Monthly Archives: March 2016

Thursday Night Music: The Disappointed


This fine XTC tune constitutes foreshadowing of this week’s Saturday Odds & Sods post. To see how and/or why, you’ll have to tune in then. End of shameless plug.

Malaka Of The Week: John Milkovich (Not Malkovich)


They say that great minds think alike, so do twisted minds. Michael F and I came up with similar ideas yesterday: to mock the same Gret Stet legislator today. When I first saw his piece I thought I’d *accidentally* posted but then I noticed the title: Being John Milkovich. I considering scrapping this malaka of the week post but since it was 75% complete, I decided to issue whatever the hell this is: an introduction or disclaimer? Beats the hell outta me. Let’s get on with it:

Many state legislatures have been bringing the big stupid of late; come on down, North Carolina. I guess the Gret Stet lege got so jealous that they just had to join in on the fun. And that is why Louisiana State Senator John Milkovich (Not Malkovich) of Shreveport is malaka of the week.

I must confess that the similarity between the State Senator’s name and that of actor John Malkovich is one reason Milkovich is this week’s “honoree.” The other is that Milkovich (Not Malkovich) said something really stupid. I’ll let my pal Lamar White explain what happened when one of Milkovich’s colleagues proposed a bill to repeal a 1987 creationism  bill that was ruled unconstitutional years ago:

Newly-elected State Sen. John Milkovich, like Sen. Claitor, is also an attorney, except that, as he revealed today, he lacks a basic understanding of the law and science education, the only two things he should have familiarized himself with before debating a law about science education. Curiously, he seemed completely unfamiliar with the Louisiana Science Education Act.


Sen. Milkovich wasn’t done yet, though. He wanted Sen. Claitor to know that science actually agreed with new earth creationism, and he rattled off a list of talking points that seemed memorized from Discovery Institute flash cards. Hadn’t Sen. Claitor heard about the discovery of Noah’s Ark? Apparently, they’re not receiving the same chain e-mails. And what about all of the “new scientific discoveries” that proved the Genesis account of new earth creationism? Sen. Milkovich asked.

“In fact, scientific research and developments and advances in the last 100 years, particularly in the last fifty, twenty, ten years have validated the Biblical story of creation by archeological discoveries of civilizations in the Mideast that secularists said did not exist and further archeological research determines are true. There’s some published research that an ark or large boat was found on the top of Mount Ararat and then in addition the point of the notion of instantaneous creation has been validated by the scientific study of heliocentric circles in rocks, which is consistent with an instantaneous…. I’m guess I’m asking this,” Sen. Milkovich concludes, “are you aware that there is an abundance of recent science that actually confirms the Genesis account of creation?”

I wonder which movie Noah Sen. Milkovich (Not Malkovich) prefers: John Huston or Russell Crowe? As a classic film buff, I’d go with Walter’s son/Anjelica’s daddy-o:


We in the Gret Stet of Louisiana have been laboring for many years under a variety of moronic laws that purport to protect us from heathen science and the Darwinian anti-Christ. It has been the source of considerable embarrassment and, more importantly, costly litigation. I wish these bible-thumping bozos would come up with a pie-in-the-sky-god fundamentalist explanation of climate change since they refuse to believe that it’s man-made. Now *that* would be constructive.

Back to State Senator John Milkovich (Not Malkovich.) I’d never heard of him until this week and hope NOT to hear much more of him in the future, especially since he’s a Democrat. As the kids say I’m SMH. I mostly followed in Michael F’s wake to milk the whole Milkovich (Not Malkovich) joke within an inch of its life. I guess you could call it flogging a dead milk cow as opposed to a beating a dead horse, either qualifies as malakatude. I, for one, would rather not be inside the head of a guy who believes in the Noah’s Ark fairy tale.

The Zombie-Picayune has video of Malaka Milkovich’s (Not Malkovich) remarkable exchange with State Senator Dan Claitor:

The worst thing about people like Malaka Milkovich (Not Malkovich) is their need to paint a scientific gloss on their religious beliefs. It’s a cynical way of skirting Supreme Court establishment clause cases in order to teach children this hokum or is that harum scarum? There’s so much of this nonsense out there that I’m proud to be an agnostic, atheist, or whatever the hell I am. This rank hypocrisy is why Louisiana State Senator John Milkovich (Not Malkovich) is malaka of the week.

I’ll give Nick Lowe and his Jumbo Ark the last word:

Being John Milkovich


That’s Milkovich, not Malkovich…a Gret State Senator from Shreveport…and the vice-Chairman of the State Senate Education Committee. Milkovich has been doing some research, or at least poring over Jack Chick tracts, because he’s talking some stuff

“Scientific research and developments and advances in the last 100 years — particularly the last 15, 20, 10 years — have validated the biblical story of creation,” the freshman state senator said.

Milkovich…said archeologists and scientists have verified the origin story of the Christian Bible. He said archeologists had found the remnants of Noah’s ark recently. A study of rocks had verified that the earth was created in a week…

Sad to say, he wasn’t alone in rejecting a proposal to rescind a really stupid State law that requires the teaching of creationism in science classes — stupid both because, duh, creationism isn’t science, and stupid because the courts have reasonably decided that the law is unconstitutional and can’t be enforced. But that doesn’t stop the Stet from keeping it on the books, I suppose, “just in case.”

Meanwhile, across the border, the not-quite-as-Gret-State of Mississippi decided Praise-the-Lord-and-pass-the-ammunition is worthy of official legislative sanction. Because an armed congregation is presumably a polite one.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Prowl Cop/My Private Hangman

Ace Books used to publish two-fer potboilers in the early days of paperbacks. This is one of them:


Stand By Your Thug: Team Trump Malakatude Update

Last week chief Trump thug Corey Lewandowski was malaka of the week. Yesterday, he was charged with simpleton simple battery in Jupiter, Florida. Since the Insult Comedian is perfect, he’s backing his thuggish bouncer of a campaign manager and making wild excuses for his inexcusable behavior:

“She was off base,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “She had a pen in her hand, which Secret Service is not liking because they don’t know what it is, whether it’s a little bomb.”

During a Wednesday morning interview on “Fox and Friends,” Trump said Fields was carrying a pen, suggesting that pens were not allowed at the March 8 press conference in Florida where the incident occurred.

“She’s got a pen in her hand, which she’s not supposed to have,” he said. “Secret Service can tell you that.”

Trump also addressed the charges filed against Lewandowski during an interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity. A spokeswoman for the campaign on Tuesday said that Lewandowski would not be fired even if he was convicted of the battery charge.

The manliest of manly men is afraid of a female reporter with a pen? Pens are banned from his events? It should be astonishing that the Insult Comedian is dragging the Secret Service into his web of preposterous lies, but it’s not. It’s what Trump does. We’ve all known people, usually men, who *always* have to be right, and can convince themselves of *anything* to support their delusional infallibility. That’s the Insult Comedian in a wingnutshell. His shamelessly shameful handling of the Fields-Lewandowski incident is one reason that he’s going to be a LOSER in the general election according to Slate’s Jim Newell:

Trump has backed himself into a corner. He has mastered the means of securing a plurality in a Republican primary by bullying and bluster, followed by refusal to back down and portraying that refusal as much-needed strength. But taking steps to ease concerns among Republican voters who aren’t his base, much less with the general electorate, would require running a different campaign—one that might begin with, say, the firing of a campaign manager who lied about battering a female reporter and now faces criminal charges over the incident. Running a different campaign might have meant that he would have never gotten this far in the first place, but it’s what he needs to do if he wants to become president. It would probably require being a different person, perhaps one with a barely sound moral compass. We’ve seen enough to rule out the possibility of that.

In a normal campaign the prime directive is PROTECT THE CANDIDATE, which means that Lewandowski would have stepped down, if not last week, then last night. Trump’s belief that the normal rules of society do not apply to him will be his undoing in the general election. An astonishing 70% of women have a negative opinion of him. I cannot imagine why. #sarcasm

Given the aura of violence surrounding the campaign, it’s not surprising that Team Trump has gone from mansplaining to manhandling. I think only the most blindly devoted among them will buy what he’s selling in this tweet:

A pen bomb? Is that the best you can do, Donald? A pen held by a reporter for a right-wing organ is suddenly contraband? Oy, just oy.

There’s another weird twist to this story involving Lewandowski’s lawyer. Here’s my headline: FLORIDA LAWYER BIT A STRIPPER IN 1996.

It’s just another day on the Trump campaign.

I originally planned to give Tammy Wynette the last word, but since the Insult Comedian would be afraid of her potentially weaponized big hair, the Lyle Lovett version will have to do; pun intended. He *did* have big hair back in the ’80’s and ’90’s, but he’s not a femme fatale:

Just substitute thug for man and Bob’s your uncle. Btw, I have no idea why there’s an image of four Asian dudes on that video. I guess the Trumpian surreality is contagious. So it goes.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: The Adventures Of Panama Red

Despite emerging from the San Francisco psychedelic scene of the Sixties, New Riders of the Purple Sage took their name from a Zane Gray oater. NRPS is a country rock band that’s still hanging in there some 36 years after releasing their first album. They started life as something of a Grateful Dead spin-off before blazing their own trail as it were.

The Adventures of Panama Red was the band’s fourth LP. It remains something of a cult classic, especially the title track, Panama Red. I’ve always loved the cover art, which was done by Lore and Chris. There’s no folklore about them on the interwebs but it’s a fine image nonetheless:


Here’s a close up of the back cover:


It’s gatefold time. Many a joint was rolled on this LP since Panama Red was a type of weed quite popular in the Bay Area back then:


Finally, here’s the title track:

ISIS Oil on US Streets


KIRKUK, Iraq — The recently refurbished tarmac at Maine’s busiest airport contains the usual mixture of gravel, water and chemical binder, but what gives this asphalt its jet-black color is crude oil supplied by the Islamic State group. The Portland International Jetport’s new pavement isn’t the only blacktop of its kind on American soil. Four hundred miles south, highways outside Philadelphia are lined with the same mixture, as are hundreds of potholes on the streets of New York City, a four-month-long International Business Times investigation found.

Read the whole thing.


Chick Issues

My friend Emma, who is brilliant on this campaign season: 

This is an especially weird year for dissecting gender politics. On the one hand, we have Hillary Clinton, who, unlike any other presidential candidate, has the added advantage in appealing to women of actually being a woman. On the other hand, there is Donald J. Trump, whose predominantly white, male supporters delight in him saying “politically incorrect” things, even when that means implying that his opponent’s wife is unattractive.

Mr. Trump is also running a campaign that answers the question, What if male voters were treated like female voters? What if they were reduced to a single issue, condescended to, and counted on to show up anyway?

There are plenty of examples of how campaigns have done just that to female voters for years.

In 2014, the College Republican National Committee released a series of ads aimed at young women, based on the TLC program “Say Yes to the Dress,” with Republican candidates for governor standing in for garish taffeta creations. In one of the ads, a young woman models a strapless wedding gown called “The Rick Scott,” to her female friends’ delight. Her mother wants her to wear the frumpy “Charlie Crist” dress.

In his re-election campaign that same year, Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, ran ads contrasting his record on supporting access to abortion and birth control with that of his challenger, Cory Gardner. At one point in the campaign, ads about abortion and birth control made up more than 50 percent of the television spots Mr. Udall had on the air, earning him the nickname “Mark Uterus.” In the end, Mr. Udall won the female vote by aneight-point margin, but still lost to Mr. Gardner.

At a time when a woman’s place is in combat, it is FUCKING INSANE that our two neverending wars are not considered a “women’s issue.” At least the pay gap has something to do with the economy, but overall women are considered to care about boobies and babies and that is IT. I wouldn’t say abortion access and breast cancer treatment are unimportant, but I would say our country’s economic condition and the state of our health care system and how much we pay in taxes have something to do with our lives as well.

Reducing us to candidate “shopping” like we’re buying clothes is bad. So is reducing us to childcare and breast exams.


At Least We’re Accelerating the Shame Cycle: Trump Edition

This time they’re not waiting half a decade to admit they burned the world down: 

My support for Trump began probably like yours did.


Similar to so many other Americans, I was tired of the rhetoric in Washington.

Many other Americans were tired of not eating.

Again, NO.

In 2015, I fell in love with the idea of the protest candidate who was not bought by corporations. A man who sat in a Manhattan high-rise he had built, making waves as a straight talker with a business background, full of successes and failures, who wanted America to return to greatness.

I was sold.

Like a goddamn Easter ham.

I began realizing the man really resonates with the masses and would bring people to the process who had never participated before.

For example, a guy dressed up in a Trump Wall unitard.

It wasn’t long before every day I awoke to a buzzing phone and a shaking head because Trump had said something politically incorrect the night before. I have been around politics long enough to know that the other side will pounce on any and every opportunity to smear a candidate.

Particularly using his own words, and some kind of a recording device.

I’ll say it again: Trump never intended to be the candidate. But his pride is too out of control to stop him now.

So he’s helpless in the face of it? Boyfriend is an adult. Stop letting these people off the hook.

I, too, think our country has gone off track in its values. I, too, think that we need a dramatic change of course. But I am, in my heart, a policy wonk and a believer in coming to the table with necessary knowledge for leading the free world.

Which is why I signed on to do press for a guy who managed to fuck up selling meat.

Trump made me believe. Until I woke up.

Fuck her, okay, for having any part in Trump’s situation at all, but I gotta say, at least she’s doing this now, before the election. George W. Bush’s people all waited until he was out of office and OH YEAH THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WERE DEAD before they were like, “I said all along that guy was a fuckup, okay?”


Not Everything Sucks: ‘The Go’

Kids Today. They’re kind of AWESOME.

Eraina Smith said her only child wouldn’t take no for an answer upon proposing the T-shirt company. Relenting to the idea has resulted in the sales of about 1,000 shirts so far, she said, adding that the shirts range in price from $15-$30.

Raven also recently unveiled Straight from the Go hats ($20) and envisions coffee mugs, cellphone cases and more on the horizon. The proceeds from all sales will be directed at various causes.

“I want to see where it can take me,” said Raven, who made her first donation March 5 to the tune of $250 to her alma mater, Poe Elementary School in Roseland.

This donation will be used to help offset midyear budget cuts at the school that might have to eliminate its Spanish teacher, Raven said. Future funds will be used to offer rewards to residents who come forward with information about serious crimes.


Charles Foster Kane Meets Donald Trump

Kane Rally Long Shot

I am on the record as believing that Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films ever made:

It’s story time, kiddies. I’ve probably seen Citizen Kane more times than any other movie, even The Godfather. I hope Don Vito will forgive me without expecting a Bonasera-like favor from me. I’m not much of an undertaker even if I *am* a 6 Feet Under fan…

I was introduced to the glories of Citizen Kane by my high school journalism teacher, Mr. Quinlan. He was a fussy little man who was a rather dull teacher. He was seriously bald and usually wore a gray suit, white shirt, and a dark tie. Try as we might, he was hard to imitate: our feeble attempts usually involved placing a right hand on the nape of the neck and scowling quizzically. The impression also involved much head-shaking. I told you it was a bad impression.

Mr. Quinlan came to life when discussing Citizen Kane with his students. He was positively bubbly while telling us that Kane was based on William Randolph Hearst and Susan Alexander was based on Marion Davies. He omitted, however, one theory of why Hearst was so livid about the movie. Legend has it that rosebud was the tycoon’s nickname for Ms. Davies’ clitoris. That story would have made Mr. Quinlan blush like a bald beet. I’m not sure if it’s true but Gore Vidal thought it made more sense than that sled/lost childhood mishigas.

Notice how I slipped that rather lengthy self-quotation in there? I seem to have humblebrag fever these days. It beats the hell out of yellow fever even if that’s the title of a fine old Hot Tuna LP.

Back to whole point of this post such as it is. It turns out that the Insult Comedian is a YUUUUGE fan of Orson’s first film and has his own unique toon-tycoon twist on it.

The clip comes from an abandoned Errol Morris project and he posted the Trump clip last fall. I cannot believe I missed it. My spies seem to be letting me down. Where have you gone James Jesus Angleton?

Trump seems to think that Citizen Kane is about “accumulation” whereas most of us Kaniacs believe it’s about loss and the emptiness of materialism. Another Trumpian insight is that “there was a great rise in Citizen Kane and there was a modest fall, not a financial fall but a personal one.” Actually, Kane’s empire shrunk during the Great Depression much like that of William Randolph Hearst. Not that one expects accuracy from the Donald…

What Trump *really* has in common with both Kane and Hearst is a compulsion to build monuments to themselves. Kane had Xanadu or  Sloppy Joe’s as Jedediah Leland mockingly called it. Heart had his castle on the hill, San Simeon. And Trump has a string of hotels, buildings and other joints named for the greatest man he knows, himself. He also has a Florida crib complete with a butler turned estate “historian.” You cannot make this stuff up:

The interview took place at Mar-a-Lago itself, which – despite also functioning as a private club – comes across as merely a snowglobe short of Xanadu. But we shall come to Mr Trump’s self-confessed favourite movie later. In other fiction, a mildly exasperated yet uber-competent valet is an accessory frequently sported by the socially dysfunctional or semi-housebroken rich guy. Perhaps this was the aim of the Trump campaign, which seeks to cast Senecal very much as the Alfred to Trump’s superannuated Bruce Wayne, as opposed to the Oddjob to his Auric Goldfinger.

Even so, Senecal’s sense of professional obligation tends toward the malarial. “Years ago,” reveals the profile, “he received an urgent warning from Mr Trump’s soon-to-land plane that the mogul was in a sour mood. Mr Senecal quickly hired a bugler to play Hail to the Chief as Mr Trump stepped out of his limousine to enter Mar-a-Lago.”

Mr. Senecal puts the servile into servant. He’s nothing like Kane’s snippy-n-snide butler Raymond:


Paul Stewart pretends that Rosebud is important.

It’s no surprise that Trump gets so much wrong about Kane. He natters on about Rosebud when it’s the ultimate MacGuffin: a device to drive the plot along that, in the end, doesn’t mean all that much. As the newsreel reporter says: “No one word can sum up a man’s life.” Word.

Back to the Trump/Morris video. At its end, Morris has the following exchange with the Insult Comedian:

EM: If you could give Charles Foster Kane advice, what would you say to him?

IC: Get yourself a different woman.

Is anyone surprised? I thought not. The only thing genuine about Trump’s campaign persona is his misogyny. It’s one reason I am firmly convinced that Hillary Clinton is the one to take him on. It will increase the chances of his saying something stupidly sexist. It’s his nature. To paraphrase the old Four Tops song, he can’t help himself:

Time to circle back to the Citizen Kane still at the top of the post. There were no *real* crowd scenes in Kane. It was all done by movie magic. Here’s how Rogert Ebert described it:

Crowd scenes. There aren’t any in Citizen Kane. It only looks like there are. In the opening newsreel, stock footage of a political rally is intercut with a low-angle shot showing one man speaking on behalf of Kane. Sound effects make it sound like he’s at a big outdoor rally. Later, Kane himself addresses a gigantic indoor rally. Kane and the other actors on the stage are real. The audience is a miniature, with flickering lights to suggest movement.

I thought of this the other day when Team Sanders held a *very* expensive rally at Safeco Field in Seattle. There were 5-7K people there but they wanted to give the impression that the joint was packed, which they cleverly did by having the stage set up by Third Base. Here’s how it looked from another angle:

Sanders Safeco

Your donations in action.

Remember this image the next time you hear how authentic and genuine Mr. Sanders is. They all use movie magic, even rumpled socialists from Vermont by way of Brooklyn.


The Fog Of Historical Pictures: Grace Coolidge’s Pet Raccoon


The Coolidge coon via Presidential Pet

My friend and fellow horrid punster James Karst is up to his usual tricks, which are for kids. Silly rabbit. I meant silly raccoon. Here’s the tale of FLOTUS Grace Coolidge and Rebecca the raccoon tout suite in three tweets:

Yikes. The raccoon *does* appear to be something of an ankle biter. They’ll eat anything. Besides, it’s bound to be tastier than tin cans and coffee grounds…

That’s right, boys and girls, the beautiful and vivacious wife of dour and shy Calvin Coolidge kept a pet raccoon at the White House:

Imagine Michelle Obama cradling a raccoon in her buff arms. Grace Coolidge’s pet raccoon, Rebecca, was a celebrated resident of the White House, dragged out for Easter egg rolls and held like a cat while the First Lady posed for the camera.

While Rebecca may seem like a bizarre object of love for a first lady, this picture wouldn’t have seemed nearly as strange to people living in the 1920s. In her bookPets in America, historian Katherine Grier writes about families in the nineteenth century who kept crows, woodchucks, foxes, deer, and squirrels as household pets.

How did I miss out on this vital historical story? It’s the most interesting thing I’ve ever read about the Coolidge administration other than the whole “he looks like he was weaned on a pickle” thing.

You learn something new every day, especially when you follow James Karst on Twitter.

I tried to resist posting a certain Beatles tune but I couldn’t help myself. Let’s give Macca the last word:

Speaking of oddities, the King of Swing meets Macca:

Today on Tommy T’s obsession with the Freeperati – dry hole edition

Well, it finally happened, folks –  this week, there isn’t one single current Freeper thread of any entertainment value.  Not one.

The usual Cruz vs. Trump supporter vitriol, but I’ve already done a dozen plus posts on that subject, and the arguments are just repeating themselves now.

So – in a distressing (to me, anyway) trend of personal, non-Freeper posts, I’ll just add:

A Tale Of Two Shitties!

In the 80’s, I worked for Marshall Field and Company (the famous Department Store) in the Dallas Galleria location.

At that time, Marshall Field was a purveyor of high-end merchandise and clothing, providing boutique lines of merchandise and superior customer service.

However, Marshall Field was sold by BATUS to Dayton-Hudson, which also owned Target.

That’s when the fun began.


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Oh Yeah, Why Aren’t You Praying for THIS?!!!

An explosion in a Pakistani park today, and instantly: WHY AREN’T YOU TWEETING ABOUT THIS OH YEAH THEY AREN’T WHITE: 

A suicide bomber killed at least 52 people, including many women and children, at a public park in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday, according to government officials and police.

The blast occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a few feet away from children’s swings. Around 150 people were injured in the explosion, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Pakistan has been plagued by a Taliban insurgency, criminal gangs, and sectarian violence. Punjab, where Lahore is located, is its biggest and wealthiest province.

This is probably a more concise and focused takedown of the “tragedy hipster” mentality than I’m about to deliver. In case you’re pressed for time.

Is there racism at work in the disproportionate amount of attention given to tragedies involving white people?


Is there laziness, bias, stupidity, myopia?


Should we be thinking, always, about the weight of every life, and putting ourselves in others’ shoes?

Shit yeah.

Is any of that solved by yelling at your cousin on Facebook (or posting passive-aggressive shaming articles about how “we” don’t give enough of a shit about X part of the world) after he changes his profile picture to the color of the Belgian flag for a day or something?

Not really. It’s just changing the flavor of the narcissism to “Look at me, with my bigger understanding of the world than yours! How dare you be so small, when I am capable of being bigger!”

Here’s the thing. Of course people tend to focus on things they have personally experienced. Places they’ve been. Lives in which they can see themselves. That’s not a sign of anything but being human, and I’m not all that interested in tallying up the instances of “prayers up!” on Facebook and Twitter as the ultimate measure of whether we have a racist society.

Of course we do. We always have.

And it’s not letting us one iota off the hook for that, to say that using a tragedy to shame people for caring about another tragedy is the worst kind of jerking off and advances us not one bit. It ignores where we are, and how we react, as goddamn ordinary people. If you don’t start from where you are, if you don’t start from how the world works right now, you’ll never be able to move.

We all break the world apart in little bits and care about it that way, because it’s too much to try to swallow, the whole thing at once. It would choke you, if you loved it all. The only thing we call that capacity for compassion, ever, is God, because we cannot imagine anything else big enough for it. That’s where we are: with us and ours.

Growing from there, drawing the circle wider and wider, doesn’t come from stamping out the first impulse toward kindness and generosity because it’s not big enough. I don’t think anyone, caring about anything bigger than themselves in a way that’s unselfish enough to make even a tiny gesture, deserves to be slapped down. So long as they’re not making out like they’re one of the oppressed because they switched their blog’s font color, their status change hurts no one.

This has been a miserable, cold, dark, punishing year for a lot a lot a lot of people, and especially here in America, kindness is in pretty damn short supply. We have had two entire presidential campaigns and are about to have a third concentrating entirely on how mean we should be to poor people and immigrants. We DO have a profoundly racist society, and we ARE entirely too ignorant of things outside our own experience. For a lot of people I know Europe might as well be the moon, for all the chance they’ll have to get there, so while we’re raising people’s consciousnesses miles up, let’s try not to scream at them every inch.

Now, if you want to do something to help the victims of today’s attack, here’s an idea.


Other People Aren’t Your Tourist Attraction

On seeing Cuba “before it’s ruined.” 

I appreciate good art direction just as much as anyone else, and I see that Cuba looks like a beautifully destroyed photo op. But it’s not your photo op. The old cars are not kitschy; they are not a choice. It’s all they have. The old buildings are not preserved; their balconies are falling and killing people all the time. The very, very young girls prostituting themselves are not doing it because they can’t get enough of old Canadian men, but because it pays more than being a doctor does. Hospitals for regular Cuban citizens are not what Michael Moore showed you in Sicko. (That was a Communist hospital for members of the Party and for tourists, and I, for one, think Moore fell for their North Korea–like propaganda show pretty hard.) There are no janitors in the hospitals because it pays more money to steal janitorial supplies and sell them on the street than it does to actually have a job there. Therefore, the halls and rooms are covered in blood, urine, and feces, and you need to bring your own sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and mattresses when you are admitted. Doctors have to reuse needles on patients. My mom’s aunt had a stroke and the doctor’s course of treatment was to “put her feet up and let the blood rush back to her head.” That was it. And this is in Havana, the big city. I can’t be sure, but I’d imagine things there are a lot better than they are in more remote parts of the country.

I get the desire for an authentic experience of a place. I do not understand the people who eat their way through the world one Hard Rock Café at a time, who go somewhere else and bitch it’s not home. When Mr. A and I went to Jamaica we stayed, on purpose, in a locally owned hotel. When we went to Paris I was comically excited to be shacking up in someone’s rented apartment instead of in a Comfort Inn (and not just because it was a fraction of the cost). I get the desire to really see a place as it is, and not just as the brochures present it.

But there’s a line you cross when you decide what “authentic” is, and publicly pine for a backdrop for yourself, ignoring the desires of the people populating that backdrop for the 51 weeks out of the year you’re not there. Your vacation doesn’t trump someone’s daily life. Your vacation photos will survive.

Would it be sad to see a Disney Store in downtown Havana? We have one in downtown Chicago, and it doesn’t seem to have done dick for anyone living south of the Loop, so I’ll leave it up to the Cubans as to what they want where. If I need poverty porn for my Instagram there will always be somewhere miserable for me to pose.



Sunday Morning Video: The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople

This is a 2013 BBC documentary about the life and times of Mott the Hoople.

The filmakers took the title from one of Mott’s finest songs. Here’s some lagniappe:



Medieval Killer Rabbits and Snail-monk via The Poke.

Spring has sprung in New Orleans at last after a brief cold snap. I should say cool snap because the lows were in the mid-forties but that’s chilly for us in March. We ran the AC one day and the heater two days later as we rode on the NOLA weather rollercoaster. So it goes.

The Fox network was in town on Palm Sunday. They filmed a half-assed modern musical version of the Passion Play complete with crappy recent pop songs. I didn’t go downtown to gawk and have only watched thirty minutes of The Passion, but it’s a stinker. It did, however, attract something of a sideshow as the procession weaved through the streets of the Quarter. Anyone shocked? I thought not. Here’s how Advocate music writer Keith Spera described one heckler/riffer who lacked the wit of Tom Servo or Croooow:

Turning onto Canal Street, the procession encountered an interloper who was clearly not an angelic host. He wore red devil horns and pulled a wagon with a boom box. Gyrating provocatively, he was intent on making a nuisance and/or spectacle of himself by mocking the march. The dancing devil tried to pull his wagon into the procession; a police officer quickly shooed him back to the sidewalk. Undeterred, he donned a kitschy cape bearing an image of Jesus.

He stopped to film himself writhing in front of the Golden Wall Chinese restaurant — and dropped his camera phone. The case shattered on the pavement.

 Divine retribution, some might say.
That’s not what I’d say, I might go Ray Charles on their asses though:

One good thing about the unintentional comedy that came to town is that it put me in a Jethro Tull frame of mind. Ian Anderson is well-known as a religious skeptic but Tull recorded an album called-you guessed it-A Passion Play during the heyday of prog-rock. I hadn’t heard it for years but enjoyed it when I gave it a spin last week:

Not only was Tull’s A Passion Play, uh, passionate; it has a storytime-style segment about non-lethal rabbits, hares, what have you. Here’s the video they used in concert way back in 1973:

I hope the poor bastard found his spectacles without making a spectacle of himself.

It just occurred to me that the makers of the 1933 Hollywood version of Alice In Wonderland missed a pun opportunity by not casting Fredric as the March Hare. Perhaps they were worried that he’d show up for work as Mr. Hyde but if that were the case he could have been renamed the March Hyde.

The March Hyde

The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles is NOT this week’s theme song. That dubious honor goes to a tune from the very next Tull LP, War Child. Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day has an insidiously catchy melody and also features a seasonally appropriate reference to a rabbit on the run. At some of their live shows, some poor bloke was obliged to dress up in a bunny outfit and scamper across the stage. The version below is bunny-free, alas. I asked the March Hare to show up since it’s March but he/she/it declined while muttering something about March madness. Fucking lazy fictional bunny.                    

Speaking of rabbits, I’ve always been somewhat baffled by the merger of pagan fertility rites with Easter. It’s part and parcel of our habit of “secularizing” even the most solemn religious holidays. Easter is about a crucifixion, not Cadbury Creme Eggs although I prefer the latter to the former. I have sensitive hands, y’all. Better still are a local delicacy, Elmer’s Gold Brick Eggs, which are all chocolaty and pecanny. They used to be made on Magazine Street not far from Adrastos World HQ. It filled the air with lovely aromas, which beat the hell out of stale beer and bus exhaust fumes. Elmer Chocolate, however, moved to the burbs quite some time ago. So it goes.

Since this has been Mott the Hoople week here at First Draft, let’s roll away the stone before the break:

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Friday Ferretblogging

I’mma come out I’mma come out I’mma come out NOPE GOING BACK TO BED.


The gift of knowing you lived well

My dad turns 72 this week.

He retired more than 13 years ago. The place he worked for 38 years, Ladish, is essentially gone, the victim of a merger. The only thing that still bears its name is the giant brick smoke stack that the DNR won’t let the new company demolish.

The credit union where he served as a board member has been consolidated away as well. The day of the old “mom and pop” credit union has given way to the multi-national corporation, making these once-local institutions seem more like banks than unions.

He still can’t sit still, even at this age. Mom bought him a Fit-Bit for Christmas. He has already walked almost half-a-million steps. In most cases, it’s laps around the mall and twitchy runs to the basement for some baseball cards he just remembered he wanted to look at.

He still has his own hair and own teeth. He’s ambulatory and able to do everything he wants to do, activities that usually confines themselves to dart ball with the guys and golf whenever the ground isn’t covered in snow.

He’s not perfect, nor is everything in life, however, from my perspective, he’s got the life that people his age were always told they should have. He got the scripted life: Work hard, play by the rules, retire and enjoy your golden years.

This was the American Dream that so few people got.

It’s hard to think about my dad without thinking about his dad. Grandpa died early, relatively speaking, the victim of weight, smoking and a poor approach to healthcare. When I did the math, I realized that Dad had Grandpa in his life for only 34 years. I’ve gotten eight more years and counting in that regard.

Grandpa died before he could retire, having spent 42 years at Ladish. I remember when dad was talking about retirement around year 37. I joked with him he couldn’t retire yet because at 40 years, he would get a watch and I considered that to be inheritable property. His response was typical Dad:

“I’ll buy you a fucking watch.”

I think about my mother-in-law, who is confined to a wheelchair after a stroke took away her left-side movement. She worked with autistic and special-needs kids in various grade schools, but never lasted long enough in one spot to get a pension.

She turned 64 last month and, in spite of living with us, she still has huge financial worries pertaining to healthcare. It’s often a case of “Does this make me feel healthier enough to make it worth the money I have to spend on it?”

Her daily excursion is from her room into the kitchen, where she helps the Midget with her homework or reads her Kindle with her one good eye.

We were joking the other day about “expiration dates” on stuff when one of us made a crack about her expiration date.

“I hope it’s not too far out,” she said.

These were the people whose branches grew from the solid trunk of The Greatest Generation. They were expected to boldly build, fearlessly explore and create great big things.

The world was supposed to be their oyster, given the opportunities afforded them, the advances in medicine and the ability to reach out to the stars (or at least VCR-based porn).

Or as Billy Joel famously noted in “Allentown,” “Each of us had a pretty good shot to get at least as far as our old man got.”

How many of that generation would feel this to be the case as they get to the end? Dad frequently tells me that he “doesn’t owe anybody anything,” meaning he lacks the debt that many of his contemporaries have racked up over time. My mother-in-law says she’s so blessed to have us and that she loves us all. As much as I believe them and I know these things to be true, I wonder how they saw themselves at my age. Did they figure this is how they would end up? Did they want for something else but didn’t get it? Have things really turned out for the best for them?

All I know is that I value every day they are here, every phone call about some random crap they bought at an estate sale and every general session of teasing I can get.

I hope that everyone of that age gets to have those kinds of experiences of everyday love that helps them understand that no matter how they got here, someone is glad they did.

That’s the gift that goes beyond the bottles of booze you get for people when you don’t know what else to give them or gift certificates for Olive Garden. It’s the thing that makes people want to push that “expiration date” back a few more days, weeks, months or years.

It’s the gift of knowing a life was lived well.

It’s the one gift I really want to give my dad again next year when he turns 73.

Friday Catblogging: The Devil Eyed Bag Lady

Another day, another bag, another demonic look. Just another day in the life of Della Street.


If Lady Day were still around, she’d surely launch into this song right now: