Thursday, July 25, 2019

Merrie Olde England's Mistake

In 2004 on the morning after the reelection of George W. Bush, observers all around the world were completely dumbfounded that the American people could be naïve enough to send the incompetent fool back to the Oval Office for what only promised to be four more, excruciatingly long years. One British newspaper asked the following question of the American voters on it's front page:
"How Can 59 Million people Be So Dumb?"
How indeed? It was a dandy question any way you look at it. I have the same question this afternoon for the nice folks of the United Kingdom. I understand perfectly well that Boris Johnson is not now prime minister because of any electoral majority; he's there because too many of the English people voted for right wing politicians. They should have known better. Her majesty's subjects have today entered the brother-and-sisterhood of Idiot Nations. God save the freakin' queen, baby!

It would almost seem as if some people across the pond were jealous of us yanks and wanted to create their own version of Donald Trump. Johnson has been described by those whose job it is to observe these things as a belligerent, and unstable braggart. The fact that he also sports an incredibly bizarre hairstyle that he believes makes himself more appealing is also interesting. He is determined to yank Britain out of the European Union despite the fact that doing so would cause that country an economic downturn that might be catastrophic - at least according to the "experts".

The president said that he likes Boris and that, since he is often referred to as "the British Trump", this is proof that he will do a fantastic job as prime minister. Of course he will. Prepare yourselves for further amusement.

Our lives have become a black comedy scripted by Paddy Chayefsky. Isn't this amusing?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Samantha Bee

Here's a YouTube link to watch Samantha Bee's take on yesterday's Robert Mueller hearings. The woman is a treasure:

Conservatives everywhere are beside themselves with joy over Mueller's performance. Apparently they missed the show.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Fifty Years On

"That's one small step for a man...."
Aw, hell! You know the rest of it!
Armstrong, Collins and Aldren
Although only ten, I can remember that bedtime had been postponed for the evening; my father was not about to have any of his kids miss this milestone event - the most historical moment of the millennium. I can vividly recall looking out the window at the moon, which was a mere crescent in the sky, while simultaneously listening to the transmissions of two human voices that were being relayed from the Sea of Tranquility. The wonder of the entire event was almost too much to comprehend. We all waited, late into the night, for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren to step foot on the surface of the moon. The summer of 1969 was an incredible time to live.

Walter Cronkite once remarked that, five-hundred years into the future, all of the momentous events of the momentous twentieth century will be viewed by historians as mere footnotes to the moon landing  of July 20, 1969, fifty years ago tonight. He probably wasn't too far off the mark. We are as removed from that moment as those who witnessed it were removed from the year 1919. The fact that a half century has gone by between that moment and this defies belief. As divided as America was at that time, the entire country - indeed the entire planet - came together united. It was a very different world.

Despite the volatile times, those were wonderful days to be an American. A very different world indeed.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here's a link to watch CBS News coverage of that historic moment. The anchor is, of course, Cronkite:

Wasn't that a time?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Inconvenience of Being Jeffrey

I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy! He's a lot of fun to be with. It has been said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."
Donald Trump, 2002
I don't suppose that it's too much of an exaggeration to conclude that a lot of really powerful men (and perhaps a handful of women) are shitting purple yo-yos on this fine Thursday morn. One can only imagine what evidence and information the Feds uncovered when they raided Jeffrey Epstein's Manhattan mansion and had a peek into his safe a few days ago. If it were only one "underage woman" making the accusation that she had been sexually abused by a cabal of rich and powerful men, then there would be room for skepticism. But in this case, there appears to be a score or more of them. Fasten your seat belts, boys and girls. This is going to get interesting.

We were reminded this week - yet again - that there are two sets of rules in the "land of the free": one set for the rich, powerful connected (and white) and one set for all the rest of us. And I cannot underemphasize the racial aspects of this (O.J. lucked out and Michael Jackson was no longer black - let's be honest). As horrible as Bill Cosby's sins were against the woman whose accusations against the disgraced comedian sent him to prison for three-to-ten years, at least she was an adult at the time the crime was committed. Rap artists tend to do serious jail time regardless of the severity of their crimes. A decade ago, Epstein was "sentenced" to eighteen months in what can only be described as a comfy little apartment in a secluded section of some county jail in the state of Florida. He was allowed to be chauffer-driven to his office for twelve hours every day except Sunday, and ended up being sprung five months early. All the justice money can buy, baby!

The prosecutor who made this sweetheart of a deal possible was Alexander Acosta, who on Friday, was forced to resign in disgrace as the current administration's secretary of labor. The heat got too intense for the guy to remain in the kitchen.

For at least a decade - quite possibly more - Jeffrey Epstein operated an international child/sex trafficking ring that catered to the very high and the quite mighty. We need to know the people who benefited from these "services". They need to be exposed and taken down - regardless of their political party or the esteem in which they are held in the hearts of their public. The unveiling of the truth, however ugly or uncomfortable, always has a  medicinal effect on any democracy in the long run. Watergate was harmful to America, but we emerged from the political carnage a much stronger nation. Think about it.

We cannot predict when, where or how this nightmare is going to end, but at least we can be certain that it's not going to be a boring thing to behold. Call it one of those "best of times/worst of times" scenarios. Enjoy the shit-storm.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

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....