A Fishy Tale

Apropos of Bithika O’Dwyer, please enjoy “A Fishy Tale” — a short, funny documentary about Doctor Who in the 1960s. Full title: “A Fishy Tale: Making The Underwater Menace.” Memorable quotes:

“I’m a comic book. None of this makes any sense. It is entirely insane.”

“Of course it wasn’t believable! It was completely balmy, wasn’t it?”

“I wasn’t impressed.”

“It seemed to me sort of bizarre and fragmented.”

“This is a bit of a dog.”

“It is pretty awful.”

“It’s rubbish!”

“They must’ve got the giggles.”

“It was disgusting, and dirty, and smelly.”

“I just find it quite grotesque, actually.”

“It doesn’t entirely work. In fact, bits of it don’t work at all. It’s frequently a bit dull.”

Bonus: French subtitles, so you can learn how to say “Don’t forget your Long Johns” in the language of love:

Now, class, répète en français, s’il vous plaît:

Vous n’allez pas me transformer en poisson!

Mastering that phrase is the key to your survival should you ever be captured by French-speaking Atlanteans!

Special appearance by “Blind Lemon Troughton” in the market scene:

Patrick Troughton a.k.a. “Blind Lemon Troughton”

All in all, one of my favourite Doctor Who documentaries — far better than the underlying story.

Polly in the temple, from “The Underwater Menace”

Note: If the embedded video doesn’t play, watch directly on DailyMotion here.

See also full DVD release available from Amazon.

* * *

Trump’s new acronym VOICE: What could it stand for?

Top 15 alternative interpretations

Last night Donald Trump unleashed a new acronym on the American people. Given the tone of his campaign, it could easily stand for Victims of Insensitive Comments Etc. (or Voices Opposing Idiotic Campaign Excess). But here are a few more possibilities:

– Vinegar on Ichthyosaurs Creates Eczema
– Vast Organs in Cathedrals Excite
– Voodoo Often Implies Cuckoo Economics
– Vampy Ocelots Invade Cranial Ellipsis
– Vegetarians Oppose Illiterate Cauliflower Excrement
– Victims of Itinerant Cats Emote
– Vapid Orangutans in Casserole Extravaganza!
– Voyeuristic Ox Implicates Chafing Envoys
– Vagrants Organize Inspired Calamari Exhibition
– Virgins Operate in Communist Elevators
– Vladimir Orders Internet Café’s Espresso
– Vituperative Oligarch Imbibes Calcified Eclairs
– Vague on Issues Candidate Excels

Note: According to Mr. Trump, VOICE stands for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. Is it just me, or does this make no sense? Is it a crime when immigrants get engaged? Maybe sometimes they shouldn’t, but isn’t that a victimless crime?

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo: the only victims were TV viewers

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo: the only victims were TV viewers

Sidebar: Trump administration accused of trademark infringement

Dear President Trump:

My name is Equis Culpepper. I am head of the local chapter of VOICE, or Victims of Itinerant Cats Emote. Here in Elksbreath, Montana we have a lot of feral cats wandering around, causing no end of trouble. And once a week we get together to talk about the emotional problems created by these cats, and how we are victimized by their caterwauling and other nocturnal escapades.

There are branches of VOICE in 83 townships across America, and our organization’s name was trademarked in 1953. So if you’re planning to start your own victims’ organization, please be advised that the name VOICE is already taken! If you do not cease and desist from use of that name, we shall be forced to file an action for trademark infringement.

Respectfully,

Equis Culpepper
D.D.S., M.R.C.V.S., B.V.M.

 

Dear Mr. Culpepper:

President Trump has asked me to look into your trademark claim, and it appears to be valid. I hope you know that being Attorney General, I could easily kick your butt in court. But I’m very busy rolling back Voting Rights legislation, and a rose by any other name…

After consulting with me, President Trump has agreed to change the name of his new initiative to DRIP, or Dirty Rotten Immigrants Project.

I hope this settles the matter. If you want anyone lynched, please let me know.

Your truly,

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III
Attorney General of the United States


Michael Howard

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

The Spiritual Retreat

Over the Christmas/New Year’s vacation (and at other times as well), some people go on a spiritual retreat. What is the value of a spiritual retreat, and how can we make good use of our time? What are some things to be done and not done?

C.S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, wrote in his science fiction novel Perelandra:

Inner silence is for our race a difficult achievement. There is a chattering part of the mind which continues, until it is corrected, to chatter on even in the holiest places.

Yet, a place which has been consecrated for the purpose of silence and contemplation may be of some help in quietening the mind.

This short video offers a few pointers on mastering the unique opportunities and challenges afforded by the spiritual retreat:

Returning again to C.S. Lewis and Perelandra, we are further instructed:

Be confident, small immortals. You are not the only voice that all things utter, nor is there eternal silence in the places where you cannot come.

Perhaps the video is most useful for showing us what things not to bring on a spiritual retreat. Since a portable video player is probably one of them, maybe it’s best to write them down on a piece of paper, and leave that at home as well.

THINGS NOT TO BRING ON A SPIRITUAL RETREAT

– squeaky shoes
– The Killing DVD
– Wallander DVD
– Kit Kat bars
– potted goose meat
– vodka & tonic
– gin & tonic
– etc.
– etc.

No need to make the list too long, as that too might become a distraction.

We could read the list again, but here the wisdom of C.S. Lewis comes to our rescue:

Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be a vulgarity — like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.

* * *

Michael Howard

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

Of Further Interest

C.S. Lewis quotes from Perelandra on Goodreads.com
Rev. Season 2 on Amazon.com

Note: If the embedded video doesn’t play, watch directly on YouTube here.

A Trump Joke for UK Readers

donald-trump-queen-elizabeth-ii-funny

Queen Elizabeth II: Must I luncheon with that horrible man Donald Trump?

Private Secretary: I’m afraid, Your Majesty, that if he comes to England it may be inevitable.

Queen Elizabeth II: Humph!!! Well, I may luncheon with him, but I shan’t serve him tea.

Private Secretary: But Your Majesty, without the ‘T’ you would only be luncheoning with a Rump!

Michael Howard

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

* * *

Donald Trump: Latest Parody Pic

Viewing the pic and discussing some Photoshop techniques

donald-trump-twelve-days-of-trumpster-by-michael-howard

Donald Trump – The Twelve Days of Trumpster

I’ve been slaving away in Photoshop to bring you a new Donald Trump parody pic, this one combining the Big Brother and Twelve Days of Christmas themes. I’ve already posted the lyrics here, but the new pic adds something special. In the argot of the song, it boasts a:

Big Brother head,
Big groping hands,
And an eagle in an Aryan meme.

If you’re sick of seeing alt-right depictions of Donald Trump as Norse God and Emperor of Europe, this parody may give you a chuckle. (“Look to the sleigh / See the Donaldus — Oy veh!”)

Regular readers of my blog know that I sometimes get obsessed with Photoshop, which is actually a good way to get stuff done. Despite its comic intent, this piece demonstrates some useful Photoshop techniques.

If you’re just getting started with Photoshop, one of the best things you can do is just look — look carefully at the elements which make a good composition. Here you can look at the lines which draw the viewer’s attention toward the center of the picture. In your mind’s eye, draw a line from the cat’s hindmost paw to the standing reindeer’s top antler. This is the main line unifying the different figures.

Note also the contrast between the saturated colours in the body of Trump, and the outsized head which “pops” because it’s grayscale. Also note how some areas of the composition are crowded with detail, while others give a much needed sense of space.

If you want to create montages in Photoshop, it’s good to work your way through the exercises in Photoshop tutorials so that you’re fluent with the techniques. One book that really helped me a lot was The Photoshop Wow! Book, which includes beautiful and artistic examples that make you really want to learn the techniques.

Once you have some technique under your belt, get creative with layers, masking, and blending modes. Always ask “What if?” and don’t be afraid to experiment. When making changes, save your work frequently.

When you get into a groove with Photoshop, you’ll find that amazing things happen! A strong technical foundation means you can use your intuition to lead you in a good direction, without having to think everything through.

Is the central figure standing or sitting? Well… both! The standing figure seems to be wearing a blue tie, but as your eyes follow the tie down, it seems to culminate in a belt buckle worn by the sitting figure. The Christmas wreath has two red bows hanging down, and these look as though they’re draped on the knees of the sitting figure.

Effects like these can be achieved using layers, layer masks, and blending modes like Overlay and Luminosity. Sometimes you may like an effect but find that it’s too extreme or that you only want it to appear in part of an image. You can reduce the opacity of a layer, or add a layer mask and paint on it with white or black paint to “brush in” the effect exactly where you want it.

Before starting work in Photoshop, I spent a long time collecting a “morgue” of Donald Trump and Christmas images, not really knowing what I would end up using. Eventually, viewing the collected images, some ideas began to take shape in my mind. Then I started doing rough drafts in Photoshop — refining the basic composition, then taking things to the next level with outrageous layer effects.

I hope these ideas inspire you to explore your own creativity using Photoshop or similar image-editing software.

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

Defringe Your Cat

Some people declaw or even neuter their cat. If you’re a Photoshopper, you want to be sure and defringe your cat. In the best of possible worlds, I would like to have done a better job removing the green fringe from around the outline of the cat. But at some point you have to consider a work finished. After all, this one isn’t destined for the Sistine Chapel!

Trump vs. Australian PM (parody)

How the deal went down between Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull

The “blunt” or “frank” exchange of telephonic views between President Trump and Prime Minister Turnbull has become the stuff of legend. From limited transcripts, we can only imagine what went down.

Scene I

[Phone prep with Kellyanne Conway. Donald Trump is seated in Conway’s second floor office at the White House.]

Conway: Now Donnie, remember that man we talked about yesterday? The one who lives all the way over in the antipodes?

Trump: We don’t need his antipodes. We can make better antipodes right here in the U.S.A. Beautiful antipodes.

Conway: Yes, well be that as it may, it’s time for you to call him now.

Trump: Another foreign leader? I’ve been on the phone with these losers all day long. Can’t I take a nap or watch TV?

Conway: You remember what we agreed: Work time before nap time or TV time. Just one more call today, then you can do whatever you want.

Trump: I’m fresh out of openers. Can’t I just grab him by the–

Conway: Now Donnie, we talked about that. I want you to be very nice to Mr. Turnbull. Turn on the charm. Speak to him in his own language.

Trump: What language does he speak?

Conway: English, after a fashion.

Trump: After a fashion, after a fashion. Even Melania speaks English after a fashion.

Conway: I’m sure you have a lot in common. Just try to get to know him better. Throw in a reference that will make him feel at home.

Trump: What should I say?

Conway: Something homey and Australian to impress him.

Trump: You’re always filling me full of these foreign words like Kristallnacht and borscht to use with foreign leaders. They don’t seem so impressed.

Conway: Well maybe if you used the right words with the right leaders you’d get better results. The Japanese Prime Minister didn’t know much about borscht, and calling him “Honest Abe” didn’t help matters. Nor did Angela Merkel take your reference to “bad hombres.”

Trump: So what million dollar word do you have for me today?

Conway [thinking]: Try didgeridoo. Work it into the conversation somehow. That’ll show him you’re familiar with Australian culture.

Trump [grabbing phone]: Hello? Hello?

Conway: Wait, Mr. President. We need to go downstairs to the Oval Office and call in the boys.

Scene II

[The Oval Office. Kellyanne Conway shepherds Donald Trump to the chair behind his massive oaken desk and gets him settled. He requests Bosco.

Soon she lets out a sharp whistle, and Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon come trotting in. They arrange themselves haphazardly on the opposite side of the desk and begin staring at the floor, avoiding eye contact.]

Trump: So, how’s my convoy coming?

Bannon: Mr. President, your idea of having the Supreme Court finalists head up a truck convoy driving all the way to D.C. is a stroke of genius. But I’m afraid the nominees just aren’t going for it, Sir.

Trump: Nominees? They’re contestants plain and simple. Don’t they know about ratings? Don’t they care about putting on a show? If they flop, I’m the one who gets schlonged.

Flynn: Yes Sir, but I’m afraid some of them have been spoiled by going to Harvard Law School and, you know, sitting on the bench in black robes and all that formality.

Trump: Convoy! Convoy! Everybody loves a convoy. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger loves a convoy. The black robes are fine, they’re beautiful. But can’t we have trucks too?

Flynn: I’m afraid, Sir, that it’s just too late to arrange it. For the last mile of the drive, I have gotten a motorcycle escort for Judge Gorsuch. The Secret Service would not okay the fog machine.

Conway: We need to get this call done. It’s the last call of the day and the timing is tricky.

Trump: Okay, okay, stop Doug Henning me.

Conway: Perhaps you mean mother henning, Sir.

Trump: Doug Henning. Doesn’t anybody remember Doug Henning? Now he really knew how to put on a show. He once sawed Johnny Carson in half. I think it was his last show.

Bannon: Try and settle down, Mr. President.

Conway [to group]: Well, I’ll leave you now.

Conway [whispering to Trump]: Remember what we talked about!

[Conway exits. Phone rings.]

Trump: Hello? Hello?

Turnbull: This is Malcolm Turnbull speaking.

Trump: My didgeridoo is bigger than yours!

Turnbull: Let’s talk it over, mate. I’ve got an esky in the boot.

Trump: Wha…?

Turnbull: Seriously mate, why don’t you pop over, change into your trackie dacks, and we can head over to Macca’s for some wings.

Trump: Translation, I need translation. Huge translation!

Turnbull: I’ve got some lovely prezzies for you, chummy. All arranged with your noble predecessor and ready to ship. Just have a Captain Cook at this snapchat, which I’m sending to you… NOW!

Trump: Pictures. There are pictures on my phone. Pictures of people. Foreign people. Is this legal?

Turnbull: Abso-bloody-lutely! This is Stralia, mate. It’s legal as alligator pear salad.

Trump: Stralia. Now is that a country or a continent?

[Flynn and Bannon shift nervously in their seats.]

Turnbull: It’s both. Look mate, I don’t have time for a geography lesson. I just called to–

Trump: This Stralia, how’s the waterboarding up there?

Turnbull: Not much waterboarding, but plenty of surfboarding. Pop over and I’ll lend you my budgie smugglers. Surf’s up at Lake Burley Griffin. Though you are a bit of a salad dodger.

Trump: I like the surf ‘n’ turf at Bobby Van’s restaurant. Somebody gave me Harry Caray’s Restaurant Cookbook. He’s the leader in surf ‘n’ turf. But I don’t have time to cook. I said to Kellyanne (isn’t she beautiful?), why can’t we create a cabinet position for executive surf ‘n’ turf? It would be cheaper than ordering out. If we eliminate two positions at the State Department, we can have a surf ‘n’ turf guy and still come out ahead of the game. But the bureaucracy! You wouldn’t believe all the red tape that goes into fish.

Turnbull [puzzled]: What kind of fish?

Trump: ANY fish! It could be lobster, red snapper, even a nice piece of halibut comes with so much red tape. Red tape like you wouldn’t believe. The reason I got a huge majority of votes is because people are sick of red tape. Everywhere I go, they ask me: “Can’t we just enjoy surf ‘n’ turf without all the red tape?” That’s where I got the idea. From the restaurants. They have their twofer nights, so I said to Congress: “For every regulation you create, you have to eliminate two more.” I’ve declared war on red tape. We’re bombing the hell out of red tape!

Turnbull: Good on ya, mate. Now if we could just have a decent convo on the subject of–

Trump: I love Austria. I love the people and the rivers. You and I may be different races, but we’re both rooting for the same values. All Americans are rooting for these values. I want us to be friends. I want you to root with me and for me, just like the American people are doing. I’m a huge fan of Austria, and I’ll be rooting for you too. We’ll be rooting together. It’ll be a better way of life. Cry me a river and I’ll cry a river over you. Not actual crying and not an actual river. But good trade. FAIR trade.

Turnbull: That’d be beaut. Do you yanks have any potato scallops? If you do, send ’em on down, because our take-away shops are really hurting from the shortage.

Trump [to Bannon]: Steve, do we have any potato scallops? Check the fridge.

Bannon: We have a few, but not enough to supply Australia. I suggest you leave this issue to the trade delegates.

Trump: Delegates shmelegates! I’m trying to do a deal here. I’ve got the man on the phone and he wants potato scallops. Can’t we find some?

Flynn: We’ll make it a priority, Mr. President. I think there may be some military surplus scallops…

Trump: Okay, but remove all military markings and change the last date of sale to two years from now.

Trump [returning to phone call]: You want scallops? I’ll get you scallops. I’ll get you anything you want. Because you’re a friend. A good friend.

Turnbull: Looking forward to it. Now about this refugee thing negotiated by your worthy predecessor. Are we on, or is it a daggy deal?

Trump: Did someone say the R Word? I hope no one said the R Word. Because that would be very sad if someone said the R Word. I spoke to four world leaders, terrific world leaders today, and none of them said the R Word.

Turnbull: Mr. President, I only said, uh, that word, because there’s business between our two nations which demands it.

Trump: There’s no business like show business, and no business that demands the R Word. No one says the R Word. I was elected by billions and billions of people. Even Carl Sagan voted for me. He’s just one of the dead people who voted for me, even though Hillary tried to get them all to vote for her. So if I say we don’t use the R Word, we don’t use the R Word.

Turnbull: Mr. President, I won’t use the R Word again, I promise. But your worthy predecessor–

Trump: I hope you’re not about to use the O Word. Because I like the O Word even less than I like the R Word.

Turnbull: No Sir, well let’s just say that there was a Mr. Embalmer who had certain dealings with our nation of–

Trump: Austria?

Turnbull [flustered]: Yes, as you say, this Mr. Embalmer had certain dealings with Austria which were left undone. And I, as the, er, Prime Minister of Austria–

Trump: I’m hanging up now. Don’t try sending me any illegal immigrants, either. I wouldn’t mind a kangaroo to play with. It’s lonely in the White House. Melania left me.

Turnbull: Sorry ’bout the missus, mate. I’ll send you a kelpie. Kangas are off limits.

Trump: On behalf of the American people I may accept one kelpie, but only with extreme vetting. I won’t have thousands of djangos eating our fine Boston babies.

Turnbull: No worries, mate. Call me in the arvo. I’ve got to ring off now. I’m giving the Aussie salute to a herd of bush flies.

Trump: I will be checking that kelpie VERY CAREFULLY!

Turnbull: Whatever, mate. Auf wiedersehen!

Trump: Do svidaniya!

Trump [hangs up phone and begins barking orders]: Turn on Fox! Throw another reporter on the barbie! Bring me my Katy Tur doll! And a fresh supply of pins!

Bannon: Get Kellyanne. See what he needs. Tell Sean to issue a statement. Something like “The two leaders emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and blah-blah-blah.”

Trump: Convoy! Convoy!

Flynn: No convoy today, Mr. President. Motorcycle. Mo-tor-cy-cle.

Trump: American motorcycle?

Bannon: It’s a Harley Hog, Mr. President. Made in America by Americuhns. It’s got thrush pipes, hooker headers, ape hangers, and is a pig on roller skates. You can’t get any more American than that.

Trump [smiling vapidly]: Let’s make America great again.

[Just then Kellyanne Conway bursts in, all panicky.]

Conway: Mr. President, I’m afraid I have bad news. No motorcycle. On short notice, all we could get was a Holden Ute.

The Holden Ute, an Australian engineering MAH-vel

The Holden Ute, an Australian engineering MAH-vel

* * *

Further Thoughts

What constitutes torture? Before being so glib about waterboarding, I suggest Donald Trump watch the following video 857 times, then see how he feels about torture:

I’m Not Jealous Dept.

Ben Pobjie on Crikey.com
Lee Zachariah on Junkee.com

Crash Course in Aussie Slang

esky – ice cooler
boot – trunk (of a vehicle)
trackie dacks – track pants
Macca’s – McDonald’s
prezzies – presents
Captain Cook – look
alligator pear – avocado
budgie smugglers – tight fitting swimwear
salad dodger – overweight person
convo – conversation
daggy – not trendy or cool
kelpie – Australian sheep dog
kanga – kangaroo
arvo – afternoon
Aussie salute – swatting flies

django – not Aussie slang, but may refer to a European jazz musician. So when Trump evokes the “dingo ate my baby” meme, he seems to fear that Boston babies will be devoured by the Hot Club De France. And what better reason to issue a travel ban?

Soul mates in fly-swatting
Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull immersed in selfie bliss

Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull: immersed in selfie bliss

President Obama was legendary for his fly-swatting prowess. Prime Minister Turnbull may not have actually nailed one, but gives the “Aussie salute” numerous times while being grilled by the press over his tête-à-tête with Donald Trump. Someone should post a YouTube from account “Flyswatting News.” It should intercut footage of Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull swatting flies, punctuated by the guy from the newsstand in A Few Good Men saying “No flies on you.” The one vid I won’t bother to create, and it would probably get a million hits. Sad! 😉

Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull: a couple on the rocks

Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull: a couple on the rocks

More fallout from the Aussie potato scallop famine

“Llama Farma” writes:

This is an outrage! Yesterday, I was forced to endure 3 dim sims of spurious composition and a chicko roll with no confirmed chicken content, all on account of the potato scallop shortage. This isn’t pre-1900’s Ireland, people, this is modern day Australia and it’s not good enough. I demand a Royal Commission!

No fries in the Ausland, darlin' / It's a sign of the times...

No fries in the Ausland, darlin’ / It’s a sign of the times…

Disclaimer: This work of parody sometimes goes for laughs on serious subjects. Concerning questions about the treatment of some refugees by the Australian government, see this article in Britain’s Independent.

Michael Howard

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

The Twelve Days of Trumpster

Hilarious song parody toasting Donald Trump’s first days in office

donald-trump-twelve-days-of-trumpster-by-michael-howard

My personal blog is very, very rarely about politics. I usually try to stay a million miles away from that subject, but in these troubling times I can’t always help expressing my opinions. In “People Are Good,” I counselled gentleness and loving kindness in response to the problems of the day. But I sometimes favour humour too. (Why is humour helpful? Because it relieves outrage fatigue.)

From the highest point of view, I wish that Donald Trump would succeed as president, that he would be touched by the light of compassion and humility, and that he would become a good and noble leader. But I can’t help observing that he got elected by being a show-off and a bully, and so far does not seem keen to change his stripes.

What good may come of his term in office I cannot say, but I can comment on what I’ve seen so far:

The Twelve Days of Trumpster

1
On the first day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
A leader in an ethics quandary.

2
On the second day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

3
On the third day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

4
On the fourth day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

5
On the fifth day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Five odious things.
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

6
On the sixth day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Kelly Conway spinning
Five odious things.
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

7
On the seventh day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
One wall for leaping,
Kelly Conway spinning
Five odious things.
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

8
On the eighth day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Two pipelines piping,
One wall for leaping,
Kelly Conway spinning
Five odious things.
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

9
On the ninth day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Sanctuary bye-bye,
Two pipelines piping,
One wall for leaping,
Kelly Conway spinning
Five odious things.
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

10
On the tenth day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Waterboarding hello,
Sanctuary bye-bye,
Two pipelines piping,
One wall for leaping,
Kelly Conway spinning
Five odious things.
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

11
On the eleventh day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Travel ban for Muslims,
Waterboarding hello,
Sanctuary bye-bye,
Two pipelines piping,
One wall for leaping,
Kelly Conway spinning
Five odious things.
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

12
On the twelfth day in office
My Trumpster gave to me:
Twelve freaking tweetstorms,
Travel ban for Muslims,
Waterboarding hello,
Sanctuary bye-bye,
Two pipelines piping,
One wall for leaping,
Kelly Conway spinning
Five odious things.
Millions on the mall,
Big, big thumbs,
Sean Spicer lies,
And a leader in an ethics quandary.

You can catch the tune and general spirit from any of these YouTubes. The piano version (deep blue thumbnail) makes a good karaoke. If that’s not enough, see the sidebar for even more versions.


Note: “The Twelve Days of Trumpster” has a long and storied history and admits of many regional variations. In Greenland, for example, it is not unusual to hear reference to such gifts as:

Twelve lobbyists leeching
Eleven seniors swooning
Ten golfers golfing
Nine frackers fracking

Our neighbours to the south, on the other hand, may sing of:

Pissed-off Mexicanos
Stupid bloody gringos
Take your wall and shove it
Trumpster is El Cuco

I, however, prefer the original (more genteel) version passed down through the ages. (The “three French hoons” mentioned in the Australian version are totally off the menu.)

Michael Howard

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


Sidebar: Other versions of the carol

It’s not easy to find good versions, as most people mistakenly think this is a children’s song, and that children have no taste. (In truth, when properly cooked they taste delicious!) Be that as it may, here are some other versions of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which I genuinely like:


I hope you’ve enjoyed our little trip to the antipodes! Next year: “Dashing Through The Bush…”

* * *

Breaking News: Trump Team Snags A-List Inauguration Talent

Though not well-liked in the performing arts community, Donald Trump once again confounded critics by snagging A-list talent for his inauguration festivities. While some artists like Elton John and Celine Dion declined to appear on ethical grounds, their absence was hardly noticed among the bevy of stars who did turn out to help make America great again. Here’s just a small sampling of the star-studded entertainment to which Trump fans were treated:




These entertainers were spread out over three inaugural balls. The initial plan was to have only one (but small). However, this reminded too many people of a song they used to sing in elementary school…

Still, you have to admit that with artists like these who are commercially viable, the Trump plan to end arts funding should have no meaningful impact on cultural life in America.

But seriously, folks… Judging by Joshua Bright’s lead photo for a New York Times piece on “Who Is Performing at Donald Trump’s Inauguration?” we may be headed for an era of crypto-Aryan art not unlike Germany in the early thirties. Bright’s pic of The Rockettes kicking their heels in front of a fantasy backdrop sporting a flower-bedecked Statue of Liberty seems more satire than reality, evoking a “Springtime For Hitler” meme. Trumpsters, go into your dance!

On a more positive note, Father Patrick Conroy offered this inauguration prayer:

We ask a special blessing upon our new president, Donald Trump. Give him an understanding heart to discern between good and evil. May he be strengthened in his work and grow in understanding as he proves ever attentive to the American people. We pray that he might become his best self.

I would like to be constructive and prayerful in response to the present day situation, but sometimes find it difficult.

Michael Howard

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

See Also

“What Art Under Trump?” in The Nation

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No, Cuco No!

Why Latino children are scared of Donald Trump, plus another Sophie Maletsky video.

In Trials of Apartment Living, I talked about things like abusive landords and plumbers who never show — though as you would expect, I also digressed into things Whovian, Scottish, and Sockpuppetrian. (Now there’s a Scrabble word for ya…)

I’m blessed to live in a building with few bugs, and I don’t leave food or crumbs around, so they should have to fast if ever they became visitors. Still, with a long, hot, humid, endless summer, some were bound to crawl out of the woodwork. I found myself having to spray repeatedly until Old Man Winter finally arrived and the bugs hitched rides to Florida or wherever they get to.

But at the height of summer I would spray in the early morning, then go out for a few hours so as not to inhale the fumes. Still, on returning I wondered if I was not in fact fumigating myself, while the bugs put out their lawn chairs and sipped piña coladas. So I can definitely relate to the sentiment expressed by songwriter and children’s entertainer Sophie Maletsky of Sophie’s World when she sings:

Brava! Now, I’m not sure how much Ms. Maletsky knows about the Spanish language. (Maybe she knows more than she lets on.) The cockroach is la cucaracha, but there is another entity known as El Cuco:

You don’t really need to grok Spanish to know that El Cuco is one scary dude. In a 2011 piece on “Scary Latino Myths,” Grace Bastidas writes:

Disobedient kids all over Latin America have always feared El Cuco. The mystery boogeyman is a dark, shapeless monster that appears out of nowhere to kidnap and eat children that don’t obey their parents. There’s even a classic rhyme that warns the kiddies that El Cuco will eat them if they don’t fall asleep early. He’s mom and dad’s best ally!

At least, he was mom and dad’s best ally. Writing more recently in The New York Times, Héctor Tobar pointed out the connection between such scary legends and Latino children’s fears of Donald Trump:

Now we can add a new boogeyman to the repertoire of scary Latino bedtime stories. His name is The Donald. Ever since he began his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination with a vicious screed against Mexican immigrants, Donald J. Trump has become a figure of dread and comic-book meanness to the Latino community. He’s a villain in a flaccid pompadour, spewing threats and insults that have filtered down into the bosom of many a Latino family, to be heard by children gathered by the television set or at the dinner table. … Mr. Trump’s campaign speaks to a child’s greatest fear: the possibility that he might be separated from his parents.

donald-trump-el-cucoSo what’s the differencia between la cucaracha and El Cuco? The first scares you for a minute, the second might scare you for a lifetime or an Age of Man.

I won’t obsessively ransack every line of Sophie Maletsky’s song for political significance, but it’s easy to picture Michelle Obama singing the part that goes:

I don’t mind if you live outside,
But please don’t come into my House;
It makes me feel all icky inside,
And it scares me much more than a mouse. (Eek!)

No, cuco, no!
No, cuco, no!
No, cuco, no!
Cuco, cuco no.

Sophie Maletsky is a woman of many talents who can also teach you how to make a panda purse out of ingredients you might find lying around the set of The Sopranos, like black duct tape. But I think her tender refrain of “No, cuco, no!” will make a lasting contribution to political discourse in the era of Trump. It’s easy to picture Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi joining hands and singing a few choruses of “No, cuco, no!” when asked to privatize Medicare, deregulate Wall Steet, allow fracking in Central Park, or make Taiwan the 51st state. (I like Taiwan, but it would be impractical.)

Based on the original melody, I think I could add a couple of verses to this already excellent ditty:

Mr. Trump, I was oh so wrong
To think you were just a goober,
Filling our minds with hate,
And playing the fake news tuber.

Now you are in our House
With all your infernal relations;
You’ve proven that you’re the King
Of pestilent infestations!

No, cuco, no!
No, cuco, no!
No, cuco, no!
Cuco, cuco no.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization. (Seriously, don’t blame anyone but me for this.)


For Further Reading

“No One Ever Told Me That Grief Felt So Like Fear” on The Impractical Cogitator blog

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

Children’s entertainers, performance artists, or simply lunatics?

Just before my winter hibernation, while foraging through YouTube looking for raw material for one of my mashups, I stumbled on these two vids:

Thank you to the New South Wales Centre for that inspiring presentation. 😉

Anyway, these videos do raise the conundrum posed in the subhead. On the one hand, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a children’s story by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, first published in 1989. So there’s that. On the other hand, when performing it these artists seem to let loose their natural craziness and touch on aspects of the human condition as well as political realities.

I suppose the spiritual lesson is that some people go on the spiritual quest with a pollyannish attitude, assuming that nothing could possibly go wrong. Then, when they realize they’ll have to pass through various difficulties and that their nature will be tested, they end up running back to their bedrooms and throwing the covers over their heads! (I am not immune to this phenomenon.)

The political lesson is that just when you’re thinking “Oh no! They couldn’t possibly elect so-and-so,” suddenly you come face-to-face with a big orange bear and find that it’ll be living in your big white house for at least four years. The scream let out by Sophie in the first vid says it all…

Sophie Maletsky channels the collective liberal scream

Sophie Maletsky channels the collective liberal scream

Compare for reference The Scream, by Edvard Munch:

the-scream-by-edvard-munchMore scariness for children: Count Floyd

Count Floyd (played by actor Joe Flaherty) was a regular character on the old SCTV comedy series which aired in the 1980s. I suppose he’s funny on his own, but it helps to know that at one time in America, in small towns with only one TV station, the same guy who was the newsreader was also required to do double duty hosting the Saturday kiddie show, which typically ran a B-movie of the monster variety (such as Invasion of the Bee Girls, which was hardly suitable for children).

So if there’s a sad, desperate quality to Count Floyd, it’s because he’s really a reserved newsreader forced to make a spectacle of himself by dressing in a black cape and pretending that the incredibly bad movies they send him (or sometimes fail to deliver) would actually scare a child.

count-floyd-06

Count Floyd (Joe Flaherty), b. 1941

Such frightful multitasking was required even in large markets like New York, where John Zacherle (R.I.P.) came to ply his trade as a combination progressive DJ, weatherman, and “cool ghoul.” Not an unwilling conscript, Zacherle made a name for himself by combining horror, sardonic humour, and rock music, as in the 1958 novelty song “Dinner With Drac,” whose most memorable verse goes:

For dessert there was batwing confetti,
And the veins of a mummy named Betty;
I first frowned upon it,
But put ketchup on it;
It tasted very much like spaghetti!

John Zacherle, 1918-2016

John Zacherle, 1918-2016

Presaging the Donald Trump phenom, Zacherle actually ran for president in 1960, under the banner of Transylvania’s People’s Party. According to this New York Times obit, one of his gags was pretending to give lessons in conversational Transylvanian. (“The skull of my aunt is on the table.”)

Though less frightening than Nixon, he failed to garner the same popular support evinced by more recent political bloodsuckers whose names now drip from the headlines. By the way, has anyone checked Kellyanne Conway’s hotel room for vials of B-Negative? I’d also check the bedpost for bite marks. (There’s got to be a joke in here somewhere about lawyers who “pound the table.”)

Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway vamps it up a notch for her interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo. Lucrezia Borgia ring obscured by comfy chair.

Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway vamps it up a notch for her interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo. Lucrezia Borgia ring obscured by comfy chair.

For more on Zacherle, Count Floyd, and other purveyors of televisual horror, see fellow blogger The Impractical Cogitator here. Note that kiddie horror shows migrated to late night TV and were watched by adults. This helped pave the way for a show like Mystery Science Theater 3000, which has elements of a children’s puppet show, but where most of the obscure references are aimed squarely at adults:

(Any problems with video, reload page or try dropbox link.)

Children also watched the show and sent in drawings of Joel and the bots,

mst3k-kid-drawings_v05c

but I doubt many kids knew enough about the film version of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf to glom onto the whole Richard Burton thing. Adults, on the other hand, were soiling their Underoos listening to a dead-on Burton impression interspersed with references to Gamera turtle — the main character in the dodgy Japanese monster flick being screened that week (MST3K Episode 312, Gamera vs. Guiron).

mst3k-joel-and-bots-watch-gameraConclusion

So are the characters in question children’s entertainers, performance artists, or simply lunatics? The answer is D. all of the above! Particularly in the case of Zacherle, he no doubt had his schtick, but like comedian Andy Kaufmann perhaps needed to be a bit crazy to fully embrace and manifest it. This could easily lead us to a discussion of actors, artists, and sanity. I’m reminded of Werner Herzog’s documentary My Best Fiend, about the notoriously mercurial Klaus Kinski. Also Richard Curtis’s sensitive portrayal of Van Gogh in the Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor.”

But perhaps it’s best to go out on a comedic note. After all, the marriage of horror and comedy gives us the comedy villain. The late Douglas Adams was a master at writing such, like the Vogons who torture their victims by reading them bad poetry. (I always credit my mentors!) Douglas also wrote for Doctor Who, his first effort being “The Pirate Planet,” where Bruce Purchase and Tom Baker vie to see who can take it furthest over the top. Memorable quote: “Douglas had a strange relationship with parrots…”

(Any problems with video, reload page or try dropbox link.)

But one of the most entertaining essays on the comedy villain comes from an earlier epoch of Doctor Who, from the William Hartnell era:

(Any problems with video, reload page or try dropbox link.)

Kinda makes you wonder whether Donald Trump has dodgy feetTake all those illegal aliens to the security kitchen, or I shall be forced to have Kellyanne Conway throw flowers menacingly on the floor. Or would flowers simply wilt in her hand, as with Beatrice in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter”?


Oooh kids, it’s gonna be scary!

Michael Howard

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

More TV/Movie Trivia

The Count Floyd skit (embedded earlier) showcases a “scary” movie called Whispers of the Wolf, which is actually a parody of Ingmar Bergman films like Cries and Whispers and Hour of the Wolf. It apes many of the cinematic devices found in actual Bergman films. See also SCTV’s Rome, Italian Style, which successfully parodies a number of stylish Italian films from the 60s and 70s, including The Tenth Victim.

The “Rappacini’s Daughter” clip is from a 1980 television production starring Kristoffer Tabori and Kathleen Beller. Beller often played an innocent, and the contrast is striking here between her innocent nature and poisonous touch. In 1987, she snagged a role in Bronx Zoo, a TV series which was arguably the prototype for Boston Public.

Beller played Mary Caitlin Callahan (her parents should only plotz!), a vegetarian, non-smoking art teacher who rides a motorcycle, but still struggles with her Catholic roots. It was one of her more sensitive roles, and Beller herself said it surpassed 90% of her feature film roles. Despite being married to Thomas Dolby, she clearly wasn’t “blinding them with science.” The science teacher was Victor Ginelli, played by Peter Hobbs. After Ginelli died, gym teacher Gus Butterfield (played by Mykelti Williamson) took over his classes.

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Trump Your Pumpkin!

Announcing the winner and runner-up in the YouTube contest to carve a place in political history.

 

Orange is the colour of my Trumpkin’s head
In the mornin’ when we rise…

Donovan

The last of the costumes have been put back in mothballs; the last of the vomit has been cleaned up off your parents’ coffee table; but there’s still one Halloween ritual left to perform: the all-important Judging of the Trumpkin Videos!

One meme begets another, so just when Trump Your Cat was starting to seem stale as old kitty-litter, along comes Halloween, and with it Trump Your Pumpkin.

We’ve sifted through more YouTubes than you can shake a femur at, scooped out the seedy ones, and baked the two finalists into a blogger’s pie for your delectation.

The Runner-Up

Deserving mucho appreciation for all the work that went into it, “It’s The Great Trumpkin!” is a parody of the classic Charlie Brown Halloween special:

The children’s voices are remarkably convincing, and I love seeing Snoopy as an illegal immigrant skulking across the border in the dead of night.

The Winner

Called “Donald Trumpkin Is Making Halloween Great Again,” the winning video is a fast-paced survey of nearly ten entries in the field, ending with a Trump Halloween mask made by a shop in Cuernavaca, Mexico, plus an interview with the proprietor. Viva El Trumpkin!

What The Future Holds

If the Trump Your Pumpkin meme should ever ring hollow, I’m confident that others may be unearthed. Perhaps actor Charles Laughton holds the key! (At least, that’s my hunch…)

donald-trump-your-hump

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization. No pumpkins were harmed during the making of this post.

Trials of Apartment Living

With help from The IT Crowd, Doctor Who, and the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

I recently had no choice but to have some work done in my apartment. I was probably the last person to still have copper wiring for phone/Internet, and the company gently drove this point home by shutting off my service and telling me that if I didn’t upgrade to fiber optic I would be communicating using two Dixie cups and a string.

The Dixie cup phone (string sold separately, may require some assembly), used by an entire generation of children to share their hopes, dreams and fears with one another. Also used by the Nixon administration during secret negotiations with Hanoi.

The Dixie cup phone (string sold separately, may require some assembly), used by an entire generation of children to share their hopes, dreams and fears with each other. Also used by the Nixon administration during secret negotiations with Hanoi.

To indulge in a Basil Fawltyism, I had been waiting for fiber optic longer than Hadrian. (Hadrian. The Emperor Hadrian — look, it doesn’t matter!) So I was impressed when the company sent two crack technicians out to do the job. Unfortunately, they came packed in one set of chinos. So enormous was this fellow that in order to make it out onto my fire escape to drill the hole, he had to be coated with bear grease from head to toe; and even then he required that I place myself like a human shield between his combat boots and the floor.

While tacking the wiring to my living room ceiling, he began to teeter on his ladder, like a great teapot perched upon the tower of Big Ben during a thunderstorm. When he appeared in genuine danger of falling, I bravely bolted to his rescue. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn somewhere and was later found cowering under the bathroom sink.

A few days hence, when the backup battery unit arrived in the post, I found that it could not be connected because he had installed the power strip upside down and flush against the wall, thoroughly (and quite efficiently!) obscuring the battery jack.

My building is also undergoing maintenance by plumbers — at least that is the rumour, and I do occasionally hear plumberlike bangings, though these could be from sound effect recordings. The plumbers are never actually seen, and never actually show up, but we tenants do receive periodic admonishments to remove all personal belongings from areas the plumbers might wish to access. I have duly cleared the space around my refrigerator.

Due to the shortage of qualified plumbers in my neck of the woods, they are treated more like gods than workmen. “Show up any time you want! We will give you drugs and women!” Such seems to be the attitude of building management. “You can’t keep the appointment you made? You can’t finish the job you started? No problem! Come back next month, if you’re in the mood. You want to piddle in the sink? Be our guests!”

My building is under new management. The old management was supposedly fired for being personally abusive toward tenants. The new management is a vast improvement; they are merely inefficient. With regard to the plumbing fiasco, they literally could not organize a trip to the toilet. Some tenants have taken to putting pictures of plumbers on milk cartons. (“Have you seen me?”)

G. Gordon Liddy, one of the plumbers used by the Nixon administration to stop leaks, e.g. by breaking into Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office. Makeup courtesy House of Pancakes. Some rooster parts available for sale to interested parties.

G. Gordon Liddy, one of the plumbers used by the Nixon administration to stop leaks, e.g. by breaking into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. Makeup courtesy House of Pancakes. Some rooster parts available for sale to interested parties.

The trials of apartment living remind me of the trials of a Time Lord. Doctor Who was occasionally put on trial by his fellow Time Lords, notably during the Patrick Troughton and Colin Baker eras. This phenomenon was satirized by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre:

(If the embedded video doesn’t play, view on DailyMotion here.)

It may help the uninitiated to view the original clip from Part 10 of “The War Games”:

There’s an in-joke about Worzel Gummidge which also needs explaining. Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor) regenerates into John Pertwee (the Third Doctor). Pertwee later went on to play Worzel Gummidge in a children’s TV show by the same name, based on the books by Barbara Euphan Todd:

The Scottish Falsettos owe some of their routines to an old bit by Abbott & Costello called “Who’s On First”:

So there you have it — everything you need to know about apartment living!

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Greenspan Bobblehead Shocks Nervous Britons – UPDATE

Why’d the Beeb do it?

alan-greenspan-BBCFriday was a day of well-rounded insanity for the United Kingdom, with reverberations felt ’round the Western world and some parts East. The pent-up demand for faux freedom led to renewed cries of Texit! (Texas seceding from the United States) and Sexit! (Slovenia seceding from the European Union). Probably when the dust settles, it will be found that the appetite for such changes is less real than imagined. But the present period is one for calming of waters and not further exciting residents of Blighty. So it was exceeding strange when a BBC interview with former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan which should have had a palliative effect instead took on an air of the shocking and surreal.

The interview had been scheduled in advance, but Mr. Greeenspan came down with a head cold. Yet, it is well known that the mere manner in which he snaps his briefcase can soothe troubled markets, and when the Nagus himself appears, the effect is all but narcotic.

Rather than cancel the interview or conduct it purely by telephone, the Beeb elected to put up a bobblehead of Mr. Greenspan, just as one might prop up a stuffed animal to comfort a young child waking from a nightmare.

The bobblehead is, of course, a uniquely American institution, born of fan giveaways at baseball stadiums, but occasionally extended to non-sport VIPs like Pope Francis. There are relatively few bobbleheads of economists, and after careful consideration I conclude that this is for good not ill. Economists are best left to work behind the scenes rather than gracing car dashboards and curio shops. Just one look at the Alan Greenspan bobblehead should persuade doubting readers of the verity of my thesis:

The Alan Greenspan bobblehead

The Alan Greenspan bobblehead

Suffice it to say, the calming effect yearned for was not in evidence among BBC viewers, who flooded the switchboard with complaints that much as they love their Doctor Who, now was not the time to be showcasing the latest monster dreamt up by children writing in to Blue Peter — a possible successor to the Abzorbaloff.

When queried about the cock-up, the characteristically brusque Jeremy Paxman — called out of retirement to conduct the interview — replied, “No comment.” To restore public order, the Beeb enlisted Basil Brush to help explain what Brexit would mean to the average Briton:

basil-brush-youre-screwed-animEnhanced security was put in place at retirement homes over concerns that young people might blame seniors for sabotaging their future plans for free travel and a united Europe:

old-people-walking-animFears of atonal music and riots in the streets prompted the Beeb to temporarily revert to a schedule of old-time programming with more reassuring presenters offering lessons in post-Brexit economics:

(I wonder: Is Oswald The Ostrich an appropriate meme for those voting “Leave”?)

Once calm was restored, plans for a Nouriel Roubini bobblehead were quickly scrapped — as was the Greenspan bobblehead. There are rumours of a Richard Dawkins bobblehead, but as yet no one believes in its existence.

The Home Secretary is said to be working closely with the BBC’s head boffin to carve out a new policy on bobbleheads — one that doesn’t ban their use outright, but does flash a brief disclaimer so that epileptics and those easily succumbing to fits of hysterical laughter are properly forewarned.

Jeremy Paxman on Alan Greenspan

“Tomorrow’s Greenspan: more of the same! I don’t know why they make such a fuss about it.”

extra-credit-projectThough public viewing of Alan Greenspan bobbleheads may cause mass insanity, individual viewing in the home may have a beneficial effect, not unlike a mild emetic. You can spend a pleasant rainy afternoon assembling your own Alan Greenspan craft project out of pipe cleaners, Silly Putty, head cheese, and India ink. Here’s how:

First, make a flower out of different coloured pipe cleaners. Next, cut and trim the head cheese to fit inside the flower. Then shape a slab of Silly Putty to form a smaller concentric circle inside the head cheese. Finally, use India ink to draw Alan Greenspan’s head on the Silly Putty. (Be careful not to spill the ink!)

When you’re done, you’ll have a valuable curio which you can treasure in years to come. It also makes a great gift for an economist, parole officer, or that special someone in your life.

blue-peter-badgealan-greenspan-craft-project-by-michael-howard

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