I had an epiphany on Wednesday and realized that it was Twelfth Night. Mardi Gras day comes ridiculously early this year, which means that Krewe du Vieux rolls on January 23rd. We’re shitting bricks trying to get ready for that early parade date. I’ve spent a lot of time inhaling paint fumes, swallowing sawdust, and, most importantly, drinking beer in anticipation of the big day. The Krewe of Spank specializes in hyper-local satire and this year’s theme is sufficiently obscure. Only New Orleanians will get this one. I don’t mind: I’ve got a forum for national satire right here.
We just put 2015 in the grave and now it’s time to slap the 2016 baby and see if it’s alive. Metaphorically, not literally as the Veep would surely say. Speaking of babies, we’re knee-deep in King Cake season and whoever gets the little plastic baby Jesus has to buy the next King Cake. Fuck that shit. I am a seasoned King Cake baby liar. I blame my disorder on this creepy mascot our NBA team unleashes on its unsuspecting fans every Carnival season:
Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe and despise mascots? I hate them almost as much as I hate Vodka, which is only suitable for drunken Mensheviks. No wonder Lenin had them all liquidated. Speaking of horrendous, there’s actually a vile-tasting King Cake Vodka on the market:
I *almost* wrote about this week’s theme song earlier but wound up riffing on King Cake babies and Vodka instead. From The Cradle To The Grave is the title track of the brand spanking new Squeeze album. The video below features age-morphing, which is much better than the lame and insipid Krewe of Morpheus, which is best known for its EMPTY FLOAT.
Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you with that hyper-local Carnival joke, let’s play another Squeeze song before the break:
A totally ridiculous video for a great song. More ridiculous nonsense after the break.
Speaking of Ridiculous, it was the title of a criminally underrated 1995 Squeeze album. Electric Trains was the single. It was banned from the BBC for mentioning pubic hair. Naughty boys.
You don’t have to be Sherlock Fucking Holmes to detect a trend today but it beats the hell out of being Dr. Watson. Is it just me or did anyone else think Martin Freeman played Watson like Nigel (Bunny) Bruce in The Abominable Bride? I could be wrong. Maybe my deerstalker is on too tight or something.
Since the game is afoot, we begin what passes for the substantive part of this week’s misadventure with some book chat.
Kurt Vonnegut Meets Billy Pilgrim: I’ve been a Vonnegut fan for as long as I can remember. I love his deceptively simple writing style and sly wit. I went through a period of trying to write like Vonnegut. It didn’t suit me so I went back to writing long-ass pun-filled sentences. I guess that makes me either a one-man band or granfalloon. I’m not sure which, BUT I can produce a Kilgore Trout reference at the drop of a hat.
Salon recently ran an excerpt from Ginger Strand’s new book The Brothers Vonnegut. It’s a joint biography of Kurt and his scientist brother, Bernard. No, he didn’t invent Ice-nine. The excerpt in question deals with Kurt’s formative experiences as a prisoner of the Germans in World War II. That period of captivity inspired his mainstream breakthrough novel, Slaughterhouse Five. It also prepared him for his years as Geraldo Rivera’s father-in-law. I hope he got combat pay for that. The mere thought of hanging with Geraldo, even in his liberal days, makes me crankier than hell:
Speaking of writers who were a big fucking deal in the 1970’s:
Fear and Loathing In The Gene Pool: After 10 years of struggle and strife, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s son Juan has produced a memoir about life with father. I suspect it has little to do with the old William Powell movie although Nick Charles would have enjoyed drinking and firing guns with HST. Asta would have hidden under the bed, the poor dear.
Anyway, Salon has a swell interview with Juan F. Thompson about his aforementioned book Stories I Tell Myself. Juan seems to be a relatively sane chap, which is a minor miracle given what a legendary loon dear old dad was:
You ended up, despite all the craziness, pretty tame. You have a pretty normal life. You live in Colorado, you work in IT. Was being normal, for lack of a better word, a way to rebel?
I think so. At the time, it certainly wasn’t conscious or deliberate. I think it was a reaction against the uncertainty of the craziness. First of all, Hunter was a freelance writer, so there was no guaranteed income. My mom’s full-time job was taking care of Hunter and me until the divorce. So that was definitely a part of it, the financial uncertainty.
But secondly, as a kid and as a teenager, I knew I did not want to live like my father did. For the most part, I rejected the drugs and the drinking. And I think just by my nature, I’m not like him. He was just born that way. He was just born to be Hunter. I don’t think there’s anything in his upbringing—I don’t think, had things been different, he would have ended up an insurance agent like his father. That wouldn’t have happened.
The craziness also had an adverse impact on Thompson’s writing. He was not exactly what one would call a prolific writer. His reputation rests on Hell’s Angels and his two Fear and Loathing books, which were based on his stories for Rolling Stone. As a kid I loved Thompson’s stuff, but the last time I read Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail ’72, I was stuck by how wrong HST was on so many subjects. It’s proof positive that even a gonzo journalist can be captured by sources: HST was totally in the bag for the McGovern people. In the end, however, it still made me LOL as does this image by Ralph Steadman from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
Let’s move on to a story about an actress who is a major Adrastos heartthrob:
Gillian Anderson Chases Her Shadow: Sci-fi geeks, dorks and nerds across the globe are ecstatic about the return of The X-Files to the small screen. I am none of the above but I *am* a fan of the show, especially because of the star power of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as Mulder and Scully.
There’s an ab fab profile of Gillian by Gaby Wood in the final 2015 issue of New York Magazine. I was particularly interested in Wood’s account of Ms. Anderson’s post-X Files career, which has been distinguished to say the least. Teevee stardom used to be a career killer: once upon a time James Garner was one of the few who was a star on both the small and big screen. That’s no longer the case, especially in the 21st Century where movie stars are turning to teevee for meatier scripts and better parts. It’s a minor revolution, y’all.
Speaking of quality teevee, if you haven’t seen Gillian Anderson’s turn as super-detective Stella Gibson in the BBC show, The Fall, get thee to Netflix. Stella is sort of Jane Tennison on steroids, which makes for very compelling drama indeed. The good news is that there will be a third season of The Fall, which gives co-star Jamie Dornan a chance to live down Fifty Shades of Gray. Dornan plays a tall, dark, and deadly murderer in The Fall, which gives me a pretext to play another Squeeze song. It’s a chirpy rocker about a murder down at The Melody Motel:
Let’s move on to another piece from Vulture.com, New York Magazine’s site for culture vultures and other assorted turkey buzzards:
The 40 Best Dramatic Performances By Comedians: I don’t ordinarily like listicles but I pounced on this one like a hitter on a hanging curve ball. The title is not *entirely* accurate because some of the performers are comic actors as opposed to comedians but I’ll cut Noel Murray some slack since it’s so much fun to plow through. Besides, he likes The King of Comedy, which is Scorsese’s most misunderstood film and a personal favorite of mine.
Murray’s top pick is Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple. Love me some Whoopi pie (sorry if that sounded obscene) but that’s one of my least favorite Spielberg films. I couldn’t get past the clean-looking dirt floors in the shacks and the presence of Oprah in the cast, y’all. Spielberg knows better and wouldn’t do that now.
Here’s my Top Ten list in no particular order. I’m feeling disorderly today:
- Andy Griffith in A Face In The Crowd. This was a major omission from Murray’s list. It could lead to his bones being picked by those pesky vultures.
- Lily Tomlin in Nashville. Vintage Altman. Say no more.
- Lucille Ball in Lured. Lucy does film noir in 1940’s London. A really interesting film with the great George Sanders as her leading man.
- Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy. I hate Jerry Lewis but loved him in this part even if he was typecast as an arrogant asshole.
- Jim Carrey in The Majestic. Murray lists him for The Truman Show, which *is* a great film but I thought I’d plug this underrated gem instead.
- Bing Crosby in The Country Girl. Der Bingle was not a comedian but most of his films are either musicals or light comedies. Grace Kelly won an Oscar for this movie but Bing was better.
- Art Carney in Harry & Tonto. I’m still not sure if the dude who played Ed Norton on teevee and Felix Unger on Broadway should have beaten Pacino in Godfather II or Nicholson in Chinatown for Best Actor, BUT he is brilliant in this part. And who among us doesn’t love Tonto the cat?
- Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. His best non-Wes Anderson film.
- Robin Williams in The Fisher King. Terry Gilliam harnessed both his own craziness and Robin’s in his finest film as a director.
- Peter Sellers in Being There and/or Lolita. One of my all-time favorite actors. Period. Case closed.
I hope you’re not miffed if I left someone off the list. This is no time to be Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken, after all:
Just in case you thought I had become a total silly billy-as opposed to a partial one-let’s move on to a piece at Slate about capital punishment by Havard Law Professor, Charles Ogletree:
The Death Penalty’s Last Stand: Professor Ogletree makes a strong case that capital punishment is on its way out. Polling data shows waning support and many conservatives have come to realize how much more expensive it is to execute murderers than incarcerate them. Then there’s the pesky question of unjustly convicted people on Death Row for the states to consider.
I’m inclined to think that we’re going through a period of abolition by stealth in many states. For example, there hasn’t been an execution in the Gret Stet of Louisiana since 2010 and only 3 in the 21st Century. The same thing has been happening throughout the country regardless of which party runs state guvmint. Execution happy states like Texas are now the exception, not the rule. I would prefer outright abolition but that’s going to take time unless the Supremes strike it down.
My only cavil with Ogletree’s piece is something of a linguistic/procedural one. He spends quite a bit of time discussing the death penalty in Caddo Parish, Louisiana and uses the term county way too often. Yo Prof, here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, we have parishes, not counties. Sure, they’re the same thing but vive la différence. I know that Shreveport is kinda sorta an annex of West Texas but it’s still in the Gret Stet so Caddo is a P-A-R-I-S-H. End of hyper local rant. Sorry that y’all had to witness that. It must have made you feel like prisoners:
This whole Squeeze theme is clearly out of control. Don’t worry it’s nearly over:
It’s story time. You may or may not have noticed the “have confidence, have faith” refrain in that song. That actually reminds me of my late father who was wont to tell my mother, “Have confidence, Edna.” This was usually done when he was driving way too fast on a long and winding mountain road. Mom didn’t like heights but he was quite a kidder. I guess you see where I get it from…
Long story short, that’s why Dr. A always calls It’s Over, the Lou Song. That concludes this trip down memory lane. I just had to Squeeze in one more Squeeze tune before moving on to our last segment.
Saturday Classic: I usually post classic albums in this space but YouTube has, uh, Squeezed all the joy out of that by having all Squeeze albums on the playlist format. That’s why I’m posting a live set from the Frank tour, much of which ended up on the live album Around and About:
That’s it for this week. No more Squeeze songs, I promise. I think even Difford and Tilbrook would be worn out by this point. All that book chat earlier got me thinking of a lesser known Batman villain, the Bookworm who was played by Roddy McDowell. Let’s give wee Roddy the last word: