Friday, September 30, 2016

Suppose we all call him "DONALD" from this point forward.

The Democratic nominee never said a word about "Mr. Trump" in the recent debate. Did you notice?

It was always "Donald."

This was a shrewd tactic, and it clearly rattled the Fascist candidate. Mrs. Clinton placed a bet that this man really, really doesn't like being called "Donald." And the bet paid off.

Personally, I think the practice should continue for the rest of his life.

His doorman should call him "Donald." His limo driver should call him "Donald." Random strangers passing him on the street should call out, "Donald! Great to see you!"

Let's all do that, please, and let's take note, too, of what is perhaps the most important takeaway yet from this improbable election. When someone disrespects Donald, he falls apart. Click the image below for proof.

 Donald falls apart

Is a man so easily baited, so clearly incapable of managing his own emotions, really to be trusted to handle the provocations of Kim Jong-Un or Vladimir Putin?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My vote for best show on Netflix: SPOTLESS

Two brothers, one of whom owns a crime-scene cleaning business, are forced to clean up the mob's dirty work.

SPOTLESS is not for the faint of heart -- in fact, it's brutally violent in places -- but if you liked BREAKING BAD, I predict you will not regret committing to this brilliant, occasionally blood-spattered black comedy. Click the image below for a teaser video. Warning: It contains spoilers.

 Teaser video for SPOTLESS

Some might not agree with me about the "comedy" label, but I do think it fits here. The show's intricate, interlaced musings on morality, duty, fidelity, family ties, and childhood trauma are full of dark humor -- a distinctive, hypnotic humor that somehow holds everything together. Certain absurd situations stay with you for weeks. A masterful Episode One scene, for instance, centers on a late-night fraternal conflict over the proper location of a freezer containing a dead body. Things get considerably darker, and stranger, from there. This is black farce elevated to a unique, intense, hyper-realistic pitch.

The word that keeps coming up for me as I try to describe this amazing, unlikely world to others is "beautiful." That's a little odd, perhaps, considering the disturbing subject matter. But beautiful it is. So that's the word I will stick with. Beautifully conceived, written, shot, and performed, this shrewd, inventive series borrows Walter White's perpetual challenge of ever-more-difficult ethical dilemmas, combines that with a compelling brother-to-brother relationship, and adds some of the wary, "look closer" aesthetic of, yes, AMERICAN BEAUTY. Put it all together, set it in London, and somehow the game has been raised to another, altogether sublime, level.

This is fine, compelling, addictive television drama of the very highest caliber. Note, please, the consistently spectacular viewer reviews:

This response does not surprise me. The series is both provocative and accessible to a mass audience, in the tradition of BREAKING BAD and THE SOPRANOS. Some truly extraordinary performances are on display here from Marc-Andre Grondin, Denis Ménochet, and Brendan Coyle. The team of gifted writers includes creators Corinne Marrinan and Ed McCardie.

My favorite show on Netflix, hands down. (SPOTLESS is available via Netflix in Ireland, where I am, and in the UK.)

In the US, SPOTLESS is listed as being on the Esquire Network, but I can't seem to find an on-demand option for viewing the episodes. Probably user error. Even so, you may want to order the DVD set. This is a keeper.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

How the Hell Did Vladimir Nabokov Pronounce His Last Name? How the Hell Do I Pronounce Mine?

Let's start with the most essential piece of evidence. Sting, an English speaker and former English teacher, chooses to accent the first syllable of the name "Nabokov" in the Police classic DON'T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME -- just as I, an English speaker and former English teacher, choose to accent the first syllable in my own last name.

That great Eighties band, of course, played no role in my dad's decision to reclaim our family name. It had been long concealed by my grandfather, who was not eager to attract the interest of immigration officials. Back in the Twenties, when my grandfather made it to the States from Russia by creative, unorthodox means that are still unclear to me, he called himself George Mitchell, having picked that last name out of a phone book because it sounded American. He was, my father insisted, born Giorgi Toropov. The two did not get along. In 1966 or thereabouts, my father, the former George Mitchell II, rebranded himself as Yuri Toropov. He always pronounced the name "TOR-o-povv." I don't know why.

Now it's time to pose the question I have asked myself more times than I can count in my career as a writer: What Would Vlad Do?

If my father's aim was to follow the Russian tradition, it's looking like he got it wrong, or at least different, and that the family name should have been pronounced "tor-ROP-off." Oh well. This ambiguous reply from the late Master Prose Stylist, given during a 1965 interview, suggests there are at least three acceptable options.

Whew. Looks like I can stick with Sting, and my dad, when it comes time to pronounce either of our last names. (Always taking care not to do so in the same breath, though.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Details behind the multiple times TRUMP has been accused of rape or attempted rape

 Trump Rape Lawsuit Filing Excerpt

  • Trump has been accused multiple times of this kind of assault. This alleged pattern of behavior should be MAJOR national mainstream news. 
  • It is not -- but only because the Fascist candidate has ordered that it should not be, and CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and the NEW YORK TIMES (among others) are obeying Trump's orders not to push the story.
  • Get used to that controlling-what-can-and-can't-be-said-by-reporters thing if Trump wins.
  • There are three alleged incidents to consider, all adding up to one glaring case of journalistic malpractice from Big Media. Quotes below via


Ivana Trump. (Photo:
Christopherpeterson at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,

"The first and most famous accusation comes from Trump’s ex-wife Ivana Trump. During a deposition in the ’90s, Ivana described a harrowing scene in which Trump held her arms back, pulled at her hair, and raped her in a fit of rage. She herself used the word “rape.” The details of the incident were made public in the 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, written by the journalist Harry Hurt III."

"Trump denies this incident took place, and before the book hit shelves his lawyers required that it include a statement at the front written by Ivana, in which she walks back her use of the word 'rape':"

During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me. I referred to this as a "rape," but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.

"In her statement she added instead that she felt 'violated.'"


Jill Harth. (Photo:

"The second accusation of sexual assault comes from a 1997 lawsuit. Jill Harth says she and her romantic partner were working with Trump on a business deal, when The Donald started making unwelcome sexual advances. In a lawsuit filed against Trump, she says he leered at her inappropriately, groped her on several occasions without her consent, and even 'attempted rape.' In her lawsuit, Harth describes a scene in which Trump took her into one of his children’s bedrooms at his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago, threw her against the wall, began touching her all over, and lifted up her dress."

"In a recent interview with The Guardian, Harth says she had to physically prevent him from advancing and shouted out: 'What are you doing? Stop it.' Adding, 'It was a shocking thing to have him do this because he knew I was with George [her partner], he knew they were in the next room. And how could he be doing this when I’m there for business?'

Trump denies any of this ever happened, calling the allegations “meritless.”


"The third case against Trump comes via a recent federal lawsuit filed in June 2016 in the State of New York by 'Jane Doe.' In the suit, Doe alleges that Trump raped her back in 1994, when she was just 13 years old. According to legal docs, Doe says she attended parties with Trump and his friend Jeffrey Epstein—a registered sex offender known in the media as the 'billionaire pedophile.'

"Doe, who was trying to become a model, says it was during these parties that Trump initiated sexual contact with her on several occasions and on one occasion allegedly raped her. According to the suit, Trump tied her to a bed, exposed himself to her and then raped her in a 'savage sexual attack.' Doe says she screamed for him to stop at which point he struck her in the face while screaming 'that he would do whatever he wanted.' In a statement filed with the lawsuit, Doe says Trump threatened to ruin her life and her family’s life if she ever told anyone about the incident:"

Immediately following this rape Defendant Trump threatened me that, were I ever to reveal any of the details of Defendant Trump’s sexual and physical abuse of me, my family and I would be physically harmed if not killed.

"The lawsuit also includes a witness statement from a 'Tiffany Doe,' who says that, in the ’90s, she was in charge of recruiting adolescent women to entertain guests at Epstein’s parties—and she personally saw the incident occur."

I personally witnessed the Plaintiff being forced to perform various sexual acts with Donald J. Trump and Mr. Epstein. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein were advised that she was 13 years old.

"In her statement, Tiffany Doe also says she witnessed Trump force other minors to perform oral sex on him and witnessed his 'physical abuse' on them 'when they finished the act.'"

"According to documents, Trump has denied the allegations, stating 'These allegations are not only categorically false, but disgusting at the highest level and clearly framed to solicit media attention or, perhaps, are simply politically motivated. There is absolutely no merit to these allegations. Period.'"




Sunday, September 18, 2016

Arrest this man. No. I'm not kidding, @SecretService

Trump: Clinton's bodyguards should drop weapons 'and let's see what happens to her.'

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Make No Mistake: Clinton Is Under Attack Because She Is a Woman (#ImWithHer) (#video)

Hillary Clinton has now become the target of the broadest, ugliest, coarsest, and longest-running character assassination/disinformation campaign in modern American political history. Click the image below for proof of this, but don't watch the video while the kids are around.

 Sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton

Make no mistake. This series of sexist attacks is intensifying ... but not because of any specific policy misstep that Clinton's opponents can elucidate. (In an interesting parallel development, the Trump campaign's senior policy development team recently disintegrated.)

This series of sexist attacks is intensifying ... but not because of any credible, real-world evidence of corruption that anyone can produce or even summarize. (Indeed, the Trump camp's manifest record of bribery of public officials should be Topic A in this campaign, but for some reason it isn't.) 

This series of sexist attacks is intensifying ... but not because of any credible claim against Clinton's qualifications in comparison with those of her opponent.  (Quite the contrary. The former acting director of the CIA official publicly endorsed Clinton -- remarkable in itself -- and went on to note his view that "Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.")

  • No. The unprecedented venality, profanity, and intensity of the sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton are are happening, and intensifying, simply because she is female. 
  • We need to notice this. 
  • Again: The attacks we are seeing daily have one and only one unifying factor: fear and loathing of a qualified woman's daring to seek the presidency. 

That is the reality US progressives and feminists now face in this campaign.

Whether someone else should have been or could have been nominated is beside the point. Whether Hillary represents all of our favorite causes, exactly as we would, is beside the point. Whether she was our first choice is beside the point.

What matters now is whether we will allow hatred, and specifically hatred of powerful, intelligent women, to determine the political culture of this nation.

If we are complacent in the face of the well-funded, vigorous, vicious, and fundamentally misogynistic attempt to smear this candidate, then we will get what we deserve: a dangerous, unqualified, woman-hating Fascist taking the oath of office on the 20th of January, 2017 -- and continuing the war on women from the White House.

Please, please, please click here to help Hillary Clinton win on November 8. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Edward Wilson's stellar intellectual thriller A VERY BRITISH ENDING

It's a fascinating question, whether the latest Edward Wilson spy novel A VERY BRITISH ENDING would be as smart, vigorous, engaging, and downright delightful a read without us all having easy access to the Internet. Fortunately, I don't have to answer that question.

This is a book custom-built for the smart-phone era, the era when you can think "Better look that up," launch a Google search, and expect to get a clearer sense, within a few seconds, of who actually did what, when, in real life. Much of the pleasure of this novel lies in determining just how much of Wilson's intricate intellectual thriller is history and how much is literary invention.

Here's the remarkable thing. Pausing momentarily to check, for instance, whether the CIA really was behind the 1954 screenplay adaptation of George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM (it was), or whether senior intelligence operatives really were, or really are, eager to strike up dark, democracy-threatening alliances with the military, somehow does not dull one's interest in William Catesby, Wilson's long-suffering, fundamentally decent hero.

Quite the contrary. Once you put down the phone and return to the book, you find yourself more curious than ever about where Catesby's journey will lead -- and anticipating the strangely satisfying ritual of Googling the history behind the book's next plot development. I don't know how Wilson manages that, but he does.

Catesby, a liberal-leaning MI6 officer with a functioning conscience and a deep love of his country, is a man who knows paranoia when he sees it. He sees a whole lot of it in Cold War-era England, and he learns, first-hand, its heavy cost to the body politic. The central conceit of this story -- the destabilization of a sitting Prime Minister's government by fanatically anti-Communist elements of the UK's intelligence apparatus -- may seem to those unfamiliar with the period to be implausible, some kind of fanciful improvisation meant to boost book sales. Yet it is settled history, every bit as real as the Profumo scandal or the Cuban Missile Crisis. So: Did these machinations really turn into a coup? Were people like Catesby really around to note, with alarm, the mental state that served as the source of such plots? And who, exactly, are we talking about, back in the real world?

Better look all that up. And once you do, better make sure you keep this stellar page-turner nearby, because, having begun it, you will return to it in very short order. A marvelous, magnetic, and endlessly intriguing spy novel that boasts equal measures of dazzling invention and responsible research, A VERY BRITISH ENDING illuminates potent and enduring truths about the perils of hyper-nationalism and groupthink. It also gives us, in William Catesby, that rare protagonist in whom cynicism and idealism persist, believably if not comfortably, side-by-side.

"Treason usually, but not always," Catesby's mentor and ally Henry Bone notes at one point, "comes from the right wing." Later, Bone warns Catesby that "power is a poison -- and even more deadly when it exists in confined spaces." Such insightful passages about political excess (there are many, many more) could just be the musings of a writer who knows when he's found the right tone for a novel about a coup plot hatched by reactionaries. On the other hand, who knows? Wilson's prose could very well have something to do with real, live, catastrophic threats to democracy that we all need to be ready to spot in the era of Farage and Trump. What schemes have the increasingly paranoid followers of those gentlemen come up with lately? Better look that up, too.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Why Is Trump Hiding His Taxes?

Please post and repost this image hourly. 

The US mainstream news media is under-reporting this story.

The Fascist candidate is hiding his financial history. In so doing he is ignoring an important precedent of the modern American democratic process.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

ORWELL matters more than STALIN.

ORWELL MATTERS MORE THAN STALIN. It may not have seemed so at the time but it was always true. 




Literature is an appropriate response to extremism, fascism, nationalism gone mad, and genocide.

By reading and writing fiction that celebrates intellectual freedom, empathy, and diversity, we are AT THIS MOMENT creating the possibility of coexistence in the Middle East, USA, and Europe via a powerful global conversation about literature and tolerance.

"For decades it's been known that an effective means of improving negative attitudes and prejudices between differing groups of people is through intergroup contact – particularly through contact between 'in-groups,' or a social group to which someone identifies, and 'out-groups,' or a group they don’t identify with or perceive as threatening. Even reading short stories about friendship between in- and out-group characters is enough to improve attitudes toward stigmatized groups in children. A new study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that reading the Harry Potter books in particular has similar effects, likely in part because Potter is continually in contact with stigmatized groups." -- Scientific American

"Extended contact via story reading is a powerful strategy to improve out-group attitudes." -- Journal of Applied Social Psychology

"Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies. Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind (ToM), in adults. We present five experiments showing that reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective ToM (experiments 1 to 5) and cognitive ToM (experiments 4 and 5) compared with reading nonfiction (experiments 1), popular fiction (experiments 2 to 5), or nothing at all (experiments 2 and 5). Specifically, these results show that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances ToM. More broadly, they suggest that ToM may be influenced by engagement with works of art." -- Science Magazine