Mike Daisey performed his monologue The Trump Card all over the country for months leading up to the election, culminating in a final performance at NYC’s Town Hall that was broadcast online and is now available to watch on YouTube and to listen to on Daisey’s podcast, All Stories Are Fiction.

I listened to the podcast version today, and I was riveted for the entire two and a half hours. Daisey is not only an excellent storyteller; he’s an astute observer of the ways showmanship works in our culture, which makes him an ideal tour guide for liberals trying to understand the appeal of Donald Trump.

Of course, there’s a strange sadness listening to this after the election. When Daisey recorded it, he couldn’t imagine Trump actually winning. But it’s worth listening to regardless.

(This show was directed by my pal Isaac Butler, who you might remember from his occasional appearances on @maxamoo.)

Enormous, by Jean-Michele Gregory

I am in love with an enormous man.

Though he is only two inches taller than me, his girth is twice my own, and his weight more than double.

I look at these rail-thin men on the street and I wonder, how could I lay in bed next to something as small as that? How would I ever feel comforted by their small-boy embrace?

When he enfolds me I almost vanish. His arms are thick and heavy, and once he’s asleep, almost impossible to move. His belly warms the small of my back and fills in all the space between us so there is no point at which we lose contact. I sleep curled like a fetus, my toes barely extending beyond his knees, and when I look down I see his feet poking out from under the covers, two rough loaves of bread.

My aunt, the beauty queen from Texas who could have any man she wanted, also chose someone enormous. She loved his wit, his heart, his songs, and she wanted to keep him as long as she could, so when she caught him eating steak she became angry. My mother told her to leave him alone—“He’s a grown man! Let him eat what he wants!”—but when he died two months later from heart attack I wonder if my mother regretted her words.

My husband and I tell each other that he is a bear and I am a bird. When we walk on crowded sidewalks I take advantage of my size to weave around the people—and then look behind to find I’ve lost him and have to circle back. “Little bird, you forget I can’t fly,” he once said.

He wants to lose weight. Every eight months or so the fire is lit anew and he swears that this time it will be different, this time he will lose pounds instead of resolve. And then he suffers through low-fat, low-calorie diets; he drinks gallons of water; he consumes boneless skinless chicken breasts in every conceivable way; he eats dressing-less salads three times a day. As he falls asleep, he moans to me, “I’m hungry.” And then he dreams about great feasts with cheeses and olives and large roasts with crispy, crackled skin and wakes up feeling guilty.

And I wake up feeling guilty too, because I’ve let my husband go hungry.

Some mornings I will wake to find a jar of peanut butter has gone missing. Or that the six-pack of diet ice-cream bars we purchased just the day before is lying empty on the counter. He is never good at covering his tracks and I don’t want to scold him. Never come between a bear and his food, you know. Instead, I’ll quietly break the box down and throw it away. But the next time we’re in the grocery store and he lingers over the ice-cream section I will hear myself say, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” and he will know that I know and he will hang his head low and we’ll move on to the next aisle.

I hate it when he does that. Or rather, I hate that my words have done that to him. He is larger than life, on a different scale than the rest of us, and I can’t stand to see him diminished in any way. And I love to watch him eat. I think it was that first burrito that made me fall in love: the shy unwrapping of the foil, strip by silver strip, until the naked tortilla emerged and he took it in his mouth, eager but gentle, like its contents were something precious.

Will you laugh if I say I wanted to be that burrito?

A bear in the wild learns to eat as much as possible when the eating’s good; winter will take care of any excess weight. A bear in the city, a bear with a credit card, a bear with a job and a human face—no winter’s coming for his belly.

After another diet failed and a shared orgy of brownies and ice cream, I lay across his perfect belly and sighed. “Oh, bear … what are we going to do with you?” I asked.

“Peck, peck, peck,” he said. “Why are you always so sure something needs doing?”

Now is the moment. And if people tell themselves that this is over because of this story, because of what I did, they’re forgetting that this would not exist in the way it does, if this story had not gotten out. If it had not gotten out, we would not have set the emotional landscape that allowed the New York Times piece to land. You know that’s true. That doesn’t excuse me in the least, but it does me that there’s a responsibility on all of us, if we are journalists, to pursue the story, if we are not journalists, to read, and discuss, and talk about the issues. It’s so important. It is so much larger than me, or the show, or anything I have ever done.
All Stories Are Fiction

Mike Daisey’s new show, 29 monologues that make up All the Phases of the Moon, will be made available individually the afternoon after they are performed.

“Each evening stands alone as a single episode, but together they create a living theatrical novel set against the secret history of New York City – a city that is loved and loathed and larger than life. From Pentecostal church services held in IKEA showrooms to Nikola Tesla’s laboratories in the Lower East Side, from the infamous Mole People’s convocations deep beneath the subway lines to the hidden and terrifying plans of Robert Moses, Daisey weaves a story of ordinary magic in a most extraordinary city. Night after night he will strive like Sheherazade to tell the largest story ever attempted in the American theater.”

Mike Daisey, the white American who deliberately made himself the face of abused Chinese factory workers, now complains that we should be focusing on real atrocities in those factories instead of the lies he spread to all of us about them for his own benefit. For that, his audience gave him a standing ovation. Sorry, Mike. The rest of us know that more than one thing can be wrong with this picture.

I have traveled to southern China and interviewed workers employed in the production of electronics. I spoke with a man whose right hand was permanently curled into a claw from being smashed in a metal press at Foxconn, where he worked assembling Apple laptops and iPads. I showed him my iPad, and he gasped because he’d never seen one turned on. He stroked the screen and marveled at the icons sliding back and forth, the Apple attention to detail in every pixel. He told my translator, “It’s a kind of magic.”

Mr. Jobs’s magic has its costs. We can admire the design perfection and business acumen while acknowledging the truth: with Apple’s immense resources at his command he could have revolutionized the industry to make devices more humanely and more openly, and chose not to. If we view him unsparingly, without nostalgia, we would see a great man whose genius in design, showmanship and stewardship of the tech world will not be seen again in our lifetime. We would also see a man who in the end failed to “think different,” in the deepest way, about the human needs of both his users and his workers.


— Mike Daisey


Promo: The Trump Card


based on the monologue by Mike Daisey

performed by Kylie Sparks

adapted by Jay Bushman

While we're on the subject...

These things are easy to believe, because they’re documented in our own history:

  • long hours working in subpar conditions
  • insufficient pay for tasks performed
  • blacklists of “troublemakers”
  • descriptions of the scenery and the smog

It saddens me that Mike Daisey felt the need to lie, but enough people have likely weighed in on that part. What really strikes me is why he felt like he had to. Was it for theatricality? To tell a more riveting story? Or because we as a culture have become so desensitized that we require ever worse scenarios in order to capture our attention?

Major props to Ira Glass and the This American LIfe team for being so forthcoming. It took guts to put that show on the air. It took BALLS OF STEEL to retract it and then issue a new episode detailing why and digging even deeper.

Watch on lori-nyc.tumblr.com

In ten minutes Chris Hayes demonstrates why Mike Daisey didn’t need lies to tell a compelling story about working conditions in Chinese factories. Hayes’ passion propels his reporting without undermining the facts, and by the concluding remarks I find myself in tears.


The Trump Card: Promo 2 - “Bad News”

The Agony and Ecstasy of Mike Daisey

I cannot believe the GLEE, the GLOATING about Mike Daisey… which isn’t to say that Daisey doesn’t deserve to be called out. I think he does. 

Here’s my calling out.

I’ve seen the “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” twice, once at Berkeley Rep last February (2011), and two weeks ago, at the Public, with a group of University of Michigan students. 

The first time I saw it, I was knocked out. I wanted to be Mike Daisey when I grew up. Okay, he’s twenty years younger, but still. 

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