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Modernity and Its Pains in the Butt

One of the many vexing things about this modern world is all the neologisms one has to keep up with. In just the past week we’ve had to become familiar with such awful-sounding phrases as “butt dialing,” “throuples,” and “revenge porn.”
“Butt dialing” is apparently what happens when ¬†you have one of those fancy “smart phones” in a back pocket and somehow squirm around in such a way that you inadvertently call up a number the device has somehow memorized. We’re not sure how that happens, as we have an old fashioned “flip phone,” which is an onerous enough concession to the modern world, but that’s what we’re told. Our Dad actually helped us to the latest jive a while back after our brother dialed him up that way. It’s been much in the news lately, because President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani wound up “butt dialing” a couple of reporters and leaving suspicious and cryptic voice mail messages about Ukraine and former Vice President and potential Democratic nominee Joe Biden and something about needing a few hundred thousand dollars in a hurry.
The current rules of journalistic ethics don’t require reporters to keep “butt dialed” voice mail messages off-the-record, so Giuliani’s rants were all over the cable news and the late night comedy shows. By now Giuliani has bigger troubles than the ridicule he’s received, but he’s done the world no favor by making “butt dialing” a permanent part of the lexicon.
A “throuple” is apparently an exclusive and ongoing menage a trois, and that newly coined word has been in the news lately because recently resigned California Rep. Katie Hill was involved in such a relationship with a staffer and the staffer’s husband. Hill campaigned as an openly bisexual candidate, and given California and the Democratic party she probably would have survived the scandal, despite the inner-office and power imbalance dynamics that have ruined the careers of so many male politicians, but there was also a naked cell phone picture of her smoking a bong in the shower with her female paramour. Given California and the Democratic party she might have survived that, but careful viewers noticed a small tattoo of a Nazi-era Iron Cross on her pelvic area, and it was too much intersectionality even for a California Democrat.
We have no idea who gave the picture to a little-known anti-Democrat pro-Trump web site, which then passed it on to the United Kingdom’s salacious Fleet Street tabloids, which took an unusual interest in a freshman congresswoman from far-off California and was not constrained by America’s more puritan standards for photographs that appear on the front page. One can only assume it was someone Hill would share a naked and bong-smoking moment with, and “revenge porn” is what the young folks call it when someone spitefully disseminates racy pictures of someone else taken in happier times. In announcing her resignation Hill said she would devote herself to the cause of banning “revenge porn,” and we wish her enough success that the cacophonous phrase falls out of use.
For all their unfortunate effects on the public discourse, at least none of these newfangled words will affect us personally. We’ll not own one of the stupid “smart phones” until they stop selling any other kind of phone, and even then we would never put such an expensive device in our back pockets. “Throuples” are out of the question at our age, as we’ve already had more than enough trouble with the old-fashioned couples arrangement. We’ve always been rather camera shy, too, even with our most intimate acquaintances, so any racy pictures you see of us on the internet are fakes, and we can assure you we’ve never even met any of the Kardashians..
Even so, it’s a rather dreary modern world we have to get around in.

— Bud Norman

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What Do the Simple Folk Do?

The news has been rather maudlin lately, and will likely remain so for a while, but at least we’ll have the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign to provide comic relief for the next year and a half. Every campaign’s attempts to make the candidate seem a regular down-home American are faintly ridiculous, but in Clinton’s case it is downright hilarious. The spectacle evokes the image of Bill and Hillary Clinton at leisure in one of their mansions, much like King Arthur and Guinevere in “Camelot,” wondering “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” and coming up with the most wildly inaccurate conjectures.
Just this week has seen Clinton scooting across Grant Wood’s Iowa in a vehicle that has been dubbed the “Scooby Doo van,” making her putatively routine visit to a Chipotle franchise, chatting amiably with plain old midwestern folks at some Frank Capra-esque watering hole, wandering the halls of some distinctly non-Ivy League campus, and grousing about the indue influence of rich people’s money on America’s once-pristine politics. All of it was so obviously contrived that even the press noticed, and actual regular down-home Americans were far less likely to be fooled by any of it.
Even the playful moniker for her upscale black van has managed to rile some fans of the old “Scooby Doo” cartoon series, who recall that Scooby and Shaggy and the rest of the show’s ghost-busting gang of wholesome teenage sleuths travelled in a psychedelically colorful vehicle called “The Mystery Machine.” We’re just young enough to have some familiarity with the show, and just old enough to have noticed how very awful it was even by herky-jerky animation standards of the Hannah-Barbera studio, but there’s a younger cohort of voters who take such details seriously and will note the inauthenticity of the allusion. The “Scooby Doo” characters didn’t have two accompanying black vans full of Secret Service agents, either, nor did any state Highway Patrols clear traffic for their madcap capers, and such details will not go unnoticed by all those “millennials” who take their childhood television favorites more seriously than politics. Clinton might yet get to say the familiar catchphrase of the cartoon’s villains during their inevitable bad end just before the last commercial break, “I would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling kids,” but otherwise any attempt to suck any good will out of that awful old cartoon series will run false for its fans.
That highly-publicized visit to Chipotle also struck a discordant note. We’d hate to sound more regular down-home American than thou, but we’ve never once set foot inside in a Chipotle because our regular down-home American town has seen such a wave of immigration from Mexico that the place is chockfull of Mexican eateries far more deliciously authentic and inexpensive than those franchised and suspiciously modern Chipotle places look to be. Our last visit to Iowa suggested that most of its towns have similarly benefited from the immigration wave, so Clinton would have been well advised to drop in one of the many seedier but tastier joints that her “Scooby Doo van” surely passed, even if that did entail the risk Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Ted Cruz or Gov. Estella Martinez or even Gov. Jeb Bush or any other other potential Republican contenders upstaging her by dropping in on the same joint and ordering in Spanish. Putting a buck in the tip jar might have been a nice touch, too, and spared her some sneering coverage from usually friend press.
Those regular down-home Americans that Clinton was photographed chatting with turned out to be Democrat operatives, of course, although it took Britain’s Fleet Street press to uncover that easily uncovered fact. The wandering through the hallways of that non-Ivy League necessitated locking the non-Democratic operative students in their classrooms, lest they come into unscripted contact with the regular down-home American candidate, and even the American press acknowledged that. All that blather about the undue influence of rich folks’ money was respectfully reported, although without any ironic reference to the stories running elsewhere about the $2.5 billion campaign fund that Clinton is raising from her friends in Hollywood and Silicon Valley and Wall Street and other environs of the rich folk.
This charade might impress the accompanying press corps, who at various stops have outnumbered the “everyday people,” in the condescending phraseology of the Clinton campaign’s announcement video, but that’s because the reporters who get such plum assignments aren’t regular down-home Americans. Out here in flyover country even the Democrats are bound to notice how very phony it is, and the Clinton campaign would be well advised to switch to the aristocratic hauteur and claims of Ivy League entitlement that somehow made “Camelot” such an appealing image for the Kennedy administration.

— Bud Norman

A British Sex Scandal Hops Across the Pond

Fleet Street is once again in an uproar over yet another one of those fancy-schmantzy British sex scandals they get over there, this one involving a billionaire investor and convicted sex criminal who hosted orgies full of nubile teenaged girls on his yacht and at his Caribbean mansion, and allegations that Prince Andrew was among the participants, but the American press has thus been far more restrained about the possible political ramifications back here.
Fleet Street has also gone over the flight logs and other libel-proof evidence and gleefully reported that former President Bill Clinton, who is the husband of president-in-waiting Hillary Clinton, was also a frequent flyer on the billionaire investor and convicted sex criminal’s private jet and a frequent guest at that scandalous Caribbean mansion. The young woman making the allegations against Prince Andrew has not alleged that Clinton was involved in any sexual escapades while the guest of his billionaire investor and convicted sex criminal friend, but it’s enough to put fresh material on “Bill Clinton” and “sex scandal” on your search engine results, and to remind the public of all the previous sordid tales that will also pop up, and to prompt a few think pieces about a lingering problem for Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions.
During a post-holiday and pre-congressional session news lull this should be enough generate some speculation. There are private jets and Caribbean mansions and underage girls involved, all of them rather attractive judging by the photos that Fleet Street has unearthed, and one can only imagine the media feeding frenzy that would ensue if a Republican’s various phone numbers and e-mail addresses had been found among documents seized from a billionaire investor and convicted criminal uncovered during a lawsuit with his former attorneys which has lately become the talk of the British press. The Clintons can count on more circumspect coverage, as they always have, but whatever does seep through will have no upside for the anticipated Hillary Clinton campaign. The part about billionaire investors and private jets and Caribbean mansions and private access to the former president won’t play well with a Democratic party that likes to think itself at war with the One Percent, and the part about underage girls won’t work well with the “Republican war on women” theme that the presumptive first woman presidential nominee no doubt hopes to revive, and almost everyone is unsettled when the word “pedophile” starts showing up in the search engine results along with a candidate’s last name. Fleet Street prefers the more elegantly Romanesque original English spelling of “paedophile,” and the girls involved are all post-pubescent so the more accrued accurate term would be “ephebophile,” but in any terms it is not good politics.
One would prefer to believe that neither a British prince nor a past American president is guilty of any scandalous doings with underaged girls, but neither have reputations that preclude any thought of the possibility, at least on Fleet Street. The woman making the allegations against Prince Andrew, who it should be noted will soon be cashing in with a tell-all book, says she only met Clinton twice and reports nothing more than that, but is quoted as saying the circumstances of the meeting were such that she was surprised someone in his position wouldn’t be more careful.

Voters considering a Hillary Clinton candidacy, even Democrats, might consider the possibility that further such surprises will be a feature of her presidency. When the ancient Romans weren’t wasting time putting an “a” and an “e” together for no particular reason they were fond of saying Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion, and that’s still practical advice regarding a president’s husband.

— Bud Norman