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Fighting Words for the Age of Trump

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It’s hard to concentrate on anything besides what Trump and the Republicans are doing and saying:

*Tax “reform” that’s a giveaway to their rich corporate and individual donor/owners and will bust a huge hole in the deficit, which will only be closable by enormous cuts in entitlement programs (effectively ending the New Deal, a long-sought, right-wing wet dream). As economic adviser Gary Cohn said, “The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.” Duh.

*Trump bumbling around the world, dancing with dictators and sucking up to Putin while he calls long-time American public servants “hacks”

*The ex-Eli Lilly executive/Big Pharma lobbyist – Alex Azar -- who has just been raised from the Swamp to be new Health and Human Services secretary

*Roy Moore, the pedophile GOP candidate from Alabama, the one who’s really, really Christian

*Trump packing the courts with highly unqualified, young right-wing ideologues (and McConnell jamming them through)

*Trumpworld in suspense, waiting for the next indictment: Michael Flynn or his son? … Jared or Donald Jr.?

As Stephen Sondheim said in a different context, “Every day, a little death.”

There was some hope on Election Day: good results in Virginia, New Jersey, and in pockets all across the country. But let’s see what happens in 2018. The Democrats will be fighting a lot of money, gerrymandering, and a lot of voter suppression. And we don’t know what Russia, Trump’s ally, has planned for us.

It’s hard to stay positive, and yet what choice have we? I focus on my little life: working on this draft of WHEN I GOT OUT and taking care of my family, especially my exquisite grandson Calder.

And I try to take courage from the fighting words of others:

“I believe that we are lost here in America, but I believe we shall be found.” – Thomas Wolfe, YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

“Of all the varieties of virtues, liberalism is the most beloved.” -- Aristotle

“Most of the things worth doing in the world have been declared impossible before they were done.” – Louis Brandeis

“That which the fascists hate, above all else, is intelligence.” – Miguel de Unamuno

“I believe that all men, black, brown, and white, are brothers.” – W.E.B. DuBois

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” – Samuel Johnson

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” – George Orwell

“My experience has been that the people who talk the loudest about morality are the people who possess the least amount of it.” – James Carville

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is, the search for a superior justification for selfishness.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

“What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” – Barbara Jordan

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Sounds To Distract Me

I’ve been trying to drown out the Trump* in my life, but it’s not easy. Especially with my addiction to “the news.”

(I do LOVE the sound of indictments!)

But occasionally I must turn off MSNBC/CNN/FauxNews/Thom Hartmann/Sirius POTUS/etc. and find better sounds.

Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately:

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NOT DARK YET by Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer

I’m currently obsessed with NOT DARK YET, the title song of sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer’s new album. It’s a Bob Dylan cover, from his 1997 TIME OUT OF MIND album. Until now, I never realized what a great song it is. (Bob’s singing didn’t exactly bring out the melody. He can no longer really do justice to his own songs.)

But the version by Shelby and Allison is simply haunting. And the song is as good as any Dylan ever wrote:

“Shadows are fallin' and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is runnin' away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writin' what was in her mind
I just don't see why I should even care
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

Well, I've been to London and I been to gay Paris
I've followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down on the bottom of the world full of lies
I ain't lookin' for nothin' in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

I was born here and I'll die here against my will
I know it looks like I'm movin' but I'm standin' still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.”


The TG and I had tickets to see Shelby and Allison at the Largo at the Coronet, an interesting performance space in Hollywood. (It’s where Bertholt Brecht’s English version of his LIFE OF GALILEO was premiered in 1947, with Charles Laughton in the title role.) But the she was under the weather, and there was a Dodger game on TV, so I gave the tickets to my daughter The Flower, who very much liked the show.

(The rest of the NOT DARK ALBUM album is very good, too: a moody mix of country, rock, pop, and “Americana” covers: Townes van Zandt, Merle Haggard, Nirvana, Jason Isbell, etc. With a tasteful back-up band including Benmont Tench and Doug Pettibone.
And Shelby and Allison sounding like “the Everly Sisters.”)


The studio version of NOT DARK YET – the one I can’t stop listening to

Shelby and Allison – NOT DARK YET – live from the Country Hall of Fame, 9/15/17 – pure magic

Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer – NOT DARK YET (Live from Electric Lady Studios)

His Bobness singing NOT DARK YET (live, from 1999)

and for old times’ sake, young Shelby’s knockout HOLD ME, THRILL ME, KISS ME

Shelby Lynne – GOTTA GET BACK – from 2008

Shelby Lynne – YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME – live from 2008 – from her Dusty Springfield tribute period

Young Shelby singing WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH MY BABY (live)

Young Shelby singing NIGHT LIFE (live)

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Vicarious Italy

Several lucky friends of mine were in Italy lately, and I’ve gone to Italy with them – vicariously.

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As I’ve followed their travels through FB and e-mails, I’ve also dug deep into my collection of art and travel books.

Physically I haven’t been to Italy in many years, but I can go there anytime I want with my books, some old photographs, a few websites, my CDs, and a little imagination.

Anything to get me out of Trump’s America – if only temporarily.

I have my favorite memories of Italy –

… wandering around Venice at night with the Tiny Goddess and no destination … visiting my daughter in Florence when she spent a semester there … two visits to Giotto’s Arena Chapel in Padua … Midnight Mass at the Duomo … a walk around Florence on Christmas Day when everything was closed … a stay at the Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio on Lake Como when the TG and I were very young  … “AIDA” at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome … the Fra Angelicos in San Marco in Florence … the Sistine Chapel with small binoculars … the Tintorettos in San Rocco in Venice … a few fine meals with my family … a room with a view on the Arno.

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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Italy: it has the food, the people, the scenery, the music, and the art.

As Erica Jong said, "Whenever I go anywhere but Italy for a vacation, I always feel vaguely disappointed, as if I have made a mistake."

She might have a good point.

Here are some instant Italian vacations:

Maria Callas sings “Vissi D’Arte” from TOSCA (1964, Covent Garden) – very late for Callas, but still….

Renata Tebaldi sings “Un Bel Di” from MADAME BUTTERFLY (live)

Franco Corelli sings “Nessun Dorma” from TURANDOT (lip-syncing)

Website for Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel

The Official UFIZZI Site

The Official PITTI PALACE Site

VENICE IN 3-D – a two-minute tour, thanks to Google

Venice by Night and Gondola ride – a nice, short clip

A good, one hour documentary about Venice and its islands

How Venice Works

A walking tour of Florence

Florence in 4K

The MOTHERLODE – 1.8 million images from the world’s great museums

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