Trump the Demented

“It seems like if you leave a dementia test bragging about all the extra points you got on your dementia test, you have dementia.”

Jessi Klein

Person, Man, Woman, Camera, TV has been making viral rounds this week. I couldn’t bring myself to care long enough to even figure out what that Orange Hate-Monkey bullshit was about. I did try though. I got two minutes into,

The Late Show with Stephen ColbertTrump Proves His Cognitive Abilities With Five Magical Words: Person, Woman, Man, Camera, TV – Jul 23, 2020

…and just gave up. Too much OHM lip-flapping, not enough humor. Today (Sat. July 25, 2020) with hints from,

‘Wait Wait’ For July 25, 2020, With Not My Job Guest Padma Lakshmi

I was able to deduce that the OHM is still bragging about how well he did on the dementia test they gave him, two weeks after the bomb dropped that they had tested him for dementia but didn’t bother to tell the American people about it for two years.

Facebook

Fresh Air – Mary Trump, The President’s Niece – July 23, 2020

Suggested reading:

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump Ph.D.

I listened to the entire book last week. It was an interesting listen if only marginally about Donald Trump himself. It was more about the monster that was Fred Trump, and how that monster drove his eldest son into the grave while twisting the minds of the rest of his children. Creating the fascist demagogue that we know as Caudito Trump, the Orange Hate-Monkey in the process. Donald Trump is exactly who his father made him to be. Ruthless. Vindictive. But he is also what he was when he was sent to military school. Slovenly. Empty-headed. Narcissistic.

Mary Trump would say (and did say in the book) that her Uncle was unfit for the office of president. As a doctor with first-hand experience with him, she should know.

Mencken: the American Iconoclast by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers

Donald Trump talked to journalist Jonathan Swan. The interview aired on HBO last night. I've transcribed the middle…

Posted by Jim Wright on Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Facebook – Stonekettle

Let There Be Light

He fled the light and the knowledge the light implied, and so came back to himself. Even so do the rest of us; even so the best of us.

Stephen King, The Gunslinger

I went on and read/listened to volume two of the Dark Tower saga, the Drawing of the Three. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the second volume, and I can’t recall a significant moment of the film purportedly based on the first book, which means I’ll have to go back and watch that movie again (Look for this to be updated then) in the meantime Stephen King’s afterword in the second volume, citing how this work was such a departure from his normal writing endeavors, made me pick up and start reading/listening to the Shining.

The one thing I noticed about the second volume of the Dark Tower saga that stuck (other than did-a-chick) was the references to the movie interpretation of the Shining that Stanley Kubrick graced the screens with back in 1980. Very little of what you saw on screen in that movie was even in the novel that Stephen King penned. No elevator full of blood, no encounters with the dead twin girls, no hunt through the hedge maze, no “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” repeated ad nauseum as a demonstration of the father’s madness. King’s tangential reference to that movie, as well as other movies of the time, leaves you thinking that King wasn’t very impressed with Kubrick’s vision of what the Shining was about.

It’s hard to translate the written word to the screen, even when what is written is written specifically to be filmed. Stephen King’s books are a lot like other novels that are worth reading. The language on the page draws images in your head, and those images will never be the exact same images that any other person has. The script writer/director/actor all have to agree on what the image on the screen should be, and they are all hampered in their ability to get their interpretation of the words onto the screen by the limitations of the technology that exists at that moment to realize the images.

When a book relies on the internal horror of the individual’s mind to advance the plot, every attempt to turn that into a movie is doomed to failure. It is doomed to failure because every single reader will come in expecting to see their mental pictures on the screen, and they aren’t going to see them there.

I take great pains to reserve judgement on a movie based on books that I’ve read. I try to set aside what I know about any given character that I’m watching on screen. Set aside what I know that isn’t in the movie I’m watching. This helped me get through all the Marvel movies based on characters that I’ve followed since childhood. Helped me watch the Harry Potter movies without demanding that this or that scene from the book just had to be in the movie.

There will be enough time to reflect on the whole achievement of the movie after the credits roll. Time to reflect, unless the movie lacks the hooks to make it relevant to your experiences outside the movie theater. That movie is soon forgotten. Does that make the movie a bad movie? Only a second viewing will answer that question.

Working in Pajamas

Me? I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anybody would read the blather on the screen. But my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year when I was about 8 or 9. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

Stonekettle

Crake Coronavirus?

When I listened to this story on Shortwave,

Short Wave – China’s Coronavirus Is Spreading. But How? – January 24, 20204

I was suddenly struck with a question. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought it. Could this be a Crake event? You know, Crake of the novel Oryx and Crake, the creator of the Crakers? You haven’t read that book? You better.

However, it looks like the virus came from a snake. So, whew! Not the engineered end of human civilization. This time.


February 1, 2020. People are still freaking out about this virus. It is even possible that they are more panicked about it now than they were a week ago when I wrote this.

Calm down people. Like the talking head said on the Inside Europe podcast for this week, the death rate of the disease is probably closer to that of influenza (ten times the death rate of influenza, but still, not end-of-civilization serious unless we let it be the end of our civilization. That would be pretty stupid if we did that. Right up there with blowing ourselves up with nuclear weapons. Which we still might do. -ed.) than it is to some kind of new killer bug that will wipe out human civilization. So, you know. I’d worry more about catching the flu, myself. Get your flu shots, for crying out loud.

RAnt(hony)-ings

Galadriel

The most underrated of all the characters in Tolkien’s created universe.

Galadriel was born into the glory of the Two Trees, in Valinor. she was born when the Noldor were at the height of their power and knowledge, sitting at the feet of the Valar. She was descended from both the Noldor and the Vanyar through the blood of her grandmother Indris. She was also descended from the Telari through her mother, the daughter of Olwe, high king of the Telari.

The Vanyar elves were the favored of the Valar, who sang Arda into existence at the direction of Eru Iluvatar, the creator of all things. The Vanyar responded first to the summoning of the huntsman Orome. Orome, alone of the Valar to seek combat with the creatures of Melkor in the dark times. Orome, who brought a message from the Valar who hoped to shield the firstborn of Eru Iluvatar from the perils of the world that Melkor had secretly seeded into his song of Arda.

The world lived in darkness when the firstborn came into being. Melkor had destroyed the works that the other Valar had sang into the world as part of their songs, including the towers of light used by the Valar to illuminate their work. All the works that Melkor could not destroy, he perverted.

The only light in Arda when the firstborn awoke came from the stars that Varda set alight before time began. Varda understood Melkor’s intentions before all the other Valar, and contrived to put her creations beyond his reach so that the world would not live in complete darkness after he destroyed the sources of light that were within his reach. Melkor hated the light, and especially hated the stars of Varda that spied down upon him.

Varda alone provided revelation to the elves in their time of birth. This is why all elves revere her, even the dark elves, the Sindar, who never set foot on Valinor where Varda dwells, or saw the light of the two trees. The light that lives on in the Eldar and can be seen by the keen-eyed and those that are near to death. This is what separates the Sindar from the Eldar, the living light of the two trees that resides in the bodies of the Eldar.

The Noldor followed the Vanyar to Valinor. The Noldor were the most powerful of all of the elves, and spent their eons of time in Valinor learning all that the Valar would teach them of the making of things. After the Noldor followed the hosts of the Telari elves. The Telari loved the night and the stars and did not want to go to Valinor, even though they would be safe from the creatures of Melkor there. They stopped short of entering Valinor and lived on the edge of the light, on an island in the great outer sea of Arda.

King Olwe’s daughter Eärwen was the mother of Galadriel. Her father was Finarfin, son of Finwe, high king of the Noldor. She carried the blood of all three of the tribes of the Eldar, and was born in the presence of the Two Trees, whose living light was captured by Feanor in his greatest creation, the Silmarils. This was in the first age. This was the beginning that Galadriel knew.

When Melkor became Morgoth, stealing the Silmarils, killing Finwe and escaping from the other Valar, renouncing kinship with those who kept him captive in Valinor, the stage was set for the tragedy that was told in the Silmarillion. The Noldor left Valinor in pursuit of Morgoth, even though they knew that they had no hope of defeating him, whose power was equal to that of the Valar in the beginning. But they refused to sit idle at the feet of the creators of the world, who appeared to do nothing to right the wrongs that Morgoth enacted upon their creations.

What the Noldor did not understand was that the song had been sung already. The Valar could do only what they had woven into the song of the world before time began. They had agreed to be constrained by the limits of time when they entered into the world of Arda and made it what it was. But they were not powerless, as they soon demonstrated.

It was then that the sun and the moon were created and set in the sky, and Galadriel was there on the beach in Beleriand to witness the first dawning of the moon and then the sun, along with the rest of the Noldor that had pursued Morgoth. She stayed with her brother, Finrod Felagund, as he established one of the longest lasting and largest kingdoms that vied with Morgoth for control of Beleriand. But her desires led her away from the Noldor and their hopeless pursuit of vengeance. She stayed for a time with her Sindarin kin in the realm of King Thingol. But staying safely hidden from the threats of Morgoth’s creatures was what chafed on her in Valinor. So she left Menegroth and passed beyond the girdle of Melian in search of places that were not safe. Challenges that were not hopeless.

At the Telerin port of Alqualondë before the betrayal and the leaving of Valinor, Galadriel met Celeborn, who would become her husband. Her companion and fellow traveller through the ages of Middle Earth. Together they passed beyond the Ered Luin, and so were not present when Finrod fell into darkness. Did not die in the sacking of Nargothrond or Menegroth. Could not be drowned with the rest of the inhabitants of Beleriand when it was destroyed at the ending of the first age. Destroyed in the War of Wrath that saw Morgoth defeated by the Valar and thrust, bound, into the outer darkness.

She and Celeborn lived on through the long millenia of the Second age. She gave birth to a daughter who became the wife of Elrond half-elven, who in turn gave birth to Arwen Undomiel. They witnessed the pinnacle of Noldorian achievements in the harnessing of power within the great rings by Celebrimbor, a grandson of Feanor. Celebrimbor who was betrayed by Sauron when he created the One Ring to rule over all the others, and thereby gain control of Elves, Dwarves and Men. A feat that was denied to his former master, Morgoth. Sauron,who we met first as a mere lackey in service to Morgoth, beaten in battle by the hound Huan who, with Luthien Tinuviel, rescued Beren from Sauron’s dungeons.

Sauron who had been defeated by a dog of the first age, was in turn defeated by the Numenoreans when they came against him in their quests for empire in the latter part of the second age. Galadriel witnessed all of this from her kingdom in Lorien.

Likewise she witnessed the beginning of the third age, when the world was changed, curved, so that Valinor would always be beyond the reach of mere mortals. Changed when the king of Numenor, the descendants of Elrond’s half-elven brother, grew so bold that they challenged the Valar for dominance of Valinor. Sauron had bided his time, worked his magics, had been made a counselor of the king of Numenor. Had put the idea of invading Valinor into the head of the king, hoping to be rid of the Numenoreans so that he could continue his own personal conquest of Middle Earth.

…Only to be caught up in the change that Eru Iluvatar inflicted on the world, his physical form destroyed in the drowning of Numenor. Forced to flee back to Mordor as a mist, where he had to lay quietly reconstructing himself before he could take up the one ring once again. This too, Galadriel saw.

She saw it, because she was the keeper of one of the three Elven rings.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

The Lord of the Rings

..and so she knew when Sauron had returned. As did the holders of all of the other rings of power. They waged war on Sauron when it was known that he had survived the destruction of Numenor, many thousands of bright elves slain in the course of war. Galadriel witnessed all of this. The fall of Gil-Galad. The betrayal of Isildur. The loss of the one ring to time.

She knew it would re-emerge one day. That story is told in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and I won’t duplicate it here. I’m telling this story simply to say that when Frodo sees Arwen glow with the light of the Two Trees in Fellowship of the Ring, I knew immediately that Peter Jackson really didn’t understand the story he was telling. When I watched The Two Towers, I knew that Peter Jackson was no J.R.R. Tolkien. But that is also another tale for another day. I will say only this. Arwen is Galadriel’s granddaughter, Mr. Jackson. A mere wisp of a girl compared to her. She does not glow the way that Galadriel glows, having been in the presence of the two trees. Galadriel who knew true power, in the form of Melkor and the Valar. You should have paid more attention to the lore, sir.

…And I also tell this story to observe that of course Galadriel left Middle Earth after the destruction of the one ring and the banishment of Sauron, the retiring of the last of the Ainur back to Valinor. The Ainur being present in Middle Earth in the form of the great wizards. She left because there was no real power left in Middle Earth now that wasn’t transitory. Mortal. Impermanent. The immortal that is surrounded by the mortal can either retire into obscurity, or rise to power at the expense of mortal men. We saw what she thought of that kind of power.

Galadriel, the Great and Terrible.

The Wife said, on reading this “So you finally got to finish that argument, ten years later.” Yes. Yes I have. That’s what happens when you become a writer.

A Major Improvement

The Children of Hurin (2007)

I picked up The Silmarillion after reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings on a suggestion from a fellow reader that I was sweet on during my senior year in high school. The other works of J.R.R. Tolkien that I read had been a wonder to experience, but I wanted desperately to know more of the Elves, and to dig into the rich history of Middle Earth that was hinted at in them. The Silmarillion satisfied that curiosity, but left me wondering what the notes that Christopher Tolkien had used to create the compilation that was The Silmarillion had looked like before he had tried to arrange them into a cohesive narrative after his father’s death in 1973. I can only imagine the size of that herculean task, given the scattering of notes that every writer generates over the course of their lifetime.

Many people have complained over the years about the heavy slog that The Silmarillion was for them to read. That was not my experience of the book, but I could tell that The Silmarillion was not the direct works of J.R.R. Tolkien, or rather that the work it represented was not as refined as his later published works had been. I don’t place blame on Christopher Tolkien for this lack of refinement. He had nothing but notes to work from, a loose framework of tales written over several decades, as J.R.R. Tolkien pursued his passion for telling fantastic tales of Elves, Dwarves and Men. Tales that publishers of the time refused to publish for fear that the works simply would not sell.

I wonder what would have happened to his best-loved works, had his earlier passions not be frustrated by recalcitrant publishers? Would we even have the stories of Hobbits, the creation of Hobbiton as a location in Middle Earth, if Tolkien had been satisfied to see his earlier labors rewarded? We’ll never know.

I have wanted to get my hands on the twelve volume set of The History of Middle Earth, what was promised to be the definitive collection of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, published serially from the years 1983 to 1996, since I first heard rumor of its existence. I was desperately trying to stay in the business of architecture by that time, trying to raise two children to boot, and I had little time for reading for fun during those years. But I kept my eye out on the rare occasion that I made it into libraries and bookstores, hoping that I might run across them so that I could at least touch them on a shelf somewhere. I never have had the chance to find all twelve of them at a bargain price, and when I looked on Amazon.com today there are several sets of books listed that promise to be the definitive collection of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, some of them even calling themselves The History of Middle Earth, but aren’t the originally published twelve separate books. All of them requiring more cash than I’m willing to spend just to set them on a shelf in my library.

The back and forth eye motion of reading text on a printed page has gotten difficult, sometimes even producing minor bouts of vertigo when I have tried to push myself to read for any lengthy amount of time. I doubt that I could ever bring myself to go through all twelve volumes of the set all on my own, if I had to read them directly. The last few times I tried reading anything on the printed page I became fatigued so quickly that I had to resort to buying the works on audiobook just to be able to finish them.

When The Wife and I ran across the Children of Hurin on Audible recently, read by Christopher Lee, we both agreed that we needed to get it. She loves Christopher Lee having grown up watching him play Dracula in all the old Hammer films. His narration of Children of Hurin was beautiful to listen to. I couldn’t have asked for a better voice to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s words to life. The story itself is a major improvement on the rough draft of the story that is preserved in The Silmarillion. There is more depth to the work in this form, the story of Turin Turambar and his sister made all the more tragic by the voice of Christopher Lee. It is a credit to both of the authors who have worked on these stories over the course of their lives that this version flows so well from beginning to end. I can’t recommend it highly enough to any Tolkien fan.

TÚRIN TURAMBAR DAGNIR GLAURUNGA

Dissemble

to hide under a false appearance

Merriam-Webster

I went looking for this word the other day. I was trying to express the desire to voice complete agreement when what I really felt was agreement with some minor variant of what was being said. A purist might call that a lie, as the Merriam-Webster article I found the word defined in does. But saying lie means dissemble is to erase the subtlety of the word.

Well, I’ll put it on, and I will dissemble myself in’t; and I would I were the first that ever dissembled in such a gown.

Twelfth Night

To dissemble is to disguise. You dissemble every time you say I’m fine when asked the perfunctory “how are you?” that passes for greetings everywhere in the English speaking world. You don’t take the time to express every ache and pain that a truthful response to the query would require. The questioner doesn’t want that and would consider that kind of oversharing to be rude.

So you dissemble. Is that lying? Only if everything is black and white.

I said dissimilate first. But I knew that wasn’t right. So I looked it up. The definition seemed so close to what I heard when I heard dissemble in my head. If you had been assimilated then you could dissimilate and not be a part of that group any more. If you dissembled your previous assimilation, pretending you never had to dissimilate, you might be concealing something, but would anyone ever know? Having never known, would it make any difference? I could say I don’t care, but that would be dissembling, and I wouldn’t want to fib.

Bridge

From everything that man erects and builds in his urge for living nothing is in my eyes better and more valuable than bridges. They are more important than houses, more sacred than shrines. Belonging to everyone and being equal to everyone, useful, always built with a sense, on the spot where most human needs are crossing, they are more durable than other buildings and they do not serve for anything secret or bad.

Ivo Andrić, Nobel prize winner for literature
John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge – Wikipedia

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge – Roebling’s more famous suspension bridge. I found it a gripping read, much like another work by David McCullough, The Wright Brothers.

The Impossible Dream

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

The Impossible Dream, Man of La Mancha
The Impossible Dream – Man of La Mancha

We performed this song at the Leoti grade school I attended back in the late sixties. We did quite a few songs from Man of La Mancha that year. Some Spring or Fall festival that we as a school choir practiced endlessly for. I can still remember that gymnasium and the asbestos filled rubber flooring of the hallways. They were a mottled pink, as I recall.

I will never cease to be inspired by this song. I don’t think that Miguel de Cervantes would appreciate what the playwrights and composers did with his novel or characters. Or maybe he would. It would be interesting to be able to ask him what he thinks about the play. He’d probably don a shaving basin and tilt at windmills himself. Trying to change popular belief is like that.

Moneyland

Ordinary people wouldn’t want to live there. Because if you went there, there is no social life, there’s no… there’s no nothing. These… it’s almost dead environments. So what this is, it has turned parts of our major cities, places like London and New York, it’s turned them now into essentially bank accounts. Bank accounts in the form of bricks and mortar.

Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland
Fresh Air – How Oligarchs, Kleptocrats & Crooks Stash Fortunes – May 1, 2019

Trump properties have over 700 units that are held by untraceable shell companies. Tell me again how he isn’t a crook. Caveat Emptor.