Archive for February, 2019

I Once Shared a Cigarette With Kim Jong-un

February 27, 2019


He took my lighter, which still riles me. I mean, as rich as he is, and he stole it. Anyway, I was at a conference for superhero crime-fighters, in disguise as a reporter covering superhero crime-fighting conferences, in Interlaken. It’s a quiet and scenic town in Switzerland, between two lakes. (That’s what the inter-laken means.) Kim was in town to visit old friends and stock up on Raclette, one of those luxury habits he picked up while going to private school there. Like the rest of the family, they were too good to go to school in North Korea.

Cooks who did not melt and scrape the Raclette cheese just right onto the roast potatoes were shot. To go with the dish he preferred the Swiss, French and Italian wines closest in color to the blood of the chefs that ran onto the carpet. He had stepped outside his hotel suite for a cigarette, just as I was making my way down a secret restricted hallway. He respected the size of the handgun on my belt, and didn’t lift an eyebrow, except to say, “Got a light?” in clumsy Chinese, his way of hiding his identity. We shared a few puffs, for me sweetened by the knowledge that this didn’t happen very often with “Jongie.” If your lighter is solid gold, the gift of a king whose life you saved, since modified to shoot a laser and fire pin-sized darts, you don’t decide to offer it to others lightly. But I recognized him and played along. Just at that moment his sister appeared and hissed “Who’s that?” in Korean. Behind her were journalists thundering our way, plus security people and hotel managers I didn’t wish to socialize with, so I looked at him expectantly and held my hand out. He looked back with a “Screw you” smile knowing perfectly well he could have had me filled with holes, like Swiss cheese. (The Swiss don’t eat the crap we call Swiss cheese. They are too smart.) I cursed in Gaelic and flew away down the hall, right before the first bullets hit behind me. I knew I would never see that lighter again. With any luck he would shoot himself with a dart or a laser beam. Serve the little bastard right.

Donald Trump’s Repetitive Problem with Repetition

February 21, 2019


Why is Donald Trump’s discourse so filled with repetition repetition? If you listen to him talking — talking off the cuff, not reading someone else’s words from a TelePrompter — he constantly repeats words and phrases. You can also read transcripts of his public speaking and interviews with the press — there is constant repetition. Why? I have a theory. I don’t believe that Trump himself believes what he is saying is important. He says what pops into his head as advantageous to him, a crude transactional output that he thinks his audience wants to hear, or that he thinks hurts his enemies — what is helpful for Trump, in other words. I believe that what is important to Trump is that he is talking.


In a room with others, where other people are speaking, such as a group of European leaders, he sits and sulks; he is not the center of attention so he is miffed. (He is exactly like a small child who doesn’t like being ignored.) I don’t think it matters to him what he is saying, as long as he is the one doing the talking. That’s where the repetition comes in: he is in essence extending the time he is talking. (Quality is vastly outweighed by quantity; his vocabulary is very small, and his style is crudely simple.) There are some who claim this repetition is an oratory technique, trying to get the thought across to others might be aided by the repetition, similar to how a salesman knows it is propitious to repeat a client’s name. Strip away the words and phrases repeated multiple times and you reduce the length of time he has the mic by more than half, which is for him undesirable. Donald Trump, still the spoiled child from six decades ago, wants to be the center of attention, and the way to do that is by talking, certainly not by listening. Repetition allows him to extend and stretch out the length of time his mouth is open and noises are coming out — the center of attention — which for him is paramount. This theory applies also to Kellyanne Conway, for whom what she says is less important than the fact that she is talking. Her prodigious word salad is filled with crap, distortion,  distraction and lies, rather than honest answers to questions, so in a way, for both Trump and Conway, they are ‘winning’ as long as they are talking, since that is the stronger position than listening, which is for losers.


All Hail the Clambake

February 10, 2019


Bing Crosby would be turning over in his grave, looking for long winter underwear. At the charity golf tournament he founded in the late 1930’s as a getaway for his celebrity buddies, his “booze-soaked Clambake” pro-am at Pebble Beach, he was used to sunny skies and warmth, the only cold being the ice in the ubiquitous cocktails. This morning the tournament was suspended and delayed due to hail. Hail.


The staging area for Bing’s Clambake was golf’s west coast mecca triumvirate featuring storied Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Club, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club, all within a mile of each other and featuring spectacular views of the Pacific. The neighborhood, as you might imagine, was populated by big Hollywood names and the wealthy, happy not only to rub elbows with Crosby and his coterie, but also to host after-golf parties, sometimes lasting all night, hungover players staggering off to morning tee times having stayed up all night getting hickeys from Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses.


For most of the local California universe it wasn’t about golf so much as a 24/7 party that happened to also generate charity funds. But in 1956 the Clambake served as a backdrop for one of the all-time great matches in golf history, related in riveting detail in Mark Frost’s wonderful book, “The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever“. Frost has written a variety of important books on golf’s history, including “The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America and the Story of Golf“, and “The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf“. This last book told the story of the impossible 1913 US Open golf tournament, when a 20-year old amateur, who grew up across the street from the golf course where the tournament was played, shocked the world when he defeated the two biggest professional golf champions of the era, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. (Vardon is still the only player in history to win The Open Championship — aka the British Open — an astonishing six times.)

In 1913, Francis Ouimet’s caddie was the irrepressible, 10-year-old Eddie Lowery. By the 1950’s Lowery had become a millionaire car dealer, and he and his rich buddies were fond of big-money betting. Lowery and his friend George Coleman made a bet on a seminal golf match, pitting the two most famous pro golfers of the time, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan (Nelson long retired and Hogan entering the twilight of his career), against two outstanding young amateurs, Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi. This private match was played in the background shadows while the “official” clambake pro-am was going on. Ward was an “inveterate playboy who performed hungover on two hours’ sleep” winning the US, British and Canadian amateur titles, and starring on Walker Cup teams; he had a brief pro career, enjoying more success as a club pro, becoming the teacher of future golf great Payne Stewart. Ken Venturi won the California State Amateur Championship twice, and nearly became the first amateur to win the Masters Tournament a few months later, leading after the first, second and third rounds, losing — coming in second — only after a dreadful final round. Venturi enjoyed a successful pro career (including a US Open win), then changed jobs and became a famous golf color commentator for some 35 years.


Frost’s story of the match between the two old pros — Hogan and Nelson — and the two young amateurs — Ward and Venturi — is one to savor. Lots of golf history, sure, and detailed match coverage, but which “is less interesting than the people involved and the historical backdrop. The match happened near the sport’s great cusp, as it transitioned from something for amateurs to a professional career, from a pastime for wastrel aristocrats and entertainers … to a mainstream suburban obsession.” You should read this book whether you’re a golf fan or not. You’ll thank me. You’ll want to send me some clams.



With Lobbying You Get Cockroaches

February 8, 2019


Even cockroaches think Paul Manafort is dirty. His clients: Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko, a former dictator of Zaire, Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi, and Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine; the cream of the crop. His most recent client is POTUS45, currently under siege-like legal attack from many law enforcement directions, his pathetic circled wagons suffering a hail of flaming arrows. Donald Trump must now realize that he will be forever linked to that reprehensible group of criminal international leaders. He may also realize that his dynasty could possibly face the same abrupt end many dictatorships do.

One of Manafort’s more recent clients was Russia’s friend Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former president, whom even Vladimir Putin could not protect. (Protection being something Donald Trump covets right now.) Trump should note that Yanukovych was so spectacularly corrupt and hated by the people that he was violently overthrown. The Ukrainian Revolution of 2014 was so violent that the president was not removed in an orderly fashion but had to physically flee, like in the old days when a crook would be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. Think about that: Manafort managed a guy so hated by the Ukrainian people that tens of thousands of them took to the streets with weapons including guns, Molotov cocktails, and whatever they could grab. A political leader was so despised for being so corrupt, that the people revolted, then deposed and chased him out of the country. (He ran to Moscow pleading for help from Putin, like a frightened child runs to his mother’s skirts.) Has Donnie thought about the possibility, however remote, that the American people, having become so exasperated with his repulsive corruption, would amass and chase him out of the country? I suppose Putin, to whom Trump has been so generous, could find Trump and his children a basement apartment in some oligarch’s dacha.

New From the App Store: Tack’EmUp

February 6, 2019


Are you confused by the morass of Russian contacts and the cast of characters examined by the Mueller investigation? (Me too.) Who has been indicted? Who is in jail already? Who’s about to be sentenced to jail? At whom are legal fingers being pointed? Who testified about whom? And where the hell is Ukraine? All those lies, overwhelming evidence of criminal conspiracy, obstruction of justice and suspicious flows of currency, they form a gnarly Gordian knot. Let our fantastic new smartphone app, Tack’EmUp, turn your largest wall into a visual description of the investigation. Tack’EmUp includes ten pounds of thumbtacks, 100 miles of colored string, guided instructions for printing photos, bios and summary text describing the individuals, companies and evidence, and detailed instructions for turning the partition into one of those things you see on TV when a detective solves a murder. (Minimum sized wall required is bigger than any of yours.)

George Washington’s “Rules of Civility”

February 6, 2019



Last night at Trump’s SOTU performance he read lists. I submit for your approval a different list, from George Washington’s “Rules of Civility”. One of the least well-known documents written by the nation’s first president, these 110 rules served as Washington’s guidelines for virtuous behavior. While many relate to manners at the table, the rest deal with social constructs and etiquette. I have picked out just a few that Donald Trump knows nothing and cares nothing about:

(I have endeavored to keep Mr Washington’s convention of spelling and sometimes odd capitalization.)

1. Every Action done in Company ought to be with some Sign of Respect to those that are Present. [Insults and disparagement to the press, the courts and many other US institutions and individuals.]

7. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed. [Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal may have something to say about that.]

21. Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof. [At a rally Trump mocked a reporter with arthrogryposis, a congenital disability.]

25. Superfluous Compliments and all Affectation of Ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected. [Like a dictator he wants military parades in his honor.]

30. In walking, the highest Place in most Countries seems to be on the right hand. Therefore, place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honor… [He made her wait, and then he walked ahead of Queen Elizabeth II of the UK at Buckingham Palace.]

44. When a man does all he can, though it Succeeds not well, blame not him that did it. [He always blames others instead of taking responsibility for his own errors.]

47. Mock not nor jest any thing of Importance, break no Jest that are Sharp Biting, and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant abstain from Laughing thereat yourself. [See #1.]

49. Use no Reproachful Language against any one; neither Curse nor Revile. [He insults anyone who criticizes him or does not praise him enough.]

58. Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ’tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern. [He finds it nearly impossible to speak without malice or envy, due to his innate meanness and insecurity.]

65. Speak not injurious Words; neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion. [Oh yeah.]

67. Detract not from others, neither be excessive in Commanding. [“So-called judges…” and “I need loyalty.”]

68. Go not thither, where you know not whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Asked, & when desired do it briefly. [He insults and criticizes our oldest and most valuable allies: Canada, the UK, Germany, France, the EU in general, South Korea and many more.]

79. Be not apt to relate News if you know not the Truth thereof. In Discoursing of things you Have heard, Name not your Author always. [“Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof.” Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha.]

88. Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse. [Ha ha ha. Have you ever looked at the text of his interviews? Incoherent, contradictory and repetitious.]

110. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little celestial spark called Conscience. [Him? Conscience? Ha ha ha — he doesn’t have one.]

(Thanks to Cheryl McGregor.)

Thank you, George, you left us an important example; I am sure you would have been appalled by POTUS45.