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Saturday, May 12, 2018


I think we can all agree that these are terrible times.  I react by muting the screen whenever Trump appears, but that reflex, although necessary for survival, gives little positive gratification.  It simply reduces the pain.  Into my blighted life has come a savior, a reliable source of pleasure, an analgesic for the aches of the spirit.  His name is Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, the very first porn star to become a media darling.  [To be sure, when I was an undergraduate at Harvard, an enterprising member of the football team brought an Old Howard burlesque queen to dinner one evening, but her act would not even get an R rating today.  Times have changed.]

In Avennati's first media appearance, he claimed to be working pro bono for Ms Clifford, and I have been wondering ever since who is paying his bills.  Today, I learned the answer: crowdsourcing.  If you will go to this website, you can watch the money roll in from around the world in ten, twenty, or even five dollar increments.  As I write these words, the amount raised stands at $474,095.  Earlier this morning, when I first checked the site, the amount was in the high $472 thousands.  I gather that during one of Avennati's cable news appearances, one can watched the counter tick upwards steadily.

I am old enough to remember when black and white TV sets were a rarity, and I tend, like most old men, to insist grumpily that things were better in the old days.  But this phenomenon is unsettling that conviction.  [whoops, the total just went up to $474,145.]


s. wallerstein said...

It seems strange to me that you mute the TV whenever Trump appears. I pay special attention to what he says: in fact, he's one of the few politicians whom I pay attention to, in the hope that he'll say something especially outrageous which will confirm my dislike of him and give me something to be indignant about for a few minutes.

In general, what villains say is more "interesting" (to me at least) and Trump is the villain here. Of all Shakespeare's history plays, read in college 50 years ago, the only character whose lines I remember is Richard III, the worst villain.

Maybe that my special psychological quirk, but I do recall the most literary scholars find Dante's Hell to be full of fascinating characters and Dante's Paradise to be a drag.

I realize that Trump is a real person, not a character in a literary work, but when one views someone on television, whether they be real or fictional, similar psychological mechanisms often seem to be in effect.

LFC said...

My solution to this is that I do not have a working TV. (I do have a radio and of course I can watch certain things online, but don't tend to do a lot of that.)

s. wallerstein said...


I hate to have to admit this, but I don't have a TV set either, although, like you, I watch certain political programs online.

Anonymous said...

No TV set either, for at least 17 years. Quite true about Avennati. I would not want him on the opposing counsel.

Jerry Fresia said...

Me too. No TV.

Anonymous said...

I have a giant TV in every room of my house, including one in each bathroom.

s. wallerstein said...

Only one giant TV in each room?

How can you live like that? There are so many great programs to watch at once that anybody who is anybody has four or five giant TVs in each room. With only one giant TV in each room you're going to miss out on what is going on.

Jerry Fresia said...

It gets better, s.w.:

"Some physicists believe we're living in a giant hologram — and it's not that far-fetched"

Anonymous said...

Is that so? I both have no televisions and a wide-screen television inscribed in every atom of my flat. And Avicenna is my lawyer.

s. wallerstein said...


This isn't directed at you because you wouldn't understand it, but other readers will.

A group of us were getting to know each other by revealing, among other things, that we don't have TV sets. I doubt that any of us win points in any social competition by not having a TV set these days.

However, you, perhaps as a result of watching so much TV where the values of competitivity are inculcated consciously and unconsciously every second, took our amiable conversation to be a game of competition, of showing off how "alternative" or how "intellectually snobbish" we all are, which is not the case, but you can't see that, I know. As a result of your remarks, the conversation died. By your framing our innocent dialogue about whether or not we have TV sets as a competitive game (which is probably the way you see everything), all of us now feel a little easy about continuing it and I doubt that anyone else, even if they have no TV, is likely to reveal that they don't, especially those, who unlike you, sign their comments with their name.

I'm sure that you don't care, but your way of shitting on other people's innocent pleasures is ugly and basically reactionary.

s. wallerstein said...

In my penultimate paragraph, I said "now feel a little easy" when I meant "a little uneasy".

Anonymous said...

But I was chiding the Anonymous @ 8:32 AM for your reasons. I refuse to apologize however, since in my experience apologies only serve to increase the self-righteous indignation of my interlocutors. Besides, no televisions are permitted in my house. And that ends my contribution to this thread.

s. wallerstein said...

I have no way to distinguish one anonymous from another nor any way to understand that your ironic anonymous comment was directed against another's ironic anonymous comment.

However, I have no problems apologizing, so my apologies for misreading your attempt to support my position.

Have a good day and welcome to the club of Robert Paul Wolff blog readers without televisions.

Since most people have television sets, it seems noteworthy that so many regular readers of this blog don't have one. Previously, I noted that many readers of this blog were people who while backing protest marches, at times did not participate in them because they feel uncomfortable in crowds and don't like to shout slogans in chorus.

Tom Cathcart said...

Bob, I'm fascinated by Stormy and Avenatti too. For me, I fear it's partly just the reality TV aspect. I keep thinking, "Who writes this stuff?" But I'm also intrigued by the question of what's in it for either of them. What do they want? Is it just publicity? It's certainly not what Avenatti claims: "Ms. Daniels just wants the truth to come out." (Well, maybe, i guess, if she just wants free of the agreement because she has a 7-figure offer from the tabloids.) Is it hatred for Trump---either on their part or on the part of their financial backers---and a desire to ruin him? (That would be consistent with his releasing the stuff about Cohen, which otherwise seems unrelated to the sex story. Btw, how did he get this stuff?) Even Rachel doesn't seem able to spin a coherent yarn about this. Any guesses?

In any case, I say "Go, Stormy!" (and this, even though I thought Bill Clinton's dalliances were none of our business. I have no principles when it comes to bringing this jerk down.)

David Palmeter said...

Tom Cathcart,

I think both Stormy and Avenatti are in it for the money. In her case, her celebrity will lead to opportunities for pay. I wonder how much she got for Saturday Night Live. I haven't checked, but I suspect that there are videos of her movies available--at higher prices than before. As for him, I read somewhere that there is a fund-raising site on the web where people donate to pay for his services to Stormy and that he has made more than $400K so far. The case is also good advertising.

Dean C. Rowan said...

The weird thing about "in it for the money" to me is that I have a strong sense--supported by very little concrete evidence, but still--that people with money have no idea how to spend it. People blow their wads on, I dunno, crap: shitty cars, meals at so-so restaurants, dull vacations, big houses that accumulate dust, Leonardo manuscripts... Cripes, folks, get a life!

Michael said...

Re. "no idea how to spend": I, too, am speaking without much evidence, but can't resist commenting - I'm not sure that wealthy people actually believe that spending money on good and useful things is the point of having it. At some point, I suppose, amassing money may be like aiming for the top score in Donkey Kong. It's about social and/or imaginary things such as status, power, attractiveness to their peers, bragging rights, and a sense of superiority.

That's not to say they must have conscious and articulate convictions to this effect. I heard someone report it being physically painful to see e.g. their spending amount on display at the gas pump, as the seconds tick by and the dollars and cents steadily accumulate. Although I can relate, I'm also receptive to reminders that the value of money - coins, bills, numbers on a screen - is an airy, intangible product of people's collective willing and imagining, hence the absurdity of the sole survivor of a global catastrophe clamoring after his departed neighbors' cash. This encourages me, if only slightly, to find my dealings with money less serious and stress-worthy. (And this speaks to my privilege, needless to say.)

Allen Wood notes in a recent interview: "[Adam] Smith saw the greed of modern capitalism for what it was - a form of destructive ambition that may have favorable effects on the productive capacities of society, but which is of no direct benefit to anyone - not even to the greedy themselves, whose illusory chase after a will-o-the-wisp leaves them morally bankrupt and unhappy." I'm way behind on the required reading on this subject, but I do want to know more about the "unhappy" part.

Charles Pigden said...

S Wallerstein says

'I noted that many readers of this blog were people who while backing protest marches, at times did not participate in them because they feel uncomfortable in crowds and don't like to shout slogans in chorus.'

That's certainly me! I also suffer from the problem that although I am a life-long left winger (at least by New Zealand standards), I loathe the iconography of the Left, hate protest songs, despise Billy Bragg, find a large part of Bob Dylan's oeuvre distasteful and dislike singing 'the Red Flag'.

This aesthetic distaste for left-wing culture has been a major problem for me and there is nothing very obvious that I can do about. A consequence has been that my feelings of one-ness with my comrades have often been minimal to non-existent. What helped me a little was the existence of one or two friends who combined high ideals, integrity and a really mordant sense of humour. Without them I don't think I would have been able to stick it out for fourteen years as an activist.

s. wallerstein said...

Charles Pidgen,

Besides my aversion to crowds and shouting slogans in chorus, I share your distaste for leftwing iconography. I'm a bit of a cultural elitist myself.

I rather like Bob Dylan, but that may be for biographical reasons, since when I was young, he was a dissent voice on the left, before becoming completely apolitical. My first year in college (1964) I participated in CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) and after meetings (which were almost every night), we'd go to the apartment of one woman, drink tea and listen to protest music. For everyone else in the group, the more authentic the music, the better: that is, if the protest songs on the record were sung by genuine coal miners recorded in a genuine coal mine, it was superior aesthetically and ethically to Beethoven's 9th Symphony conducted by Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic orchestra. Now at that time Bob Dylan had just recorded his first album of non-protest songs (Another Side of Bob Dylan) and since he was still a folk singer (he hadn't taken up an electric guitar yet), it was still permissible to listen to his music, but of course frowned upon for aesthetic and ethical reasons.

Being naturally perverse, I always insisted upon listening to Dylan, while the others preferred to hear the voices of genuine coal miners, sharecroppers or convicts on a chain gang.

David Palmeter said...

Someone, I can't recall who, said that the problem with folk music is that it is written and performed by folks.

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