THE NEW TWILIGHT ZONE – Rich Paschall

Episode 1: The Campaign, by Arod Serling*

Opening scene:  Rural state rally, small town folks and area farmers in attendance.  A candidate for office is at the podium.  To the left of the stage are two of his aides.

Candidate: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell—I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”

Cut to Narrator standing at undetermined location, presumably at the rally.

Narrator

Narrator: The man at the podium has recently announced that he is running for the highest office in the land.  The tall gentleman to the left of the stage is Michael who is attempting to control his candidate, a reality TV star.  Next to Michael is a young intern named Billy.  He wants to get some experience in political campaigns.  They all think they will be heading to the nation’s capital when in fact, they are about to enter “The Twilight Zone.”

Fade to opening credits, theme music. The scene will resume at the same rally.

Candidate (speaking on his own popularity): “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Billy (to Michael): Did he just say he could get away with murder?

Michael: All politicians are getting away with murder in one way or another.

Candidate (speaking about opponents): “How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Billy: I am unclear. What is he saying?  The people of Iowa are stupid or the other candidates are speaking crap? (Pause) Both?

Michael:  If you are unclear, so is everyone else.  Don’t worry about it.  We can spin it whatever way we want.

Candidate (speaking on ISIS):  “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”

Billy: What could he know about ISIS that the generals don’t know?

Michael:  Look, you ask too many questions.  Just watch and learn.  It’s all a television show and he’s the star. (pointing to the candidate on stage).

The candidate

The candidate is giving the cheering crowd two thumbs up.  Fade out for a commercial break. “The new Twilight Zone is brought to you by Preparation A, for those nasty flare-ups”

Episode resumes with quick shots of various rallies around the country.

Billy (to Michael in South Carolina):  Did he just give out the real phone number of the opponent?

Michael (laughing):  Yeah, that should generate some press.

Candidate (to crowd trying to eject protester in Missouri): “Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.”

Billy: More violence?

Michael: Whatever works!

Candidate (at another rally): “Do I look a president? How handsome am I, right? How handsome?” (Looking smugly at the crowd) “I feel like a supermodel except, like, times 10, OK? It’s true. I’m a supermodel.”

Cut to Billy shaking his head and Michael laughing.

Candidate (in New Hampshire): “That could be a Mexican plane up there. They’re getting ready to attack.”

Billy: That can’t possibly be a Mexican plane and they certainly are not going to attack.

Michael:  The crowd doesn’t know that.  You can say anything, no matter how outrageous, as long as you are willing to stick with your story.

Quick cuts to various rallies.  The candidate is always looking smug and/or giving a thumbs up to the crowd.  The crowds always seem to love whatever he has to say.

Scene: Hotel room at debate site.  Michael and Billy our waiting anxiously for the event to begin.

Michael and Billy

Billy: I don’t have a good feeling about this.  I mean he would not even practice for the debate.  How can we get the message across if he is not prepared on the topics?

Michael:  Don’t worry, if he doesn’t have an answer, he will just change the subject and throw some dirt on an opponent.

Billy:  But some of those things he says are not true.  That will not work in a debate.

Michael:  Of course it will work.  These are not real debates, they are reality TV shows and we have the star.  Just watch.

Cut to the television studio where the debate is underway.

Candidate (replying to a Senator in the debate): “I never attacked him on his looks and believe me, there’s a lot of subject matter there.”

Cut Back at hotel room.

Michael:  See Billy, he did not have to actually answer the Senator.  And take a look at the Senator’s face.  This is hilarious.

Cut to television studio.

Candidate (referring to female primary opponent): “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”

Hotel room:


Billy:  Do you think insulting a woman like that is good?  I mean, even if it is an opponent, people might get upset.

Michael:  His fan base will eat this up and who cares what the others think. We are well on our way to success.  A few more debates like this, a few more rallies and he will have the nomination.  From there it is just a few easy steps to victory.  I don’t think there is anyway we can screw this up now.  The fans love us, we are getting a lot of press and the ratings are good.  Best show in town!

Billy looks lost in thought for a moment.  Then finally speaks.

Billy:  I think I should leave the campaign now.  It is not really what I expected.

“You can not leave the campaign now. You know too much…”

Michael (angry): You can not leave the campaign now.  You know too much, and nobody likes it when someone can give away the magician’s tricks.  Our candidate has a way of getting even with people who cross him.  You are in this until the end. I wouldn’t bring this up again if I were you.

Camera settles on Billy’s astonished face as the Narrator speaks over this shot.

Narrator: Billy wanted to learn politics and make his way to the nation’s capital.  Instead, he found a permanent address in The Twilight Zone.

Fade Out.

*Arod Serling is also the Narrator and Executive Producer of this program.

Candidates quotes courtesy of: “The 155 Craziest Things Trump Said This Election,” Politico Magazine, November 05, 2016.

GOOD AND EVIL – Marilyn Armstrong

I can’t read “Lord of the Rings” these days without thinking about Stephen Colbert and his obsessive passion for these books. They are great books and eventually became rather amazing movies, but still and all … he knows things about these books I’m sure J.R.R. Tolkien forgot.

Nonetheless, in this time of stress and strife, I’m rereading the series for the umpteenth time. I’ve gotten all the way to the third and final volume of  “The Lord of the Rings.”

The book is entirely about good and evil. The great evil that is Sauron. The somewhat lesser evil of his cohorts. The striving evil of Saruman, and the fear of everyone in the battle that they can find the right way and stay woven in the fabric of good.

When evil is everywhere, goodness can get a little complicated.

I bumped into this quote last night. I was tucked in for the night and I hoped I would remember it in the morning. I didn’t exactly recall it, but luckily for me “Lord of the Rings” is such a well-quoted book, I found it quickly on ye olde Internet.


Eomer said, ‘How is a man to judge what to do in such times?’ As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.


In the great fabric of life of which we are merely threads, good and evil are also a part of us. We are born with a genetic understanding of both. It is in our DNA. When we see evil and allow ourselves to become part of it — when we live in evil times, excuse and forgive evil — we become part of it.

A bad man and his bad adherents don’t have “a good side.” Lying about it changes nothing except maybe us.


When you read this book, you will sooner or later end up talking like this. You can’t help it. If you are really into it, you might just do it in Elvish or worse, Orcish.

And in the darkness bind them …

FEAR OF SLEEPING, FEAR OF DREAMS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Fear

I thought maybe that buying a new mattress would help at least by lowering the level of a backache which wakes me up every couple of hours. A

Yesterday, we got the new mattress. It’s a honey. Soft enough, yet with an underlying firmness that probably means it will be with us for a while. It’s got a lot of soft top layers that will soften further and in a few months, it will be as comfortable as a mattress ever gets.

Sometimes during the middle of the night, with my left hip throbbing (I’m a left side sleeper and no matter how hard I try, I can’t convince myself there’s any other way to be comfortable) from the pressure on the sciatic nerves, I reconfigured the bed so I would pretty much have to sleep on my back, like it or not. That’s the advantage of an adjustable bed. You can make it the perfect place to watch TV or read or chat or any other thing you and your mate — or cat or dog or kids or everybody in one great heap — can do whatever. Or, in my case, sleep on my back which is the only way I can sleep that will get me out of bed able to stand up and limp.

I finally realized my back is too far gone. No mattress is going to solve the problem. The damage is severe, permanent, not repairable. There are no drugs to make the pain go away and no exercise will do more than ease it temporarily.

Moving around helps more than anything else — so part of the problem of going to bed for me is staying in a single position makes my back hurt worst. There have been many evenings when I’ve wondered if it’s worth going to bed.

I’ve developed a serious fear about going to bed.

Then, there are nightmares. These are dreamscapes of reality. Since November 2016, I have almost continuous and nearly real nightmares. These are utterly different than my old nightmares which were typically about stress at work — or my father.

These new anxiety dreams are about The World. It is falling to pieces. I travel someplace beautiful only to realize it is crumbling as I watch. Tall buildings fall. Cliffs collapse. The river turns an ugly glowing green. Fish float to the surface. Trees fall over.

I have political dreams. The most terrifying creature in my dreams used to be my father or some dreadful boss at work. Now? It’s you-know-who and his band of sickos. That DJT is a narcissistic sociopath we already know — but who are those people who (apparently) eagerly serve him?

What are they? Are they even human?

I’m ready to travel into the past, outer space, or some imaginary parallel universe. This one isn’t working for me.

FOWC – MEAN! – Marilyn Armstrong

#FOWC – MEAN!

To paraphrase my friend Tom,  “You don’t need a prick to be a dick, but it doesn’t hurt none, either.”

Have you watched “It’s a Wonderful Life“? With Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore? Lionel Barrymore was the meanest man in town … and he didn’t hold a candle to the meanest guy in OUR town.

Guess who I’m talking about? You betcha! Donald J. Trump. His sidekicks are pretty nasty assholes too, so don’t think I’m just picking on him. I’m picking on the entire movement, the complete political party made up of nasty racists, bigots, and hate-mongers. The kind of people who steal children from their parents and think it’s funny.

For further commentary on how “not being a dick” can be a meaningful political position in these, our modern times, please see Tom Curley’s post:

ARE YOU A DECENT HUMAN BEING, OR ARE YOU A DICK? – by TOM CURLEY

after which, ponder whether your “political convictions” exceed your conscience or any remaining ability to empathize with human beings. Because today, being a Republican is equivalent to abandoning anything that would normally identify you as a decent person.

And it ain’t just me saying it, either.

A MILESTONE OF DESPAIR – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #29: A MILESTONE OF DESPAIR

Fandango – Nightmare

It’s the one month anniversary of having WordPress abandon us for whatever future they think they see on their far horizons. I’m sure, whatever their milestone may be, it involves hitting all of us for more money. Because as far as I can tell, it’s always about money. Always and forever.

But also, these days, it’s also about meanness, cruelty and casual viciousness. As a nation, we are developing a kind of comfort with meanness and ugliness.

Jon Stewart said it well on Colbert’s show. Drumptf doesn’t merely do something harsh because he thinks it is necessary. He feels obliged to add an extra level of brutality to each thing.

He can’t say he disagrees with the press. He has to point out that they are also stupid and lazy. He can’t say he didn’t “have sex” with that woman. He also needs to mention that she’s too ugly for sex with a stud like him.

Everything he does is coated is that kind of nasty, mean-spirited ugliness and it has my head spinning. I can’t seem to wrap my brain around the beauty of the flowers when all I can see is that compared to DJT, Benito Mussolini was a real gentleman. Adolf Hitler had charm.

Drumptf has no charm. There is nothing cutesy about him. He’s not only unfunny, he’s cruel and most cruel to those who have the least ability to fight back.

He could have created an immigration package with which I’d no doubt have disagreed, but this wasn’t a political move. This was intended to show “how bad” we are and it certainly succeeded. To preventing desperate people from attempting to gain asylum here, he added to it kidnapping and imprisonment for babies, toddlers, and pre-school children. He can’t do something for some bizarre version of “the good of the country.” He also feels obliged to add a personal level of evil to the policy so it does not merely impinge on our political psyche but on our ability to believe we live in a decent society.

Michael Moore was on the show too.

He asked: “How often do you read the news and cry?” I don’t cry. I despair and have nightmares. I feel as if I’ve been overcome by a kind of mental illness. I’ve walked into a “fun house” full of hideous twisted mirrors and all I can see it an ugly, distorted version of something that used to be me or my fellows, but is now foul and twisted.

It’s not even anger. I’ve run out of anger. My current state is more like being a permanently abused child wondering if there’s any hope of rescue before I am beaten to death.

Like the cherry on the sundae, Drumptf is also a minority president. He was not elected by the majority of American citizens. Now that the not-so-Supreme Court has formally decided racial gerrymandering is legal — along with sending five-year-olds to court without a lawyer — one has to wonder with the likelihood of Russia messing with our elections (again) and gerrymandering if there’s any chance we will have an honest election.

I know this much.

All the people who didn’t bother to vote at all or who felt voting for a useless third-party candidate didn’t matter? You screwed us.

You know who you are.

If you do it again, Drumptf or one of his non-biological sycophants will be running this country when your great-grandchildren are praying for asylum in Canada.

Milestone? Really? For me, it feels more like a month of nausea and despair. Maybe it’s just me. Then again, maybe it’s not.

UNHINGED – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Captured

My marriage is fine. My house is not falling apart. The car was repaired and runs well. Yet I feel quite unhinged. A prisoner of war in my own country. Or that’s how I feel.

From Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens”

The World is killing me. I live in a country where the courts think it’s okay to kidnap and cage children. To put five-year-olds in front of a judge — without a lawyer.

There was another mass shooting today.

If somewhere there exists a particularly reactionary and stupid lawyer, Trump will appoint him or her and while I won’t live forever, my kid and granddaughter will spend the rest of their lives in this oppressive world we have created.

My world is crumbling. So is yours, even if you don’t know it.

I am troubled. I have nightmares. Small things which would normally not bother me are making me crazy. I feel damaged as if I’d been in a car accident.

I have trouble finding anything funny because today there was another mass shooting and there are thousands of children in cages.

The world is broken; I am bruised all over. I feel helpless to fix anything. It’s a bad way to feel. It’s also weird. I’ve always been able to separate the personal from “the rest of the world.” Somehow, I can’t seem to do that anymore.

WHO ARE WE? WHAT ARE WE? – Marilyn Armstrong

HOW DID WE GET TO THIS PLACE?

Just like other countries, we’ve hidden our ugliest history in the backs of closets. We wrote phony history books and made sure our kids read them.  Now we wonder how come they don’t understand history. We could start by teaching them what actually happened. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Andrew Jackson President of the good old U.S.A. wiped out entire tribes of Natives. But that was only one part of the slaughter. They kidnapped children and beat them until they were “American.” More to the point, too terrified to be anything else.

Does that sound familiar in some strange way?

Then, of course, there was slavery, over which we fought the bloodiest war ever in this country, followed by a never-ending cruel inequality that still remains and continues — with the help of our disgusting president — to grow.

In an image provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigrants taken into custody at the border sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection / AP)

And let’s not forget interning Japanese citizens — many of whom were born here — during World War 2.

So yesterday, when it looked like at least 70% of surveyed Americans thought this was a terrible idea, Trump (theoretically), backed off. Note that 30% of Americans didn’t think it was a bad idea. I try not to think about that 30%. I hope they aren’t my neighbors.

He didn’t really back off. He said was that we are going to keep the kidnapped, interned kids and do who-knows-what with their parents. They probably didn’t keep proper records about which children belong to which parents. Reuniting the kids and adults may not be possible, especially if they already deported the parents.

So what are they going to do with all the kids they’ve locked up? Keep them interned forever? Secretly murder them? Is that entirely out of the question? It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

We’ve always felt we were morally superior to Those Other Countries who slaughtered and mass murdered people for whatever idiotic reason they held. Here we are, doing the same thing. We haven’t started killing them yet, but hey, who knows? Trump is just being Trump, so if he thinks it’s a great idea, I’m sure his sycophants will step right up and follow his orders.

You can bet Sean Hannity will be explaining how it’s not even happening anyway. And 28-30% of all Americans will smile because mass murder sounds like a good idea to them. They will volunteer for jobs in “the camps.”  A job is a job.

With a president who has so little conscience that he thinks kidnapping foreign children is good politics, does killing foreigners if it seems that might help him get reelected sound too far out? If it really might help get him re-elected — assuming he isn’t planning to bypass that whole annoying election process — why not?

What are you planning to do about it? Has it come to a point where evil is our inability to do anything about a world spun completely out of our control?

This morning, he said (who knows what he is really saying?) we are returning to the old-fashioned method we’ve been using for the past 50 years. We’ll stop refugees at our border and say “Sorry, no room. Go home.” This is what we used to before you-know-who moved to the White House. It may not be very nice, especially when you consider how desperately many of these women and children need someplace safe, but it’s nominally better than locking them up and kidnapping their children.

Someone — Tom? — asked me why we can’t make room for them. I don’t know. This country is built on the sweat of hungry immigrants, but we’ve lost our way. As long as we have borders, we seem to feel we are obliged to keep track of who comes and goes across them.

I’m too far down the line of brilliant thinkers who have turned our world into whatever it currently is, but don’t you wonder ever what would happen if we didn’t have artificial lines around “countries” and lived in a single world? Then we could just hate each other for personal reasons.

The authorities released this image of illegal migrants inside a large cage – reporters said they saw unaccompanied children in similar conditions.

If we accept this living nightmare of “Trump being Trump,” then we’re as bad as any other mass murderers. It’s easy to be morally superior when no one is testing your fiber

Now that our fiber is indeed being tested, where and how do we stand? Do we refuse to cross that line after our consciences scream NO? Do we refuse, even if we are threatened?

At what point is it too much? When is enough really enough for us?