Saturday Odds & Sods: Summer’s Gone

The Trapeze Artist from the Jazz Portfolio by Henri Matisse.

A cool front hit New Orleans on October 1st leading me to hope, wish, and, I daresay, pray that Summer is finally gone. It’s been a long, hot one too with record temps in July. It’s the downside of an El Nino year. The upside, of course, is that a certain storm wasn’t Joaquin to New Orleans. I should apologize for that pun but I stole it from my friend James Karst. I seem to have become the Milton Berle of the blogosphere…

There have been some high-profile armed robberies in Uptown New Orleans that have people on edge. The good news is that no shots have been fired thus far. You know how it goes, if there’s crime in an upscale zip code, people freak out. I try to remain as even-keeled as possible but it’s hard for some people. I don’t judge but I do remind them that sensational stick-ups do not a crime wave make. At the risk of being repetitive: New Orleans is now, and has always been, a tough town. It’s why one needs to keep one’s wits about one. That was one one-heavy sentence, y’all.

Shorter Adrastos: Stay alert and don’t walk around glued to your smart phone like a dumbass. Uh oh, I sound like I’m in touch with my inner Red Foreman:

That felt good. Let’s get on with it.

I’ve been asked by several people why I haven’t used a Kinks tune as a Saturday post theme song yet. Beats the hell outta me. Summer’s Gone is the right song at the right time. I learned that via Word Of Mouth:

While running a search on YouTube I discovered a co-theme song from a 2012 Beach Boys album. It was written by Brian Wilson and Jon Bon Jovi. I hope the cool kids won’t hate me for typing that name:

A friend of mine created and curated a tongue-in-cheek Bon Jovi shrine the year those Jersey boys made an unlikely appearance at Jazz Fest:

Sacred Bon Jovi Shrine
Photograph by WWOZ.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, it’s time for the break. Meet you on the other side. One door opens, another shuts behind and all that rot.

We begin with a fabulous sports story from Chicago Magazine:

The Last Years Of Ernie Banks: Mr. Cub died recently and all the stories about his passing trotted out the shopworn clichés about “sunny” Ernie Banks and the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Ron Rapoport knew that there was much more to this baseball legend and he knows how to spin a yarn without making a quilt or some such shit.

The stereotyping of Ernie Banks always bothered me. It seemed like the creation of white sportswriters who made him into a kind of Mantan Moreland, Willie Best figure. Here’s a sampler from the Rapoport report:

“ ‘It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two’ became the mantra of the man known as Mr. Cub, a fixture in what he called the friendly confines of Wrigley Field,” said The New York Times. “The most popular Cub ever in a franchise dating to the 1870s, Banks became as much an institution in Chicago as the first Mayor Daley, Studs Terkel, Michael Jordan and George Halas.”

“A man would grow old, wrecked by madness or more by shame, trying to find just one posed photograph of Ernie Banks when he was not smiling, or just one recorded complaint from the man, or just one negative word about him from anyone with a shred of human decency,” said Sports Illustrated. “Ernie Banks, the great symbol not only of Chicago Cubs baseball but also of a Major League Baseball ideal, really was that kind and that joyful.”

What was it about him? I wondered. Why was Ernie, virtually alone among the great players of his generation, such an idealized, one-dimensional fantasy? Why did he seem to have no existence beyond the baseball diamond? Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron were seen as important civil rights pioneers. Mickey Mantle’s character flaws were so well chronicled they became part of his appeal. Ted Williams’s defiantly cold-blooded grip on Red Sox fans became the stuff of legend and literature. Joe DiMaggio was a cultural phenomenon all to himself. Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Yogi Berra, Stan Musial—they were all made recognizable out of uniform.

But Ernie escapes all context. He is nothing but sunshine and smiles. Just as he was defined by his image, so was he imprisoned by it.

The beauty of Rapoport’s piece is that he shows the dark side of Ernie Banks without speaking ill of the dead. Ernie  is presented as a more complex figure but still comes off as a nice guy. It’s Richard Ben Cramer level sportswriting and I don’t say that lightly. I guess it helps to have good Rapoport with your subject. I hope that wasn’t a Ron on sentence…

Banks. Cepeda, McCovey
Ernie Banks flanked by Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda.

My Mother, The Happy-Ending Masseuse:  I’m not thrilled by  how Salon is turning into a left-wing version of BuzzFeed complete with clickbaity headlines, “personal sex stories” and the like. I was, however, enthralled by Ray Richmond’s account of his sassy mother’s oddball romance with bluenose reformer and Los Angeles diner owner Clifford Clinton. Their first encounter was the ultimate Hollywood meet cute:

This is what led Clinton to my mother’s chiropractic headquarters. One day late in 1958, he stormed in thrusting his Bible and a crucifix while vowing to close down this den of ill repute. He was on a mission from God, after all. But as Mom later recalled, she was instantly smitten with, rather than threatened by, this distinguished, bespectacled, silver-haired gentleman in suit and bow-tie. And he evidently took one look at my striking, buxom mother in her crisp white nurse’s uniform and fantasized about her embracing more than the Lord.

Raymond is now working on a screenplay about this odd couple romance. Sounds like a winner to me, especially the bit about scattering mom’s ashes at Clifton’s Cafeteria. My inner critic gives the idea an Ebertian thumbs up.

Amelia: One thing Dr. A and I bonded over early in our relationship was a shared interest in aviatrix (one of my favorite words) Amelia Earhart. The mystery of Amelia’s disappearance is, quite simply, one of the best real life whodunits ever. It’s starting to look as if that mystery *may* be solved. Tom D. Crouch takes a look at that as well as a look back at the life and legacy of the aviation pioneer in a fine American Heritage piece, Amelia Found? 

Joni Mitchell was inspired by the Earhart saga to write a song for her superb album, Hejira.

“I wrote the album while traveling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it… the sweet loneliness of solitary travel. In this song, I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another, sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do.”

Here’s the song:

My fascination with Amelia was, in part, inspired by a Gore Vidal essay, On Flying. It’s online with a different title, Love Of Flying, at the New York Review of Books in all its Vidalian glory. Consider that a sub-link as opposed to a sub-tweet or a sub-mariner…

Vidal knew Amelia quite well as a child since his father Gene and her were what they called at the time “good friends” when she was married to publisher George Putnam. It’s probably good that Amelia and Gene aren’t around today because not only would the tabloids be stalking them, the internet outrage-n-shame mob might go after them.

That brings me to my friend Kevin Allman’s cover story for the Gambit. First, the cover illustration:

Gambit Cover

The Internet Hates You. Online Shaming In The Digital Age: Remember Kirsten  McQueary? You know, the Chicago Tribune columnist who wished for a Katrina level disaster to hit her city, which is Sinatra’s kind of town:

Anyway, both Athenae and I posted  about the McQueary controversy. I wrote an initial piece about the column and a follow-up about the rabid Internet reaction.Here’s how Kevin describes it:

Within minutes of sending her tweet and posting her column, McQueary had a violent social media backlash, with people on Facebook and Twitter accusing her of heartlessness at best and racism at worst. “Scum,” “bitch” and “cunt” were among the hundreds of epithets aimed at her; some people said she should die. Three weeks after her column appeared, McQueary still was getting angry tweets. “RACIST FILTH,” one person wrote. Another tweeted, “She is vile and deserves a private Katrina.”

The internet outrage machine is not subtle. Time to quote myself:

The outrage over Ms. McQueary’s ignorant op-ed piece has raged on all day on social media. The hashtag #FireMcQueary has even popped up. I don’t get it: this woman does not have the power or influence to inflict additional damage on people who were harmed by Hurricane Katrina. It’s 2015, not 2005. The recovery is not as strong as she depicted it, but we’re no longer on our knees and shouldn’t waste any more time on this stupid article. I certainly won’t.

There’s something about social media, especially Twitter, that emboldens people to say outrageous things. Every so often the keyboard warriors of Twitter need to burn a new witch; sometimes the witch is deserving, other times not so much. I find it objectionable when it becomes a virtual mob baying at the moon and demanding blood. Get a grip. Get a life. It’s Chinatown, Jake.

Back to McQueary. Kevin was recently in the Chicago and had a cuppa joe with her:

Over Labor Day weekend, I met McQueary in a coffee shop on the bottom floor of the Tribune offices on Michigan Avenue, the posh shopping boulevard Chicago has dubbed the Magnificent Mile. Here, at least, the city needs no “reset button”; kayakers cruise past on the Chicago River, medians are planted with flowers and that day there was a pop-up Nordstrom store across the street in Pioneer Court.

We talked for half an hour — off the record. I told her though I disagreed with the column, I was sorry for the viciousness aimed her way. I shared a few stories of New Orleanians after the levee collapses: people who lost everything, one friend who tried to kill himself.

I told her that much of the recovery she envies was due to billions of dollars in federal disaster relief and insurance payouts, and that an infusion of that sort of cash would improve Chicago’s schools and infrastructure even without a hurricane. I asked what her life’s been like since her name went around the world as a symbol of callousness.

That’s about all I can say about our meeting, because in the end, McQueary declined to speak on the record.

We shook hands, and she left the coffee shop quickly, going back to her editorial writing and her post-avalanche life.

I don’t think Kristen McQueary is a monster. I don’t think she bore any conscious malice. And I still don’t think she gets it.

Anyway, read Kevin’s article. Oddly enough, it reminds me of this Citizen Kane poster:


Speaking of movies, let’s take a trip to Boston and meet the reel Jimmy (Don’t Call Me Whitey) Bulger. I have no desire to meet the real Bulger, I’m afraid I’d crack a joke about the bulger in his pants and that would be all she wrote. I don’t know who She is but it might have something to do with this venerable Charles Aznavour tune:

Black Mass: We saw this on the second day it was out. I liked it a lot. It’s good to see Johnny Depp doing some more naturalistic acting after his recent turns as the Keith Richards of pirates, Jack Sparrow. It brought to mind one of Depp’s best films, Donnie Brasco.

I’ve done my share of reading about the case and was impressed with how accurate the movie was. Depp underplays as Bulger and nails his icy menace. The casting is generally good: most of the players resemble the real people. But I thought Benedict Cummerbund was miscast as Senator Bill Bulger. I didn’t buy him but admittedly I’m not a fan. He always reminds me of this guy:

Rat Fink or Benedict Cumberbatch?

I give Black Mass, 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos grade of B+ and a Siskelite thumbs up. Thought I’d give Roger the day off. If there’s an afterlife those two are bickering about movies as I write this.

It’s time for the only political content in this post. It’s a feature I haven’t done in awhile but since it’s election season in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, it’s time to bring it back.

Who To Read: Bob Mann is the real deal: he was an aide to Governor Meewaw (Blanco) as well as to the Princefish, aka Senator Russell Long. Mann wrote a very fine biography about Senator Long as well as an excellent book about the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Mann is currently a Professor at LSU and is a one man argument for the tenure system. Why? Mann slums and writes a blog, Something Like The Truth. He’s been scorching our puny Governor with impunity for years. Geaux, tenured Tigers.

Mann’s blog is a must read during the Gret Stet Goober race. He scorched the moderator of Thursday’s debate, the Other Scott Walker, who is an amiable lightweight who should stick to tweeting selfies.

For the first 10 minutes of the hour-long debate, the moderator invited the candidates to discuss Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk of court who was jailed briefly for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In Louisiana, that’s now a moot issue. Every parish is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Why we needed a lengthy discussion about this issue was baffling, given the debate’s severe time restraints.

In an exercise of narcissism,  here’s another self quote. This time from the book of Zucker:

Finally watched the Gret Stet Goober debate. Horrible job by moderator Scott Walker. A Kim Davis question? Really? It’s not happening here. What about the budget, education, and health care? Walker confirmed my suspicion that he’s an amiable lightweight who’s more interested in pandering to the cool kids on social media than in studying the issues. Worst of all, former WDSU anchor Norman Robinson was one of the best debate moderators I’ve ever seen. Walker had big shoes to fill and barely even tried them on. Pitiful.
Note the difference between mockery and internet shaming. There are no threats involved.

Saturday Classic: I’d heard about Richard Thompson for years before becoming a fan. My old friend Gus Mozart told me how great RT was, but it fell on deaf ears until the mid-1980’s. One should always listen to a soundman. Btw, Gus has done several tours with RT and his crack band as a sound dude. He clearly gave me sound advice…

Where the hell was I? I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight was my gateway to RT World. It features his great songs and wondrous harmonies with his then wife Linda. The opening numbah When I Get To The Border also contains one of my favorite RT lyrics:

If you see a box of pine
With a name that looks like mine
Just say I drowned in a barrel of wine
When I got to the border

Without any further adieu or woo-hoo here’s the album:

 That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to:
Bat time

6 thoughts on “Saturday Odds & Sods: Summer’s Gone

  1. Once again, a densely packed O & S, and I show up to toss off a couple of feathery pop culture comments.

    Anyway, don’t forget that there is another other Scott Walker, the musician. He had a minor hit with The Walker Brothers in the 60s (The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)).

    He eventually embarked on a solo career, making some of the creepiest, most haunting music ever recorded. See, e.g., his album The Drift. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but great for Halloween. He was also the subject of a documentary, 30 Century Man, which was (is?) streaming on Netflix.

    As for Richard and Linda Thompson, although they wanted to see the bright lights, they eventually decided to shoot them out…and that album is another masterpiece. A very painful masterpiece, and one that I can listen to only once in a blue (or blood) moon, but an undeniably brilliant LP.

    Apologies if these topics have already been covered. Guess I’ll have to (happily) pony up the $25 for the anthology, to make archive research easier offline.

    1. SOTL is brilliant. I find it less disturbing some 30 years on, especially since Richard both remarried well and are now on good terms. Thanks for kicking in on the Kickstarter. We appreciate it.

  2. I find it interesting that you follow a discussion of shootings in New Orleans with a link to a Kinks song, considering that Ray Davies was wounded in a shooting in NOLA a few years ago. Great song, however. Haven’t heard it in a while.

    1. That was one of the reasons, actually. Also, summer is the murder season here, alas.

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