Dancing Chic to Chic

Recent events since the inauguration of Trump reminded me of a lengthy essay by Tom Wolfe – “Radical Chic.” Wolfe captures the essence of the ferment of the late 60s and the liberal guilt trying to atone for all the injustices committed since Cain bumped off his younger brother in a fit of pique that cattle breeders were more acceptable in God’s eyes than vegetable growers, putting an end to the rumor that vegetarians are non-violent.

As everyone knows, streets are filled with protesters because they’re angry that Nurse Ratched didn’t win as pundits had promised. The poised and polished pants suit pol got blindsided by an utter rube with a bank account to rival the foundation account founded by Hillary. They’re angry about a lot of other things, some legitimate, some frivolous.

Whatever the basis of their grievances, they have decided that the best way to get their point across is by dressing in costumes dreamed up by drunken gynecologists at a reunion in New Orleans. Many were also sporting pink knit beanies with two points that look like teats on an old sow.

At Berkeley in California, the home of the “free speech movement,” protesters chased off a Trump spokesman and smashed and vandalized property, set fires in the street and assaulted innocent individuals. Not even Starbucks was spared in the mayhem. They could write a 700-word essay on the concept of irony based on personal experience, assuming they are literate.

Tom Wolfe records the reaction of one wary gentleman at a trendy Manhattan party attended by Black Panthers. His words are worth pondering:

“He’s a magnificent man, but suppose some simple-minded schmucks take all that business about burning down buildings seriously?”

Patrick Hubbell/February 19, 2017

 

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Last Flight

One the great highlights in my life occurred when I was a teenager. I was at a music venue helping a friend set up equipment for a dance when in walked someone who meant more to me than any performer – Alan Shepard, the first American to get shot into space in the Mercury mission. I introduced myself, shook his hand, and went back to plugging in speakers.Apollo 17.jpg

Among the advantages to growing up in Houston was realizing that something of national importance was taking place right here. Although I was too young to truly appreciate the magnitude of what was going on, a sense of pride permeated everything. I knew men who worked at NASA. In fact, my oldest brother worked for NASA. I saved newspaper clippings of the exploits of our astronauts, and dreamed of becoming one. A fear of heights and claustrophobia is a bad combination for would-be space explorers, so I wisely set my sights a little “lower.”

Just a few years before Alan Shepard “slipped the surly bonds of earth,” Charles Lindbergh audaciously flew across the Atlantic. In fact, the famed aviator actually met Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell. (But for a mishap, one of them would have walked on the moon.) Barely 70 years separated the legendary solo flight and the flight to the moon. Now consider the sheer magnitude of technological knowledge necessary to expedite this mission, and consider the primitive state of computers compared to their ubiquitous presence.

Just a couple of weeks ago Lisa and I listened to Walter Cunningham of Apollo 7 speak at the University of Houston Clear Lake campus. A month earlier, John Glenn died. I was almost finished reading (again) First on the Moon when news of Gene Cernan’s passing was broadcast. The very last man to leave the moon was also the last to leave earth.

Another Greatest Generation has come and gone. I’m grateful that I was here for the ride. – Patrick Hubbell/January 19, 2017

Well-aged with season and reason

I’ve got a lot of sand in the bottom of my hourglass. Seems like just yesterday I was saying “40 is really old!” After I turned 40, I thought, well, maybe 50 is old. After that, I just quit saying anything about it. And now I’m turning 60. I’ve been getting reminders that I’m getting old in the mail for the past several years. The AARP send me invitations to join, funeral homes send me lovely brochures on planning for the inevitable, and I prefer not to mention the Viagra emails clogging my Hotmail account.

Luby’s sent me a coupon for a free meal. I never pass up free food, so I showed up with an appetite. After several bites, I realized the reason so many old – I mean really old – people like to eat there is because the food is easy to chew. And bland.

As long as I have to be this age, I might as well make it clear what I want to be called. Polite society calls them – I mean (sigh!) us – “Senior Citizens.” “Seasoned Citizens” reeks of raw onions and garlic. Personally, I’d just as soon be called a “beat-up old citizen.”

Turning 60 has its privileges. Certainly, being mature is a matter of mind. There are just as many mature young people as there are idiotic older ones, although the more idiotic ones tend to remove themselves well before they can collect a pension. But as a rule, people pay more attention to you. There is more pressure to “act your age,” but by now it should come naturally. You don’t have to respond to every stupid comment you hear or read. You’re sixty, not sixteen. Take it easy. Young pups need us to demonstrate the proper reaction to uncivilized behavior is a shrug, a deep sigh, and the restraint not to beat someone into a coma. I survived 32 years as a high school teacher without a single count of homicide. Surely you can overlook some perceived slight.

I’m old enough to remember the Beatles, and young enough to enjoy them with my Bose headphones. I’m old enough to remember rotary phones, and young enough to adjust to cell phone technology. I’m old enough to remember when man first landed on the moon, and young enough to navigate the internet on my laptop. I’m a much better driver now than when I first left the DVM waving my new license in exultation. Good thing, because I have to drive across town to the Half-Price Books.

I’m a little bit slower, but I’m still young enough to get around on two legs. Fact is I get impatient when people get in my way, and most of them are kids. Embrace the gray, I remind myself. What’s the hurry? Luby’s doesn’t close until eight.

After I finally shuffle off this mortal coil, I can’t think of anything more appropriate for my marker than this epitaph for a Japanese philosopher named Togai: “He cared for nothing but books. His life was uneventful.” [Patrick Hubbell – January 28, 2017]

Inauguring In

Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, a paean to the Mercury astronauts and test pilots of Edwards Air Base, introduced the colorful phrase “augur in.” An augur is a tool used for boring. No, not reruns of Hee-Haw, but a device to punch holes in the ground. Thus, a flier who “augured in” with his aircraft and the defective engine with one wing on fire basically drilled a hole into the earth, more or less obviating the need to dig another one. Just stick in a cross and a marker and call it a day.

As the nation prepares to dig in for another four years, it’s hard to tell who’s going to dig a deeper hole. Trump detractors highlight the numerous gaffes and spurious claims ever since he first descended The Tower to announce his candidacy. And to be sure, there were plenty. And yet not only did he NOT dig a hole from which he could not emerge, he built an even higher mound on which to stand. And the more dirt his opponents threw at him, the higher he built that mound.

Ronald Reagan was called the Teflon President because nothing ever stuck on him. Trump, on the other hand, may be the Magnet President. He seems to relish in the opprobrium.

And why not? Consider who’s throwing the dirt. Lately, Meryl Streep denounced the president-elect at one of the dozens awards ceremonies celebrities indulge in because of their oppressed status. Streep also stood up for Roman Polanski, a convicted child rapist, who received – wait for it – an award! From the Hollywood elite! When celebrities recognize someone who could not be present to accept it because he would walked off the stage in handcuffs, you can be sure the bar for moral standards has been set rather low.

The harder they hit the nail, the deeper it goes. And like it or not, the nails have been fighting back against the hammers. If you want your opponent to maintain his popularity, here’s how to do it

  1. Sent out a Tweet like Charlie Sheen, begging God to take “Trump Next Please!” six times. I guess he wanted to meet the limit on characters. Charlie Sheen appeared in an interview after getting fired from a TV show because of drug and alcohol abuse. He survived because he has “tiger blood.” He was also accused of holding a knife to the neck of his estranged girlfriend. Who’s winning now, Chuck?
  1. Attempt a boycott of LL Bean – not exactly a hotbed of conservative activism – because one out of more than 50 family members contributed to a Trump political action committee. A donation of $60K is not pocket change to the average American, but a film doyenne like Streep might find this under the sofa cushion.
  1. Promise you’re going to move to Canada if your opponent is elected, then stay put. If you’re Alec Baldwin, you can do this as often as necessary. Otherwise, someone should invoke a law to apply to celebrities concerning endorsements.

Years ago, football legend Joe Namath wore stockings to demonstrate to women how good they would look on their legs. The FCC ruled that celebrities must actually use the products they endorse. Is it too much to ask that celebrities stand by their public vows?

Patrick Hubbell

Cupcakes and Crybabies

Well, how about THAT!

Nobody saw this coming. I was convinced that Nurse Ratched in a pantsuit was going to walk away with this, and both houses of Congress.

This year has not been an edifying lesson in Democracy. Trump didn’t deserve to win, but we didn’t deserve Hillary, either. But, as they say in poker, you gotta play with the hand you were dealt. Joker’s wild. We must simply hope that he turns out to be a better president than he was a candidate.

We’re already off to a good start. Trump kept Hillary out of the White House. She LOST. If she’s disappointed, imagine what Bill must be thinking. No living in the White House, stalking the corridors for interns; no overnight stays in hotels all around the world, stalking the halls for maids; no fundraisers, stalking the room for waitresses; no . . . well, you get the idea.

Another big plus is watching grown men crying on live TV. As the returns filtered in, with erstwhile blue states turning red – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc. – Hillary supporters began looking subdued, then somber, then . . . are you crying? Really, a grown man, crying? Is that what too many Starbucks lattes do to you? Are you eating enough meat? You DON’T eat meat? Oh, well, have a granola bar. Crybaby.

The election brought out more crybabies than a maternity ward. Colleges across our fruity plain held “cry-ins” and allowed students to postpone exams because of emotional stress. The Washington Post reported that some colleges offered students Play-Do and therapy dogs. Seems to me therapy cats would fit in better. If you think losing an election is hard, wait’ll you graduate and have to show up for work. Every day. Suck it up, cupcakes. Everybody else feels the same way and their rainbow pony is stuck inkermit-moving-day traffic.

Many celebrities swore they’d move to another country if Trump won. It’s a lengthy list, but right at the top are Whoopi Goldberg, Amy Shumer, Lena Dunham, Miley Cyrus, and Jon Stewart. I’m retired, so I’d be happy to pitch in and help them pack. I’m not holding my breath, though. Alec Baldwin made the same promise if Bush were elected. He reneged twice.

If only a few of them follow through, we’ll be well on the way to making America great again. – Patrick Hubbell/November 11, 2016

Bob Dylan’s Simple Twist of Fate

Bob Dylan, nee Robert Zimmerman, after a half-century of representing anti-establishment sensibilities, has done it again. First, he shocked the world by plugging in a guitar and, unfortunately, a microphone. Then he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. Talk about a simple twist of fate. The times they are a-changing. (I could go on and on. He made 37 albums.)

Well, why not? Obama got a Nobel Prize before he even took office. And look how successful he has been, spreading peace all over the world in places like Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Georgia – one of the original Red states, not the one between Florida and South Carolina – and the Crimea, and . . . well, you get the idea.

In recent years, it seems the only two considerations for the prize is obscurity and unreadability. So, I think it’s great that someone got this award for writing something that makes sense.

Not everyone in the artistic community agrees, however. Rabish Alameddine, a previous winner, sniffed, “Bob Dylan winning a Nobel in literature is almost as silly as Winston Churchill.” Oh, really? Churchill? The one who helped defeat Nazi Germany and win World War II? Or the one who wrote The History of the English-Speaking People and a dozen other widely-praised works? He also had no use for the Bard: “I read Shakespeare when I was 14 . . . I think that’s a problem, a remnant of colonialism.” Alameddine is a master of the non-linear narrative, which is probably like reading William Faulkner on acid. One or the other or both.bob-dylan

A youth-oriented blog, Vice, opined that “Dylan’s win won’t tarnish the Nobel in the eyes of the world . . . But maybe this help writers care less about awards in general, and focus more their arbitrariness.” No kidding? I had already reached that conclusion when Obama was awarded the Nobel.

Let’s take a deep breath. It’s not as if Dylan won the award for his singing. His Christmas in the Heart album alone would have taken care of that. But now that musicians are fair game, Paul Simon should definitely be next.

A Big Melted Stick of Barbra

In case you missed it, Barbra Streisand is coming to Houston. A blurb from an ad in the Houston Chronicle gushed “Barbra Streisand sounded like diamonds, and porcelain, and a freshly drawn bath and consommé.  – The New York Times

Honestly, if I had turned in a paper with something like that in college my professor would have speared it to my chest with a red pen.

Diamonds, okay. She sounds like diamonds. Diamonds sparkle, and they retail for more than diamondoids, even diamondelles. What does porcelain sound like? My bathtub is made of porcelain, and I have to scrub it now and then. Maybe it’s like the porcelain with that freshly-drawn bath that leaves a ring. But not just any ring – a DIAMOND ring. The kind that sparkles like Barbra’s voice, even after I take a bath.

I’m stumped with the consommé thing. It’s a broth that moms make for thcoffee-talke kids when they can’t hold down anything else. So maybe Barbra’s like chicken soup for the soul. Or someone sick to his stomach.

I’m more astonished that the blurb didn’t end with an exclamation mark. I guess that would be too over-the-top.

Well, I guess we have to allow for some gushery when someone from the New York Times says it. I still say Linda Richman, the hostess of Coffee Talk (“Give us a call. We’ll talk. Drink coffee. No big whoop.”) did better: She’s like buttah. Like melted buttah!”

October 1, 2016