Is it just me, or has it become super-cool to be a blowhard? Everywhere I turn, it seems someone's speaking a bit too loudly, going on slightly too long and imparting ideas dressed up with dropped names, self-serving anecdotes and sanctimonious chest-thumping. And you should hear what I run into when I leave my house.
Conversations between friendly acquaintances, which used to be a two-way kind of deal, have now taken on an orator-audience dynamic. Whereas the old-school loudmouth practiced the fine art of waiting his turn to speak while ignoring what the other person was saying, today's blowhard omits the waiting part altogether. Whether at lunch, a cocktail party or in the audio section of Best Buy (big talkers, historically, have held very strong opinions about subwoofers), the blowhard approaches every conversation as if the other party had not entered into it but rather ordered tickets to it.
Given that blowhards are finally having their moment, it makes perfect sense that one of their primary figureheads, Donald Trump, would publish what is essentially a how-to guide for the aspiring gasbag. "Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and in Life" is, according to "success coach" and "Chicken Soup for the Soul"-magnate Jack Canfield, "Donald Trump's version of 'The Secret.' " That's the book that claims to pass down wisdom from Plato and Galileo, such as "[put] your finger on the 'feeling happy' button."
But Trump doesn't dither around with mystical hyperbole. He keeps his eyes on the prize of his own hyperbole. With a little help from Learning Annex founder Bill Zanker, who's credited on the book and whose Wealth Expos featuring Trump have drawn crowds exceeding 50,000, Trump shares the wisdom of the "kick-ass way."
* Go for the jugular, so that people watching will not want to mess with you.
* Always dress for respect.
* The women I have dated over the years could have any man they want. ... Beautiful, famous, successful, married -- I've had them all . . . but unlike [my good friend] Geraldo, I do not talk about it.
* Hang out with other big thinkers.
That's not only kick-ass, it's the Tao of blowhard-dom served up mega-motivator style!
Trump's advice includes the edict "take advantage of big trends," and, indeed, it's hard to imagine an era more ripe for his pompous carryings-on than ours. Blame it on the rise of the headset-wearing evangelist, the popularity of talk radio, the existence of Fox News or on the fact that public cellphone use has turned a walk down the street into a spoken-word performance. The blowhard has become not just socially acceptable but eminently fashionable. Stephen Colbert's unremitting send-up of the blowhard psyche makes him more famous by the nanosecond. The sitcom "The Office" has become a hit thanks to Steve Carell's flawless portrayal of the blowhard boss, Michael Scott.
How did blowhard-dom acquire this kind of "it" factor? How could it not have? A decidedly nonpartisan activity (right-wingers excel at it, but so do aging academics, documentary filmmakers and anyone of any political stripe who, when drunk, sees fit to prove he knows all the lyrics to "American Pie"), blowing hard is the oral equivalent of blogging, offering all the benefits of name-dropping and discursive ranting.
The blowhard metier is particularly conducive to the kind of phony nostalgia that leads to the use of the expression "back in the day." Once used to refer to events that fell into the category "history," the blowhard will invoke it when talking about anything he did before 2005. There are car salesman-type blowhards (who make a show of using their listener's name every other sentence to prove they know it), intellectual blowhards (who can't be bothered to learn anyone's name) and, of course, celebrity blowhards (many of whom are so talented they can read one article about compact fluorescent light bulbs and instantly become climate scientists).
Worst of all, however, are the world-leader blowhards. I'm not talking about President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, all of whom are relatively taciturn and, in fairness, do not fall into the blowhard camp (Donald Rumsfeld, an A-list blowhard, left enough wind shear in his wake to last through Bush's final term).
I'm talking about nonstop yammerers like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who also, in case no one's noticed, happens to be a dead ringer for Lee Greenwood, singer/songwriter of the blowhard anthem "God Bless the U.S.A." ), North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel. All of these men, who would definitely drop the names of celebrities if they knew any, possess the cluelessness and bluster to take the kick-ass way to the next level.
By that I mean leading seminars at the Learning Annex. Imagine what Kim Jong Il could do if he dressed for respect and learned PowerPoint. That's a lecture even Galileo could learn something from.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times