Humor and Absurdity

All posts in the Humor and Absurdity category

The Stupidest Tea Party, Or Lewis Carroll Helps Interpret the Trump Administration

Published November 7, 2018 by Philip Ivory

(with apologies to Lewis Carroll … and no one else)

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Forty-five years ago, just as Watergate was slowly but surely evolving from a two-bit burglary story to a full-blown national scandal, Mad Magazine published a brilliant piece of satire: “Malice in Wonderland, or Watergate Through the Looking Glass as predicted by Lewis Carroll.”

The article juxtaposed statements by the likes of President Nixon, John Dean, H.R. Haldeman, and John Erlichman with quotations from Carroll’s two nonsense masterpieces, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking- Glass and What Alice Found There (published, respectively, in 1865 and 1871.)

Which brings us to 2018. President Trump assures us he only hires the best people, with the best ideas. But sometimes the things he and his people say defy conventional logic.

Calling upon the two Alice books and Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, I’ve put together the following bit of satire. It’s my tribute to the original Mad piece and my attempt to see if Carroll’s upside-down logic can be used to decipher the words of Donald J. Trump and his revolving retinue of rogues and rascals.

 

 

ON WORDS

“I know words, I have the best words.”
Donald J. Trump, Dec. 30, 2015

“They’ve a temper, some of them–particularly verbs: they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however I can manage the whole lot of them!”
Humpty Dumpty, Through the Looking Glass

 

ON FEAR

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. …They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Donald J. Trump, June 15, 2016

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”
“Jabberwocky,” Through the Looking Glass

 

ON COHERENCE

 “Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world … nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right — who would have thought?”
Donald J. Trump, July 19, 2016

 Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter’s remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. “I don’t quite understand you,” she said, as politely as she could.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON CERTAINTY

“He (President Obama) is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS, okay? He’s the founder.”
Donald J. Trump, August 2016

“What I tell you three times is true.”
The Bellman, The Hunting of the Snark

 

ON MANNERS

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”
Donald J. Trump, Aug 27, 2016

“You should learn not to make personal remarks,” Alice said with some severity. “It’s very rude.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON THE WALL

“Mexico will pay for the wall, one hundred percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re gonna pay for the wall.”
Donald J. Trump, August 31, 2016

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
The White Queen, Through the Looking Glass

 

ON FACTS

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”
Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, January 21, 2017
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood … Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”
Kellyanne Conway, White House advisor, January 23, 2017

“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum. “But it isn’t so, nohow,”
“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t.”
Through the Looking Glass

 

ON THE WORK ETHIC

“This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
President Trump, April 27, 2017

“It was much pleasanter at home, when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down the rabbit-hole — and yet — and yet — ”
Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON VOCABULARY

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe …”
Unexplained tweet by President Trump, May 31, 2017
“I think the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”
Sean Spicer, later that day

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
Through the Looking Glass

 

ON COMMUNICATION

“Reince (Priebus) is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac… I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”
Anthony Scaramucci, White House Communications Director, July 2017

The miserable Hatter dropped his teacup and bread-and-butter, and went down on one knee. ‘I’m a poor man, your Majesty,’ he began.
‘You’re a very poor speaker,’ said the King.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON HUMANITARIAN AID

“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military and the First Responders, who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances, in P.R. (Puerto Rico) forever!”
President Trump, October 12, 2017

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON TURNOVER

 “This is an intense place, as is every White House. And it’s not abnormal that you would have people come and go.”
Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary, March 7, 2018

 “I want a clean cup,” interrupted the Hatter: “Let’s all move one place on.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON MOVING ON

“I’ll now return to private life, to private citizen as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I’ve had to serve my country.”
Rex Tillerson, March 12, 2018, after being fired as Trump’s Secretary of State

 “At any rate I’ll never go there again! It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!”
Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON ACCOUNTABILITY

“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia’ instead of ‘why it would.’”
President Trump, July 17, 2018, correcting an earlier statement about Russian interference he made while standing alongside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

“The cause of lightning,” Alice said very decidedly, for she felt quite certain about this, “is the thunder — no, no!” she hastily corrected herself. “I meant the other way.”
“It’s too late to correct it,” said the Red Queen: “When you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.”
Through the Looking Glass

 

ON GEOGRAPHY

“I have great respect for the U.K. United Kingdom. Great respect. People call it Britain. They call it Great Britain. They used to call it England, different parts.”
President Trump, August 2, 2018

“London is the capital of Paris, and Paris is the capital of Rome, and Rome — no, that’s all wrong, I’m certain!”
Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON SANITY

“He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, quoted in “Fear: Trump in the White House” by Bob Woodward

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “We’re all mad here.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON THINKING

“I know you’re not thinking. You never do.”
President Trump to Cecilia Vega, ABC News, October 1, 2018

‘Really, now you ask me,’ said Alice, very much confused, ‘I don’t think—’
‘Then you shouldn’t talk,’ said the Hatter.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON MATURITY

“I mean—I’m not a baby. I know these things.”
President Trump to Leslie Stahl, CBS News, October 14, 2018

‘If it had grown up,’ she said to herself, ‘it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.’
Alice reflecting on a baby turned into a pig in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

— Philip Ivory, 11/7/2018

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Story That (Almost) Could(n’t)

Published April 22, 2018 by Philip Ivory

This is a storyIMG_1614 about a story that was accepted three times but almost but not quite ended up nowhere.

My flash fiction piece, “Apparition on the Threshold,” was born out of an exercise in my Writers Studio Intermediate Class in 2014. (My thanks to Writers Studio teacher Janelle Drumwright for providing encouragement and guidance that helped me develop the exercise into a publishable piece.) It’s an imagistic piece born out of some memories and/or imaginings from my childhood.

I started submitting “Apparition on the Threshold” for publication in late 2015. On February 18, 2016, I was notified that my piece had been accepted by an online journal called Mystic Illuminations. (Strangely enough, it was the same day I learned that my day job of over 20 years was going away, perhaps an omen of rockier times ahead on all fronts.) Here’s what the nice people at Mystic Illuminations had to say:

 We truly enjoyed your work and found that it fits beautifully within the scope of our journal. We would like to include “Apparition on the Threshold” in our next issue of Mystic Illuminations.

I acknowledged this with a thank you and sent polite notices to five other places to whom I had submitted the piece, informing them that I needed to withdraw it from consideration.

The folks at Mystic Illuminations were friendly and helpful, and set up an interview with me at The Writers Lens which was a lot of fun to do.

I waited patiently for word on when the next issue would appear. Mystic Illuminations was a beautifully designed, graphics heavy site. I imagined that was what accounted for the delay, which stretched from weeks into many months.

In June of 2016, I was informed that the next issue was definitely in the works, and I was invited to update the bio I had sent in months earlier.

In October, I was surprised to find that a new issue of Mystic Illuminations had gone online … but with my piece missing in action.  I sent a “What’s the deal?” query and was told somewhat apologetically that Mystic Illuminations had published an all-poetry issue, and they had forgotten to tell me my fiction piece would be held for the next issue.

Another year ticked by. Other stories of mine were submitted to other places, many rejected, some accepted.  In December 2017, I received an email from Mystic Illuminations, regretfully informing me that no other issues were liable to be published. I was encouraged to try my story elsewhere.

So my piece had been in limbo for nearly two years. I was determined not to let it die in obscurity. I send it out to some other places.

It didn’t take long. The Zodiac Review informed me of their acceptance of the piece on December 28, 2017. It was one of the kindest acceptance letters I’ve received:

It’s a superior, polished piece worthy of a loftier venue than ours.  We know that because two of us, owners of some 100 years of experience in writing, speaking and communications, can’t find anything “wrong” with it.  Or any opportunity to suggest an improvement or make a correction.  We’d like to publish it in our next issue, out in April-May. 

Naturally, I was delighted. My piece had found a wonderful new home. What could go wrong? I notified a half dozen or so other journals that I had to withdraw the piece for consideration. Surely this would be the last time I would need to do that.

Here’s the point where this little chronicle might seem to defy belief. On January 31, 2018, I received this notice from my friends at The Zodiac Review:

Sorry to report that we have decided to discontinue publishing The Zodiac Review. Thanks for submitting.  Best of luck to you in all things.

Reeling a bit and wondering if my piece was cursed, I … and really, what other option does one have? … rolled up my sleeves and tried again. I sent the piece out again into the world, tactfully approaching some of the journals I had previously withdrawn from, explaining my situation and hoping they might be charmed by my saga of the little piece with the big Voodoo whammy on it.

On March 23, two days after I had resubmitted it to them, I received word from esteemed journal Ghost Parachute (which I know of because it published work by a writer friend, Lilian Vercauteren) that “Apparition on the Threshold” had been accepted, for the third and let us hope final time.

It’s slated to go online on or around May 1st, with artwork created especially for my piece.

So has “Apparition on the Threshold” found its forever home? Stay tuned for May 1st, and we shall see. Whether the piece is actually worthy of such drama is another question, one I’ll leave to my readers to decide.

One final note. A website called Duotrope.com has proven to be invaluable for me. Duotrope provides a search function to help you find the most appropriate journals to send your fiction or poetry to. It also has a tracking feature to help you remember where and when you submitted your material … something that was essential in helping me navigate the journey of “Apparition on the Threshold.” The site requires a reasonable annual fee but is worth it.

 

Light to Dark: Using Mood to Create an Effective Narrator

Published March 15, 2017 by Philip Ivory

The Writers Studio Tucson Lecture Series presents

Light to Dark:
Using Mood to Create an Effective Narrator

Join us for an evening of craft and conversation featuring local Tucson writers Donna Aversa, Phil Ivory, and Lilian Vercauteren

When: Thursday, March 23, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Woods Memorial Library (3455 N. 1st Ave)

This event is free and open to everyone.

The moderated panel discussion will feature these Tucson Literary Luminaries:

  • Donna Aversa is a fiction writer who has studied and trained to teach at The Writers Studio Tucson, and is passionate about The Writers Studio method. With degrees from the University of Arizona, she is an attorney in private practice. Donna is currently working on a collection of short stories.
  • Phil Ivory studied literature at Columbia University. His fiction has been published in The Airgonaut, Literally Stories, Devolution Z, Bewildering Stories and elsewhere. Nominated in 2017 for the Pushcart Prize, he was previously a winner of the 2015 Writers Studio “Write-to-Read” contest and Bewildering Stories’ 2016 Mariner Awards. Phil teaches at The Writers Studio Tucson and maintains a blog at writeyourselfsane.com
  • In her early twenties, Lilian Vercauteren came to the US to see what the fuss was all about. More than a decade later, she has only barely scratched the surface of discovering the American spirit. She has written and published several short stories and is currently querying a novel length manuscript with literary agents. She is an alumni of The Writers Studio Tucson Master Class.

Questions? Contact Reneé Bibby at renee@writerstudio.com or 520-591-8795.

 

Probably Last Meeting of Bluebell Ridge II Homeowners Association

Published March 1, 2017 by Philip Ivory

Please check out my new piece of flash fiction at The Airgonaut, a monthly online literary journal specializing in absurdist, fabulist, magical realism, and surreal work.

I set a challenge to myself to see if I could write a piece in the format of notes from a homeowners association meeting. The resulting story can be read here:

Probably Last Meeting of Bluebell Ridge II Homeowners Association.”

Thanks for reading!

Embed from Getty Images

 

Fiction Publication: Most Of Us Are From Someplace Else

Published July 5, 2016 by Philip Ivory

Most of Us Image4

I’m pleased that today the online literary journal, “Literally Stories,”  published my short story, “Most Of Us Are From Someplace Else.” It’s about a group of eccentric characters who have created an unusual community in an abandoned railway station in a town in Pennsylvania. Read it here.

“Literally Stories” was launched in 2014, created “by writers for writers.”  It showcases a wide spectrum of short story fiction from new and emerging writers to more seasoned authors.

This story wouldn’t exist except for the “Write-to-Read” challenge issued last September by Writers Studio Tucson. The contest was open to past and present students of the Writers Studio and featured a writing challenged crafted by award-winning Tucson author Adrienne Celt. The writing prompt centered on the idea of “nested narratives,” inspired by the image of the matryoshka, or Russian nesting doll, containing smaller dolls.

I was honored that my entry was chosen as one of three winners of the contest, and I enjoyed the privilege of reading my story aloud at a Writers Studio event last November. (Read more about the event here.)

In accordance with Adrienne’s writing challenge, the story has a larger narrative in which are contained smaller back-stories about the residents of this oddball community, each of whom has suffered some disillusioning experience before finding a place to call home.

I hope you’ll read “Most Of Us Are From Someplace Else” and let me know what you think.

Thanks!