Alan Catlin: An Essay

Link to home pageLink to current issueLink to back issuesLink to information about the magazineLink to submission guidelinesSend email to

Phineas T. Bluster

I was watching the Orange Nightmare, with the sound turned off, making one of his insane proclamations. There is no point listening to Anything he says, but you can see by his various tells that he is lying.  He’ll say, “Frankly... “or “To tell you the truth.....”or, angrily,  “And you know it’s true that.....”You don’t need to be a lip reader to see those words spewing forth from his lips.

Then there is the dumb baseball cap pulled too far over his eyes. A sure-fire sign he is going to cough up some good ones to inspire the masses. He doesn’t pull the cap as far down as in the good old campaign days, when he yanked it down Really far, so you couldn’t see his eyes, which were in a perpetual drug user’s squint.  Remember the time he toured the sub?  His rambling talk before, during, and after, was even more incoherent than usual. Even the next day, from a distance, at one of his golf courses, you could see he was struggling to keep his eyes open. Why doesn’t he just do the normal thing like other drug abusers, and wear sunglasses?  Just what d rugs was (is) he on?  We know he does speed.  Remember that time he called into the Fox Morning show and gave an uninterrupted twenty-five-minute Shakespearean soliloquy (That is if Beckett had written Shakespeare instead. Or maybe Peter Weiss. Or maybe Lenny Bruce when he was shooting up, though less coherent.) Even his biggest TV supporters sat as if stapled to their couch, mesmerized, as if in a dream state, not by the brilliance of his talk, good God no, but by just how ridiculous and, well, insane it was.   That has to be the network’s worst nightmare: a stoned chief executive impossible to shut up. ...but, already.  I digress.

We’ll probably never know what drugs he was on.  Speed and....? The important point is: does anyone look more unnatural in a baseball cap than The Donald? Let’s face facts: baseball caps and suits that don’t fit, just don’t go together. Period. Even if the suits fit, which his don’t. Don’t get me started on the suits.  Remember when he dressed up for that reception with the Queen?  Whoever stuffed him into that formal ceremony suit, did him a great disservice. (and how did they do it?  The mind boggles) He looked like a dirigible with a cummerbund and a badly dyed comb over. Sort of, well, like the Trump Baby Balloon, only wizened by age and sinful behavior.  The only person who has ever looked more ridiculous in formal wear, was Pete Rose during the Fox Pre and Post Game coverage on the World Serious a few years ago. Not only did Pete’s suit not fit, it was way too large, but he was wearing sneakers.  But Pete had an excuse. He was drunk. There is no excuse for Donald.  He’s just a huge blood sausage, packaged in a too tight skin, dressed for a ball, no one wants to be at but him. Nothing will ever change that.

His mother would be so proud. Reportedly she loved watching the Coronation as much as Donald would love to watch Pro Wrestling on TV. Ultimately, what would be the difference? In typical Trumpkin style, he has conflated, and confused the two, adapting a style that incorporates both. You could almost hear him saying, as Jimmy Cagney did in ‘White Heat’, “I made it, Ma. I’m on top of the world.”

The important point, though, is where did the name Phineas T Bluster come from?

Let us consider the name and what it implies. No doubt it is the perfect description of a rogue president who bloviates without benefit of the normal codes of behavior and mental filters.   In some people that can be brilliant, but in a five year old adolescent mind, tapped inside a grown person’s body, perhaps in pre Alzheimer mode, it can be downright scary. I know I do an injustice to five-year olds, to whom I apologize. Get a transcript of that first speech he gave to the CIA if you don’t believe me. 

Watching a mute gesturing man, in this case the man who plays the president on TV, recalls days spent working nights in a tavern, waiting for the first bus to appear out of the early morning fog and seeing the creatures of the night, wandering about, those left over from whatever alcoholic haze they were lost in, walking down Central Avenue, incoherent, enraged, desperate for attention....The Trumpeter and his tells: the hand gestures, the contorted features, the wicked oval of his mouth. as deftly caricatured by Alec Baldwin, the gaze of deep seriousness, meant to convey his strength and resolution, but that actually conveys one of his deep confusion and mild hysteria, that often crosses over from mild to serious. He fulminates, he fumes, he, well blusters. He is the mayor of Doodyville.

A quick Internet search brings the memories back.  The Bluster name stuck because every kid can identify with a tyrannical nincompoop masquerading as an adult, issuing proclamations that make absolutely no sense.  All adults, to a certain degree, must appear that way to young children, but even in this world, Doodyville, as Mr. Bluster is the Official in Charge of Howdy Doody’s TV town, is especially ridiculous. We live in Trumplandia now as everyone knows and someone ahs to be the mayor.... And the most relevant fact about P.T. Bluster is he’s a puppet. The comparisons with the Chief Executive of Disassembly in these formerly United States, begs to be explored further.

It was the late 40’s, early 50’s, the infancy of television, when the kids show Howdy Doody first appeared.  It was instant success.  I confess I disliked Howdy myself nor Buffalo Bob, the master of ceremonies. I didn’t like Howdy because he was such a do gooder, a model kid, the kind you instantly wanted to do violence against. Buffalo Bob on general principles.  He just seemed like a condescending adult twit. But memory plays tricks on you.  I didn’t like Shari Lewis and her sock puppets either. She was so far ahead of her time we might not be ready for her yet: Peace and love, and human kindness, empathy....

And then there was the Kid’s Club. One wonders if Donald Pea Brain, developed his TV watching obsession/habit in those days, and secretly yearned to be one of those hysterical kids in the studio audience. One suspects, it was more likely he wanted to be a Mousketeer and be one with Tommy and Annette. I mean who didn’t love Annette?  And then she grew up to stuff a wild bikini.... Oh my, what a difference a few years makes!  One can easily imagine Donald Small Hands, and his adolescent sexual fantasies, having its roots in the Mickey Mouse Club.... 

Now that he is chronologically adult, and the reincarnation of the Howdy Show character flub a dub, (needs no explanation, the name says it all), yearning to bring the country back to those innocent days of the 50’s where everyone, especially those pesky minorities, knew their place. Back to where the white folks all got new cars every year and had crew cuts and a two-sibling family and their omnipresent dad always wore a cashmere cardigan, and Mom did her chores and cooked in high heels and worse a dress. Talk about Fantasyland.... 

Which reminds me, what did Ozzie Nelson do for a living?  I don’t recall there being a clear statement of his occupation, though I could be wrong about this. I’ll be damned if I am going to watch old episodes of the show, or Howdy for that matter, just to make that statement accurate (or not). As Bob Dylan said in Memphis Blue Again, “How much to we have to pay to not go through these things twice?”  I know what Ozzie did in real life, he was a band leader, but reality doesn’t count.  One of life’s true ironies of life is what happened to that teen idol from his years as a milquetoast, junior league Elvis, Ricky Nelson. He died in a private plane crash, free basing at 10,000 feet.   And David Nelson, his older brother, of all people, was put on a terrorist no fly watch list. As he said, more or less: “I’m David Nelson From Ozzie and Harriet. That David Nelson. I’m a businessman now. I need to fly.”

But that was under the GW Bush administration, not the Rumpenstein’s Monster one, so who knows how that would have been handled now? Besides, David is dead and whatever list he is on doesn’t matter anymore. 

The truly unfunny aptness of the Phineas doll, and how it applies to the president, is that who is the puppet master?  It appears most likely, that it is, Vlad the Impaler. How else can we explain the Loud One’s mouthing phrases, and policy statements generally reserved for the Russian Premier. You can almost hear Vlad whispering in Donald’s ear, “Be a man, Donnie, boy, you can do it. Fuck the democrats, they’re just a bunch of pussies, but you, you are a real Man.  We have the sex tapes to prove it. If you need more copies to show your friends, just ask and we’ll send them along for you. No need for Melania to ever see you, and all those lovely young girls, is there?  How did you know way back, when you first visited, you’d be a feature on the Russian version of Candid Camera? Besides, when we take over, you’ll become President for Life ........”  

How else can you explain wrecking the G-7, screwing up Nato, approving of BoJo the Wrecker and his fundamentally insane idea for a hard Brexit, and so on and so as the world burns, literally, and Stumpy the Bear says, “The key to preventing forest fires is to rake the leaves.....” Shows what you know City Dweller.

It will take a whole administration to undo the evil he has wrought. Maybe more. That is, assuming we survive this one. If only a Borowitz Report news item were true: That after Donald stalks out of Infrastructure Plan meeting, Pelosi steals the nuclear football and hides it....

Let’s face it, when Duarte, the Pilipino butcher, doesn’t want anything to do with a shithole country like the US, you know you are on the wrong tack.

In keeping with a philosophy of moving backwards into a mythological, television based, unreality, as a way forward, to Make America Great Again (to steal a phrase from Doddering Ronnie R) was/ is a philosophy doomed to failure. You may try to ignore fifty or sixty or even, seventy years, of history, and social progress. In the end, no matter how hard you wish, reality is going to bite you in the ass.
One also wonders if he was the kind of kid who went to see  Peter Pan in the movies, with his body guard, certainly not his parents, who apparently had no time for nurturing their children, who did not clap his hands in order to save Tinkerbell. As a kid, I often wondered, and this really worried me, when I saw Pete Pan in a nearly empty theater, and later repeated endlessly on Walt Disney Presents, if there was only one person clapping, would that be enough to save Tinkerbell? What if they didn’t hear me? Would she die?  Donald Scissorhands most assuredly wanted to see her dead.  He, no doubt, identified with Captain Hook, if only because he had that cool, mechanical, metal thing, instead of a short hand.  The mind reels.

One also wonders if the current madness of crowds and their delusional behavior will revert to a kind of sanity, when the pixie dust wears off.  Like in the aftermath of, say Tulip Fever, when a society going on and on, in the grips of mania, of dabbling in/risking it all on Tulip Futures, suddenly woke up and collectively said, “What were we thinking?”  Couldn’t a whole generation of Americans, a base of voters, (see free basing) come  to their senses and say “Oh, my God, the guy is a crook, a bad used car salesman, a, well, fill in the blank, for worst con man you can think of....He’s PT Barnum, without a sense of humor, and on a much larger scale. By recent accounts, Barnum was a philanthropist, and an all-around decent person. In addition to lending his name to con jobs for all times. I mean when you see a sign that says This Way to the Egress, and once you find it, and it says push here and you do....  Well it’s your own fault that you are locked out and have to pay to get back in. Ignorance is its own reward. Which seems to be what drives the current folks in the Oval

After reading the book, Confederates in the Attic, an account of a Jew, from DC, living in the Virginia suburbs, making his living as writer, married to a popular Australian novelist, goes in  search of the Confederacy, into the deep South in late 1990’s, America. Often in the company of civil war re-enactors. Tony Horwitz, the author, finds that the Civil War is not even close to over.  In fact, it is being fought even as we speak, twenty years later, in the mutated form of Tea Partiers turned Trumpkins. And they mean business.

There is a vast network of people down there, in what is essentially a foreign country to us Yankees, who think 1950’s wasn’t far enough back to make America Great Again. What we really need to do is go back to the 1850’s.  The chances of that happening are less than zero, as the seminal novel of lost American youth of privilege aptly described.  But try to tell people that. Try to tell them John Wayne’s real name is Marion Morrison. “Them’s fightin’ words, boy. “ How, then, did his grandson (John Wayne’s that is), the  heavyweight fighter, the great white dope,  who had to retire from the game when he tested HIV positive after years of unsafe sex with women, his own son’s kid, end up the last name of Morrison and not Wayne? And if that doesn’t start a fight, try out, “John Wayne was married to Mexican”. You could look all of this stuff up.

One wonders if his Mom (D.T.’s), an inveterate TV watcher from way back in the 50’s as a Fan of, “This Is Your Life.”  Imagine this:

Today our guest on the program will be Donald J. Drumpenstein.  (and you thought Beto was a made up name-It’s  a nickname, an affectionate diminutive, dude,  like Donald Small Hands.  Drumpf. Now there’s a name for you. Give me a break, what could be more American than that?) real estate magnet, celebrity, and general gadfly/man about town. (scattered applause, laughter) Donald is brought on stage and seated on a high stool.

Announcer: Donald, This Is Your Life and now joining us on stage is your first-grade teacher Ethel Hepplewhite. (mild applause, laughter)

“What can you tell us about how Donald was as your student.”

“Donald was a rip.  He never paid attention, always was acting out and making a general nuisance of himself. I think he is the only student, in my 40 year, who never once handed in a homework assignment.  Even the kids that drooled turned in something, now and again, and got credit for it.  They had an excuse. But Donald, well, he thought he was above homework, as if he knew it all already.”

“Is there something you can tell us that was truly remarkable about him?”

“Well, he could pass gas as loudly as any individual I have ever known.”

“Some can do it, and some can’t, is that it Miss H.?”

“You said it.”

“Anything else?”

“I think Donald spent three quarters of the year in the corner wearing a dunce cap.  He insisted that dumb was spelled dumm.  I tried to show him a dictionary, where the correct spelling was, and he refused to believe it.  Said something like, ‘Fake Words!’.... I see by his tweets, he hasn’t learned anything much since....”

“Well that sure goes a long way to understanding where Donald’s lifelong aversion to facts, learning and education.”

“Let’s face it, if you feel the need to have all your school transcripts all the way back to first grade, removed from their files, you know there is something to hide. That’s just simple logic.”

“Let’s all give Miss Hepplewhite a hand.”

Miss H. arises from her chair points at Donald and says, “Donald, go to your corner.”  Reflexively, Donald rises as if to move to the corner of the studio.  (The audience roars with laugher.

Announcer, “Next up is your fellow primary school student, Susie C. Cheese. Susie recalls you very well and would like to share a few choice words with our friends here and at home with regards to Donald.”

Susie, “You betcha.”

Announcer. “So, Susie, what would you like to tell us about Donald as a child.”

“You know how boys are at that age.  They like to play fight, talk tough, and show off for girls. Play a little grab ass among themselves. But Donald was different.”

“How so?”

“He liked to grab ass with the girls.  In fact, his specialty was, ‘Goose the girl.’    It was really annoying.”

“So, what did you do?”

“Well, after a few weeks of that at recess. I hauled off and belted him.  He had a shiner that lasted a month.  I said, ‘Take that you, Pinhead. And knock it off, or next time you won’t get off so lucky.’”

“How did he react?”

“He told everyone he got into a fight with a gang of Puerto Ricans called The Sharks and kicked some serious ass. No one believed him, though.”

“Ha, ha. You’re a pip, Susie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Young Donald J. Any last thoughts you’d like to direct to D.J.?”

“You’re still a pinhead.”  (audience roars with laugher....)

and so it went.... the defenestration of Donald J Drumpenstein.

50’s kid shows were not the only irritants/ toxic diseases, that could creep like a cut worm into the heart and mind of a young Mr. Trumpty Dumpty. The Sunday funnies were a big thing still in the 50’s.  You had to buy the Daily News to get them or The Post. The serious papers, like The Times, wouldn’t have such a frivolous item as The Funnies and they still don’t, even if they are failing. The kind of father, like DT’s (any association, physically with the mythic movie alien is purely coincidental) who gets arrested at KKK meetings, and whose granddad made his nut franchising whore houses, impresses me as Daily News type of person. He’d get the Journal too, but the Daily News, would still the paper of choice for the folks who lived for blood and guts, front- and back-page stories, illustrated by ambulance chased photos of dead people framed under the photographic influence of Wee Gee. It’s enough to scar one for life.

We got the Tribune at home, so I had to go to my great aunt’s, next door, for the Funnies. My favorite was Mandrake the Magician. I loved that he could gesture hypnotically.  Think about Donald Silver Tongues and his hand gestures.... Consider those inexplicable, sometimes twitch like, spasmodic feints of the arm and hands , the inexplicable circular figures he makes that causes you wonder,  just what does he mean? 
Let’s match up the traits of the comic strip dissimulator Mandrake, and the presidential dissimulator, Frump.

  1. Gestures hypnotically and makes people see things that aren’t there, as in, “Don’t believe what you read and hear, what I say .... goes without saying
  2. Shapeshifting. Check
  3. Believes in slavery-Check (Lothar, the nearly invincible, muscled black man in a leopard skin toga talk about tropes!) right hand man of Mandrake
  4. Slinky female companion:  Melania /Narda.  Check
  5. Lives in a high rise gated community in NY State. Check
  6. Levitation, Teleporting, Invisibility- not so much but he sure does try for invisibility, not himself minds you, but of records of everything he does.
  7. False confusing illusions. Check

These are not coincidences folks, these are facts.

And Mandrake isn’t the only cartoon character we can draw comparisons with. 

How about Lil’ Abner: Daisy Mae?!  Need I say more? (one doesn’t like to speculate about adult TV prime time TV watching, but Donna Douglas comes to mind, not for her acting ability, in the Beverley Hillbilly’s, but for uncanny resemblance to the buxom MS Mae. ...sorry Donna, them’s the facts...)

Of course, there was Pogo, and The Swamp.  As Ed Sanders and The Fugs once gleefully sang, “Rompin’ in the Swamp” (You can spend your time/ covered up in slime....”) Who knew how politically relevant that song would become?  Though one would not be going out on a limb to suggest, Rumpy didn’t get the politics of Pogo, “We have seen the enemy and he is us....” And those three little raccoons(?) Bewitched Bewildered and Bebothered, think of them as Eric, Don Jr. and Jared....Or maybe we should be more realistic and point out the facts: The three evil twits are more likely Huey, Dewey and Louie. And Scrooge McDuck speaks for itself.  I’m sure he got the politics of Al Capp.

It should be noted that, the tightfisted one, was unanimously selected as the cheapest “billionaire” in America, as he once cashed a 1.19 check, sent to various rich people, as a test. In fact, he was the only one who cashed it.  Maybe he needed money to buy some Double Bubble Gum to check up on the life and times of Veronica and Betty in the Archie insert comics that came with that awful gum. Even as an adolescent, it wasn’t possible Not to notice those girls were hot! Smoking hot. Though why Archie preferred Veronica to Betty, who seemed like a genuinely nice person, in addition to her hotness, while Veronica, well Veronica, was a bitch.... Can you imagine, an adolescent Donald Bloat Face, chewing a huge wad of pink gum?  Me either.  Hell, he might attempt a giant bubble, the biggest one ever, and have it go bad on him, explode, blowback into his hair plugs/comb over.... Now that is something that would be fun to see. The mind reels.

But I am in the twilight zone of digressions now...

Medium shot of Rod Serling in the concourse of a large arena.

“......what began as a seemingly normal political rally, has transformed into an otherworldly experience, a mirror image world, as if the candidate had stepped through a portal in time and entered a new dimension. We have all crossed over into another world, we have just entered the Twilight Zone..... 

Key to 50’s pop song, “Rockin’ Robin”, now the DT re-election campaign song,

(Tweedilly-tweedilly-deet, tweedilly-tweedilly-deet)
(Tweedilly-tweedilly-deet, tweedilly-tweedilly-deet)
(Tweedilly-tweedilly-deet, tweedilly-tweedilly-deet)
(Tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet) ......
He rocks in the treetops all day long
Hoppin' and a-boppin' and singing his song
All the little birds on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin go tweet-tweet-tweet
Rockin' robin, (tweet-tweet-tweet)
Rock-rock-rockin' robin' (tweet-tweedilly-tweet)
Go rockin' robin 'cause we're really gonna rock tonight (tweet-tweedilly-tweet)

Rockin’ Robin is also the “stage” name of a pro wrestler.  As, I confess, not being up on the names and faces of pro wrestling since the glory days of the 50’s when I was avid fan. I was also with devotee of roller derby, especially the women. I had a friend in grammar school, whose sister had all the fan wrasslin’ ‘zines, who harbored an aspiration to actually become a pro wrestler.  We’ve lost touch the last 50 years or so, so whether this aspiration became a reality, I’ll never know. 

Rockin’ Robin’s half-brother, Jake the Snake Roberts, was on a short list of Rump’s possible appointments for a cabinet post. I believe it was Under Secretary of the Interior, before his untimely death.   

Title credits of the episode are shown over the speaker, a large creature, stuffed into a business suit that is three sizes too small, as shot from below. The slightly distorted angle emphasizes his girth, and his bizarre appearance, combining alien features, badly made up with pounds of grease paint, in an attempt to mask the person’s demonic features, by disguising him as a circus clown. 

                        RUMOR, FEAR and the MADNESS OF CROWDS

                        Based on a book by J.P. Chaplin and adapted for the screen by Stephen King

                        Directed by Rod Serling

The camera focuses on the speaker, in silence, for awhile, as he wildly gesticulates, stopping occasionally to acknowledge applause and adulation from the assembled. Jump cut to a medium shot of the speaker, standing on the dais before a small grandstand packed with paid supporters holding RUMP and Ponce signs, that are shaken up and down, to handheld prompts just beyond the sight of the camera. 

The arena appears full, but on closer inspection, many of the upper levels are filled with inflatable dolls. Much of the prerecorded crowd noise is piped in. 

The audio of the speech is heard beginning in a random place (a full read out of the text clearly shows that there is no beginning, middle, or an end to the speech anyway, which has no coherent theme, logic, or goal other than to incite the crowd with stick tropes and over-familiar clichés.)

“.... totally Fake News.  The opposition, those lamestream media heroes. are nothing but snowflake, cucks, who wouldn’t know how to load an AR-15 if their lives depended upon it (pause for applause and canned laughter)......Clearly the so-called, popular vote they allegedly won was nothing but a stuffing of the ballot boxes by aliens, actual aliens, in liberal strongholds like Rhode Island and Vermont.  (pause for loud choruses of Boos) .... they were all cast by actual space aliens. Yes, folks, the democrats are now using those lizard people from outer space you have been hearing about on the state approved OAR and Fox Networks...The same ones you have been  reading about in the only reliable, Rump approved news outlet, The National Enquirer....(pause for chorus of cheers and the general shaking of signs).....

Breaking News: The Rump administration announces a bold, new foreign policy initiative.  The president himself, has just signed the papers, to complete the purchase of Hungary.  “I’ve always said the Balkans has Yuge potential. Look at all that beach front property, just waiting to be developed.  And, you know, the weather there isn’t nearly as bad as people say it is.  Once the climate warms up completely, it will be a tropical oasis.  ....”

Emerging from the Twilight Zone becomes more difficult with the progression, ( to coin a term when speaking of the current administration, progress, is not a term generally applied to what is happening now), of the agenda, whatever it is.  The news has become a Reality Show and it unclear if we are in the Twilight Zone All the time, now, or only part time.  Looking at the cabinet that Trumpelstiltskin has assembled has the feel of an unwritten chapter of Alice Through the Looking Glass: The Honchos.

  • National Security Advisor: The Mad Hatter
  • Press Secretary: The Queen of Hearts, the Sarah Sanders doll version
  • Housing and Urban Development: The Caterpillar, with the hookah on a mushroom (aka a new version of Clue card?)           
  • Secretary of State: The Cheshire Cat
  • Secretary of Energy: Humpty Dumpty
  • Secretary of the Interior Tweedle Dee
  • EPA Director: Tweedle Dum
  • Homeland Security: The Jabberwock
  • Secretary of Education: The Duchess
  • Special Advisors to the President (f) March Hares
  • Special Advisor to the President (m) The Knave of Hearts...........

You have to give Trumple credit for originality. Has it ever occurred to anyone that: if there is not a quorum of actually Senate approved cabinet secretaries, the article to remove the president by a 2/3 majority of cabinet officials, may not be evocable?

But he is a marketing/branding genius. Think of all those catchy three syllables, easy to remember jingles: Lock Her Up, Build the Wall, and Drain the Swamp....  I hereby propose a new three syllable chant:  Shut Him Up.  If that doesn’t work, how about, Bring Him Down? Remember back in the 60’s there was Dump the Hump! (referring to Hubert Humphrey, who lost a bid to replace LBJ as president and was beaten by the Biggest Troll Ever Elected President Until Now Award, Richard M. Nixon.  As we are intent upon reliving the past how about Dump the Trump!) Try them out sometime. Bring your friends along, make it hash tag, a movement even.  Imagine his reaction....

Editor’s Note: Since I wrote and revised this essay, a full-bore Democratic Impeachment Inquiry has been launched, proving once again: just when you thought the mother lode of sleaze, corruptibility, and dirty dealing had been mined out, it was only beginning. The Frito Cheeto proves, once again, that there is no bottom to his foulness. A whiff of sulfur is always in the air no matter where he goes with his reverse Midas touch, that: instead of turning things into gold, he turns them into shit. (or as the Rick Wilson, former republican pundit so aptly put it, Everything Trump Touches Dies.) And while we are rewriting Fairy Tales, a new version of Snow White Through the Looking Glass has been unearthed called, appropriately, Snow Black, featuring Melania and the Seven Grifter’s:

Slouchy &

The saga continues.........