Category Archives: Uncategorized

Among the Trumpians

by Categorized: Politix, Uncategorized, Year in Review Date:

IMG_1484 IMG_1488 IMG_1489At Trump events, the press has to stay inside a pen made of crowd control barricades, starting 15 minutes before the speech gets rolling. Prior to the arrival of DOTUS*, we are free to move about the country.

There were three guys — late middle aged, white — lined up along one of the barricades at the Hartford Trump event Friday night, and I chatted them up. Only two were really talkative. They were both contractors. We had a pleasant, sometimes bantering, conversation. One guy, from Waterbury, kept trying to interview me. “What about you? Do you think It’s time for a change? What are you going to do.” I told them the candidate whose views were closest to mine is Bernie Sanders. That didn’t bother them at all. They didn’t think Bernie could get his agenda passed, but they seemed to think he was a good guy. They regard Hillary Clinton as the spawn of Satan, but that’s another story.

Those guys were pretty typical of the dozen or so Trumpians I spoke to on Friday night. They were pleasant. I didn’t have a nasty conversation all evening. (This is a reminder of how much nicer people are in person than they are on social media.) I made it a point to seek out black and Puerto Rican people in the hall, although they are not easy to find at what is, demographically, a Pat Boone concert with signs. People said the same things over and over.  They’re working hard but feel like the country is losing ground; they want a change; this guy is not a politician; he’s the only guy who could go to Washington and not instantly become a new manifestation of the same old beast.

They were not Cult of Personality people, although if I had burrowed my way to the densely packed front of the room, I surely could have talked to people who were. The closest I came was a young black man from Massachusetts who said he had “grown up on Trump.”  Some of them were almost process of elimination supporters. Nobody else makes any sense to them.

I want to emphasize one last time how pleasant all of my encounters were because of what comes next.

Mid-way into DOTUS’s speech, he regularly whips the crowd up against the press, pretty much the way Billy Joel**, mid-way through his set, plays “Uptown Girl.” It’s a hit. People expect to hear it. From his place on the Hartford stage, Trump pointed to all of us in the press pen and shouted, “These are the most dishonest people in the world!”

Immediately, several thousand heads swiveled toward us and several thousand throats opened up with lusty boos.  Including my contractor guys. My guys! We had been having such a nice time! The journo-phobic section of the speech went on for many minutes, with some digressions. (A Trump stump speech is like the “before” in an Adderall commercial. Thoughts begin in one spot and then, like kites in an updraft, go skittering through space. Pitch, roll, yaw.) Trump even pre-accused us of misreporting the crowd size. OK, I’ll play along. I think I’m pretty good at crowd-guessing. I’ve been doing it a long time. I would have said 3500. I’ll go up to 4000, but that’s my limit. Certainly not the 6000-7000 of the official police guess. (On the other hand, as we all departed, late and luckless people were still trying to clear security and get in.)

Trump’s speech was almost entirely about process — that is, the process of running. The press, the other candidates, the protesters, the delegate allocation, the escalator [it came up twice], the crowds he gets, the forces arrayed against him. The only moment that struck me as chilling was his statement that, if he is not nominated, many Republicans will not vote. “Hopefully that’s all,” he added. That seemed to be a variation on a Trump trope of being the one who plants the idea of mayhem in the streets while appearing to disclaim it. He didn’t start the fire.

There were many promises of days to come when we will win again, but startlingly few — even for Trump — specifics about how this will come to pass. Except for The Wall, tangible proposals in a Trump speech are needles in a smokestack. Demanding substance would be like yelling “Where’s the beef?” in a vegan restaurant.  It’s beside the point.

Random observation: I was struck anew by the degree to which vocal folds are destiny for the kind of politician who thrives on whipping up big crowds. Trump doesn’t have a nice voice, but he’s good yeller. He sounds like an especially appealing version of himself when he’s yelling, and he appears to be able to do it with very little vocal hangover. It’s like what Vonnegut said about big penises. You never know who will get one.

We should learn something every day, right? On Friday night, I hope I learned to listen less patronizingly to Trump supporters.  Many of them have poured their hopes and resentments into a badly cracked jug. The shoddy condition of that amphora is not necessarily a comment on the people and what they feel. You know the guy doing work on your house?  The two guys installing a new garage door? The owner of the small business who resurfaced your driveway or worked on the stone wall next door?  Nice people, right?  You always smile and wave at them, and they wave back. They’re Trump guys.

  • * Donald Of The United States
  • ** Billy Joel played at Donald and Melania’s wedding.

 

 

 

Why Is Trump Like the Busway?

by Categorized: Politix, Uncategorized Date:

Because both have used the Manafort family as general contractors.

Politico reports that:

Trump, who handed the reins of much of his campaign this week to strategist Paul Manafort in an effort to shore up his operation before the nomination slips away, was swept out of delegate slots up for grabs at Colorado’s state convention …

…Trump has begun mobilizing for a delegate push in recent days, empowering Manafort, a veteran of past convention battles, to lead his effort, but the 67-year-old lobbyist and political consultant is still playing catch-up.

That would be this guy.  His father was the three-term mayor of New Britain and the state public works commissioner under Meskill. Before that, Manafort Sr. was one of the principals of a huge family construction business. They have always handled lots of state work and have understood what it takes for that to happen. They were big Rowland donors –who wasn’t? — bundling at least $20K into his final campaign and now give to the Democratic party in the modern era, when contributions from contractors have to be pushed through the central committee.  (Periodic reminder: we taxpayers ponied up $33.4 million in “grants” during the election cycle referenced in the preceding link. The purpose of those grants was to prevent a system in which companies don’t do the exact thing they did: pay for political campaigns.)

Courant photo by Patrick Raycraft.

Courant photo by Patrick Raycraft.

The company did some of the major work on the Hartford – New Britain Busway. They are, on balance, fine corporate citizens except when they aren’t.

It’s a small world, is all I’m saying.

 

 

Anything Goes and So Should You (to “Anything Goes”)

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:
Rehearsal photo of DeRosa, Scott, Howes and Harris, all mentioned in this piece. From the Goodspeed site, by Diane Sobolewski

Rehearsal photo of DeRosa, Scott, Howes and Harris, all mentioned in this piece. From the Goodspeed site, by Diane Sobolewski

A few thoughts from not-an-actual-critic.

If you are on the fence about seeing “Anything Goes” at the Goodspeed, get off the fence and go see it. I see a lot of theater and am familiar with the experience of diappointment. Or, for that matter, the sensation currently known as “meh.” But is there anything better than an evening at the theater that tranports you? And is there any less guilty pleasure than a big, gaudy, goofy musical full of attractive, talented people and lovely music? Think hard, now.
Daniel Goldstein’s producton of “AG” starts with an interesting premise: a multi-racial cast. In fact, the first thing you see is a kind of stock Cole Porter character, a bibulous, gouty, amiable 1930s plutocrat named Eli Whitney, frozen
forever in a priapic salute to Mother Yale. And he’s played by the distinguished African-American Broadway actor Kingsley Leggs. After five seconds of cognitive dissonance, you realize this could really be fun, but you have no idea how much fun it will really turn out to be.
For that, you need to get a load of Rashidra Scott as Reno Sweeney, the louche, game-for-anything club singer who is somehow both the star of the play and the second female lead, in its romantic hierarchy. I could go on all day about
Scott. The first thing you notice is what somebody else called her “smoky alto” voice. I can’t improve on that description, but what’s more important is her attack. Keep in mind, this role was first played by Ethel Merman and later by Patti Lupone. That’s tantamount to a license to oversing, but Scott doesn’t. She leans herself into the melody and stays inside it. She lets Porter do the work. She doesn’t need any vocal stunts. She’s got great music and a 5,000 watt face. You can’t take your eyes off it. She has the type of vivid features that make her expressions scrutable from 25 rows back, a must in this business. It really isn’t until the end of Act One, that we find out the other thing. She can dance. Really dance. She leads the big tap number, and she’s large and in charge. (Our experience mirrors that of the Goodspeed itself. I’m told she was hired
for her voice, acting and vibe. She downplayed her own dancing chops, and the theater — this is not uncommon — probably figured whatever she couldn’t do could be covered up with skilled chorus dancers. Not necessary!)
What keeps Scott from putting the musical on her shoulders and running down Rt. 9 with it is Stephen DeRosa as Moonface, the play’s unlikely jester, a criminal who keeps genially offering to help out by killing inconvenient people. The script for this production is essentially the 2011 Sutton Foster revival, and it has been peppered up with Grouchoesque and Pythonian absurdities of the first rank. I think it’s safe to call DeRosa a Marxist. Without ever being in danger of aping Groucho, he channels that particular comic gestalt with his delivery, his physicality and his multi-phasic mood disorder, which allows him to pivot effortlessly into different states of mind. He’s so funny that he got his biggest laugh from me on a flubbed line. “Have you ever been in jail in Cicero?” he asks leading man David Harris. “I’m not talking about the old jail. I
mean the old, old jail!” That’s not how the line goes, but he found something crazy-funny in his mistake. I wasn’t the only one howling. There was a strange, protracted, honking laugh coming from three rows back, and it was emanating from Goldstein, the director. By the time DeRosa does his final number, “Be Like the Bluebird,” which could be kind of a throwaway, I was already laughing during the set-up. He had stripped away all my resistance by that point. Fans of
“Boardwalk Empire” will remember DeRosa as Eddie Cantor, a supporting part he mined for so many interesting shades that I began to think the writers were beefing up his role just to see what else he could do.

The rest of cast is a deep bench. Everybody can do his or her job very well. Wrong-footedness isn’t on the menu.
And then in the second act, Benamin Howes, as the foppish British peer, damn near stops the show with a tour de force on
“The Gypsy in Me,” which is a terrific meta-moment. It turns out there’s much more to that character, which is revealed just as we discover there is much more to this performer.
OK. I’ll stop. I should say something negative. The title dance sequence was under-lighted, and Goldstein should take the visual joke out of “All Through the Night,” which deserves to breathe on its own. That’s all I can think of.
Actually, all I can think of right now is whether I should go back and see it again.

 

Hang By Your Thumbs: Bye-Bye Bob Elliott

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

This is going to sound a little name-droppy, but I was interviewing Paula Poundstone Wednesday, and we got on the subject of Bob and Ray. We both grew up as comedy nerds and we both owned copies of a book of B&R scripts which we read obsessively.

bobNeither one one us was aware that the death of Bob Elliott had just been announced, but producer Betsy Kaplan typed that news onto my screen and I shared it with Paula. (You’ll hear this interview — which sprawls all over the place — the week of the 15th.) So we had a moment to digest that news together.

The spoken material of comedians often doesn’t look that good on paper, but Bob and Ray were sublimely readable. One reason for this, of course, is that they never relied much on delivery. Someone once wrote that they looked like bank presidents. Their occasional attempts to do other voices sounded pretty much like their own voices. Contrast them to, say, Jon Stewart, the most vocally virtuosic comic of his generation, with that arsenal of whispers and screams and everything in between. The other reason is that Bob and Ray’s premises, when described, are intrinsically hilarious. To wit:

Among the hundreds of memorable characters Bob and Ray have created is Farley Plummer from Tulsa, one of their ”hard luck cases” who is 10 1/2 inches tall and has spent his life savings to come to New York to have his ”tiny little teeth” fixed. Bob and Ray give him a deluxe racing bike and Plummer complains. Bob cuts him off with, ”No thanks are necessary, sir. Just seeing the smile on your little face is enough. And now back over to Ray at our main anchor desk.”

Another B&R trope contained in that description was incompletely contained indignation. One of their bits involved a man who kept wild boars in his New York apartment and took them out into Central (a name he struggled to remember) Park to look for truffles. When the interviewer calmly raised the possibility that it might be cruel to keep wild boars in such a small space, the gentleman blustered, “I didn’t come here to be insulted!”

None of us do. The night before the news of Bob’s death came, I happened to be watching the PBS special on Mike Nichols, and Nichols said this amazing thing about comedy: There are two reasons to say something. One is that it’s funny. The other is that it’s you. By “you,” he meant universal. The best comedy scrapes against some bare wire in the human experience. Bob and Ray kept walking us into these hilarious dungeons in which somebody was impossibly inept or didn’t get it or was missing some giant piece of life’s puzzle. And the thing is, we live in these dungeons. Think about your week. I can almost guarantee you ran into one of their characters. We really do feel, a lot of the time, like a 10.5-inch man being given a deluxe racing bike.

Nichols is the right guy to quote because he and Elaine May were another important doubles team in the 1960s. Both duos did the opposite of today’s smash-mouth comedy. They made you do a little of the mental work. My father, another Bob, loved them for that reason. It hardly needs to be said the Bob and Ray did not traffic in profanity, sex or anything else that smelled cheap. They perfected the soft, placid tennis stroke that Garrison Keillor, at his very best, would later lob for game-winners.

Many of Bob and Ray’s bumbling characters seem to have arrived at the wrong place at the wrong time, which was a little bit of their own vibe as performers. Elliott famously said, “By the time we figured out we were introverts, it was too late to do anything about it.” They often seemed mildly perplexed to find themselves onstage.

They also kept at it, right up to Ray’s death. Their 1980s NPR show was full of treasures including, as I recall, a “name that song” contest. The song was always “Begin the Beguine,” but the characters who called up never seemed to know that. One week a man (Ray) called in and asked if it was the Star-Spangled Banner. No, said Bob, it was “Begin the Beguine.” How could the caller have confused the two? “I work in a machine shop,” said Ray. “It’s very loud here, and I couldn’t hear what you were playing, but there were some people across the way who seemed to be standing at attention, so I took a guess.”

Some of the Elliotts live, off and on, in Old Lyme. I’m always hoping I run into one, so I can thank them, on behalf of myself and Bob McEnroe, for stuff like that. And now…

Bulletin! NYT Publishes Most Confusing Graphic Ever

by Categorized: Politix, press criticism, Uncategorized Date:

moreconfusing

This was on Page One of the Times today. If you think you can make sense out of it, more power to you. Here it is in higher resolution.

It does seem like a play the Panthers might run on Sunday.
And here it is, just as circles.
most confusing

 

 

 

 

At that level, we begin to see the tremendous debt to Calder. Here is the artist’s depiction of voters who could vote for Sanders or Trump, but not Clinton or Cruz.

calder

Animadversion Journal: Mid-January 2016

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

Film Easy Rider STARRING PETER FONDA AND DENNIS HOPPER

I consider myself lucky.

I don’t have as many haters as I did from 1992 to 2008 when I appeared daily on WTIC-AM, pretty much coinciding with its transition into a hardcore conservative radio station. Consequently, a lot of its listeners despised me, every day.. That does strange things to you, over 16 years.

Now, not so much. Public radio listeners can be prickly, but, by and large, we all get along.

Trying to keep track of animadversion in the old days would be like trying to chart individual raindrops in a monsoon. Now, it’s more manageable.

Here’s an unusual one: two listeners announced that they are parting ways with me forever over ….well, see for yourself:

EVAN: I was listening to your interview with Illeana Douglas and was shocked when you announced the ending of “Easy Rider.”  I have never seen that movie–and now it is ruined for me.  You are such a putz.  That was the last time I will ever listen to your show.  Why you are on NPR, I will never understand.  You are top to bottom a commercial radio show.

SAM:  It has depressed me for days, as the movie will never be the same experience for me.  I listen to you show (or listened) every day. I changed my radio settings the next day.

Evan dislikes me and my show, generally. He needed to find something else to listen to.  Sam is more troubling. I wrote back and told him that, in a free-flowing conversation, it’s not always possible to think about whether the ending of a 45-year-old movie is fair game. I told him I was sorry. I also told him — and this is true — that the ending of “Easy Rider” is not the point. The point is everything that leads up to it. One might say the same about any Shakespeare tragedy.

Anyway, it turns out Sam does not give out second chances. Here’s the Illeana show.

 

Oscars vs. Movies

by Categorized: Moon Pitchers, Uncategorized Date:

Like most of you, I’ve seen a bunch of 2015 movies. A fairly complete list sits below. And I’m trying to catch up with the ones I’ve missed. For Academy Award purposes, I’ve seen 6 of the 8 Best Picture nominees. I’m a little weaker in some of the other categories.

Let me first declare my passion. “Creed” was my favorite 2015 movie (so far). I’m not claiming it’s the best. It moved me; it thrilled me. I thought it was a fabulous example of the basic thing that movies can do which is use sight and sound to call forth from us emotions that mostly lie buried. “Creed”s version of the French national motto is “Identite, Paternite, Mortalite!” That’s pretty much where I live too. Michael B. Jordan is, for my money, the most exciting young actor in the U.S. I loved the way Ryan Coogler and Maryse Alberti moved the camera around — asymmetrically in a way that suggests the chaos of boxing. I hold no license to say such a thing, but several times, in the scenes between Jordan and Tessa Thompson I thought:  “I bet young black adults recognize these interactions in a way that is real and rare.” So, you idiots the Academy, you have a good movie by a young black director with a young black star. creedWhat did you do? Nominate the old white guy. You deserve to be raped by a bear.

Three overlooked performances I thought were special: In August, we talked on the radio about “The End of the Tour,” and I said then that I regarded Jason Segel’s version of David Foster Wallace as jaw-droppingly good. Acting that doesn’t feel like acting. I had similarly strong feelings for Paul Dano’s portrayal of the fragile young Brian Wilson in “Love and Mercy.”  loveandmercyLastly, what about Ian McKellan in Mr. Holmes? I may be the only person who remembers this movie, and it suffers, perhaps, from the current surfeit of Sherlock reimaginings. So what? McKellen as Holmes at 93, facing the loss of his fabled faculties, was a wonder to behold. I’m sorry all of the preceding were dudes. A pleasant (but lesser) surprise was Naomi Watts showing off swell comic chops in “While We’re Young,” a movie you may not have seen because there is no couple on earth in which both people want to go see a Noah Baumbach movie. Charles Grodin, also, was effortlessly good in that one.

revleobear“The Revenant” is going to divide people. (Dress warmly. This movie makes you feel cold. It should have been released in the summer.) I’m Team Inarritu. I really liked this rough, drunk-on-nature fable, but I totally get the people who say: “Really? Two and a half hours for a boilerplate revenge fantasy?”  You either feel it or you don’t. The same could be said of your legs and feet by the end.  I’m interested to know how 2015 looks, overall, to you.

OK, here’s what I remember having seen. Maybe I’ll try to rate them on a 1-10 scale.

Carol 7

Ex Machina 8

I’ll See You in My Dreams 6

Meru 7

Love and Mercy 8

Mr. Holmes 8

Avengers Age of Ultron 5

Trainwreck 6

Mad Max Fury Road 8

The End of the Tour 9

Bridge of Spies 8

Black Mass 5

The Martian 7

Spectre 7

The Walk  8

Listen to Me, Marlon 6

Going Clear 7

Timbuktu 9 (N.B. The release year of this movie is the subject of some disagreement.)

The Wolfpack 5

Creed 10

Spotlight 8

What We Do In the Shadows 6

While We’re Young 6

The Force Awakens 7

The Big Short 9

The Revenant 10

To my mother, my dog and clowns

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

lazarus

Dear Mr. Bowie and the New York Theatre Workshop,

I bring wonderful news.

There is a very easy way to fix “Lazarus,” the David Bowie musical playing on East 4th Street right now.  I guess the not-so-wonderful news is that there needs to be.

“Lazarus” is meant to be a stage sequel to Bowie’s star turn in “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”  There’s an awful lot of money up there in the form of fabulous production design, a top-drawer cast, and a large house band. “Lazarus” could very easily be a fine evening at the theater if it stopped pretending there was any sort of narrative worth watching, if the show dropped from two hours to 90 minutes or less.

All you have to do is drop the book. Replace it with the mere suggestion of character, a tiny bit of connective tissue between songs. You’ll want to add a few more of those. “Lazarus” combines both brand new and older Bowie material, including a few favorites.

NYTW even has a blueprint for how to do this in the form of “What’s It All About? — Bacharach Reimagined,’ the wonderful more-than-a-revue it staged a couple of seasons ago.  It has since moved to London.

Bowie’s music is more intrinsically theatrical than Bacharach’s — and I say this as one who worships Burt and cares a bit less for Bowie — so this is going to be quite easy.

What’s happening now is that Bowie’s music and the wonderful cast, led by Michael C. Hall, are working like mad to lift this big, soggy mess of a show in the air. The plot is monotonous. E.T. wants to go home. The existential and phenomenological questions raised are answered uninterestingly. There is less to the whole thing than meets the eye.

That does not entirely sink the ship. Hall is an amazing performer. If you know him mainly from “Six Feet Under” it turns out you really don’t know him at all. He expertly recreates Bowie’s vocal chops and hurls his body around the stage with great abandon. The (aptly) praeternatural talent onstage is Sophia Ann Caruso  who is 14 years old and has the voice of a 30-year-old angel.

 

 

The Ceiling Fell In and the Bottom Fell Out

by Categorized: Colin's Theories of Culture, Deep thoughts, Music, Uncategorized Date:

I attend, every year, a wonderful New Year’s Day’s party, one that feels like a European salon. You can very easily find yourself sitting around a table in the kitchen with an art curator, a physicist, a medical policy expert, a teacher and a philosophy/cognitive science scholar, straining to hear something profound about the measurement of reality over the background chatter and clatter and the occasional drowning roar of the garbage disposal.

One of the more pedestrian topics this year was our perception that people of pivotal importance and/or life-enhancing qualities died in a big cluster right at the end of the year. Meadowlark Lemon, Haskell Wexler, Ellsworth Kelly. Wayne Rogers, who died on Dec. 31, was not at the same, iconic level, but who knew he later became a money manager and investor of great expertise? (The medical policy expert reminded us that, statistically, people die in disproportionate numbers after big holidays, having hung on by force of will.)

At this same New Year’s Day party, one is sometimes asked to step into the next room and sing, say, “This Could Be the Start of Something Big” with the jazz pianist Matt DeChamplain. There was less of that than usual this year, especially for me, in the lingering stages of a cold. We probably should have attempted a Natalie Cole medley, but the news of her death was so fresh we could barely process it.Nataliecole2007

I hope to read something learned and eloquent about Cole next week in Metcalf on Music. (He too attends this party.) For now, let me offer my own meager apercu. I’m not sure Cole gets enough credit for introducing, with one album, the sound and feel of the American songbook and jazz standards to a generation that had, for the most part, no relationship at all with this material. “Unforgettable…With Love” sold seven million copies worldwide, five million in the States. Am I forgetting someone, or does this eclipse any  comparable collection in the last 25 years? Has Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr. sold that many copies of one album, ever? (Let’s not get into a conversation about artistic merits or wholeness or authenticity.) Of course, album sales themselves are a thing of the past. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, whose collaboration release overlapped two of Cole’s songs, probably haven’t sold a million units yet.  Cole already had an R&B fan base. It’s beyond dispute that she shoved the music of Arlen, Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins into grateful ears that had previously shown no appetite for them. How many converts did she make? We’ll never know.

“Unforgettable…With Love” also points us at a really fascinating argument launched by Ben Yagoda this year and perhaps developed a tiny bit more  in a conversation among Yagoda, Metcalf, singer Tracey Moore and me. Yagoda says that American popular music suffered a nervous breakdown between the end of World War II and the onset of rock and roll. The dance band scene, which provided the propulsion for American standards, collapsed in favor of domestic life and booming out babies.  And the country, especially its young adults, was too frazzled by what it had endured during the war to embrace music full of deep emotion.  They preferred lightness, perhaps even novelty tunes. Cole’s father straddled those two worlds as few other singers could. So you get “Orange Colored Sky,” a 1950 tune which I happen to like but which, let’s face it, is not “This Can’t Be Love.” Musical monstrosity side note: Burt Ward, who played Robin on the old Batman TV series, recorded an upsetting version of the song produced by Frank Zappa. “L-O-V-E,” written a decade later is, nonetheless, further proof of the hollowing-out of the songbook style. That tune is credited to Bert Kaempfert who, according to a really fascinating obituary also from the tail end of the year, may have stolen “Strangers in the Night.”

Thus concludes my argument for giving Natalie Cole extra credit as a popularizer of America’s greatest music. It was only a paper moon, but it was the best I could do.

Kim Davis, Peeple and the Breathalyzer Raccoon

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

Nobody’s perfect. Nobody’s impeccable or inerrant. Not even the pope, right? (Catholic doctrine says the pope is only infallible when, essentially, he says he is.)

Our culture panel The Nose is struggling this week with the Y’allta summit between Kim Davis and Pope Francis. The latest from the Vatican is: don’t make too much of it:

“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement released on Friday morning.

That fits with a slightly more Nixonian (or Segrettian?) theory by Charlie Pierce, who speculates that the U.S. papal nuncio and a cabal of Ratzinger sympathizers hip-checked Pope Francis out into the whirl of the culture wars by walking Davis into the room with him, thus undermining Francis’s overall message of socio-economic justice. It’s entirely possible, and Pierce makes a good case. Or it could just be lousy staff work. After four decades of reporting, I’m convinced that, when public figures say or do something really stupid or embarrassing, 65 percent of the time it’s bad staff work. The famous guy doesn’t know as much as we think he does. He depends on his staff. Francis, much of the time, seems to be writing his own scripts, but maybe not so much on a dizzying U.S. tour.

Or you can believe, as one of our panelists does, that the secret Davis meeting is the reality, and the Pope of Good Feelings is the deceit. I know the canonization of Junipero Serra will come up in this context.

Historians agree that he forced Native Americans to abandon their tribal culture and convert to Christianity, and that he had them whipped and imprisoned and sometimes worked or tortured to death.

Having lived through the ’60s, I thought a deeper loss of faith in institutions would be unlikely, but I think we’re living through one now. I saw “Black Mass” last night with my son, who did not share my level of indignation at FBI agent John Connolly Jr.’s culpability in White Bulger’s crimes. He told me he doesn’t count on law enforcement to choose the righteous path.

So what replaces the old institutions? The rule of the mob! This week we’re also talking about Peeple, an app that will be, in one writer’s words, “basically Yelp, but or humans. “ Actally, everybody uses that analogy.

Peeple, the app, is the Yelp for, well, people. You use it to rate your fellow human beings based on things like their personalities, their professionalism, and how good they are at dating. There’s no opt-out, either. If you are drawing breath, someone—anyone—with the app can rate you and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You will be weighed and measured and probably found wanting.

I’m going to repost this link, because there’s another irony here. The masses, who are going to be entrusted with the evaluation of human beings, are easily confused by two things with the same name.

The masses are also easily tricked. They believed in Breathalyzer raccoon. RocketRaccoonThey retweeted a Harry Potter apartment that probably isn’t real.  And we know from yesterday that people will believe a falsehood. A former president explains how this is done:  “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

Who will save us? Geniuses, of course. We want to talk on the show about whether the MacArthur grants are a good thing.