Culturally Discombobulated

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Rule 58: Independence Day post

image (3)Life mask of George Washington. Morgan Library, New York, July ’17.

“Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ’tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.”

Rule 58 of a set of 110 rules for civility and decent behavior written by French Jesuits and which a sixteen-year-old George Washington copied by hand.

“I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

Donald J. Trump. Twitter, 29th June ’17.



Easter Parade

First you see the dogs. Twitchy, yappy, kitschy dogs in shades and cowboy hats making their way down Fifth Avenue. Most are in prams, but today’s all about one-upmanship so some poor mutts suffer even worst fates. Some terriers in a plastic, remote controlled pink Cadillac buzz past me, a small army of laughing children chasing after them. “Don’t pet them, they’re not in the mood,” shouts the owner as he simultaneously tries to steer a path through the crowd for the dogs and weave himself through the melee he’s causing. Unkindly, I think, with his yellow polyester shirt and what looks suspiciously like a toupee, that there’s something of a failed Reno cabaret act to him. “We’re going to be turning left everyone, LEFT!” He sounds exasperated, but no one forced him do this. This was all his choice

Outside St Patrick’s Cathedral are the doomsayers. A sign reads: “BE WISE AND REPENT. THE TIME IS FULFILLED. THE END IS AT HAND.” A man hands me a leaflet entitled “Bill Clinton, The Pope, And I,” it confidently informs me that the Catholic Church “is Satan’s Church.” I watch and photograph an argument between one of the protesters and one of the people out to amble along the parade. I’m one of many filming it, and it feels a little heightened for our benefit. But then everything about it is. Some fun hats and bonnets, but also all the city’s frustrated showmen come creeping out to.

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The Hartlepool Merman

Fatherhood allows for lots of interesting insights, such as the surprising relish you take in introducing your toddler to your own childhood nightmares. 

The Hartlepool Merman is a Victorian fraud, but was endlessly fascinating as a child, a thing of phantasmagorical interest in a prosaic small town museum.


The People Speak

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line
To slip him like a hound.
Alas, alas! Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.

Sir Thomas More – speech attributed to William Shakespeare