“While Rome Burned…”

Back in March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that as he “fiddles, people are dying.”

I am 100% certain that Trump didn’t get the historical reference in her statement.

Pelosi was alluding to the expression, “fiddled while Rome burned,” a criticism of the very unpopular Roman Emperor Nero (37AD-68AD).  The story goes that during the Great Fire of Rome (64AD), which lasted for six days and burned 70 percent of the city, instead of coming to the aid of his people, Nero “fiddled,” and the results were tragic:

While Rome burns, Nero plays an early version of a fiddle.

The phrase, according to dictionary.com, means

“To do something trivial and irresponsible in the midst of an emergency; legend has it that while a fire destroyed the city of Rome, the emperor Nero played his violin, thus revealing his total lack of concern for his people and his empire.”

Trump, who doesn’t read books or anything else that might dispel some of his egregious ignorance, wouldn’t have understood the import of Pelosi’s words.

I have no trouble imaging the conversation afterwards, between Trump and one of his toadies:

Toady:  Mr. President, sir, how would you like to respond to Speaker Pelosi’s comment?

Trump:  Which comment?  That broad talks so much, who can keep track of what she 700-00027398says?  She has mental problems.  You ask me, she should be home making cooking for her grandkids.  Women got no place in politics.

Toady:  Yes, sir.  I was referring to her ‘fiddles, people are dying” comment earlier today.

Trump:  Oh, that?  Who cares?  Just more Pelosi blah-blah-blah.  Nobody knows what she meant.

Toady:  Well, actually, sir, people do know what she meant.

Trump:  Oh, yeah?  What?

Toady:  What she said was, ah…an historical allusion.allusion cropped

Trump:  Illusion?  You wanna talk illusion?  The Do-Nothing Democrats thinking they can win in November – now, that’s an illusion!

Toady:  No, sir, an allusion, not an illusion.

Trump:  So?  What was she allusioning about?

Toady:  She was alluding, sir, to Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned.

Trump:  Nero?  Peter Nero, the piano guy?  I know him!  I think he played at my Vegas hotel.  You been there?  Great place.  Greatest hotel in Vegas.

Toady:  Actually, sir, Speaker Pelosi was referring to the Emperor Nero.

Trump:  Nero’s an emperor?  Geez, I thought he only played the piano.

Toady:  Sir, the Emperor Nero.  He lived in the first century, and was emperor of Rome.

The_Apprentice_original_logoTrump:  So?  I hosted The Apprentice for 14 years, and I got Emmy nominations!  Did you know that?  A bunch of Emmy nominations?  Too bad that whole thing is rigged, or I would have won.  Everybody says I should have won ‘em all.  Instead, I got screwed, and they gave it to the most boring show on television.  Piece of crap.

Toady:  Sir, about Speaker Pelosi…

Trump:  What about her?  You mean that “fiddling” stuff?  Is that like a violin?  See, that’s how stupid her comment was.  I don’t play any instruments, including violin.  trump magaHaven’t got time for that.  Too busy making American great again.

Toady:  Yes, sir.  So, as for your response…

Trump:  You see how I’m making America great again?  MAGA?  Get it?  Do you have one of my MAGA hats?  Everybody’s wearing them, people say to me all the time they love wearing my MAGA hats.

Toady:  No, sir.  I mean, yes, sir, I have a MAGA hat.  As for your response…

Trump:  Hey, I’ll take care of it.  I always do, don’t I?

Trump took care of it the next morning by calling his buddies at State TV, also known as the Fox Network, and did his usual name-calling, denigrating, and whining:

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That was March, and this is May, and Trump is still fiddling:

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

trump saturday

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

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Saturday, May 23, 2020:

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Sunday, May 24, 2020:

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Sunday, May 24, 2020:

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Sunday, May 24, 2020:

ny times

“The San Diego Casinos Are Open, The San Diego Casinos Are Open!”


“Let’s go stand in line for two hours in killer heat to get in and give them our money!”

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“I’ll get my temperature taken, and everything will be fine!”

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“See?  I got my mask and gloves and…um…well…my mask, anyway!”

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“Let’s risk our lives to play the slots and blackjack and bingo!”

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“See?  Every other slot machine is turned off, so we’re safe!”

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“And shut up about the ‘at-risk age group!’”

Not Even My Coronavirus Crazies Will Convince Me To Cook This

ice cube dispenser croppedI’d never call myself a cook, but there are some recipes I’ve got nailed.

Ice cubes, for instance (see image, right).

Canned soup.  I am a can opener meister.

Heating the soup?


Butter?  I’ve got that stick out of the wrapper and onto a plate in seconds.

Otherwise, my kitchen adventures generally look like this:


And this:

buffalo wings first attempt

And this:

spaghelli cropped larger

But the other day I encountered this glorious photo in my newspaper:


It’s Takeout-Style Hot-and Sour Soup

And thought, “Oh, does that look good!  I want some of this!”

Further perusal told me that this recipe was “especially easy.”

Better and better.

Then my eyes drifted down the page, to the ingredients:

11 herbs and spicesAll sixteen of them.

Sixteen ingredients?  Geez!

Even Colonel Sanders keeps it to eleven “secret herbs and spices”!

And the recipe directions?

Let me put it this way:  The recipe directions were shorter than War and Peace

But not by much.

And the verbs involved in making this soup?

Rinse.  Soak.  Squeeze.  Reserve.  Strain.  Discard.  Slice.  Chop.  Combine.  Mix.  Marinate.yeah-sure-whatever-cropped fixed  Stir.  Boil.  Cook.  Remove.  Discard.  Add.  Simmer.  Recombine.  Separate.  Pour.  Turn off.  Serve.

Well, I was certainly feeling the “strain,” just from reading the directions.

And when I got near the end, “turn off” sounded like good advice.

So I did.

I won’t be making Hot-and-Sour Soup, “Takeout-Style” or any style.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I left something heating in the microwave…


How To Stay Home – And Act Against Censorship

My attitude about books is:

If you don’t approve of a book, then don’t read it.  Don’t let your kids read it.  Tell other family members and friends:

“Don’t read it.”

But do not – DO NOT – tell me I can’t read it.

And do not – DO NOT – tell the world that they can’t read it.

“What,” I want to ask these people, “gives you the right to tell me what I can and cannot read?”

my_01 croppedWho are “these people”?

They’re individuals, parents, religious groups, organizations and politicians.

They’re people who have decided that their beliefs are the only acceptable beliefs, and any books that don’t echo their beliefs should be removed from schools, universities and public libraries.

If they had their way, these books would be banned from bookstores.

If they had their way, these books would never be printed.

Many of these people take the step of “challenging” books they don’t approve of.

That means, according to the American Library Association (ALA), a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that the materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.”

The ALA tracks the challenges and publishes an annual list of challenged and banned books:

AP (2)

Harry Potter?????

Here are definitions:

“A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.”

The challengers don’t limit their objections to books – they also go after any library materials including magazines and DVDs, and services like public programs featuring authors whose books they object to.

And the reasons they object are varied:  the stories have gay or transgender themes;serious cropped sorcery themes; “vulgarity and sexual overtones”; “goes against family values/morals”; “encourages disruptive behavior”; addresses teen suicide; for its religious viewpoint; for leading children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex”; has an offensive political viewpoint; and is “disgusting and all-around offensive.”

And it’s not enough that people challenge these books and sometimes get them removed from libraries and schools.  The words “relocated restricted, and hidden” also appear, and – to my horror – burning:


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Do the above look familiar?

Nazi book burning, Germany, 1933:


And – no coincidence, considering who’s in the White House – the number of targeted books is increasing, according to the ALA:

2016:  323censorship cropped
2017:  416
2108:  483
2019:  566

If you value your freedom and oppose censorship, there are all sorts of suggestions online about how to oppose book banning, and they’re all good.

But you can also oppose book banning right in the comfort of your own home.

Here’s how:

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And here’s what:

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These “Spots” Are Easy To Spot

unprepared croppedSomeday, when our history books talk about the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll talk about how unprepared we – the people, and we – the government, were.

I wonder if the history book writers will also talkprepared cropped about how very prepared, and how nimble, our advertising agencies were in creating timely commercials.

Commercials – also called “spots,” by those in the know.

How, in a matter of mere days, car company spots quickly transitioned from “Buy a new car now and everyone will see how cool you are!” to…“Get six months with no payments because we’re all in this together.”

“We’re all in this together” so hurry up and buy a car!

How touching.

I’m not talking about restaurant commercials – I’m OK with restaurants talking about being “in this together” for a couple of reasons:

First, to accommodate us, many restaurants have reconfigured theirfree businesses to do curbside pickup and free deliveries.  And second, I consider restaurant employees to be frontline people – just as much as grocery staff, delivery drivers and postal workers.

Unlike car companies.

And all the other companies who are trying to sell us something just as much as ever, but disguise it as a pseudo-public service because they “care” about us.

Since I mentioned car companies, let’s start with one, namely, Lincoln:

It begins with:

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We see a woman looking wistfully out the window:

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The voice says,

“More than ever, your home is your sanctuary.  That’s why Lincoln offers you the ability to purchase a new vehicle remotely with participating dealers.”

So she’s getting a new Lincoln delivered, and that would be swell except for this:

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So face mask, no gloves, no social distancing – and did the delivery guy disinfect whatever that is before he handed it to her?

“That’s the power of sanctuary,” the commercial assures us.

Yeah – they’ll bring a new Lincoln and coronavirus right to your “sanctuary.”

Note:  This commercial includes…

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The Lincoln commercial was a mere 30 seconds long, child’s play when compared to a 77-second spot from Budweiser.

It starts out with – guess what?

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The voice says, “This Bud’s for the blues…the reds…

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And more images, one after the other, all for whom “this Bud” is for.

And then:

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Note:  This commercial includes…

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But Budweiser’s 77-second effort pales when compared to a 90-second behemoth from Apple.

In it we see videos and still shots of many people doing many creative things – but only with Apple products, of course.

Again we have:

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This time the voice is Oprah’s – doesn’t get any more soothing than that – but we hear her only briefly, extolling the possibilities of how the “pandemic is bringing us together”:

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Followed by more videos and still shots of many people doing many creative things (but only with Apple products), right up to the end when we see:

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Followed by the Apple icon, which is…

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Are we seeing a pattern here, or am I imagining it?

No, it’s definitely a pattern, and it even has its own name:

“Coronavirus-aware commercials”:

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And “COVID-Aware Ads”:

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And if you’re an advertising agency that’s stumped about how to convince people that you care about them, there’s an abundance of information out there, including this from AdWeek, the bible of the industry:

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Of course, Lincoln, Budweiser and Apple are huge international companies.

But with these examples and tips, local businesses can do the coronavirus-awareness/COVID-aware thing, too.

We’ll start with…

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That soothing voice says…

Tom's Tire Town

“Hi, I’m Tom, from Tom’s Tire Town.  And because I care about you, I’m here to remind you to check the air in your tires regularly.  In fact, right now you can bring your car to Tom’s Tire Town, and I’ll check your tires – for free.  Yes, free.  And that’s a savings to you of $29.95.  So, come in today, and remember…

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To California Governor Gavin Newsom:

On May 8, California Governor Newsom took a hugely important step:

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That’s right:  Every eligible voter in California will receive a mail-in ballot for the November 2020 election.

California is now the first state in the U.S. to provide absentee ballots to all registered voters because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Californians who may need access to in-person voting opportunities – including individuals with disabilities, individuals who speak languages other than English, individuals experiencing homelessness, and others – will still be able to access in-person voting opportunities.

Was Newsom did was smart for a number of reasons:

First:  There could be a shortage of poll workers in November.  Many election workerscrowds_01 cropped are retired or elderly, a group that falls into the high-risk category for COVID-19.

Second:  Crowded polls aren’t conducive to social distancing.

Third:  People can vote in the safety and convenience of their homes, increasing voter participation.

Fourth:  Mail-in ballots are easy.  And, according to the ABC article, the state is making it ever easier:  All return postage will be prepaid.

And here’s another reason:

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May 7, 2020:

When I heard that Trump’s valet had tested positive for COVID-19, I thought, “Of course Trump has a valet, like a lot of other pretentious rich men.”

I’d presumed – silly me – that this valet was someone from Trump’s pre-White House days, another sycophant who’d trailed along in Trump’s wake.children

You know – like Ivanka.  And Jared.  And Don Jr.  And What’s-His-Name.

So I was aghast to read that, no – the valet was not a long-time Trump employee.

Trump’s valet is a member of the United States military.

Specifically, one whose job description apparently incudes “laying out the president’s clothes.”

Which is paid for with our…

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Trump can’t lay out his own clothes.

Trump lacks the skillset of a five-year-old who declares, “I can dress myself!”

And though that kid may end up looking like this:


Parents appreciate that early, small-but-important step of their child’s independence.

A step Trump hasn’t taken.

We are paying someone to lay out Trump’s clothes.

I can imagine the conversation between Trump and his valet, discussing that day’s apparel choices:

Trump:  Whaddaya think, is it an eight-inch day?

(Trump is referring to the length of his tie, and how far down it should hang below his belt.  His ties are labeled with stickers that identify each:)

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Valet:  Well, sir, you wore the six-inch tie yesterday and had great success at the American Association of Retired Persons conference.

Trump:  I wowed ‘em, didn’t I?  Those old farts love how I’m protecting ‘em from all the virus stuff.

Valet:  Indeed, sir.

Trump:  Yeah.  But today I’m doing a White House lawn thing, and the fu**ing fake news will be there.  Let’s go all out.  I say eight inches!  That tie really screams “The media is the enemy of the American people!”


It turns out that clothes aren’t a White House valet’s only responsibility.  According to this article:

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Trump apparently has not one, but “…two office valets and three residence valets:

“Valets who work in the Oval provide anything Trump requests, such as coffee, food, or whatever else he might need during the day.

“Residential valets, meanwhile, do Trump’s ‘laundry, iron his attire for the day, and pack his suitcases.  These employees also interact regularly with the president, delivering his newspaper or any other messages he might need.’”


Valet:  Good morning, Mr. President.  I’ve brought your morning newspapers.

Trump:  Take ‘em away.  I don’t read those boring Daily Intelligence Briefings, why would I read that fu**ing fake news?

All the Trump valets, CNN noted, are “of an elite military unit dedicated to the White House”:

Elite military unit cropped
An “elite military unit” – Trump’s five valets, dressed and ready to fetch coffee and food, lay out his clothes, do his laundry, and iron.  A good use of their years of military training.

And, CNN continued:

“They are responsible for the President’s food and beverage not only in the West Wing but also travel with him when he’s on the road or out of the country.”


Valet:  Mr. President, today would you care for McDonald’s?  KFC?  Taco Bell?

Trump:  Yeah!

fast food

The valet who tested positive for coronavirus so far remains nameless.

And Trump, who’s never shown a scintilla of sympathy for him, nor for families grieving the loved ones they’ve lost to the pandemic…

Nor an iota of empathy, of which he’s incapable…

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Had only this to say:

That his valet’s life-threatening COVID-19 infection was “one of those things.”

And that he’d had “very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman.”

And, NBC reported,

“After learning that one of his valets was infected, Trump became ‘lava-level mad’ at his staff and said he doesn’t feel it is doing all it can to protect him, according to a person close to the White House.”

Because, truly, who is the pandemic all about?

all about me