Life in 2025

When Trump was reelected last year, his supporters finally came to their senses, except for the true cultists, of course. The common folk began to realize they needed to divorce themselves from all their former misconceptions of power and control. MAGA was no longer a political fantasy or, as some would call it, a delusion. It was dead.

In its place was simple tyranny as the president exercised his newly-given powers to control aspects of their lives that these poor simps never believed they had given him.

It was as if Trump had finally become Putin, the only person he ever respected. You couldn’t call it neofascism. It was nothing so preplanned as that. The president had simply fallen down the rabbit hole of his own psychopathic predilections. He had always just said whatever came into his contorted mind, attacking one judge’s daughter, another’s wife, defying all gag orders, making everything political into a personal attack. The poor simps sleepwalked into this approach because, like the president, they had no grasp of policy or political procedures. They enjoyed the power of the threat.

Congress, or what was left of it, rubber-stamped whatever the president wanted because they knew their indulgence would bring them favor and fortune. Government by bribery, some called it. The predictable result was entropy and random disorder. And judicial corruption continued—a pattern set some time ago by Clarence Thomas and his insider trading with those privileged associates who controlled what we used to call the levers of power.

Society Blues

Preparing a small dinner party for her older friends, Moira worried that her table was not set properly—forks on the left, wine glasses on the right, the way her mother had taught her. “Finally, who gives a shit anymore?” she muttered, opening her door to the guests who had all had several drinks before arriving.

Don Perignon came in first, a black man wearing gloves and a tattersall vest, complaining as usual about his boring existence as a major hedge fund investor. “I just go along with whatever they recommend and turn on Bloomberg TV.” Enter Marie Osmond who had just undergone a new round of plastic surgery. Proud of the result, she talked about the benefits of Soma (marketed here as Instaflex), the new anti-aging drug that had greatly benefited her sex life.

Sarah and Jorge followed, she talking endlessly about local politics and her garden, why aging was such a horror, and how her kids excelled in school. These people are not cartoons. They come with the new political and social territory, yet their non sequitur comments at dinner resurrected the same themes that we heard years ago in Evelyn Waugh’s great novel, A Handful of Dust (1934). The point of such parties is always to mix up the participants.

It was, transparently, a made-up party, the guests being chosen for no mutual bond—least of all affection for Mrs. Beaver [the hostess] or for each other—except that their names were in current use—an accessible but not wholly renegade Duke, an unmarried girl of experience, a dancer and a novelist and a scene designer, a shamefaced junior minister who had not realized what he was in for until too late, and Lady Cockpurse; “God, what a party,” said Marjorie, waving brightly to them all.

Soma and the New Media

AI has now facilitated production of a new anti-aging drug called Soma. It doesn’t necessarily enable people to live longer. It just takes away some of the ill effects of aging, like Alzheimer’s. Old people can now recover their knowledge, experience and health—well, to some degree. Youth is devalued politically, and clowns like Matt Gaetz are being voted out. Doddering old fools become founts of wisdom, and there are no more Mitch McConnells. Wolf Blitzer was made president of CNN.

Older and fatter people are now venerated on TV and in the media culture. Soma’s media ad budget is enormous, spent on a preponderance of medical ads in which happy fat people and jovial blacks are made healthy by some unpronounceable drug. They act out unreal jaunts and camping trips without ever consulting their doctors (which the voiceover always recommends). Some viewers, however, ignore the media because they can’t afford the drug. As in earlier years, these folks follow the social network that reflects their partisan proclivities, though heavy partisanship has been mostly hibernating since the new president’s administration. Alex Jones is in prison; Steve Bannon will be next.

There is still much underground activity dedicated to defying Trump. It’s kept in check by a new security agency, TURDS (Team for Unwholesome Radical Suppression), patterned on Russia’s KGB and just as vicious. There are only two big media companies now, Google and Apple, since they bought up The New York Times, Washington Post, and others which still function under their own names and serve up the same vapid entertainment diet they purveyed during the Biden years. So some things have not changed.

Losers and Winners in 2025


Biden, Blinken, Boeing, DeSantis, Harvard, Musk, Netanyahu,  Zelensky


Greg Abbott, Alabama Supreme Court, Maria Bartiromo, Aileen Cannon, Google, Putin, White People

We Got Water

It came at night while the town was sleeping, and the noise of the cisterns filling, unheard by most, gave way to shouts of surprise and pleasure in the morning as the citizens realized their good fortune. “At last,” cried Jeannine. “I thought the pinche Servicios de Agua had abandoned us.”

The water shortage produced much angry concern. There was a tremendous run on the pipas (water trucks) which naturally raised their prices to exorbitant levels and often neglected to show up. Giovanni called eight different companies without success and was reduced to drawing muddy water from the bottom of his nearly empty tinaco (water tank) in order to flush his toilet.

We heard reports of water thieves tapping into city water mains, like the huachicoloeros who steal gasoline from the Pemex pipelines. Others spoke of leaky old pipes, collusion in the water agency, cartel connections. A raft of conspiracy theories came alive. Kids with empty pails and jugs were wailing in the streets. People circulated lists of pipa companies that didn’t respond, and Marta heard that one was filling its trucks from a sludge-filled stream outside of town.

Maurice remembered the bridge to the old Billie Holiday tune, “You Go to My Head”:

The thrill of the thought
That you might give a thought to my plea
Casts a spell over me
But I say to myself, “Get a hold of yourself
Can’t you see that it never can be?”

That was the predominant feeling until the water came in with a rush in the middle of the night. Townspeople then went back to their business as usual, bitching about bloqueos and too many chilangos, inflated prices and corrupt cops. The plague of water on the brain had ended—until the next outage.

Gas Explosion in the Media

On Monday the Washington Post broke new ground with this news flash on its internet “front page”: Why is my gas so smelly? Gender, diet and plane rides can play a role. Yesterday they ran it again, putting it now “below the fold.” So the smell of your farts is now right up there with Gaza horror stories and the Trump trials.

It’s part of major media’s efforts to diversify their content and change course from strict news to “human interest” and entertainment. The NYT is doing the same thing, and continues fracking for gas on Tuesday with Why Do I Feel Gassy on Airplanes? The Post story—which clearly got their attention—was explicitly directed towards women, who would be most likely to find it disgusting for its fulsome prominence. My mother, who never discussed farting, would be appalled. So, I imagine, would most women of her generation.

The idea that this is a serious problem for women on airplanes never occurred to me. Such is our obliviousness to the female world. When I’ve felt the urge to break wind I sneak one off into the cushion, like everyone else does, hoping the odor won’t be broadcast. I guess women do that too, so what’s to talk about?

I broached the subject of bathroom humor and scatology in my November blog entitled “The Bowels.” The point was not to “break the centuries-old taboo about the subject of poop. Rather, the idea is to justify its importance since everybody does it.” Kids especially are into poop and its trappings, as I tried to document. In grade school after a football game, we undressed in the locker room and undertook the classic experiment of trying to light farts. Dangerous, though it can be done.

Farting, of course, is an intimate and alleviating part of life and, like sex in the media, it’s now going to become a commonplace subject for public investigation. The Post story, written by a doctor, puts farting into a medical frame, which is like bowdlerizing good literature. See reader comments on the story. In my blog I put it this way:

Sex and porn are now all over the internet despite the efforts of right-wing Christians and others to stop them. Scatology, I predict, will be the next meme because poop is part of our under-culture and, like all “bad” things, it cannot be suppressed. The whole idea of breaking taboos is part of what created the internet. Trump’s gold toilet could well become the new symbol of our age.

What Billionaires Do at Dinner Parties

Well, they get drunk, of course. After the caviar is served and a few cocktails consumed, the party sits down to fancy entrées, then main courses like Kobe Steak, and a lot of wine. What they talk about is so banal that it encourages drinking. Something like this scenario apparently did in poor Angela Chao who got loaded, befuddled and, on leaving the party, backed her Tesla into a Texas pond where it sank in the mud and killed her.

You can’t blame Tesla for this, though we’d like to. She couldn’t get herself out of the car. The cops said that Angela’s blood alcohol level was about three times over the legal limit. “Chao was the CEO of Foremost Group, the wife of venture capitalist Jim Breyer and the sister of former cabinet secretary Elaine Chao, who is the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.” The Foremost Group is an American shipping company.

Would we care about any of this if not for the McConnell connection? Probably not. Billionaires and the British Royals keep quiet about their private doings for good reason. Their privacy is their PR, and the public’s unsatisfied curiosity is their stock in trade. It puts them on a media pedestal. VIP parties are especially ridiculous and indulgent.

So what do they talk about? According to one Quora contributor: “Vacations, travel, skiing, boats. Cars, houses, architects, contractors, parties, caterers, charity events, lawyers, their financial planners, investments, stocks, crypto, medical professionals who do cosmetic surgery, nannies, the help, private schools, sleep away camps, etc.”

My friends and I sit down to dinner and talk about none of these things—except maybe travel, on which I had my say here. Our similarly boring discussions focus on the latest political outrage, problems getting city water, health concerns, pets, and food. We could be talking about art, literature, music, philosophy and science. But we don’t.

Because the purpose of entertaining people is not to make them think.

Play what you want. The public will catch up.

“I say, play your own way. Don’t play what the public want—you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you doing—even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.”—Thelonious Monk

Monk is right about music but politics is a different story. We are going through rough political times where far too many are just playing what they want. Trump says kill the compromise border bill, and the Party of No complies because governing means play what you and the boss, not the people, want. Congress and the Senate are split on this, and we remember what Lincoln said about a house divided.

Jennifer Rubin keeps on slamming them:

Republicans overwhelmingly were against Biden’s popular infrastructure bill and in favor of shutting down the government, defaulting on the debt and conducting bogus impeachment hearings that the voters do not want while opposing a tough border control bill.

Trump says he’s more popular than Taylor Swift and, yes, he’d certainly like to be. The GOP is doing its best to blow its chances to win the upcoming election. They did that with Roe v. Wade and are now doubling down on the issue. We could go on but it’s clear that their political actions are all self-serving.

The Democrats are not exempt from the stupidity of playing whatever you want. Senator John Fetterman, parading on the Senate floor in his gym clothes, demonstrates massive support for Israel while “simultaneously cheerleading the bloody bombardment of Gaza.” He wants no ceasefire because he’s too busy trolling antiwar protesters. Then we have the spectacle of Fani Willis, who should be deposed for ignoring the consequences of doing what she wants, namely messing up a serious case against Trump and his defenders.

But Monk was right about music. The public indeed will catch up if the music merits it. This was true of Monk’s music, Ornette Coleman’s, Mary Lou Williams’, Sonny Clark’s, and that of a number of contemporary players. Classical musicians were often late to be recognized by their publics. Among them, Antonio Salieri, Alexander Scriabin, Franz Schubert, Charles Ives, and of course Gustav Mahler.

Monk was also talking about his own reception, which took some years to flourish. His eccentric personality got him laughed at; his technical approach was misunderstood; and he had his run-ins with the police. Musicians appreciated his ground-breaking music in the 1940s but it took him 20 years to get famous with the public.

Other artists have understood what Monk was saying. Longfellow put it this way: “Art is long, and Time is fleeting.” Van Gogh: “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

My favorite quote about art, which also applies to music, comes from Picasso: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Monk’s genius made a music that was totally fresh and indeed washed away that dust of everyday life.

Flaubert Predicts Trumpworld

Flaubert circa 1865

“The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of stupidity attained by the bourgeois.” He also wrote, “Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in.”

Such thoughts are part of Gustave Flaubert’s lifelong diatribe against the bourgeoisie and the society brought about by the 1848 Revolution in France. I’m now reading his letters which are fascinating on several levels. Many are oddly relevant to our present sociopolitical troubles.

(I devoted much of my academic study to French literature, particularly the 19th century poets. My dissertation focused on how Symbolist poetry came to be absorbed in England. And its forebears, including Flaubert and Baudelaire, always pervaded my thoughts. Maybe I unduly glorified French rationalist thinking and its artistic renderings, but they have become subsumed into my life.)

I consider the MAGA fanatics to be part of the new bourgeois society that has come to dominate much of the American scene. These folks are the newest iteration of how capitalism and its aspirations and fantasies have transformed middle-class life. The zealots now want to break the system that gave them strength. Stupidity is their dominant characteristic.

By now, we all know what they believe. That’s summed up here. In an explanation of why they believe this way, one author attributes it to basic white supremacy:

Many of these bigoted beliefs and attitudes represent implicit biases that are outside the level of conscious awareness. It couches the rhetoric of white supremacy in the language of individual freedom and individual rights. Hate speech is justified as “free speech,” gun control is an attack on “the right to bear arms,” criticism of offending marginalized group members is seen as “political correctness” and vaccine mandates are seen as governmental intrusion.

These people, in other words, have romanticized their deceptions just as the characters in Madame Bovary did. In that book Flaubert crucified the delusions of his characters through irony, evocative description and, at the same time, narrative detachment. This brought a new kind of realism to the novel. Its withering portrayals of small-town life and its stultifying effects have all kinds of echoes in today’s MAGA followers.

The people of Madame Bovary are limited intellectually and culturally; they are sometimes sincere and well-intentioned, sometimes petty and vulgar, sometimes pathetic and confused, and sometimes unaware of the most obvious things or unable to take the most obvious action.

One of these characters struck me as a sort of analogue for Donald Trump. Homais, the garrulous pharmacist in the book, is forever making egotistical and pompous speeches, always inspired by his self-esteem. He indulges in shady medical practices but never gets caught out. In the last line of the novel Flaubert wryly records that Homais was finally awarded the Legion of Honor he had always sought.

If only the force of art and the achievements of a powerful style could protect us from such real charlatans. Flaubert brilliantly maligned them in his day; as writers we must continue the struggle.


The only bad thing about hamburgers is that Trump eats them. I love them even though they are America’s favorite food. My father, a big red-meat eater, cooked them over charcoal, crispy on the outside, red to pink inside. That to me is still the standard.

The recent fuss about not eating red meat is entirely overdone. Health foodies all say cut down on red meat; my Anemia problems call for more of it. One can never please the health Nazis who, like the other kind, are taking over the world.

You start with first-class red meat, coarse-ground steak is best, no chopped onions or other crap added in to adulterate the flavor. Salt and pepper only, a very hot fire on pan or grill, and of course a decent bun. The additions or toppings we will discuss below. Ketchup for Americans is pretty standard and so is cheese.

To my taste, fast food burgers are mostly bad, especially the McDonald’s offerings. The Big Mac is a joke of a hamburger: two thin badly cooked patties, lettuce, 100-island sauce and three pieces of bun. More bread than meat. Mi compañera and I were discussing why a club sandwich has a seemingly unnecessary third slice of bread. I said it was to hold things together. But the Big Mac has no such excuse. McD’s new offering, the Double Big Mac, has four beef patties.

The regular Big Mac in the U.S. has 590 calories 34 grams of carbs, and 1050 milligrams of sodium. If the Double Big Mac turns out to be the same in the U.S. as the Canadian version, it will have about 740 calories, 48 grams of carbohydrates, and 1020 milligrams of sodium.

Americans will now get even fatter. The best of the junk food offerings, I think, is Burger King’s Whopper: the meat is flame broiled, and you get a “4 oz (110 g) beef patty, sesame seed bun, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, and sliced onion. Beats the Big Mac every time.

Mexicans put everything or anything in their hamburguesas, always served with fries: “beef patty, american cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onions, pickles, avocado, jalapenos, mayo, mustard and ketchup on toasted buns. Optional to add fried egg or ham.” The meat is invariably overcooked and tasteless.

I had a pretty good hamburguesa on the beach last week. It featured real meat, lettuce, tomato, mayo, avocado and a bit of red onion. Sometimes all the added stuff works, especially if it’s fresh.

In 1954 Ray Kroc bought into the McDonald’s franchise and established the first of the McDonald’s chain in Des Plaines, a suburb of Chicago. My wife and I used to stop there en route to Madison where I was then in grad school. In 1958 we had never eaten anything like it, a novelty food. Note the price; we were hungry and it was cheap.

Calling a Spade a Spade

The expression dates back to Greek times, and it’s been pretty common ever since. When I was growing up “spade” was a nasty way to refer to black people, but of course that usage has grown toxic for obvious reasons. So let’s take the original meaning—telling it like it is—to run down a few recent controversies.

Claudine Gay cooked her own goose with Harvard’s rich right-wing donors who are increasingly calling the shots and twisting the Corporation’s arm. (There you have it, three clichés in one sentence–like saying Happy New Year all over again.) Rep. Elise Stefanik, the noisy Harvard grad, thinks she is responsible for Gay’s demise. But really it was the plagiarism, not her insensitivity to antisemitism, that did Gay in. Harvard’s lagging response was shameful.

In academia, plagiarism is serious business and rightly so. You are stealing another person’s work, ideas and research, acting as though it were your own. It’s like violating copyright. Penalties should be severe, as some Harvard students pointed out in the Crimson newspaper. Some of them have been expelled for far less than what Gay did. You don’t want a president who’s a cheat.

It tickles me that right-wing media pointed much of this out, and now we have one Moira Donegan ranting in The Guardian that plagiarism had nothing to do with it. It was just another assault by the right on education. Moira, the doppelganger of Stefanik, is one of the more obnoxious and loud ultra-libs. She recently said, “‘Why are you booing me? I’m right!!’ I yell, fleeing the stage as I am pelted with tomatoes.”

Most of us are tired of these relentless culture wars and the people who prosecute them. Racism, vile as it may be, is not lurking around every corner. The left should be pointing out the right’s specious tactics rather than constantly playing defense of the indefensible. Two instances of this: knee-jerk reactions to the war in Gaza and Trump’s disqualification via the 14th amendment.

How can a sane person, Jewish or not, fail to protest the indiscriminate bombing that’s obliterating Gaza? Jewish people everywhere should be appalled at the IDF’s tactics. Gaza’s people are starving and the situation is close to famine. One can recognize the enormity of what Hamas did on Oct. 7 without condoning the vicious response of Netanyahu’s government. Even most Israelis are horrified by that.

And finally, how is one to think about the 14th amendment’s case against Trump? “The Case for Disqualifying Trump Is Strong,” says David French in the NYTimes. The Colorado Supreme Court got it right but that, as usual, is not the end of the matter. Failing to respect the Constitution’s plain words is just cowardice, says French:

At the heart of the “but the consequences” argument against disqualification is a confession that if we hold Trump accountable for his fomenting violence on Jan. 6, he might foment additional violence now.

Yes, it can take guts and determination to enforce the obvious. The Supreme Court is not the place to find these qualities, and certainly not the place to call a spade a spade. “Peace at any price” is how Neville Chamberlain put it.

How Bad Taste Dominated 2023

I first broached the subject of bad taste (about which there’s no disputing) back in July here. My point was basically this: “If culture is enlightenment, the new bad taste glorifies most any excess and flouts the most accepted of values. Are the Barbarians at the gates?”

They’re not only at the gates, they have sacked the city. Well, you say, one person’s bad taste is another’s flair or style. True, but relative standards of discernment have all but disappeared, if they ever truly existed. The Guardian’s fashion editor recently said the following:

The notion of good taste has always been problematic. Taste gets tangled up with class, status, knowing the unwritten rules, even with breeding. It doesn’t have to be. Having a good eye and a discerning sense of taste is nothing to do with snobbery, although the two are often lazily conflated.

Really, it’s more complicated than that, which is why I am trying to write a book about it. Bad taste now moves the world, as we saw all through 2023. It is the new cultural standard, and our complaining or ranting won’t change that. Trump offers a thousand examples. So does celebrity culture and the false status it accrues. Traditional education has caved to the world Claudine Gay represents. Pop culture could well be considered the godparent of ChatGPT. And so on.

Whatever cultural bona fides I have came through a lot of education and a lot of communications work in different fields. The late 1950s were my incubation period. American class and culture changed radically after World War II, becoming more democratic in word if not in deed. The war created an economy that floated a lot of boats in a culture that sustained them—for a while.

As an example, in that era the art world of Jack Kerouac, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and the abstract expressionists represented a culture that aligned itself against the world of money, which happened to be the province of their patrons. A few like Warhol got rich, while others created a taste for the new that reflected or ignored the personal poverty their producers had to live with. Most musicians also lived “on the edge” and still do. But wealthy buyers created that taste for the new art even while its creators looked down their noses at money and the money culture that supported it. The art world is still dealing with the aftereffects of this.

In other words, the money culture, or consumer capitalism, now more than ever dominates our lifestyle and, I think, has produced the recent epidemic of what old traditionalists like me call bad taste. The digital world has enabled it to thrive, and our complaints and protests won’t change anything. Our culture now provides us with everything—and nothing.

The kitschy and the tacky are all around us, and they have defined much of pop art for a long time. This won’t last forever, but old-fashioned culture-lovers like me are hiding out until it’s over.

“Fear of bad taste envelops us like a fog.” —Gustave Flaubert


Food Keeps Me Alive

Dobosch Torte

I read on Google that lemons are the world’s healthiest food. Imagine that! Go suck on a lemon if you’re hungry. Mexican food can be dreadful or delicious, as most expats here know. And all foods are a constant source of pleasure and controversy.

I grew up in a foodie family devoted to German, American and Continental cookery. Our guru was Grandma Elsie who ran the food fest with skill and laughter. I said the following about her in my memoir. When we ate weekly at her house,

the food was invariably superb. I would describe it as Continental-American-Jewish. Feather-light matzoh ball soup was a favorite. Latkes, extra-thin and crisp, were called German potato pancakes. A rare specialty of the house was Dobosch Torte, a rich sponge cake with twenty-one very thin layers interspersed with frosting of Maillard’s chocolate (ordered special from New York). This left everyone groaning. Elsie ran the show with humor and love. “Eat up,” she would say, “there’s another one (turkey, roast, etc.) out in the kitchen.”

Elsie’s pickles were famous and inimitable. She made them in big crock pots and passed the recipe on to my mother and sister who unfortunately could never quite duplicate her results. Food and its preparation is often the source of some mystery.

When you’re retired and looking for things to engage yourself, cooking is a welcome creative activity that gets your mind off everything else. In fact, cooking is therapy. A good friend brought me some nutless pesto that she had made. (I have a serious allergy to nuts.) I put some in a spaghetti sauce I was making, and it was a revelation.

At the supermarket the plastic-wrapped hamburger meat looked awful—pulpy and full of fat. I found some beef chunks and ground my own, so much better. The other night some folks came over for white chicken chili—beans, broth, chicken, corn, lime, onion, poblanos and spices. It was the first time I had made it, and fortunately it evoked compliments.

Over the last year or so I lost some weight, mostly because I was cooking better and eating better. The joy of cooking is more than the name of a famous old cookbook. It’s the essence of gastronomy.