Category Archives: humor

John Oliver on Ivanka and Jared

As for as I know, no one takes Donald Trump very seriously. Even his supporters say he is joking much of the time. But people do seem to take his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared more seriously. I am not sure why. Neither has offered any basis for us to believe that they can have a positive impact on the Trump Administration.

John Oliver takes off on this theme in a brilliant sketch. Enjoy!

What if Trump and Putin Were the Future?

It is hard to believe that Vladimir Putin has been in power in Russia for nearly 2 decades now. That seems like a long time. Long enough to call it an “era”. So what will folks say about the Putin era in 50 years?

Of course, that depends on how Putin’s era ends up. Life in Putin’s Russia is not a bed of roses, except for the privileged. Moreover, Putin’s foreign adventures are expensive and risky, and do not offer immediate strategic advantages. So there is reason to be cautious before anointing him Vlad the Great. And yet, despite everything, Putin’s hold on power seems as secure now as ever.

To us,  Putin holding onto power for 17 years seems like a long time. By historical standards, however,that is not so. For example,  after 17 years on the throne, Henry VIII had not yet even married Anne Boleyn. The great split with Rome was still in the future.  He would reign for another two decades after that, for a total of 37 years. And his daughter Elizabeth would reign for 45 yerars.

Using Henry’s reign as a yardstick, one would find Putin’s hold on power weakening in 2037. using Elizabeth’s, 2045. 2045?   Putin would be 92 by then.

No doubt, Mr. Putin likes exercising power and, all things being equal, would like to continue doing so for as long as possible. But does he have a vision for the future?  If so, what is it?

One would have to be naive in the extreme to expect him to reveal the answer to those questions. But would it be too bold to speculate that he sees himself as the master pupeteer?   And btw, would it be too bold to speculate that Donald Trump shares the same self-image? Is that what Trump finds so fascinating about Putin – that he has been able to hold onto power for so long?  That like Trump, Putin is the master manipulator? The master of the game?

Let’s assume for a moment that this is the case. Their ability to manipulate depends upon their ability to project images that are larger than life. And indeed, both seem obsessed with that type of thing. Putin is not just the dictator of a regional power. He plays global strategic games with the great powers in Ukraine and Syria. He is not just leader of Russia. Nothing happens of any consequence in Russia without his approval. Trump is not just wealthy. He is a billionaire, and sued an author who claimed otherwise (he did not win that suit). Trump is not just a real estate developer. He is a master negotiator. You can see why, as president, he rages that he cannot claim huge successes in Washington. Something must be wrong — with Washington!

Here is the Donald summing up his presidential record so far to a crowd in Iowa jus the other day

“All we do is win, win”, he told a cheering crowd.

Notice the hint of fantasy in all of this? Perhaps more than just a hint?

I mentioned good old Henry earlier for a reason. The reason is that Henry played pretty much the same game. He was a master of marketing his image. Perhaps he was the first king to realize the power of PR:  Indeed, his famous jousting accident in 1536 that rendered him unconscious for 2 hours, caused Anne Boleyn to miscarry a baby boy, and perhaps cost Henry his sanity, was  a failed PR stunt to show that he was still virile even though he was already in his 40’s. Ooops!

But there is a difference between what Henry saw around him and what Putin and Trump see now.

Many years after Henry died, the west underwwent an intellecutal revolution. That revolution posited that men did not need the fantasy based trappings of kingly power. They could govern themselves using reason to guide them. This idea seemed absurd at first. But in the 20th century, after great wars, it was accepted in the west as conventional wisdom.  I do not claim here that  our systems are actually based on reason. I do claim that it is our belief. Our mantra. Our sense of history. Or as Churchill put it

Democracy is the worst form of government, except compared to all of the others.

Is it too much to ask whether Putin and Trump would prefer that this revolution and transition had not happened? Would they be more at home in the type of world that Henry lived in? And if so, and these men are in power, are we at risk of going back to that sort of life?

If so, our path there will be through seduction. The fantasy of the great leader, The so called “man on the white horse”, He who must be obeyed. What holds us back from this seduction? Well, our history, for one thing. We have been there. We have seen where it ends up.

Haven’t we?

A bit of Black Humor?

Here goes!

Jake was dying. His wife sat at the bedside.

He looked up and said weakly, ‘I have something I must confess.’

‘There’s no need to, ‘his wife replied.

‘No,’ he insisted, ‘I want to die in peace. I slept with your sister, your
best friend, her best friend, and your mother!’

‘I know,’ she replied. ‘Now just rest and let the poison work.’–

Tea at Highclere Castle?

It might be served in a room like this

Related image

One does not just slurp down a cup. The space is meant to enhance a certain type of experience. It embraces a style of living that is out of favor these days.  And yet, as out of fashion as it may be, we still crave it. We still want enhanced experience. and take it if we can get it.

That was the attitude that drove the Third Earl of Carnarvon to engage a noted architect to produce this type of building

Image result for Highclere Estate

The design is by Sir Charles Barry, who was working also on the redesign of the Houses of Parliament. The Jacobethan pile is called Highclere Castle.

Jacobethan? What a strange word. It was coined by John Betjeman who said

The style in which the Gothic predominates may be called, inaccurately enough, Elizabethan, and the style in which the classical predominates over the Gothic, equally inaccurately, may be called Jacobean. To save the time of those who do not wish to distinguish between these periods of architectural uncertainty, I will henceforward use the term “Jacobethan”

Here is Barry who might not have approved of the term.

Image result for Sir Charles Barry

And here is the 3rd earl who made the design become real

Image result for Third Earl Carnarvon

Highclere Castle symbolizes a certain lifestyle that is all the more fascinating because it no longer dominates society.

Wodehouse would have approved the use of Highclere Castle for Totleigh Towers

In Wodehouse’s fictional world, Totleigh Towers is situated close to the village of Totleigh-in-the-Wold, of which Sir Watkyn Bassett is the squire. Bertie’s college friend, Harold ‘Stinker’ Pinker, is the curate of the village. Totleigh Towers is also the residence of Sir Watkyn’s insipid, soupy daughter Madeline (who believes that Bertie is pining for her, when he isn’t), his ward, Stephanie ‘Stiffy’ Byng, and the butler, Butterfield. Roderick Spode, the amateur dictator and close friend of Sir Watkyn, is also a regular guest.

And of course, we know it as Downton Abbey

The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey between 1912 and 1925, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era—with the great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy. Such events depicted throughout the series include news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in the first series; the outbreak of the First World War, the Spanish influenza pandemic, and the Marconi scandal in the second series; the Irish War of Independence leading to the formation of the Irish Free State in the third series; the Teapot Dome scandal in the fourth series; and the British general election of 1923, the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, and the Beer Hall Putsch in the fifth series. The sixth and final series introduces the rise of the working class during the interwar period and hints towards the eventual decline of the British aristocracy.

The place and the attitude that the place symbolizes make both types of story work.  You might think of these stories as attitudes on parade.

Time for tea?

BTW, in case you are wondering, the Jacobethan style caught on in the 19th century this way

In 1838, with the Gothic revival was well under way in Britain, Joseph Nash, trained in A.W.N. Pugin‘s office designing Gothic details, struck out on his own with a lithographed album Architecture of the Middle Ages: Drawn from Nature and on Stone in 1838. Casting about for a follow-up, Nash extended the range of antiquarian interests forward in time with his next series of lithographs The Mansions of England in the Olden Time 1839–1849, which accurately illustrated Tudor and Jacobean great houses, interiors as well as exteriors, made lively with furnishings and peopled by inhabitants in ruffs and farthingales, the quintessence of “Merrie Olde England“. A volume of text accompanied the fourth and last volume of plates in 1849, but it was Nash’s picturesque illustrations that popularized the style and created a demand for the variations on the English Renaissance styles that was the essence of the newly revived “Jacobethan” vocabulary.