Trump Pranks America with “Perfect” Sarcasm

I can just picture President Trump describing the recent Iowa primary: “It was a perfect caucus.”

See, it turns out that when he was describing his infamous Ukraine call with President Zelensky, he was really using the term ‘perfect’ in a sarcastic way…but until now, no one (except me) picked up on the joke!

As we now know, Trump was simply making a clever cinematic reference to the 2000 movie, The Perfect Storm, where raging weather fronts unexpectedly collide to produce the greatest, fiercest storm in modern history. It was a “perfect storm.”

Donald: You canny sardonic rascal, you!

Now that we have a new term to describe a total screw-up, perhaps this will catch on for things like, “It was a perfect date” (the guy showed up late and yammered for an hour about his car); or “It was a perfect job interview” (the prospect was dressed in jammies for a trip to the mailbox and forgot to turn off their cell phone).

Presidential Ode to a Dishwasher

Last December, we recognized Donald Trump’s poetic sensibilities by putting his “toilet ode” into poetic form. (See “Under Pressure”). And now, rallying from Milwaukee, our Chief Poet and Frequent Dishwasher User (CPFDU) has regaled us with another versification of national importance.

I’m talkin’ about dishwashers.

Remember the dishwasher,

you'd press it.

Boom —

there'd be like an explosion.

Five minutes later,

you open it up,

steam pours out.

Now you press it

twelve times.

The women tell me, again.

 “Sir, they give you like four drops of water."

[toiler flushing motion]

Ten times right,

Ten times. Bah bah.

Not me, of course.

Not me.

But you.


From Milwaukee rally, 14 January, 2020.
see also “Trump Vs. Toilets (And Showers, Dishwashers And Lightbulbs)”/NPR story/December 27, 2019

In the meantime, I acquired this apropos button at the Women’s March on 20 January, courtesy of a vendor who gave me the bargain price of “free.” Thanks Derrick.

Wine Price Scamology

My general philosophy of wine-buying is to pick the wines with the cleverest names as long as they’re relatively drinkable. (And by “drinkable” I mean red wines that come in a bottle of some kind.) Now, I’ve been to countless legitimate wine tastings where my fellow imbibers are talking about “plum notes,” “hints of wet oak,” “approachable,” and “fruit forward.”¹ I usually just say “Mmm…nutty but not too squirrelly!” or “I like the nasty way it insinuates itself into my palate without a lot of fanfare, like so many of those hundred-dollar vintages.”

But over the past months, I’ve become increasingly annoyed at the price finagling going on at nearly every outlet, including Safeway, Fry’s, BevMo!, Total Wine and probably others. It’s basic scamology.²

Here are three examples from Safeway. The first is a nice (and by “nice” I mean “out of my personal price range”) Decoy pinot noir:

There’s not one, not two–but three prices on nearly every bottle. (And often as many as four prices.) Holy Buzzkill Batwiner!

Next, I love the name “Headsnapper”…but, like the pinot above, it takes a minute to navigate to the price you actually might be paying.Now, don’t hate me, but I often pick up the Australian Yellow Tail shiraz (G’day mate) because it helps me get my 6-pack price and it’s reasonably drinkable (and by “drinkable” I mean it’s red and comes in a bottle)

So, there’s the retail price (that no one’s really expected to pay), the “club card” price (with your customer loyalty card), the 6-pack price and often, a “buy two/three of the same” price.

Let’s go over to Fry’s for a bit. I have to admit it actually took me a minute and a consultation with the wine agent (at what my friends call one of the “Fancy Fry’s”) to figure out the actual price.

BevMo! is only slightly better. They have: (1) the retail price, (2) the club card price and (3) a number of bottles listed as “Buy One Get the 2nd for 5⊄” — essentially a BOGO.

Example: Famiglia Bianchi Malbec costs $19.99 directly from the distributor; as part of BevMo’s 5-cent wine sale, it’s $22.95 for one bottle or $23 for 2, for an average savings of about $8.50 per bottle. As SFGATE points out, many of the wines appear to be priced up a few dollars from what they’d cost for a single bottle elsewhere, but that’s more than offset by the 2-for-1 structure of the sale. Overall, however, I’ve found BevMo! prices to be a bit higher than the grocery stores for the same bottles.


Here we get the retail price and the “Mix 6 Price”…but only if the retail price ends in “9”.


My problem: I don’t buy two of the same bottles of any wine, for various reasons. I’m happy to pick up 6 bottles of different kinds since they fit nicely in my wine bag and allows me to stock my wine chiller.

So…wine merchants: take a tip from Joe (Trader, that is) and just give us a single dang price so that we don’t have to pull out our cell phone calculators. Our wine chillers will thank you.

¹ Actual descriptions (like this one)

(click to enlarge)

² “Scamology” – a word I just invented

Under-Pressure (a presidential poem)

we have a situation

looking very strongly
…at sinks
…and showers
elements of bathrooms—
you turn the faucet on
where there’s tremendous amounts
…of water,
where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it,
and you don’t get any water!
They take a shower and water comes dripping out
dripping out
very quietly
dripping out.

People are flushing toilets 10 times,
15 times
as opposed to once.
They end up using more

Oh, you don’t get water.

Can’t wash your hands
so little water (so little)
comes out of the faucet,
end result:
you leave the faucet on
takes you much longer
to wash your hands;
you end up using the same amount of water
you turn on the faucet
you don't get any water.

There may be some areas where we’ll go
the other route,
desert areas, but…
many states where they have so much water that comes down,
it’s called rain,

they don’t know what to do with it.
Words by Donald J. Trump
6 December, 2019
Poetic formatting by J Veihdeffer

The poetic text above includes the actual words of DJT at a small-business roundtable at the White House, Friday, 6 Dec. 2019. I added some punctuation and two words (in parentheses) and deleted some others to enhance the poetic ambience.

Here is the full text from The Guardian video:
“We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms, where you turn the faucet on in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping [slight pause] out; it’s dripping out; very quietly dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So EPA is looking at that very strongly at my suggestion. You go into a new building or new house or new home and they have standards.Oh, you don’t get water. You can’t wash your hands practically, there’s so little water that comes out of the faucet and the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes you much longer to wash your hands. You end up using the same amount of water so we’re looking at very seriously at opening up the standard. And there may be some areas where we’ll go the other route, desert areas, but for the most part, you have many states where they have so much water that it comes down, it’s called rain. [laughter] And they don’t know what to do with it. So we’re going to be opening up that, I believe, and we’re looking at changing the standards very soon.”



Ask the Witch-Answer Guy: #8

A concerned public servant who desires to remain anonymous told us about a conversation he recently had. Here’s his story.

Concerned public servant: One of my people, a loyal advisor, came up to me the other day and said:

Advisor: Sir, what do you think about these hearings going on this week in Congress?

Public Servant: What hearings?

Advisor: Sir, the impeachment hearings, of course.

Public Servant: Ohh…those. Fiddle-dee-dee, doesn’t sound like anything going on that would be of much interest. Now, if you had something like those witch trials in the 17th century (wait, were the 1600’s considered 17th or 16th? I always get em confusinated), that would be worth watching. But this? <snort> Snooze-fest!

Advisor: But sire…er, sir, these are just like that! Witch trials!

Public Servant: Whah?

Advisor: Yes. Sir, it’s a full-to-bursting, chockablock, sporty witch hunt with a cast of strange characters whose names you’d hardly believe: Swamp People, Little Adam Shifty Schiff, Nervous Nancy and her Democratic minions. There’s witness intimidation, uncontrolled ranting, snitching, overheard phone calls, quid pro quo, “suddenly recalled” memories . . . I mean, how can you NOT want to see what these scamps are up to?

Public Servant: What’s a quid pro quo?

Advisor: It’s a…a…let’s just say, a perfect storm.

Public Servant: Good. I like perfect.

Public Servant: So my question to this unbiased forum is this:

Is this something I need to be concerned about?

A: (Witch-Answer Guy): Nothing like a good witch hunt, depending, of course, on whether you’re the witch or the witchee.

Quid Pro Quo – ‘splained

What’s with the so-called “literal” translations of ‘quid pro quo’?

With all the hubbub over ‘quid pro quo’ in the news, naturally the language experts are called on to give the meaning for the general public. Of course, many of us already had a reasonable sense of what it means: to give or get something in exchange for something. But what is surprising, and dismaying to me is when experts try to give the literal meaning. Now, I still own several of my high school Latin textbooks (sadly, one might say) and nowhere do I find that the specific terms ‘quid,’ ‘pro’ and ‘quo’ literally meaning “something for something.”

Yet countless radio commentaries and news reports insist on saying that that’s the literal translation. (Even two of my “popular Latin phrases” books give that translation.)

Can this really be?

Now, if they said something like, the essential meaning is “something for something” or the phrase can be translated to mean “something for something” I would understand.

But here’s what my old Latin composition book (Baker & Inglis) says.

‘Quis, quid’ (pronoun or adjective) = some (one), any (one), i.e.,  someone or anyone

‘Quis, quid’ (Interrogative pronoun and adj) = who, what (as in “what or who do you see?”) and then there’s…

‘Quidam’ = (pronoun) (a) certain (person) not named (as in “a certain one of the soldiers…”)

Of course Latin forms are tricky and the various declensions, cases and conjugations plague every student (maxime mihi), but it seems to mihi that ‘quid’ is not literally “something” though, to be fair, it’s pretty close.

Another of my Latin texts (Freundlich) says:

‘Quis, quid’ = who, what, as in quis fallere possit amantem (“who can deceive a lover?” – Virgil), quis custodiat… (“who will guard the guards?” – Juvenal) or quid nunc (“what now?”)

But now we get to the other two terms:

  • ‘pro’ = for, on behalf of, as in ora pro nobis (“pray for us”), or pro patria (“for the country”);also, before
  • ‘quo’ = where as in quo vadis (“where are you going?”) ¹

Plainly, ‘quo’ is not “something”

So, literally, we end up with something like Who/what/someone for where.”

It certainly makes sense, historically, to render the phrase as meaning roughly “something for something” but aren’t the attempts to call this a literal translation a misuse of “literal”? (and not in the modern informal sense of “The products literally flew of the shelves?”)

I invite any of my former Latin classmates from Erie Cathedral Prep to ‘splain how I’m right or wrong.

Usage note: According to several reliable texts, the term dates to 16th C. usage by apothecaries (i.e., pharmacies, c. 1530) where the term referred to either intentionally or unintentionally substituting one medicine for another. (‘apothecary,’ interestingly also gives us the modern terms ‘bodega’ and ’boutique’)

¹ In fairness, my OED entry indicates that the word quo here is actually the ablative case of quid (‘something’) and dates the phrase to 1565 in apothecary use. (But don’t get me started on the ablative case!)
Baker & Inglis: High School Course in Latin Composition


Freundlich: Latin Three and Four Years


Eugene Ehrlich: Amo, Amas, Amat and More


Robin Langley Sommer: Nota Bene: A Guide to Familiar Latin Quotes and Phrases

So you think you know music? (update)

Here’s a little quiz for those of you who think you listen to lyrics. I’ve taken a few key lyrics from songs that, unless you’ve been living in a highly shielded nuclear survival shelter for the past 30 years, you should be quite familiar with.

Note: I originally posted this in 2008 and have updated with an answer key at the end for you non-know-it-alls…including my own researched notes in some cases.

Besides an occasionally misleading hint in the text, the only other hint is that these are arranged alphabetically from my iPod — but note that my iPod alphabetizes by first name.

To get the full lyrics, just jot a note to me at with the phrase, “OK, I’m not the musical know-it-all I thought I was.”

And now, the lyrics. I’m giving you the first one as a warm up… I just like the line.

Kicked in his door at 5 am
“I’ve come for my bike” I told the repo man.

(1992, “Come A Long Way” – Michelle Shocked, born Karen Michelle Johnston. Her stage name is a play on words intended to resemble the phrase “shell shocked” dating back to the one she gave when arrested in 1984 at a protest called “The War Chest Tour” during the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. The song is an upbeat tour of the L.A. music scene, in the manner of The Day the Music Died.)

Ok, your turn…

1) She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain


2) Seasons cryin’ no despair
Alligator lizards in the air


3) And when the morning of the warning’s passed,
the gassed and flaccid kids are flung across the stars
The psychodramas and the traumas gone
The songs are left unsung and hung upon the scars

(1968 – Trust me, you’ve heard this tune, described by one enthusiastic fan as “a dump truck of lyrics delivered in a for-the-most-part unintelligible stream,” a thousand times. The lyrics really are far out…as they say; see link in notes below)

4) Tin roof, rusted!

5) Hope’s dashed to the floor like shattered teenage dreams.
Boys living next door are never what they seem.
A walk in the park can become a bad dream

(1984, hint: British girl group; the song title refers to a famous American screen icon)

6) All the old paintings on the tombs
They do the sand dance don’t you know
If they move too quick
They’re falling down like a domino

(1986, hint: another girl group)

7) Lady take me
high upon a hillside
High up where the stallion meets the sun

(1973, hint: This icon of bombast, a staple of every ’70s college chick’s musical inventory, is based on Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28.)

8) Will my kids be proud or think their old man’s really a square?
When they’re out having fun yeah, will I still wanna have my share?
Will I love my wife for the rest of my life?


9) Love of two is one
Here but now they’re gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn’t go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared saying “Don’t be afraid”

(1976 – hint: there’s a very cool SNL parody skit of the tune)

10) Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it’s worth.


11) She was a black-haired beauty
With big dark eyes
And points all her own
Sitting way up high

(1976 – yep, just what you think they are)

12) I’m stranded in the jungle
Taking all the heat they was giving
The night is dark but the sidewalk’s bright
And lined with the light of the living


13) The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely

(1975, hint: originally titled “Wings for Wheels.” The artist, one of the most famous rockers of all time, played backup guitar on a Roy Orbison tribute video.)

14) I’ll shine up the old brown shoes, put on a brand-new shirt.
I’ll get home early from work if you say that you love me.

(1978. Hint: they’re cheap)





15) I’ve got to keep my image
While I’m standing on the floor
If I drop upon my knees
It’s just to keep her on my nose

(1968, hint: lyrics mostly misheard by this large-scale once-revolutionary Illinois band, based on the Winwood/Miller original; nevertheless, it’s one of the all-time great rocking songs)

16) He drinks a whisky drink
He drinks a vodka drink
He drinks a lager drink
He drinks a cider drink
He sings the songs
That remind him of the good times


17) I don’t stop until I know she’s sas-ified
And I can always tell when she gets sas-ified
‘Cause when she gets sas-fied she start calling my name

(1986, hint: artist’s prior claim to pop fame was the unfortunate “Patches,” though he had made a legitimate name for himself as a bluesman.)

(18) Now over at the temple
Oh! They really pack ’em in
The in crowd say it’s cool
To dig this chanting thing
But as the wind changed direction
The temple band took five
The crowd caught a whiff
Of that crazy Casbah jive

(1982 …wayyyy too easy)

(19) Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?


20) Why drink the water from my hand?
Contagious as you think I am
Why follow me to higher ground?
Lost as you swear I am.

(1994, hint: I moved up the 2nd couplet from later in the song to help you out)

21) The clothes she wears, her sexy ways,
make an old man wish for younger days

(1977 — you’re gonna kick yourself for not knowing this)

22) Albert’s fallen on the sun
Cracked his head wide open
The world begins to disappear
The worst things come from inside here


23) Peacocks wandered aimlessly
Underneath an orange tree
Why can’t she see me?

(1969 — hard to find a prettier song)

(24) I stumble into town just like a sacred cow
Visions of swastikas in my head
Plans for everyone
It’s in the white of my eyes


25) Hey man, oh Henry, get off the phone, I gotta…Hey man, I gotta straighten my face
This mellow-thighed chick just put my spine outta place


(26) Let’s make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.

(1970, I guaran-dang-tee you’ve heard this a gazillion times)

(27) Oh, I swear
At this moment you mean everything
You in that dress
My thoughts I confess
Verge on dirty

(1982, hint: The song begins with Celtic-style fiddle played over a drum beat, with the bass guitar and piano providing accompaniment. The band’s name is a reference to the stimulant Dexedrine.)

28) My love-a
I was wrong-a
To-oo try
To lo-ove two
A-hoopa, a-hoopa, hoopa

(1957 — doo wop, dig it)

29) And a crowd of young boys they’re fooling around in the corner
Drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles
They dont give a damn about any trumpet-playing band
It ain’t what they call rock and roll


(screen shot from the video)

30) Young punk spilling beer on my shoes,
Fat guy’s talking to me trying to steal my blues.
Thick smoke, see her smiling through.
I never thought so much could happen just shooting pool.

(1991 – making fun of models)

31) I know what you’re doing,
I see it all too clear
I only taste the saline when I kiss away your tears
You really had me going, wishing on a star
But the black holes that surround you are heavier by far


32) I know something about love.
You’ve gotta want it bad
If that guy’s got into your blood, go out and get him


33) And when I wake up in the morning
To feel the daybreak on my face
There’s a blood that’s flowin’
Through the feeling, with a knife
To open up the sky’s veins…
Some things will never change

(1994, Hint: Phoenix, Ariz./Mill Ave bar band from Brophy Prep)

34) Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson
You’re all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We’ll kick your ass in!


35) Come
dowsed in mud
soaked in bleach
as I want you to be


36) So I chaffed them and I gaily laughed
To think they could doubt my love
Yet today my love has flown away

(1958 Hint: Show tune written for the 1933 operetta Roberta. You’ve probably heard this more than a thousand times but never actually listened. Quite sad, really.)

37) Justine never knew the rules
Hung down with the freaks and the ghouls
No apologies ever need be made,
I know you better than you fake it
To see that we don’t even care to shake these zipper blues


38) Where ya going for tomorrow
Where ya going with that mask I found
And I feel, and I feel
When the dogs begin to smell her
Will she smell alone

(1992 – inspired by a news report of a girl who had been kidnapped and found dead outside of Seattle, possibly a metaphor for a failed obsessive relationship. Or possibly just a drunken rant.)

39) Father, son, and holy ghost
love and death we fear the most
We’ll pour a drink, we’ll raise a toast
to those who know the twins of freedom

(2006 — Ok, you may not have heard this 1,000 times but you should check it out anyway)

40) Take your baby by the hair
Pull her close and there there there
Take your baby by the ears
and play upon her darkest fears


Ok, that’s it. Have at ’em.

Answer key (my notes in blue):

1. “Year of the Cat” – Al Stewart (Stewart told a concert audience that the song was written about a man he knew who was manic-depressive and comitted suicide); 2. “Ventura Highway” – America (“Alligator lizards in the air” is a reference to cloud shapes); 3. “Along Comes Mary” – The Association (I did a separate analysis of these bizarre lyrics) ; 4. “Love Shack” – The B-52s (the song’s inspiration was a cabin near Athens, Georgia, complete with tin roof; singer Kate Pierson lived in the cabin in the 1970s) ; 5. Robert Deniro’s Waiting – Bananarama; 6. Walk Like An Egyptian – Bangles; 7.  Could It Be Magic – Barry Manilow (As noted, the song is based on Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28, Number 20, and Manilow’s singing in the last verse fades into a straight performance of the last few bars of the Prelude. The lyric “Sweet Melissa” is a tribute to singer Melissa Manchester); 8. When I Grow Up (to be a man) – Beach Boys (actually quite a lovely ode to growing up. John Mellencamp has a similar theme in “Cherry Bomb” two decades later. The BB song has a running background chorus counting up the years till it fades out at 32: “It’s kind of sad (thirty thirty-one) / Won’t last forever (thirty-two…); 9. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult (the parody was an SNL skit: “Gotta have more cowbell!); 10. All Along the Watchtower – Bob Dylan (The song depicts a conversation between two people, a “joker” and a “thief”, about the difficulties of getting by in life; the “watchtower” is from Isaiah 21: 5-9) ; 11. Night Moves – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; 12. Tenth Avenue Freezeout – Bruce Springsteen; 13. Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen; 14. I Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick; 15. I’m a Man – Chicago; 16. “Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba (In the UK, a tubthumper is a politician); 17. “Strokin'” – Clarence Carter; 18. “Rock the Casbah” – The Clash; 19. “Viva la Vida” – Coldplay; 20. “December” – Collective Soul (the song is about the band’s relationship with their former manager Bill Richardson. There was a big lawsuit and court battle shortly after this album); 21. “Brick House” – Commodores; 22. “Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)” – Counting Crows (title inspired by the Philip Glass opera); 23. “Guinnevere” – Crosby Stills & Nash (really now, is there a prettier song? No!) ; 24. “China Girl” – David Bowie (co-credited to Iggy Pop); 25. “Suffragette City” – David Bowie (before recording it himself, Bowie offered it to the band Mott the Hoople if they would forego their plan of breaking up;  the term “Henry” is used as a slang word for heroin. He’s basically having a conversation with his dealer); 26. “Layla” – Derek & the Dominos (Inspired by Clapton’s then-unrequited love for Pattie Boyd); 27.  “Come On Eileen” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners (the “Eileen” is Maire Fahey, sister of Siobhan Fahey, former singer with Bananarama); 28. “Little Darlin'” – The Diamonds (The Diamonds were a white group that recorded covers of R&B hits that had originally been recorded by black artists); 29. “Sultans of Swing” – Dire Straits (Knopfler wrote it in 1977, after ducking into a deserted pub one rainy night and witnessing a lousy jazz band. Undeterred by the lack of both talent and punters, their lead singer finished the set with a mildly enthusiastic, “Goodnight and thank you. We are the Sultans Of Swing.”); 30. “I Can’t Dance” – Genesis (The video was designed to make fun of the male models in jeans commercials, and each verse refers to the things that the models in these commercials do); 31. “Barely Breathing” – Duncan Sheik (break-up song); 32. “Tell Him” – The Exciters (one of the great girl groups of the 1960s, including one husband); 33. “Backwater” – Meat Puppets (the band’s notorious drug use included cocaine, heroin, and many others); 34. “You Get What You Give” – New Radicals (Marilyn Manson commented that he was “not mad he said he’d kick my ass, I just don’t want to be used in the same sentence as Courtney Love”); 35. “Come As You Are” – Nirvana; 36. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” – The Platters (interestingly, the song was covered by the Jerry Garcia Band in 1995); 37. “1979” –  The Smashing Pumpkins (Frontman Billy Corgan said the song is about just being bored and him growing up in the suburbs). 38. “Plush” – Stone Temple Pilots (lyrics loosely based on a newspaper article Scott Weiland had read about a girl who had been found dead in an area outside of Seattle, a metaphor for a failed relationship. The “dogs” are sex-hungry men who see women as nothing more than objects, like pretty plush dolls); 39. “Love Don’t Owe You Anything” – Strays Don’t Sleep (although this is (was) a Nashville-based band, the tune has nothing to do with the Nashville sound–it’s just a heartbreakingly sweet ballad); 40. “Dance Hall Days” – Wang Chung (The band’s original name Huang Chung literally translates from Chinese as “yellow bell”, but refers to the standardized bass pitch of ancient China. The song begins quite innocently: “take your baby by the hand,” and then the last verse with “take your baby by the wrists, and in her mouth an amethyst,” shows  how things that start off simple get complex.)