It is a thin line drawn in the sand that separates madness from sanity. As the tide ebbs and flows, the line vanishes and the two worlds collide.
There was a time when various actions and events occurred that seemed like minor distractions, momentarily removing our focus on the big picture as we narrowed our view to a tiny aspect—a brush stroke that might well have gone unnoticed had it not been pointed out on the broad canvas.
Today, it seems that there is no longer a series of minor distractions. Today, it might appear that our current state of affairs is nothing less than one giant distraction appearing in a blur, their contents merged or piled up like dirty laundry. Like a child whose attention span can be measured in nanoseconds, the deluge is too rapid-fire to gain a foothold long enough for consideration, let alone contemplation or understanding.
In the quirky French comedy, The King of Hearts (1966), director Philippe de Broca weaves a vibrant tapestry of fantastical characters that deftly blurs the worlds of madness and sanity, blending them in such a way that nothing makes sense, and nothing doesn’t.
Alan Bates plays a kilt-wearing British soldier at the end of World War I who is dispatched—with the pigeons he trains—to a small French village to disarm a bomb that had been placed by the retreating Imperial German Army. The citizens, having learned of the bomb’s placement, flee their town, inadvertently leaving open the gate to the asylum, thereby allowing the colorful, happy lunatics to roam freely about the town.
When Charles Plumpick (Bates) arrives, he is bewildered by the scene. He finds it odd that the citizens, who he doesn’t know are inmates, are oblivious to both the danger of war and about there being a booby-trapped town square in which they gleefully cavort. Plumpick is dubbed The King of Hearts in an elaborate ceremony. His confusion continues unabated.
There is no shortage of perplexing distractions as Plumpick grows more and more frantic about finding the bomb, set to go off at midnight, and diffusing it.
His attention is constantly diverted, however, by a charming madness from the matter at hand.
If there is anything about the movie that is analogous to the current state of affairs—besides the obvious notion that the lunatics are running the asylum—it is that our collective attentions seem to change with the urgent movements of an irritated gnat.
The pandemic, of course, has fueled much of our national anxiety. The current administration has handled it poorly from the get-go; denying it as being anything more serious than a head cold, elevating it a Democrat-inspired hoax, and blaming Obama for leaving Mother Hubbard’s cupboard bare. The latest trick is granting the status of Dr. Anthony Fauci of being both hero and goat in a game that is far from over.
In the meantime, Trump took time from his busy golf schedule and daily public tête-à-tête with the press corps, to trumpet the efforts of a Dr. Stella Immanuel, who sided with the president in his distrust of masks. Immanuel is a Houston-based physician and pastor of the Fire Power Ministries church, which, along with her clinic, is housed in a suburban strip mall. Presumably, that is also the home base of America’s Frontline Doctors, a widely unrecognized group that registered its website a few days before launching its video, produced by Breitbart News.
Immanuel has used social media to make strange medical claims, including that sex with “tormenting spirits” is responsible for gynecological problems, miscarriages, and impotence. (Of course.)
“Many women,” she claimed, “suffer from astral sex regularly. Astral sex is the ability to project one’s spirit man into the victim’s body and have intercourse with it.” (Who didn’t know that?)
Trump, who seems to rely on Twitter for both information and the dissemination of his random thoughts, admitted he knew nothing about Immanuel, but that she sounded “interesting” in her echoing of his claims that hydroxychloroquine was a miracle coronavirus cure.
Trump’s base, meanwhile, is swallowing the miracle cure by the handful. At the same time the anti-vaxxers of his flock (there’s a huge crossover) aren’t interested in a vaccine, which leads me to suggest that the only way they’ll ever shut up is if they step on rusty nails. Lockjaw is a bitch.
He was silent on Immanuel’s assertion that the government was run by “reptilians,” which just might be the only thing she said that made any sense.
Trump, of course, plays the blame game with all the deftness of a defiant little boy whose errant throw broke the neighbor’s window. He always gets caught but doesn’t seem to either care, or, perhaps, even notice.
Of course, Trump is most worried about the November elections. Depending on which polls one might care to believe, he’s falling significantly behind Joe Biden, the presumptive Democrat nominee. Claiming that the polling places will be too hazardous for the Americans to visit, he has suggested postponing the election. And yet, he is insisting that Dick and Jane return to school as soon as possible. If they don’t, no federal education funds will be distributed to them.
So then the Postal Service comes into play as untrustworthy and a source of corruption that needs to be dismantled, especially in states run by democrats who Trump fears will spend the next 90 days stuffing mailboxes with fraudulent ballots, many of which will bear the distinct markings of voters named Fido or Rover.
His using secret operatives to quell what he sees as riots, plays to the imaginations of those who believe that this is a dress rehearsal for his full-scale take-down of the Government should he lose.
No one man can create all of the havoc that we’ve witnessed recently. He’s had help from such stellar citizens as Tom Cotton, the junior Republican Senator from Arkansas, which has become a hotbed of COVID-19 spikes because the people of his state seem to like spending time with each other in public swimming pools.
Last week, Cotton asserted that “slavery was a necessary evil.” His overt racism was further echoed by his belief that federal funds should not be allowed to fund the teaching of history as expressed in the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a highly acclaimed program that traces the history of the United States from the year the first enslaved Africans were settled here from their homes in Africa. The Project seeks to explain how pertinent slavery was to the founding of the country with particular regard to America’s economic strength.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, Cotton denies the existence of systemic racism and argues that “America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal.”
Well, that should quell the protests.
And then, apparently wanting to leave no racist stone unturned, Sen. Cotton told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that “the Holocaust was also a necessary evil.”
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Cotton noted, incorrectly, that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.” He went on to credit Adolph Hitler with the murder of six million Jews that helped keep “the Chosen People” from being “scattered all over the world.”
Then Cotton showed his evangelical Republican stripes by claiming that the book of Revelations shows that “it is absolutely necessary for the Jews to be in Israel” so that “the Beast can be destroyed at the Second Coming of Christ,” which, apparently is coming during the battle of Armageddon “during the 70th week of Daniel.”
I’d like to prepare for this event, but Cotton did not specify exactly when it would be.
And just to add insult to injury, all of this nonsense came during a week when much of the nation was mourning the death of Rep. John Lewis, a man of great character who dedicated his entire life to fighting for civil, human, and voting rights. His blood was spilled after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge while marching for freedom from hatred and bias.
On the morning of his funeral service, Trump announced the aforementioned idea for the postponement of the 2020 elections, and waxed poetic about the death of Herman Cain whose considerable wealth came from hawking pizzas; the irony being his dying from COVID-19.
As if there was some shortage of distractions, one of the idiot commentators at Fox News, as well as Stephen Miller, the Nazi mastermind in the Trump administration, characterized Barack Obama as a greasy politician who showed a lack of character by mentioning the political trials and travails of Rep. Lewis during his eulogy.
What the hell did they expect? An “Ode On a Grecian Urn”?
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
Derived from the Italian, the Greek pastitsio translates to “a mess.” That seems only appropriate considering that many might find our current situation a mess. I love this dish, despite my typical disdain for cinnamon.
For the filling:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lbs. ground beef or lamb
1 large yellow onion (chopped)
1 cup dry white wine
1 (14-oz.) can tomato puree
3 Tbs. fresh parsley (chopped)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tbsp. breadcrumbs
For the Pasta:
1# pkg. penne or rigatoni
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 egg whites (reserve the yolks for béchamel sauce)
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese or Kefalotyri, (grated, divided)
For the Béchamel Sauce:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart milk (warmed)
8 egg yolks (beaten lightly)
A pinch of ground nutmeg
Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan.
Add ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until the pink color disappears about 5 minutes.
Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.
Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow the sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
While sauce is simmering, put water on to boil for pasta. Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well.
Rinse noodles in a colander under cold water to cool them slightly.
Melt butter in pasta pot and return the cooked noodles to the pot.
Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.
Brush the bottom and sides of a lasagna pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.
Add the meat filling in an even layer.
Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can.
Heat the oven to 350 F while you prepare the béchamel sauce.
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a roux.
Allow the flour-butter mixture to cook for a minute, but do not let it brown.
Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.
Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks and a pinch of nutmeg.
Pour the béchamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down into the corners as well.
Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden.