Saturday, July 07, 2018

Yellowbird: Did Joseph Heller Predict President Trump in his Final Novel?



I just started reading Joseph Heller's final novel, Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man, in which Eugene Pota, an older novelist, is looking for an appropriate subject and plot for his next book. I was surprised to see that one of Pota's early attempts is a story prompted by a memory of the song Yellow Bird. In this novel sketch a young boy lets his mother's new canary out of its cage, a mistake that leads to the yellow bird's death and also leads to his first experience with successful lying when he gets his mother's money back at the pet store.

"Years later, he remembered the yellow bird and labeled the experience his first brush with death. Also his first advantageous negotiation. His first constructive deception. It was all so easily fruitful he resolved to try dishonesty again whenever a situation counseled chicanery. Like Tom Sawyer, he was fond of mischievous deceit, and his antics had never, until the present, tumbled him into trouble. Foppishly, he'd felt himself invulnerable. Absurdly, when elected to the presidency of the country, he'd chosen for himself the code name Yellowbird."

I don't know what this fictional lying president looked like, but wouldn't "Yellowbird" be a great code name for a septugenarian president who insists on wearing a baby-chick yellow wing on the top of his head.

"Forty-five years  later, when holed up quaking in the White House as though in an imperiled stronghold, and confronted by the impending ignominious dishonor of impeachment, he recalled this childhood exploit with the canary, and in his next lamebrained and squirming, sorrowful, insincere, apologetic speech he impetuously injected a line of poetry he'd come upon far back in a place he no longer remembered by a poet no longer of importance to him, interpolating, 'I would rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to shine...or dance.' That sounded great, he thought, and infused with an ardent surge of confidence, he hastened to venture further into the domain of arts and letters and raced on extemporaneously with a line he associated with Eleanor Roosevelt, that, to wit, it was better to light a candle than curse the darkness. He was pleased with himself after that one too and was basking in his own scholarly sense of himself even before he finished.
"His speechwriters and closest advisors, on the other hand, were aghast. In shocked states of agonized helplessness, they glared at each other with outrage. 'That putz!' grumbled the one from New York City. 'That very dumb putz!' Another, with a polite growl of apology, stepped outside to vomit."
  
If Twitter had existed in 1999 when Heller's novel was written, I'm sure President Yellowbird would have used it rather than a speaker's podium to embarrass himself. But despite its prophetic qualities, this fictional sketch doesn't become Pota's next novel.
"Who cared? What could it lead to that was worthwhile? Another political farce, another dysfunctional family yarn? Any serious literary work treating those contaminated buffoons in Washington as a herd of contaminated buffoons could no longer be fresh or striking. It would have to be ludicrous and thin, anything but serious, and there had already been too many of those."
Isn't that exactly how a lot of writers are feeling about the "real world" of 2018, with our current president that no serious novelist would ever be able to (or want to) invent?

Thursday, July 05, 2018

70 Years Ago Today, UK citizens got something that US citizens are told is impossible, a National Health Service

How is it possible that a modern National Health Service was achievable 70 years ago in a Great Britain still clearing rubble from World War II and still experiencing food rationing, but is considered impossibly expensive in the world's wealthiest economy, one that hasn't experienced war on its soil since 1865?

The National Health Service began on July 5, 1948.
I'm simply retyping the historic text of the page above in order to make it searchable and readable on all devices:


THE NEW
NATIONAL
HEALTH 
SERVICE
*
Your new National Health Service begins on 5th July. What is it? How do you get it?
    It will provide you with all medical, dental, and nursing care. Everyone--rich or poor, man, woman or child--can use it or any part of it. There are no charges, except for a few special items. There are no insurance qualifications. But it is not a " charity ". You are all paying for it, mainly as taxpayers, and it will relieve your money worries in time of illness.



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Soundtrack for the Trump Era?

In case you had any doubt about Rage Against the Machine being in the running for the most appropriate soundtrack of the Trump era, look at Giuliani's appearance at the beginning of this 1999 Michael Moore-directed video for "Sleep Now in the Fire," and the bizarre campaign poster that makes a prophetic appearance at the 1'04" mark.


Rage may not be touring or recording now, but we have their songs being given new life by Brass Against the Machine. This version of "Wake Up" was just posted ten days ago.

Friday, April 06, 2018

POLL: Does anything scare Donald Trump more than a White House Correspondents' Dinner?

The White House just announced that Donald Trump is weaseling out of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner again this year. We all know that he's intellectually intimidated by the people in that room, but is there anything that scares him more? (This Twitter poll will be up for a week.)

Monday, March 05, 2018

This Week's @TrueBlueLiberal Poll Is About Trump's Tariff Tantrum and Its Motivation


Friday, February 23, 2018

POLL: Can the Wisdom of Crowds tell us which member of the #TrumpCrimeFamily is going to see the inside of a jail cell first?


Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Poll. Which psychiatric disorder is behind the President's compulsion to build the #GreatWallOfTrump?


Monday, January 01, 2018

The Easiest Possible New Year's Resolution: WWDTD?

WWDTD is, of course, a simple mnemonic for "What Would Donald Trump Do?"

My resolution for 2018 is to remember to ask myself this question, and do the opposite. On the simplest level, asking myself WWDTD will keep me from golfing; praising myself inordinately; whining for an apology every time I feel my name, appearance, or intelligence has been slighted; hanging out in meetings with crowds of sycophants in suits and ties; looking for questionable ways to cheat on my taxes or otherwise gain money for myself and my family through schemes and shortcuts; creating a fraudulent 'university'; making a profit by raising the cost of admission to my annual New Year's Eve party at my own club; belittling people of a race, gender, or nationality that differs from mine; attacking people who express their patriotism differently or worship a different god, or no god; etc.; etc.

But those are all the obvious negatives inspired by the WWDTD resolution strategy. There are positive steps I can take too, by proactively doing the opposite of what DT would do. Last night, for example, rather than hanging out with billionaires in monkey suits and being bored to death at Mar-a-Lago to celebrate New Year's Eve, I watched (at extremely high volume) all four hours of the Grateful Dead's New Year's Eve show at Winterland as 1978 became 1979 while reading the latest issue of The New York Review of Books and drinking ginger tea with turmeric. That's not something DT would do.

I woke up this morning and went directly to a New Year's Day yoga class. That's not something DT would do.

I'm working on turning my vegetarian diet into a vegan diet. That's not something DT would do.

I want to read even more books, and read more widely, than I did in 2017. I stumbled on a couple of things this morning that are geared toward that goal, the Los Angeles Times' "How to read more books in 2018" and the New York Public Library's "Read Harder in 2018! NYPL's Suggestions for Book Riot’s Annual Challenge." Personally, I have found that signing up with Goodreads and taking their Reading Challenge for the past few years has kept me reading more than 40 books a year. That's not something DT would do (I doubt if he has read 40 books in his life).

WWDTD should provide guidance throughout the year. I'm going for a long walk now even though it's 12°F outside. That's not something DT would do.