Red, White and Orange


Smeared across my smart-phone’s news app are multiple and varied images of an angry face, puffy and twisted.  It has a mouth to rival any hemorrhoidal rear end, puckered and tight.  Atop its coral-hued puffy visage rests a swathe of dubious flocculence that reminds me of the gnarled fox/stole that hung in my grandmother’s closet.  I recoil in terror.

You know who I am talking about and maybe appreciate the visual allusions.  Perhaps you even chuckle.  To be fair, I didn’t know what “flocculence” meant either until I discovered it in the thesaurus (“resembling wool especially in loose fluffy organization”).

The feces that erupts from this Orange Pustule’s mouth on a daily basis is nothing short of sickening.  The things he says about women, immigrants, Blue Star families, veterans, the electoral system, African Americans, the physically disabled, tax-payers, the tax system, Muslims, beauty queens and crying babies are nothing short of disturbing. I am appalled, offended, shocked, embarrassed, and queasy.  But I am also deeply, deeply saddened, because I live in a country that has granted such an individual the loftiest of platforms from which to spew his diarrhetic hate-speak.

Given America’s propensity for self-exultation this is hardly surprising.  It is, after all, a country built upon many a myth of its own superiority, irrespective of fact.  American Exceptionalism.  American Bravado.  American Might.  These myths are fed by a constant stream of grandiose gesture and boastful talk:  “The biggest”, “the most”, “the freest”.

We hear it in the political speeches of our politicians but also in the day-to-day speech patterns of our friends and families.  “The greatest country in the world.” “The best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.”  America is a country where the superlative expression of its inalienable rights has become an inalienable aspect of its demeanor.  I talk (the loudest), therefore I am (American).


The Orange Pustule is arguably the epitome of what it means to be American in this day and age: a bloated gas-bag of crass soundbites fighting to maintain a sense of mythical former glory. His double-down tactics of aggressive self-assertion are merely a reflection of Americans who themselves cannot back down from who they imagine themselves to be, getting progressively louder and more insistent that this is what it means to be American.  And enough people love it to put him within striking distance of speaking (yelling, bragging, threatening, attacking, leering, insulting, condemning) for the entire country.

This poisonous smear of a man has commandeered the American sense of self, baptizing it in his narcissistic cesspool of fury. If things are not “the best” then they are undeniably “the worst”, and no amount of Blue-hued politicians emphatically reminding us that things aren’t that bad is going to dissuade us from this apocalyptic view. He has taken the social/economic/security issues that this country contends with (much like any other country) and decried them as nothing short of a disaster. The only answer to such woes is to annihilate anything and everything in our path, with the Orange Pustule leading the way to salvation. It is yet another American myth, that of the lone-wolf standing up to the establishment and all the direst of evils it embodies. How we lap it up.

The truly sad thing is that I’m not sure we know who we are otherwise.

How do we redefine ourselves if the myths we built our lives on have proven to be misguided?  How do we retreat from the brink of insanity (or maybe we’ve passed that brink) and reimagine a different America, one humbled and in check with reality?

Maybe we can’t. Maybe this is the dying gasp of a nation that needed to scream that it was “the greatest” more than it needed to listen and address its needs. Or maybe this is merely a rite of passage, a time when Americans must rage like adolescent children against all the unfairness and disappointments of life only to calm down, apologize for bad behavior, and finally become adults.


How Not to Nail a Skype Interview

Tek Tek Magic

Technology. What a word. A quick flick of a first syllable, so sharp and witty. “Tek” “Tek” “Tek”. Follow it up with a long roll of “o’s” that stretch out like an English lawn. Tek-nawww-lawww-gee. Truly, this is a word to make one feel clever, this catch-all for the thingamabobs we wave about, gaze lovingly at, swipe and tap without understanding whatsoever how it all works. I believe it was Arthur C Clarke that said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Well, Mr. Clarke, here we are in an era of incomprehensible magic.

Of the many pieces of tek-tek-magic that engulf me, I have a particularly long-standing love affair with Skype. So much so that I should be one of the happy faces on their website, flaunting open-mouthed smiles and waving objects (or children) at the screen for the delight of high-def remote-living relatives. It shrinks miles to millimeters and genuinely makes me happy for the connections it permits.

Except sometimes.

Case in point the pleasure of undergoing a job interview on Skype. That, my friends, takes the joy of tek-tek-magic and turns it into something much darker, more malevolent, and with shockingly bad resolution.

To give you a little context, I had an interview lined up for a job I particularly want. I was thrilled to have made it past the initial cover letter, references, and accompanying materials phase and moved on to the face-to-face, impress them with your smarts and wit part. I did all my research, figured out what questions to ask, and knew precisely why I was the perfect candidate for the job.

The Skype part left me feeling a bit wobbly, though. For all the prep I had done for the actual interview, with Skype comes a whole other degree of prep that is less “qualified candidate” and more “qualifying set dressing”.

What about the backdrop? Show books. That will make me look well read. How about a picture of me and the wife? Surely that demonstrates my ability to commit. Is the one that shows her breastfeeding too revealing? Too risqué? Maybe include the Botero-inspired painting on the wall? Does that demonstrate sufficient culture on my part? And if my interviewers notice any of it will that mean they are bored with me? Would a plain background be better? Oh no!

How about my shirt? Do I wear the striped one? The polka dots? Which looks best on camera? Never mind standing in front of a mirror, I’m switching out clothing for the benefit of a murky iPad lens. And do I really need to wear trousers? Probably not, but what if I have to stand up?

Finally, I’ve committed to a backdrop (yes to the Botero, no to the breastfeeding photo), a shirt (surprisingly, polka dots), and yes I am wearing trousers. I’m ready, prepped, and have my notes in front of me on the laptop. My carefully adjusted iPad is propped up on a child’s chair atop the table so they don’t have to be looking up my nostrils. Damn, I forgot to trim my nose hair but they’re calling and it’s too late.

I accept the call.

I’m staring across what appears to be the longest conference table on earth (or just the result of another wide angle webcam lens). Somewhere in the distance, past the cherry-laminate table top, three figures loom not very largely on the horizon. In fact, the resolution is so bad that their faces are mere blurs. No chance to read any facial expressions. Is that a mouth? No wait, those are eyes. Horrors!

And the sound. Egads, the sound! Somehow I have to not only hear but comprehend the echo-ey reverberations of their no-doubt dulcet voices. Speaking across an airport hangar would sound more intimate.

The questioning begins, and what comes out of my mouth is best described as verbal diarrhea. I’m listening to myself talk and wondering how I’m suddenly so inarticulate. All my research, preparation, and carefully planned answers evaporate in a garbled explosion of words words words. Why am I using so many words? Will someone please shut me up!

My heart goes out to these people on the other end of the tek-tek-magic, spending their day in a room that at best smells like a Holiday Inn Express hallway, staring at pixilated blown out shots of motor-mouth candidates. And who knows what we sound like to them, a bunch of loud-mouthed, echo-ey braggarts, each eager to demonstrate their skill and probably all likewise spouting a bunch of drivel. At the very least I hope they had a good chuckle and thanked the heavens that I was the last interview of the day, and that their weekend had finally arrived, much deserved. Give these people a double shot of whatever they want and then one more for good measure. Boy have they earned it.

Relaying everything that evening to my wife I am suddenly articulate again, and the garbled slush of phonemes that poured from my vocal chords transforms back to something that doesn’t sound too idiotic. Maybe I do know what I’m talking about, and maybe I am indeed the right person for the job.

None of that matters, though, as I will most certainly be chalking this one up to a good experience, a funny story. And for all the connections that the tek-tek-magic creates, I thank email for letting me hide away from any contact with anyone when I receive that electronic missive from these kind people that starts with, “Thank you very much…” and ends with “…best of luck.”