English 407, Victorian Studies

Reading through the day’s news, I felt the usual pangs of disgust and anger — mostly but not entirely at Republican politians. When will enough of them, while scratching their asses, discover their backbones? It could happen, right? In fact, it will happen.

And at that point a wee small timorous voice in the distance whispered a couple famiar lines.

Oh yet we trust that somehow good
will be the final goal of ill

That can happen to unreconstructed English majors, even in their eighties. So I listened to the line again. Aha, says I. Tennyson.

Tennyson? That pompous Victorian Empire and Bible salesman? Yeah, him. I’d forgotten he might have written something good along the way. But I couldn’t recall the whole poem, so I looked it up.

Oh well. Should have known. Later verses ramble through gloom and pain and random misery, all — perhaps — to be balance out. Sometime.

Or not.

Is there a lesson here for the Trump generations. Not really.

Is there any lesson at all to be gained from these word squanderings I keep posting on Some Old Guy?

Yeah. The lesson is to hell with Victorian poets.

Except Browning, him and her. And the Rosettis, both of them. And Hood and Morris and Arnold and (maybe) Carroll. And Edward Lear, him too.

But still, to hell with Tennyson.

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About those “tapes”

Most comments I’ve seen regarding the Comey-Trump confrontation make sense, more or less. Most, I say. However, one straightforward and — to me — perfectly obvious factor seems to have been ignored. Or perhaps it’s so obvious it doesn’t need to be mentioned.

You decide.

After firing FBI Director Comey, President Trump sent a rather odd early-morning tweet. (I know, I know, all his tweets are rather odd. But this one seemed even more so.) On the remote possibility that you’ve not heard, it was

James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.

Consider now. James Comey was a career FBI agent, one so hard working and competent he had been promoted to head the Bureau. A man, then, whom we might expect to be keenly aware of intelligence matters. Spy stuff, not to put to corny a title on it. He knew about and — only surmising here but pretty confident nonetheless — might have participated in covert activities. Like, say, secret recording. I mean, he might at least have heard about the practice, right?

So this man with this background has a coversation with the man then regarded as President of the United States.

Still with me?

Intelligence guy, meeting in White House, talking to President. Does he go in aware that his conversation might be recorded, or does he assume such a thing would never happen and blab carelessly about anything that comes to mind?

With that in mind, does Trump’s threat really make sense?

Even to Trump?

He man is even farther off reality’s base than I thought.

What it’s safe to say

Cleaning out my desk yesterday I came across an old mini-poster from many years ago, a ten-line quote printed on heavy slick paper. It had been on the wall of my previous office, meaning it had to be at least fifteen years old. That old, and it still rang true. Think I’ll pin it up on the wall of this office for a while. The time seems… well… it seems about right.

lecarre quote
One of the reasons — there are many — why this suits the time so well is the man who wrote it. He’s David John Moore Cornwell, whom you may know better by his pen name. He’s John le Carré. A man who wrote many great novels about spycraft — how it works and doesn’t work, for example — and who was himself for many years a ranking operative in British Intelligence.

There he is right now, sitting in comfortable retirement somewhere in England, likely his family home in Cornwall. Can’t help wondering what he thinks about what’s going on right now in the U S Halls of…

  • …Halls of Courage? No.
  • …Halls of Power? I think not.
  • …Halls of Mirrors? Much more likely.
  • …Halls of Chaos? Yeah, I think that’s it.

Halls of Chaos.
Has a nice dystopian ring to it.

(It may sound familiar. I cited it back on December 17, 2008)

The showboat

[Warning: the following was written more than six hours ago and may no longer apply to whomever is now Anykindof President of the United States.]

A member of the federal government, known hereafter as the Performing President — seems more apt than Acting President, though of course I am not dealing here in the lingo of governance — has complained that another member of said federal government was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.” According to the Performing President, said member had “something wrong” with him. He was, in fact, a “showboat.”

One might be tempted to cite this as an instance of pot and kettle, except that on one side we have a rather ordinary human being and on the other we have both pot and kettle.

If you are unsure who is named what by whom, I refer you here.

Short takes

There’s seldom a shortage of things — issues, events, weapons, crimes — to vex the rational brain and/or the charitable soul. Claiming both those features in moderation for myself, I’m never at a loss for something to get pissed off about — or occasionally to be amused by.

When I don’t post new items for a while it’s usually that my brain or my soul is just worn out. But I’ve been remiss lately, and will try to compensate over the next few weeks with overload.

  1. Like the witch, Glacier National Park is melting. In the late 1800’s the park contained 150 glaciers. At last count, it was down to 26. Latest estimate on durability — they’ll vanish at the rate of about one a year.
  2. You might find two ways to take this, but the US Military is running out of bombs. Really. Our generals are dropping them faster, apparently, than weapons makers can produce them.
  3. And if you favor old-fashioned surrealism, you now can watch new episodes — or re-watch old episodes — of Twin Peaks. It recently resumed after a quarter-century. New episodes feature much of the old cast.

The Show Must Go On!

Let me elaborate on that. The show will go on until it comes to an end.

Any reasonable evaluation of a show must include a careful study of its ending. Its resolution. The point at which an audience picks up and goes home… or as may be in a few instances, when the audience picks up rotten vegetables to throw at the stage and the actors. Or takes some other action to indicate not only that this performance is at an end but that no further performances of this show will be attended, or perhaps even tolerated.

This  odd image — call it a metaphor if that pleases you — came to mind late last evening. I attended an uncommonly good performance of the Kander and Ebb masterpiece Cabaret. It is the last few moments of Cabaret which are most dramatic. Last night they were grim. Heart-wrenching. (Yes, it was a very good show.)

I stood with the rest of the audience to applaud when the cast came back on stage. As was right for such a show, there were only quick cast bows, no mugging or waving to friends or other bullshit. The cast bow, just like the show and the message at its core, was hard and cold and unrelenting.

I looked around at people near me. Most were gathering coats and heading quietly and thoughtfully — and not a few tearfully — to the exits. But there were a few — the couple next to me, for instance — who stood looking about, puzzled looks on their faces. As if they were trying to figure out what had just happened.

They must, I decided, have been Trump supporters.