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Moment of Truth: June 10 2017

 Our Story, So Far

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

The reason I can't have nice things is that I will waste all my time watching TV on one of those nice things. This was proven to me once again while I was house/cat-sitting for some friends. Through exertion of will-power, expected neither by me nor anyone else, I actually did accomplish a great many things besides consuming motion picture entertainment. I did it by mostly watching particular movies one at a time, movies that I had a reason to watch, more specific than merely to have colors and sounds dancing for me in the room. I was selective, for the most part. And I avoided binging any series. I almost binged one, but an accident of fate spared me.

Trying to find something worth watching, I remembered someone mentioning they enjoyed an aspect of "Big Little Lies," the HBO limited series about a half-dozen women living in luxury but having all kinds of problems. And there was a murder, but the police couldn't seem to get to the bottom of it. It was a seven-episode series. I watched what I thought were the first three episodes and found it well-acted and somewhat intriguing. These women, though they were living in Malibu or Santa Monica or Santa Barbara or the Palisades, had problems just like the rest of us, serious and sad problems, problems that drove wedges between them or created bonds of confidence. Friendships, even.

The third episode was a relief because we found out which little boy had been assaulting Laura Dern's little girl, and it thankfully it wasn't the little boy we liked, whose mother was really too poor to live in the school district but wanted her kid to have the same chance as these over-privileged but really beautiful and winning Stepford children. Also, the sick wife-beating thread came to a head. The wife left her spouse, a separation it seemed was going to be a difficult thing to accomplish, and I was looking forward to all the tactics she would have to employ to keep her needy, violent husband at bay.

At least, until very near the ending. Then I realized I had watched the seventh episode instead of the third. But to be honest, it hardly mattered, except that it saved me four hours. Of what? Character and plot development? Those actresses were so good, I didn't really need anymore character work, and whatever fleshing-out the plot could've received was clearly unnecessary. The writers could have put the seventh episode third and gone on from there, and had a very interesting show.

I want to say that, if you can put the final episode of a seven-episode series right after the second episode without the viewer being at all confused, maybe you've done something wrong. But I can't say that. Perhaps the actions of Nicole Kidman and Zoe Kravitz would have carried more emotional power with all that rich, creamy filling piled up behind them. Or maybe the misdirects would have been amusing. Or the emotional ups and downs and the unlikelihood of alliances made and broken. I honestly don't think I could have handled four additional hours of Reese Witherspoon's husband being insecure, though.

If only we could skip episodes of the Donald Dump drama the way I skipped the Big Little Lies filler. Now that we're used to the constant barrage of buffoonery and outrages, now that it's become the accepted narrative style of the day, we all know where this is heading. His wife is going to murder him and their youngest child, then put her own head in the oven. After that comes a King Lear-style battle over what remains. Ivanka and Jared are the strongest contenders, an Edmund and Goneril or Edmund and Regan power couple, but more like two Ladies Macbeth joined in a bloodthirsty union.

The children and other apparatchiks are minor players, though, and they will eventually winnow their numbers away. They'll exhaust their money and energy and political capital fighting each other, and that's when Bannon will step in.

Bannon's a wild card. He clearly doesn't belong among the others, he's an outsider.

Bannon was living in his mother, Sycorax's, basement, or what he called his "control center," a dozen TVs linked together, old Dell CPUS, everything stacked up and duct- taped on those tin shelves people give away at the end of garage sales. His dead mother still sits taxidermied in an easy chair in front of the TV upstairs.

Bannon was so excited when he got the call, he didn't even take time to do laundry or bathe or shave and he still hasn't. The helicopter landed in the middle of the street and he shoved whatever wrinkled clothing was nearest to him into a gunnysack and ran out to it. He was a collector of gunnysacks and barrel staves and dog skeletons. He still gets off by watching his boa constrictor eat live Guinea pigs. Other than that he lurks in his office adjoining the Oval one.

He used to get his news from Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh, then put his own rightwing spin on it and peddle it as his own. Now he lies on an army cot looking at the ceiling, drinking bourbon and branch water, eating Dominos Pizza and small amounts of arsenic to build up a tolerance, listening to recordings of G. Gordon Liddy and Timothy Leary from their debate tour.

Bannon, like the rest of us, wishes to skip to the last episode, when Dump has been dead for over a year and the children have openly turned on each other, each with a private army and bumbling assassins always getting thwarted by their own clumsiness. Bannon pictures himself picking through the rubble of the executive branch, finding the orb and scepter, sitting himself on Dump's solid gold toilet, draped in a terry cloth bathrobe blotched with orange pepperoni-grease stains, issuing edicts. He sometimes sees himself standing over Melania's corpse, laughing at it. He's always resented her conditions that he never speak to her or exhale anywhere near her. He's bitter about all of it. He's bitter over having been treated like the trash he is. He's as bitter as Richard Nixon but without even the reasons to feel good about himself.

Of course, after the Dump offspring have exhausted themselves, after all the minor Dump loyalists have been taken out by Russian hit men, after Pence's grandiose and convoluted plan to have himself crowned King of the Jews in Jerusalem has backfired hideously, after Jeff Sessions has been brutally stomped to death by a cabal of black Secret Service agents, Bannon's final foe will be Reince Priebus.

It is Priebus's dream to one day look in the mirror and see someone else there. Anyone. But failing that, he'd like to be the power behind the throne, he's that kind of snake in the grass. Who will be his pawn, his puppet president? Bannon is his own man, for better or worse, and like the lawyer who represents himself having a fool for a client, the Igor who attempts to be his own Doctor Frankenstein will end up a medical atrocity at his own hand. But, also like Frankenstein's creature, even with a leaky liver and other internal putrescence, some malformations of stitched-together death and corruption can persist out of sheer spite.

Priebus has enough spite to meet that challenge, though. He's not spiteful about anything in particular, he's just got a resentful personality. Most of all, he resents other people not having to walk around with the name Reinhold Richard "Reince" Preibus. He resents bearing a sickly resemblance to Howard Cosell. His lip curls in a snotty vindictive sneer, simply out of habit. The great unknown for us is, whom will he chose as his champion? Who will be the Shabbetia Zvi to Priebus's Nathan of Gaza, the face and fist of power, while Priebus himself lurks behind the scenes, slandering and shanking and poisoning all who oppose him?

Perhaps it will be a character we haven't met yet. That would be the smart play. That way you couldn't just skip to the end, you'd at least have to find the episode where that character was introduced. This is why reality is more interesting, if slower moving, than entertainment. And remember, there's always a chance that a charismatic socialist will show up and flip the majority in Congress, appearing out of nowhere like Zoe Kravitz. We simply don't know.

It's exhausting, waiting for things to happen. We must remain vigilant, however, and force ourselves at least to bear witness to the nation's self-destruction. The story arc is long, I know. The advantage to that is, there's plenty of time to make yourself dinner and a strong drink or many and not worry that you'll miss something meaningful. It'll all transpire in the fullness of time.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth


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