“Howl, howl, howl, howl!”

19 September 2010: Christine (Sarah, Monica, Sally) O’Donnell

Yes, Delaware Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell seems to be a Sarah Palin clone, but am I the only one who also sees a facial resemblance to Monica Lewinsky?  That is, until Christine opens her mouth, and then she sounds just like Sally Field gushing over her anatomically-incorrect Oscar back in 1980:  “You like me, you really like me!”

And where are they now?  Monica is peddling handbags on the internet, Sally is reversing her bone loss with Boniva, and Sarah will soon be replaced by all the Smegmama Grizzlies she seems to have spawned.

18 September 2010: How Unhappy Are You?

I was a relatively cheerful person until I read the results of the extensive survey of American men in the October issue of Esquire magazine.  Drawing the line between 20-year-olds and 50-year-olds among all ethnicities, in the happiness category, the group with the highest all-around unhappiness are Asian-American men who are 50 or older, 33% of whom consider themselves unhappy.  I don’t know if being recently retired has anything to do with it, but this is the first issue of Esquire in years which I’ve actually read cover-to-cover, joyfully, only to be told that I’m really an unhappy person.

5 September 2010: Leaving Iraq with God and Porno

Among the many images in the media of our troops returning home from Iraq, the two which stand out in my mind appear side by side in the current issue of Time magazine.  One shows a beefy soldier with the I-116th on bended knees, religiously packing a stack of his favorite reading matter, mostly girlie mags. And the other, right next to it, shows others with the same regiment, praying silently before their last convoy-escort mission to Baghdad.  This, for me, is truly evocative of America today—on the one hand, God; on the other hand, porno.  And now we can all wash our hands off Iraq.

22 August 2010: Flushing with J.D. Salinger

News that the standard white porcelain toilet from J.D. Salinger’s North Carolina home is selling for $1 million on eBay gives one pause (the kind that refreshes).  It’s a commodity unlike no other, because it’s where the famously reclusive author might have written the earlier drafts, which he subsequently rejected, of such disemboweling works as Raise High the Toilet Seat, Carpenters; Pee More: An Introduction; Fanny and Pooey; Catcher in the Loo; and, of course, “A Perfect Day for Bananaflush.”

17 August 2010: Incoming Class of Tabula Rasa

Beloit College’s Mindset List for the incoming Class of 2014 is both comic and tragic.  It makes me happy to learn that, born in 1992, “a quarter of the freshmen class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority unless it involves real aliens from another planet.”  But it makes me sad that, for most of them, “Beethoven has always been a dog,” and that “they first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.”  Teachers, take note.  The pitcher is empty.  Say that to the kids in class, and they’ll probably tell you where to go for the cheapest beer in town.

16 August 2010: Obama and Antigone

Kreon’s downfall in the play Antigone by Sophocles is that he chose to pursue the Letter of the Law instead of the Spirit of the Law.  Although “freedom of worship” is one of our most sacred constitutional rights as American citizens, Republicans are now vehemently against the building of a mosque within two blocks of Ground Zero in New York City; they claim it would celebrate the triumph of Muslim terrorists on 9/11.  So President Obama now finds himself between Iraq and a hard place.  The irony of all this, of course, is that in the play by Sophocles, Antigone was upholding a more ancient law.  She violated the king’s new edict when she chose to bury her dead brother according to the religious custom of her time.  With regard to the building of this mosque, I’m afraid that the Republicans are more like Kreon, in wanting to legislate new laws to suit their political and religious purposes; and Obama is the heroic but unfortunate Antigone, the one who upholds the Constitution of the United States.  I hope that what happens to Antigone does not happen to Obama, when the same hypocritical right-wing religious fanatics who argue against our “freedom of worship” begin to rally yet again for our “right to bear arms.”

1 August 2010: Mel Gibson and John Milton

As an undergraduate English major, I dropped out of a class on John Milton (1608-1674) when I couldn’t deal with the poet’s arrogant presumption in Paradise Lost to “justify the ways of God to man.”  And then, as a graduate student, I dropped out of a Milton seminar when I came across accounts of how the self-righteous polemicist went blind at the age of 46, and how he proceeded to maltreat the three daughters who were his amanuenses the last twenty years of his life. To this day, I remain ambivalent about having dropped out of those classes.

And now the media is full of news about Mel Gibson’s rancorous racist and sexist rants against his ex-girlfriend and mother of his youngest child.  I hate to confess this, but among my favorite movies are some of Gibson’s earliest work as an actor—Gallipoli (1981), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), and even the Mad Max series.  He started to lose me with the Lethal Weapon movies in the late 1980s, and by the time The Man Without a Face (1993) came along, I noticed that he wasn’t aging well.  Indeed, his face was undergoing a strange transformation.

And now the awful transformation is complete.  The latest photographs of Mel Gibson in the media are hard to look at. It’s hard to believe, but  this man, who was once so blessed with good looks, who might have been one of the good angels in Milton’s paradise, now looks like hell.  But, perhaps all is not lost.  For his next film project, Mel Gibson can now play the aging John Milton browbeating the women in his life.  The part seems tailor-made for him.  Let’s see him unleashing his lethal weapons yet again, as he seeks to “justify the ways of man to woman.”

Meanwhile, I don’t know whether to keep or throw away the Mel Gibson movies in my collection.

27 July 2010: To Russia, With Love

News leaking out of BP indicates that wayward CEO Tony Hayward is stepping down in October, and will be assigned to a key post at TNK-BP in Russia, where he will presumably oversee all offshore drilling for oil in that part of the world.  No one is saying it, but I have a deep suspicion that Hayward might be CIA’s new undercover agent to undermine the Russian economy and ruin its ecology.  While over there, he will, of course, hook up with defrocked Russian spy Anna Chapman, and they’ll ooze out their lives happily ever after.