Category Archives: The Sleep of Reason



In the film Barbie the wall between the “real world” and the “fantasy world” has been rubbed thin. Not only that, but in an absurd way, it as if the fantasy world is seen through a Fun House mirror. The “real world” is Los Angeles, which as we all know is the original fantasyland. In this film L.A.  is the gritty grim reality. The other direction is the “perfect” Barbie Land.  As we know the original Fantasy Land was invented in Los Angeles by Walt Disney.  And all you need to do to travel from one of those worlds to the other, is turn around your pink sports car and head in the opposite direction. Simple. Not?

In the world of fantasy everything from the real world is reversed. America, as we all know, has been in FantasyLand since its founding. One of those fantasies has been the fantasies of young girls. That of course, is the fantasy  that they are or can be Barbie.  The doll with the perfect life. The doll from Barbieland.

The film Barbie tackles that phenomenon with glitz, glamour, and stars from Hollywood—another land of fantasy of course. Reality’s doppelganger,  Barbieland is a matriarchal society filled with many versions of Barbie.  Each of the Barbies hold prestigious jobs such as scientists, political leaders, and professionals.  Obviously, absurd fantasies. The Kens, from Ken Land on the other hand spend their time playing at the beach. In fact, playing at the beach is their job. A nice job if you can get it. Yet Beach Ken (“Ken”) played by Ryan Gosling is only happy when he is with Barbie  or, as she is sometimes called, “Stereotypical Barbie” (Margot Robbie). In fact, Ken is not real unless she is looking at him. And he knows it.  But Barbie is constantly playing hard to get and frustrates Ken to no end. She makes life impossible for him. Though is life has always been impossible.

But one day reality intrudes and that changes everything. All of a sudden Barbie worries about death. How can that intrude into the perfect Barbie Land? At the same time, Barbie has bad breath, cellulite, and flat feet. Horrors. Why doesn’t reality stay where it belongs? On the outside! Barbie seeks out help from Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon)  a badly disfigured doll.  Far from the  perfection of Barbie. Weird Barbie tells Barbie she must find the real child who plays with her in the real world. Eventually, she does find that child Sasha (‘Ariana Greenblatt’), but it is her mother Gloria (America Ferrara), who really transforms the Barbies with a stirring speech about how impossible it is to be a woman in the real world. Here is part of what she says:


It is literally impossible to be a woman! You are so beautiful and so smart and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like we have to always be extraordinary and somehow we’re always doing it wrong. You’re supposed to be THIN but not TOO THIN and you can never say you want to be THIN you have to say you want to be HEALTHY but you also have to BE thin. You have to have money but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss but you can’t be mean. You’re supposed to lead but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to LOVE being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You’re supposed to be a career woman but always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is INSANE, but if you point that out then you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to be pretty for men but not SO pretty that you tempt them too much or threaten other women. You’re supposed to be part of the sisterhood but also stand out but also always be grateful. You have to never get old never be rude never show off never be selfish never fall down never fail never also always be grateful. You have to never get old never be rude never show off never be selfish never fall down never fail never show fear never get out of line It’s too hard, it’s too contradictory and no one says thank you or gives you a medal, and in fact, it turns out, somehow, that not only are you doing it all wrong but that everything is also YOUR fault. I’m just so damn tired of watching myself and every single other women tie ourselves in knots so that people will like us. And if all that is also true for a doll just representing a woman then I don’t even know!


How will all of this end?  Yet we have to live through the battle between the Kens and the Barbies and frankly it is not a fair fight. The Kens hardly have a chance. As Barbie says, “You play on their egos and their petty jealousies and you turn them against each other. While they’re fighting, we take back Barbie Land.” And it is amazing how shockingly easy it is to get the Kens to fight each other and make themselves easy pickings for the takeover by Barbies. that turns out.  They are just like real men in other words. The Kens look at each other suspiciously. No Ken can be trusted!

But there is another fight and that is the fight between everyone and the corporate intellectual pygmies at Mattel who own and control the Barbie franchise. This one is a fairer fight. Although the Mattel executives have power,  they lack brains. They are basically idiots. Take Mattel executive Aaron Dinks who asks a wonderful question: “Um, I’m a man with no power, does that make me a woman?”  Maybe he is not an idiot after all. The executives try to get Barbie who drove to Los Angeles to agree to get back into the box in which she had been marketed, but Barbie escapes. Amazingly, she prefers the imperfect to the perfection in Barbie Land. FantasyLand has its limitations she learns. So she bolts for freedom and we get the revolt of the dolls! And the executives chase her to get back in the box where they can sell her.

Can the Kens establish the patriarchy? Or will Barbie succeed in leading the Barbies in the pink revolution?  Barbie said, “I want to be part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that’s made. I want to be the one imagining, not the idea itself. Does that make sense?”  Her friend Ruth (Rhea Perlman) said, “I always knew that Barbie would surprise me.” She was right about that.  Whoever thought a movie about a doll would make sense?

 And I don’t want to give the results away. You have to watch the film to find out.

The scam at the heart of society


Scammers and rogues are everywhere.

Naomi Fry a commentator on the podcast Critics at Large, caught on to the essence of the lure of the scam when she asked,

“Isn’t this the promise of the American Dream where you are able to scale these new heights…It’s like to take a bite of American pie you have to spill some of the milk? To climb to the next level in this country, which we all want, you have to be a bit of a rogue. And the rogue and the scammer aren’t so far apart.”

This doesn’t apply only to George Santos. No one has demonstrated this more effectively than the former president Donald Trump. Of course, in his case perhaps we should drop the phrase “a bit of a” before the word “rogue.”

And we see ourselves in both scammers and suckers. And we see this characteristic in the scammers, because we see it in ourselves.

We saw a classic example of this in the film, The Postman Always Rings Twice, where the beautiful woman persuades her boyfriend to kill her husband so they can live happily ever after together. In films there was of course a Code which required that the film makers could not let the criminal “get away with it.”  So instead of giving people the thrill of seeing the scammer escape, it would give us the thrill of watching the rogue get caught and punished. That was also thrilling to us. We love to moralize and wag our fingers at miscreants.

Somehow, “we root for the protagonist” as Alexandra Schwarz says.  We cheer for them even as we know they won’t get away. We love living in FantasyLand, which is the point Kurt Anderson made in his book by that name.

Then in 2008 came an abrupt disruption of the model. That was the financial crisis, where according to Schwarz “we came to realize that the entire culture was built on a scam.” The poor got screwed while the rich, who caused the financial collapse in the first place were protected against their losses by payments made by the government. The poor paid the rich for their sins. How did that happen? It happened by a scam of course. Schwarz called it “the scam at the heart of society.”

As Schwarz also showed us, the scam shows us that  “the ground beneath our feet is not stable.” As many of us have learned, there is no security anymore! 

There is no security in FantasyLand. Except perhaps for the rich.

George Santos: The Fabulist


George Santos has become the subject of a tsunami of attention. People really are attracted to bullshitters. There is nothing wrong with that, unless they start to believe the bullshit.

Every one, it seems, wants a piece of George Santos now. Apparently, HBO wants to make an adaption of a new book about Santos perfectly named The Fabulist. In the book the point is made that we get the scammer we deserve. Like cheap politicians selling cheap beer.

According to Naomi Fry “the Trump era has opened the floodgates to politics as an out-and-out scam for those who wish to take advantage. I want to make it clear I do not think all politicians are scammers. That is not the case. I don’t want to be a part in shredding trust in politics. That is one of the things that is wrong with our current society. More and more people are losing that trust and that trust is vital for the survival of democracy.

America has had scammers in its history from day one. That is the point Kurt Anderson made in his book FantasyLand. Political scammers. Religious Scammers. Commercial scammers—you name it, they’re there.

The New Yorker podcast panel discussed a few famous American scammers in literature and real life. One of the panelists mentioned the Simpsons version of The Music Man, called “Marge vs. Zeller” (2020) where a travelling salesman Lyle Lanley and calls it a Shelbyville Idea. One of the townsfolk does not want to hear that. He says we are twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville. “Just tell us your idea and we’ll vote for it.” And what does he sell? He says Springfield needs a monorail. Even though Springfield doesn’t need a monorail. But Lanley seduces everyone. They beg for a monorail. That is what conmen do.

As Fry said, “The idea is that people will buy anything if you sell it to them in an attractive enough way. They want to believe. Whether it’s in religion or whether it’s in politics, or whether it’s in commerce, people just want to believe.”  That is exactly what the conmen do, and none has done it better than Donald Trump. He has sold his lie to millions and millions of people! That is what the 1980s televangelists did. As Fry said, “They said if you want your soul saved just send us money.” The key is usually the hyper desire of the scammed to believe the scam. When that is present anything is possible.

Call Time: As real as Chucky Cheese


It is noteworthy that George Santos with his scummy videos on Cameo is actually doing exactly what Congressmen in the United States do. I have been told that American Congressmen spend half their working time phoning people for money. An aide hands them a quick note about the person they are calling and the politician talks to the person, be it a potential voter or potential donor, and tells them what they want to hear. For a couple of minutes, the politician is real chummy with the listener based on information on the cheat sheet. The listener thinks he has a real friend in Washington. But that friend is as real as Chucky Cheese. That is the deal: listen to the politician for a few minutes and perhaps consider a donation. Then the listener can go to his buddies and brag about how he got a call from the Congressman.


Vinson Cunningham, a New Yorker writer and member of the podcast panel  on Critics at Large, said the politicians he worked with referred to this as “Call time.” Politicians did it nearly every day. Cameo is exactly that. As Naomi Fry said about George Santos: “Politics has prepared him perfectly for this.” I would say, life in America or Canada has prepared him pretty good for this too. Living in FantasyLand is the perfect training for Call Time. Begging people you don’t know for money. Sort of like those people who stand on street meridians by traffic lights with their hands out usually with a sign briefly describing their plight.

That is exactly what American Congressmen do every day during Call Time.  It is no more dignified. It is no more real.

Mesmerized by Lies


One of the interesting things that one of the panelists on the Critics at Large podcast mentioned was that we as a people are “mesmerized by the lies”. To some extent “we identify with the scammer!” Part of us wants the scammer to win! Yet, at the same time, another side of us wants fervently to see the scammer wallow in his well-earned punishment.  We also want to point fingers and hiss at the miscreant. It is a bit like Saint Jerome who said that heaven would not be complete unless the saved could see the sinners roasting in hell. Is that what we  want to see?

According to Naomi Fry one of the 3 New Yorker writers on the panel, the latest version of the George Santos story is his entrance into Cameos. She described Cameos as “the platform where so-called celebrities from B-list to Z-list hock their wares.” The customers pay the “celebrity” for personalized videos. Santos is now one of the stars thanks to his fame as a spectacular liar. Just what is needed in FantasyLand. For this audience sensational lies are an attraction!

Some of the customers are rather surprising. There were some young female law students who paid the current rate for a completely phony pep talk from Santos who happily told the young women they were about to become “rock-star lawyers” and how they were going to “slay” the legal world. He was quite willing to do that even though he obviously did not know anything about them. “Queens who were about to conquer the world” he called them. Yet this is what the law students wanted. Why did they8 want to listen to obvious lies from a celebrity?

Santos very smoothly fits into this Fantasy world. In fact, he is really good at it. It cost $500 for a brief talk by Santos that bears absolutely no resemblance to reality whatsoever. For $500 bucks you can hire Santos to praise you, or your no-good son, or daughter. Even though Santos does not know any of you. Why would people pay for that?

As Naomi Fry said, “he is taking the pop culture detritus that surrounds you and is wearing it like so many Mardi-Gras Beads. Santos told the women law students they were approaching “the end at the light of the tunnel.” Santos is definitely smooth. He was born to be a scam artist, though, no doubt his short time in politics greased the path to his current fame and fortune. That is where he practiced his lies before turning professional.

Life in FantasyLand keeps getting stranger. to me it looks more and more like the end of western civilization.

Please-be-True Fantasies


Critics at Large, a podcast of the New Yorker discussed the subject of George Santos and his participation in what they called his scams, had a panel of columnists discuss his case. The columnists agreed we are living in the golden age of scam in which Santos is merely the latest iteration. This really is the point. Many people in North America live in a FantasyLand that is filled with astounding lies that are exploding through the ethnosphere. We are in the midst of surging lies and scams. They are ubiquitous.


Kurt Anderson in his gem of a book FantasyLand explains why this is so. He traces it back to the delusions of the original European visitors to North America.  This is what he said about early settlers in the United States, but would no doubt say about the same about the early European settlers to Canada. This world of illusions is by no means confined to the United States, but as I have said, that is where this world was profoundly amplified. This is how Anderson described it:

“The first English people in the New World imagined themselves as heroic can-do characters in exciting adventures. They were self-fictionalizing extremists who abandoned everything familiar because of their blazing beliefs, their long-shot hopes and dreams, their please-be-true fantasies.”

We are the ancestors of those fantasists. We are following in their footsteps 5 centuries later. And George Santos is merely the latest manifestation of that phenomenon.please-be-true fantasies.”

This is what  what happens when we abandon critical thinking and skepticism in favor of fantasies that we want to be true so ignore the lack of evidence for them .


A Poor Choice of Words


According to the Guardian, George Santos  claimed to have graduated from Baruch College but “The college found no record of Santos as a student.” The best part though was his response when interviewed by the Guardian to these revelations, “Santos confessed he hadn’t graduated from “from any institution of higher learning” and had used a “poor choice of words”. A bald lie in his world becomes “a poor choice of words.

The Guardian also reported “Santos’s campaign website said that his mother was Jewish and his grandparents escaped the Nazis during the second world war.” The truth he admitted “Santos’s campaign website said that his mother was Jewish and his grandparents escaped the Nazis during the second world war.”

I could go on and on about these lies but will confine myself to one more (this is hard). The Guardian reported that. a local paper reported on his alleged fraud in 2020 and called him “George Scamtos.” His amazingly lame response according to the Guardian was to say ““I ran in 2020 for the same exact seat for Congress and I got away with it then,” he told Piers Morgan, adding he “didn’t think” he would get caught.”  Santos is the poster child for the death of truth in America. 

Santos has been accused of vast number of lies. And the list keeps growing like a monster.

All he had to say when caught in a lie was that he didn’t think he would get caught. That’s all that matters in FantasyLand.



Scamland USA


By and large Canada is not that different than America.  It’s just that everything in the US is in high def. Everything is magnified in America.

There are many things that are interesting when travelling in the US. It must be the most interesting place in the world. Crazies are certainly one of them. They abound here.

Take scammers for example. The latest and greatest scammer is the disgraced Congressman George Santos who was recently turfed out of office by his confrerés. First, you have to be pretty bad to warrant ejection, especially by your own side. Take a look at some of their members in good standing if you doubt that.

Here is how New York magazine summed up his short life so far:

Most often, it’s best to assume what the Republican from Long Island has said about his life is bogus.”


Lately it has been revealed that his scams and lies and have gone into the realm of alleged serious malfeasance, but until then many of his lies were so ludicrous they were funny. For example, he claimed to have been such a serious volleyball star for his college team he actually had to have knee surgery on both knees because of his exuberant jumping. It turns out he never played for the volleyball team.

Lies like that though tend to find a congenial home in the modern FantasyLand.  We must get used to this. I will continue. That much is inevitable when truth is no longer valued.

Hysteria Rides (and falls) Again



It is hardly surprising, but hysteria has failed again. That is because hysteria rarely leads to encouraging solutions to real problems. Hysteria interferes with critical thinking.

Many Winnipeggers learned this lesson on Friday. As Maggie Macintosh reported in the Winnipeg Free Press,

More than 1,000 students — including nearly half of one elementary school’s population — were absent from classes in one Winnipeg school district Wednesday as misinformation spread online about its teachers distributing graphic sexual content.


Many Winnipeggers believed the nonsense they read about on social media that teachers planned to suddenly expose children to explicit and inappropriate information. That is typical of the stuff social media spreads, and unfortunately, many parents are inclined to believe such claims. People who are addicted to conspiracy theories believe stuff like this no matter how incredible it is. People living in what Kurt Anderson called “FantasyLand” are addicted to such absurdities.

 Superintendent Brian O’Leary said We had a lot of information circulating on social media, particularly within the South Asian community, telling parents that the schools were planning to hand out books with graphic sexual material to all students.”

As Macintosh reported, the Superintendent  said,

 “false and malicious fearmongering” on social media prompted hundreds of families in the Seven Oaks School Division to keep their elementary-aged children home from classes Sept. 20.


He also said the posts in Punjabi, Hindi and Arabic were “deliberately concocted to scare parents,” and were circulating on Facebook. The problem is that far too many parents, and others, believe everything they hear on social media, particularly if it aligns with their anti-government ideology. The problem is not gender ideology, it is the ideology of automatic distrust in government. Adherents to this ideology would much rather believe nonsense on the internet than government sources.  And this is a big problem for society.

As Macintosh said,

“About 50 per cent of students enrolled at Arthur E. Wright Community School did not show up Wednesday. The absenteeism rate dropped to five per cent Thursday. The abnormal attendance levels were recorded on the same day as the “1MillionMarch4Children” — a protest organized by a conservative group that is “against gender ideology” and claims schools are sharing “sexually explicit content” with students — played out across the country.”


When hysterical parents hear lies this, particularly if they have a sexual element,  they immediately move into high gear before they have a chance to think things through rationally. Hysteria is the mortal enemy of critical thinking.

I don’t think it is a coincidence either that this happened as hundreds of protesters showed up at the Manitoba Legislative Building the day before to call for more parental rights, even though they already have ample parental rights they rarely use.  When parents are haunted by fantastical visions of children being sexually abused, their reactions are on hair-trigger mode.

The president of the Manitoba Teacher’s Society Nathanial Martindale was disappointed that parents had believed such nonsense that  Manitoba teachers are out to harm children. As he said, “nothing could be further from the truth… Educators want the best for all learners and will never be onside with homophobic or transphobic hate.” But reasonable ordinary truth like that  just does not cut it on the Internet when there are salacious lies instead.

Lies and Hate travel at warp speed on the internet compared to dull truth.


Jordan Klepper Fingers the Conspiracies


On my regular walks in Arizona, I have enjoyed many interesting podcasts, including some  about the crazy things done by Trumpsters. One series of such podcasts were hosted by Jordan Klepper under the title “Jordan Klepper Fingers the Conspiracies.”  I have listened to a number of them.

On one of such walks through Johnson Ranch in San Tan Valley I learned about Trumpsters who believe that even though Trump lost the election he is still in charge. They believe he still leads the American armed forces.

Klepper specializes in attending Trump rallies for the Daily Show on television in order to interview Trumpsters. Often they are hilarious. All he has to do is ask them questions and they do the rest. But I loved one comment he made: “you can tell how these people really love America by the weapons they have bought to hurt other Americans.” For example, the Proud Boys, who are strong Trump supporters expect the American military to attack them so they must be prepared. In America that means they must be heavily armed.

Often crazy conspiracy theories have a hint of truth to them. For example, on January 6th of this year it was obvious that a number of military types still support Donald Trump. To them he is still the Commander-in-Chief. Nothing he can do will change that! They would die on the hill for Trump if he asked them to. Frankly, to me that is a little frightening.

Many of the Trumpsters are former members, or even current members, of the American military. And conspiracy theories gather around the military like iron filings collect around magnets. I believe the reason for this is the extraordinary level of fear among the theorists. A military of course is important to all of us. They are meant to protect us from some of our worst fears. As a result, conspiracy theories abound in and around the military. For example, there is a new theory in the United States that Donald Trump is still calling the shots for the military, even though he is no longer the president.

General Mike Flynn was Trump’s was the 24th U.S. National Security Advisor who was appointed by president Donald Trump and he lasted exactly 22 days of the Trump administration. He resigned after it was revealed he had lied to Mike Pence and others vetting Flynn for the advisor position.

Flynn held some whacky conspiracy views and it is disturbing that for 22 days he was so close to Commander-in-Chief of the United States. In some of his on-line posts he showed that he gave credence to conspiracy theories including the one that there was a plot to kill Navy Seals  involving current President Joe Biden who had been involved in the assassination of Osama bin Laden by the Seals.

Trump also endorsed such views when he re-tweeted some of those theories. Trump denied that re-tweeting constituted an endorsement of such theories, but what else could that mean? We also must remember that Donald Trump had about 50 million Twitter followers at the time, so re-posting such theories was a dangerous thing. Trump followers notoriously believe what Trump says and don’t require evidence to back up his claims. His proclamations are enough to convince them no matter how much contrary evidence is available.

Another on-going conspiracy theory—most of these never seem to end—was the call by Trumpsters to the Attorney-General to investigate reports that in Italy certain nefarious actors had hacked the voting machines in American election, even though they offered no evidence that this had happened. As Klepper commented, this theory had “as much substance as cotton candy that had been put through a clothes dryer.” These conspiracy theorists expected the authorities to pay attention to these wild and unsubstantiated claims.

Conspiracy theories aren’t getting more rational are they?

Credulity in America is a serious problem. This is one more sign of serious decline in American society. Having a president or national security advisor promulgating them can have serious consequences.