Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Rating the Trump books

I haven't read the estimated 4,500 Trump books which is the amount the Guardian estimates has been published since he took office in 2017, but I have read a few which I rank for you below.

My choices are based on new information, style, interest, content, documentation, readability.

If you only have time to read one, the best, most interesting, the one which is most captivating, whose author still commands a daily audience (if you follow him on Twitter) is:

1.  Michael Cohen's Disloyal: A Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump. It's short and fast. In retrospect (I read it last year), I can't believe it's 432 pages for it seems like half that, which gives you an idea of the speed per page.

2.  John Bolton's The Room Where It Happened:  A White House Memoir, filled with lots of anecdotes and behind-the-scenes glimpses of what went on when Mr. Bolton spent 17 months in the Wild House. Lots of unexpected humor by means of the author's snarky comments. 592 pages.

3.  Mary Trump's Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man.  She, of course, is his niece and a clinical psychologist.  Very quick. Short and not so sweet. 240 pages.

4.  Bob Woodward's Rage. A little dry in places, but, if you get this far, worth a read. 480 pages.

4.  (A Tie with Woodward's) Peter Strzok's Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. TrumpI listened to this book by a former FBI assistant director.  Why the author doesn't sue Trump for defamation is beyond me. Perhaps Trump's office at the time protects him who can say whatever he wanted since that's what his content is. 387 pages.

I read about half of Brian Stelter's Hoax:  Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth until I finally realized (dumb me!  Read the sub-title!) it really was about Fox and who cares about Fox? Mr. Stelter is the host of CNN's Reliable Sources which airs every Sunday at 11 a.m. and which I try not to miss. 448 pages.

If you have recommendations and/or comments, please write up!  Thank you.

I be done with Trump and his books (I hope!).

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

John Bolton's hilarious 'Room' of their own

You just thought Trump's White House was chaotic. Readers, not only was it chaotic, but John Bolton is here to tell you it was lots more than that!

I may not agree with the author's politics, but I can sure laugh at his anecdotes from his short (17 months) tenure in the Wild House. 
It's nothing short of rockhouse madness.

Bolton must have carried a secret microphone/recorder inside his breast pocket for his recollections of so many fine details of the day-to-day chaos in Trumpland, described in The Room Where It Happened.

I detected no conceit, no self-applause, no boastings in his memoir. When Trump complimented Bolton's "'troika of tyranny'" speech, Bolton reminded him that one of the president's own speechwriters had written it (p. 249). 

Bolton's snide comments ricochet throughout the book; some of the highlights:

He writes more than once:  "You couldn't make this up" referring to the daily frenzy engulfing the administration (258). 

His background on Venezuela and the Middle East makes all those WAPO editorials easier to understand. 

"God only knew who he [Trump] was talking to or whether he had just gotten a case of the vapors* because things were still uncertain." 

After an attack in the Gulf of Oman, Trump believed "that if you pretended bad things hadn't happened, perhaps no one else would notice" (392).

("I found these weekly trade meetings so chaotic I largely left them for {Charles} Kupperman to attend, which punishment he didn't deserve, but life is hard" (460).)  Kupperman was the deputy national security advisor. 

At the G20 trade summit in Buenos Aires, no one knew "from one minute to the next" what Trump would say. He envied Xi Jinping's lifelong term as Chinese ruler and told Xi, "that people" in the U.S. were clamoring for an end to the president's two-term limit. 

Writes Bolton: "I was aware of no such chatter" (297).

Bolton didn't like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin too much. 

At the G20, Bolton writes Mnuchin spent the day "beavering" with China's #3 man, Liu He (296).  After all, Mnuchin was a "panda hugger"(290).

Munchin got all excited at China's agreement to purchase more soybeans "just as if we were a Third World commodity supplier to the Middle Kingdom" (297).

During the Venezuelan revolution, Mnuchin worried about the banking sector and the risk to credit card companies. Bolton reminded him that the thousands protesting in the streets, "the poorest people" did not have, nor were they "thinking about Visa and Mastercard!" (269). 

Bolton was only too happy to announce to principals that he thought "Treasury was not entitled to its own foreign policy" like Mnuchin desired (273). 

Mnuchin spent so much time in the White House, on presidential trips and in California ("who for some reason was in California again" (258)*) that they "'hardly recognize him in his building,' said [John] Kelly disdainfully" (241).

Mnuchnin, was "basically a Democrat" who maintained "his campaign for doing nothing" (252).

Bolton was not a big fan of Defense Secretary James Mattis either whom he continually portrays as a cry baby. 

If "his view didn't prevail, which was standard operating procedure for him: stress that timing was urgent, which is what Mattis said when it suited him, and predict doom and gloom if he didn't get his way" (176).  "Mattis obstructionism at work" (190) ....Trump never liked him either: "a Democrat." 

Preparing for the meeting with Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Bolton worried about the "daily explosions everyone became inured to in the Trump White House."

Bolton says another Trump-Kim Jong Um summit looked "depressingly inescapable" for Trump was hot-to-trot and get a deal done with Kim. It was not to be.

With his good buddy, Shinzo Abe of Japan, Trump lamented the fact that Abe's father was unsuccessful as a World War II kamikaze pilot, forgetting that, had his father achieved his goal, there would have been no good buddy Abe, born after the war. "Mere historical details." says Bolton (345).

Remember the columnist, Charles Krauthammer (1950 - 2018)? Not a Trump fan. He told Bolton he'd been wrong to characterize Trump as an 11-year-old: "'I was off by ten years'" (8).

While leaving the White House after his job interview, Bolton writes he felt like he was in a college dorm, with people going in and out doors. Wasn't there a crisis underway to try and repeal Obamacare? Bolton didn't recognize the place (18).

At the Trumps' first state ceremony with French President Emmanuel and Mrs. Macron: "Sadly for the press, nothing went wrong" (68). 

"Later, the black-tie state dinner was very nice, if you like eating until 10:30" p.m. With the John Kellys, the Boltons skipped the after-dinner entertainment and went home (70).

At Trump's Turnberry* Scottish golf resort, Greenpeace* breached security by flying an "ungainly contraption," akin to a "a bicycle with wings" hauling a flowing banner which said Trump was "below par." The Secret Service hustled Trump and later, Bolton and Kelly, inside before anyone could look at it too long, although Bolton wanted to prolong his viewing.

On a visit to London and Scotland, Trump called the US and UK relationship, "'the highest level of special,'" which Bolton called "a new category."

Trump repeatedly instructed his staff to avoid criticizing Russia too much publicly (179).

In a "discussion" with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump told the Turkish leader that Christians were "going crazy" about Turkey's incarceration of American pastor, Andrew Brunson, and Erdogan responded that Moslems in Turkey were "going crazy" and Trump interrupted him to say "they were going crazy all over the world."  

Writes Bolton: "If possible, the conversation went downhill thereafter" (184-185).

Don't forget Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN. Not only were the Turks unable to understand what she was trying to negotiate, neither could the Trump team (186).

The "Haley Problem" included her belief that the US ambassador to the UN was the Secretary of State. 

From everything Bolton heard "including directly from Trump, she and Tillerson [Rex Tillerson, secretary of state] cordially detested one another (well, maybe not cordially)." She wanted to visit India and visit the Dalai Lama:  "The purpose of this trip was unclear, other than getting a photo op with the Dalai Lama, always good for an aspiring pol" (238).

When Bolton was at the Justice Department, "we called the Southern District [of New York] the 'Sovereign District of New York' because it so often resisted control by 'Main Justice,' let alone the White House" (185-186).   

Discussion about the Korean War and its aftermath involved a continual re-education of the president as Bolton tried to enlighten him about that history.  

Why "were we still there?" Trump complained. "Every few days, someone would inadvertently press a button somewhere, and Trump would be repeating his lines from the same movie soundtrack" (210).

It's easy to understand why Trump did everything he could to stop, to stall, to change the content of this book (491). Like so many tomes, it reveals him to be the Emperor of No Content. 

* Although there are several references to Mnuchin and his trips to California, California is omitted from the otherwise good index, as are other words (vapors, Greenpeace, etc.). 

Coming up: I rate the Trump books!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Alexandria's wild ride on a 'Ripcord'


Janice Zucker, left, is Abby and Marsha Rehns  is Marilyn in Ripcord  now on stage at Little Theatre of Alexandria/Photo by Matthew Randall

I loved this show.  It's solid entertainment: You cry, you laugh, listen and wonder:  Is that me?

It was much more than expected: delightful, charming, funny, and with a message or two.

What's a ripcord for anyway?

Janice Zucker is Abby and Matt Baughman is the "masked man" in Ripcord now on stage at Little Theatre of Alexandria/Photo by Matthew Randall

Before the show started, the Little Theatre of Alexandria treated the audience to "air" music which made me happy, hearing John Denver singing Leaving on a Jet Plane and Frank Sinatra, Come Fly with Me .  

The whimsical music between scenes perfectly fit the content.

It's a production which grows on you, building  while the dialogue develops, rather like a skydiver whose speed and momentum climb while falling.  What appears at the beginning to be a slow, easy-going  play ends up much more than what this  theatergoer expected, and it's unpredictable!  One of the best features.  

Two little old ladies are roommates at a "senior living facility"; one, "Abby" (Janice Zucker), meaner than a rattlesnake you might surprise on the desert, and the other, "Marilyn" (Marsha Rehns), as sweet as strawberry pie which matches the colors she wears.  (Costumers Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley realistically dress the two in colors to match their personalities, with one later experiencing a color  transformation.)

It doesn't take long for this duo of mismatched to engage in banner and wits to see who can win a bet:  To make one roommate angry, and the other, afraid. 

 Shall we say, they go to extremes to win the bet? 

The acting is whiz-bang.  If you think this will be as motionless as life in the slow lane  (like that boring film of old people portrayed in this year's Mole Agent ), you ain't seen nuthin' yet!  

Daughter "Colleen" (Kathy Ohlhaber has dual roles) is shrieking dynamic, accompanied by two  (Adam Ressa and  Matt Baughman, both in multiple roles) who help her with "tricks." Let's fly away and have fun while we're doing it!

Rounding out the cast is "Scotty" (Cameron McBride), the nurse who leads the roommates on life at their "home."

Although the program calls him a "masked man," Mr. Baughman appeared to me to be a man wearing a rabbit's head, and just thinking about this scene, even before a word was spoken from the stage, made me laugh out loud. 

Other scenes are right out funny, too.  A hanging got my goat, but good.  The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire must have had some experience with nursing homes. 

The bedroom's set is realistic (by Jim Hutzler and

Jocelyn Steiner), efficiently covered several times by a dropdown sheet of excellent artistry  to convey a new scene, like a bench at a park, a skyride, or parachuting from an airplane. 

Simple enough, yes?

Abby receives a "ripcord" for life.  While I watched, I thought:  "Oh, please, Lord, don't let it be me! There but for the grace of God go I" for I know two little old ladies who are almost the same and could use a "ripcord" prescription and maybe, more than one.  (They probably think I could stand one, too!) 

Applause to the sound and projection designer (Jon Roberts assisted by Brook Easterly) who handles multiple tasks, adding much enjoyment to the show. 

I must agree with Director Jessie Roberts who writes in program notes that playwright Lindsay-Abaire is underappreciated.  I can't wait to see his Rabbit Hole

Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a wild, hilarious ride in Alexandria.

Family matters.

Other production team members for the show are Lynn O'Connell and Alan Wray, producers; Robert Kraus, assistant producer; Brittany  Huffman and Donna Reynolds, stage managers; Stacey Becker, set painter;Jeff Auerbach and Kimberly Crago, lighting designers; Kadira Coley, hair and makeup; Jamie Blake and Julie Naughton, wardrobe

Thank you, LTA, for the printed program!

What:  Ripcord  by David Lindsay-Abaire

When: Now through June 26, 2021, Wednesday through Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.

Where: Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Tickets: $24 + $$3.09 handling fee.  Wednesday and Thursday performances are discounted $3 with code WEDTHUR.

Duration: About 2 hours with one 10-minute pause stretch.

Adult language:  Yes

Masks: Required.  No exceptions.

Public transportation: Check the Metro and Dash bus websites.

Parking: On the streets and in many garages nearby with free parking during performances at Capital One Bank at Wilkes and Washington streets.

For more information: Box Office: 703-683-0496; Business: 703-683-5778.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

GALA's 'Tango' is out-of-this-world

Rosalía Gasso and Alejandro Barrientos/Their photo

There's no need for dance lovers to travel to Tokyo this summer since GALA Hispanic Theatre brings the Olympics of dance to Washington with astonishing  performances by professional tangoists, musicians and the costumer, Jeanette Christensen. 

Who needs a script when music, dazzling dance, and dress carry you to fantasyland? Like the swirling dancers, the music and costumes combine in Ella es tango to present an electrifying tango show.
Marcos Pereira and Florencia Borgnia/ Photo, Daniel Martinez

GALA's founding producing artistic director, Hugo Medrano, has written an original musical revue (that he directs) about some of last century's female composers/vocalists/tangoists who competed in the male-dominated world to make themselves seen and heard so they could advance in their chosen profession, even disguising themselves as men (not the first - nor the last - time this has been attempted).

Mariana Quinteros and Patricia Torres are the duo of  top vocalists in the show whose best melodies are their duets. 
Marcos Pereira and Florencia Borgnia/Photo, Daniel Martinez

The featured ladies are portrayed by GALA company members, Lorena Sabogal as Libertad Lamarque (1908-2000), Krystal Pou as Camila Quiroga (a fictional character); Patricia Suarez is Tita Merello (1904-2002), Cecilia Esquivel is Azucena Maizani (1902-1970), and the brief biography of another tango artist, Mercedes Simon (1904-1990), is included. 

In song and dance they tell us their sad stories to present what we came to see and to hear.
Rosalía Gasso and Alejandro Barrientos/Photo, Daniel Martinez

The dancing is what brought us to the spectacle and it, combined with music by members of the Pan American Symphony Orchestra, perform in tandem with the script to captivate the magic and allure of the night to star. 

World acclaimed choreographers and teachers, Alejandro and Rosalía Barrientos are the dancers accompanied at times by Marcos Pereira and Florencia Borgnia, world tango championship finalists, who have many of their own solos.

Swirling tails, dresses, legs, and arms flash by, leaving astonished theatregoers in their wake, happy to witness magnificence.

The numerous shimmering, glittering costumes alone make the price of admission well worth the cost, and it's not just the females who come dressed to kill: The men's costumes are equally as outstanding in their glimmering jackets and ballroom tuxedo whites.

Musical direction and orchestration are by Sergio Busjle of the PASO; conducting is Argentine composer Ariel Pirotti; choreography is by the Barrientoses; and texts are by Argentine playwright, Patricia Suárez Cohen. 

Claudio Gustavo Aprile, the assistant director, appears in various male roles.

Other creative team members are Clifton Chadick and Exquista Agonía, scenic design;  Christopher Annas-Lee, lighting; Dylan Uremovich, projections; Nicolas Onischuk, additional media; David Crandall, sound; P. Vanessa Losada, stage manager; and Tony Koehler, production manager.

Ella es tango is presented in Spanish with English subtitles. 

WhatElla es tango (She is tango)

Masks:  Required.  Temperatures taken at the entrance.

When: Now through June 20, 2021, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. with open milonga dancing after the show on Wednesday, June 16.

Where: Gala Theatre, 3333 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010.

 $45; $30 for seniors (65+), military, and students; $30, group sales (10 or more). To purchase, call 
(202) 234-7174 or visit

Handicapped accessible

Duration: About two hours with one intermission

Metro stations: Columbia Heights or McPherson Square and take a bus or the Circulator from McPherson Square up 14th, or walk two miles and save money and expend calories! Lots of places to eat along the way.

Parking: Discounted at the Giant around the corner and additional parking at Target, both on Park Road, NW.

For more information: Call (202) 234-7174 and/or email

The production was made possible with support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.