“BEING THERE” – A MODERN DAY REVIEW – Garry Armstrong

Last night, Marilyn and I watched “Being There.” We hadn’t seen this comedy from 1979 in a long time, probably years. What a difference time has made!

I recall seeing “Being There” when it opened. I enjoyed the farcical Hal Ashby film about a mentally challenged man who somehow influences high and mighty power brokers including our Commander-In-Chief and his aides. It seemed like a Capra-esque flight of fantasy in 1979.  Couldn’t happen in real life. Our political leaders couldn’t be so naïve or vulnerable. We were caught up with Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan. Many laughed at the notion of an actor becoming President.

It wouldn’t happen, we smart folks reasoned with our historical savvy. No way a B-movie actor, revered for his roles as a beloved college football player and pal to a chimp named Bonzo — no way that guy could become the most powerful political figure in the world.  So we smugly thought.

Being There, 1979 poster

Peter Sellers is “Chance.” AKA Chauncey Gardner, a middle-aged gardener. The simple-minded assistant to a wealthy man who dies at the beginning of “Being There.” We don’t know much about Chance except he apparently has the mental capacity of a child. He is a brilliant gardener and likes to watch television. Chance is a sweet-tempered fellow whose world revolves around tending the garden — and watching television. He can’t read or write. He just gardens. And likes to watch …. television.

Chauncey Garden walking through Washington DC

Through a series of farcical plot twists, Chance becomes the house guest of an elderly, dying business tycoon and political king-maker (Melvyn Douglas) and his capricious wife (Shirley MacLaine).  The new benefactors mistake Chance’s observations about gardening as metaphors for Wall Street and fixing what ails our government.

The President (Jack Warden), a close friend of the tycoon, thinks Chance — now accepted as the mysterious Chauncey Gardner — is his benign Henry Kissinger. Chauncey’s garden recipes become talking points for the President’s economic directive.

Peter Sellers & Shirley MacLaine in Being There (1979)

There’s one hilarious scene in the middle of the film where the Black maid who raised Chauncey from infancy — and knows he has “rice pudding between his ears” — rails at her friends and points out that “all you need to become president is to be white.” That was a joke in 1979. Not so funny these days.

In 1979, the movie plot seemed outrageous and outlandish. In those days,  many of us didn’t believe Ronald Reagan could be taken seriously. None of us conceived of him as what we called “a president.” We would have deemed it impossible. I still do.

As “Being There” reaches its conclusion, Melvyn Douglas’ tycoon dies. At the cemetery, as he is laid to rest, the tycoon’s pals and the President’s aides quietly share anxiety about the country’s future. They don’t think the President is strong enough to lead the country out of its economic swamp. There’s a final quiet agreement that only one man can save the country, the man with the savvy garden metaphors, Chauncey Gardner.

Closing scene

The man who would be President is seen wandering through the woods and into a lake, staking his umbrella in the water, perhaps divining a miracle. The end credits roll with outtakes of Peter Sellers laughing his way through many retakes of plays on words.

Marilyn and I laughed as the credits rolled by. Then, we looked at each other. Quietly. Very quietly. Through some bizarre upside-down ill-starred event, during the heart of a perfect political storm, Chauncey Gardner became America’s president after all. Not benign — and definitely not a gardener, yet surely as stupid and illiterate.

A gardener would have been a better choice. At least he could have grown a few roses.

DAMN, I’M TIRED OF BEING RIGHT ALL THE TIME – BY TOM CURLEY

OK, this is becoming a series. I’ve been having a problem coming up with posts lately because every time I want to write a post about what’s going on in the news I realize I already wrote about it a year ago. Or two years ago. It happened again today.

Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” is coming out. It’s about the Trump White House.

It documents how the staff literally took documents off his desk so he wouldn’t sign them and do things like START WORLD WAR III!!!!

When they did, the prez forgot they had been on his desk at all. Basically, if they could distract him for five minutes, he’d forget what he was talking about or doing.  What does this have to do with me?

I wrote a JOKE BLOG about this over a year ago!!! Here it is.


M.A.D, MADMEN, AND THE FIVE MINUTE RULE
By Tom Curley

The talk this week is that our “So-called President” is insane has ramped up to 11 out of 10.

It’s all anyone in the news can talk about. The biggest worry, of course, is that this nut-job has access to the nuclear codes and could start a war in under five minutes. During the cold war, the US and Russia and China operated under the idea of M.A.D., aka “Mutually Assured Destruction.”

Nobody considered what would happen if an actual Madman was President.

Everybody says nobody can stop him. That’s not quite true.

During the Nixon administration, towards the end, with Nixon drinking a lot and freaking out over Watergate, the Chief of Staff quietly put out an order. If the President ordered a nuclear strike or for that matter, any military strike check with him or the Secretary of Defense first. It was illegal, but they did it anyway.

They were right.

Maybe the current Chief of Staff (right now, it’s John Kelly, but hell, that could change next week) might be doing the same thing. We don’t know.

But I have a couple of other ideas that might also work, a couple of options to get around the “I’m bored and in a bad mood. Let’s start a nuclear war” scenario.

Option One:

In order to start a nuclear war, he has to get the nuclear codes. They are in a briefcase called “The Nuclear Football”.  An aide, whose sole job is to carry “The Football” around, has to bring it to him.

Here’s how it would go.

SCROTUS: I’m in a bad mood! I want to start a nuclear war! Bring me the nuclear football.

AIDE: Here you go, sir.

SCROTUS: Hey, it’s locked!

AIDE: Yes sir. You have to unlock it.

SCROTUS: I do? What’s the combination?

AIDE: I don’t know sir. You were supposed to reset it when you took office. President Obama was supposed to tell you that when he left office.

SCROTUS: I knew it! This is Obama’s fault!

AIDE: Well I guess we can’t start a nuclear war today sir.

SCROTUS: No wait! Try 123!

AIDE: Nope, doesn’t work.

SCROTUS: 000?

AIDE: Nope.

SCROTUS: 111?

AIDE: Uhh …. Nope.

Now the reason that his can work is because of “The Five Minute Rule.” He only has an attention span of about five minutes. After that, he gets bored or forgets what he was talking about and moves on to something else. Usually watching Fox News.

Five minutes later.

SCROTUS: I’m bored. What were we talking about?

AIDE: We were talking about how much “Fox and Friends” loves you, sir.

SCROTUS: Yea! Let’s watch TV!

Or …

Option 2: 

When he wants to start a nuclear war, we bring him an actual football.

SCROTUS: I’m bored! Let’s start a nuclear war! I want to bomb Rosie O’Donnell! Bring me the nuclear football!

AIDE: Here you go, sir.

SCROTUS: What’s this?

AIDE: It’s “The Nuclear Football” sir.

SCROTUS: It is? It looks like a real football.

AIDE: It is a real football, sir. Just nuclear.

SCROTUS: How do I use it?

AIDE: You just go outside and shout out the name of the country or person you want to bomb and then you just throw that football as hard as you can.

SCROTUS: It’s that easy?

AIDE: Yup.

SCROTUS goes outside, yells “Fuck Rosie O’Donnell and throws the football. A secret service agent catches it and runs away shouting “Rosie O’Donnell sucks!” and returns the football to the Chief of Staff’s office and puts it in the bin with all the other footballs — and the actual combination to the real “football.”

By now, about five minutes has gone by and the aide turns on Fox News.

Crazy you say? I agree. But when you’re dealing with crazy, you have to think crazy.

 

CONTINUING OUR GRAND EXPERIMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Continue

Continue?

In many ways, the nightmare we are currently experiencing is a continuation of what went before. None of this came out of “nowhere.” We’ve had bad presidents and even some of our good presidents were not all that great. We have plundered the earth and made money the beginning and end of all things. Greed is God.

Notice how little time it took and the methodology. Simple, wasn’t it?

We worship money. We’ve been watching “Luke Cage” on Netflix and his comment that “The only thing that gets respect is money” is disgustingly true. You can be any color you want including pink with yellow polka-dots, but if you don’t control a few billion dollars, you aren’t going to get real respect.

Given our passion for money, why not elect a buffoon for whom greed and the power it gives him has been his all-consuming goal his entire life? We’ve been heading this way for a long time. We didn’t understand where this direction would take us.

The displacement of Germany’s liberal democratic government took ONLY ten years. Most of it happened in less than five.

Europe hit some kind of long-held target when it rounded up everyone they didn’t like and killed them. When World War II was finished, there were no foreigners or Jews or Romany left. They were dead. The perils of the world have changed the scenario, but the plundering of the earth to create the mess it’s in now didn’t start in the U.S.

The Rhone, the Rhine, and the Thames were flowing sewerage long before the U.S. even got its industrial revolution in gear.

In November 1923, a German army veteran and leader of an extremist party, Adolf Hitler, tried to take a page from Mussolini’s book. Hitler’s rise to power is one of the most significant events of our century. His success raised disturbing questions that we still debate today. How did Germany, which had a liberal democratic government in the 1920s, become a totalitarian dictatorship in the 1930s? Why did Hitler gain the enthusiastic support of many Germans? In less than a decade, he turned one of the most liberal nations in the world into the greatest killer of them all.

It doesn’t take a hundred years. It doesn’t even take a lifetime. In these hyper speedy days, with ultra-fast communications, it can take virtually no time. It took Germany a decade, but we’ve gotten there much faster.

Our rise to power wasn’t unilateral. We needed help and we got it by — you guessed it — immigration. We imported Europeans who knew how to build the mills and sluice the waste into our rivers. We couldn’t have done it without your help. Thanks, guys!

When you start to throw dirt around, make sure you let some stick to you. This world is one world. Nothing happens independently without collaboration. Despite that America has probably the worst goon and buffoon in office, Australia, Canada and many countries in Europe are not far behind. The hatred we spew is being spewed on every continent and in many languages.

The U.S. is not alone. If you think we are, you should look around. Read your own newspapers and think about your own government. All those things about which you are so proud and which took years to build can be stripped away so fast you won’t have time to say “what happened.” You’ve done it before, you can do it again.

Let us show set you an example. After all, you already dragged us into two world wars. Maybe it’s our turn to show you how evil a government can be. Continue indeed. Yes, let’s do that. Let us continue. It is amazing how little we seem to learn from history, isn’t it?

Are you going to continue too? You had Hitler and Mussolini. Are you getting ready for your next set of dictators? It took very little to overthrow Germany and a lot other countries helped Germany along. They didn’t think all that hatred was such a bad thing. They didn’t like Those People either.

Forgive me, dear overseas friends, but it’s time to look around at the whole picture. England pulled out of the European trade union before we got around to installing the orange moron in the White House. There were hate riots in Europe before we even got started on our 2016 election. Hatred didn’t start here.

It has always been with us. Always. Here, there, and everywhere.

If we get to start a world war, it’ll be our first.

But it won’t be your first. 

Also RDP #30 – FLUKE for RDP. Because this mess is no fluke. We walked right into this without believing it could happen. And here we are!

WE HAVE TO APOLOGIZE TO CANADA – BY TOM CURLEY

I’ve given up trying to make sense out of anything anymore. After over a year living in the waking nightmare that is our current government, I thought nothing could surprise me anymore.

Do I know what SCROTUS is going to do tomorrow? What he’s going to do in the next hour? Hell no. I gave up on trying to figure that out a long time ago. You can’t figure out what a crazy person is going to do. That’s what makes them crazy.

Our cheese-headed-so-called president has pissed off a lot of people. 60 to 75 percent of Americans. Pretty much all of Mexico. His new US Ambassador to Germany pissed them off so much his first day on the job they’re threatening to throw him out. For the last year, there’s been constant talk about rage fatigue. We can’t keep up this level of anger.

I’m not worried about that. No matter how mad you get at what he did today, I guarantee you he’ll come up with something tomorrow that will shoot your blood pressure right back up to 11.

But last week, the idiot-in-chief did something unbelievable. Even for him.

He pissed off Canada.

Think about that for a second. HE PISSED OFF CANADA!

I didn’t know that was possible! I mean, we’re talking about Canada! The country whose worst stereotype is that they’re all incredibly polite and they apologize for everything. Hell, they apologize for apologizing!

CANADIAN: Hey, sorry about that, eh?

AMERICAN: You didn’t do anything wrong. You don’t have to apologize.

CANADIAN: Oh, I see, sorry.

This moron goes to the G7 summit, called the G6 + 1 by all the other members. And insults everyone. He then threatens them with more tariffs if they don’t do everything he tells them to do.

His excuse for doing this to Canada, Europe, and Japan?  Our allies? An obscure rule in the trade agreement that says the President can impose tariffs on a country if it’s a “threat to our national security.”

Not surprisingly, everybody, especially Canada went “WTF!! We’re a threat to your national security?? We fought with you in two World Wars for Christ’s sake!”

What was his reply? “Well, didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” referring to the burning of the White House during the War of 1812. Which is when the British burned down the White House. When Canada wasn’t even a country!  Then, he leaves the summit early, in a huff. After he left, Justin Trudeau gave a press conference where he basically told the US president to go fuck himself.

He did it in the most polite way possible. He said, “I know we have a reputation for being polite, but we won’t be pushed around.”

He didn’t apologize for the statement! The media and the world were shocked. If we translate what he said into American it would be something like this. “WTF! You want to start a trade war with us!? FUCK YOU, you Goddamn moron! You think you can fuck with us? Oh, hell no! Oh, and sorry about the foul language.”

There’s a great picture that Angela Merkel released. It sums up the whole meeting. It looks like it should be a Rockwell painting.

You need to go to your room and think about what you did!

I’ve realized that we Americans have to stand up, take responsibility and do something about this. We have to apologize to Canada.  We need to start a movement. Use Twitter, Facebook, email, Instagram. I don’t care.

Each of us needs to say “Canada. I’m sorry. We all know this guy’s a fucking moron. He’s embarrassing all of us. Our bad.”

If you don’t have a social media account, just send Canada an “I’m sorry” greeting card. You can find them in any drug store.

The majority of us didn’t vote for the asshole

And while we’re at it, we also need to apologize to France, England, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Who am I kidding? Except for China, Russia and now, North Korea, we have to apologize to everyone.

We are sorry, World.

We’re working on fixing this next November.

SKEWED LIBERTY (THIS COUNTRY FOR SALE) – Judy Dykstra-Brown

DSC00967

 SKEWED – Judy Dykstra-Brown

Everything is tilted. Slightly unaligned.
The constitution set askew. Liberty maligned.
Some of the well-heeled citizens think that this is fine.
They cannot see that everything is slightly out of line.
All the pretty Philistines queue up at their tees
while their flunky lawyers determine what to seize.
Contracts with the Russians. Schemes to sell off national land.
Cronies helping cronies. Off-shore drilling by demand.

Rivers being sullied and oceans compromised
while insuring rights to bear arms are exercised.
Certain pious preachers line up behind the svelte,
proclaiming to the masses that they know what Jesus felt.
Indeed, the smallest sparrow  no longer matters much
so long as all the mighty increase their greedy clutch––
all the money-changers, corrupt to the core,
filling all their pockets with the money of the poor.

Surely it is clear that at ruling they’re inept,
and if he was watching, surely Jesus wept
as all the pearls of liberty were cast before the swine
with each self-serving libertine declaring  what is “mine.”
What is true no longer matters. What “they” say is now what now counts.
They say it’s holy scripture as they settle their accounts.
People, take off your blinders. Consider what is real.
One nation, under God, was not set up for them to steal!

WTF IS GOING ON? – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m so confused. I used to think I had some handle on what was going on in the news. Pretty much all bad, all crazy, all the time. But I had definite opinions on how I thought things would play out.

No more. I’m clueless now. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I was sure that no matter what Trump did or what Mueller found, the Republicans in control of Congress would not do anything to censure, let alone impeach him. I thought we would have to wait for Democrats to regain control of both houses in Congress before impeachment could even be considered. And even then, I didn’t believe that there would be enough votes in the Senate to actually convict Trump and remove him from office. So any impeachment by the House would end up being a toothless gesture.

At that point, my brain would freeze over. I had no idea what would happen next in my own scenario.

Now I’m less certain about this whole theory. I’m really not sure what will happen in the future or even later today. So much happens so quickly these days. Often out of the blue, or so it seems. Trump makes spontaneous, off the cuff policy announcements that no one in his own White House knows about or is prepared for. He often backtracks the next day. Or not! Headline news stories blare out constantly with revelations from various investigations, law suits and ethics probes involving the president and his merry band of unethical misfits.

I worry that Trump will bomb a random country and start another pointless war. I live in fear that Trump will fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, which would have the same effect. One minute I’m sure he’ll do it and throw the country into a major constitutional crisis with no satisfactory resolution in Republican controlled Washington. The next minute I’m sure he won’t risk the major political explosion he would trigger if he interfered with the Mueller investigation.

This perpetual uncertainty makes me very uncomfortable. I pride myself on staying informed enough to understand what’s going on in the news at any given time. I’m shaky on Mid Eastern and Far Eastern policy and economics. But I usually have a handle on domestic news and policies. I have to narrow my focus since I don’t want to spend even more time than I already do consuming news every day. I’m a slow reader so I can only cover so much territory.

Things are happening so quickly and so randomly that I can’t keep up any more. Even though I do try.

I have to admit that sometimes all the national drama can be exciting and energizing. But the crazy and the unpredictable are going into warp drive. Trump seems to be devolving and dragging us all under with him. It’s getting less and less exciting and more and more scary and insane.

I wish I could turn away from this slow motion train wreck, but I can’t. So I’ll keep reading and watching MSNBC and hope that my sanity survives longer than Trump’s does.

A PORN STAR, A PLAYMATE, A PLAINTIFF AND A GUY NAMED PECKER WALK INTO A BAR – BY TOM CURLEY

So the bartender says “What is this? Some kind of joke?”

The answer is, yes and no. It’s not a joke. It’s reality. In so far as reality has become a bigger and bigger joke these days, it is a joke. And the bar they walked into wasn’t a ‘bar’ bar. It was a legal bar.

So, what’s the joke? The president is suing a porn star, Stormy Daniels, because she broke a Non-Disclosure Agreement for talking about an affair the President insists never happened.

I’ve never met this woman!

He’s basically saying: “I did not have an affair with that person to whom I paid $130,000 to not talk about the affair we had.”

What’s the other joke? A former Playboy Playmate, Karen McDougal, is suing The National Enquirer because they bought an interview from her detailing the affair she had with the President.

I’ve never met this woman either!

They silenced her by simply not running the story. The punchline here? The guy who killed the story is named Pecker.

The jokes are the news.

There’s also a plaintiff, Summer Zervos, who is suing the President for defamation of character.

But that’s not funny. Not all news is funny.

I don’t think the news is supposed to be funny. These days, more and more of the news is funny. Absurdly funny. Or possibly ridiculous. Is there a difference? “You can’t make this shit up.”

How many times have we heard that phrase recently?News and comedy are becoming one.

Where do you get your news? The CBS Evening News or Stephen Colbert? The ABC Evening News or Jimmy Kimmel? CNN or The Daily Show?

I usually choose the latter because I get the same raw information, just with jokes. These days you get the jokes more and more just from reading the news.

When I worked on network news shows at CBS, we would have monitors showing the other networks. As you’d expect, all the shows did all the same stories in roughly the same order. Makes sense. These days, I notice the same stories on all the late night comedy shows too. The comedians all tell pretty much the same jokes in pretty much the same order. The thing is, they all thought the jokes up separately. But since the story is the same, they come up with the same jokes.

It’s just the news.

Comedy and news are becoming one.

I know I’m going to laugh when I watch The Daily Show. I expect to laugh. I’m getting the same laughs from CNN and MSNBC. Who are not trying to be funny! They are merely reading the news!

“Hey, did you see Wolf Blitzer last night? He killed!” I didn’t make up the title of this blog. I saw it on TV. Which late night show? None of them. It was a pundit on CNN, Ana Navarro, who said it.

I’m here through Thursday. Try the veal!
Comedy-and-news-are-becoming-one.

That’s not what’s really worrying me. What happens when they separate? When comedy and news split and become two separate things? What happens when the news isn’t funny anymore?

Our current clown show reality has a shelf life. It can’t go on forever. It will just seem like forever. 

What happens after a sane, boring President is elected — and there are no more daily scandals, screw-ups, and shit-storms? No more crazy tweets? No more porn stars, playmates, plaintiffs, and guys named Pecker? The news will continue, but what about all the poor comedians, comedy writers, bloggers, and columnists? They will have to go back to writing jokes again.

They will be forced to think up funny stuff on their own! Our comedic muscles are atrophying! I can feel it. What can we do about it? Are there special comedic exercises? Should we fill in Mad Libs? Improv?

Sure, we could, but why bother? We can’t top reality. We can’t make this shit up.

When that time comes, we’ll all just have to buckle up and get back to work — making up jokes. When that time comes, I think I’ve got a good one.

Picture of Mr. Pecker not included.

A porn-star, a plaintiff,  a playmate and a guy named Pecker walk into bar …

Too soon?