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I’ve got to hand it to Kim Jong Un. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t hand anything to the North Korean leader. That’s too much crazy for me to get close to. But he should be credited for a particularly good zinger he got off as part of his pissing match with the Drumpster.

Like most people, I had to run to the dictionary to look up “dotard.” That’s pronounced DOUGH-turd. A dotard is a “weak-minded old person.”

As a weak-minded old person, I should probably take offense at this insult, but I do not. It was too nicely done. For one thing, it presented a mystery, which is always fun. I liked being forced to crack open Webster’s to solve it. More importantly, the term is devastatingly accurate. Drump, to my eye, is in the middle of a rapid mental decline.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Last May, there was a spate of professional opinion noting a dramatic decay in his vocabulary and command of syntax. Although those experts didn’t exactly say that his brain was turning to mush, I am a pundit and I can say anything. He’s losing it. Most of what he says is patently untrue, and the rest is gibberish. In fact, I see a man a step or two away from outright vegetable status. He’s a head of cabbage, almost, or a decomposing pumpkin who can still string a few words together.

Now, it should be noted that ordinary aging can bring with it a certain degree of decrepitude, both of mind and body. Words do not come to the lips in time to finish a sentence. Forgetfulness bedevils us at every turn. Mustard is harder to cut. None of us, it is clear, is getting any younger. There are, however, some strategies that can help. Taking on unfamiliar challenges, for example, can keep us sharp well into our 90s, or even beyond.

Drump is dealing with lots of problems he’s never dealt with before. That should be a hopeful sign. Such new situations require agile thinking and the need to stretch ones preconceptions — all of which is said to be helpful in fighting off brain rot. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to be very interested in unfamiliar thinking patterns. He’s so focussed on himself that nothing else can get through.

In fact, narcissism may be at the root of his rot. Raw animal cunning — coupled with an utter lack of compassion — is adequate when making a lot of money in real estate or conducting large scale frauds like Trump University. But that kind of “thinking” isn’t much help to your brain health. Drump is too self-absorbed to take part in multi-leveled thought processes or to entertain nuance. Furthermore, he doesn’t do crossword puzzles, try to learn a new language, or work on his fine motor skills. All he’s got are survival instincts honed by a lifetime of scamming, and that limited mindset is only exacerbating his deterioration.

And now, a group of prominent psychiatrists and psychologists has published a book that directly addresses Drump’s “malignant narcissism.” The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump projects some ugly, menacing outcomes for our President’s mental incapacity. He’s not just a dotard, but an isolated, uncaring paranoid being slowly eaten alive by his own egomania — a self-inflating balloon that will eventually explode and destroy itself and everything around it.

Kim Jong Un may have missed that last part. It’s easy to understand why he might be blind to the whole idea of malignant narcissism. Still, he got the dotard part right. And I am willing to hand that to him. From a distance, of course, in case he explodes.
Hoot Couture
It’s hard to ignore fashion, even though I try. Everywhere, the forces of innovation are pushing the boundaries of clothing design, looking for the next big breakthrough. Those creations effect the environment that all of us live in, keeping it in constant flux. Even though I don’t personally practice the apparel arts myself, I endorse such efforts.

Let them have at it, I say. What people choose to wear is strictly their own business, and there are plenty of fashion mistakes that need to be cycled out of existence. My open, accepting attitude, however, does not prevent me from commenting on any cultural trend that violates standards of common sense, decency, or egregious butt-ugliness. It is under this exception that I address the ill-conceived shirt/thing called “Untuckit.”

I confess that I have never seen an Untuckit in real life. The TV commercials, most of them featuring the shirt’s creator Chris Riccobono, are so far the only place I have witnessed them. Mr. Riccobono testifies in the ads that his design is meant to fill a great void in mens’ clothing: the need for a shirt meant to be worn untucked. In fact, Chris reveals that this garment is the realization of his lifelong dream of solving this knotty riddle.

He shouldn’t have bothered. If you haven’t seen the ads or the in-person version, let me say that the shirts look dorky, dopey…even doofusy. Chris himself models them in the initial ad campaign, walking (as is apparently required these days in all advertising) in slow motion through the streets of New York. The slow motion, along with Chris’ own middle-aged pear shape, only heightens the impression of dorklitude.

His complaint about normal shirts — and the engine of his passion — is that they are too long to be worn untucked. But his, by contrast, is too short. Worse, most of the Untuckit examples are button-down, further compounding his folly with a useless trend that has somehow managed to hang on. It looks like a dickie with a hormone imbalance.

In any case, I could have told Mr. Riccobono that there are already plenty of no-tuck shirts on the market, all of them better-looking than his sad gear. The Hawaiian shirt, the camp shirt, and the bowling shirt are all good exemplars, and none of them comes with a button down collar. I wear mine regularly, and I see them worn on the street to good effect by other men. As I say, I have never seen an Untuckit in the wild. I see the ads, I browse the website, I watch revealing interviews of its creator online, but for all I know these garments are strictly a figment of the media.

I do not mean to say that the Untickit shirt is a stupid idea. No, wait a minute. I guess I am saying that. But I have no wish undermine Mr. Riccobono’s push toward fashion immortality. In fact, I applaud his daring and entrepreneurial drive. It’s his taste and godawful business sense that I quarrel with.

And maybe, just maybe, he will somehow succeed after all. Who knows? People might embrace this new getup and grant it a place in our ever-changing fashion firmament. Maybe. If not, I wish him a soft landing in his cataclysmic fall. If he survives, I hope he keeps at it. There’s always room in fashion for new ideas, especially stupid ones.
Fantasy TV
I have a confession to make. I never watched The Apprentice. It’s a shame, really, because someday the show will be taught in history courses. And to think I had a chance to witness first hand a new style of governing as it was being created.

As I understand the nature of the show, it shared many of the same elements that are common to other so-called reality TV programs: backbiting, plotting, rampant personal animus, and the slavish currying of favor with some all-powerful, capricious person who can decide the contestants’ fate at will.

These shows, I am told, are wildly popular, though no one has told me why. There seems to be an unquenchable appetite these days for unpleasantness. I don’t have to actually watch shows with names like Survivor, Big Brother, Fear Factor, or Hell’s Kitchen to know that the participants will be treating each other badly. The entertainment, apparently, is found in the ugliness of the human soul laid bare.

Though we might be tempted to see the internal strife in the current White House as an extension of The Apprentice, I think the show title that best captures its essence is Naked and Afraid. No one seems to be enjoying himself at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, including the all-powerful, capricious person in charge. He, like everyone there, is being stripped naked before our eyes, and they all have good reason to be afraid as the multiple investigations continue to swirl around them. Worse yet for Drump, the promise of absolute power has proven to be illusory. Fear and loathing might make for good ratings, but they don’t seem to be much use in governance. This sort of reality TV, it is clear, is not getting the job done in the world of actual reality.

Which leads me to a question. Does this failure mean that we have to abandon the governing model of reality TV game shows? What if there is another, similar form that might succeed in real reality where fear and loathing do not? Instead of the win-at-all-costs style of American bloodsport TV, how about a show in which the contestants are all nice? And even though they are competing against one another, what if the players wished each other well and were genuinely concerned with each others’ welfare? And so, here is my proposal: why not follow the lead of the English producers who have given us The Great British Baking Show?

Everyone on that show is sweet as can be. Even though it is a reality show, the brand of entertainment it provides has more of an adorably goofy flavor — not the bitter taste of human misery. The tone of this gentile “competition” is set by its host, the ever-chipper Mary Berry. Ms. Berry clearly relishes her role as the “doyenne of baking” — as well as the opportunity to consume large quantities of high-end baked goods (even though, miraculously, she has managed to to remain rail thin into her late 70s). Unlike her merciless American counterparts, she has nothing but kind words and camaraderie to offer her contestants.

The whole enterprise takes place, not in a soulless skyscraper or an impersonal sound studio, but under a large, graceful tent somewhere in the English countryside. I could live happily in a country that existed in a meadow inside a big tent. It would be no more real than Celebrity Apprentice or Naked and Afraid, but at least I would remain fully clothed (which I prefer) and have free access to all the scones, fougasse, and dampfnudel I could eat.

Our Constitution, of course, prohibits Mary Berry from being elected President. Sadly, we will never know what life could be like under her gentle hosting. We can assume, though, that we wouldn’t all be engulfed by dread upon waking each morning. We would more likely awaken wrapped in a light, fluffy nougat or perhaps a puff pastry. Though that might prove to be inconvenient, at least it would be a predicament we could cope with — as long as we limited ourselves to a small salad for dinner that night.
Our Hats, Ourselves
There is no clothing choice more challenging than a hat. If you are at all concerned about the opinions of others, the chance of attracting ridicule with your decision is enormous.

Complicating your choice is the expectation that your hat be an expression of your persona. A hat isn’t just for covering your head, then, it’s a messaging system for that special spark that you offer to the universe. If you choose the wrong message, the repercussions can be dire across a broad range of social categories. No choice of pants, shirts, or even shoes can ever be so consequential. Not only might you end up looking like an idiot, but you could project a brand of idiocy that is inconsistent with your true self.

Of course, these kinds of concerns are yours alone to contend with. I can only guess at what kind of person you really are (though the fact that you are reading this suggests that you are a truly fine human being indeed). I do, however, have some guidelines that can help you avoid the most egregious of chapeau-related faux pas.

First, some hats to avoid:

The green beret. I don’t wish to offend anyone who’s risking his life to save mine, but I am troubled by the way this hat is sometimes worn. Though it’s a critical part of the uniform (if only for its name), not every soldier wears it quite the same. It always tilts to the right side of the head, but in some cases the tilt seems to partly cover the right eye of the wearer. I have no direct experience with mortal combat, but I can’t help wondering whether unrestricted vision might be undesirable in this line of work. It’s okay as long as that drooping right side doesn’t blind you to incoming.

The Charlie Daniels cowboy hat. I know that Mr. Daniels is a respected member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, but he’ll never get into the Hat Hall with that topper. I’m sure the man has a neck, but it’s hard to be sure with that giant umbrella thing appearing to shove his head into his upper thorax.

The backward baseball cap. This one’s okay for young men, because young men are expected to make all kinds of mistakes. If you’re over 35, however (and old enough to be elected President), please don’t wear your cap any way but straight ahead. If you must declare your independence from The Man, use a non-adjustable model. At least you will avoid the humiliation of a sunburn rectangle on your forehead.

The hood. This hybrid of hat and sweater should be used with caution. When it’s down and loose around your neck, it’s really more of a scarf. When drawn over the skull, though, it sends out some pretty dark signals. “I am a moody loner,” it says, “a miscreant who doesn’t care about you or anyone else. Yes, I am capable of violence,” it goes on. “And maybe it would be better if the whole world would just end right now.” On the plus side, this hat will never blow off.

There are many bad hats beyond this list, including the raggedy, rolled-brim, feather-adorned cowboy hat, the goofy, New Age Mad Hatter, the bowler, and almost any period-specifc headgear. Most of them, I am glad to report, can be saved by the simple act of tilting. Setting your hat at an angle can provide a personality — even where none exists. To the left, to the right, it doesn’t matter. All of sudden, you have added flair, whimsy, insouciance, even daring in your persona’s resume — even though you are a total dud.

That is a tribute to the power of hats, and that kind of power should not be taken lightly. It is the most practical of garments, but it is also a fashion statement that speaks louder than any other. Go ahead, keep your head warm, protect it from the sun, cover up a bad haircut. But never forget that a hat is an avatar for your entire personality. And maybe your only personality — so choose carefully.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee