Friday, May 26, 2017

Pillars of Pretentiousness and Hypocrisy

The 1810 House

          There is  an op-ed piece by David Leonhardt in The New York Times dated May 25, 2017, titled “The Assault on Colleges— and the American Dream.” I read it wondering, since there were 171 colleges included in it, if Shawnee State University  in Portsmouth, Ohio, was among them. It wasn’t.  I ended my career teaching at Shawnee State, having retired in 2012, so I have more than an academic interest in it. Having been founded relatively recently, in 1986, SSU is the new kid on the state college block in Ohio, being the newest public college. It is relatively small in terms of campus size and student enrollment. But there is another reason SSU is relatively unknown, and that is  its location. Portsmouth is located in the south-central  Appalachian region of Ohio, the boondocks of the Buckeye state. Historically, there has been a stigma attached to Appalachia as an economically and culturally backward region. This  was the case particularly in popular culture, in radio, movies, and on the stage in the first half of the twentieth century. Li’l Abner did more to stigmatize and poke fun at Appalachia than any other fictional character. Where was Abner’s creator Al Capp (1909-1979) from? Appalachia? No, New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University, which in the first half of the twentieth century was one of the most elite and snobbish colleges in the country. Yale and Dogpatch were diametrically opposite cultural entities.

         One of Portsmouth’s biggest problems is its inferiority complex, which it owes at least in part to its being Appalachian. I have already suggested on this website that the architectural embodiment of Portsmouth Southern hypocrisy is the 1810 House with those pretentious white pillars, which were not there during the Civil War but were added early in the 20th century.* They are not pillars of strength. They are pillars of pretentiousness. Many of the earliest settlers of Portsmouth came not from the South but from Appalachia. They were not plantation people from the Deep South. They were for the most part, at least those who were not carpetbaggers,  hill people from Kentucky and West Virginia.

       The trouble is Portsmouth won’t admit it’s Appalachian. It wants to pretend it’s Southern, not Appalachian. What is its official motto? “Where Southern hospitality begins.”  A more apt title would be, “Where Southern hypocrisy begins.” One of the roles SSU might assume is dispelling the Southern hospitality myth and embracing, as a certain number of Scioto County residents proudly do, their Appalachian heritage.

*Click here:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Some Things a Poem Can and Can’t Do

            Exhibition of Mark Rothko's Black Paintings
                     at the National Gallery of Art

A poem can’t raise the dead, and it can’t
stop a rising river flooding the marsh;
It cannot brook toleration of cant,
cannot sweeten a suite that’s harsh.
A poem can’t wet a wilting flower,
it can’t end even the mildest drought.
It can’t right a slightly tilting tower,
nor relieve a gourmandizer’s gout.
What a poem can sometimes do is inspire,
or sometimes, more humorously, amuse.
A poem can express love, grief, or ire,
but it cannot drink or replace a fuse.
As has been true since at least the Fall, 
it can do some things well, others not at all.

                                    Robert Forrey

The Insane Sonnet

Winking the eye happens everywhere,
early morning, at noon, not just at night.
Winking the eye’s a meme in Shakespeare,
the me and the thee united in sight.
Winking the eye is love’s opening ploy,
the fond first move, the shy winking glance.
It is hard to resist Venus’ sly boy,
who prefers winking to the song and dance. 
Both in the boudoir and crowded harem. 
where females practice winking from the start,
Love at First Wink is love’s hoary anthem,
a song fondly sung by the faint of heart.
And it all begins with winking the eye,
so the me and the thee can deny the I. 

                                Robert Forrey

Friday, May 12, 2017

Tie-less in Gaza

Et tu, McCain?

The above photo of independent-minded Senator John McCain suggests the big tie addiction is pervasive in all wings of the Republican Party from President Donald Trump down to the crotch. 

Trump's bald-faced tie

Airhead Trump as president is a painful reminder of just how far red-state America has come down in the world. We don’t need Freud to remind us of the psychological compulsion of males to over-compensate. The big tie is a conspicuous phallic symbol and for a man with Trump's little hands, a convenient distraction from his frumpy persona, his amorphous personality, and his egregious asininity. Trump is the WASP wimp, the doofus dickhead who introduced the Nu (as in “nu?”) Deal to the White House.

                               Woody Allen, tie-less in Gaza

Not just Republicans but politicians generally are adopting a policy of speaking proudly and wearing a big tie, trying to persuade the American public through nonverbal communication that they are a big prick not a little schmuck. Schmuck is a Yiddish slang word for penis. Schmuck was the linguistic result of the Jewish male’s extended, wandering,  pre-Israel schlemiel period of stateless existence. Woody Allen is the eternally tie-less in Gaza incarnation of the schlemiel, of the nebbish nonentity. Oh, but how nicer it would be to see him in the White House rather than the WASP putz Trump.


Friday, February 10, 2017

The Carptetbagging Sitting Manager

The Sitting Manager in the Store Window

Tell me who's that smiling store-window dummy,
that  crooked chair warmer with the big tummy,
that perjurer whose scam began to unravel
when he awarded a crony a contract for gravel?
The road to hell is paved with lots of dirt
on deals in which taxpayers lose their shirt.
Does the crook end up going to jail? No, sir!
A crook with connections doesn’t end up in stir.
His sentence gets suspended, he does no time.
Who says it doesn’t pay? (I mean crime.)
Corrupt public officials are notorious.
Mendacious, meretricious, unmeritorious,
they deal from the bottom of the deck—
the human equivalent of a bad check.
The photo above’s from his own Facebook
at which you might be afraid to look
because it includes lots of selfies
that make him look bats-in-the-belfries.

A selfie of the sitting manager

He could turn out to be Portsmouth’s answer
to him who might be our national cancer—
I refer of course to President Trump
who lies like a rug in a garbage dump,
not to mention Donald’s yellow hairpiece,
which lies on his head like the Golden Fleece,
about which he is notoriously nuts,
as revealed in The Donald and the Argonauts,
which gets us back to the fat fellow,
the sitting manager in the store window,
who, we might say, smiles madly, without cease
because, alack, he lacks a golden hairpiece.
So he’s mad, mad as Alice’s hatter,
or frustrated as a fangless puff adder,
and that’s why he sits, day after day,
neglecting his duties but collecting his pay,
when not commuting to his home far away.
                                  Robert Forrey

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trump: Ticking Cardiac Time Bomb

Senior citizen jogging

A news report over the weekend reminded us what is generally well known even if often ignored. Exercise is good for our overall health and increases longevity. A 1995 study of Harvard alumni showed that vigorous exercise by men at least two days a week significantly increased their longevity. The life expectancy in the U.S. in 2012, rounded off, was 79 years, which I found hard to believe. In 1935, the first year of Social Security, when I was two years old, the average age for Americans was only 61, and that was back when Americans got much more exercise walking because they were in vehicles a lot less.

The exercise issue is especially relevant because the president of the United States, Donald Trump, apparently does not exercise vigorously at all unless you count, as he does,  all those speeches in which he gets apopletically exercised ranting  against his critics on the left. Don’t expect a treadmill or any other exercise equipment in the Oval Office during his tenure, unless it is there just for the sake of appearances or for photo ops. The most exercise Trump gets is with his mouth, eating and jawing. Maybe that’s why he was called  a “zaftig blowhard” in Esquire magazine.

The fact Trump is the oldest president ever elected for the first time to the highest office might mean that exercise is not quite as important as these studies suggest. After all, he reached 70 without much sweat. Why couldn’t he live into his eighties or even nineties?  Why shouldn’t he continue to chow down at his favorite eateries, McDonald’s and KFC?  Because there is another more likely explanation for his longevity and that is he is pressing his luck. He is an overweight ticking cardiac time bomb close to exploding. If his diet and eating habits, like his lack of exercise are not good—as the statistics suggest— the odds of his finishing his four-year term are not good either.

Trump and the Colonel: Finger Licking Good

According not only to himself but to the golf editor of the New Yorker, Trump does play one sport and he plays it fairly well, namely golf. That golf is the least strenuous of the major sports may be why Trump first took it up. He plays in the scads of profitable, top-rated golf courses he owns in a number of countries on both sides of the Atlantic. But he doesn’t look the part of a good golfer. The same New Yorker golf editor, who played eighteen holes with Trump on one of his golf courses, mistook him when he first saw him for an attendant, not the Donald himself. The only photo of Trump the golfer I have seen makes him look like a paunchy duffer in the rough.

Donald Trump: Paunchy duffer in the rough

While the legions of Trump haters might hope he croaks before long, the immediate effects of his death could be bad for the nation’s health. His cabinet appointments of elderly extremely wealthy rightwing often overweight businessmen  increases the chances of a rough transition to a new administration if Trump should have a fatal heart attack. For the most part, his cabinet appointees  are not philanthropic do-gooders. They did not become billionaires by helping with the greening of America. The only greening of America they have done is financially, in their own backyards. The transition to a Mike Pence administration therefore could be accompanied  by  more jockeying for position than a crowded field at the Kentucky Derby. And not just jockeying for position but backstabbing too. Steve Bannon, a leader of the alt-right, was Trump’s campaign manager. Bannon is the  former chair of Breitbart News, which the Guardian called a clearinghouse for hate groups of all kinds. Impeachment is one reason Trump might not finish his term, and a coup d’├ętat has been mentioned as another possible reason. What role Bannon might play in this night of the long knives scenario is anybody’s guess.  But the idea that such things couldn’t happen in the U.S. is being heard less and the proposition that it could happen here is heard more. Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here is relevant today because a coup d’├ętat does take place in it.

Trump’s ruddy complexion is something of a puzzle. Just as he has an over-the-top hairpiece, he also appears to have a sunlamp tan complexion. The whiteness around his eyes might be explained by the sunglasses he might wear to protect his eyes from harmful sunlamp rays. If the self-appointed psychoanalysts are right, he may suffer from pathological narcissism, in which case the hairpiece and sunlamp would be the tools not of ignorance but of vanity. The famous pronouncement, sometimes mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare, “Vanity, thy name is woman,” perhaps should be brought up to date:  “Vanity, thy name is Trump.” Trump’s wife Melania, the allegedly former high-priced call girl,  may be the Marie Antoinette in this nightmarish scenario. Marie's apocryphal  injunction about the poor was, “Let them eat cake.” Melania's injunction could be, "Let them eat jewels" because she appeared on the cover of the Mexican edition of Vanity Fair pretending to eat not cake but a bowl of jewels. Her husband, now president has begun to keep his campaign pledge of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Some pundits predict the wall won't make much difference. It will be a Mexican standoff. Meanwhile the cardiac time bomb keeps ticking.

Melania Pretending to Eat Bowl of Jewels