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Lend Me Your Eyes

I’ll give the former president* some credit, he has serious people comparing him to Julius Caesar after he was impeached (again), which is really quite a feat, so you have to hand it to this former president,* he actually tried to pull off a coup d’état, kicking off 2021 with a bang! The Julian calendar is very close to the (Gregorian) calendar we use today, part of Caesar’s reforms to mark the annual naming of the new consul (president) every year, because following the Year of the Consulship of Caesar and Lepidus, Julius Caesar decreed that the next year his new calendar would begin with a new month called January, back-ending all the leap days that had built up since the beginning of the old Roman calendar and in doing so, created the longest year in recorded history.

The Julian calendar was reset to Jesus Christ’s birth in 0 AD (Anno Domini, the date firmly fixed by the Roman cleric Exiguus for Pope Gregory over a millennium later in 1582 AD) and when I wrote about the former administration*s danger to science in my confusing, annoying article Kenneth, What is the Frequency? in 2019, I was right about everything I said about the former president* but wrong about a lot of other stuff, such as when I wrote that the Church was fed up with the Julian calendar going out of whack (called the Easter question) in the 1500s, when at most it was eleven days off before the Gregorian calendar  fixed what Julius Caesar had set in place. Based on the Egyptian calendar which followed the sun instead of the moon, he set the length of the year to 365.25 days by adding an ‘intercalary’ day at the end of February every fourth year, or the leap year. The Julian calendar started on January 1, 45 BC and remained the primary calendar throughout the West until the Gregorian calendar came along, the most widely used calendar today, only slightly refining Julian’s original calendar with a mere 0.002% correction to the length of the year. 


I would never hail Caesar as a great guy and make certain that I come here to bury Caesar, not to praise him, but all things considered, maybe he gets a bad rap? After distinguishing himself as one of the greatest generals in history, he named himself the Pontifex Maximus, or the highest religious authority in Rome, (Pontiff) Julius Caesar had the full authority to announce to the world that the last year of the old Roman calendar would have 445 days — so consider this gambit a lost opportunity for the last administration* to remain in power a few more lucrative months. 

I was also wrong about a lot of other things I’ve written about, especially science through the years because my science education consists mainly of watching all of MIT Prof. Donald Sadoway‘s fantastic ‘Introduction to Solid State Chemistry’ classes (batteries rule!) on YouTube and as a virtual student for his great 3.091 freshman course, I’m now an amateur scientist in the most generous sense of the word, a hobbyist if you will or won’t, but I’m always ready to learn more! For example, I was totally remiss in giving credit to Meredith Gardner in the post I wrote about spies called Trump, Tailor, Soldier Spy but not to an equally amazing woman and unsung American hero, shortchanging the brilliant Elizebeth Smith Friedman, currently featured on this month’s American Experience on PBS, her foundational work in code breaking during both world wars helped take down fascism while also helping to create the US government’s famous Arlington Hall code breaking office with her husband (who got all the credit), her heroic work was also bolstered by Mrs. Friedman’s contributions to decoding the secret communications of ‘Little Caesar,’ gangster Al Capone in the 1920s.

Julius Caesar’s legions may have crossed the Rubicon in defiance of a splintered and weakened Roman Senate, returning to Rome to face charges of corruption (guilty), who had, during the rule of the dictator Sulla, used his family connections to get off Sulla’s deadly proscription list (enemies of the people/Sulla), he later saved Rome from other dictator-wannabes such as Pompey, Caesar’s ally-turned-enemy who was no less capable of treason, so perhaps Caesar may be considered slightly less the usurper as some might accuse, considering that Rome was in a constant state of deadly, warring turmoil during Julius Caesar’s entire life (born exactly 100 years before Jesus Christ) by the time he was educated with school chum Cicero, he was ready for greatness. Born into nobility and imbued with the splendor of Rome’s place under the Western sun, he was no dummy: Caesar worked several years as an advocate in the Roman courts as a young man and was a prolific if boring writer, for example his books always made sure to refer to Caesar in the third person. 

Octavius, the son of Caesar who took the cognomen Augustus, (July, August) was the adopted heir to Julius Caesar (think of Matt Gaetz or Todd Hawley for a fun experiment!) he ushered in the empire for the many emperors (dictators) of Rome to follow, laying the red carpet for 300+ years of world domination. Caesar had a son with the famous Cleopatra (VII) before Marc Antony took sloppy seconds, this great story in history has bankrupted more film studios than any other, Theda Bara started the trend in 1917’s Cleopatra but the biggest bust was probably Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s version in 1957, based on the love affair and subsequent assassination of Julius Caesar at the (newly renovated) murder site at Rome’s Pompey’s Theater at Largo di Torre Argentina and the rise of Imperial Rome.

After the sensation of Orson Welles and John Houseman’s stage production of Caesar in 1937, the hit show casting the dictator as a Hitler-Caesar, the play was made into a film starring Marlon Brando in 1953 after Houseman and Welles had a falling-out and the movie with Brando stands as one of the finest examples of Shakespeare ever captured on film. As part of the New Deal, the WPA’s Federal Theater program created work projects for artists and writers in New York and across America during the Depression which gave John Houseman and Orson Welles (and the entire Mercury Theater) a real-world education in the arts and the experience to go out on their own after the WPA ended up shutting down their version of the Socialist-tinged play (the gall!) The Cradle Will Rock in 1937, pulled at the last minute because of a Red-baiting, media-fueled public backlash, yet the play was still performed in protest with cast members rising from their seats in the audience at another venue to deliver their lines against union rules.

William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and his sequel, Antony and Cleopatra, both part of the First Folio of works published by him in 1620, were performed as early as 1598 and the British fascination and admiration of Rome and Roman history is on display in ways that only the English can truly appreciate. Julius Caesar, after all, conquered Brittania (and everywhere else in the West) by 65 BC, setting the stage for his exploits throughout Europe, Asia and Africa after he crossed the Rubicon, he would take France (called Transalpine Gaul) and Spain (Hispania) for Rome’s treasury, yet Brutus and 60 other Senators (including school chum Cicero), all simultaneously plunged knives into Caesar because he had become a tyrant, the chaotic scene where “Et tu, Brute?” was reportedly uttered by Caesar (related by Plutarch through Shakespeare) and the legend of Julius Caesar was created for all time. Reports of Caesar crying, “What is this violence?” after being assaulted sound a bit more accurate to me.

As corporations rush to cancel political contributions to the GOP in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, Delta Airlines cancelled their support for the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar back in 2017, along with co-sponsor Bank of America because the character of Caesar was clearly based on the former president*. After insane GOP hack and 2020 Florida Candidate for Republican Representative, Laura Loomer disrupted the show (she won over 14,000 votes in the former president*s home district last November), the Public Theater defended the work and took issue with the protest, stating that “Our production of Julius Caesar in no way advocates violence towards anyone,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. We stand completely behind our production,” adding that the discussion and debate “is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy”.

The Public’s Julius Caesar in Central Park in 2017 was as provocative as the Mercury Theater’s production of Orson Welles playing Brutus with actor Joseph Holland as Hitler-Caesar, because in the the assassination scenes, the knives glinting under the floodlights (Welles used a real knife and really stabbed the actor Holland by mistake during a performance and Holland missed an entire month to heal). In the Shakespeare in the Park version of the play, these knifes glinting under the sunlight were thrust by women and Black people as Senators, (casting and production part of the Joseph Papp Theater’s outreach to locals program) and the staged violence was upfront in both versions of the play, proving that Shakespeare really knew his shit.

Loomer made her debut on the national stage at Central Park, storming the production during the assassination scene while loudly and crazily denouncing the play for violently targeting her favorite president, with her passionate and unhinged defense of Trump-Caesar, Loomer would of course be booked on Hannity shortly after the stunt to kick off the full flying monkey carousel, with Bannon and Breitbart, Tucker and Don, Jr piling on the play as an example of the depths to which the Democrats would go in violently attacking a Republican president. Laura Loomer would go on to make lots and lots of money with Trumpworld spinning her hateful and insane theories throughout the last four years, used artfully by Roger Stone after being pardoned for his crimes, Loomer was banned from Twitter (and a lot of other social media sites), but has continued to act like a lunatic, so it’s reasonable to assume that she was nowhere near Washington DC on January 6th and now denounces the violence at the Capitol in the strongest possible terms. 

With an assortment of dead-enders, con-artists, sycophants and crazy people surrounding him, Trump proved in the end that he was no leader, when the time came to assert his will it turns out that he was just play-acting all along and in reality, a leader of lunatics and yes-men (and women!) and in the final act of his presidency*, his farce came to it’s most fitting and inevitable conclusion: Donald Trump was a dangerous clown as president and he will be distinguished as one of the greatest cowards of all time.

 

John Underhill 

January 23, 2021

Florida Writ Large

Granny for Possum Queen

The Grand Old Party

In the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential Election, I miss Florida’s place in the sun but first, allow me to congratulate our new president, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. Has a ring to it, no? His lovely wife Jill. Splendid. Donald Trump would highlight his son Hunter but I’ll think of Beau. I’ll think of first dog Major. And the new cat! Oh, and he’s 78 fucking years old. At the risk of being canceled due to Ageism, that’s just too damn old to be the President of the United States. I argue that Ronnie Reagan and Donnie Trump prove it: it’s not a job for old people, regardless of the hair dye and the many, many lies. Joe had no choice in the matter, however, practically drafted by the American people to step up and DO SOMETHING about Trump’s insanity, but he did always want to be president. The late Donald Trump, not as in dead, just as in he won’t leave the White House, is as lame as any duck in history but I choose now to ‘turn a corner’ and NOT enumerate his ridiculous to sublime losses and mishaps since Trump woke to the news on November 4th that the election results were not in his favor, they were in his disfavor, in fact, to the tune of SEVEN MILLION votes. 

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It’s All Greek to Me

 

The Parthenon

I’ve been putting off writing this post because it’ll be the last one that I’ll throw up before the 2020 Presidential Election and in 2016, just after Trump was nominated, I posted The Most Hated Man in America. This year, I don’t wanna be right again if that means losing you, however I obviously have the gift of prognostication (a noun meaning “the action of foretelling or prophesying future events”) and anyone who doubts that, just read on. I’ve had a few choice words to describe my feelings about Donald J. Trump through the years, yet who am I to question the leadership of this man? What gives me the right to ask if he’s insane or not? I’m just an ordinary citizen of the United States, at least I was the last time I checked but who knows anymore? In the four years since Donald J. Trump has been our duly elected president, I’ve been right about pretty much everything I’ve said about him (actually since 1988 but who’s keeping score?) and if he’s not the most hated man in America by now whom, pray tell, would grab that crown from him?

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We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

One of my favorite movies of all time is Jaws (1975) but I can’t name an African-American in the film so that’s messed up, but then Steven Spielberg made The Color Purple (1985) so he’s cool. My other favorite directors are Martin Scorsese and also Woody Allen so if you total up all the African-American characters in their films you end up with ‘Stacks’ in Goodfellas (1990). Too bad about Stacks, he got high and left his prints all over the getaway van. In Goodfellas, ‘Two ni**ers just stole my truck’ was the excuse for the paid-off truck driver as he complains to anyone who will overhear him, “Can you believe that?” he asks incredulously, Charles Stewart-style. There were no black gangs in New York in the 1800s, apparently and Sugar Ray Robinson isn’t even given a line in Scorsese’s masterpiece, Raging Bull, (1980) yet he’s still my favorite director. Scorsese himself plays a racist in his film Taxi Driver where he brags to DeNiro’s Travis Bickle that he’s going to kill his wife because she’s cheating on him with a ‘ni**er.’ Marty, time’s up to make your Black Narcissus.

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When America Sneezes, the World Catches a Cold

The Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation by James Gillray (1802)

Conservative Austrian diplomat Klem von Metternich (1773 – 1859), the architect of the ‘Metternich System’ of détente diplomacy between France and Prussia from 1800-1848, which dominated politics on the Continent and established the pathway to Austria’s independence, for four decades Prince Metternich served as foreign minister from 1809-1848 and also Chancellor from 1821, the father of the empire until the liberal Revolutions of 1848, he maintained Austria as a great power and was Napoleon’s able foil because Metternich was super smart but also extremely cocky, once saying,

There is a wide sweep about my mind. I am always above and beyond the preoccupations of most public men. I can cover a ground much vaster than they can see. I cannot keep myself from saying about twenty times a day: ‘How right I am, and how wrong they are.’

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The Tonight Show Starring Donald Trump

Boy, did Trump put on a bad show last night or what? Since my last post, the country has become a poorer, sicker and dumber place than at any time since Donald Trump took office, however a small side benefit to the Coronavirus outbreak is that I’ve had an enormous amount of free time to catch up on old TV shows on YouTube, so lately I’ve been binge watching Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; Maude; Wolfman Jack’s Midnight Special and especially Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. I’ve never been so happy to ignore reality because after watching TV or reading Twitter or the local news,  I tend to get selfish, angry and mean and I don’t want that to define who I am during this crisis. It’s terribly frustrating to see our government work like it’s run by an amateur and it highlights just how terrible our president* has become. If Hillary Clinton was elected instead of Donald Trump in 2016 and was the President of the United States right now, (as THREE MILLION more people voted for her than the other guy) I would be preparing to watch the Boston Red Sox play a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, possibly rained out at Fenway but nonetheless, that ain’t happening now. The reality is that our imbecilic president has allowed this awful tragedy to happen to our great country because — at this point — the only logical explanation that I have left is that Donald Trump isn’t just a misogynist (he obviously hates women) but he’s also a psychopath. He hates people. After all, his parents were just awful human beings and I have a first-person account of how Fred Trump was basically a Nazi sympathizer. Being the son or daughter of a Nazi sympathizer and a cold and distant mother would be a challenge for most normal people and Donald Trump is certainly not a normal human being. He’s totally fucking abnormal. Interesting fact: the first toilet paper panic was caused by an offhand joke by Johnny Carson in 1974 when he said there were shortages of everything in California during the Watergate scandal and gas shortage. The joke became a rumor, which became a fact, resulting in a run on toilet paper and also a very funny example of how humans can panic and act irrational, even in the best of times. Here’s a typical zinger from the show:

I hear that whenever someone in the White House tells a lie, Nixon gets a royalty.

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Cult of Trump


Now that the United States Senate is finished with impeachment, the Cult of Donald Trump is now armed with the knowledge that ‘The Dear Leader’ is innocent of all charges against him. Before long, things of this nature tend to get out of hand, however all cults are not necessarily a bad thing and many cultists are darn good people. Someone who knows a thing or two about cults, Steven Hassan, is an American mental health counselor who has written extensively on the subject of mind control and how to help people who have been harmed by cults. I suggest the US Congress create a new Committee on Political Cults, similar to the Parliamentary Commission on Cults in France following the so-called ‘Order of the Solar Temple’ mass suicides in the 1990s, with Mr. Hassan appointed as it’s first director. His personal experience being a former member of the Unification Church, or the so-called ‘Moonies’ of the 1970s gave him all the experience he needs for the job and Mr. Hassan has become one of the most respected authorities on the subject of cults and mind control in the world. Just last October he published his fourth book, The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control where he explains the problem we all face and what we can do about reversing the damage. Most of us think that we are totally above these sorts of shenanigans and know better than the experts, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to fall the victim of a cult leader.

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3 Whistleblowers

Photo Illustration: ABC News

Here we are at the end of a decade and sometimes that means the end of an era. The 80’s ended with a thud and we’ll see if the 10’s live to be remembered as the decade in which we all finally lost our minds and with this in mind, let’s now affix our tin foil hats and review some of the many conspiracy theories that have swirled around since I was born. The greatest conspiracy theory of all time, the conspiracy by which all other conspiracies are measured is of course the Kennedy Assassination, our 35th President was murdered on November 22, 1963 by self-avowed Communist and former US Marine, Soviet-defector Lee Harvey Oswald and that case is still open. On New Year’s Day in 1979, the House Subcommittee on Assassinations released it’s shocking findings that, on the basis of the evidence available to the committee at the time, there was a 90% probability that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable, however, to identify any other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy. The earlier Warren Commission, formed by President Lyndon Johnson just after the trauma of the murder had subsided, had the initial effect of answering some of the most basic questions the American public had about the assassination that unfolded in front of our eyes in Dallas, the Warren report was at first accepted as the most definitive, exhaustive investigation of any crime in history.

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A Very Big Thing

Eighty years ago today, the Winter War began, where Joseph Stalin had been granted Finland in a ‘quid-pro-quo’ with Adolph Hitler, prior to the Barbarossa offensive, a dazed and confused Russia (referred to in international circles at the time as the ‘Soviet Union’) were bloodied and basically beaten after just three months of battle, where Russia suffered 134,000 to 138,000 dead or missing with estimates as high as 167,976 by the Russian State Military Archive in this early ‘war’ of WWII and the following Continuation War pushed the numbers far higher for both sides.

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Kenneth, What is the Frequency?

In a strange incident in 1986, Dan Rather was roughed up by a couple of well-dressed goons as he walked home near the corner of 88th Street and Park in New York, with one of them repeatedly asking, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?” The newsman made news himself because the louts, instead of calling the celebrity CBS reporter by his given name, Dan or even Daniel, referred to him as ‘Kenneth.’ This was just weird enough to make the national news. The brouhaha died down and the incident was quickly forgotten until 1994 when a band by the name of R.E.M. out of Athens, Georgia recorded the hit song, “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” off their album Monster, which is why anyone remembers the story. The reason Rather came to be asked the strange question by the nutty duo is quite weird and stupid and tragic, and I’ll get into that later in the post, but it’s when we hit the ‘stupidity curve’ as a culture, where schizophrenic news cycles and the weird shit that we see today has hit the fan every day, week and month since.

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