Translating the Trumpese

Were you among the furious, angry, outraged over Donald Trump’s limp-handed, limp-brained response to the rioting in Charlottesville?

Me, too.

But surprised…not a chance in hell.

Also not surprised by his tweet of condemnation which came today only after a meeting with the Attorney General and the head of the FBI who, I can only hope, hammered him with the need for such a revision.

How could anybody with a brain be surprised by what he said?  He’s been saying inflammatory things like this for the past year – and more – in the special language he speaks:  Trumpese.  Donald Trump is hardly multi-lingual and his tweets were recently compared to those of “an indolent 9-year-old.”

Trumpese is the only language he speaks and it always translates to “What’s in it for me?”

He spoke in Trumpese recently when he encouraged police to go ahead and be a little rougher with prisoners.  He spoke it recently when he called for “fire and fury” in response to North Korea and in his angry, insulting tweet to one of his advisors who quit after Trump’s initial lukewarm response to Charlottesville. It’s the only language he knows.

And what’s in it for him in those situations is that he gets to strut and preen and play tough guy instead of doing anything constructive.

What was in it for him with the original (and truly Trump) Charlottesville comment is holding onto what he sees as his base.  And, God help us, he sees these people as part of his base.

Trump’s minions are already putting forth campaign ads for 2020 and he also recently proposed that the 2020 election might be “postponed” if there’s a chance of voter fraud.  That’s Trumpese for “Of course, we’ll find voter fraud and want to postpone the election.  It will be very, very significant, like the country has never seen before.”

(A sidenote here:  In the world of linguistics, words like “very” and “really” are called intensifiers.  And in the world of linguistics, intensifiers are used far more often by women speakers.  In fact, they are a marker of the differences between the way men and women speak.  I leave you to draw your own conclusions.)

We are in the middle of a conundrum these days and it is not one wrapped in an enigma. It’s right out there in plain sight.

Donald Trump spends a lot of time shouting at, and rambling on about, the despots of the world – Kim Jong Un and Venezuela’s Maduro come to mind – and how we’ll take them out.  But who’s that behind the curtain? Why, our very own despot trying to pull the same Shinola on America.  And what is anyone with any clout doing about it?

You know the answer as well as I do.

So, no, Miss Fidditch was not the least bit surprised by Donald Trump’s Trumpesian response to the rioting over the weekend.  The photo of the “pitchforks and torches” crowd was chilling but not quite as chilling as the words from the so-called President of the United States who is sworn to uphold the laws and generally expected to work for unity in our country.

Call me old-fashioned. Call me out of date.  But I remember the day I climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and stood weeping in the presence of greatness and an unexpected rush of patriotism.

It seems to me that a President who does not uphold the laws and who works for – not against –  divisiveness and hatred in our country is a candidate for impeachment.  Bill Clinton got hit with it for having sex in the oval office.

How I wish having sex in the oval office was the only thing Donald Trump was guilty of.

As for Charlottesville, my words to him, despite his statement today, are simply, and in business terms he might understand, “You broke it.  You buy it.”  It’s all yours.


Breaking Up Is Hard to Do – and Harder with Constant Contact

A follow-up to my recent post about the Internet.  Here’s what happened today.

I have been subscribed to a particular site through the oh-so-popular subscription service, Constant Contact.

This morning I realized I no longer wanted to be on the mailing list, so I scrolled down to the “unsubscribe” link to “safely unsubscribe.”  Easy enough.  I clicked and a screen came up showing my email address for confirmation and asking why I wanted to unsubscribe.  There were several choices – their choices – including “other reason.”  But the entire screen was labeled (Optional).

Now in my dictionary, “optional” means just what it says.  Do it or don’t do it – my choice.

So I simply clicked the “unsubscribe” button – but wait.  The Internet master speaks and says I have to give one reason or another for leaving.  I can’t unsubscribe until I do that.  This sounds a lot like a bad break-up.  Why?  Why?  Why?

And like a bad break-up, I didn’t want to (a) lie and make something up or (b) go into all the reasons like I hated the way you licked your knife and flirted with waitresses, so to appease the Internet master, I just clicked “other reason” (it’s not you, it’s me) and said nothing.

Clicked the “unsubscribe” button again – but wait.  What fresh hell is this?  Another message – I have to say something.  I have to put something in that box.  I’m halfway out the door and the break-up is still not happening.  I HAVE to say something before I can unsubscribe.  Look, I didn’t sign on for this kind of thing.  Just let me take my computer and my photo album and my plants and get the hell out of here.

But nooo.  Stop grabbing at me as I’m trying to get out the door.  Stop pleading and telling me it will be better in the future. Stop asking me to lie or make things up.

Because I had no more time for this relationship and am so done with Constant Contact, and because I know I’m just a blank-faced marketing algorithm to them, I used their bloody little box that I HAD to fill in before I could get out the door.

I did.

I used it to tell them how bad their unsubscribe process was and that if they say something is “Optional,” it had damned well better be optional and not some fakey-jake ploy to get more marketing information from me.

Imagine going into a store and being blocked at the exit to fill out a form before you could leave telling the marketing department why you didn’t like the shoes you tried on.  I’m serious.  Imagine that.  This is what the Internet masters are asking us to do.  And I’m still the sworn enemy.

It’s the little things that can grind a person down.  No relationship can tolerate constant contact.  Viva, the truly Optional.

All I Wanted Was a Private Phone Line and the Yellow Pages

Isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing?  A gift from the gods and goddesses?  The greatest thing since sliced bread or maybe Pistachio ice cream?

Or maybe it’s just been a great way to turn a few people into billionaires and keep a lot of other people off the streets with jobs that create more and more chaos in our lives.

Oh, sure, we can now sit at home in our underwear and order just about anything we want without ever leaving the Barcalounger.  And we can stalk people online and call it Googling.  We can hear ear-blasting sound clips that startle us out of that underwear when we least expect them and thought we were just reading a little story about somebody’s garden tips.

And we can keep up with the rich and famous and the not rich at all and not the least bit famous on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and the gods and goddesses know what else.  And we can get medical advice from people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about and could kill you in a heartbeat if you followed everything you read online.

But still.

Today there’s news that Russian bots are now attacking the Republicans.  If there was ever a sense of irony, I’m feeling it right now.  And I ask, what would we do without the Internet?

Or perhaps more to the point, what DID we do without the Internet?

Well, for one thing, we did our work at our regular jobs without having to learn an additional job aka computer operator.  Nobody changed our typewriters every year with updated new models that made it twice as hard to do the work.  Our work was valued because we took pride in it and there was no computer to do it.

We shopped at our local stores and sometimes ordered things through mail order catalogs that came in the – yeah, you got it – the mail.  Nobody seemed to be out to shutter every small  business in their effort to become – yeah, you got it – a billionaire.

We heard from the family a couple of times a month and not every single bloody day with the details of every single bloody thing going on.  And friends either called or wrote or visited each other and never said, “If you want to know what I’m doing, check Facebook,” as if Facebook replaced real friendship.

The answer is, we got along just fine.

And the reason is that we were living our real lives, not our virtual lives.  We worked in our gardens and drove our ordinary cars and met our neighbors and kids got outside to play and create their own little worlds and the only helicopter parent any of us knew was the guy in the reserves who flew in a helicopter every month to be a weekend warrior.

We live in a different world now, a world that was created for military purposes but quickly got absorbed by people who saw a great way to make a buck or several billion off our gullibility.

We live in a world now where people anywhere on the globe can influence the politics of any other place on the globe without leaving those Barcaloungers or getting out of that underwear.

We live in a world where people can torment or humiliate each other and share that humiliation with half a million viewers until somebody commits suicide.

We’ve lost our privacy and our perspective.  We can no longer distinguish between shit and Shinola, but the tech kids just keep churning out those updates and raking in the bucks.

No, the world is not all bad, but there are plenty of people, like the San Diego sisters who’ve been whacking the hell out of low income housing while – oh, yeah – pulling in dollars that should have gone someplace where they could do some good, so sometimes it’s hard to see the good.

I know, I know I’ll be told to keep thinking positively, but when you get to be my age and see what the Internet has made possible – not to mention all the collateral throwaway technology – last year’s iPhone is so last year – it gets harder all the time.

I mean, my brand new computer just stopped, gongs and bells went off and I don’t know why.  All I ever  wanted from technology was a private phone line and a telephone book.

Was it too much to ask?

There are always trade-offs, I know, but deals with the devil have scarred many a dealer who thought it would all be Pistachio ice cream and cake.  People have become billionaires with the Internet, to be sure, but I don’t know a single one of them personally.

Do you?


Well, That Didn’t Take Long

Boy, howdy, things are poppin’ at the White House.

The revolving door of Trump appointments is a lot like the big wheel that keeps on turnin’ while Proud Mary keeps on burnin’.  Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ on the river.

But last week drained all the drama out of Trump and the White House madness of the preceding weeks.  It was as if tweet fever had come to the crisis point and then just petered out leaving Miss Fidditch with the deep sense that since anything can – and likely will – happen with the current (no)administration, there’s no point getting her knickers in a twist about any of it.

It’s over.  She can relax, work in the garden, answer her mail, read a new book and generally ease on down the road.

That rude bully in the big white house can tweet, yammer, threaten, brag all he wants but, in truth, he’s played his hand and the adults have finally sent him to his room.

Hard to know if it was the Priebus thing or the health care thing or maybe he’s just mad  because the Scots won’t let him build his second golf course thing.  The Scaramucci thing might have done it (and there’s some reason to think Scaramucci’s interview was over the top even for Don).

But it doesn’t really matter.  Mr. Shakespeare understood people like this better than anyone and wasn’t afraid to call it what it was.  To wit:

“Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

No columnist from the New York Times or any other pundit could have said it better.  As Miss Fidditch has often pointed out, literature covers all the bases and it takes more than a tweet to say anything worth reading.

So, as Cole Porter suggested, Miss Fidditch, too, suggests that you, “Brush up your Shakespeare, start quoting him now.”  All this sound and fury?  It’s happened before and it’s all in the books.

Books.  You remember books?  You can read them anywhere and there are no pop-up ads.  Wonderful things – books.  The older, the better.

No, Henrietta, a graphic novel is not a book.  Not in Miss Fidditch’s library.





Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

“I cannot imagine how anyone could even think of writing a novel without having at least a vague idea of the 10,000 years of literature that have gone before.”
–Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Jonathan Taplin, who has plenty of cred in the digital media world, includes this quotation in his new book, Move Fast and Break Things:  How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. 

Taplin is director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC and a former tour manager for The Band and, on occasion, Bob Dylan.  He knows just about everybody in the music and film business that anybody needs to know, and he’s also produced films for Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders and Gus Van Sant.  He knows from digital media.

The book, essentially a look at how the big three have affected the creative world by making much of the artists’ work “free” while the big three reap great rewards for themselves in the process, is part memoir of Taplin’s days in the music and media world and part passionate concern about what’s become of the Internet in these latter days when algorithms are making all the choices for us.

He titled the book with Facebook’s former motto (now slightly revised but not much better) and includes a lot of quotations, citing various authors, pundits, clear thinkers, skeptics and those simply trying to make sense of a world that seems to go faster and break more things every day.  Disruption is the game, and if there was ever a way to create chaos and confusion, disruption is it.

In politics, the workplace, the marketplace and in our every day lives, disruption and distraction rule.  Too many people on the planet – or at least in particular parts of the planet – seem hell-bent on going faster, breaking more things and generally causing as many problems as possible.  Smart people.  People who might have once cared about something beyond the Kardashians or the Game of Thrones or how many followers/friends they have or getting the rock bottom best deal (even when it wasn’t the best deal).

We’re disrupting ourselves to death and, as Taplin points out, receiving our information from fewer and fewer sources that work with tighter and tighter algorithms as they busily and happily monetize every scrap of that information.  Think about that for just a quiet moment.

One of the people Taplin quotes is Neil Postman who preceded today’s Internet world, but had his own things to say about what could happen to our future.  Postman was a semanticist, an educator and a humanist not opposed to technology but definitely wary of the glib and glamorous promises made, especially by those holding the strings of the purses like the ones who lead the Big Three noted by Taplin.

I first ran onto Postman as a linguistics student when I read his pre-Internet book on general semantics, Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk: How We Defeat Ourselves by the Way We Talk and What to Do About It.  It’s still a terrific book and makes significant points about context, among other things, which is a great determiner of crazy and/or stupid talk.  Listened to any politicians lately?

Another of Postman’s books, Amusing Ourselves to Death:  Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, has more than a little relevance to what we see and hear every day on the Internet.  Again I ask, listened to any politicians lately?

I’ll leave discussions of the music industry to someone more knowledgeable than I.  But here’s the Postman quote from Taplin’s book — a comparison between George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, the two writers who gave us the best-known glimpses of the future.

It’s from Taplin’s insightful chapter titled “What It Means to Be Human:”

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.  What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.  Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.”

And damned if it didn’t happen.