Monthly Archives: August 2013

Friday Ferretblogging: Heroes Edition

Rescue1

Since it’s guest pet week on First Draft, have some heroic rescuers who saved ferrets from drowning:

TWO young animals thought they were ‘ferret’ last night after becoming stranded on rocks off the coast of Cambois last night.

The ferret’s anxious owners had made desperate attempts to save their animals by wading into the sea on the Cambois bay rocks, just south of Newbiggin, but their best endeavours looked likely to be scuppered when neither Tootsie or Lucky responded.

With a desperate 999 call to the Humber coastguard a request to Newbiggin lifeboat to divert from their training exercise was made.

1. Is that second graf the most British thing you’ve ever read or what?

2. I would consider renaming “Lucky” in light of the events.

3. Newbiggin is the name of my Hot Fuzz tribute film.

A.

The (Hurricane) Name Game

It has been a blissfully quiet Hurricane season thus far. Weather conditions for development have been unfavorable, which is something I, uh, favor. It’s been so slow on the storm front that I haven’t spent too much time complaining about the wimpy names appended to far too many Hurricanes. I want Hurricane names to evoke fear, loathing, and all that jazz.This year’s list is pretty dull, it doesn’t have anything as silly as Danny or Florence but Hurricane Wendy does not inspire terror although I have two pretty terrifying friends of that name…

Why am I going on about this? Why do I go on about anything? The reason for this self-indulgent exercise is a suggestion by 350.orgthat we name storms after climate change deniers. It’s a capital idea, almost as good as naming them after dead dictators; imagine Hurricane Idi Amin Dada.The site comes complete with a video and one of them new fangled internets petitions for you kids to sign. Here’s the video:

I’m pleased as punch that the worthies at 350.org included the junior Sinator from Louisiana in the video. They missed out on the whole Diaper Dave mythos but otherwise did a good job…

Visit the web site, sign the petition, and leave your suggestion for a scary, fearsome, and bad ass Hurricane name in the comment section here at First Draft. Yeah, I’m begging for comments. Hope that doesn’t make me a spud or a hobbit…

Sly Stone and the All Albino Band?

Rock music legend and legendary eccentric, Sly Stone, gave an interview to Alexis Petridis of the Guardian wherein he said something weird even by Sly’s standards:

“To me,” he continues, “albinos are the most legitimate minority group
of all. All races have albinos. If we all realise that we’ve all got
albinos in our families, it’s going to take away from the ridiculous
racial tension, if you’re black or you’re white, blah blah blah. That’s
why I’ve been trying to look for albino musicians and organise a group
of people that are going to be right. That’s what I’ve been rehearsing
for. People will see us, all of us together – a real family, an albino
family. People will get happy when they see that! People,” he says
firmly, “have got to be happy for that.”

Albinism will save the world? It’s an unusual notion to say the least. I guess Sly’s goal is to make something recessive dominant or some such shit. Of course, Sly has had a weird impact on many of his former colleagues, driving bass God Larry Graham into the arms of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. One day I hope to answer the door and receive a copy of the Watchtower from the man behind Graham Central Station. That’s my dream, y’all. It’s not much of one but it’s mine. Holy crap. Did I just encourage the Witnesses to come by my house? Never mind.

I wonder if Sly has touched base with the Winter Brothers? Johnny and Edgar could give Sly what he’s looking for. They’re both as famously eccentric as Sly himself. Sly and Johnny could trade hats with Johnny pimped out and Sly in a 10 gallon Stetson. It could be a winner, I tell ya.

Since I went on about Larry Graham, I’ll let him have the last word:

All War is a Crime

Jude commented on this post:

The government and the rebels have been indiscriminately bombing and shelling cities; conventional explosives are WAY more deadly than air-dispersed chemical agents. Yet we still have this 1916-era mentality about how poison gas is somehow just so ungentlemanly that it deserves a special level of outrage. That’s bullshit. Artillery barrages and bombs do terrible, terrible things to human bodies. When you’re suffering and/or dying, you don’t give a shit whether hot steel, concussion trauma, napalm burns, or poison gas did the trick.

Which is really what my issue with any bombing is about. It’s not that we’re doing it or not doing it. It’s that we seem to have decided we will only do it when X number have died, or X weapon is used, in this one particular case, and it’s presented to us as OF COURSE BECAUSE CHEMICAL WEAPONS.

Let’s give the people who are pushing for this the absolute best benefit of the doubt and assume they really do mean to aid the Syrian rebels and save civilian lives. This isn’t Iraq; there is an actual conflict already underway with implications for US allies and humanitarian concerns at stake. We are not just going in somewhere to kick the shit out of some people we don’t like because suck on this, because we need to feel better, because our national magazine columnists have decided this is what “Americans” “need.”

But this also isn’t Afghanistan; nobody hanging out there attacked America directly. So are we making the case that any use of chemical weapons anywhere is grounds for America attacking?

In that case, hunker down, Washington DC:

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration’s long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn’t disclose.

AWKWARD.

I don’t know how you come up with an arithmetic for war that ISN’T monstrous, given that no matter what you do people are going to die, but I don’t think this is a workable formula.

A.

Friday Guest Catblogging: Kismet in a box

It’s no mystery that all cats love boxes. Here’s a snap of my blogger buddy Lunanola’scat Kismet doing what felines do best:

Kismet box

The Gods Lift Those Who Lift Each Other

Cats and kittens, we have fallen down on that job:

The city secured a permit to tear down the house in November 2011.

James, who had driven down from Baton Rouge to attend a prior code enforcement hearing, said she never received notification of the hearing at which the city’s demolition request was considered.

According to city spokesman Tyler Gamble, the city’s Code Enforcement department does not send letters to property owners to inform them of such hearings. The Neighborhood Conservation District Committee, he said, “would have posted the notice of hearing on the building itself and the agenda would have been published in The Times-Picayune as the journal of record.”

However, city code says that when the city submits a demolition request to the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee, “no less than ten business days prior to the first hearing, a letter shall be sent to the property owner via regular or certified mail to the last known address verified by the tax assessor records.”

In October 2010, the Landrieu administration put blight remediation at the top of its to-do list, a goal that appears to have collided with James’ effort to renovate her property.

In announcing his plan to rid the city of 10,000 blighted properties, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “I’m putting you on notice now: Today is the day to start bringing your property into compliance.”

It’s a warning James-Hayes wishes government agencies would heed when it comes to helping people rebuild. “They should have the same timeline for the government programs in regards to helping people,” she said.

I was listening to public radio tonight, and on The World they were comparing the levee systems built before and after Katrina to the ones built in the Netherlands. I’ll save you the trouble of getting to the end of the story by saying the US came out of it looking pretty damn shaky. But what interested me was how hard the program’s hosts were swerving around certain topics.

For example, they went to a great deal of trouble to describe how the Dutch don’t view global warming and rising sea levels as controversial … and avoided the topic of just who in the US thinks science is the devil.

They talked about how the Dutch have paid for their levees with taxes … and failed to mention the political movement which views all taxation as theft.

They talked about how non-controversial basic protections government can provide were to the Dutch … and it must have slipped their minds, the name of the political party that hates government with a virulence most people reserve for spiders and penis drug commercials during football games.

Everybody all week long was shocked and outraged by this, but honestly, with a journalism dedicated to never even once squarely placing the blame on anyone for anything, can you really blame people for just listening to the voices in their heads? I mean is it any wonder, with reporters and commentators every day writing extended shrugs as to the question of responsibility for anything, that people have actually LISTENED and decided that yes, indeed, fuck it and let’s just drink beer and not think about this too hard?

Which if this was only about ignorant-ass ‘necks’ answers on opinion polls would be kind of okay, but the culture this nurtures leads to situations like the above, where the rules don’t mean anything and nothing makes any sense and everybody just fends for themselves. Where we are not accountable to one another for the things we promise to do, and you blink and your home is gone.

A.

Evolution Of The Hipster

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but New Orleans has been invaded by hipsters in the last few years. Our hipsters are a particularly self-righteous and preachy lot who want us to thank them for moving to our crummy town. I kid you not. A year ago, I got into an amusing exchange with some hipster douchebags at the Gambit blog over an eatery that called itself a blogstaurant. I am not making this up.

My pal Greg Hackenberg posted the video below on Facebook, which is a stirring puppet show exegesis of hipsterdom:

The troll meets the drummer

Remember when I posted last month about a confrontation between malakatude hall of famer James O’Keefe and former US Attorney/amateur drummer Jim Letten? You don’t?Here’s a link to that post.

The much ballyhooed video shot by O’Keefe’s band of malakatudinous pranksters is finally online. It’s highly self serving but still makes O’Keefe look like a twat. Letten doesn’t come off much better, but it’s fun to see him blow his stack and throw O’Keefe’s book at him while calling him a hobbit and a spud:

I do wonder, however, what Jim Letten has against potatoes. Maybe it’s an Irish joke or something…

Hat Tip: Jeffrey at the Yellow Blog.

In Defense of One Direction, Or Why Your Favorite Music Is Terrible

Is there anything old people like more than hating on young people’s taste in music? I mean it’s like the Olympics for us:

Magazines and television and advertisements tell teenage girls that they should like certain things, and then other magazines tell girls that they’re stupid for liking those things. Then magazines publish articles and TV shows run specials wondering why teenage girls don’t have better self esteem, like they didn’t make it that way.

There’s nothing wrong with teenage girls being enthusiastic about boy bands or (heaven forbid) having sexual feelings about the boys in boy bands. There is something wrong with the way that other people react to teenage girls and their interests.

The GQ dickhead the author is responding to makes one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever read, and I read Republicans for a living:

“These women don’t care about the Rolling Stones. They don’t care about the meta-modernist cycle of cultural repetition. They don’t care about history. All these female fans care about is their immediate vociferous reverence.”

First, no normal teenager at all cares about the meta-modernist cycle of cultural repetition, so blow it out your asshole.

Second, for fuck’s sake, why does everybody have to start with the goddamn Stones? Must all interest in music begin with the 1960s Western Male Canon, and go from there? For all the hipster-hating that goes on among Baby Boomers this is just the same in reverse: Love my Important Music or you’re just not cool. I doubt everybody worships at the altar of the first band they ever heard. Maybe you start with the boy bands and listen to other stuff later, fer chrissakes.

Maybe you’re 13 and you care exactly as much about the Stones as 13-year-olds in 1964 cared about Glenn Miller.

I’m biased because my era’s most popular music didn’t exactly set the world on fire, unless you think Blind Melon was some kind of apotheosis of lyricism, so whatever the hipsters and the latest boy bands come out with is at least an improvement on that shit. (And don’t throw Nirvana in my face. Nirvana fans my age have made Nirvana so insufferable that it’s impossible to come to any appreciation of it that isn’t tainted by some socially impaired dickbro repeating Cobain’s lyrics a million times because if you don’t love them, you just weren’t listening correctly.)

I don’t understand what we get out of loathing what Kids Today like, I really don’t. I’m not One Direction’s target demographic, but if it comes up on Pandora while I’m running, I’m not throwing a fit about it. It’s mostly positive, peppy, silly stuff and who the hell cares? I don’t understand the rage people fly into about its popularity. Other than not-so-subtly broadcasting that we are Old As Fuck, what are we saying when we go around talking about how awful and trivial everything today is?

We’re saying look how much better WE are, for having 20 years on everybody, is what we’re saying. And, um, yeah, of course. My 18-year-old self HAD NEVER BEEN TO A ROCK SHOW. I knew Neil Young as the guy whose whiny, nasally tape got stuck in the truck’s tape deck during a 6-hour car ride and my dad wouldn’t shut the fucking thing off so for SIX HOURS it was Neil wheezing about the free world over and over and over. I’d never heard “Ohio.” I had never heard of Leonard Cohen. I knew who Bob Dylan was but fuck if I’d ever listened to him once. And forget female artists; Janis Joplin sounded like somebody having a seizure to me at that age.

But what exactly was my 18-year-old self’s obligation to that music? And why do we all need our opinions, musical and otherwise, validated by every successive generation? Quoth Pete Townshend, a fellow who knows something about sound, on outraged fans bitching about One Direction ripping off Baba O’Riley:

Pete Townshend has responded to One Direction fans furious over an Internet rumor that the Who were pursuing legal action over the boy band’s “Best Song Ever,” which bears more than a passing resemblance to “Baba O’Riley.” Not true, Townshend said yesterday in a statement.

“No! I like the single. I like One Direction,” Townshend said. “The chords I used and the chords they used are the same three chords we’ve all been using in basic pop music since Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry made it clear that fancy chords don’t mean great music – not always. I’m still writing songs that sound like ‘Baba O’Riley’ – or I’m trying to!”

In fact, Townshend appears to be flattered that has band continues to shape the contemporary pop scene: “I’m happy to think they may have been influenced a little bit by the Who,” he said. “I’m just relieved they’re not all wearing boiler suits and Doc Martens, or Union Jack jackets.”

Right? Be relieved we’re not all repeating the same shit over and over in exact form, or there would be no joy in going back and discovering things we missed growing up, in no small part because they sound so different from what we have now.

A.

Why Is This Our Job?

Questions for Obama on Syria:

First, why does this particular heinous act rise to the level of justifying a military response? More specifically, why did a similarly heinous act by the Egyptian army elicit from Washington only the mildest response? Just weeks ago, Egyptian security forces slaughtered hundreds of Egyptians whose “crime” was to protest a military coup that overthrew a legitimately elected president. Why the double standard?

Second, once U.S. military action against Syria begins, when will it end? What is the political objective? Wrapping the Assad regime on the knuckles is unlikely to persuade it to change its ways. That regime is engaged in a fight for survival. So what exactly does the United States intend to achieve and how much is President Obama willing to spend in lives and treasure to get there? War is a risky business. Is the president willing to commit U.S. forces to what could well become another protracted and costly struggle?

I’ve never been a fan of “let them all kill each other, fuck ’em” glibertarian foreign policy, but somebody should also have to explain what exactly AMERICA gets out of this. Best case scenario is we spend a shitload of money bombing with few if any American lives lost. We’ll kill a bunch more Muslims, whose relatives will all be justifiably pissed at us. Assad will fall, or he won’t, and the bombing will continue, or it won’t, and we’ll be safer and better positioned in the world how?

I’m not applauding the idea of chemical weapons attacks with impunity. I’m asking what exactly our obligation here is, especially given how well it’s been going, our kicking wasps’ nests in the world. If we had a long track record of being able to go into someplace and get people to stop their shit, maybe I’d be less likely to worry, but lately? All we seem to do is get stung and fall down hills.

I’m willing to be persauded on this topic, but only by actual arguments, not impassioned statements about how chemical weapons are terrible, because not a person alive including the person firing them at innocent people disagrees with that.

A.

Heckuva Job, Bush Library

Bush_Blanco_mourning_300

The recently opened Dubya Bush mausoleum is putting the lie in lieberry. It’s not surprising that they’re offering a revisionist take on how the Bushies dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the federal flood.Former Picayuneman Bruce Nolan went to Dallas so we didn’t have to and wrote about the exhibit for the Advocate:

There was a time when George W. Bush minced no words about the
federal response to Hurricane Katrina. He called it “unacceptable.” He
fired his point man at FEMA and commissioned an internal review of the
failures. A Senate inquiry led by his own party produced a withering
critique of federal errors that began even before Katrina made landfall.
As Bush wrote in “Decision Points,” his memoir, “the legacy of fall
2005 lingered for the rest of my time in office.”

But as the
eighth anniversary of the deadly storm approaches, the newly opened
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum reshapes the story of
Katrina, largely skimming over the federal government’s participation in
an epic disaster.

The weeklong terrors that killed nearly 1,800
people and left 40,000 marooned for days are portrayed largely as the
product of unfortunate geography and natural fury that overwhelmed local
officials, much more so than their Federal Emergency Management Agency
partners.

That’s just Nolan’s opening salvo about an exhibition he found lacking in historical accuracy:

Except for a picture of exhausted evacuees in the care of rescuers,
there are no images of the human suffering or the desperation that
marked the first days after the levees breached, shocking the nation and
the world.

No filthy Superdome. No mention of the sweaty crowd of
20,000 that waited for five days for rescue at the Ernest N. Morial
Convention Center. No reference to Michael Brown — “Brownie” — the
beleaguered director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who
resigned under duress just 10 days after Bush infamously complimented
him for doing a “heckuva job.”

Katrina without Brownie? Holy whitewash, Batman. Of course, I’m not surprised. Presidential lieberries start life as spin factories but most eventually morph into something more like genu-wine museums. I hope you’re proud of me for not making the “it’s another library for a dude who didn’t read very much” joke. Oops, I just did. Actually, LBJ read even less than Preznit Beavis but that’s another story.I’m trying to turn over a new Liev and pun less. Anyone buying it?

Nolan wrote a companion piece about Bush, Rove and their attempt to bully Gret Stet Governor Kathleen Blanco into federalizing the Louisiana National Guard. Governor Meemaw’s refusal was one of her finest moments. Her recollection of what happened, of course, differs from the story told by the Bush Lieberry:

Bush concludes that delaying the dispatch of federal troops for three
days while negotiating with Blanco was his greatest management misstep
during the Katrina crisis.

But eight years after the storm, Bush and Blanco still tell different stories about their standoff over “federalization.”

While
it seems central to Bush’s telling of his Katrina experience, Blanco
said in a recent interview that she regards it as an “afterthought” in
the context of that first brutal week.

And despite the prominence
he gives the story at his museum, Bush acknowledges in his memoir that
it turned out federalization wasn’t needed.

The reasons: Reports
of civil disturbance in chaotic New Orleans, though real, were wildly
overblown. And Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré, heading Bush’s active duty
troops, proved to be a forceful and skillful commander.

“Had I
known he could be so effective without the authority I assumed he
needed, I would’ve have cut off the legal debate and sent troops in
without law enforcement powers several days sooner,” Bush wrote.

The botched response to Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent federal flood severly damaged the Bush administration but it also devastated the Louisiana Democratic party and ended the career of Governor Blanco. It is largely forgotten that Blanco was a popular and effective Governor before the disaster struck. She was so adept at dealing with the lege that she was nicknamed the Queen Bee. That all came crashing down due to her public feud with Beavis and Turd Blossom and, more importantly, the disastrous Road Home program.

I’d like to thank Bruce Nolan for going to Dallas and touring the Bush Lieberry for the rest of us. I did my time in Dallas during my Katrina exile and would rather not be lied to at the lieberry about Katrina, Iraq, and the Bush record.

Helluva job, Bruce.

I Have a Nightmare

From Album 5

So, while we remember anniversaries of good or awful events, residents of Baghdad contend with more freedom bombs…I guess because, as a not-very-wise-man at all once said, freedom is untidy, don’t you know?

Lethal, too.

Geez, I’m so old I remember when Iraq was supposed to be the neo-con model. They were really going to show us libruls how to craft a free market paradise. But I doubt you’ll find a single neo-con who’ll even mention Iraq without someone else bringing it up first.

Heckuva job.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Voltess, The Girl Who Defies Electricity

Tommy T sent me a link to a swell sideshow image concocted by Millard & Blusterbaum who had a shop on Coney Island in the early 20th Century. The photo comes courtesy of my new favorite blog Amusing the Zillion, which has a swell tag line: “a former carny kid casts an insider’s eye on the amusement business, Coney Island and fun places in between.” Here’s the electrifying image:


Voltess-banner-via-urban-country

The March

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, here’s a contemporaneous documentary made in 1964 by director James Blue for the USIA:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Self Portrait

I’ve never been a big Dylan fan. I respect his talent as a songwriter but can’t get past his nasal singing voice. He is, however, an important and very interesting artist who is never boring even in his dotage. His controversial 1970 LPSelf Portrait has recently been given new life with a pricey CD re-issue.I’ll let Jack Hamilton of Slate be our Dylansplainer:

In June of 1970 a displaced Minnesotan
folk-singer-turned-rock-star-turned-country-crooner with a fake name and
a curiously attentive fan base released a double album for Columbia
Records. Bob Dylan’s Self Portraitwas, in its way, as much of an end-of-the-’60s record as Abbey Road, Let It Bleed, or Led Zeppelin, with one crucial difference:Self Portraitsucked.
It sucked gleefully, relentlessly, with inventiveness and purpose. Its
24 tracks included gratuitously overproduced pop and folk standards,
slapdash recordings of slapdash live performances, wait-are-you-serious
covers of Simon and Garfunkel and Gordon Lightfoot, and multiple
instrumentals (because why else would you buy a Bob Dylan album). “What
is this shit?” Greil Marcus famously wondered atop a 7,000-word pan of the album in Rolling Stone.
In the wake of Woodstock, Altamont, the Manson murders, Kent State, a
nation had turned its lonely eyes to Bob Dylan and received something
like a middle finger for its troubles. How does it feel to be on your
own?

Forty-three years removed from all this, Columbia Records has released Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10, and once again, it’s all a little confounding. The two-disc set—four discs if you opt for the $100 “deluxe” version—collects outtakes, alternate mixes, and other unreleased material from the Self Portrait era (the package also includes a generous helping of castaways from Self Portrait’s follow-up, New Morning). On one hand, the very existence of Another Self Portraitis
a testament to Dylan’s enormous cultural stature: Even his most reviled
works are deemed worthy of painstaking curation and completism (a
gold-plated rerelease of Down In The Grooveis
surely on its way). On the other hand, asking fans to shell out
substantial cash to hear discarded marginalia from an album that was, in
its original form and by its maker’s own admission, mostly discarded
marginalia, might once again prompt the question: What is this shit?

Obviously, the new release is only for fanatical Dylanphiles but the cover art for the original LP stands alone or something like that:

Bob+Dylan+-+Self+Portrait+-+DOUBLE+LP-491052

I couldn’t resist posting a picture with the promo sticker attached. My old friend David called them shit kickers back in the day.I don’t recall why but I like it anyway.

Newspaper Readers are Notoriously Immune to Bullshit!

Which is good, because otherwise JESUS H. CHRIST IN A SALAD:

You keep shrinking my newspaper and charging me more for it. What’s up with that?
We’re changing some of our content to give it a sharper local focus in the newspaper and an expanded presence online, at jconline.com and on smartphones and tablets. Our aim is to give print readers more of the in-depth, community-focused news, features and sports content they consistently tell us they want and that no other news provider in this region can match.

At the same time, we are enhancing the value of the all-access digital subscription that you already have with more and faster local news coverage, engaging videos, helpful news alerts and useful databases.

None of this digital stuff helps me. I don’t use the Internet.
While much of the daily commerce, information and entertainment we all consume has migrated to the Internet, we understand that some readers simply prefer to get their information in printed form. That’s why we still publish a daily newspaper. But that newspaper can only contain a small fraction of all the news and information the Journal & Courier produces each day and publishes online. It’s why access to all our digital products is bundled into your All Access Journal & Courier subscription, and it’s why we encourage you to give our online offerings a try.

I don’t use the Internet, says this fictional customer, and the actual corporate response is, “So use the Internet more!” I resent being charged more for less, says this fictional customer, and the real live honest to Rice Krispie Treats answer is, “We have videos online!”

None of this is a problem if you don’t actually value your print subscribers, but if that’s the case, just fucking come out and say it. Don’t dick around by telling them they can go online for stuff you used to give them, because to be quite honest if they wanted to get their TV listings and stock prices online there are only twelve billion ways to do that.

Give them what they want and be glad they still want things from you at all. Or tell them to fuck themselves and don’t bother trying to make them feel better about your exciting new Internet Computer Machine, because they ain’t having it, and it’s insulting.

A.

Indeed, Mr. President

As a rabid Anglophile, I
even have favorite fictional butlers. My all-time favorite was Steven Fry as
Jeeves but I’m also quite partial to Gordon Jackson as Mr. Hudson on Upstairs
Downstairs.
The semi-eponymous butler of the
title of the recent film is definitely more Angus Hudson than Jeeves. He’s more
royalist than the King, by analogy at least.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like The Butler but
I did, even if it *was* uplifting. I typically hate uplifting movies but this one was
pretty good despite the odd melodramatic swell of music that sounded rather Max
Steineresque. In short, many things about this movie were old school,
which isn’t a bad thing in a sweeping highly fictionalized historical biopic
such as this one.

I also don’t like Oprah Winfrey: martyred shopper.
But she was one of the best things about this movie as the butler’s boozy,
cheating spouse. I cannot tell you how relieved I was that Oprah’s character
wasn’t noble. (I guess I just did.) Her minions will be clamoring for her to be
Oscarized and I won’t object or Henry Cavil about it either. Sorry, Homan…

I enjoyed Forest Whitaker and his White House
colleagues as played by Lenny Kravitz and a shockingly dignified Cuba Gooding Jr. The
latter never once hollered, and the only time he showed the money was when he
bailed young Louis Gaines out of the pokey.

Now that I’ve briefly described what I liked about
the movie, it’s time to mention the bits I didn’t like in teevee recap
format:

Louis Gaines as ForrestGump:
I didn’t read anything about the movie before seeing it BUT I knew right off
that Forest and Oprah’s oldest offspring had to be fictional. He was *always* there
for every important moment of the Civil Rights movement. Not only did he attend
Fisk and become a freedom rider, but he just happened to be on the bus that a
mob of Alabamans burned to a Coco Crisp and was there when MLK was murdered. Then, he became an early Black Panther
complete with a beret and a hot surly girlfriend with an awesome ‘fro. Then, Louis
ran for Congress and eventually became an anti-apartheid activist. Not 100% impossible but unlikely.
The character of course was pure-D fiction.

Having complained about Louis Gump, I did enjoy
the father-son interplay between the uptight establishment dad and his radical
son. It happened in the best of families. They called it the g-g-g-g-eneration gap.

Stunt Casting Blues: Most of the
much ballyhooed stunt casting fizzled. Hairy, stocky Robin Williams as svelte,
tall General/President Eisenhower? Not bloody likely. James Marsden as JFK
was a bit better but looked more like Kennedy circa 1952 than
1961. Plus, faux Jackie called him John. Nobody called him anything but
Jack even Rose. I know that because Lloyd Bentsen told me
so…

Liev Schreiber had the
bulk and crudeness of LBJ just right but his makeup sucked. I kept staring at
his fake ears and kept waiting for them to fall off. (That’s what happens when
you’re a Face Off fanatic, you notice the makeup.) I did,
however, get a kick out of the scene of him issuing orders whilst seated on the
crapper. It was historically accurate weirdness, y’all. But I think that Liev should stick
to narrating HBO documentaries and not play LBJ again.

The worst bit of stunt casting was Glenn Greenwald acolyte
John Cusack as Tricky Dick. They went to the opposite extreme with
him and didn’t give him *any* Nixonian features. One can play Tricky without imitating his voice
but you need the ski-jump Nixonian nose. The whole thing played like a SNL skit but Dan Aykroyd was more
convincing as the Trickster.

The one bit of stunt casting that worked was Rickman and Fonda
as the Reagans. People have compared Rickman’s makeup
to a waxwork and that’s why it’s so perfect: Ronnie always looked slightly
unreal in his White House Days. Jane Fonda looked and sounded fabulous as Nancy
and that bit of stunt casting pissed off all the wingnuts, but not
Mrs. Reagan herself according to her son Ron. Of course, he’s a librul so his
views should be discounted. What does he know? He’s only Reagan’s son and namesake…

Whatever the truth of the details presented in the
movie, they nailed Ronald Reagan. He was the direct opposite of LBJ. Reagan was genuinely
compassionate to individuals but clueless when it came to the unwashed masses.
LBJ, on the other hand, was a miserable sumbitch who
treated people like shit but declared war on poverty and meant it.

The Plantation Scene: A string of cliches that weren’t
based on the story of Eugene
Allen
(the model for the reel Cecil Gaines) and
were badly set up and shot. The redneck dude who killed Papa Gaines and
interfered with Mama Gaines had a 2013 hipster hairdo and beard. Plus, Mariah Carey as
Forest Whitaker’s mother? Yikes. That was another piece of stunt casting gone
awry. At least she didn’t sing…

Now that I’ve bashed parts of the movie, I must admit to *really* liking at
least 75% of it. I’m not sure if was an “antidote” to The
Help
as some folks have written, but it was an entertaining and well-acted
film. And that’s something one cannot say about most summer releases. I’d give
it 3 stars or a letter grade of B. It could have been better but it could have
been much, much worse.

Weekend Question Thread

What’s the silliest thing one of your pets has done?

We nicknamed Bucky Cheddar Bob, because he’s not the sharpest tool in the whole shed, and my favorite memory of him as a kit is his miscalculating a corner and running full-tilt into a wall as he skidded sideways. I still wish we had video of that one.

A.