TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2021
Also, let's hide in the bushes: To tell you the truth, we don't exactly know what we're doing today. Here's the reason for our uncertainty:
Somewhat amazingly, Donald J. Trump has left town!
After he left, we kept him around long enough for us to conduct his Senate "trial." But he himself is no longer around. He's been gone for more than a month!
It feels to us like the end of an era—the end of a very long era. We'd be inclined to date the start of the era to the night when major journalists hid in the bushes, hoping to see if Candidate Hart actually had a girl friend.
Five years later, they started in on Candidate Clinton. In the fall of 1997, we started trying to design this site. (It wasn't easy to start a web site back in 1997.)
This site went up in March 1998. Almost exactly one year later, they started on Candidate Gore.
In truth, the foundations of that two-year war had been established in 1997, when Gore made an utterly pointless, unrecorded remark about the treacly film, Love Story. In the Oscar-nominated film, Gore's Harvard roommate, Tommy Lee Jones, had been cast in the role of the Harvard roommate.
(Only two journalists had heard the offhand remark in question. Back in 1997, one of the two, Karen Tumulty, did what journalists never do. She aggressively criticized her colleagues when they began aggressively criticizing Gore for whatever it was he had or hadn't said. Needless to say, Maureen Dowd played a leadership role in this initial onslaught. Dowd has been extremely influential during the era in question. )
At moments like these, we're defining the era in terms of the coverage of presidential politics. We'd be inclined to say that the era began in the bushes with the stakeout of Candidate Hart.
In truth, the more remarkable episode may have involved Candidate Muskie in 1972. That episode produced the press corps' ultimate Biblical claim:
Muskie wept! And not only that, he wept in the snow! Or so the journalists said. It was a very big deal at the time.
As reported much later (then disappeared), a few of the journalists had decided that Muskie had a character problem. They'd based their assessment on the way the candidate would behave when they all played poker together.
(No, we aren't making this up. You've never seen this lunacy discussed for perfectly obvious reasons)
Soon, they were reporting that Muskie had wept. He'd wept in the snow—about his wife, no less! This changed the shape of the 1972 race, in which Nixon swept to a massive re-election.
Years later, the dean of Washington journalists—the fellow who first reported the weeping, on the front page of the Washington Post—said the crying had probably maybe never happened. For obvious reasons, you've never seen this lunacy discussed. It simply isn't done.
This is the history of the era through the year 2001. We're omitting the 1988 presidential debate when Bernie Shaw asked Candidate Dukakis what he would do if his wife was raped and murdered, after which the pundits all agreed to agree that Dukakis had answered wrong.
(Years later, some background information emerged. Several female journalists on the panel for that debate had begged Bernie not to ask that inappropriate question. Bernie went ahead anyway, with Dukakis answering wrong.)
Along the way, we ourselves received phone calls, in 1987, from journalists who wanted to know if then-candidate Gore had smoked marijuana when he was a college student. In short, we're dealing with an era of undisguised human stupidity—a story involved the dumbest mother-frumpers who ever drew breath on Earth.
This is the history of the era through the year 2001. During this same period, Diane Sawyer, on network TV, sat with Marla Maples one night and asked her if sex with The Donald was the best sex she ever had.
Last November, in an utterly silly space-filler, the New York Times' two top film critics listed Keanu Reeves as the third greatest actor of the 21st century so far. They cited and linked to the John Wick films—the ugly, stupid, murder-drenched films around which they based their peculiar assessment of Reeve's manifest greatness.
In short, this is the history of an era defined by the vision, the values and the understandings of a group of human life forms who aren't always recognizably human. At the direction of major anthropologists, we've often compared the behavior of these life forms to the story long told in the west, a story in which we humans keep telling ourselves, with straight faces, that we are "the rational animal."
Donald J. Trump has left the building! That said, there's no obvious reason to believe that the culture we're describing will right itself in the years ahead.
For the record, we're describing part of the gonzo culture which prevails in Our Town. There's no sign that Our Town has any plan to reform itself. Indeed, we cling to our fond beliefs about ourselves, in a way which makes our gonzo culture very hard to challenge.
Last night, on our favorite cable news show, we were hoping to lock him up. We were back with Stormy Daniels and her request for money during Campaign 2016—a request for cash which was met.
For ourselves, we've always wondered why Daniels wasn't charged with extortion. Such questions don't get asked in Our Town, though people who live in Other Towns hear questions like that all the time.
For what it's worth, we're so dumb in Our Town that we decided that Daniels' demand for cash made her a "feminist icon" and also a "feminist hero." We loved her visibly disordered lawyer so much that he became a Democratic White House contender.
How good are our assessments of character here in Our Town? For Daniels' visibly disordered lawyer—we'll recommend pity more than scorn—things went downhill from there:
On several occasions starting in March 2019, Avenatti was indicted in California and New York on federal counts including tax evasion, extortion, fraud, and embezzlement. He has been ineligible to practice law since May 4, 2020. On February 14, 2020, Avenatti was convicted of all charges against him in the New York court. Avenatti was held in New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center while he awaited sentencing for his extortion conviction in the New York case. He potentially faces more than 40 years in prison. Amid healthcare concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, Avenatti was temporarily released from prison in April 2020 under orders to return within 90 days. He is currently under house arrest at a friend's house in California. His sentencing is set for May 2021.
We rarely miss here in Our Town!
Over Here, we want to see Trump locked up. Over There, they think his "sacred landslide" election was stolen. This is the story of life as it's currently lived in the dueling towns of the shining city upon the hill.
The truth about us and our somewhat peculiar culture can be found all across the mainstream press. In fairness, as with Chekhov's Gurov, we just "want to enjoy life so badly and it all seems so simple and amusing.”
In The Lady With the Lapdog, Chekhov makes Gurov a sympathetic figure. So too with us in Our Town.
There's nothing evil about our human desires. But in the pursuit of such simple desires, things can sometimes possibly get a bit stupid.
They hid in the bushes as they chased Gary Hart. Meanwhile, sex with The Donald was the she ever had!
At the Times, to believe Joe Klein, the honchos thought that Maureen Dowd was possessed of revolutionary insights. (At the 1984 convention, Mondale didn't know who to hug first—Ferraro or his wife!)
This is the history of the era as performed in our frequently ludicrous town.
We aren't bad people here in Our Town. But given the ways we play the game, will our life as a nation be ending?
Tomorrow: Dumb and town?
Regarding The Lady With the Lapdog: Nabokov described Chekhov's story as one of the greatest ever written. We've seen Cornel West quoted to the same effect.
We think the story offers a beautiful portrait of a lost soul finding his soul. The leading authority on the story quotes Nabokov in this manner:
"All the traditional rules...have been broken in this wonderful short story....no problem, no regular climax, no point at the end. And it is one of the greatest stories ever written."
In fairness, he'd never seen the first John Wick film, in which we see a dog get killed, then about ten million people. With such magnificent acting!
In closing, we think there is a point at the end of Chekhov's story. In translation, we'll let Chekhov speak:
And it seemed to them that in only a few more minutes a solution would be found and a new, beautiful life would begin; but both of them knew very well that the end was still a long, long way away and that the most complicated and difficult part was only just beginning.
The most difficult part was just beginning! Or at least, so Chekhov said.