Saturday Odds & Sods: Splendid Isolation

Father Mississippi by Walter Anderson.
Father Mississippi by Walter Inglis Anderson.

It’s been a relatively quiet week in New Orleans. There’s a new gentrification controversy involving changes to an Uptown green space known as the Fly. I’m for the status quo but I’ve decided to keep my fly zipped on this issue. I hereby apologize to everyone for that joke.

Meanwhile in Baton Rouge, the budgetary sky is falling. 8 years of Jindalnomics have left the state in such dire straits that not even Mark Knopfler could fix things. Once again, I need to apologize for that joke, which means I have to take the walk of life in atonement:

The new Governor gave a sort of chicken little speech about the state’s financial woes, which doesn’t seem to have moved many votes in the lege thus far. John Bel Edwards did, however, imply that if there were more budget cuts to higher education, the LSU Tigers might not play football next fall. Now that’s a serious threat here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana: No Leonard Fucking Fournette? Only time will tell if that helps, but the lege is loath to raise taxes on our 1%, which consists mostly of oil tycoons and people named Benson who own sports franchises. I have no idea what’s going to happen but it won’t be pretty. Neither was PBJ now that I think of it…

PBJ Spanked

This week’s theme song was, in part, inspired by the artist who painted the featured image. Walter Inglis Anderson was born in New Orleans but did much of his painting in nearby Ocean Springs, MS. Anderson was plagued with mental health issues and in 1965 rode out a hurricane with his own form of Splendid Isolation:

In 1965, months before his death, he rode through Hurricane Betsy on his beloved Horn Island, tethering his little skiff to his waist, climbing at night to the highest dune, wanting to feel the storm first hand. The water rose to his chest.

“Never has there been a more respectable hurricane,” he wrote, “provided with all the portents, predictions, omens, etc. The awful sunrise — no one could fail to take a warning from it — the hovering black spirit bird, the man of war, just one, comme il faut.”

Warren Zevon also lived life on the edge, but even the most extreme story told about him isn’t as wild as the tale of Walter Anderson and Hurricane Betsy. We grow our eccentrics larger than life here in New Orleans, y’all.

Splendid Isolation is one of my favorite WZ tunes; so much so that I’m posting three radically different versions. We begin with the piano driven studio version from the Tranverse City album:

Next up is a version with David Sanborn and the house band from the, uh, splendid but short-lived teevee show Night Music:

Finally, a live acoustic romp featuring Zevon’s fellow rock eccentric Neil Young:

Instead of putting tin foil on the windows like the character in the song, we’ll pull up our socks and muddle through after the break.

We begin with two articles about my second hometown, New Orleans. The first piece is by an outsider who is a self-confessed cockeyed optimist. The second is by a local writer who’s so cynical that he makes me look like someone who believes in unicorns:

Kosher Gumbo is the title of an epic article for Bitter Southerner by Rob Rushin. It attempts to cover a lot of ground: Mardi Gras, the histories of brass band music and Jews in New Orleans to name but a few subjects. The result is 2/3 brilliant and 1/3 dreck including the title. Everybody who writes about New Orleans uses gumbo as their primary metaphor for our eclectic culture. Enough already. It’s been used so often that it’s become a cliché and you know how I feel about clichés. I hate the fucking things.

On the positive side of Rushin’s article is his focus on the Panorama Jazz Band/Panorama Brass Band and its leader, Ben Schenck. Ben is a very tall clarinet player of my acquaintance whose combo plays a rollicking combination of New Orleans jazz and Klezmer. Here’s a sample:

I also enjoyed Rushin’s historical sketches of Jewish New Orleans and Klezmer music. But he partially missed the boat in his discussion of brass band music: Sicilian immigrants brought their brass band tradition with them and were every bit as important to that heritage as the folks cited by Rushin. Italo-American contributions to American culture are *always* underrated unless the discussion involves food, the Mafia, Sinatra, or the Dimaggio brothers.

On the negative side, Rushin writes about Krewe du Vieux of which I’m a member and gets a helluva lot wrong. I’m not surprised. He relies on the word of L.J.  Goldstein, who’s persona non grata with KdV, and doesn’t like us very much either. That’s all the inside baseball I’m inclined to play today because I have other fish to fry. But first a picture of the Dimaggio brothers who hail from my *other* hometown, San Francisco:

Dimaggio brothers
Dom, Joe, and Vince Dimaggio wearing Giants jerseys at Candlestick Park.

Speaking of flawed articles, it’s time for some corrosive cynicism, Jules Bentley style:

Ashes to Ashes, Blogs to Bricks: Booty’s and the Cult of Small Business: I don’t always agree with Jules Bentley but he’s an excellent prose stylist as you can see from the start of his latest screed for Antigravity Magazine:

When, late on a weeknight, I received confirmation that Booty’s Street Food was closed for good, I announced it to the dinner party around me. A cheer rose from the assembled. Two out-of-town guests were confused: what was the big deal about Booty’s? “So it was… a restaurant?” one asked. “Why did everyone hate it so much?”

First of all, Booty’s was no fusty analogue restaurant. It was, per its founders, the debut of something unprecedented: a blogstaurant. Inventing terminology is fun! It so happens blogstaurant is a perfect example of the noncept, a word or phrase that describes or represents a non-idea. The time one squanders pondering what the fuck a blogstaurant could possibly be is wasted time, stolen time, time gleefully appropriated from you by the word’s coiners. Like its overpriced, poorly-run concretization on the corner of Louisa and Dauphine, the nonceptual neologism ‘blogstaurant’ is equal parts hilarious and blithely annoying—a word freighted with more unearned self-congratulation than most of us could ever hope to experience without the aid of high-grade methamphetamine.

Booty’s and the malakas who ran it were singled out for ridicule because their enterprise and methods encapsulated so much of the last decade of negative change being imposed on New Orleans. Whether it was announcing they were accepting Bitcoin or their latest insulting, inaccurate statement about downtown to some lazy travel blogger.

I’m not sure if Bentley picked up the M word from me but it fits the hipster douchebags who ran Booty’s. They were pretentious, insufferable, and obnoxious so I’m glad the marketplace gave Booty’s the boot. I’m not, however, down with his attack on all small businesses:

Small businesses seem in many real ways less horrible than big businesses, but they’re only less successful. They’re just pint-sized, chubby-cheeked cute baby versions of the same damn thing.

Whatever, dude. It would help if Bentley painted with a less broad brush. Some small business owners are good and decent people and others are malakas. I’m uncertain how Bentley thinks jobs, goods, and services can be provided without businesses, small and large. I guess he’s waiting for the revolution but even then the world  will need buyers and sellers unless, that is, one prefers starvation.  In the end, the second part of Bentley’s article is snark for snark’s sake.


We leave New Orleans and cross the pond to discuss the war criminal and cultural looter, Hermann Goering, the original fat fuck:

The Revelations of a Nazi Art Catalogue: I am fascinated with the heroes and villains involved in protecting and looting art treasures during World War II. Hermann Goering was almost an opera bouffe villain reminiscent of Sig Ruman’s Nazi officer in Ernst Lubitsch’s satirical masterpiece, To Be Or Not To Be: 

Sig Ruman meme

There were also heroes who helped save European art and culture during the darkest days of World War II, foremost among whom was Rose Valland:

For nearly half a century after the war, the Göring catalogue lived in the home of Rose Valland, who, in 1932, had become a volunteer at the Jeu de Paume museum and, during the occupation, was made the museum’s overseer. Valland was a self-created success among Paris’s art-world élite: a lesbian who had grown up in a small town, the daughter of a blacksmith. She was also a purposefully quiet woman who used her position—and her knowledge of German—to record Nazi efforts to strip France of its artistic patrimony. The Jeu de Paume became a warehouse, and a transit station, for the systematic sluicing of French art into the Reich, particularly work that had been in private—and Jewish—hands. Göring visited the museum some twenty times to select items for himself, his wife, his homes. He was not alone in his greed: the best of the best was supposed to be kept for Hitler; the next tier of Nazis would then select for themselves. Valland kept a careful log, night after night. Some of the “degenerate” art, she wrote, was burned—including, it is believed, pieces by Dalí, Picasso, and Braques. In 1944, as the war neared its end, Valland alerted members of the resistance to the last train bound for Germany carrying French art. Her name now graces the lobby of the French diplomatic archives.

That’s a quote from Sarah Wildman’s fine New Yorker review of the French language edition of Goering’s catalogue. If it’s ever published in English, it should be called the Fat Fuck Files or maybe not…

FYI, the art train incident was immortalized in the great 1965 John Frankenheimer/Burt Lancaster action film, The Train.

Documentary Of The Week:  A less action packed version of how many European art treasures were stolen and later saved is told in The Rape Of Europa, which is available at Netflix. It covers both the looters and the handful of Monuments Men who did so much with so little at the end of the war. Btw, none of them look remotely like George Clooney, Matt Damon, or Cate Blanchett.

Here’s the trailer:

I give The Rape Of Europa an Adrastos grade of B, 3 stars, and an Ebertian thumbs up. I hope nobody thinks I’m hitchhiking, I gave that up years ago.

Since I’ve dealt with a variety of controversial subjects today, I’d like to send you off on a positive note with this week’s musical selection:

Saturday Classic: Al Green’s Let Stay Together  album was a monster hit in 1972. The title track hit number one on the charts and stayed there for a whopping 9 weeks. Rev. Al became a reluctant sex symbol over whom the ladies swooned. What’s not to swoon about? As great as the title track is, my personal favorite on the LP is Green’s gorgeous rendition of the Bee Gees How Do You Mend A Broken Heart? Now that’s a question for the ages. Here’s 41 minutes of sweet soul music, Memphis style:

While we’re at it, here’s the Gibbian original, which won a Grammy the previous year. I prefer Rev. Al’s version but I like both more than the Grammy Awards. I never watch them: one bad awards show is enough for me and my heart belongs to Oscar.

If you played the Bee Gees version you may have noticed this onscreen note from YouTuber, Graffitist:

For all the comments about Al Green’s version… Fuck Al Green, the Bee Gees are better. Haters gonna hate but I’m leaving this here. 🙂

Music fans can be so stupid. Barry and Robin Gibb are on the record as *loving* Al Green’s version of their song. Rev. Al made them even more money on the tune. There’s nothing wrong with preferring the Aussie white boy version but fuck Al Green? I’d be careful if I were you, he has friends upstairs and they might smite your ass for dissing the Rev. Oy, such a schmuck.

That’s it for this week. We’re going obscure with this week’s Batman villain, Black Widow. She was, however, played by stage legend Tallulah Bankhead who was the ultimate Southern Belle, y’all:

Black Widow meme






3 thoughts on “Saturday Odds & Sods: Splendid Isolation

  1. Love that you caught my article even though it’s 1/3 dreck. Agreed that the Italian tradition in NOLA is under-represented, but I was lucky the editor didn’t string me up over word count as it is. There is so much more that we could have explored, Italian role included. Mea culpa, but I had to stop somewhere.

    (There’s a book waiting to be written on the role of Italian immigrants on NOLA. The riots alone are a book a-waiting.)

    Also too: I’m sure I got plenty wrong! I was dancing in a mine field, and really sweat blood to try to honor the traditions that I was treading on. Would love to hear your take on KdV, which welcomed me in ’07, and that whole mishigas (see what I did there? you ain’t the only punny rojnd here). There was much more behind the story than LJ’s input, though again, length issues led me to restrict the cast of characters.

    At 2/3 to 1/3, I’m gonna pretend that you liked it more than not. I had a blast writing and researching, to the everlasting detriment of my physical well-being. The spirit, though…it’s still buzzing.

    1. btw…not a cockeyed optimist. Self-described “optimistic cynic, a sunny depressive”. no worries…we all make mistakes!

    2. The 1/3 dreck was a bit harsh. A better phrase would be too much of a good thing. I definitely liked it more than not. The writing was excellent and very entertaining. Very important: just don’t use gumbo as a metaphor again and we’ll be okay.

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