Monday, July 08, 2019

Mad World Gone

"Those whom the gods would destroy they first make Mad"

Anonymous ancient proverb

"What, me worry?"
Alfred E. Neuman
Our Fearless Leader
Why do you think Mad Magazine is throwing in the towel after sixty-seven years? It's quite simple when you think about it: Mad is (was) a satirical publication. On the day the American voters foolishly decided that sending an unhinged sociopath like Donald Trump to the White House would be a perfectly reasonable idea, satire became obsolete.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I ceased being a monthly reader of Mad in the autumn of 1973. That was around the time I discovered National Lampoon, George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. All of the sudden, Mad - although still insanely irreverent - lost a bit of its bite for me. However, every once-or-twice-a-year or so, for the next forty-six years, I would pick up an issue for old time's sake. I just needed to see what those "usual gang of idiots" were up to. I was never disappointed - not once.

For five-and-a-half years I was MAD about Mad. I can still very vividly recall the first time I ever purchased it at the long-gone Rosen's Variety Store in my home town. It was May of 1968. The cover's illustration showed the parody of the month; it was a send-off of Bonnie and Clyde, a film starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty that was the mega-hit of the moment. The satire was called, "Balmy and Clod" - Get it? That issue was a month after the assassination of Martin Luther King, a month before the murder of Bobby Kennedy; the war in Vietnam was being beamed into American living rooms on a nightly basis. As a tender and impressionable kid, a mere three months prior to my tenth birthday, I was ripe for the sheer lunacy of Mad Magazine.

And you wonder how I turned out so weird.

Two months later, in August, there was a special extended issue devoted to that publication's perennially goofy mascot and his campaign for the presidency of the United States. Enclosed was a bumper sticker which defiantly proclaimed:


Their timing was exquisite. Within days of appearing on newsstands across the nation, the Democratic National Convention exploded in an orgy of violence and insanity inside Chicago's International Amphitheatre and outside in the streets beyond. It was the worst catastrophe that the windy city had witnessed since the night Mrs. O'Leary's cow burnt the joint down to the ground nearly a century before. In the midsummer of 1968, Alfred's campaign was not quite as ridiculous as you might imagine, given the candidacies of Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace. In fact, I'm surprised he didn't make a run in 2016. He should have.

Election Day 1968 brought us nearly six years of Dick Nixon (a tenure which would end prematurely in complete disgrace in the summer of 1974) and seven additional years of a war that should never have been fought in the first place.

Mad taught several generations of kids like me to be cynical toward authority of any and all kinds. At this point in our history cynicism would seem to be America's natural birthright. It wasn't meant to be that way, but that's the way it is, and probably will be for at least another generation - possibly a few more. It's a fact we need to come to terms with.

In addition to their monthly publication, a few times a year they would release a paperback book that contained the best of Mad. How I used to savor those books! The one that sticks out in my memory was called "The Mad Sampler". It still makes me giggle when I think about it all these decades later. I vaguely remember a satire of the Jack Paar program which, although I strain my mind in an effort to recall the details, sent me rolling on the floor in a blind fit of hysterics. I had about twenty-five of those books - until they were stolen from me by the neighborhood bully. In fact, while he and his family were away in 1972 on their Easter Vacation, I broke into his home in a vain attempt to retrieve them; that's how much they meant to me. I got caught. It was my first brush with the law. So now you know.

And to think that I came so close to throwing my life away for Mad Magazine! Most other kids would have been sent to a juvenal reformatory. I wasn't. My father was rich. The neighborhood bully was himself guilty of more-than-a-few infractions - far worse than mine - that should have gotten him incarcerated as well. He never was either. His father was rich. If the both of us had been born poor and black, he would have paid for his sins for the rest of his life (he's deceased now) and I would still be paying for mine nearly half-a-century later. That's how things work in America.  

But I digress....

Mad will soon be gone forever, and while, as I said before, I have not been a regular reader for many years, I still believe that something important and vital is about to disappear from American culture. True, there are still outlets for satire - some of them brilliant - but it's difficult not to mourn the passing of the one that was the granddaddy of them all. In a turbulent childhood, Mad Magazine was, for me, a virtual life-raft.

The truth of the matter is that I just don't like the modern world.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


My Song
by Harry Belafonte

I read this memoir in about a day and a half - all four hundred-plus pages. While he might have spent his life resting on his laurels, content to be a rich and apathetic singing star, Harry Belafonte dedicated his life - and his fortune - to the service of the human race. This is his song. This is something we all need to read. Here is a link to order it online:

By the way, Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (1959) is the greatest Live LP ever recorded. It's essential listening.

"Daylight come and me wanna go home!"
Sorry, I couldn't resist one parting shot:

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Just Another Day in Goshen, NY

The above photograph was taken this morning by my sister.
Goshen, New York is the town that I was born and raised in. After spending a number of years living all across the United States and Canada, I moved back to the place about twenty years ago. Every forth of July there have been an abundance of American flags on display throughout the village's main thoroughfare. This year - nothing. Mere coincidence? Possibly. Although it is not-at-all inconceivable that there might very well be a connection to the fact that our little village has found itself thrust into the midst what can only be described as a national embarrassment. One of my ancestors, Charles Carroll, signed the Declaration of Independence, two-hundred-and-forty-three years ago today. This holiday, at one time, was a source of national pride. It has become a fucking joke.
Isn't it amusing being an inmate of Idiot Nation?
As I write these words, the president of the United States is participating in a partisan rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial - the monument to the Great Emancipator. Is it within your imagination to believe that Lincoln would have been proud of the 21st Century incarnation of the party that he took part in forming? I cannot believe that we have come to this place. My only solace is that, someday - maybe - we will have come to a place where, in spite of the complete and utter stupidity that is America today, we might experience a more enlightened tomorrow. For all of the craziness that we have been forced to deal with on a day-today basis, there are still small and gentle pockets of hope. America is still a great place - in spite of the stupidity of the people who cast their ballots here. This is something that thinking people will be forced to contend with for generations to come.

We can only imagine the cost and damage that Trump is currently doing to the infrastructure of Washington DC. Experts are predicting that the tanks that he plans on bringing into the nation's capital will tear the shit out of the streets. That's fine: let the damage be done. My belief is that America will only be healed after it completely destroys itself - which is why I am loving every minute of its destruction.

I'm awfully glad that I lived to see this day. Aren't you?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

In my little town, I grew up believing....

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Our Bad

You have to wonder at the damage that is being done to the American republic for every hour that this contemptuous jackass continues to occupy the White House. Forty-five years ago this summer the crimes committed by Dick Nixon and his gang finally proved to be to much for even the Republicans in Congress. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona - America's last great conservative - finally marched into the oval office and read the Trickster the riot act. In effect, he told him that the jig was up; he would have to resign from office in disgrace or be removed via impeachment - an even greater shame. Nixon read the writing on the wall; he was soon off to his bunker in San Clemente, to bitter and decrepit exile.

There were a number of heroes on Capitol Hill during the final weeks before Richard Nixon's political demise. Ironically enough a fair proportion of them turned out to be Republicans. Back in the weird old days, you could still count on more-than-a-few members of that party to step up and do the right thing. The GOP back then were a square and fairly goofy lot to be sure, but we always knew that (most of them, I think) had their hearts in 1974, the "party of Abraham Lincoln" was not a full-blown organized criminal enterprise. It was on its way, but there was still plenty of room for hope for less-extreme conservative voters. That hope is long gone.

There won't be any Republican heroes by the time the bells of doom toll for the twisted and dysfunctional presidency of Donald J. Trump - and very few Democratic ones I imagine. Trying to imagine a corrupt troll like Mitch McConnell channeling his inner Barry is akin to picturing Pope Francis beautifying Heinrich Himmler. Our only consolation in June of 2019 is that we  have only to endure this disgusting administration for less than a year-and-a-half - which is probably just as well. The idea of enduring even a day of the administration of a dirty old dingbat like Mike Pence really shouldn't fill anyone's heart with joy. Whatever scenario eventually transpires, the damage that is being done to the United States will survive the lifetimes of most of you reading this. Isn't that a lovely thought? 

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Pauley at Seventy-Seven

Paul McCartney turned sixty-four thirteen years ago today.

McCartney is the only ex-Fab that I've never written a piece about in the thirteen years I've been writing this blog. So it seemed like a long-overdue thing to tackle this, the seventy-seventh anniversary of the day that he was born. The thing that I always loved about The Beatles was the fact that they were four frustrated comedians. Truth be told, Paul McCartney never tickled my funny bone half as much as the other three did. But let's give he man his due: he was indeed talented, and, as the years transpired, he did become a heck of a lot funnier. I'm happy to be able to report to you that the madcap lunacy of John Lennon eventually did wear off on the guy.

The relationship between Paul McCartney and I has been contentious for many decades. While I always loved the music (with the exception of the Speed of Sound LP, which I always thought to be the first post-Beatles LP to be unlistenable) It was always my opinion that 1971's Ram was one of the best solo-Beatles LP ever produced. I still feel that way. It still sends me into the clouds.

My feelings about Paul McCartney were somewhat disrupted a few years ago during an incident that involved my brother, Pete.  He has a copy of the Beatles Anthology book that he has spent years getting people from their history to sign - everyone from Frieda Kelly to Pete Best to Bill Harry to Astrid Kirshner to Giles Martin. If they might have been even a mere footnote in the history of the Fabulous Fabs, Pete  had their autograph in that damned book. On the night that he asked Paul to sign it, he was met this angry and hostile retort, delivered at full volume:


Pete's response was pure Pete:

"I'm sorry, Paul, I wasn't trying to kill you, I just wanted an autograph for my book."

Whatever. We cannot deny that the man's genius.

Let's drink a toast to - and raise a glass to - one of the great geniuses of the twentieth century. Let's not deny the debt we owe this incredible band. I love The Beatles. That's never going to change - not in this lifetime, nor the next.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


The Beatles
by Bob Spitz

The best book on that band ever written.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Above the Law and Constitution

As I never get weary of pointing out: if you're not in a blind fucking rage by what is being done to your once-great nation, you're not paying attention. When Benjamin Franklin emerged into the light of day from the building where the Constitution was being created in 1789, a woman approached him and asked what the representatives inside had given to the American people. I don't know if Franklin's response was ever etched in stone. If not, it should have been:

"A republic, madam - if you can keep it."

We kept the damned thing for two-hundred and thirty years. In 2019 it appears that our republic is disintegrating like cinders in a hurricane. I was reminded of this yet again last week when Attorney General William Barr (otherwise known as Donald Trump's personal lawyer) ignored a congressional subpoena. The complete, unprecedented arrogance of this disgusting administration is nothing new; what's disturbing more than anything is how we've become so accustomed to the corruption - and that a full one/third of the American people are so civically (and I suppose psychologically) dense, that they continue to support a president who, in addition to being the head of an organized criminal enterprise, is so obviously mentally ill. Being an American citizen these days is like living inside a dark comedy concocted by Paddy Chayefsky or Kurt Vonnegut.  
Inept chiefs-executive are hardly a modern phenomena. American history is littered with the stories of men who were not up to the job (James Buchanan and Warren Harding coming immediately to mind). But never have we had a leader ("ruler") who purposely sought to harm the country. This is where Donald Trump stands out. Did you ever - in your wildest and stupidest dreams - believe you'd live to see the day when the topic of conversation on national broadcast media would be whether or not the president of the United States might be a Russian asset? You may think that I'm being an alarmist, paranoid lefty, but I do believe that the damage that is being done to this country by the Trump Mob will probably take several generations to undo.
Let me leave you with this thought: Doesn't it make you wonder why Vladimir Putin is so anxious for Republicans to win elections? Does it also make you wonder why Mitch McConnell keeps blocking bills that would strengthen the security of the American voting process? Yeah, I was wondering about those things myself. I'm sure it's just a coincidence though. Enjoy your stay in Idiot Nation.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Destiny of the Republic:
A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
by Candice Millard
About a year ago I suggested that you all read "The River of Doubt" by Candice Millard. This latest one involves the shooting and lingering death of James A. Garfield, sadly, one of our least remembered presidents. Again, this is one that you won't be able to put down. I read it in two days.
Candice Millard
What I appreciate about her books is that she doesn't write full biographies, but, rather, she holds up a microscope to historical events that, while they may be well known, are not necessarily well understood. I've always known about Theodore Roosevelt's journey down the  River of Doubt; or the assassination of President Garfield; or Winston Churchill's part in the Boer War (her most recent book) - but I hadn't known any of the details. That is why her work is so valuable I believe. This is not the first book I've read by this extraordinary historian. It won't be the last - trust me. Here's a link to order it off of

Happy reading, kiddies!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Au Revoir, Sarah

Sarah Sanders will be leaving the Trump White House forever at the end of this month.

Good career move.

The saga of Sarah Huckabee Sanders has me thinking of Ron Ziegler, Dick Nixon's embattled press secretary. Like Nixon, Ziegler possessed an unapologetic hostility to the news media. The quote for which he is remembered, more than any other, is from the days immediately following the June 1972 break-in of the Democratic National headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, when he dismissed the whole affair as "a third-rate burglary". When Nixon put his administration together in the weeks following his1968 victory, his original choice for press secretary was Mike Wallace of CBS News. Wallace wisely turned The Trickster down. That's why more than a few heads turned when he chose Ziegler to be his press rep. His only media experience had been as an advertising executive for Disneyland. 

After Nixon resigned in disgrace in August of 1974, Ziegler had nearly thirty years of life left to him. Although he remained loyal to his former boss until the end, the poor old bugger pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth. There was no second act for Ron Ziegler. He died in total obscurity on February 10, 2003, an otherwise odd footnote to one of the most tumultuous periods in American political history. The only time his name would surface would be in one of those Whatever-Became-Of columns.  In 2019, most people don't even remember his name.

This, I imagine,  is the plan that fate has in store for poor old Sarah Sanders. In fact, when placed in comparison with Sanders, Ziegler is starting to look pretty good. The post-Trump period of her life promises to be a tragicomedy of errors and, ultimately, heartbreak. The rumor is that she is actually planning on running for governor of her home state of Arkansas. This is not advisable. The woman has not a millimeter-of-a-shred of credibility left to her tarnished name. At least Ziegler, in the hours before the Nixon administration deteriorated into a pile of cinders, came as close as possible to admitting that he had been wrong about his pompous statements to the press regarding Watergate. In one of his last news conferences he told the gathered newsmen and women that everything previously said on the matter should be considered "inoperative". Better than nothing, I suppose. At least he made somewhat of an effort, however halfhearted.
It's not like her life is over; I can see her going back to school and starting a new career - possibly as an advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist on a Little Rock newspaper:
Dear Sarah,
I emigrated to the United States a number of years ago and wound up marrying a very rich man who, to everyone's astonishment ( my own included), became successful in national politics. My dilemma is the sad fact that he has never, in all our years of marriage, been faithful to me, and that, as a politician, he is completely corrupt and may eventually be facing decades of incarceration for his crimes against the American people.

We have a child together, and I live in constant fear that the son will grow up bearing the stigma of the sins of the father. What should I do?
Melania in New York
Dear Mel in NY....FAKE NEWS!!!
Okay, maybe not. Perhaps a job as a carnival barker would be better suited to her unique talents.
I don't wish Sarah Sanders any ill will. I hope she has a long and contented life. In fact (and I am almost embarrassed to admit this) I'm going to miss her. Let's face some serious facts here, kids: as a spectacle in this train-wreck of endless clown cars, Mike Huckabee's kid was a gift from the Gods of Unintentional Comedy. Say what you will about her numerous flaws as a spokesperson in a so-called democracy - for junkies of the ludicrous (such as myself) Sarah Huckabee Sanders NEVER failed to deliver the goods. For this fact alone, we should be eternally grateful to her. I know I am.

Here's to you, Sarah!
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT, 6/15/19, 2:55 AM:

Someone on Facebook informs me that Sarah and her family are planning on moving to Orange County New York, which is where I live. That should send property values down just a tad, don'cha think? 


A Documentary on the life of Sylvia Plath:

  • Sylvia Plath was one of the great poets of the last century. A life too brief; beautiful, tormented and fragile, she committed suicide in February of 1963 at the age of thirty. We need to listen to her voice.

Get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Pissing on Their Graves

Does this administration even know the meaning of he word "protocol". It would seem to me that their must be, at the very least, one person among that disgusting cabal who would have had the wit and common sense to understand that a televised interview with Fox Noise's uber-partisan Laura Ingraham in the shadow of the graves of those who gave their lives storming the beaches of Normandy might have been seen by many as somewhat inappropriate. But they let it happen all-the-same. It makes one wonder if these assholes might be better off not having access to the nuclear codes. I just wanted to put the thought out there.
As someone whose uncle never came back from that war, the spectacle of the president of the United States spewing political venom was deeply and completely offensive. The fact that his team never had the brains - or the nerve - to explain to this stupid bastard that the Normandy/Ingraham gig was a hideously bad idea should leave all of us in fear, paranoia and loathing. This is going to end badly, folks....but I repeat myself.

Who ever would have thought that it would have come to this? That the president of the United States would have so disgraced the office that was once held by Lincoln and Roosevelt? To the day that I die, I'll never be able to figure this one out, kids. As much as I try, I'll never be able to contemplate it. To behold this vile, contemptible piece-of-shit unloading his spleen upon the people whose job it is to protect America is too weird for mere contemplation. We're living in bad times, folks. I just thought you should know. The complete destruction of what once used to be the greatest nation in the history of the world is almost complete. The party's over. It's time to call it a day. They took your pretty balloon and taken the moon away. Get used to living in a nation in fucking ruins. The party's over. It's all over, my friend....

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Monday, June 03, 2019

Be Careful What You Wish For

It would seem to me that the Democrats need to do a bit of soul searching. Their desire to impeach this president is understandable, admirable even. This is, after all, the most unhinged and corrupt administration that this doomed republic has ever had to contend with. As someone who has spent nearly his entire life carefully studying American history, I feel more than qualified to make that statement. We've had unstable and dishonest chiefs-executive in the past, but nothing and no one comes within a mile of Trump in terms of incompetence. The guy has no peer. It's also a safe bet to say that if it ever gets this weird again, it certainly won't happen in the lifetime of myself or anyone reading this. Donald Trump has become the gold standard for corruption and chaos. But impeaching him should not be where the Dems want to go - not now anyway.
Let me explain why I believe impeachment is a bad idea.
First of all, what good would it do? If he's impeached in the Democratic-controlled House, he will be tried in the Republican-controlled Senate. There is no way in hell that a party as ideologically crippled as the GOP will ever remove one of their own from the Oval Office - even one as obviously disturbed as this president. Impeachment will only take up too much time and will cost an awful lot of money. What good would the entire process do if his acquittal in the senate is a foregone conclusion?

Also (and this is a biggie), are they really that anxious to have President Mike Pence calling the Executive Mansion "home"? Are they serious??? True, Pence is not one half as crazy as The Donald (or, at least I don't think he is) but, like Trump, the vice-president is not one who is known for his brilliance....Okay, I'll refrain from politeness....Mike Pence is about as dumb as a soggy box of moldy doorknobs. Talk to anyone who lives in Indiana. My mother was from South Bend so I have enough cousins and friends there who tell me, almost in unison, that if Mike Pence were to run for governor again, he probably wouldn't even be able to get the nomination from his own party. Mike Pence as president is not a good idea even under the most optimistic of scenarios.

Unless Pence is busted for something big and is forced to resign in disgrace - ala Spiro Agnew - and is replaced by someone more stable - ala Gerry Ford - we really have no alternative other than riding this disgusting administration out for another year and a half. And remember, removing Trump from office would only cause "the base" to explode on a mass scale. These MAGA freaks are just crazy 'bout Trump, and no amount of persuasion is ever going to change that sick reality.

We might as well sit back and face the muzak: We're stuck with Donald Trump for another eighteen very long months. Enjoy the shit storm!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY   


I stumbled upon this BBC documentary early this morning. It tells the story of how Walter Cronkite and his team at CBS News reported the assassination of President Kennedy. It was first shown on the fiftieth anniversary and is narrated by George Clooney:


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Donald is in Free Fall

For all we know this may only be a dream....
If only it were. Someone accused me recently of liking what is now happening in Washington. My response was simply that "liking" is a gross understatement. I'm loving every minute of this political meltdown. I had a stock answer three years ago whenever the results of the 2016 election were discussed: "This is going to end badly, folks". Although I live in the evil northeast, the Hudson Valley town in which I reside is pretty conservative. To those of you who tittered and rolled your eyes at the alarm I expressed at the time ("Oh, Tom! Isn't he amusing!") I can only say that I've been vindicated a hundred fold.
Watching Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week drive the president into complete freak-out mode has been one of the giddiest delights of the year thus far. Trump even stooped low enough to post on his Twitter account a doctored video of Pelosi in which she appears to be slurring her words. This is done by means of speed manipulation. The implication being that she was either drunk or losing her grip  on reality. She was neither. This latest incident only further illustrates - yet again - the depth of the man's unprecedented dishonesty. It was quite an enjoyable show - one I wouldn't have missed for all the tea in Tenafly. If it's an unintentionally funny spectacle you're seeking, this administration delivers the goods every time. True, this doomed nation is descending into the abyss, but we're all going to have oodles of laughs on the way down. Imagine, if you will, the Ritz Brothers at the apocalypse.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Monday, May 27, 2019

On This Memorial Day....

Lt. Edward J. Degan, Jr.

There was a time when everyone knew someone - friend or family member - who gave their life for their country. I cannot even claim personal familiarity with my uncle Ed Degan (pictured above) who was one of the first American servicemen to die in the Battle of the Bulge on December 15, 1944. He died fourteen years before I was born. He was just four days shy of his 24th birthday when he was cut down by one of Hitler's tank shells. I always wonder what might have been; what kind of cousins I might have had; what kind of woman he might have married. By all accounts, the guy had everything going for him and so much to live for. His siblings and his parents eventually adjusted to life without Eddie Degan. When I was growing up, whenever any of them reminisced about him, it was always with great affection and humor - with not a bit of sadness or biterness.   Today he lies in the military cemetery in St. Avold, France.

A lot of Americans have given "the last full measure of devotion" since April of 1917 and the beginning of the first world war. Too many of those wars were unjustified - four of them by my count. That sad fact doesn't detract a bit from the ultimate sacrifice that was made by those who never came home. On this Memorial Day - of all days - let's reflect on those sacrifices. That's a form of patriotism that defies contemplation.

Happy Memorial Day, folks.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation - or any nation - so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is all together fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
Gettysburg, PA
November 19, 1863