Tag Archives: rant

Hoop-Snakes and Hand Grenades (I lied, there are no hand grenades, it’s just a post about Trump)


As the noose seems to be tightening around Trump’s neck, consider:

Trump rode his mastery of media to celebrity status to improve his brand. He was a master at giving people what they wanted on TV (namely, controversy and unpredictability), and he parlayed that into gold-star status for himself, notwithstanding what his actual bank assets may or may not have been (because he still hasn’t — and likely never will — release his tax returns, whee!).

Donald Trump used the media to become a household name.

Not content with that, he launched a presidential bid, because if some black man can do it, well, surely the Donald can stamp his name on the history books in tacky gold lamé. And the media had a field day. Ridiculous! Scandalous! Look at this deluded orange guy, thinking he can swoop in wearing a funny red hat and take over our democracy! They gobbled it up — it was ratings gold, this unpredictable, trollish, angry man who would do anything, say anything, grab anybody by the whatever, and still garner support on the way. They ate it up because we ate it up.

The media used Donald Trump to bolster their ratings.

But they went a step too far, didn’t they? All that coverage was really publicity, because even bad publicity is good publicity, innit? When all that matters in our world of likes and follows and shares and retweets is your name in somebody else’s mouth, the man everybody’s talking about is king. And Trump was, for better or — no, scratch that, decidedly for worse — the name on everybody’s tongue. (BRB scrubbing my tongue.) Everybody was talking about him, and love him or hate him, at least he was different, and since everybody hates the current governmental situation — I mean, congress, amirite?? — a hot handful of Americans were willing to bet the house on “shake things up.”

And now, things are decidedly shook.

Donald Trump used the media to become president.

Then the media panicked. Holy hell, it actually happened. This is terrible for the country — but good for the media. Now, they could legitimately cover the orange one ’round the clock. The man who made his name on being unpredictable and shameless and greedy certainly wasn’t going to stop doing those things just because he became the most powerful man in the world. (Power corrupts, but what happens when you’re already corrupt and then come to power? We are slowly finding out.) The media, therefore, has an endless supply of Trump’s twitter-turds to feast upon, ill-tempered sackings to pore over, thinly-veiled (in wisps of just-visible steam) threats to pontificate upon.

And again, the media is using Trump to bolster its ratings.

Now, Trump loves attention — it’s attention that made him the man he is, for better or — nope, there I go again, it’s DEFINITELY for worse. But what he doesn’t love is attention on every sneaky little thing he does. Dealings between his campaign and Russia? Don’t want you peeking into that. Using his old tweets and campaign promises to shoot down his executive orders? No, thank you. So what does he do? He turns on the media. Tries to discredit them. Fake news, fake news, fake news. Believe me, not them. He’s trying to convince us that he is more trustworthy, more honest, more believable than the institutions that he abused to get where he is.

He bit the hand that fed him.

It was a vicious cycle. The media hated Trump, but it also loved him, because he helped them in his bizarre orange way. They created their nemesis.

But now, as it becomes increasingly apparent that we’ve literally handed the keys to the nation’s supply of fighter jets and nuclear weapons to a man who is, you know, orange, and about as even-tempered as my two-year-old, we seem closer than ever to actually righting this wrong (and by “we” I mean literally any Republican in Washington who might spontaneously grow a spine). Because the more Trump flails around — don’t look into that, won’t be making a statement there, by the way, this guy is fired, also that guy is fired, and if he talks he’ll be super-fired — the guiltier he looks. Nobody bothers thinking you’re hiding something until you act like you have something to hide, and nobody acts like he’s hiding something like Trump. (Again — tax returns. I’m still stuck on that, which would have been relevant WAY before all this Russia stuff.)

If the media is good at anything, it’s good at hounding an issue to death. The media, properly motivated, is an old, droopy-eared bloodhound with jaws like a gator — it won’t stop chasing you and when it gets its teeth into you, you’ll never get them out again.

Donald Trump pissed off the media, and created his nemesis.

The media created Donald Trump, the president we all love to hate. And Trump created the crusading media, which won’t rest until they drag him down from the office they put him in.

It’s a symbiotic relationship forged in hell’s depths. An ouroboros that devours its own tail to reconstruct itself.

I’m beginning to think it’s possible — maybe just possible, the flicker of a candle fighting to stay alight in the heart of a tornado — that he may get impeached even while Republicans still control the house and the Senate. If for no other reason than because he’s only one man, and even with his army of toadies around him, he won’t escape the bloodhound. The media has decided (rightly so) that he has to go, and if this Russia / Comey thing doesn’t bury him, well, they’ll find something else.

But when it’s all said and done, what happens to the media? Like a dog that’s finally caught the mailman, what will they do with their time, when that time comes? Is it a good thing that the media is powerful enough to set its sights on and (hopefully) bring down a president?

Seriously, it’s hard to remember what news was like before this whole Trump debacle. Can we get back to that?

Please?

*Scurries off to watch reruns of The Newsroom*


Faking It


Here’s the funny thing about language: though we speak the same one, it’s so rare that we actually understand one another. We spend our days in constant contact with people who we very rarely get to choose: coworkers, supervisors. And nice though they may be, and well as you may work together, how often do you feel really in sync with them?

We muddle through our days making the best of our circumstances and putting on the niceties that society calls for. But for some of us – and here I’ll single myself out as one of those socially retarded individuals who never quite know what to say and who live in perpetual fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, and ends up as a result standing around looking at people long after a conversation has reached its natural terminus or awkwardly exiting early – those trifles are exhausting. Others, it seems, glide through the world as effortlessly as figure skaters, joking and laughing and shaking hands and hugging, but every time I’m in a social situation I stress out and lock up, hitting the ice less like a figure skater and more like a newborn goat.

I don’t do well with people, generally (well, outwardly I guess I do okay, but in my head is another story). I pretend it’s because I hate everything, and by extension, most people. But the truth is that it’s because I’m cripplingly shy and overwhelmingly insecure.

How did a guy like that end up teaching the next generation to be actors, to get up on stage in front of crowds of people? Easy. It’s an act. On stage, or in front of a classroom, or here on a webpage, I get to play a character who’s like me but who isn’t exactly me. I get to manufacture a guy who isn’t a social mess, who isn’t a walking train wreck when it comes to human interaction. Turns out I’m pretty good at faking it. But at the end of the day? I’m speaking a second language. That air of confidence and easy interaction is not my native tongue — it’s a hacked-together pastiche thinly layered over a perpetually vulnerable underbelly.

But I started this post today by thinking about the way we talk with people, and the way I manufacture speech with most of the people in my life, trying to say the “normal” things or the “right” things. And the reason I’m thinking about that is that recently I’ve had a few encounters where I haven’t had to manufacture anything.

There are a very few people on this planet that I don’t have to speak that second language with — with whom I can speak my native tongue and get along just fine, be understood just fine. I’m married to one of them; unfortunately, the others pretty much all live in different states, so interaction is limited. But when that interaction does come, it’s refreshing. Invigorating. I come away energized, recharged, like I’ve slept for a weekend after a long bout of insomnia.

But I guess that’s why you learn that second language.

Then again, I wonder. I can’t be the only one speaking it. There have to be other fakers out there. I wonder how many times I’ve been fooled the way (I think) I’ve fooled others?

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Pun Without A Cause


If a dad joke gets cracked on a deserted street at five in the morning, does anybody groan?

I’m out for a run this morning. Five AM. Hazy moon floating behind the clouds. Hint of fog hanging in the air. Not a soul in sight.

I round a curve coming around the back of a shopping center, and there, in the middle of the road, a Dark Thing.

Dark Things always give me pause on the morning run — there are coyotes in the area, neighborhood dogs escaped from their backyards. At a distance, in the morning blackness, the shadowy shape could be anything. Usually it turns out to be roadkill, or a sad discarded sweatshirt. Sometimes it’s a stray cat or, in springtime, a rabbit, which bolts for cover long before I get close.

But as I drew closer, this Dark Thing resolved itself first into the suggestion of a shopping cart — which I resolved to move from the middle of the road — and then, when it began to move on its own, into a deer. What’s important is not how I mistook a deer for a shopping cart. What’s important is what I said.

“Oh, dear.”

I couldn’t help it. It just bubbled up and popped out, like a tooth-rattling belch after 76 ounces of diet soda. I was literally helpless.

The dad joke.

How I hated them in my youth. My dad has a bottomless supply of them and would let fly at the slightest provocation:

What time is it? Time to get a watch.

I need to take a shower. Where would you take it?

I’m getting a haircut. Really? Which one?

But in my adulthood, I have assimilated them, Borg-like. They come out as naturally as breathing.

I cringe inwardly when I say them — but I can’t help saying them. Now that I have kids, the part of my brain that would ordinarily stop me from saying these embarrassing, obvious jokes has shut itself down and boarded up the windows like the last man out of a dying mining town.

Why does the dad joke persist? Nobody likes a dad joke, except, perhaps, for the dad saying it. The joke exists, rather, for the sole purpose of irritation. The dad joke’s payoff is not in a delighted shock of laughter, but rather, in the rolling of the eyes, the put-upon sigh, the pained groan, or, best of all, the reflexive facepalm.

And here I am, all alone on the street at five in the morning, saying “oh dear” at the sight of a deer, as if to elicit such a response from the trees. And in the silence that followed? When I realized what I had just done — cracked a dad joke to nobody, apparently for the pure joy of it, for the sake of the joke itself like a truth that MUST be told, the future-seer shouting in the streets about impending calamity even as he knows nobody believes him — when it dawned on me that I have become this thing? That dad jokes are now a part of me?

The groan came after all.

It came from me.

Let the circle be unbroken.


Stupid House-Selling Stories: STAIRS


We have tons of strangers passing through our house lately. This leads to a strange sense of discomfort and ickiness in general. You come home to find a cabinet left open, or a light left on, or the cat flap locked. And you know that you dealt with those things before you left the house. (Seriously? Who locks the cat flap in a stranger’s house? Who even touches the cat flap? Who has any interaction with a cat flap beyond “oh, look, a cat flap”? But no, somebody bent down, poked at it, and locked it — on both sides, mind you??) Humans have a lot of built-in reality-denying responses (just talk to a Trump supporter), but that stuff is pretty hard to ignore — it reminds you that strangers have been in your home. Poking through your closets. Judging your choices in interior painting. Complaining about your floor plan.

Or, in our most recent encounter, whining about the stairs.

Realtors trade feedback all the time; it’s to their benefit to know what potential buyers think about a house so they can address that concern for future viewers, and it’s therefore also to their benefit to engage in a symbiosis to other realtors. You help me sell this one, I’ll help you sell that one. Makes natural enough sense — you become a positively contributing part of the ecosystem or you get left alone to fend for yourself.

And then we have the following exchange, via text message, which, in a fit of flabbergasteredness, our realtor relayed to my wife:

Our realtor: How did the showing go?

Other realtor: too many stairs

Our realtor: (after thirty minutes of uncomfortably waiting for any follow-ups) Okay, great! Thanks!

That’s it. No exchange of pleasantries. No constructive commentary or disclaimers. Not even a godforsaken capital letter or period.

Too many stairs.

Too many stairs.

My head is a pinball machine of dumbfounded responses. I can’t focus on one thought about this exchange before some other part of my brain lights up with an entirely new concern.

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Actual image of our staircase, as evidently envisioned by the most recent visitor to our home.

Too many stairs.

Our house is occupied. Which means you can’t just “drop in” with your realtor on a fly-by. Which means you need an appointment. You know, so that we can wrangle our two kids and our dumb dog and shoo at least some of the cats outside and spritz some air freshener about so that the house looks livable when you get to it. Which, further, means you had to look over the house on the internet, think to yourself, “yeah, that’s worth our time,” and confirm with your agent, who then confirmed with our agent, who then confirmed with us. All of which means, you had a general idea what you were getting before you set foot in the door. Okay? You didn’t know the state of the bathroom fixtures, for example, but you damn sure knew the house had a second floor, which — unless you’re living in caca-cuckoo land, means it bloody well has stairs.

Too many stairs.

You would have, perhaps, preferred less? I don’t know a whole lot about building codes or suburban planning, but I’m pretty sure stairs in houses are pretty universal when it comes to their rise over run. But, what? instead of the fourteen or so stairs up to the 2nd floor, you’d have preferred four HUGE blocks that you have to climb up like a toddler? Or perhaps, instead, an intricate series of ramps you could hike up in the evening at bedtime and slalom down to catch your morning coffee?

Too many stairs.

That’s literally all she said. I didn’t edit out the rest of the conversation. That was the beginning and the end of the interaction. Nothing about the weird floor plan. Nothing about the ivy-infested backyard. Nothing about the tacky paint jobs in our rooms obviously painted for young children which wouldn’t suit your needs even though you could easily re-paint. Literally not a word, positive or negative, about anything else in or around the house? Evidently they made it through the yard, opened the front door, walked into the foyer, ran smack into the staircase, said “NOPE” and walked right back out.

I mean, I guess if stairs are a sticking point, then once you see the stairs, all bets are off. But that brings me back around (like a tail-chasing dog) to the first thought: why are you looking at this house in the first place? If stairs are the deal-breaker, how did you make it past the listing? Then the pictures (which clearly show the staircase — FROM A MULTITUDE OF ANGLES)? Then the appointment? How did you not pull up to the curb, see that WELL IT’S TWO STORIES SO THERE MUST BE STAIRS, NEVER MIND, and drive back into your somehow stair-free existence?

Too many stairs.

Maybe I’m mischaracterizing the whole thing. Ours isn’t a simple straight-up staircase, it’s got a landing and doubles back on itself, which could conceivably present people with certain disabilities with legitimate problems. I’m sensitive to that. But there I go again — how did they make it to walking in the front door before they figured it out?

Or maybe there’s more to it. Maybe the client loved the house, loved the neighborhood, but just wasn’t wild about the stairs. A weird sticking point, but okay. In that case, the agent made the call to mention only the stairs. Well, that’s a big ol’ cup full of wtf. How about that symbiotic relationship I mentioned up above? A little goodwill, a little quid pro quo, a little bit of genuine help. Tell us, tell our realtor, something that we can use. Something actionable. Something that adds to the conversation. “We liked all the nice, open rooms, but we’re not so sure about the tile in the bathroom.” “We love the kitchen, but the pile of human skulls in the crawl space gave us pause.” You know, we can do something about the house in that case, or we can at least know what to warn people about. I can grind up the skulls. Not a big deal.

Too many stairs.

Seriously?


A Day of Shoeburyness and Lawn-Care Mutterings


If you have ever wanted to cut off your own piece of the bleeding edge of American literary greatness, this is your chance.

My house is for sale. The culmination of what feels like (and, by now, I guess actually is) months of cleaning and fixing and tearing down walls and repairing pipes and hauling off trash and more than once considering simply setting fire to the whole thing. But of course, the work isn’t over. Now that we have it clean and “show ready”, we have to keep it that way, which has us doing all sorts of things we would never do ordinarily, though my wife insists that normal people do these things all the time.

Taking the trash out once a day. Keeping the sink clear of dishes. Vacuuming the floors every day. Keeping laundry out of the floor. Mowing the yard at 8pm on a Friday because it’s literally the only chance we’ll have to do it.

Madness. My wife, somehow, has a reservoir of patience and sense for this sort of thing. I do not. While circling my yard with the mower last night, thoughts of murder circled in my head like swarming crows. What the hell am I doing out here? It’s getting dark, for crissakes. Primeval man survived for tens of thousands of years without mowing the damned grass. It’s all gonna grow back when global warming wipes us all out, and the kudzu will consume the country. Why fight it?

lawn-mower-938555_1280

I may have mentioned, here or there, that yard work is a dirty word with me. I’m not exaggerating. My mind goes to some dark places when I’m holding garden tools.

But it has to be done to keep the house show-ready, so mow I did. Just part of the deal of trying to sell the place.

Also part of selling the place? A sensation that I don’t have a word for: The vaguely disconcerting , slightly unsettling feeling of knowing there have been total strangers tromping through your house, peeking in your closets, judging your choices in counter-toppery.

Douglas Adams once wrote a book full of words like this, and I’m sorry to say that I have not yet read this book — The Meaning of Liff. But from the liner notes and offhanded comments found in The Salmon of Doubt, I know that within that text is a word that comes close: Shoeburyness, the uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat that is still warm from somebody else’s bottom.

This is stronger than that, but less extreme than the real discomfort and terror that, for example, my sister-in-law is experiencing, having been the recent victim of a break-in that did not apparently result in any theft — somebody just broke in and skulked around.

It’s somewhere in between those two extremes. Odd. Definitely not pleasant. But not actually disruptive or traumatic in any way.

Again: nothing to be done about it. Just part of the process. And, hopefully, the beginning of the end of the all-consuming task that selling our house has become. I don’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I can’t see the light from where we entered either at this point. There’s a comfort in that — in seeing how far we’ve come — even though this mushy middle part is bleak.

At least I’m writing again. Words on the page. The concrete evidence of progress.

The light at the end of the tunnel has to be up there, somewhere.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


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