of the sangha? Ananda, from now on be self-sufficient. Have faith in yourself. Lead a spiritual life. You will realise the highest Truth. He who follows the dharma, he who takes refuge in the dharma, will alone enter into the world of Bliss, and nobody else.

ANANDA: O Lord Buddha, what you say is perfectly true, but our hearts cannot live without you. We need you. We shall eternally need you.

BUDDHA: Ananda, you need me. I need you. Again, the Truth Eternal needs us both. The Truth Eternal needs me in the world of the Beyond, and the same Truth needs you here on earth. My life has come to an end. All the experiences of the world I offer to the world. Yesterday I ate at Chunda’s house. Since then I have been feeling weaker, but I wish to assure you that this weakness is not due to his food. I am suffering, true, but it is not his fault at all. He gave me food with utmost love and devotion. Nobody should blame him when I die. I offer him my deepest blessings. Before I was illumined, before I became the Enlightened One, Sujata’s food helped me to live on earth. Her food made it possible for me to meditate. And now Chunda’s food is helping me to enter into the highest Nirvana. I see no difference between Sujata’s food and Chunda’s food. Each has served a special purpose of its own.

(Enter a few intimate disciples.)

ANANDA: Look! Look! Today the Buddha’s whole body is flooded with Light. This Light we have never seen around him. Such celestial Light!

THE DISCIPLES: Yes, Lord, today we see something totally new in you which we have never seen before. Your whole face is inundated with Light and Delight.

BUDDHA: Ananda, today reminds me of my days at the foot of the Bodhi tree. Just before I entered into Nirvana this body had the same Light, the same Delight. Today once again this body is flooded with Light and Delight. You are seeing it for the first time. But I am seeing it for the second time. The day ends, and my earthly sojourn ends along with it. Therefore, all of you are seeing this Light in me and around me.

(Ananda bursts into tears and is about to leave.)

BUDDHA: Ananda, stay here. Don’t go away. My life can now be measured in minutes. Ananda, do not cry for me. I tell all of you not to cry for me. Ananda, I have told you repeatedly that everything is transient on earth. There is nothing everlasting here. Anything that comes into life will have to give up life. You have served me, O Ananda, most devotedly, most soulfully, and for that I offer you my last blessings. Proceed on your inner strength, and you will receive liberation. You will have your liberation in due course. My spiritual journey began with renunciation and compassion, and today, at the end of my journey’s close, I offer to the world the same message: renunciation and compassion. O Ananda, do not grieve.

(The Buddha dies.)

* * *

This has been Sri Chinmoy – “The Buddha and Ananda,” first published by Agni Press in 1973, and republished by Sri Chinmoy Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Many thanks to Sri Chinmoy Library for their generous contributions to knowledge and scholarship about Sri Chinmoy, his life, and teachings.

The Trump Base: Young Fascists In Love

How can we repopulate our glorious Fatherland when the hoax virus tragically steals away a few loyal MAGAs? ::wink::

UPDATED! Some would cynically note that the MAGAs seem eager to off themselves by attending superspreader events organized by their Fearless Leader. By this means, the process of natural selection threatens to drastically reduce their numbers over time — helped by such practices as injecting bleach into the body, or shagging farmyard animals.

Clearly, action is needed to offset these factors. The answer is repopulation, but not through the mindless, out-of-wedlock fornication we see in cities run by the democrats.

What we need is an organized campaign to join fascist youth together in marriages sanctioned by the Republican Party, designed to bring forth from the loins of MAGAs a new generation eager to deny science, affirm hooliganism, and make America gorp again.

Regrettably, though we can count on @FLOTUS to keep up the war on Christmas, and @FLATUS to keep up the war on civility, we can cannot count on them to produce more children. As in his early days at military school, Trump is reportedly back to shooting blanks.

I propose that at the end of each Trump political rally, there should be time set aside for the purpose of uniting youthful couples in holy matrimony. After the obligatory salute to Donaldo Trumpolini (a.k.a. Il Douche), the couples should be interrogated about their intentions by someone with prosecutorial experience, such as Rudolph Giuliani. If it is determined that they are both loyal to the Fascist State, and eager to produce children within the first year of marriage, then they should be joined on the spot, to the ecstatic tintinnabulation of clanging bells. I think it would go something like this:

All together now: UNO, DUE, TRE, QUATTRO…

This post sponsored by Grim Reaper Productions, specializing in White House event planning for lo these many years. Don’t fear the Reaper!


Sidebar: Ersatz Americana alive and well in Anaheim

The above link, humorously captioned “Grim Reaper Productions,” is actually to the White House Event Center. As there is no disclaimer to the contrary, you might imagine from their FAQ that Donald Trump is now renting out the White House for wedding parties, in order to squeeze every last dime out of his sojourn as president, and cover future legal expenses — or at least the cost of Little Debbie’s snack cakes at a prison commissary. Actually, the White House Event Center appears to be located in Anaheim, California.

From their logo (above), you might think they’re connected with the White House, but I don’t suppose that’s the case. Their site does mention that:

Our two-story, half-scale replica of the White House in Washington D.C., provides for a truly timeless and altogether, one-of-kind event experience.

Like Elvis-themed weddings, I suppose White House-themed weddings touch on something deeply embedded in the American psyche. (To dig it out might require a warmed serving spoon, as the old joke goes.) Recently, I caught a few minutes of the 1938 Warner Bros. comedy A Slight Case of Murder, starring Edward G. Robinson as a gangster trying to turn legit and crash high society:

Any evocation of the “pigs in clover” theme naturally turns our thoughts to the Trump dynasty, and the barrage of (often comical) typos unleashed on the public by Trump minions. In this regard, the White House Event Center does not disappoint:

Verily, if their Rules & Policy section includes the prohibitions “No Heals” and “No Stomping,” this might greatly limit their attractiveness to MAGAs. I fear the joining of young fascists will have to take place at some other facility. Likewise, their banning of fog machines would probably rule out members of the White House press shop, even those not afflicted with COVID. Their FAQ does provide a wealth of information on such topics as:

What size is my head / sweatheart table?

Waxing James Thurberish, I would suggest that if you don’t know the size of your own head (outsized in Trump’s case), you probably shouldn’t be getting married, and may even have trouble finding a “sweatheart.”

In addition to a Rose Garden, Gazebo, and Bell Tower, their facilities include a Crystal VIP Room whose description borders on parody:

The exquisite, one-of-kind, Crystal VIP Room extends the West Wing by an additional 33FT, upping the guest capacity to 350. The highlight of the Crystal VIP Room is a custom-made, 20FTx20FT “dancefloor” whose thick crystal glass surface lies suspended on an intricate support system of gold, powder-coated, stainless steel bars. The dancefloor interior is filled with over 10,000 life-like roses whose appearance and color appears to change magically by way of a hi-powered, discretely-hidden, network of LEDs. The effect, as a whole, makes for an unforgettable and truly sublime, three-dimensional, dancing-on-air, experience.

How swellegant! To quote the Firesign Theater: Close the door, and the light stays on!

Persons seeking true elegance might decry this scaled-down White House as “half a loaf,” though the on-site testimonials claim that people who go in for this sort of thing are delighted with the staff and amenities. The White House Event Center may sport fine glassware; but any thought of “mugs at the White House” cannot help but remind me of this comic slideshow. The resemblance between Lev Parnas and Edward G. Robinson is most uncanny!

 

Michael Howard (a.k.a. Douglas Fairbanks Rosenbloom)

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *