Category Archives: low life

Trump Hoisted With His Own Petard?

The phrase “hoisted with his own petard” comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a play that is `told in clever language but is overloaded with treachery and deceit.

The key problem of the play is that the King of Denmark, Hamlet, was murdered by his own brother, Claudius, who coveted the throne. Claudius then takes the throne as well as his dead brother’s wife as queen. Very nasty stuff. It gets nastier when the dead King’s son (also named Hamlet) receives a visit from a ghost who claims to be his father and who demands that the son revenge his father’s murder.  Eewwww!

BTW, most modern interpretations of Hamlet suggest that the ghost really was his father’s spirit. It may be that Elizabethan audiences would have taken a different view – that the ghost was sent by the devil.

Claudius begins to suspect that young Hamlet knows too much and so he decides to get rid of him. Naturally! But how? He decides to  send  him to England in the company of two gentlemen, Rosencratnz and Guildenstern (R & G). These two unfortunates have a confidential letter that they are to give to the King of England asking that Hamlet be killed.

As an aside, one wonders whether Elizabethan audiences were surprised or shocked that the King of Denmark would believe that the King of England would gladly do this dirty deed. What would we think, for example, about Donald Trump receiving a request from Vladimir Putin to do in his nephew or one of his oligarchs?  But, of course, times have changed, right?

The fun in the play begins when the voyage to England gets underway. Hamlet intercepts the letter and alters it without R & G knowing, so that it says R & G are to die. Hamlet slips away. and R & G decide that they have no choice but to continue their voyage to England to deliver the letter, not knowing that this would not end well for them.

The 20th century playwright, Tom Stoppard, thought that their plight was rather evocative. Could it be that R & G embody the great modern absurdist dilemma? Aren’t we all trapped in and doomed by an absurd  culture that we cannot escape? And so he wrote his very clever 20th century play, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”  It was first produced in 1966 to wide acclaim. Good old Tom seemed to have a point there.

So what about this “hoisting with his own petard” thing? In Elizabethan times, a petard was an explosive device one used to break into castles. It blew the castle door down. Something like this

Image result for petard

To be hoisted with one’s own petard means the bomb maker gets blown up with his own device. Nicht gut! In Hamlet, the petard is the letter. Hamlet says

… ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar; and ‘t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.

Very clever! Though, dear me, spoiler alert! Things do not end well in the play.

So what does this have to do with Donald Trump? Just before Trump was elected, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, payed $130k in hush money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, on behalf of Trump. Cohen later claimed that he did not ask for the money back from Trump. That was a lie. He did, and in 2017, Trump repaid Cohen. This was not revealed at first, but now these facts are no longer in dispute.

So far so good. But as a federal official, Trump was required to fill out a disclosure form if he owed the money and had repaid Cohen. He did not do that in 2017. Now the news.  Trump just filed a 2018 disclosure form where he admits that he made the reimbursement payment in 2017. Ooops!

Trump says that he was not required to make that disclosure but did anyway, in the interest of transparency.. Errr … apparently transparency was not as important last year. Ah well, good luck with that argument! So now the petard , the hush money agreement, is exploding in Trump’s face. He admits what he had not admitted before, and he is tied into the Daniels messtoid as well as the absurdity and mendacity that surrounds it.

Why did Trump make this disclosure? Who knows. My best guess is that he is concerned that the FBI raid on Cohen turned up evidence that Trump knew all along about the payment to Daniels which would trap him in an even worse lie if he continues to assert that he knew nothing about it.  Now we know that this was total BS. What’s more, presidential BS! The good stuff!

This is one smelly petard!.

And btw, this petard may look relatively minor compared to recent revelations about Qatari money Stay tuned on that one.

Ah the world of Trump! It’s all about  money, money, money! And if there is absurdity in our modern world, it seems to me that the melodrama playing out in the White House captures it rather well. Where is our modern Shakespeare to tell the tale?


Ass Clowns Unite Against Sean Hannity!

Jimmy Kimmel made me laugh this afternoon when I saw the video below where he responds to a rather snarly attack by Sean Hannity from Fox & Friends. You get the full story from the video. Enjoy!

Cold Weather Blues?

The northeastern region of the US has been hit by ferocious cold and snow It is tough stuff, especially if you are not prepared for it. My guess is that long underwear sales are through the roof. And my best wishes go out to all who are suffering through this.

I was told here in Tartu once that cold weather is actually a nice thing. It kills off the bacteria that can cause flu. On the other hand, if you see your pee freeze before it hits the ground, it is time to get inside quick!

Hmmm … I have not had the opportunity to test that. But it does stimulate the imagination!


Colbert Weighs in on the Franken Thing

It turns out that quite a few famous dudes felt that they were/are entitled to harass and abuse women. And it appears that the floodgates are opening for gross out revelation stories.

The latest involves Senator Al Franken.To his credit, no one —yet — is claiming that Franken is a repeat offender. There was just one episode. And to his credit, there is no allegation of rape. Yes, standards have fallen this low. And to Franken’s credit, he simply apologized for exercising bad judgment while trying to be funny.

Well Steven Colbert is having none of that.

I agree with Colbert. What do you think?


Restaurant Rules and Le Petit Jardin

I ran afoul of rules at restaurants only once when I was a young man. I attempted to enter the Palm Court at the Rtiz in London for tea … without a jacket.

Image result for London Ritz tea

A distinguished middle aged gentleman wearing an exquisite suit approached me and asked me to follow him into a side room, where he fitted me with a suitable garment. All was well again.

At the time, I thought this was amusing. But as the years have gone by, I appreciate more why these sorts of rules exist. Certain places do demand certain standards of behavior, or the experience that they are designed to offer is compromised, if not ruined, for all.

Which takes us to the scenic restaurant, Le Petit Jardin in the town Saint Guilhem le Désert. It is meant to be an oasis of calm an beauty.

The owner’s (seeks) to create the right environment for diners to appreciate the spectacular view over the gorges of the Hérault River and to focus on what they have on their plates.

Indeed, the river is quite special. Here is a peek

Image result for Hérault River Saint Guilhem le Désert

And the setting does have its charms.

Image result for Le Petit Jardin Saint Guilhem le Désert

Would mobile phone use, for example, taking pictures of what one is about to eat, or staring vacantly into the screen to catch up on a Facebook thread, disturb this atmosphere? Yes, or at least so says the owner, Jean-Noël Fleury. But his approach to enforcing the no mobile phone rule is a bit eccentric, don’t you think?

Those who insist on keeping their phones are sanctioned with a blow of a whistle and a yellow card (in soccer, the referee’s warning when one player fouls another), which are generally received in good humor.

After the yellow card, comes a red card (when a soccer player is ejected from the game for bad behavior). “Some have refused to put down their phones and said they don’t like the rule and have left,” Fleury told The Local. “I don’t mind. I’d rather that people like that eat in another restaurant;  there are three in the village.”

Does repeated blowing on a whistle  and handing out yellow and red cards, not distract from the peaceful setting? Ah well, let’s hope that it is rarely necessary.

Dave Logan, Meet Donald Trump

Dave Logan is an interesting guy. A few years back, Dave came up with a model for describing how “tribes” work.

There are a number of important take aways form this model, and one of them is that folks get trapped at certain “levels” and form lasting bonds with others at that same level based on their view of the world and their ability to add value to it. Dave calls the groups of people that share these sorts of bonds “tribes”. So skin heads (operating at the lowest level) form strong bonds with other skin heads that makes the rest of us shake our heads in disbelief.  We are unable to communicate with them to persuade them to level up.

Enter Donald Trump. Trump sees himself as a “charismatic leader” – meaning that he thinks he can inspire people to join in new types of groups. This is the polar opposite of Barack Obama who sought to lead by argument, rather than charisma.

Most interesting for me is that Trump seems to have an effect on folks at the lowest levels of society. Not all, but certain types of people do seem energized by Trump’s rhetoric.  He seems able at times to speak their language. It sounds stupid to us, but it resonates at those lower levels. And his message is  you don’t need to level up.

There is not much we can do about this. At the same time, it is important to recognize as a society that  we have a problem because people are festering at these low levels of social engagement. If we want to “level up” our society, we will need to “level up” these people. I don’t mean giving them more money. I do mean engaging with them to alter their belief structure about themselves and their ability to add value to society.

Can we do that?`We could. Will we do it? Probably not.

BTW. as I wrote this post, I was reminded of the great story told by James Jones, “From Here to Eternity”. The characters are stuck in a group – the army – that stictly keeps them at a certain (low) level of social engagement. The story explores how these characters love the army in this rather limiting context.