Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


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Standards

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

For the record, as an anti-monarchist, I dutifully boycotted that royal wedding today. We Americans did fight a war over this sort of thing, you know. My feelings about it haven’t changed.

And now, an op ed from the most naive man in America

Monday, April 30th, 2018

This Republican pundit is shocked to learn that his side’s media outlets no longer want any content that isn’t 100% supportive of Trump.

“If, among those who supposedly cherish freedom of expression, certain widespread viewpoints become taboo, where does that leave us? In a dishonest media atmosphere.”

Gee, I hope this movement doesn’t leak over to Fox News, which always has news we can trust. Thank God we have a press secretary we can count on to share the truth with us.

p.s. Please note that this guy’s outrage manifested itself on the day he realized he’d lost his paycheck.

Today’s political prediction

Monday, March 5th, 2018

There will be no steel tariff.

It’s purely a political ploy to swing unemployed Pennsylvania steelworkers back to voting Republican in the March 13th special Congressional election.

Once that’s over, the issue will magically go away.

Supporting evidence:  Zero reaction in the stock market today. Traders know this isn’t for real.

Honest answers (the latest in a series)

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

A website form just asked me, “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?” So I answered: “Trump is terrible through and through.”

The physics of physique

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

 

 

TrumpWeight

Sports Illustrated shows what 239 pounds look like. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t look like Donald Trump.

 

A suggestion for GOP members of Congress who oppose Trump

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Maybe stay and fight?

Even in an election you’re going to lose. Because then we’d really understand that, for you, it’s about country over party.

Or, how about this: switch party affiliation. Now. While you’re still in office.

Because, as someone noted on Twitter:

If McCain, Corker, and Jeff Flake want to stop Trump, they should LEAVE HIS PARTY.

52 Republicans in Senate

52 – 3 = 49 = no more majority

That’d make for real impact.

Our health care system

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

The other day, I finally got in to see my doctor. I say “finally” because I’d waited three weeks for the appointment. Yes, it was mostly because of something routine that I was going (a physical check-up), but I do have this little rash — nothing extreme, but something small and itchy that doesn’t seem to be going away. I actually thought that while waiting for three weeks to see him about it, it’d melt back into wherever it came from, but that didn’t happen. He looked at it, prescribed some sort of heavy-duty two-day antibiotic and also a cream, and said he’d refer me to a dermatologist. Yesterday, when the referral from the dermatologist came in the mail, I called right away to schedule an appointment.

Sometimes, the answering folks at medical practices are friendly, sometimes they’re helpful, and sometimes, rarely, they’re friendly and helpful. The woman on the phone made no pretense of being friendly or helpful. Answering the phone (on the twelfth ring — but I was determined) was the last thing on her mind. I gave her my info and told her what I was looking for.

“Our next appointment is January 9th,” she said.

“January 9th! Today’s October 6th.”

“I know.”

“That’s three months from now!”

“Yes. Should I schedule you?”

I was considering taking the appointment for three months hence — because who knew what would happen if I didn’t take this one? — but then happened to look down at the authorization that had been mailed to me.  “My authorization expires on December 15th!” I told her.

“Yeah, that happens,” she said airily. “You’ll have to go back to see your doctor. Ask for an extension.”

I said, “Goodbye” and hung up.  (Note the absence of “thank you” — because there was nothing to be thankful for.) Then I thought, “Maybe the rash will just go away by then.”

And, really, isn’t that the hope of every HMO and every insurance company? That whatever thing is ailing you, and maybe you yourself, will just… go… away?

Is Hurricane Harvey the result of global warming?

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

“To take but one additional case study close at hand, it is now estimated that New York City will suffer ‘500-year’ floods once every 25 years. And sea-level rise is more dramatic elsewhere, which means that storm surges will be distributed unequally, too; in some places storms on that scale will hit even more frequently. The result is a terrifying, radically accelerated experience of extreme weather — centuries worth of natural disaster compressed into just a decade or two.”

Here, you be the judge.

How the Germans saved Western civilization

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

On Monday, I took an old friend to lunch. He’s an old friend secondly because we’ve been friends for 11 years, and firstly because he was born in 1928. I told him I’d take him anywhere he liked for lunch, and unfortunately it turns out he likes Bob’s Big Boy.

I liked Bob’s Big Boy when I was 10, because the Big Boy had his own line of comics — “Adventures of the Big Boy” — and while they were lame, hey, at least they were comic books. Whenever our family would drive from our home in southern New Jersey the six or so hours to my mother’s birthplace of Johnstown, PA for a visit, I’d scream to stop at either the Bob’s Big Boy along the way so I could get one of those comics, or the Howard Johnson’s Restaurant (aka “HoJo’s”) because it had the most bizarre vending machine, where you could get miniature flashlights, and pocket knives, and rabbit’s feet, and other sorts of novelties and useless gadgets manufactured precisely to delight 8-year-old boys. Although five Bob’s Big Boy locations remain in Southern California, and several dozen in the midwest, they’re all gone now from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and there is only one HoJo’s left anywhere in the universe, in snowy upstate New York.

It had been about 10 years since I’d eaten at the Bob’s Big Boy that my friend had selected, not since the time I had lunch there with Robert Patrick, who played the evil Terminator in “Terminator 2.” I don’t know what Bob had — I couldn’t quite see over to his table near me — but what I had that time would have been turned down by a vulture. Still, I was game to see my friend because I like him, because he’s my friend, and because, well, tempus fugit (remember, born in 1928). I had a hankering for fried chicken, so when we sat down, sandwiched in as we were in a booth sideways along the backsides of a row of middle-aged people in a large booth enduring the offspring of their offspring, that’s what I ordered.

My friend was eager to tell me all about a few different books he’d recently read, all revolving around the premise that it was the Irish who had won the American Revolution, the Irish who had enabled all of our advances, and the Irish who had saved Western civilization. (I should note that, shockingly, he is of Irish descent.) Not having been aware that anyone had saved Western civilization — I’ve actually been rather worried about it, especially the past eight months — I leaned in to hear more. I also leaned in to hear more because, while my hearing is pretty good, the Big Boy’s acoustics are pretty bad, especially against the din of many diners. My chicken arrived, extra salty and deeply coated in impregnable roofing shingles, and as I struggled to eat any of it or the gluey mashed potatoes snuggling against it, I started to listen.

It turned out that the Irish had won the American Revolution because they stayed in the field at Valley Forge while others went home; that they had saved Western civilization because they made a secret deal with Rome to save all the best knowledge; and that they were connected to every essential advance because, I think, there was always some Irish guy around at the right time. That seemed to be the gist of it.

He offered to lend me one of the corroborating books that prove all of this beyond any doubt, but I begged off. “I have 78 books in my reading queue,” I said, which is true. By the time I would get to reading his book, we’d need some Irish to save us from the war with our own Martian colony.

“I haven’t read these books–” I started.

“I’ll lend them to you!” he offered again.

“–But these sound like they selected their facts. You know:  You decide the story you want to tell, then you choose the facts that fit and build your interpretation around them.”

To support my point, I said I was going to write a book entitled “How the Germans Saved Western Civilization.”

“It’s simple,” I said. “They set such a terrible example in the 20th century, what with those two world wars and all that genocide, that suddenly people had to set up systems to protect us from them! After World War II, it became clear that we needed a United Nations, and the Geneva Convention of 1949, and the Germans needed to learn the lesson of their history and teach it to future generations. Now, in our apparent absence, they seem to be the keepers of the flame of Western democracy. Thank God for the Germans!”

(Perhaps I should note that I am of German descent.)

After lunch, I dropped my friend off to the dentist. He is able-bodied, but was in for a painful procedure. Looking on the bright side, I told him he was lucky he still had his teeth. (We’ll see how well I do, 35 years from now.)

Tonight, while at the gym, I was reminded of our lunchtime discussion of the previous day. While I was working out, Republican President Donald Trump — and that’s what I’m going to keep calling him, to make a point and to keep making it — Republican President Donald Trump came on the television with remarks from his campaign rally in Phoenix. I had gone to the gym to lose weight, and wound up losing my mind instead, suffering through this insufferable speech against the backdrop of 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer set to level 10. Trump went on and on about how the “fake news media” had inaccurately reported his comments about Charlottesville, VA — but then carefully elided the words that got him into deservedly deep water:  “on both sides.” He kept reading, and rereading, the sections where he condemned the actions of people in the event, but never once read three words:  “on both sides,” as in condemning the violence “on both sides” and blaming people “on many sides.” He seemed to find all the words surrounding those words — all the others that sounded better — but left out the precise ones that everyone else, particularly Klan leader David Duke, heard and seized on. To support his latest version of the argument, he had selected only the words he wanted.

Ah, I thought, I recognize this sort of argument. It’s a sort of fake news of itself — the selective use of facts, leading to selective interpretation. Kind of like how the Germans saved Western civilization.

 

The terrible prescience of “Glengarry Glen Ross”

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

On this blog, I write about Donald Trump as little as I can bear; he already hogs too much of my day everywhere else, so I don’t want it here as well.

But I can’t resist linking to this terrific little piece that compares Trump, and his latest amanuensis Anthony Scaramucci, with a character in the 1992 film version of “Glengarry Glen Ross.” As this piece notes, the stage version doesn’t include the much-loved opener with Alec Baldwin, which has continues to serve as an unfortunate model for some. (Just this past week, someone in the business world brought the Baldwin character up to me — and was dumbfounded to learn that it isn’t in the stage version.)

Anyway, here’s the piece. It’s an all-too-true characterization of the current president of the United States.