Saturday Odds & Sods: Cynical Days

sleep of reason_905
Close up from The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters by Goya.

It’s been a relatively uneventful week here in New Orleans. There were some developments in the monuments removal mishigas, but I’ll deal with that separately some other time. Another big local story involves the abandonment of a development on the riverfront at Audubon Park. The powers that be were trying to put a soccer field on a well-used and much-loved green space called the Fly. As far as I know it has nothing to do with either the 1958 or 1986 movies of that title. It’s a pity that no local news outlet used my suggested headline: FLY SWATTED. It’s direct, punchy, and to the point. It’s nice that developers lost one but their batting average is pretty damn high so I’m not planning to spike the ball or make like former Saint Joe Horn; not that I have a flip phone:

April is when the Festival season in the Crescent City kicks into high gear. There’s a string of festivals on the horizon; some free, others quite pricey. Since I’m cheaper than Jack Benny on his old teevee show, I like the free ones best myself. They’ve all gotten too big for my taste so we’ll be picking and choosing. Speaking of taste, the good news is that all NOLA festivals have tasty food. It’s mandatory.

This week’s theme song comes from the XTC album Oranges and Lemons, which was featured on Album Cover Art Wednesday in 2014. I chose Cynical Days because it was written by bassist Colin Moulding in order to balance out a discussion of a new book about Andy Partridge’s tunes after the break. I’ve also been known to be a cynical bastard. I guess you’ve noticed that:

Before making plans for the break, here’s another Moulding tune from the band’s third album Drums and Wires:

I don’t know about you but I haven’t cared for the Nigels I’ve met over the years. It’s apparently one of those names that’s disappearing because it’s too upper class twitty like, say, Nigel (Incubator) Jones.  Enough with the name jokes, it’s time to make like Graham Parker and Break Them Down after the, uh, break:

We begin with the much ballyhooed (by me only) segment about the new book Andy Partridge did with music writer Todd Bernhardt, but first another Colin Moulding song. I still believe in the equal time provision of the fairness doctrine. This song *could* be the theme song for the Trump campaign:

Scratch that idea. The Trumpers aren’t very smart even if Corey Lewandowski *is* rather simian.  I cannot believe I forgot about Smartest Monkeys when I did my epic monkey odds & sods post. I guess I had a bad case of monkey don’t…

Andy Partridge On Complicated Game: The Songs of XTCThe semi-reclusive one sat down with Salon for a wide-ranging discussion of his musical oeuvre. One interesting tidbit from the session is that Andy has written a song for the upcoming Monkees album. Hey, hey:

And I was contacted on Twitter by the man who manages the Monkees, Andrew Sandoval. The Monkees are going to make one more album, one last hurrah, and they want to do it in the style of ’66, ’67 Monkees. [Sandoval] knew I was a fan of the Monkees as a kid, and said would I write something for them? I thought fantastic, so I wrote them a bunch of things, wrote them a few new ones, and sent a couple that I thought they might like. And their first single is going to be one of those songs.

It’s “You Bring The Summer,” right?

Yeah. So I was channeling my inner Neil Diamond there.  Which is easier to do, really, than my inner Carole King.

So, Twitter is good for something other than self-promotion, cat pictures, and stupid Bernie bro tricks? Who knew?

Since the Monkees album isn’t out yet, here’s a scintillating summery substitute, Partridge’s demo for Summer’s Cauldron from the Skylarking LP:

Let’s move on from XTC to ecstasy or is that agony? I wonder if Rex Harrison can help me tell the difference? Probably not: he’s long dead. Even if he were still with us, I wouldn’t bother asking Charlton Heston. I hate the smell of burnt ham in the morning. I could, however, consult with the guy who played the Borgia Pope who was the arch-enemy of Pope Julius who Rex played in-you guessed it-The Agony and the Ecstasy:


Damn, that was a long digression even by my rather low standards. Let’s segue into some movie chit-chat beginning with *another* Citizen Kane related discussion:

The Hearst Plot Against Citizen Kane: Orson Welles was in denial about the magnate’s role in the attempt to smother his cinematic baby in the cradle. He was convinced that Hearst’s underlings were behind it. Some recently unearthed memos from Team Hearst prove that the magnate was up to his elbows in plotting against a film that depicted his mistress as a bitchy, untalented lush when, in fact, she was a nice, modestly talented lush. Dalya Alberge of the Guardian has the details.

Bloody Sam: Sam Peckinpah was a revolutionary film director. 1969’s ultra-gory The Wild Bunch was an artistic and commercial success, which led to even bloodier films. I remain uncertain if that was a good thing but it’s a helluva movie. I slightly prefer an earlier less gory Western with Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott: Ride The High Country.

High Country

Jeez, Scott was first-billed? But he never worked with Hitchcock and Sturges like McCrea did. Of course, there wasn’t a McCrea reference in Blazing Saddles:

There’s a  Peckinpah retrospective underway in New York, the town so nice they had to name it twice. That, in turn, inspired a thoughtful look back at the director by the Guardian’s John Patterson:

Only a madman would call this creation! It’s not art! It’s not cinema! It’s pure wasted insanity!” That reaction-card from the Kansas City sneak preview of The Wild Bunch on May Day 1969 offered a foretaste of the controversy that would engulf Sam Peckinpah’s unprecedentedly bloody and bleak, revolutionary western on its release six weeks later. It was a film that would saddle its director forever with the moniker “Bloody Sam”.

The Wild Bunch was a hand grenade throw under the tent-flap of America’s assumptions about violence and our culpability in it. It tore the increasingly bloody and reprehensible Vietnam war off the nightly news and hurled it like a scarlet paint-pot all over the silver screen. The western was never the same again, nor was American cinema, and nor was Sam Peckinpah.

Like many artistic guerillas, Peckinpah was ill-suited to become the leader of a movement. But for a brief moment, before succumbing to personal demons, he was. It’s hard to imagine Quentin Tarantino without Peckinpah. Bloody Sam also inspired one of the funniest Monty Python bits of all-time:

It’s time to exit the cinema and talk about political history, but first a political song by Andy Partridge:

The next piece has a long-ass title but it’s a good ‘un, so here we go:

Think Heidi Cruz Has It Bad? Just Ask Rachel Jackson, Lucy Hayes, and Frances Cleveland: Does Heidi Cruz have it bad? Hell yes, she’s married to Tailgunner Ted. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

Joseph Cummins’ piece for Politico Magazine tries to put *this* in historical context:


Although candidates’ families, and even their pet raccoons, *should* be off-limits, a defogged look at history shows that’s not always the case:

In other words, political wives in the United States have been suffering the same type of harsh invective as their husbands since the founding—and it’s clearly not going to stop in 2016.

In 1800, Abigail Adams, President John Adams’ wife, was sarcastically called “Madame President” and “Her Majesty,” because of her outspokenness, unusual for her time. Democratic vice-presidential candidate Richard Johnson was hissed at when he appeared in public in 1836 because he lived openly with a black woman named Julia Chinn. (The way this election is going, we may see the return of hissing, a long neglected and artful form of expressing disapproval.)

In 1876, Democrats spread false rumors that Lucy Hayes, wife of the abstemious Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes, was a secret drinker. (Her nickname, by the way, was “Lemonade Lucy” due to her support of the temperance movement.) To add insult to injury, Hayes’ opponents also claimed that he had gotten drunk one night and shot his mother—only wounded her, but still. (This was not true, but the elder Mrs. Hayes, having been conveniently dead for years, was not around to rebut the accusation.) Grover Cleveland’s wife, Frances Folsom, was the object of much titillating speculation during the election of 1888 because she was 28 years younger than he, and his former ward. (After Republicans charged that Cleveland routinely beat her, Folsom put out a statement, unprecedented for a first lady at the time, claiming all the talk was “a foolish campaign ploy without a shadow of foundation.”)

In 1928, Republicans claimed that Kate Smith, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith, would be a disaster as first lady because of her humble beginnings in the Irish slums of the Lower East Side. Smith’s political enemies sneered that with Kate as first lady, the White House would smell of “corned beef, cabbage and home brew.” Mrs. Florence T. Griswold, Republican National Committee member, made a speech in which she said, “Can you imagine an aristocratic foreign ambassador saying to her, ‘What a charming gown,’ and the reply, ‘Youse said a mouthful!’”

Kate Smith? The fat lady who was famous for singing God Bless America before it replaced Take Me Out To The Ballgame at the Seventh Inning stretch?

I guess I just showed my age but she turned up at sporting events well into the 1970’s. Rumor has it that she’s the one who inspired the hoary “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings” proto-meme. That’s one version at least. So much for trying *not* to show my age…

Back to political wife bashing. Michelle Obama has been subjected to a lot of it in spite of her manifest awesomeness. I don’t like it. I don’t do it and nobody else should; even when the target has the poor taste to be married to the Insult Comedian or Tailgunner Ted. Of course, their spouses may be Stupidly Happy for all we know:

Who To Read: I haven’t done this feature in quite some time, but as a believer in the Hellenic tradition of cronyism, I wanted to plug one of my friends. One of my favorite blogs is Sky Dancing and my favorite blogger there is my pal Dakinikat. She’s a trained economist, accomplished pianist, and fine writer. They do overkill coverage of the campaign so if you want analysis of each and every debate, it’s the place to go. Me, I’d rather watch Face Off and be scared by Glenn Hetrick than hear Bernie Sanders decline to say if he’ll fundraise for down-ballot Democrats. I don’t know why not: I get 3 or 4 daily fundraising emails from his campaign and their cohorts. Enough already, silly rumpled Socialist person. Anyway, read Kat, like Citizen Kane, she’s terrific.

It's terrific

Let’s move on from Sky Dancing to Skylarking but before we do one more XTC tune. It’s dedicated to Kat who lives in the Bywater neighborhood aka Hipsterville. It’s the home of air bnbs and rowdy, drunken tourists not unlike the fuckers in this song:

Saturday Classic: You may have seen it coming-and if you didn’t, WTF is wrong with you-this week’s classic album is by XTC. Skylarking was the product of creative tension between producer Todd Rundgren and the band, especially Andy Partridge. The result was one of the best albums of the 1980’s:

That’s it for this week. I decided to branch out with the bat-meme picture. Alfred the butler *was* the one who answered the bat phone, after all. There’s no way Jeeves, Mr. Carson, or Trump’s butler Senecal would put up with the Caped Crusader’s irregular hours. I wonder what the Insult Comedian looks like in tights? An orange sausage? Sorry for searing that image on your brain. Until we meet again.

Alfred Meme