The “West Wing”-to-TrumpCo. Communications Continuum

c-j-westwingI have a confession to make:

I have watched every episode of all seven seasons of The West Wing three times.

It’s an obsession.

Anyway, over the course of the Trump campaign, the transition, the inauguration, and the first month of the presidency, I have found myself, not a religious man by any means, praying for some cosmic event to happen, some time-space disruption that results in the Trump administration being replaced, wholesale, by the fictional West Wing Bartlet administration.

I know, Stephen Hawking, wherever he is, is laughing at me right now.

Well, while reading about President Trump’s hissy fit press conference today, I thought about The West Wing once again, but for a very particular reason.

Anyone who watched much of the show is familiar with just how careful the administration felt they needed to be about any statements they made to the public and the press.

Whether it was C.J. Cregg, the Press Secretary, during her daily press briefings, or the president himself during a speaking engagement, whenever there was even the slightest remark that could be misconstrued, the rest of the administration would react as if they would all be out of a job, hearings initiated, or wars begun, as soon as the press took up the ball and ran with it.

By contrast, TrumpCo. (my favorite epithet for our current administration) does not appear to be governed by any such concern, with near daily statements coming from the White House and its surrogates that would have caused Toby Ziegler, The West Wing‘s Communications Director, to suffer a fatal heart attack.

There is a continuum, on one end of which is a commitment to the highest standards of governmental communications etiquette, exemplified by the fictional West Wing administration, and on the farthest possible opposite end of the continuum is TrumpCo.

Santa As A Role Model: The Dark Side

santa-clauseSo, there’s this Christmas movie starring Tim Allen called The Santa Clause, wherein Santa falls off of Tim Allen’s roof on Christmas Eve, he dies, his body vanishes, leaving behind the empty Santa suit, Allen’s son convinces him to put the suit on and fill in for Santa that night, only, by doing so, he unknowingly enters into a contract to permanently become the next Santa.

The next morning, Allen believes it had all been a dream, but very quickly his body starts transforming, he gains weight at an alarming rate, his hair turns white, and however often he tries to shave, the beard grows back, voluminously, overnight.

The movie is described as a comedy, but let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing funny when you, yourself, start transforming into Santa.

See, since Thanksgiving, I have been off the wagon of my low-carb diet, a grain-free and sugar-free regimen that has worked really well for me, effectively controlling my weight and reducing inflammation, keeping me energetic, healthy, and happy.

As a result of this lapse, and with ubiquitous, seductive, and decadent holiday foods everywhere I turn lately, um, let’s just say that I have put on some pounds.

Then, because I completely spaced out and didn’t participate in No-Shave November — the goal of which is to grow cancer awareness by not shaving or cutting hair, because cancer patients often lose their hair during treatment — I stopped shaving right before December 1st, figuring better late than never, and within days I remembered one of the reasons why I do shave: my facial hair is mostly grey/white now, and I look MUCH older with facial hair.

So…

Getting Pudgy + Grey/White Beard = Yikes!!!

Now, why can’t I just think of what a wonderful, generous, happy guy Santa is and enjoy the emerging resemblance? Why can’t I just emulate his Ho, Ho, Ho!!! attitude?

Well, at 52 years of age, I am face-to-face with the challenges of aging, aware that my physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing depend, more than ever before, on taking good care of the only body I will ever have, and sustaining a youthful attitude.

Yet, when I look in a full length mirror right now, particularly if I’m naked (my apologies for the visual), I’m clearly failing on both of those fronts.

Truth is, I honestly don’t know how I didn’t see this coming!

I grew up watching Santa Claus Is Coming to Town every year on television, wherein, in less than an hour, this strapping, fit young man…

santa-claus-is-comin-to-town-skinny

…balloons into this quadruple bypass waiting to happen:

santa-fat

That’s the subliminal setup for where I’m at right now!

Fictional Santa will of course continue enjoying the gift of immortality on a diet of milk, cookies, and egg nog, but it’s not really gonna work out so well for us mere mortals.

So please, for your own sake, don’t take after Santa.

Notes From Italy, Vol. 6: Botticelli’s Niece

Vol. 6 in my Notes From Italy series.

So, yeah, we were in Florence, visited the Uffizi Gallery, a massive and profound feast of art, and we had the great pleasure to stand right in front of this masterpiece, Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus

Birth_of_venus

… and the very first thought that popped into my mind was:

Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs
Got to hurry on back to my hotel room
Where I’ve got me a date with Botticelli’s niece
She promised that she’d be right there with me
When I paint my masterpiece

–Bob Dylan, When I Paint My Masterpiece, 1971

It didn’t matter that Dylan speaks of Rome and this Venus is in Florence, and it didn’t matter — if it wasn’t creepy enough to think of the artist painting nudes of his brother’s or sister’s daughter– that art historians have firmly ruled out that the image of Venus is that of his niece.

Given that Birth of Venus is such an iconic piece, it seems a very good possibility that Dylan was referring to the painting and having a little fun.

So, you might ask, what thoughts did I have about Birth of Venus once the Dylan wore off?

Well, it had nothing to do with how beautiful the painting is, or the mythological story it tells, or what a wonderful composition, with the winds blowing Venus to shore and her handmaiden waiting and ready to clothe her.

No, instead, I thought of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Terry Gilliam’s brilliant animation:

I know, I’m so highbrow!

Up Next: Notes From Italy, Vol. 7: How To Fake Speaking Italian

Tweet of the Day: #MontyPython

monty-python-grailI’m a HUGE Monty Python fan, and especially a fan of their 1975 film Monty Python & The Holy Grail, as I mentioned in a post this past June.

Today’s Tweet of the Day installment, for obvious reasons then, totally cracked me up!

It reminds me of all those brilliant fake letters from disgruntled viewers interspersed between skits in the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series, and truly reads like it was written by the Pythons themselves.

LOL!

Oh, England. You’re No Fun Anymore!

monty-python-copIf you are a heterosexual guy and you reached puberty when I did, in the 1970s, and you were lucky enough, as I was, to have a public television station that, late at night, would play reruns of Monty Python’s Flying Circus , not only were you introduced to some of the best comedy ever produced, but you could also catch precious, hormone-stirring glimpses of female … um … as the Pythons would say, naughty bits, such as the image here, taken from one of Terry Gilliam‘s amazing and hilarious cutout animations.

If you were extra lucky, as I was, you had another channel available to you, like WOR TV 9, that, also late at night, played reruns of a second British comedy program, The Benny Hill Show, which contained rarer bits of nudity, but plentiful moments of scantily clad women.

Consequently, my impression of England and British culture was that it was more liberal and open-minded than it was here in the U.S., and I loved them for it!

Disappointing then, to come across this item in today’s New York Times:

Ad for Rolling Stones Exhibition Banned from London Underground

A poster for the coming Rolling Stones exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London — showing a bright pink tongue on the front of a pair of women’s underwear — has been banned from the London Underground until adjustments can be made to make it less explicit.

Here’s the image from the poster:

rolling-stones-exhibit

Really, England?!

The Rolling Stones have been raunchy for decades, while becoming one of the greatest bands in the world, and you’d be hard-pressed to prove that they are in any way to blame for any perceived decline of the United Kingdom.

Let’s face it, you’re no fun anymore!

Late Night TV Bandleader/Sidekick: Part II

THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDENThis morning I posted this week’s Video Fridays installment, in which I touched on the late night TV talk show Host, Bandleader, and Sidekick roles, in response to the announcement yesterday that Jon Batiste will be Stephen Colbert’s bandleader on the new Late Show, coming this September.

My post was never meant to be an exhaustive exposé on the subject, and so my references to late night TV talk shows were far from inclusive, leaving out two shows in particular: Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Late Show.

In my post, I mentioned that some late night shows have a bandleader AND a sidekick, while on others the bandleader doubles as the sidekick, and by coincidence, shortly after I posted that, I came across a piece on Salon.com this morning with the headline:

Reggie Watts, the weirdest guy on late night TV: How “The Late Late Show” bandleader is redefining the sidekick role

If you aren’t familiar with Reggie Watts, it is well worth your time to go on a YouTube binge, or check out back episodes from the show Reggie is leaving, Comedy Bang! Bang!, seasons 1-3 of which are now on Netflix.

And, since it’s still Video Fridays, and since we’re on the subject of late night TV talk shows, here’s a clip of Reggie doing his thing on Conan:

Video Fridays: Welcome to Late Night TV, Jon Batiste!

Jonathan Batiste and Stay HumanThere are traditionally, with a few exceptions, three primary personality roles in the late night talk show format: Host, Sidekick, and Bandleader.

Sometimes there’s a sidekick and a bandleader, like Ed McMahon & Doc Severinsen, from the Johnny Carson era Tonight Show; Conan O’Brien‘s Andy Richter & Max Weinberg; or Steve Higgins and Questlove, from Jimmy Fallon‘s Late Night and Tonight Show, but sometimes the bandleader is also the sidekick, like Paul Shaffer from David Letterman‘s Late Night and The Late Show, and Fred Armisen from the Seth Meyers incarnation of Late Night.

However these duties are allocated, it is an enduring formula for sure, and hosts, sidekicks, and bandleaders are high-profile gigs that, for many who have held these positions, marked career peaks.

With the departure of Late Show host David Letterman, we’ve known for over a year now that Dave would be replaced as host by former Colbert Report star Stephen Colbert, but today it was announced that Paul Shaffer’s replacement as bandleader will be…

…um, who the HELL is Jon Batiste?!

Embarrassingly, before today, I’d never heard of Mr. Batiste: embarrassing, because he’s a Julliard-trained member of a distinguished New Orleans musical family, and his music, a typically bluesy-funky New Orleans-style jazz, is something I enjoy VERY much.

It’s a huge boost in exposure for someone who has already garnered considerable critical acclaim, and the only downside is that Jon Batiste and his band, Stay Human, will be on The Late Show at the same time as The Roots are on the Tonight Show, forcing viewers to choose one over the other … or DVR one or the other on a regular basis.

I can’t embed it here, but Batiste’s appearance on The Colbert Report gives a nice preview of the chemistry they have together, and the videos I do have here, for this week’s Video Fridays installment, include today’s announcement, and a clip of a Jon Batiste & Stay Human performance that is guaranteed to get you excited that they will be on TV on a VERY regular basis starting in September.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!