Ed Valentine | Writer!

10 Thoughts on “Fire and Fury”

Throughout 2018, I’m going to try to blog on Mondays (more often whenever possible).

So for today, my thoughts on Fire and Fury, in no particular order. I know we’ve moved on to whether or not Trump is a racist (spoiler alert: he is!), but I think many have dismissed the book as being just idle insider gossip.

That’s missing the point. There’s a lot in the book that we should pay attention to.

1) Wolff’s theory of the case (i.e., that neither Trump nor folks on his campaign wanted to win – that the bigger advantage for him and his business was losing and forming Trump TV) is a big deal.

2) Furthermore, the theory that basically nobody on his staff thought he SHOULD win as he was unfit to be president… is also a big deal.

3) That 100% of the people  around him still find him unfit for the office – “like a child” – is the biggest deal of all.

4) That the media has mostly been deferring to Trump and treating this presidency as legitimate is absurd. The picture Wolff paints is NOT the image you’d get from reading, say, Maggie Haberman or Michael Schmidt. If what Wolff says is true, the daily reporters are pulling their punches, big time.

5) Steve Bannon gets off way too easy. I get it, he’s Wolff’s main source – and in return, Wolff gives him respect that’s not even veiled. Throughout, Wolff depicts Bannon as a bad boy, skin-of-the-teeth raconteur.

Moreover: in NPR’s On the Media from January 12, 2018, Wolff himself says “I do not feel good about what happened to Steve [post publication… i.e., losing his job at Breitbart]. I don’t feel good about taking him down. I feel sad about that. I like Steve, I like Steve a lot. I came to, as you can see in this book, deeply appreciate his insights.”

Well, I don’t feel sad about what happened to Bannon. Steve Bannon is a nasty, stone-cold racist and anti-Semite, who helped get Donald Trump elected, who propped up Donald Trump and his racist policies, and who is actively trying to destroy the country. Wolff seems to have trouble seeing what should be so obvious. That’s really worrisome.

6) In a way, Trump himself gets off easy, too. As badly as he comes off (he’s painted as clueless, hapless, even cruel…) Wolff rarely shows him having agency in what he does. Trump is both inept and malevolent, but Wolff goes heavy on the former and light on the latter. This sometimes makes it seem as if Trump is just a meaner version of late-Presidency Reagan, doddering away while everyone acts around him – and while everyone jockeys to be the last one to talk to him so that he’ll do or say whatever turns out to be the last thing he hears.

While this may be true from time to time, there’s no doubt that Trump often acts on his own – or Tweets on his own. He’s been a crooked, rotten person for years, and he often acts on his own rotten, crooked impulses. He isn’t completely devoid of personal agency at all (at least not yet).

7) Wolff therefore misses the big picture to some extent: he’s so focused on depicting the Trump administration as dysfunctional… that he misses how it’s malicious, as well.

8) Jared and Ivanka are terrible people. They’ve jettisoned their Democratic (big ‘D’) and democratic (small ‘d’) impulses to gain power from an autocrat.

9) Trump thought Jared would make a good Secretary of State. Let that sink in.

10) It’s incredible (and incredibly damning) that these things were made known to a reporter. But they knew he was a reporter. Imagine the things they kept hidden? So I hate to end with this, but… as bad as things inside the White House sound from Wolff’s account, they’re probably worse than we even know.

A Tribute

It’s World AIDS Day. Today, I remember my friend Alan, who died in 1996. I can’t believe he’s been gone for over 20 years.

Many people lost whole swaths of friends. A whole generation of young men was wiped out – decimated – gone from the face of the earth. But by the time I reached adulthood, things had started to change – so Alan was the first and only friend I knew was sick. And the first and only one who died.

I often think that if he had lived just a little longer… I can’t know, but I can speculate that he might have been saved by medical advances – drug cocktails and such, which were just coming into use around that time. What would it have taken? Weeks, months? A year? Maybe he’d still be around today – he’d only be in his mid-sixties.

Alan was a gentleman and a gentle man. Southern boy, actor, writer, artist, a bookseller and a lover of books. His partner had died some years before, so he was grieving and would always grieve until the end of his too-short life.

The first time I met Alan, we were acting in a Shakespeare play together off-off-Broadway. I was a last minute replacement, and my big scene was followed by a quick descent from a tall, black platform… in doublet and hose… carrying handfuls of props… during a blackout between scenes.

On my first day of rehearsal, Alan volunteered to be my “spotter” and help me down during the blackout. I remember one of the first things he said to me in his soft southern drawl: something along the lines of “I tend to get really sweaty in this costume – I hope I don’t have a strong odor.” He didn’t, at all – but it was so like him to worry about something like that.

For the rest of the run, all I had to do was scoot off the platform, and Alan would be there waiting in the dark, ready to catch me and lower me safely to the ground.

I didn’t know Alan for long – just around two years. In that time, we did a number of plays together. Every now and then I’d stop by his place in Hell’s Kitchen (back when it really was hellish) – a walk-up where he had an old-fashioned converted transient apartment, with a raised bathtub that doubled as the kitchen sink. We’d talk plays and books and auditions, and he’d make tea. Sometimes he’d talk of his partner and how he missed him. Sometimes I cat-sat for him when he was away or in the hospital.

At least, I think I did. I think he had a cat. Memory plays tricks now.

One other thing: Alan was obsessed with beauty pageants, and he once showed me the box of paper dolls he’d made out of tracing paper, copied from paper doll books. Many of them shared the same facial features but wore different outfits – and he’d imbued each one with a full, rich, inner life and distinct characterizations known only to him. This is hard to describe – I’m not sure I understand it myself, since I never saw it – but he told me how he’d sometimes hold pageants for them, and he’d made paper sashes and crowns to award to each pageant’s winner. He kept long lists of who won, and when. I remember him showing them to me. He started out almost shyly, but as he told me more and more, he became… how to describe it? Entranced. He was really proud of them, and they meant something special to him.

I didn’t fully understand it, but I knew I was in the presence of something… holy. A pure creative soul, who’d found a medium of expression unique to him, truly from his soul: his own preoccupations, his own experience. And he’d made them in spite of – maybe in quiet defiance of – what boys in the south, especially, were supposed to do, were supposed to be interested in.

I remember looking into the box and seeing dozens of these delicate, slight beings, almost as light as air, easily ruffled by a breath.

*

He confided in me that he was HIV-positive very early on in our friendship, probably backstage at the first show we did together, but as his health always seemed to be steady, I wasn’t afraid for him. It just seemed that he’d continue on living with HIV and doing plays and being Alan.

And then he didn’t.

It happened suddenly, unless he was really sick for awhile and he didn’t tell us. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t want to worry anyone. A call came that he was in the hospital, and was very bad. Then he rallied a bit and we all relaxed a bit.

And then he was worse again.

And then he was gone.

*

A few months later, a group of his friends gathered later to scatter his ashes off what was then the Christopher Street Pier. Alan loved New York and always wanted to be here, so it was fitting.

I was there at the ceremony, but I’d somehow gotten confused and told my friend Mary the wrong meeting time. Of course, we had no cellphones in 1996 (remember those days?) and so I was only later that I checked my answering service (again: 1996) and realized that it was my fault she missed our brief ceremony entirely. I’m still sorry about that, Mary.

It was a sunny day. The water was sparkling. There weren’t many words left to say.

*

Before that, though, we had a memorial service for Alan at a theater we’d performed in. His father and sister came up from the south for the memorial. Everyone who knew him, everyone who did shows with him – we all loved him. How could you not?

We had his art on display and read some of his writing aloud to the many who gathered.

I hope we paid him a fitting tribute.

One of the pieces we read, and the most moving to me, was from Brian Friel’s play Dancing at Lughnasa. It was one of the last plays Alan performed in – maybe the last play. Memory plays those tricks, which is part of what Lughnasa is about.

Alan played Michael, and we see the play through his memories. I still remember his voice speaking the last speech, in the last scene of the play:

(Now fade in a very softly, just audible, the music – “It is Time to Say Goodnight” * [not from the radio speaker].) And as MICHAEL continues everybody sways very slightly from side to side – even the grinning kites. The movement is so minimal that we cannot be quite certain if it is happening or if we imagine it.)

MICHAEL: And so, when I cast my mind back to that summer of 1936, different kinds of memories offer themselves to me. But there is one memory of that Lughnasa time that visits me most often; and what fascinates me about that memory is that is owes nothing to fact. In that memory atmosphere is more real than incident and everything is simultaneously actual and illusory. I that memory, too, the air is nostalgic with the music of the thirties. It drifts in from somewhere far away — a mirage of sound – a dream music that is both heard and imagined; that seems to be both itself and its own echo; a sound so alluring and so mesmeric that the afternoon is bewitched, maybe haunted, by it. And what is so strange about that memory is that everybody seems to be floating on those sweet sounds, moving rhythmically, languorously, in complete isolation; responding more to the mood of the music than to its beat. When I remember it, I think of it as dancing. Dancing with eyes half closed because to open them would break the spell. Dancing as if language had surrendered to movement — as if this ritual, this wordless ceremony, was now the way to speak, to whisper private and sacred things, to be in touch with some otherness. Dancing as if the very heart of life and all its hopes might be found in those assuaging notes and those hushed rhythms and in those silent and hypnotic movements. Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary.

noho star

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Where We Are: A Post About Nukes

Long post, so here’s the TL/DR version: (1) don’t be comforted by the thought that “the generals” will prevent nuclear war – and (2) we must decry as madness a doctrine of “trying to prevent North Korea from using nuclear weapons by starting a conflict that would likely cause North Korea to use its nuclear weapons.”
 
Read more to see my reasoning and links.
 
*
 
Though everyone basically acknowledges that a POTUS has full power to launch nuclear weapons – and that little, if anything, can stop Trump from doing so (see THIS LINK.)
 
…many people still hold out hope in the fact that (a) launching a first-strike nuclear war seems unlikely, even for Trump, and moreover: (b) the grownups – “the generals” (Mattis / Kelly / McMaster) – might well refuse to follow an order that could bring about nuclear war, the death of millions, and even the end of civilization as we know it. (During the darkest days of Watergate, after all, the President’s staff had plans in place in case an in increasingly unhinged, distracted Nixon called for the launch of a nuclear attack.)
 
This thought should give us little comfort.
 
I tend to agree that Trump is unlikely to launch a first *nuclear* strike – but that’s probably not how war with N. Korea would unfold, anyway.
 
It’s possible that Trump does indeed strike first – but with conventional weapons in an attempt to destroy N. Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
 
This might seem rational – why wouldn’t we want to take out their nukes? – but as is well-documented in THIS ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC, among others, there’s no good military strategy that eliminates NK’s nuclear weaponry entirely. 
 
And without a doubt, North Korea would surely respond to *any* attack as a provocation and the situation could escalate very, very quickly into nuclear war.
 
I’ve seen some on the right cavalierly advocate first-strike force, but if there’s no good way to take out their weaponry, this would be absolute madness: in effect, “trying to prevent NK from using nuclear weapons by starting a conflict that would likely cause North NK to use its nuclear weapons.”
 
Another scenario: a first strike not by us, but by North Korea, leaving us no choice but to respond. This, also, would get out of hand very quickly and enter the nuclear arena.
 
With his bellicose tweets, Trump appears to be goading Kim Jung-Un into doing just that: striking *first* and taking military action on the U.S. or our allies – at which case, we’d respond and quickly, and there’s no way the generals would stand in the way of a military response to an attack – either with conventional weapons or the nuclear weapons Trump seems all too eager to use
 
As the Atlantic article linked above states – as many articles have stated – now that North Korea has nuclear weapons, there are no good options, only less bad ones. Trump, an ego-driven, poorly-informed, easily-triggered reality show TV host and failed businessman with no military or public service experience, is marching full-steam ahead into one of the worst ones: backing someone with nuclear weapons into a corner, and denigrating diplomacy as useless while threatening that “only one thing” will work on NK.
 
What is there to do? I’m open to suggestion. I fear there’s not much most of us can do – but we CAN speak out. We need to start by calling out the situation for what it is: dangerous madness – a pissing contest between two unstable men with nuclear weaponry.
 
Beyond that, we need to increase public pressure on the Republican Congress. If a majority feels the way Bob Corker says they do – that they as a body feel that Trump is unstable and dangerous – we need to encourage all of them (demand?) to stand up and say so, for the good of the country.
 
It’s starting to happen: Corker has uncorked a flurry of articles assessing Trump’s decision-making, instability and fitness for office.
 
We also need to get less distracted by the daily outrages and tweets. I don’t mean *at all* that we should stop paying attention to the other controversies and fires that Trump stokes, or the very real crises, from hurricanes to wildfires to gun rampages; to racial inequality and injustice; to assaults on the Constitution and on healthcare, civil rights, reproductive rights, and LGBT rights.
 
But we also need to focus even more attention on the matters of gravest concern: the danger and costs of nuclear war, and its impact on the survival of humankind.

Halftime Report: TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN

twin peaks 3Have you been watching the new TWIN PEAKS? I have. I just watched the WTFy-est ever episode 8 last night, which some are calling the most groundbreaking night of television in history.

It was certainly groundbreaking in cinematic and conceptual terms: strange, terrifying, sometimes incomprehensible, always gorgeous. It touched on the nature of pure evil and brought us into the heart of an atomic explosion.

But do I want something… more? Call me greedy, but I do.

Look, I have to admire David Lynch’s dogged, uncompromising commitment to putting his own vision out into the world. It’s amazing, really: Lynch hadn’t even made a movie in about a decade, his grosses are have always been in the “art house” scale, not the “blockbuster” scale, and his recent ventures (Inland Empire, Mulholland Drive) left viewers and reviewers simultaneously amazed at his prowess and scratching their heads at the plots. Yet somehow he convinced Showtime to pony up tons of money to fund 18 hours of the Twin Peaks: The Return while giving the network little to go on as to what they’d actually be getting. You’ve gotta hand it to the guy.

Twin Peaks 2And no doubt: much of what he’s putting on the screen is extraordinarily beautiful, even when it’s beastly. Given how much crap there is out there in TV land, it IS kind of marvelous that Lynch is putting out such weird, arty, esoteric stuff – when I look at it one way.

When I look at it another way, though, I find myself disappointed. I know there’s still half the series to go – and I know it’s not fashionable to admit (judging by the rapturous reception by most critics) – but I came back to Twin Peaks mostly to reconnect with the characters from 25 years ago. I hoped I’d see more of them.

And that’s the frustrating thing to me. Most of those actors are actually THERE – at least they’ve been cast in The Return. They’ve been hired! They’re on set! But Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost have shown us precious little of their characters in the first half of the season. We’ve only seen glimpses of Hawk, Andy, Lucy, Norma, Shelly, Bobby Briggs (now a cop?!?!), Mrs. Palmer, Dr. Jacoby… we haven’t even seen Big Ed or Audrey Horne yet. Hell, we’ve only seen a few moments of Agent Cooper himself in all his Agent Cooper-ness, outside of his reawakening self inside the life of Dougie Jones.

Sure, Kyle Maclachlan is doing outstanding work – everyone is, really. And the new additions are great: Laura Dern as Diane and Robert Forster as Sherriff Frank Truman. (I’m amazed that I don’t miss Harry Ontkean / Sheriff Harry Truman more since he was one of my favorites in the original Twin Peaks. It’s to Forster’s credit that Ontkean’s absence isn’t more keenly felt.)

I’m just conscious that this is the last time these actors will probably be together – some of them are already gone: Frank Silva as BOB, Catherine Coulson as my personal favorite, “The Log Lady.” I was just hoping I’d see more stories about the characters I grew to love 25 years ago since so many of the actors have reunited for the series.

Maybe we’ll have more time with them in the rest of the season? Maybe they’ll have more than cameos?
Who knows. Lynch and Frost will clearly do what they want to do, and wh
at they’re doing seems to be more than enough for some viewers.

Me, I’ll keep watching and hoping I’ll get served a bigger helping of coffee and pie in the Double-R Diner along with the metaphysical main course. twin peaks 4

STATE OF THE UNION

crocI wrote this script back in 2006, but it feels right for today, this minute: right NOW.

We are divided more than ever before, and I don’t know how we’ll see things the same way ever again.

STATE OF THE UNION was performed in 2011 by the wonderful Three of A Kind Theater Company of North Hollywood, CA – and it may soon be performed in NYC, if all goes well.

I think you’ll find it particularly meaningful today.
 State of the Union script

10 Deadly Failings of the Media, Election 2016 Edition

In this election, Fox and Breibart and other powerful media sources actively worked to elevate Trump to the Presidency. Much of the rest of the televised and print media proved incapable of fighting this man.

Why I’m For Hillary – proudly.

This Tuesday is Primary Day for the Democratic and Republican primaries. Please remember to vote

…and if you’re a registered Democrat, I hope you’ll consider voting for Hillary Clinton.

 

imageWhy? She’s…

  • Qualified.
  • Experienced.
  • Elected 2x Senator of the huge

“Stayin’ Alive”: Learn CPR on Valentine’s Day!

   
Happy Valentine’s Day! Do something awesome for someone else

footerSquid