Monthly Archives: July 2010

Saturday Night Music: Skylark

The Ella Fitzgerald series continues with Nelson Riddle’s swell arrangement of the Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer classic.

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Weekend Question Thread

If you could have personally witnessed one event in history, what would you want to have seen?


Saturday Blogwhoring Thread


p>Post away.


All The Things You Are

It’s all Ella, all the time here at First Draft. This tune comes from the underratedJerome Kern Songbookelpee with a shimmering and elegant arrangement by Nelson Riddle. Great stuff for a Friday evening.

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Ethnic Pride, Greek Style

I just started readingThe Turnaround by George Pelecanos. George is one of the best writers in the US and A right now. He’s often damned with faint praise “he’s good for a mystery writer.” That drives me batshit for two reasons:

First, Pelecanos writes hard boiled crime fiction, not polite mysteries wherein the butler is the murderer.

Second, some of my favorite American authors write crime fiction: Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke spring instantly to mind. All are great literary stylists who work the dark side of the street.

It’s patronizing to say “so and so is good for their genre.” I’d rather read Pelecanos than most purveyors of literary fiction any day. Almost as importantly, George brought the word malaka to a broader audience in Season Two ofThe Wire and for that I’m eternally grateful.

I didn’t start this post to proclaim my admiration of George Pelacanos’ work but to tell a story about my late father. He was a first generation American born to Greek immigrant parents, the sort of person who Lindsey Graham wants to deny citizenship to in the future. Bad Lindsey: your malakatude is showing. Anyway, my father was a World War II veteran and lifelong Republican but of the type that no longer exists: a moderate Eisenhower Republican. He was the kind of conservative who preferred private charities to government programs but when push came to shove, he thought people in need should be given a helping hand. The only hand proffered by conservatives nowadays comes in the form of a fist. And knuckle sandwiches aren’t nutritious.

Back to ethnic pride. My father avidly followed the careers of successful Greek Americans and loved talking about them. He had a deep and booming voice, which Dr. A loves imitating. Whenever the subject arose he’d say, for example: “Elia Kazan is Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.” I cannot recall how many times he used the same formulation but I heard it hundreds of times; especially as he aged. It was always rather endearing, less endearing was his insistence that he was the world’s foremost authority on all Greek Americans.

I’ll never forget a bizarre argument we had over Elia Kazan’s late cinematic masterpiece America, America. My dad insisted that it was an autobiographical film and I made the mistake of correcting him. Not only had I seen the movie and he hadn’t but I had just finished reading Kazan’s memoirs. I informed him that the main character was based on Kazan’s uncle and that Elia had been born in America. We went round and round on that one until I relented and reverted to surly teendom and said: “Whatever.” My father always had to be right even when he didn’t have a clue; particularly when his ethic group was involved. So it goes.

George Pelecanos is Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.

p>Cross-posted at Adrastos.




How secret is the Stadium Sauce?

I spent about 10 days in the Twin Cities as part of the
annual summer journalism workshop there. One of the best parts of the non-work
experience was that for the first time in a million year, I happened to be in
town when the Twins had a home stand. Couple that with the fact that they were
playing my team (the Indians) and it was a great chance to catch some fun

The seats were sold out, but a bit of patience and the need
for only a single ticket got me a great seat along the first base line for about
$3 under face value. It was a beautiful day, something you never had to think
about in years past when the fine people of Minnesota understood that they
lived in Minnesota and put a ROOF over their playing field.

Best of all? It was dollar hot dog night at the stadium.
Yes, you could gorge yourself on stadium wieners for pocket change instead of
having to pawn a kidney for dinner.

Then again, maybe that’s not the best thing.A recent ESPN
report showed that stadiums across the country had critical violations in
health service codes.
Nearly 30 percent of the stadiums had major health
violations at more than half of their concession stands. Rodent droppings, mold
in ice makers and people who were touching food with their bare hands were just
some of those violations.

An interview with an anonymous food service manager revealed
things that went undetected and yet were even more disturbing. He told stories
about finding pus-laden bandages in clam chowder and food that was rotting away
in a non-refrigerated area. Even worse, he talked about an incident where a guy
bled profusely into a pot of soup and just ladled the surface blood off and
stirred in the rest. The soup wasn’t served because the manager stepped in, but
the worker would have sent it along if he hadn’t been stopped.

The food service people ran away from this report like rats
into a stadium venue. However, one guy who is the chair of the group that
represents concession companies did pony up this gem:

“To say it’s a critical violation, it sends a pang of fear
in the public’s mind that they’re not being looked out for, and that’s not the
case,” said Richard Andersen, chairman of the Industry Affairs Council
with the International Association of Assembly Managers, which represents
sports stadium managers and concession companies. “These are moral people.
They’re trying to do the right thing.”

Sure, because when you think of people who sell $5 hot dogs,
$6 sodas and $4 popcorn in a monopolistic environment, you’re thinking, “There
is NO WAY these guys would try to crank out as much food as possible in the
shortest amount of time no matter what corners had to be cut.” Right? They’ve
got to be as compassionate and caring as a Catholic priest. Uh… OK, bad

When you go to a game, you eat the food because it’s part of
the experience and because you have few other options. Carry-in items have been
limited under the guise of safety, which is only partially the reason.
Increased rules against tailgating have limited when you can get there and what
you can do. So, unless you eat before you come, you’re stuck. And when you
bring a kid and the guy next to you has his child wolfing down a hot dog, it
seems a bit cruel to deny your kid that Americana pleasure.

This isn’t the only outdoor food activity that needs a hug.
The local kids selling brats out of the “brat fry” house in front of the Piggly
Wiggly always make me feel like a heel when I don’t buy. Then I see how the
kids are making the food and I know I’m right to pass on that greasy delicacy.
On occasion, I’ll give them the three bucks and say, “Just keep it. I’m not really

In Wisconsin, once the temperature reaches 49 degrees, we
start having outdoor festivals. The local clubs and school groups sell corn,
beef sandwiches and everything else to make a buck. I once opened a corn and
found little worms had been fried inside. For two bucks, I let that one go
politely and without a scene.

Food is one of those things we tend not to take seriously
until there’s a problem with it. I’ve rarely, if ever, seen anyone asking a
whole lot of questions of the counter help at Burger King or trying to check
out what they were eating at the county fair. If the “deep fried bacon wrapped
in chocolate” is any indication, we tend not to give a shit about long-term

And yet when a food-borne illness comes by and punches us in
the stomach, we suddenly wake up to reality. A few years back, The Missus and I
stopped by a McDonald’s drive through like we’d done thousands of times before.
We both ate the same thing and the next day we were incapacitated. Just like
the people in this story, we weren’t running with our stool samples to the
health department, so they couldn’t prove it was the food that got us. However,
it’s been almost five years and I still haven’t gone to a McDonald’s for as
much as a soda.

The minute I saw this report, I clicked on the map to see
what violations Target Field had received, thinking about those slightly pale
buck hot dogs.

No information available. The place was too new to have data
for it.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss.

Friday Ferretblogging: Claire, the Whole World

The whole world, Claire:


Yes. We have a girl. More properly, we have a miniature fluffball who looks like a fuzzy caterpillar, eats her own weight every day, and wants to be huggled and cuddled and carried around like a tiny, furry baby. She has a stubby tail and stubby little feet and was an absolute terror in the shelter. Usually we bring home chill lap ferrets from the shelter and they turn into demon dingos; this time we brought home a demon dingo and she turned into a snugglebug.

Friends who’ve had girl and boy ferrets cautioned us that the girls usually end up being in charge. Little Claire seems to be assessing the situation and so far is content to take a back seat. Riot tolerates her pretty well, herding her gently this way and that, away from his toys and towards places he thinks she should be.

Bucky? Well, Bucky thinks she’s a stuffed animal. Bucky keeps grabbing her by the scruff of her neck and trying to stash her in the box where he keeps all his stuffies. She’s about the size of the stuffies, so it makes a kind of twisted ferret sense. She doesn’t LIKE it (she hisses at him) but he isn’t hurting her in any way, and she just hasn’t gotten mad enough to kick his ass yet.


I’m waiting for that day, eagerly, with the video camera at the ready.

Here’s a water bottle for size comparison purposes:


We’re gonna have fun with this one.


Friday Catblogging: Blue Spear Blues Take Two

Della Street is usually the one who plays with the Muses spear. Oscar pounced on it the other day and we tried to capture the action but as soon as the camera came out, he dropped it. Typical cat. I guess Dr. A and I are the ones who really have the blue spear blues. So it goes.

Oscar and the spear

Satin Doll

Ella Fitzgerald and the Duke Ellington Orchestra: how can you go wrong?

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Chuck Todd is afraid the right wing need an excuse to attack journalism:

“I am sure Ezra had good intentions when he created it, but I am
offended the right is using this as a sledgehammer against those of us
who don’t practice activist journalism.

“Journolist was
pretty offensive. Those of us who are mainstream journalists got mixed
in with journalists with an agenda. Those folks who thought they were
improving journalism are destroying the credibility of journalism.

“This has kept me up nights. I try to be fair. It’s very depressing.”

Chuckles goes on to be a whiny pussy about how he was misquoted, which is usually the response from people who realize they made themselves look like assholes but don’t want to just admit they were wrong and should have kept their fucking mouths shut. Politico does a lot of reprehensible shit, but they tend to do pretty decent stenography of morons. It’s kind of their thing.

And, you know, fuck JournoList anyway, because they wouldn’t have me as a member because I wasn’t high-class enough for their seekrit club, and also because seriously who caresthe earth is caving in. The only reason I’m mentioning this at all is to talk about the patently insane idea that without a private list-service of wankers, the right wing would be unable to tarnish the sterling credibility of American journalism.

I mean, Chuck, have you been functionally awake for the past 25 years? The right-wing has pretty much done nothing BUT attack the credibility of American journalism by lumping lunatics in with people trying to do a job, and the only pushback that’s come has come from people with an “agenda” who don’t want to see Fox News dictate what’s going to lead every local station’s 10 o’clock. You know, filthy hippies who you can’t listen to because their T-shirts are mean and one of them said something about Palestine.

Jesus H. Chupacabra Christ, I know boyfriend isn’t that much older than me, and I’ve got some damage but I’m not presently auditorally or visually hallucinating, so how can his concept of reality not even come close to that which exists for the rest of us?

The right wing doesn’t need ammo. The right wing doesn’t need excuses. The right wing doesn’t need an engraved invitation and a party hat and a noisemaker and a ride to the train station to get on the express to Fuckjournalismville. They’ve been living there for years, and while you tried to make nice with the new crazy neighbors and turn the music down every time they asked, they were cutting your gas lines and releasing gophers in your yard.

I mean, come on. Suddenly we don’t want to give them an excuse to be mean?


Malaka Of The Week: Ron Ramsey

I’m an atheist but around religious people, I soften it to agnostic because for some reason they mind it less. I’m not sure why but, hey, I’m a tolerant person but one thing that I’m intolerant of is intolerance. That brings me to this week’s “honoree.” Ron Ramsey is running for Governor of Tennessee as a Republican. He’s the Lt. Gov and, apparently, his campaign was stuck in the mud. So, instead of spinning his wheels, he decided to take action and trot out a boogieman for the voters to beat on.Mr. Ramsey’s choice was Muslims:

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, currentlyrunning third
in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary race, says he’s not
sure if Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion apply to the
followers of the world’ssecond-largest faith, Islam.

At a recent event in Hamilton County, Ramsey was asked by a man in
the audience about the “threat that’s invading our country from the
Muslims.” Ramsey proclaimed his support for the Constitution and the
whole “Congress shall make no law” thing when it comes to religion. But
he also said that Islam, arguably, is less a faith than it is a “cult.”

“Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a
religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want
to call it,” Ramsey said. “Now certainly we do protect our religions,
but at the same time this is something we are going to have to face.”

The question, Ramsey mused, was related to thesimmering topic
of a new Muslim community center scheduled to be built in Murfreesboro,
Tennessee. Ramsey, like many conservatives weighing in on the debate,
mistakenly confused the center with a mosque — which Murfreesboro
already has — and then proceeded to foment fears that Sharia saw would
be practiced by Muslims there.

“Now, you know, I’m all about freedom of religion. I value the First
Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value
the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on,” he said. “But you cross the
line when they try to start bringing Sharia Law here to the state of
Tennessee — to the United States. We live under our Constitution and
they live under our Constitution.”

Sharia law in Tennessee? Horrors: run and hide and under the bed everyone. They’re coming to put a head scarf on the women and cut the hands off all the men. It’s, of course, okay for biblethumpers to pass laws effecting those of other faiths but Muslims? It’s time to exercise your Second Amendment rights and run those varmints outta the hills of Tennessee. I wonder if Ramsey has heard of the Scopes Monkey Trial?

Here’s the deal: I’m not down with any of the monotheistic faiths. If one believes that one’s Sky God is the only true Sky God, intolerance is one step away. Over the centuries many people of faith have tried their damnedest to reign in the nutjobs in their sects and work on respecting others. Christians may be the majority in Tennessee but they’re the minority in other places. Additionally, Christianity was considered a cult until it grew to the point that it had to be respected. There are a helluva lot of Muslims in the world so it’s hard to argue that they’re a cult. Hmm, I wonder if Malaka Ramsey likes the Washington Times? As a wingnut, I bet he does. It is, of course, owned by the Moonies who most people consider a cult. But cults should be tolerated as well. That’s how things work in a pluralistic democracy.

Ron Ramsey’s cynical use of religious bigotry is merely a symptom of a bigger problem. Anti-Muslim hate speechseems to have reached a fever pitch of late. In New York, there’s been an ongoing controversy about the possibility of a Muslim center being placed near Ground Zero. “Outside agitators” such as Newt Gingrich and that silly woman from Alaska whose name I never mention have gotten on their hind legs to bray against it. That episode seems to have reached its apogee withGOP Gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio demanding a debate with Democrat Andrew Cuomo on that topic and nothing else. Why? Like Ramsey, Lazio is heading towards defeat and he’s playing the hate card to see if he can stir things up. It’s a text book case of egregious malakatude.

I selected Ron Ramsey as malaka of the week but he’s essentially a stand-in for all the bigots who are stirring up hate of the Other. Me, I prefer to criticize individuals as opposed to demonizing whole groups.I wish some of these folks would substitute church or synagogue for the word mosque when they start painting with such a broad brush. Of course, the current ginned up controversies are about community centers that just happen to be run by Muslims so the bigot should substitute Presbyterian, Lutheran or Reform Judaism for the M word. I don’t think the JCC in New Orleans has any plans to bring Talmudic law to the Gret Stet, which means I won’t have to race out and buy a yarmulke. I doubt if I could find one that fit my size 8 head anyway…

The Real Victims


Strictly on an intellectual level, it’s amazing to think aboutJeffrey Lord’s “logic.” I mean, we’re not even talking pretzel folds. More like protein twists.

Back in the real world, though…good lord, what an asshole. What. An. Asshole. Borat had more tact.

And since Mr. Lord presumably approves of “traditional” discipline, I say he needs a good old-fashioned smack upside the head.

That Ole Devil Called Love

In the space of 36 or so hours, we’ve gone fromThat Old Devil Called Tony toOleĀ“ toThat Ole Devil Called Love. Is there a pattern or is this just random shit thrown up against the wall? You decide: I gotta go and convince Della Street to stop howling like a tuxedo clad banshee:

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Restaurant Site Menus

Felisdemens asks a question I’ve always wondered about myself:

– Why in the name of FUCK do restaurant websites IN THIS DAY AND AGE
have their menus solely available as PDFs? That is the stupidest thing
ever conceived. Seriously. It’s time to cockpunch your web designer,

This makes me crazy. I hate downloading things I’m only gonna read once.


Jindal The Rockhead

As a resident of the Gret Stet of Louisiana, I’ve been appalled by the way so many local media outlets have been acting as cheerleaders for Governor PBJ, the Parish Presidents and the oil industry.Today, Picayune outdoors editor Bob Marshall throws a well placed rock at Bobby’s beloved rock jetties:

At a press conference supporting his wish to narrow Gulf passes with
rock jetties in an attempt to keep oil out of interior marshes, Gov.
Bobby Jindal said this: “No one can convince us that rocks in the water
are more dangerous than oil. That is absolutely ridiculous. The only
people who believe that are the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., who
can’t see the oil, smell the oil or touch the oil.”

That’s not even close to the truth, as Gov. Jindal surely knew. But I’m
not surprised.
That misinformation is in keeping with the governor’s response to this
disaster, which has often been a mixture of diversion, fur coat attitude
and panic — all of which is doing terrible long-term damage to our
chances of survival on this starving delta.

Let’s start with that claim about the rocks.

The governor knows full well that since the day the rock idea was
broached by Jefferson Parish politicians, the foremost authorities on
Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem have come out against it. These are not
Washington bureaucrats. They are men and women who have long lived and
worked in coastal Louisiana; many of them are natives. They have spent
their lives becoming expert on how the system functions, why it has been
crumbling and what must be done to save what is left.

Of course, Marshall’s piece was published under the rubric of “other opinions” since it doesn’t toe the Picayune line but I’m pleased that the paper ran the piece at all. It’s a relief after months of Jindalista propaganda that they actually allowed someone to throw some stones at PBJ’s misguided and idiotic plans. Louisiana has some of the top coastal scientists in the world and they’re united in denouncing the rock jetties as likely to make things worse.

I’m well aware that the GOP isn’t known for listening to scientists: it’s the flat earth and creationism party, after all. As for Governor PBJ, he’s too busy holding press conferences to listen to anyone other than the wingnuts and sycophants who keep whispering in his ear: “This can make you President.” It’s unclear how this is playing outside the spill zone but some people actually believe in science. Imagine that.

Cross-posted at Adrastos


They’re Just Bangers, It’s Fine

Sometimes my city is glorious, butit really is run by assholes:

In a violent summer, the city last night saw its most violent single
incident so far. Nine people were hurt – one seriously – in what police
are calling a gang-related shooting at a CTA turnabout at 7900 S.
Western Ave., a junction for both
the CTA’s No. 49 and No. 79 buses. According to police, five of the
nine victims are known gang members (four Gangster Disciples, one Vice
Lord). The victims, eight males and one female, ranged in age from 16
to 31. CPD Supt. Jody Weis stressed the gang-related nature of the
shooting, telling reporters,
“I don’t want people to think there’s any kind of threat against people
waiting for the bus or anything like that.” We’re all breathing a sigh
of relief; thanks, Jody.

Yeah, it’s just fucking fine. Nothing to see here. Just some more animals doing what animals do. It’s not like it was some young pretty white girl who got killed, after all, or some honor student, or someone So Full of Promise who had a scholarship to some top university and loved his mom. It was just some gangbangers. Whatever. Fuck ’em, right? If you’re not in a gang, you don’t have to worry. Right?

(And could we not list the gangs by name, please? It makes it seem like there should be a box score somewhere with league standings and an injury report.)

I’m not naive, you know. I do get that despite our grand protestations of equality in this country some lives are very starkly worth more than others. Worth more of our attention, our time, our column inches, our care. “Our” care, I mean. I do get that we have always accepted and will always accept a level of violence that does not affect us personally, and I also get that we have this supremely fucked-up thought that if we aren’t wearing colors we’ll somehow be okay, because nothing shitty happens to you but you deserved it.

Yet, if your job is to protect the whole city, I would hope you could at least refrain from saying something so buttfuckingly stupid as that nobody needs to worry about bus stops turning into something Wyatt Earp would dig because they’re all just gangbangers.

In the first place, like nobody’s ever been shot by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the second, even if it’s just gangbangers killing each other THAT IS STILL NOT OKAY.



WWTFUS: telling the children to rock for their choices

If there is anything queerer than aBand Queer, it’s a Choir Queer.

Which is why I adore every single one of these guys:

For those unfamiliar with the tune, live version of the original

Family Values

Jan Schill nee Mantooth really, really doesn’t want her father to be elected a Judge in Oklahoma. So much so that she’s gone on the internets with a site calledDo Not Vote For My Dad.

The thing that scared me about this story is that I found myself wondering if John Mantooth is related to actor Randy Mantooth. Randy must be a bit long in the mantooth by now…

This is what happens when you watch too much reality teevee: brain rot. As former Louisiana GovernorJohn McKeithen would surely say at this point, won’t you please hep me. Hep me before I flip a table or something. In case you’re wondering hep is cracker for help:

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