Monday, April 19, 2021

Saying The Quiet Bits Out Loud

One of the Trump traits that has continued after he’s holed up down here in Berchtesgaden del Sur is the tendency of idiots to tell the world what they really think and want to accomplish. From the Washington Post:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Saturday tried to distance herself from a document published by Punchbowl News that purportedly outlined the goals of a new “America First Caucus” being formed by Greene and other hard-right GOP lawmakers. The document had received blowback from Democrats and some Republicans for promoting nativist policies and perpetuating the falsehood that there was widespread fraud and corruption in the 2020 election.

On Saturday, Greene (R-Ga.) described the document as “a staff level draft proposal from an outside group” and claimed she had not read it. She blasted the media for “taking something out of context,” but did not specify to which policies in the document she objected.

Why is she distancing herself from the agenda? She’s been talking about it ever since she arose from the fetid and fevered swamp.

According to the seven-page document, the group says it seeks to advance Trump’s legacy, which means stepping “on some toes” and sacrificing “sacred cows for the good of the American nation.”

In a section on immigration, the document describes the United States as a place with “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and argues that “societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.”

Those of you with any memory of history or even your high school history classes will note that “America First” has been used before. In the late 1930’s when Hitler was on the rise and Europe was being taken over by Fascism, a gang of anti-Semites, racists, and conservative Republicans rallied in Madison Square Garden to hear Charles A. Lindbergh warn us against surrendering to the hordes of immigrants who were going to stream over the borders with the express purpose of defeating Anglo-Saxon values, except then they called them “Aryan.”

In 1939, the leaders of the “America First” movement allied themselves under the covers with Hitler and Mussolini. Today, the alliance is home-grown, reviving golden oldies like Jim Crow and Bull Connor, now coming out of the mouths of people like Greene. It may be eighty-plus years later, but the message is still the same: no one ever went broke by exploiting the greed, fear, and paranoia of the American electorate.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sunday Reading

The Low-Key Carter-Era Pleasure of “The Muppet Show” — Naomi Fry in The New Yorker.

To watch TV these days is to feel that the line separating a clever concept from a dystopian hallucination is growing worryingly thin. On a recent episode of “The Masked Singer”—the Fox reality-competition show in which a panel of judges tries to figure out the identity of a crooning celebrity who is dressed, mascot-style, in a head-to-toe costume—an enormous, spangled snail gave a plodding rendition of Hall & Oates’s “You Make My Dreams.” For me, the performance raised many questions. Why would a snail need to wear a velvet top hat on its shell? What was the deal with the roses gyrating in the background? Would I ever be able to forget the assessment “snailed it!,” uttered by the judge and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger? For the members of the panel, however, only one thing mattered: Who was doing the singing? They threw out some guesses. Seth MacFarlane? Jay Leno? Perhaps, even, Senator Ted Cruz? (This was not as outlandish a possibility as one might think: a couple of seasons ago, a pastel-colored bear had turned out to be the former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.) Finally, to the audience’s rhythmic, strip-club-esque chants of “take it off,” the snail’s hat was removed, and out popped Kermit the Frog, his felted mouth open in a show of glee. The judges gasped, the crowd roared: the masked celebrity was not a man but a Muppet.

Back in the late nineteen-seventies, when Jim Henson’s “The Muppet Show” ran, in syndication, on CBS, Kermit was the mild-mannered leader of his own troupe of performers, a ragtag gang of puppet characters who sang, danced, and told jokes in a quaint old playhouse. Now the frog had found himself in a vulgar reality jumble, his no-frills costume wedged inside one that was far flashier and more grotesque. Whither childhood? Granted, others might not experience this shift so keenly: I realize that I am just about the exact right age to feel an acute nostalgia for the low-key pleasures of the Carter Administration, before the malevolent, seductive gleam of the Reagan years came into view. (“The Muppet Movie,” the franchise’s first theatrical release, with its wistful hit song, “Rainbow Connection,” was my first moviegoing experience, at age three, in the summer of 1979.) But now younger generations will be able to get their own taste of Henson’s brainchild. Earlier this year, “The Muppet Show” began streaming, for the first time ever, on a digital platform; all five seasons are available on Disney+. (The Walt Disney Company purchased the “Muppets” property from the Henson family in 2004.) For all I knew, Kermit’s appearance on “The Masked Singer” was an instance of clever product placement by Disney (which also owns Fox), to remind people that the Muppets exist, and, if this was indeed the case, it made the segment even more chilling. And yet I was willing to forgive. There are some things that can be justified if the trade-off is being able to binge-watch a favorite childhood program.

The format of “The Muppet Show,” which ran from 1976 to 1981, remained constant during the time that the show was on the air. Kermit and his fellow-puppets put on a variety show featuring a different human guest star each week, and which consisted of a loose string of performances—songs, skits, interviews—à la popular shows of the era, such as “Laugh-In,” “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” Unlike Henson’s other hit puppet-based series, “Sesame Street,” which began airing on PBS, in 1969, “The Muppet Show” was meant not only for children but for adults, as well. The show, not educational but, rather, gently satirical and often wildly zany, featured the long-suffering, quietly exasperated Kermit, as our m.c.; Miss Piggy, the volatile, sensuous diva; Fozzie Bear, the sweaty comedian; Gonzo the Great, the excitable fuckup; Scooter, the eager young gopher; Statler and Waldorf, the mean-spirited hecklers; Sam the Eagle, the moralistic prig. There was a hippie throwback house band; and then, of course, the human guests, who included, in the course of the show’s run, genuine superstars of the time, like Elton John, Liza Minnelli, and Diana Ross, as well as more niche luminaries, Liberace and Phyllis Diller among them. Similar to other comedy series that came in its wake—“The Larry Sanders Show,” “30 Rock”—the show poked fun at the minor backstage dramas that beset desperate and self-important show-business types, but it also celebrated these characters’ excitement and their inchoate artistic ambitions.

Today’s family-friendly shows often pick a mode and stick with it: “The Masked Singer” is rowdy; Michelle Obama’s Netflix puppet show, “Waffles + Mochi,” is warmly educational. But “The Muppet Show” was comfortable with a wide range of feelings and tones. The Muppets lived on the spectrum between quiet and loud, serene and clamorous, and the switches from one end to the other were some of the defining marks of the show’s humor. Upon rewatching the episodes on Disney+, I was reminded of the program’s subversive, near-sadistic vaudeville. In a Season 2 episode hosted by the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, a performance of “Swine Lake,” which Nureyev performs with a pig Muppet, escalates into chaos, as Nureyev honks his partner’s nose before tossing her aside like a pile of rags. In another episode, in Season 4, hosted by the folk singer Arlo Guthrie, an initially sedate Muppet square dance devolves into cheerful brutality, with the participants punching and kicking one another. In a Season 3 episode hosted by the actress Marisa Berenson, Kermit is literally pulled off the stage with a hook, and Miss Piggy, after asking Berenson for help tightening her corset, crashes into a dressing-room wall after Berenson lets the laces go. In these scenes, and many like them, there is a dependable comic rhythm of jollity paired with sudden violence, and the inherent docility of the Muppets’ bodies allows viewers to observe this theatre of aggressive impulses from an amused distance.

And yet the show also offers something gentler and more touching, psychological at its core, highlighted by the Muppets’ raggedy vulnerability. One of my favorite characters is Beaker, a test-tube-shaped lab assistant, who is prelingual, and communicates predominantly in high-pitched “mee” sounds. In an episode in Season 4, he timidly performs a rendition of Morris Albert’s “Feelings,” and gets booed off the stage by the audience. As I watched the scene, I suddenly flashed back to viewing it as a child and shedding tears over Beaker’s dejection. And though my sadness didn’t express itself in tears on this rewatch—my heart must have hardened some in the last forty years—it did occur to me that Beaker’s quandary exemplifies a very adult lesson that “The Muppet Show” teaches: sometimes life is painful, and there’s not much one can do about it. But coming to terms with this doesn’t have to be entirely distressing—there is something a little bit funny, too, about Beaker’s shape, about his tuft of orange hair and potato-ish orange nose, about the odd sounds he emits, about his ambitious but misguided attempt to perform a song. In this way, “The Muppet Show” feels like a predecessor to a genre later perfected by Pixar: tragicomic commercial art made for both kids and grownups, in which shabby objects can be comedic implements as well as carriers of heartrending inner lives. On “The Muppet Show,” bits of fabric and glue and yarn, animated into life, become complexly real.

One of the most common emotions experienced by the Muppets is frustration. Beaker has feelings but will never be able to fully communicate them; Fozzie Bear wants to tell jokes but will never be funny; Miss Piggy wants to seduce Kermit and will never fully succeed. (The only happy customers in the house are, perhaps, Statler and Waldorf, since their satisfaction depends on constantly being disappointed.) It is all this frustration that gives “The Muppet Show” its energy; the show goes on, and the fuzzy, shabby, google-eyed, low-tech Muppets keep trudging. In one episode, Fozzie begs Kermit to let him perform a reading of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” After Kermit relents, Fozzie goes onstage and begins reciting, only to be hindered by Gonzo, who has insisted on performing his “tango number” at the same time, alongside a troupe of chickens. As the number wears on, both Muppets continue their spiels stubbornly, each offended by the other’s pushy interruptions, until, in the end, Fozzie begins singing the words of Frost’s poem to the tune of the song. “And miles to go before I sleep, olé!,” both Muppets cry together, to the sound of the audience’s applause. It’s all here: hurt feelings, foiled ambitions, near-violent skirmishes, but, also, a show-must-go-on mentality, and joy. To look at the Muppets is to look at life itself.

Doonesbury — The Carrier Chronicles.

Saturday, April 17, 2021


No matter how you feel about royalty or monarchies, you cannot help but feel sorrow for her loss.  They were married for over 73 years.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Happy Friday

Charlie Pierce on empathy.

One of my good high school friends buried both my parents. His father buried three of my four grandparents and his grandfather buried mine. They are the third and fourth generations of their family burying other members of other families. (The Irish way of death is nothing if not a family business at both ends.) A good undertaker is someone who can be there without getting in the way. The undertaker is omnipresent and yet nearly invisible, never present until needed. Then, their presence is nearly spectral. Their only job is to make sure things run in as efficient a manner as possible, and to do so with quiet humanity, so the family can go through the formal ritual of mourning without being swamped with extraneous details.

I was thinking on Tuesday that the president would be a terrific undertaker. First of all, he’s been proven to be very good at wakes and funerals. Second, he looks the part; I can envision him in the long black cashmere coat, wrangling cars into line for the drive to the cemetery. And last, and most important, he has a deep and abiding empathy. He carries his personal tragedies with great dignity, and employs them only when it is absolutely called for. On Tuesday, as they conducted a memorial service for Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans in the Rotunda, he deployed it in the gentlest way possible.

One of Evans’s daughters was fidgety, playing with a small replica of the Capitol dome. Fidgety kids are one of those extraneous details that great undertakers discreetly handle for The Family. The little girl dropped the toy on the floor. It bounced a little ways away from where she was sitting. The president instantly popped out of his chair, picked up the child’s toy, and handed it back to her, stopping to talk to her, too,

To compare this moment of humble humanity to anything having to do with the president’s predecessor is to cheapen it unforgivably. These are different species of homo sapiens, as different from each other as swans are from vultures. Kindness towards a child would seem to be a baseline indicator of civility and grace but, nonetheless, there it was, in front of god and the world. That it seemed so powerful is not just because of what it was, but because of all that it was not.

Friday Catblogging: “Can Sombra come out and play?”

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Explain This For Me

From the Washington Post:

The Senate overwhelmingly voted to limit debate on a bill aimed at understanding and combating the harassment and violence directed at Asian Americans since the beginning of the pandemic, with only six Republicans voting against it.

The bill directs the Justice Department to expedite a review of the uptick in hate crimes in the Asian American community, believed to be stoked by President Donald Trump and other Republicans who insisted on calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” or other such stigmatizing terms.

The 92-to-6 vote came after some uncertainty earlier in the week about whether Republicans would support the narrowly focused legislation. The Republican senators who opposed it were Tom Cotton (Ark.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Roger Marshall (Kan.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.).

Can anyone explain to me why these six senators voted against the bill? (Sorry, but being racist Trump-suckers does not count.)

My guess is that each will say it had nothing whatsoever to do with race, color, creed, or anything like that but it was some mealy-mouthed excuse that laws shouldn’t be written to focus on just one segment of our society… which is the same reason they come up with for voting against the Violence Against Women Act, and back in the day, the Matthew Shepherd Act because — honest to Dog — they say that all people are equal under the law.  They really believe that pointing out that Asians or women or LGBTQ people is “political posturing.”

We all know that’s a load of crap.  But then, I would expect nothing less from these sorry excuses for representatives.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

An End At Last

From the Washington Post:

President Biden will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan over the coming months, U.S. officials said, completing the military exit by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that drew the United States into its longest war.

The decision, which Biden is expected to announce Wednesday, will keep thousands of U.S. forces in the country beyond the May 1 exit deadline that the Trump administration negotiated last year with the Taliban, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters Tuesday under rules of anonymity set by the White House.

While the Taliban has promised to renew attacks on U.S. and NATO personnel if foreign troops are not out by the deadline — and said in a statement it would not continue to participate in “any conference” about Afghanistan’s future until all “foreign forces” have departed — it is not clear whether the militants will follow through with the earlier threats given Biden’s plan for a phased withdrawal between now and September. The Taliban has conducted sputtering talks with the Afghan government, begun under the Trump deal, since last fall. It was also invited to an additional high-level inter-Afghan discussion in Turkey later this month.

Officially, there are 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, although the number fluctuates and is currently about 1,000 more than that. There are also up to an additional 7,000 foreign forces in the coalition there, the majority of them NATO troops.

America has the unfortunate and tragic pattern of sticking with a policy regardless of its fruitless outcome and cost. Cases in point: the war in Vietnam, which cost over 58,000 American lives and millions of casualties and deaths in Vietnam itself, and the embargo against Cuba. In both, hardliners told us that if we just stuck to our guns, both literally and figuratively, victory was in sight and we would be vindicated. Vietnam today is the way Ho Chi Minh envisioned it nearly 70 years ago, and Cuba is still under the thrall of the Castro-led revolution.

There are soldiers stationed in Afghanistan who were not born when the war began. And while the war was our response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Taliban is still in control of much of the country. The mastermind of the attacks has been dead for nearly ten years. We should admit that we have done all we can, leave the country to work out its own problems, and go home.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Springtime In Berchtesgaden

Charlie Pierce:

Well, this is just impossibly adorable. From CNBC:

The leading Republican Senate fundraising group handed former President Donald J. Trump its inaugural “Champion for Freedom Award”… Chairman Sen. Rick Scott of Florida handed the small silver award to Trump — who was dressed as if he just walked off the golf course — on Friday at the ex-president’s club in Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

A participation trophy! How lovely. Did they take him and the other kids on the team to Burger King after the ceremony? Forgive my cynical soul if I wonder if there is going to be a second Champion For Freedom award next year.

The former president*, of course, responded completely in character.

A day after getting his award, Trump reportedly lashed out at McConnell as the former president was speaking to a group of Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago. Trump claimed that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would have overturned the election results if a Democratic candidate stood to gain. “If that were Schumer instead of this dumb son of a b— Mitch McConnell, they would never allow it to happen,” Trump told the crowd at the event, which was held by the Republican National Committee. “They would have fought it.” A source told NBC News that Trump griped that “a real leader” never would have accepted the Electoral College results showing he lost.

Trump also went after McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who resigned as Trump’s Transportation secretary a day after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, where supporters of the then-president rampaged through the halls of Congress, disrupting proceedings that were confirming Biden’s victory.

“I hired his wife,” Trump griped. “Did he ever say thank you?”

“She suffered so greatly,” Trump said sarcastically.

They don’t know what to do with him. I can’t recall from history a figure who simultaneously is both so widely loathed, widely feared, and widely influential as El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago is at this moment. The odd thing is that his influence is largely made up of the reputation of influence. Until it’s demonstrated in elections all over the country, it consists mainly of what people say it is. Which is why they went out of their way to stroke the ingrate’s enormous ego with a little silver tchotchke that he can hang on the wall in his fake Oval Office between his Time Person of the Year cover, and his Michigan Man of the Year plaque.

I like to think that the Republicans who flock to Palm Beach are doing it for their own selfish reasons — an election endorsement to fend off a ravening primary challenge in the manner of Marjorie Taylor Green — mixed with the same kind of nodding reassurance that those of us who have lived with people in the fog of dementia are told to do: be nice, be tolerant, don’t contradict, and let them talk. If they actually believe that the former guy really did win the election and that there was massive voter fraud on a galactic scale, then the rest of the country is going to deal with them, but not like we’d listen to Uncle Fluffy tell us once again how he beat the krauts in the Battle of the Bulge.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Corporations Are Voters, Too

From the Washington Post:

More than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders gathered online Saturday to discuss taking new action to combat the controversial state voting bills being considered across the country, including the one recently signed into law in Georgia.

Executives from major airlines, retailers and manufacturers — plus at least one NFL owner — talked about potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures, according to four people who were on the call, including one of the organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor.

While no final steps were agreed upon, the meeting represents an aggressive dialing up of corporate America’s stand against controversial voting measures nationwide, a sign that their opposition to the laws didn’t end with the fight against the Georgia legislation passed in March.

Marches to the capitol building get attention from cable news, but ignored inside the building itself. But when corporations start talking about withholding donations to candidates and campaigns, ears perk up.

Republicans will carry on about “cancel culture,” and Mitch McConnell can tell the companies to “stay out of politics” (as long as the checks he gets from them clear, that is), but they’re counting on the short-term memory of the voters and their blatant hypocrisy about boycotts.

It also came just days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned that firms should “stay out of politics” — echoing a view shared by many conservative politicians and setting up the potential for additional conflict between Republican leaders and the heads of some of America’s largest firms. This month, former president Donald Trump called for conservatives to boycott Coca-Cola, Major League Baseball, Delta Air Lines, Citigroup, ViacomCBS, UPS and other companies after they opposed the law in Georgia that critics say will make it more difficult for poorer voters and voters of color to cast ballots. Baseball officials decided to move the All-Star Game this summer from Georgia to Colorado because of the voting bill.

The bottom line is that it’s the bottom line on both sides. Republicans rely on big-money donors to keep them in the lifestyle (if not the job) they’ve grown accustomed to, but corporations such as Coca-Cola and CBS know that their customers can be persuaded to buy Pepsi and watch ABC if they don’t stand up for basic civil rights.

On This Date

Forty-four years ago tonight at the Rarig Center at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, my first play was produced. Directed very well by the late Stephen G. Hults, it was my masters thesis. I consider it like the first pancake: used to test the griddle then tossed. It is the only play of mine that will never be on New Play Exchange.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sunday Reading

The Passing of Prince Philip — Rebecca Mead in The New Yorker.

The last new thing that the public learned about Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday morning, at the age of ninety-nine, was his observance, or lack thereof, of Zoom etiquette. This was revealed by his grandson Prince Harry, in a televised interview with James Corden, in late February. “My grandfather, instead of, like, pressing ‘Leave Meeting,’ he just goes doof,” Prince Harry said, miming the swift shutting of a laptop. The anecdote was charming, demonstrating Harry’s fondness for his elderly relative, and also suggesting that the Duke, like so many of us, was impatient with the constraints of technology. But it also offered the opportunity for viewers to wonder about the scene at Windsor Castle after the Duke had smartly closed the laptop lid. What observations did Prince Philip—who was never known for mincing words—make to the Queen, or even to a conveniently stationed equerry, about the choices of his grandson, or about the varied fates of his other descendants, a total of four children, eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren? What must Prince Philip, who lived in the public eye for more than seven decades, have thought when he reflected upon the accomplishments and the travails of the family and institution of which he was long the patriarch, if not ever the head?

Prince Philip was royal twice over before he even married the then Princess Elizabeth, in 1947. Born on Corfu, in 1921, he was a prince of the Greek royal family—which was soon to be deposed and then later restored, but eventually abolished—and of the Danish royal family, which endures, if with considerably less pomp than attends the British monarchy. Before his marriage, he had served as a commander in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Though he knew that his bride would eventually become the monarch, the prospect must have seemed at some distance, given that his father-in-law, George VI, was just in his early fifties. In the event, Elizabeth acceded to the throne in 1952, rendering Philip the world’s most prominent plus-one. Over the decades, much has been made of the sublimation of ego and masculine pride required of him, being not just the husband of the Queen but also her subject. (“I’m just a bloody amoeba,” he once grumbled, of his offspring taking his wife’s family name, Windsor, rather than his own adopted surname, Mountbatten.) One of the ways in which he might justly be honored, in the forthcoming commemorations of his life, is as a husband who, publicly, at least, was for the most part gracious in his acknowledgment of his spouse’s priority.

A recent poll of the British public placed Prince Philip fifth in popularity among members of the Royal Family: lagging behind the Queen, now ninety-four —whose status as most cherished is unassailable—and also behind Princes Harry and William, and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. It is hardly a surprise that Philip, who was allergic to ingratiation of all sorts, should be less popular than the charismatic fauna of royals in their thirties. That he outstripped Prince Charles, the future King (No. 7), Princess Anne (No. 8), and Princes Edward and Andrew (Nos. Nothing) is not necessarily cause for constitutional alarm, but it does suggest that, with the death of Prince Philip, the British crown loses some of its lustre. He commanded public respect not just because of his advanced years but because, despite being supplied, like all the royals, with a life of remarkable luxury, he took seriously the self-abnegation that being a member of the most privileged family in the nation demands. Among his progeny, the example he set has been only sometimes followed—and, although one can hardly blame subsequent generations of royals for finding surprisingly thankless the roles into which they have been born or have married, Philip seems to have borne his submission to a life of service more thoroughly than almost any of his heirs.

He did not retire from public life until 2017, at the age of ninety-six, after which point he spent most of his time living in comparatively simple fashion at Wood Farm, a cottage on the Sandringham estate, in Norfolk—where, according to Charles Moore, in the Telegraph, he decreed that “the walls should be white and the ceiling the same color as the carpet.” While there, he continued to drive a coach and horses for recreation. He did not surrender his driver’s license until he was ninety-seven, when, while behind the wheel of a Land Rover, he crashed into another vehicle, inflicting thankfully non-life-threatening injuries on the driver and passenger of the other car. It may have been Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own irrepressible impulse toward recklessness that informed his choice of metaphor in paying tribute to the Duke as an “expert carriage driver,” who “helped steer the Royal Family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

In a nation currently as unbalanced and as unhappy as the United Kingdom—where the wearying restrictions of social distancing, quarantine, and closure have, in recent months, offered little to hope for, and where the effects of Brexit, from sluggish exports to rioting in Belfast, might have been better anticipated by those who have ushered them in—the death of a ninety-nine-year-old man after a life lived well does not come exactly as tragic news. If one thinks, though, of the Queen not as a sovereign but as a spouse deprived of her life’s companion, it’s easy enough to summon sympathy. Even a public loss is, like every loss that has happened in the past year, particular to those going through it. Private grief can only be imagined, like whatever transpires in the empty air after the decisive closing of a laptop lid. (Doof.) Even before the coronavirus required the imposition of severe restrictions on the observations of funerals—restrictions from which the monarchy is not exempt—Prince Philip had made his own preferences clear. He is not to be given a state funeral of the sort that will occur at the Queen’s inevitable demise. Instead, he will be buried at St. George’s Chapel, on the Windsor estate, in about a week’s time, with a service expected to be attended by no more than thirty mourners.

Doonesbury — “An old man, broken with the storms of state.”