Friday, October 23, 2020

The Final Solution: We vs. I

Martin Buber

Martin Buber famously coined the term “Ich und Du” (“I and Thou”). The pandemic and its current comorbidities economic and racial inequality have created a condition of universal collective trauma. Usually there's a solace in discovering that one’s personality has been adversely affected by a circumstance that’s unique. Now when you’re about to complain or explain you tend to be stopped in your tracks by the fact that everyone is the victim of the same conditions. Even victims of the virus can't complain since so many people have it. There's always someone worse off than you. It’s neither good nor bad, but the pandemic has made people think in the first-person plural. It’s a “we vs. I” universe--an enormous change bought at the price of great suffering and also not likely to endure, past the pandemic, considering the proclivity of animate beings to individuate. While most people are confined or at the very least practicing a good deal of social distancing, they will inadvertently be given an opportunity to step back (every time they start feeling sorry for themselves) and realize they’re part of a greater whole.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Enough to Turn You Crimson

If you manage to get into Harvard and then go to Harvard Law School and from then on, The New Yorker and CNN, can you do anything you want? Are you like Caligula? That’s the question being scrutinized by The Cambridge (England) Union. Of course, the real issue derives in psychobabese from “narcissistic grandiosity.” In words that any Harvard graduate can understand, this means you develop the notion you can masturbate in front of prominent women colleagues on Zoom. The idea may insinuate itself as the germ of titillating temptation until it becomes a downright obsession, convincing yourself nothing untoward is happening anyway, since your video and audio functions are off (when, in fact, they're not). However, wouldn’t this action qualify as an old-fashioned Freudian slip? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but most of the time a cigar is a penis.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Woman Under the Influence

There's a famous line in Long Day’s Journey when Mary Tyrone walks in with her wedding gown and her son, Jamie mockingly intones, “The Mad Scene. Enter Ophelia!" That might describe Gena Rowland's performance as Mabel Longhetti in John Cassavetes’s A Woman Under the Influence (l974). The movie is, of course, like catnip for any actor. Rowlands makes the most of a plum opportunity for virtuosity, playing up her character’s boundary problems by sexualizing her encounters with every stranger she meets. The depiction of this kind of free-floating hysteria is not unrealistic. However, there’s a sense that in eschewing the normal constraints of the commercial cinema with it’s well scripted encounters, for the handheld camera and natural lighting the film somehow errs, becoming unrealistic and even histrionic in its search for realism. Peter Falk plays the part of the harried husband Nick and there’s one really telling moment at the end when he attempts to bully his wife into becoming sane, by threatening to throw her to the floor when she doesn’t come down from a couch. Besides Bo Harwood's score, the   film employs Italian opera that improbably comes out of almost everyone’s mouth; at least two of the members of Nick’s construction crew are tenors of note. The arias are highly romantic and soaring yet they’re a markedly dissonant considering the psychological deterioration that's taking place. This is a clever piece of artifice that unfortunately, like many of the director’s gambits, ends up calling more attention to itself than the world it aims to portray.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Final Solution: The Red Zone

Will the US become like Germany after the war? Will the country be partitioned into Red and Blue zones? It’s apparent that there will be no peaceful transition. Even if the movers come and Trump leaves The White House, you’re going to have a reluctant leader in exile, carrying on the duties for his base and a growing subculture of QAnon followers.Trump's wall with Mexico will be expanded. It'll become like the famed Berlin Wall, which effectively divided a country. Trump's media empire will make Breitbart under Steve Bannon look sick. Imagine whole networks of television and radio funded by the Koch Brothers with Sinclair Broadcasting and Fox piping out varying kinds of right wing propaganda.Trump Inc. will become the ultimate reality TV show, something so all encompassing that it actually becomes like the Holographic level of Star Trek. It will be a Second Coming of sorts, Trump will descend as a new savior. He won’t need to rush to appoint Supreme Court justices since his words will be worshipped as the rule of law in those lands under his control. The coronavirus is known to have an impact on the brain, but whatever the cause, the President’s bout with the malady has obviously exacerbated all the traits which had been evident all along—amongst them a linguistic perseveration in his attack on scientific evidence. For the first time in their histories both The New England Journal of Medicine and Scientific American featured editorials alternately condemning Trump and endorsing Biden. When you read in Genesis that God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th, you generally treat it as metaphor and poetry, though there are obviously fundamentalists who read the bible as literally as the originalists do the constitution. No one in the Red Zone is going to take the former president’s words with a grain of salt.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Final Solution: Mr. Creosote

Kellyanne Conway (photo: Gage Skidmore)

The paranormal has become the new normal. One supposes people and even countries will begin to paranormalize after the pandemic is so-called over, if that ever takes place. But part of the current cultural norm is an increase in logorrhea or paradigm shifting. Trump is one of the great deconstructionists and would have probably have buddied up with Derrida on the issue that everything is culturally created. It’s easy to call something “fake news” when it’s the product of say CNN headquarters in Atlanta. So QAnon might be a dangerous cult, but maybe not. He hears they don’t like pedophiles. However the logorrhea is really at the heart of the current paranormality. Lara Trump is the wife of Eric. She appeared as a kind of pinch hitter (since apparently no other members of the clan agreed to come on) to answer Jake Tapper’s questions on State of the Union Sunday morning. Plainly Lara had studied at the Kellyanne Conway school of rhetoric. Conway notoriously suffers from diarrhea of the mouth which makes it virtually impossible for her to stop talking. It’s not her fault or for that matter her protégé Lara’s. Their Russian handlers have given them verbal laxatives which make them run off at the mouth. Remember the Monty Python "Mr. Creosote" skit? Jake Tapper seemed irate when he tried to get a word in edgewise, but he should have been more tolerant considering the problems of his interview subject. For the record, Donald Trump is one of the great paradigm shifters. You may remember the term from Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It’s unlikely that Trump has ever read it, but uncanny that he's able to perfectly paradigm shift anytime anyone asks him a question like: Did you get COVID tested on the day of the first debate?

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Final Solution: Conscience

David Garrick as Hamlet seeng the Ghost

There are two types of behaviors that are exuded by the president, one is smug self-satisfaction that is part of his PR message. Every experience even COVID is turned into a major triumph. Then comes the destructive part. He does what he wants which in this case means going prematurely back to work and putting others including staff members and secret service agents in danger. It would be wonderful to think that Trump was an exception, but you probably know plenty of people who behave exactly this way, trumpeting their latest victories while barely heeding the damage they inflict as they go about the pursuit of their pleasures. What's the missing component in those who demonstrate these kind of characteristics? The answer is, conscience. It’s not hard to understand how the absence of this trait can lead to success in the world. Have you ever met a successful Lothario who's known for his conscience? Hamlet, the literary figure most famous for having an overactive superego, has enough trouble just dealing with one girl. Hamlet is also different than Trump in that he lacks bravado. “Thus, conscience doth makes cowards of us all.” Hamlet does his share of damage but would he have risked infecting, his friend and protector, Horatio by making an appearance in an SUV? Still what's disconcerting is that pathological personalities proceed along their merry way showing little concern about the wreckage left in their wake. What's the toll of those infected and what's the extent of their illness from having attending the Rose Garden or Bedminster fundraising events?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Tyson vs. Trump

Mike Tyson is scheduled to fence off with Roy Jones Jr. at the Dignity Health Park in Carson, California on November 28th. And then there's Trump vs. Biden. Who knows if the bout between the incumbent president and the challenger will be decided by then, seeing that there are upwards of 300 million judges, with the possibility that the 9 judges of the Supreme Court will eventually be called upon if there’s a “split decision.” Trump vs. Biden might have made a good undercard considering all the shenanigans perpetrated by The White House which at least on the basis of the first debate enjoys hitting below the belt, with the Republican office holder who currently possesses the heavyweight belt (if for no other reason than the fact that he’s obese) refusing to go back into his corner and let the Democratic challenger speak. One of Trumpty Dumpty’s other tactics is to put words in his opponent’s mouth in an attempt to win by suffocation. What a wonderful coincidence if the election were finally settled on the day of the Tyson/Jones fight! However, from what the president is indicating the only way to get him out of the ring will be by way of knockout. As Iron Mike himself once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."