Monday, February 5, 2018

How Democrats Escape the Ariadne Trap-On 3Quarks

My father hated the Richard Strauss opera Ariadne Auf Naxos.

Dad obviously had his preferences, and they had a certain strongly expressed idiosyncratic logic to them: He liked "good tunes," so thumbs up to Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Offenbach and Bizet. He didn't like too much recit or harpsichord, which meant Mozart often tested his patience. Wagner was a no—too Wagnerian (I don't think the Hitler thing helped). The Beethoven and Tchaikovsky efforts puzzled him: When you write symphonies and concertos as magnificently as these two, why waste your time with mediocrities like Fidelio and Eugene Onegin?

Dad was more than capable of clearly articulating, at length, the reasons for his dislikes (this was a quality he also applied to the world beyond opera), but he would not get specific about Ariadne Auf NaxosAriadne Auf Noxious was not discussable. It did not make his formidable collection of open-reel tapes. He actually walked out of a performance (between acts, of course, but our seats were conspicuous) and never returned. Milton Cross couldn't tempt Dad. If, by some chance, it would appear on his subscription, he would give away the tickets (an act not lightly taken). Because of this, I had absolutely no memory of the opera, not even a wisp of a melody, so, as a public service to the reader, I subjected myself to about 15 minutes of it, and I think I almost blacked out. Dad was right. Very bad.

Yet, as we "celebrate" a year of Donald Trump, I can't stop thinking about this ridiculous, over-the-top, oddball, play-and-opera-within-an-opera as metaphor. The Donald Trump Show is our Democratic Ariadne Auf Naxos (Clockwork Orange version). It's like someone has tied us to our seats in the Trump-Lovers Section, and forced us to watch them leap up, screaming bravo, at his every croak. What's worse is that we (especially those of us in coastal Blue States) had to pay double for the tickets. It's driving us nuts.

One year is enough. Time to get off the feedback loop, because Trump-madness leads to electoral doom. Indulging in it is a fix, blaming it is a crutch, and frankly, with surveys showing more Republicans trust Putin than the FBI, it's our patriotic duty to do better. We have to start thinking with our heads instead of our glands. So, here are my 12 steps to sobriety:

1. Let Trump be Trump. Why fight a hurricane with a five-dollar umbrella? Trust the public to judge. Recognize that there is a large group of bedrock Trumpistas who will never leave him. They really believe the Deep State, Secret Society, Globalist Conspiracy, #fakenews mantra and nothing is ever going to shake that. So, let Trump do his thing, because every time we voice our outrage ... his people cheer. They have been waiting for a champion a very long time, and for whatever incomprehensible-to-us but clearly genuine reasons they may have, he's their guy.

2. Learn from the situationally sycophantic. Not the true believers, but the ones we think are hypocrites; the professional preachers, the party apparatchiks and the uber-wealthy—those guys. Take careful notes, because they have much to teach. Of course it's disgusting when Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham trade piety for power. Or when economic titans hold their noses with one hand while the other is palm upstretched. But bear in mind, Trump delivered for them. That's how they judge him. On theocracy and plutocracy, Trump delivered. What are we going to deliver?

to read more on Ariadne, Trump and the Democrats:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Annual Ditties (Plural)

A number of readers have asked me to put the links to the Annual Ditties in one place.

Here they are:

2017:  The First Day of Christmas

2016:  The Wreck of the Hillary C.

2015:  Modern-Aged Politico

2014:  Winter's Discontent

2013:  Barack Obama's Ride

2012:  Mitchie at the Bat

A lot of very bad puns here

Monday, January 8, 2018

Baseball and Politics, Politics and Baseball-On 3Quarks

What moves the American soul? 

We love arguments, contests, and elections. Love the drama, the passion, the polarizing candidates, the fake piety, the rank partisanship, the heart-felt and often appallingly disingenuous editorials, and the heavy dose of moral relativism.

It's that time again. Baseball Hall of Fame ballots for the class of 2018 had to be postmarked as of Sunday, December 31, 2017. The final results will be announced January 24, but the angst is well underway. This year, in particular, the garden-variety question of who, on performance, merits induction, has been largely dominated by the public evaluation of a generation of original sinners, the steroid boys.

It's been more than a decade since the first retired PED's user came on the ballot, but this year's discussion was juiced (sorry about that) by Hall of Famer Joe Morgan's November letter to every member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (the voters) essentially begging them not to admit tainted candidates.

Morgan is right to be concerned. In a manner that mirrors the chaos and distrust in our political system, the fans and the writers are gradually turning towards acceptance of behavior that was once considered disqualifying. They aren't alone—institutions and people in positions of authority are doing it as well. The Commissioner's Office itself has a bifurcated approach—significant punishment for present users, but a queasy truce with the past. Retired offenders are no longer persona non grata. Fox Sports hired former litigant/third baseman Alex Rodriguez as a color commentator last season, and, if there was resistance from the league, it was very hard to hear. Other ex-players have begun to drift back into the game, and their presence no longer is seen as controversial. That couldn't have happened without at least a wink and a nod from the Commissioner's Office.

That wink and nod may also be acknowledging an additional reality. Baseball tolerated PED use for a long time, and may even have tacitly encouraged it, until public outcry, and Congressional attention, made it anathema. If Mark McGwire was sticking a needle in his butt in 1990, he wasn't breaking any MLB rules. And if he was doing it in 2000, after his epic battle with Sammy Sosa, and the year before Bonds' 73 shattered his record, while there were wrist-slapping penalties, he still wasn't being tested for it. Both he and the owners and every other artificially enhanced slugger of the time knew that all those dingers put fannies in seats. The big man with the bulging biceps became part of pop culture; he was even on a Wheaties Box, and there's a very funny (and somewhat ironic) 1999 ad with the string-bean pitchers Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine bemoaning "Chicks Dig The Longball." Manly owners with cigars clenched in their jaws dug it as well--and so did much of the press.

Read more at http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2018/01/baseball-and-politics-politics-and-baseball.html

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Annual Ditty 2017

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
5 Golden Tees
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
6 Pence a Praying
5 Golden Tees
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
7 Seans a Swooning
6 Pence a Praying
5 Golden Tees
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
8 Moores a Mourning
7 Seans a Swooning
6 Pence a Praying
5 Golden Tees
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
9 Moguls Ogling
8 Moores a Mourning
7 Seans a Swooning
6 Pence a Praying
5 Golden Tees
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
10 Ryans Reaping
9 Moguls Ogling
8 Moores a Mourning
7 Seans a Swooning
6 Pence a Praying
5 Golden Tees
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free


On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
11 Sanders Shrilling
10 Ryans Reaping
9 Moguls Ogling
8 Moores a Mourning
7 Seans a Swooning
6 Pence a Praying
5 Golden Tees
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Muellers Mulling
11 Sanders Shrilling
10 Ryans Reaping
9 Moguls Ogling
8 Moores a Mourning
7 Seans a Swooning
6 Pence a Praying
5 Golden Tees
4 Flinching Flakes
3 French Legs
2 Tiny Thumbs
and a Tweet That Was Truly Trump Free



Merry and Happy to all our Friends

Michael 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ditties, Dirges, and Duels On 3Quarks

I have a problem. Each December I write a political New Year's ditty to send to friends and family. I've had a good time with them, even when the news (at least from my perspective) is less than cheery. I get to crib shamelessly from great authors of the past, ruin perfectly good metre with my tuneless ear, and throw in some real groaners. My "Mitchie at the Bat" is considered a classic of the genre, and even last year's dirge-y "Wreck of the Hillary C" induced a small avalanche of comments from the similarly agonized.

But I'm blocked. Eleven months of government by cattle-prod has depleted my mirth supply, so, in a last-minute Hail Mary, I am going to recharge by pivoting to a dispassionate discourse about something we are all passionate about—money. Not Bitcoin, or something esoteric that's way above my humble understanding, but plain old cash—the real stuff, actual specie, as in old coins.

I happen to have a few. Not many, and they don't have much in the way of numismatic value, but they are a treasure trove of history, and history cheers me up. About a dozen assorted coins dating from the late 18th Century to 1892, all from a worn-out purse my grandmother found in her basement catacombs. Among them were some two-cent pieces from the 1860s, a half-dime, an 1803 large penny, a commemorative coin from the Columbian Exposition, and an absolutely exquisite 1826 Capped Bust half-dollar.

To a junkie like me (for history, not necessarily for coins) they are all wonderful. Collectively, they tell a story that starts with 16 states and ends with 44, of powdered wigs and multi-hour speechifying, several wars, horses and stagecoaches, cotton pickers and cotton merchants, the creation of whole new cities out of swamp, and the building of an empire (by whatever means necessary) that stretched across the continent.

I was particularly lucky to have that 1826 half because, while it might have been the least rare, it had more stories to tell than I originally anticipated. It was in unusually good condition, well struck (perhaps early in the year, when the dies were still new) and with a faint patina that enhanced its beauty. Today's pocket change doesn't have much personality, but this half-dollar had elegance and character and craft, and even a little provenance to intrigue. This half had something to say. The design was by John Reich, a German immigrant who arrived here in 1800 (the model was supposedly his "fat German Mistress"). His work was noticed by Thomas Jefferson, who arranged for the US Mint to hire him as an assistant to the Engraver…but first they had to redeem his bond--because Reich came here as a bondsman, owing twenty guineas, to be paid off by working for $1 per week, for two years, for a Philadelphia engraver. Beyond that rather stark reminder that the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence allowed for a few business transactions, it also turns out that 1826 was a rather unexpectedly significant year, one that not only had the poetic passings of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (both on July 4, the 50th Anniversary of the ratification of the Declaration), but a spicy brew of political chaos which included a duel of honor that might have, but didn't, alter the course of American History.