Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Arms Bazaar

Mack Hall, HSG

The Arms Bazaar

Visiting a traditional arms bazaar in a decaying village in a decaying civilization is something of a culture shock: the quaint old men in their tribal garb, the hundreds of rifles old and new of all sorts of provenance and caliber, the creaky tables stacked with boxes of ammunition, the dogs thumping their tails, the children enjoying a snack among the firearms, the mostly silent women. 

I refer, of course, to the East Texas gun show I attended last week as a quaint old man in my own tribal garb.

In very truth, people at gun shows appear to be very nice, and given the presence of all the ironmongery, that’s best.  Some brought their children and some brought their little dogs, and it really was a pleasant occasion.

At the show I noted especially:

A 1943 Czech-made Mauser K98.  Beautiful.

Civil war muskets.  History.

A Moss-Nagant, the military rifle of both the Czars and the Reds.  Cheap - as cheap as the lives of soldiers are to their leaders.

Lots of bumper stickers: “Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight,” “I (heart) My Blood-Crazed Dachshund,” “God Bless America” (this one would go well with the ChiCom assault rifle), and so on.  I didn’t ask about a “Re-Elect the President” sticker.

Rosary beads.  Whaaaaaaaaaa?  Unexpected, until you realized that they were being sold as a fashion item to those whose sense of style derives from the guys who skulk around bus station restrooms.  Rosary beads as ornamentation are barely north of wearing a copy of the Bible as a hat. 

An AK-47.  Creepy.  Why did President Clinton sign the papers on these things?  And why hasn’t a subsequent government suppressed them?  We live under the erratic rule of a federal government that forbids us to choose our own light bulbs or toilet tanks, but winks at thousands of Chinese semi-automatic combat rifles in the possession of the sort of people who would buy Chinese semi-automatic combat rifles.

Oh, yeah, bring on the all-caps letters-to-the-editor.

Lots of pocket knives, most of them cheap, shiny, and Chinese.  A gentleman is not dressed without his pocket knife, but one wonders if the owner of the Shanghai factory that turns out all this junk carries a good, utilitarian, American-made Case, a Texas-made Moore, or a Canadian-made Grohmann.

J. C. Higgins shotguns, once the inexpensive and modest harvester of Sunday dinners for generations of poor rural folk, were among the most expensive firearms for sale at the show.  These were made by different companies under contract by Sears, neat but not gaudy, until 1961 or so.  They were not cool in their day; they only got the job done.  And now they are cool after all.

The food vendors at the gun show didn’t feature a vegetarian plate.  Why is that?

I saw a fellow wearing a Marine Corps / Viet-Nam baseball cap, hopping happily along on one leg and one crutch.  Was the leg untimely ripped from him in Viet-Nam, or in a motorcycle accident in Escondido in 1972?  But I think he was genuine because he wasn’t working the patented thousand-yard-stare thing so beloved of the phonies.

Many folks believe that at gun shows weapons can be bought and sold illegally, without reference to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.  Not so.  The United States Department of Justice under the little man with the little moustache may be pleased to donate thousands of military combat rifles to drug gangs along our borders so that they can murder you, but if you want to buy an old single-shot .22 just like the one you took rabbits with when you were a young’un you’re going to have to fill out the forms and wait for the computers to approve of you.

If only an American citizen could apply to the BATF for computerized permission to buy a toilet that works. 


Saturday, January 28, 2012

A New Moleskine

Mack Hall, HSG

A New Commonplace Book

Some say this book is blank, but ‘tis not so:
The pages speak unwritten, and in them
Are hidden the adventures of the mind,
And needing only there the gentle push
Of ink-charged nib to wand the words alight
Upon, across, within the rich leaves sewn,
Sewn each to each and to a spine for store;
The wanderings of one’s life, one’s soul, one’s art
Stored up on sorted pages in their leaves,
Embellished with, perhaps, depictions drawn,
Carved freely from the hand, or cuttings set
In neatness and in order regular
Or something thus of both, with letters clear
About, among, around the ideas here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Confronted with Etouffe'

Mack Hall, HSG

Confronted with Etouffe’

No exoskeletons pollute my taste,
For my profoundly English digestion
Rejects such critters as foul, unclean waste:
The matter is not subject to question.

Assure me that a crawfish is nutritious?
I will offer you an earthworm instead.
My proposal is merely meretricious:
Suck thou the brains from a crustacean’s head

Wet shrimp and mud crawfish, O what are these?
Roaches with an aquatic attitude
Really little more than sad seaborne fleas
Not these did Jesus feed the multitude

Give me some fish, with slick scales on their sides
Or maybe a turkey (cut off its head)
Or good dead cows (Moo! Moo!), once clothed in hides:
Endoskeletons, yes! (with buttered bread).

The Wagnerian Glories of a Trash Fire

Mack Hall, HSG

The Wagnerian Glories of a Trash Fire

An orange juice carton writhes in tinted death,
Avowals of recycling smoke and flame
And boldly from the waxy cardboard shield
The cartoon orange leaps to its funeral pyre
On burning lines of fine and legal ink
That once assured the green consumer that
The juice contained therein was pure of heart
And gladly sacrificed its life for us.

A Mild Cold Front

Mack Hall, HSG

A Mild Cold Front

An errant frog’s the only voice to sing
The day to sleep in this warm, blustery dusk.
The whippoorwill of yesternight is still;
The deep-voiced owl is silent too.  The wind
And damp have silenced even the twilight dogs
(Do dogs make paw to the doghousey wood?).
The grasses sigh; the bare oak branches hum
The long-dead autumn leaves blow this way, that;
The clouds - they darken, lower, hover, grim
Upon the land, where winter ought to rest.

Shakespeare on CD-ROM

Mack Hall, HSG
15 January 1996

Shakespeare on CD-ROM

In plastic laminate Ophelia sings
While Hamlet broods on moonless midnight walks
And Portia celebrates the truths of rings
As evil, humpbacked Richard plots and stalks.
Sweet Rosalind, as Ganymede, delights
Orlando’s ardent Arden fantasies;
Her words disturb his leafy bed at night
And set him carving love tokens on trees.
Within this disc King Henry tells his men
The bloody ground of Agincourt and they
Will be remembered aeons without end
While greybeards glory in Saint Crispin’s Day:
Warriors and dreamers and passionate suitors
Can all now fit in slots in computers.

The Descriptive Essay

Mack Hall, HSG

The Descriptive Essay

“Describe your favorite space,” he innocently asked,
And dutifully, in double-space, they wrote:

“My family and I watch our new flatscreen.”

“But what of microscopes and basketballs,
Guitars and wrenches and sewing machines
And sometimes fishing from the old sea wall,
Or planting a garden with corn, peas, and beans?”

“My family and I watch our big flatscreen.”

“What do you like to read, what do you sing?
Do you rebuild old cars, old houses, old souls?
What do you write on the first day of spring?
Do you like your job?  And what are your goals?

“The family and I watch our wide flatscreen.”

“Do you sometimes throw a football around,
Refinish furniture, or feed the birds,
Volunteer an hour at the local pound
Chant with the choir those sacred, ancient words?”

“Me and the family watch our big flatscreen.”

“Do you jam to the radio, rock that beat,
New Orleans jazz or upriver blues?
What sounds pick up your heart, your hands, your feet?
Saint-Saens or Satchmo – so who’s your muse?”

“The family and I watch our old flatscreen.”

And thus anaesthesia displaces art
The sons and daughters of great kings and queens
From their ancient heritage now depart
And bow obediently before flatscreens.

Tornado Warning

Mack Hall, HSG
25 January 2012

Tornado Warning

The scanner squawks in protest ‘gainst the sky,
Shrilling its delicate electronics
In irrelevant made-in-China fury
While dark, Wagnerian clouds fall upon
Our fragile lives, and Wotan’s magic fire,
In slashing shadow-blasts, encircles all.
The wavering weaving of the Norns has ripped;
Wyrd’s wilding winds now warp our weakening world,
Rain shrieks green agony upon the walls,
And even darkness shudders in the rage
Of obscene anvil-music and dragon’s blood.


Mack Hall, HSG


 Last week three related events occurred: the governments of New Zealand and the United States cooperated in the arrest of a German citizen accused of providing free (read: stolen) download access to copyrighted music and movies.  The purported perp pocketed his profits by peddling fast access modes and advertising.  Within the United States a law regarding downloads of copyright music, a law that no one appears to have read, was proposed and then ignored.  Finally, several ‘net providers of information – some say misinformation – shut themselves down for a day in protest of censorship.  Irony clearly eludes them.

All this is part of the continuing confusion of property rights regarding cultural endeavors.

The manufacturers of movies, for instance, enjoy repeated paydays under copyright laws.  After a film is constructed, the owners and actors receive payments every time the flickering bits of light are legally projected on a wall. 

In contrast, and in a clear denial of equal protection under the law, the builders of a house are paid only once.  An unbilled actor who appears for ten seconds in the background of one scene in Star Trek XXIV: The Girl Scout Zombie Cannibals of Mars will receive periodic residuals for the duration of the copyright, dependent on the marketability of the, um, art.  An equally unbilled bricklayer is paid only once; he will receive no residuals no matter how long the house he helped construct is inhabited or how many times it is sold.

The defense of residuals for actors is that someone makes money every time the film is (legally) displayed, so it’s only fair that the actors take a bit of that.  However, a house, too, generates profits each time it is sold, and perhaps daily if it becomes a commercial property, but our hypothetical bricklayer receives nothing.

Y’r ‘umble scrivener doesn’t have even a residual of a solution for that legal inconsistency: the laborer is worthy of his hire; why are most laborers paid once, but a privileged few, by law, over and over?  No one can steal the bricklayer’s residual payments because he receives none.

Two other problems with the electronic storage of movies, pictures, poems, and other forms of art are these: (1) How do we know that a work of art has not been tampered with? and (2) How do we sustain the existence of a work given the fragility of electronics?

The first problem is wonderfully Orwellian; without a verifiable original we can’t know if anything stored or transmitted on the World Wide Wonk, the Internaif, or in some unknowable Fog is as originally built.  Decades ago a few words in the introductory song in the Disney film Aladdin were modified because of perceived insensitivity.  A first-run videotape contains the cruel words; all subsequent tapes and DVDs do not.  Hardly anyone noticed; fewer cared.  Those who follow the news are well aware of how a re-broadcast of part of a speech or debate can change the intent of a speaker or the significance of an event by cutting a few words or an audience response.

The conventional fear of control and censorship is of a government (it’s all George Bush’s fault, blah-blah-blah), but other than the more feral sorts of porn the feds pretty much leave the aether alone; the proven censors (and thieves), over and over, are the private-enterprise owners of the servers. 

A physical book is certainly vulnerable enough: paper burns and rots, and is consumable by rats, mice, insects, and habitués of New Jersey.  However, as long as a particular volume exists, one can be sure it has not been altered; with an electrical book beamed down from moonbeams or rainbows no such assurance obtains.

The second problem is the existence at all of a book, film, picture, or bit of music.  The oldest book y’r umble scrivener owns was printed in 1806, is in quite good shape, and is almost without value because of its commonality.  Books over 1,500 years old are not unknown.  Good paper, stable ink, a little reasonable care, and avoiding Goths, Vandals, Anglo-Saxons, Frisians, Danes, Turks, Huns, and the New York subway means that a book written by a fellow, almost surely a Benedictine, in the 5th century is easily readable today (if one can work through schoolchild Latin).

Consider, though, the weakness of every little box that glows in the dark.  No one has been spared the annoyance of the loss of information from an expensive device that, like Aunt Pittypat, fainted from the vapours.

We are told that someone setting a metaphorical match to certain types of easily-constructed bombs can destroy all computer storage and functionality continent-wide.  Not only can one not read the blank screen on a now-useless chunk of dead weight, there would be no light by which to read, not for years.  All the books, music, pictures, and films entrusted to the good fairies would cease to exist forever, while physical books, music scores, and pictures would carry civilization successfully through a new dark age.

Electronic books and other works of art are convenient, but they’re all Aunt Pittypats (or is that Aunts Pittypat?).


Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Beggar at Canterbury Gate

Mack Hall, HSG

The Beggar at Canterbury Gate

The beggar sits at Canterbury Gate,
Thin, pale, unshaven, sad.  His little dog
Sits patiently as a Benedictine
At Vespers, pondering eternity.
Not that rat terriers are permitted
To make solemn vows.  Still, the pup appears
To take his own vocation seriously,
As so few humans do.  For after all,
Dogs demonstrate for us the duties of
Poverty, stability, obedience,
In choir, perhaps; among the garbage, yes,
So that perhaps we too might live aright.

The good dog’s human plays his tin whistle
Beneath usurper Henry’s1 offering-arch
For Kings, as beggars do, must drag their sins
And lay them before the Altar of God:
The beggar drinks and drugs and smokes, and so
His penance is to sit and suffer shame;
The King’s foul murders stain his honorable soul;
His penance is a stone-carved famous name
Our beggar, then, is a happier man,
Begging for bread at Canterbury Gate;
Tho’ stones are scripted not with his poor name,
His little dog will plead his cause to God.

1Henry VII, who built the Cathedral Gate in 1517, long after the time of Henry II and St. Thomas Becket

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

False Spring

Mack Hall,

False Spring

No spring is false when warm, sweet sunlight falls
Upon the weathered field and woods and walls
And frogs shake off the mud and much to sing
While lizards leap and little bees take wing

No spring is false when gentle roses bloom
And windows are opened on airless rooms
After the time of ice, soft, gentle air
Comforts the cold world like a whispered prayer

This January thaw cannot be wrong;
It sings for us a little of spring’s song

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mack Hall, HSG

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

 The Infant Samuel lay in the Sanctuary
And in the night-watch heard the voice of God
He rose and responded.
                                     What do we hear?
The mechanical hiss of central air
The vaporous clangings of the plumbing
A car passing by on some late errand
A yawn, a sigh, a turn, a pillow foofed
The silent accusations of the night

Prepositions in 35 Millimeter

Mack Hall, HSG

Prepositions in 35millimetre

Hyphen-Hyphen Corporation Presents

A Snort-Ponsonby Presentation of

A Trans-Serbian Films Production of

A Banco-Gigantico Picture of

A Startled Oysters Inc. Performance of

A Mixed-Metaphor Starshine Version of

A Death Meadows Company film of

Director Corpuscle Smith’s rendering of

Alphonse Snortberger’s Immortal Story of



A Candidate Channels Jesus

Mack Hall, HSG

A Candidate Channels Jesus

My Jesus blessed me in a dream last night
My Jesus said you are to vote for me
You dare not argue with my Jesus, right?
And henceforth I is past, since We are We

We are the candidate, the chosen One
God has a plan for Us; vote as We say
We’ll run the good race; like Us there is none
Our pastor says We’re the American way

We’ll rally for Jesus, and, yes, for Us
Wave Our hands about with a merry shout
And drive Our land in a long Jesus bus --
A love offering, please, Our hand’s ‘way out

Obey Us in freedom; you know it’s true --
We are so much more Jesus-y than you.

Searching for Sight

Mack Hall, HSG

Searching for Sight

 No one assures you that lenses are green
That spectacles are recycled from waste
That the optometrist’s glow-in-the-dark
Boxes, little lights in white, green, and red,
Are cultivated by fair-trade farmers
Along the Neckar River in Hungary
Where no one needs glasses to speak Magyar.
Eyes, like cans of squash, have expiration dates
And must be renewed and refreshed each year
With little boxed lights in white, green, and red
And a thirty-something voice assuring you
That your eyes are good – for someone your age.
Words spilling out like a soft cataract
Of diffuse, bubbling comfort for a year
With eyes recycled once again the seer
Seeks for the book store and the coffee shop
New books, fresh cups, old dreams held at odd angles

Registering Humans

Mack Hall, HSG


Sad refugees, petitioners, lining the walls
Of grim, poorly-lit cinder-block hallways
With babies and luggage and desperate hope
For a better world than the one they’ve fled.
With papers and permits clutched in their hands
Each in turn approaches tired officials
Seated behind cheap desks beneath pale lights
Approving, disapproving, signing forms,
Pointing out other lines now to be joined.
The formless, faceless crowds shuffle along.
Some huddle in dark corners on the floor
Eating slyly from sad bundles of food
Others huddle conspiratorially
Outside, furtively smoking cigarettes
Their eyes darting about suspiciously
In this place where time is unmeasured, void.
Some stare at old notices on the walls
Unclear about the meanings of the words.
Waiting, waiting, always waiting. For what?
For the scrawled signatures, the seals, the stamps,
Permission to enter the strange new land:

So slowly do the desperate make their way
For this is college registration day.

Epiphany, Transferred

Mack Hall, HSG

Epiphany, Transferred

How, then, does one transfer a holy day?
The Magi reschedule their appointments
The camels are re-booked with a penalty
King Herod’s social secretary sighs
And jots a note for the distribution list
(Holy Innocents will die some other time)
Per diem expenses and meal vouchers
“We have seen His star in the east,” yes, but
Gold, myrrh, and frankincense must clear customs,
And will your trip continue to Egypt,
Or is this your final destination?

Foxy John's Beer Wine Good Food Low Prices

Mack Hall, HSG

Foxy John’s
Beer Wine Good Food Low Prices

 Between class and the night shift, Foxy John’s:
Books and ideas, an old Sheaffer pen
Scribbled notes on a yellow pad, a pipe
Of Holland House, coffee, another cup
The old MG stood loyally outside
The San Diego night smelled of the sea
Damp and cool out beyond the fluorescents
And at dawn, between the night shift and class
More coffee, more tobacco, weary eyes
Ill-focused on Henry at Canossa
And the ocean tides and the morning fogs
Turning the seasons marked shifts and studies.

How curious never to have met John
And so to learn whether he was foxy

The Girl with the Septic Tattoo -- Twenty Years Later

Mack Hall

The Girl with the Septic Tattoo – Twenty Years Later

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Did just what she was told to do
Her culture betrayed her
And so she obeyed, sir:
The Crone with the Draggin’ Tattoo

Get More Smart

Get More Smart

Secret agent stories entered popular culture with Ian Fleming’s James Bond in the 1950s.  Although there were only two serious video versions – the first two Bond films and the superior Danger Man / Secret Agent / The Prisoner television series with Patrick McGoohan – this transient fashion of the early 1960s has enjoyed a long half-life.  Spoofs, all of them good-natured, began almost immediately and continue today.  Even James Bond is no longer the patriotic functionary of a collapsing empire; he quickly became a self-parody in the dizzy Roger Moore era, and has lately fallen into to the sensitive slough of cultural despond by lesser writers and directors, failing to use the great acting talents of Young Blue Eyes.

The earliest and best takeoff of spy thrillers is Get Smart, which aired on television from 1965 to 1969.  All the spy conventions are there – the secret spy organizations (CONTROL and its evil opposite, KAOS), the stern but fatherly director, two-seater drop-tops, glamorous clothes, beautiful women, unnecessarily complicated gadgets, the mad villains, and lots and lots of firearms.  Secret Agent Maxwell Smart and the gang at CONTROL take these usages and twist them into delightful illogic: CONTROL’s government budget is so low that in one episode The Chief takes a part-time job as a cleaner.  Agent Smart is brave and tough but not very smart, and is often rescued by gorgeous Agent 99 dressed in her Carney Street best.  The various mad geniuses are Bond villains who have had too much coffee, and the gunfire, explosions, visual gags, falls, tumbles, and car wrecks are straight out of The Three Stooges.

And it is all wonderful, harmless fun. 

In cable-channel retrospectives the cliches’ “cutting edge” and “ahead of its time” are employed with illogic and abandon.  Get Smart, happily, was definitely of its time: Agent 99 dresses in swinging London style, and Max and the Chief are dapper in suits with narrow ties.  The Cold War, hippies, Russians, Germans, desert sheiks, Chinese Communists, motorcycle gangs, the threat of nuclear war, cooing seductresses, and South American dictators all come in for a comic treatment that is no edgier than Leave it to Beaver.  Cigarettes and cocktails abound in their prelapsarian innocence, and Max and Agent 99 never, never, never overnight with each other.

Repeated lines from Get Smart were omnipresent in the 1960s, and many continue.  Max’s nasal “Would you believe…?” survives, though few know of its origins.  A typical “Would you believe…?” occurs when Max is in the hands of the villains, and would go (my quote, from memory, is not precise) something like this:

Siegfried: “You are in the hands of KAOS. Put down your weapons.”

Max: “Would you believe that this island is surrounded by the 6th Fleet?”

Siegfried: “I find that hard to believe.”

Max: “Would you believe the 1st Fleet?”

Siegfried: “No.”

Max: “Would you believe two Boy Scouts in a canoe?”

A very few of the other repeated gags:

Siegfried: “Zis iss KAOS; ve don’t ‘shush’ here!”

Max: “Missed it by that much.”

Long-suffering 99: “Oh, Max.”

Max: “The old ____ in the _____ trick.”

Max (when his schemes go disastrously wrong): “Sorry about that, Chief.”

Get Smart would be funny as a stand-alone comedy without cultural references other than the fictional creations of Ian Fleming and Patrick McGoohan.  However, Get Smart engineered takeoffs on dozens of cultural markers, both transient and transcendent.  The following is a partial list of books, movies, television shows, and poems (and how many gags based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge or obscure Czech films have you heard lately?) celebrated by the brilliant writers and actors of a show only the superficial would dismiss as, well, superficial:

One of Our Aircraft is Missing
Bye, Bye Birdie
The Reluctant Debutante
The Wild Ones
Peyton Place
Our Man in Havana
Murder on the Orient Express
Ship of Fools
Charlie Chan
The Prisoner of Zenda
Doctor No
Island of the Da(r)ned
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
The Mummy
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying
Appointment in Samarra
A Man Called Horse
The Greatest Show on Earth
Snow White
Gilligan’s Island
Somebody up There Likes Me
Witness for the Prosecution
The Fugitive
Zorba the Greek
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
National Velvet
Goodbye, Columbus
Bonnie and Clyde
To Sir With Love
Rear Window
The Great Escape
The Secret of Santa Vittoria
Closely Watched Trains
A Tale of Two Cities
The Fugitive
House of Wax
The Avengers
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
King Kong
The Grapes of Wrath
Ice Station Zebra
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
The List of Adrian Messenger

Max: “Would you believe that Get Smart is the best television show ever?”

Siegfried: “I find that hard to believe.”

Max: “Would you believe that Get Smart is the most popular television show in Khazakstan?”

Siegfried: “No.”

Max: “Would you believe that Get Smart is funnier than Republicans?”


Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Hampshire Primaries - Channeling Floyd Turbo

Mack Hall, HSG

Channeling Floyd Turbo

A bed-and-breakfast in New Hampshire has posted a hand-lettered sign banning all politicians.  For a nickel’s worth of cardboard and colored ink the B & B has accomplished the American dream, a transient Kardassian moment of look-at-me-me-me-ness which no one with a vocabulary larger than 300 words takes seriously.

For a few months every four years New Hampshire awakens from its somnolence (Listen – you can hear the chorus sighing “Brigadoon!  Brigadoo-oon!”), sloshes on its makeup, and, like New Orleans, parodies itself.

Presidential candidates prove themselves worthy of the power of nuclear winter by channeling Johnny Carson’s Floyd Turbo and yukking it up with The Just Plain Folks down at Ma and Pa’s Cafe.  They costume themselves in ye olde New Hampshire quaint and colorful ethnic folk dress – baseball caps and plaid hunting shirts made in China – and pretend to be Your Neighbor.  Of course Your Neighbors in New Hampshire are only playing at being Your Neighbor, too, so it is all wonderfully confusing. 

Perhaps it will help if we think of the New Hampshire primary as one of those historical re-enactment events, only instead of everyone dressing up as Civil War soldiers, they pose as Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys with mobile ‘phones locked and loaded.

One can understand any restaurant banning presidential candidates, if only because the candidates don’t know how many people they are.  When a candidate completes the forms for standing for election, he or she immediately becomes a “we,” as in “We are going win this state” and “We will not indulge in negative ads, unlike our lying, depraved opponent who sacrifices hamsters to the moon goddess.”  If the café’ has available a table for four and the visiting candidate presents himself as “we,” the staff don’t know if four seats are adequate or if they need to push some tables together.

Perhaps the “we” connects with the candidate’s assertion of God’s backing; a number of candidates and their spouses have claimed that they have received personal revelations from God telling them that God wants them to be Mr. and Mrs. President.

And, hey, who are the rest of us to go against the will of God as revealed to a player in a chambray shirt that will never be splattered with oil stains or sweat, eh?

Did George Washington trade in his tricorn for a ball cap when he stood for President?

Did FDR switch his cigarette holder for a chaw of terbaccy and hang out in New Hampshire playing checkers with Larry, Daryl, and Daryl on the evening of the 7th of December, 1941?

Did John Kennedy sport a faux work shirt while checking out the farmer’s daughter…um…mingling with The People in 1960?

Once upon a time presidential candidates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms.  The air in the rooms is more aromatic than ever, but the scent is not that of smoke.

But let us remember that very few nations switch administrations without firing squads, and we are one of the happy few.   We can be thankful that the worst we have to suffer is watching members of the Harvard Club pretend, like Marie Antoinette, to be rustics.


Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Already?

Mack Hall, HSG

2012 Already?

Another new year has noisily pushed its way into our lives, just as we were getting comfortable with the old one, and in a shrill voice demands inordinate attention, rather like a presidential candidate’s wife. 

The new year means that now we should all make lists of new year’s resolutions to ignore, which is of course all of them.  Why is a resolution made on the first of January somehow more significant than one made on the 12th of October?

Lose weight? Not gonna happen.  Here, have some more chocolate and enjoy life.

Here are some resolutions that our political and cultural leaders might attempt, though they won’t:

Presidential candidates should resolve to drop the royal “we.”  Even in local elections a candidate begins referring to himself as “we” as soon as he has filed the papers.  When a candidate refers to himself as “we,” someone should ask him about his multiple-personality disorder issues.

Presidential candidates and their spouses should resolve to use a Christmas bookstore gift card to buy a copy of the Constitution, wherein, they will note, there is no delegation of power to a presidential spouse and no budget for a presidential spouse.

Any presidential candidate who resolves to have the Hohenzollern-ish (cue “Imperial March” from Star Wars) fleet of presidential jumbo jets and helicopters converted to medical evacuation aircraft for our wounded soldiers would probably win the election.  Let’s hear it from all the candidates, boys and girls alike: “I solemnly resolve never to arrogate military aircraft for myself, my spouse and kids, my spouse’s lengthy catalogue of relatives, my dog, my butterfly collection, my anything.  I swear that if I have a constitutionally-mandated duty to fly somewhere as president, I will buy space on a civilian airliner, just like the Pope, the British royal family, and almost every other world leader.  I further assure you that golf clubs will not be part of my baggage.”

Election commissions everywhere should resolve that on every ballot there will be a “none-of-the-above” option.

The makers of films should make solemn vows, not mere resolutions, to return to holding the cameras still.  The concept of deliberately shaking the camera around is not artistic; it is merely a precious, look-at-me gimmick.

Another matter of artistic integrity would be to list computer graphics as a percentage of content in a movie.  The adaptations of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia stories, for example, are excessively clotted with computer graphics, with the resultant minimizing of the plot and of the characters of the children. 

And yet another resolution for filmmakers: turn on the lights when setting a scene.  So many films now are shown in such a dim monotone that one wonders why projectors even bother with light bulbs. 

All UAW members should resolve to drive Chevy Volts.

Every company that sells cable, satellite, and wireless access should resolve to stop lying to their customers.  With that, though, the world as we know it would end.

May your new year be blessed with kittens, puppies, happy children, chocolate, good wireless signals, and evenings under the trees talking with friends, and may it be wholly devoid of resolutions, nasty surprises in the cable bill, and candidates’ wives.