FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2020
And they're just the start of our problem: Pliny the Elder was one of the first to report the problem of werewolves.
His reporting preceded Warren Zevon's by at least several years. According to the leading authority on the subject, his findings unfolded as shown:
Pausanias also relates the story of an Arcadian man called Damarchus of Parrhasia, who was turned into a wolf after tasting the entrails of a human child sacrificed to Zeus Lycaeus. He was restored to human form 10 years later and went on to become an Olympic champion. This tale is also recounted by Pliny the Elder, who calls the man Demaenetus, quoting Agriopas. According to Pausanias, this was not a one-off event...
Pliny the Elder likewise recounts another tale of lycanthropy. Quoting Euanthes, he mentions that in Arcadia, once a year a man was chosen by lot from the Anthus' clan. The chosen man was escorted to a marsh in the area, where he hung his clothes into an oak tree, swam across the marsh and transformed into a wolf, joining a pack for nine years. If during these nine years he refrained from tasting human flesh, he returned to the same marsh, swam back and recovered his previous human form, with nine years added to his appearance.
Early Christian authors also mentioned werewolves. In The City of God, Augustine of Hippo gives an account similar to that found in Pliny the Elder. Augustine explains that "It is very generally believed that by certain witches spells men may be turned into wolves..."
Augustine, of course, is most famous for the prayer he extended to God. "Make me human again, but not yet," he's famously said to have said.
At present, the werewolves running through Our Town are notable for their youth. This very year, The Daily Beast ran a snark-soaked review of Melania's Christmas decs by a "style writer" who's only three years out of college (NYU, class of 2017).
Earlier, she prepped at Miss Porter's. For reasons of age, we'll be withholding the name of the afflicted young scribe. Headline included:
Melania Trump’s Last White House Christmas Looks Pretty—and Empty
Never one to mask her emotions, Melania looked on at this year’s display of tinsel and twinkling trees with the type of disdain one might save for glaring at a raccoon rummaging through discarded sugar cookies sitting in the trash outside on December 26.
It was a void, detached statement coming from someone who has spent her husband’s first and only term mostly staring off into space blankly, uselessly, manifesting a future where she can go back to New York and do whatever it is that makes her happy. (Pilates? Adding Dior blazers to her Net-a-Porter shopping cart?)
Her outfit for the occasion—or at least, the official photos she posed in—was just as cold. The look was also very impractical for the task, though Melania let it be known on Twitter that the real heavy-lifting is done by plebeian “volunteers,” not her French manicured hands.
She wore four-inch Louboutin heels, a longtime shoe of choice for miserable rich women, a high-waist pencil skirt, and silver, crinkly button-up blouse. She looked polished and put-together, and so unlike any of us right now. It was another Marie Antoinette moment from Melania, while we’re all just shuffling around our homes swaddled in sweatpants and fear. Let them wear a Givenchy hoodie, this outfit snarls.
Melania presents herself as formal, dressed-up, and going to work, all while teetering through the home she supposedly lives in. Many Americans have spent much of this year growing familiar with every corner and crack in the drywall as a byproduct of staying home; our first lady still gapes around hers with the aloofness of a stranger.
Unlike past years’ spooky, shadow-casting, and probably haunted trees, or The Shining-colored evergreens erected in 2018, Melania’s last decorations are, well, OK.
Some might even consider the scene lovely, perfect in that every piece has its place. However, for all its conventional sparkle, there is a lingering emptiness to the whole thing. What a very appropriate final Christmas decoration for the Trump White House.
You simply can't get dumber than that. According to an array of experts with whom we've consulted, it simply can't be done.
This particular style writer had prepped at Miss Porter's, but how much good did it do? Before landing at her current spot, she "covered beauty at Popsugar," according to her Daily Beast bio.
Trust us—it gets much worse. Owing to this afflicted person's youth, we're being kind today.
The remarkable youth of the Werewolves of Yuletide only adds to the sense of alarm among major experts who are watching the growth of this plague.
In Camus' famous book of that very title, he noted how hard it was for the citizens of Oran to recognize the pestilence which was beginning to move through the streets of their town. So it is in Our Town today, as werewolves of various ages screech and holler and howl.
Many of us in Our Town suffer from an affliction. We're unable to see how blindingly stupid the work of this cohort is.
Elsewhere, others can see our problem for what it actually is. Last week, after unloosing its Four Hounds from Hell, the Washington Post was willing to publish one letter on this general topic from a different town.
That letter concerned an earlier column by one of the wolves. It went exactly like this:
Robin Givhan’s Nov. 25 news column, “Christmas tree, turkey pardon: The Trumps obliged,” was disgraceful. She used the Thanksgiving turkey ceremony and the arrival of the White House Christmas tree as an excuse to spew gratuitous insults at the president and first lady.
This is where our country is. Even holidays are just occasions for venomous partisan attacks.
[NAME WITHHELD], Falls Church
"This is where our country is," the writer diplomatically mused. Others will be more frank:
This is how it is in Your Town, many other observers will say. After that, they'll talk to their neighbors and friends.
A certain irony obtains in the way the many wolves of our floundering town have attacked the first lady's decs. In the mid-1990s, a different first lady was under attack for her decs—and the self-assured dimwits who live in our town were too dumb to push back.
In October 2016, Amanda Marcotte, to her credit, recalled the astonishing episode at Salon. On the downside, like many of our town's somnolent citizens, Marcotte assumed that Candidate Trump couldn't possibly win in November.
What follows is pathetic, sad. We include the principal headline, and yes, that's what it said:
The Clinton BS files: Hillary didn't decorate the White House Christmas tree with condoms and syringes
[I]t's never been enough for Clinton detractors to bag on her for being ambitious, smart and feminist—all qualities they barely conceal their loathing for, especially in a woman. No, in the fever dreams of the right-wing imagination, Clinton is frequently portrayed as downright nasty, a gross person who likes gross things, the grosser the better.
And a critical piece of evidence that the conspiracy-theory right has for this theory is the claim that, in 1994, First Lady Hillary Clinton decorated the White House Christmas tree with condoms, cock rings and syringes.
Yes, it's actually true. The lunacy didn't start with Trump. In this case, the lunacy was fed to the public in a major best-selling book:
While most urban legends about the Clintons start somewhat small and then grow in the telling, this one appears to have sprung fully formed from the deranged imagination of Gary Aldrich, a former FBI agent who worked on the security team for the Bush and Clinton White Houses. Aldrich had an unending contempt for the Clintons, who he clearly viewed as a couple of dirty hippies with their Fleetwood Mac records and daughter named after a Joni Mitchell song. After he left, he decided to cash in on that hatred with a 1996 book entitled "Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House."
This particular conspiracy theory lost some steam after the Clintons left the White House, though it still pops up on right-wing forums and blogs periodically. But expect there to be some kind of Christmas tree-related controversy to be ginned up in 2017, when the Clintons are once again tasked with decorating the Blue Room Christmas tree—presumably with Bill instead of Hillary at the helm this time.
We'll recommend that you read Marcotte's entire essay; it recounts one part of the disappeared political history of the past three or four decades. While Our Town slept, this sort of thing was aimed at Hillary Clinton for 24 years, with several intermediate years of manifest lunacy directed at Candidate Gore.
(A great deal of this came from the upper-end press, not from the right-wing machine.)
Children are dead all over Iraq because of the way Our Town slept. Also, Candidate Trump managed to slip by Candidate Clinton and find his way into the White House, even while losing the popular vote. Tragicomically, our resistance began in earnest the day after Trump assumed office.
Marcotte was almost a prophet that day. She predicted more craziness about Christmas decs—but she assumed that the lunacy would be aimed at Clinton and Clinton.
Instead, the various wolves who run through Our Town began howling at Wife of Trump.
Some will say that Aldrich's conduct was worse than that of our wolves. We tend to react and reason that way in the various pubs of Our Town.
We're lazy and stupid and nobody likes us! Sadly, the problem we have with The Werewolves of Yuletide is only one small part of our failing town's ongoing mess.
Next week, we'll continue to stroll the streets of Our Town. Our folkways seem to make sense to us. To others, our wide array of embarrassing folkways will often look quite different.
In all honesty, we can't say that the others are wrong. Our werewolves have gone to the very best schools.
How much harm has it possibly done?
Tomorrow: Special bonus quotation from the original script of Our Town, as performed in a recent film