Saturday Odds & Sods: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

By Syd Barrett
Artwork by Syd Barrett.

It’s October in New Orleans, which means there’s suddenly way too much to do now that summer’s gone. Many of us hunker down all summer long. Who wants to be outside and drown in your own sweat in August? Not me. I’m a hunkering motherfucker. In October, there’s suddenly more stuff to do than you can shake a stick at. Why anyone would do such a thing is beyond me. I’ll stick to shtick…

It’s election day. Some of y’all may think having an election on Saturday is weird. We do it French style here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. It used to lead to high turn out for our statewide elections. That’s no longer the case. It looks as if turnout will be 45-50%. It’s been an ugly, nasty, and dispiriting campaign, especially the Goober race. I’m going to vote for the Conservadem John Bel Edwards on one issue: medicaid expansion. He’s the only candidate who’s unambiguously in favor of it. I’m also hoping that he’ll end the attacks on higher education and Planned Parenthood initiated by the current Governor. JBE’s best chance to win is to face David Vitter in the run-off. Not an elevating choice by any means as you have seen this week. The mere thought of Bitter Vitter makes feel like I need delousing. He is, after all, delouse of louses…

[Note: I wrote this post before the Gret Stet Goober race got even crazier.Hookers and spying,only Louisiana has elections like this. Also, my phone and social media blew up Friday night, which means that I didn’t polish the Saturday post as much as usual. I was too busy gossiping and trolling the Vestigial-Picayune on Twitter. ]

This week’s theme song was written by David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and Rick Wright for Pink Floyd’s great Wish You Were Here album. It is, famously,a  tribute to original member Syd Barrett who had more than his share of mental health problems. Syd’s story provided a lot of material for the Floyd over the years. He was also a talented artist as you can see from the picture above. Btw, as an artist he used his given name, Roger. That’s right, the bombastic and pompous Roger Waters was intially the Other Roger in Pink Floyd. Without further ado, here’s the album version featuring the guitar and vocal stylings of Syd’s replacement, David Gilmour:

Pink Floyd had a notoriously acrimonious breakup. There was a legal dustup over the band’s name and Gilmour, Wright, and drummer Nick Mason ended up with the rights. Roger Waters was not amused. He claimed to have a picture of David Gilmour inside his terlet that he peed and shat upon.

Onslow 2

Waters obviously did not take part when the band regrouped in 1987. The only time Waters played live with his former bandmates onstage after their last show in 1981 was in 2005 at the Live 8 benefit concert in London. Here’s that performance:

It’s time to end the Floydcentric part of the post and get on with business, which in my case involves funny or monkey business but you’ll have to wait until after the break to learn which.

I decided instead to take care of business, every day, every way. If that makes me sound like Bachman-Turner in pun Overdrive so be it:

I cannot believe I just posted Takin’ Care Of Business but I’ll do anything for a laugh. I am a silly man. At least Keith Moon introduced them…

We begin with a story about one of the greatest Saturday Night Live performers of all, the late Jan Hooks:

The Last Days Of Jan Hooks: It turns out that she was a Syd Barrett level eccentric. After wowing the public for 5 years on SNL and 2 years on Designing Women, Jan Hooks worked very infrequently. Was she blacklisted for being too difficult? Hell no, she preferred to hang out at her farmhouse in Woodstock. Phil Hartman’s biographer, Mike Thomas, has the goods on Hooks at Grantland. 

From the sublime Jan Hooks to our ridiculous Presidential election system as seen by the king of British spin. Alistair Campbell:

Americans, Your Presidential Election Is Nuts: It’s hard to disagree with Campbell’s premise or with this sub-header: “As a Brit, I came, I saw and I’m befuddled.” I am too and I follow these things closely:

To hate, well, that’s a long list too. First, the flipside of the upside: the vastness of the country means timelines and processes designed for a very different age, when candidates took months to travel the whole country to get their points and policies across. In our era of easy travel and mass communication, it makes the campaign way too long, even for a job as important as U.S. president. Then, there’s the money. We in the UK may seem a bit fuddy-duddy with our ban on political TV ads and our comparatively tiny limits on spending, but even with those, we run risks of big money over-influencing policies, and of too few people feeling able to get into the process. Those problems can be multiplied almost to infinity by an American campaign, which needs a billion dollars (or more!) to get all the way to the White House.

There is another big difference. In the UK, while our newspapers often seem drunk and driven by hate and hysteria, we have relatively sober broadcast news media—still the most important bulwark of the Fourth Estate even in the social media age. In the U.S, there is something of a mirror, with the print media tending to the sober, and television screaming so loud it is hard to listen, let alone hear.

They have the Murdoch papers but we have Fox News. What was that about American exceptionalism? FYI, Campbell is the bloke the character of Malcolm Tucker from Armando (Veep) Ianucci’s teevee show The Thick of It and movie In The Loop is based on. The incumbent Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, plays Tucker as a mouthy, sweary spin doctor. Seems true to  life to me:

Let’s move up North, not to Alaska, but to Canada and an analysis of what went wrong with the Conservative’s re-election campaign. Hint: it was the leader’s fault.

Stephen Harper’s legacy: Good, bad and a dose of ugly- Veteran CBC correspondent Terry Milewski has his finger on the pulse of what went wrong or something like that. This passage sums it up nicely:

Stephen Joseph Harper, of course, never set out to be lovable. He always knew he would rile the nabobs of the establishment, the media, the bar and the academy.

So what? He was out to reform a nation and a world that he deemed infested with entitled liberals who coddled criminals, ran up debt and cozied up to dictators. He knew he’d be the skunk at the party.

Consider his deft and poignant 2014 eulogy for a fallen comrade, Jim Flaherty, in which Harper noted the contrast between himself and the gregarious ex-finance minister who charmed his way through the great recession.

“Jim, as fiercely partisan as he was,” said Harper, “was also genuinely liked and respected by his opponents — liked by his enemies. That’s something in this business — something I envy. I can’t even get my friends to like me.”

One cannot accuse the soon-to-be former PM of being unaware of his effect on people. That’s why the Harper-Tricky Dick comparisons are so apt. Harper shared with Nixon what Gore Vidal once called “the President’s strange uncharm.”

Speaking of the Master, there’s a new biography by Vidal pal, Jay Peroni and the New Yorker has a review of it by Leo Robson:

Delusions of Candor: I think Gore would have liked the title and the length of  Robson’s essay/review. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery. As his long life came to an end, Vidal was worried that he’d be forgotten. Why? IMO, because he was funny on the printed page and as an interview subject. Americans tend to prefer our writers to be earnest and sincere or macho and blustery. Vidal *was* blustery to say the least:

In October of 1975, dining in Rome, Gore Vidal told his new friend the novelist Michael Mewshaw that Françoise Sagan was “a magnum of pure ether.” He didn’t stop to clarify, but rigor was beside the point; the Vidalian bon mot was about the speaker, not about the subject. In the course of more than half a century, his quips, aphorisms, insults, and punch lines amounted to a self-portrait, airbrushed so as to highlight his favorite warts: Olympian detachment, patrician hauteur.

It was an act, a put-on—perhaps the most effective double bluff in the history of literary P.R. In 1977, after visiting Vidal at his cliff-perched villa on the Amalfi Coast, Martin Amis observed that “he has little of the paranoia worryingly frequent among well-known writers.” Norman Mailer had been onto something, Amis concluded, when he said that “Vidal lacks the wound.”

Vidal was like the character in the movie The Bad and the Beautiful who said “I don’t have ulcers, I give them.”

I don’t agree with all of Robson’s conclusions but his essay whetted my appetite to read the biography. I feel like an accidental bookseller because of this feature. One reader told me she’d bought Jim Dickinson’s memoir after reading the excerpt last week. My only reply was: where’s my cut?

As much as I Haiti to change the subject, I’m sure the Master would have found the next article interesting:

Franklin Roosevelt: A  Candidate of Questionable Constitution- The black vote was up for grabs in 1932. African-Americans had traditionally voted Republican but Herbert Hoover’s laissez faire policies were unpopular across the board. The Republicans struck back at FDR over his claims to have written the Haitian constitution. TPM has posted an anti-FDR pamphlet along with analysis thereof:

Entitled “The Story of Roosevelt and Garner as it Affects the Negro,” this primary source from the 1932 presidential election lays out a string of racist policies implemented by the Democratic Party. Republican National Committee members claimed: “Roosevelt pulled the strings during the war period and the U.S. Marines danced like puppets on a stage.” They detailed, further, the transfer of Haitian capital to New York banks and pointed to the thousands killed under corveé. The RNC maintained that, “the Democratic Party…is constitutionally opposed to freedom of any colored people, in Alabama or in Haiti.” The leaflet called the occupation of Haiti “one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of American imperialism.”

In 1932, the majority of African-American voters were Republicans. Few, however, were party loyalists prepared to blindly parrot the GOP party line. Many black observers demanded an explanation from Roosevelt about both Haiti and his stance on black self-determination more broadly. Members of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the press, and a host of other civic groups pushed FDR to clarify his role in the U.S. occupation. The NAACP demanded in a January 1932 letter that Roosevelt explain his position. “It is extremely important to us to feel sure that the next man in the White House will not only not do anything to impede the present program of [U.S.] evacuation [from Haiti] but will hasten it.” “What we desire from you,” the letter continued, “is an unqualified and frank statement of your position [on Haiti] and what may be expected from you should you be elected President of the United States.”

The attack and the Roosevelt campaign’s refusal to respond seems to have helped limit FDR’s total of the black vote to 25% in 1932, The Democrats learned their lesson during FDR’s first term:

After receiving dismal black support in 1932, the Roosevelt administration moved to make up ground among black voters, first through the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt and her black allies, and then through appointing a number of black government officials. The Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, and National Youth Administration had also provided hundreds of thousands of African Americans with much-needed employment. Such support for African Americans was unprecedented, especially under Jim Crow. In 1934, Roosevelt took yet another step away from his historical associations with Woodrow Wilson, becoming the first U.S. President to visit Haiti. There, on July 6, he signed the agreement that authorized the withdrawal of American marines from the independent republic of Haiti.

Two years later, during Roosevelt’s 1936 reelection bid, targeted canvassing among black voters and the creation of a new “Good Neighbor” approach to Haiti and the wider Americas helped FDR garner over 70 percent of the black vote.

Contrast this with the GOP’s current crawfishing on the anti-Latin nature of its 2012 Presidential campaign. Who among us can forget Mittbot Willard Romney’s “self-deportation” gaffe? The Democrats learned their lesson in 1932 but the Republicans have doubled down on their anti-Latin bigotry in 2015 thanks to the Insult Comedian. Way to go, Donald.

A few days ago I wrote something nice about Mississippi. There’s a first time for everything. This unlikely trend continues with a fine article at ESPNGO:

The Allure Of Ole Miss Football: Kiese Laymon is an African-American writer who grew up in Mississippi. His family were Jackson State people who were NOT fans of Ole Miss football with its rebel flags and Colonel Reb mascot, but those days are finally fading.

Laymon received a writing fellowship from Ole Miss and found himself living in the belly of the beast, Oxford, Ms. He tells the story of how he came to love Ole Miss football despite his background and the program’s unsavory, racist past. My favorite bit is his description of tailgating with ESPN Magazine photographer Daymon Gardner and some strangers:

Daymon asks a group of older white folk whether he can take a picture in their tent. The group has white candles, a blue Rebels helmet and a huge silver vase filled with sunflowers sitting in between two mirroring pictures of Colonel Reb.

After Daymon takes a few pictures, one of the women asks what magazine he’s with.

“ESPN,” he tells them.

She curiously looks up at me.

“Oh, well, do y’all want something to eat?”

“Thanks,” I tell her. “We good.”

“You sure?” She hands us some bottled waters. “Here you go. Take these, at least. It’s hot out here.”

That’s a classic Southern story. Regardless of how crazy people’s politics might be, Southerners are usually friendly. It’s the whole Blanche DuBois syndrome, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” There, I said something nice about an unknown Ole Miss fan tailgating in the Grove. Where will it end?

While we’re on the subject of Mississippi, there’s one thing about the Magnolia State that I’ve always loved: the Delta Blues.

Saturday Classic: For some obscure reason, Chester Arthur Burnett was named for an accidental President from New York. Chet Arthur had even less to do with writing the Haitian constitution than FDR. Back to the blues: Burnett grew up in the Mississippi Delta before following the well-worn path of the great migration to Chicago. Burnett is, of course, the real name of the amazing blues singer, Howlin’ Wolf.                                                                                  

Moanin’ in the Moonlight is a 1962  album that captures Wolf at his gritty best. It was cut at the Chess Records studio in Chicago and Wolf has never sounded better as either a singer or blues harp player.

That’s it for this week. It will be Halloween next Saturday. so I have a few ghoulish surprises in mind. Just remember to heed the eggsact words of Vincent Price as Egghead:


One thought on “Saturday Odds & Sods: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

  1. Well, did my civic duty up here, in between chores. Nice that the precinct is barely a block away. Agree with you on least – of – evils in the governor’s race…up here there are also library and downtown development millage renewals. If they pass I guess I’ll take some solace.

    Nice that Vitter will have to sweat a bit, but I’m not holding out much hope. Hell, they might not even try to tie Edwards to Obama. Just run against the latter and rake in the white hot rage vote.

    And, shit, even smaller solace, but if Diaper Dave focuses his own fury and rage on Jefferson Parish, maybe he’ll ignore the rest of the state…

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