Fall has fallen. We finally had a week of temptingly temperate temperatures. Unfortunately, it’s oak pollen season, which means I’ve been wheezier than Weezer or Isabel Sanford who played Louise (Weezy) Jefferson on the electronic teevee machine back in the day. Where have you gone George Jefferson? Achoo.
It’s the week after the primary election and the Mayoral run-off campaign is mostly bubbling under the surface. There was some horrible news involving third-place finisher Michael Bagneris. His daughter, Mia, was hit by a drunk driver while exiting her car after attending her father’s election eve soiree. Since New Orleans is the world’s largest small town, we have several friends in common. Her injuries were severe but it appears that she’ll make it. It’s going to be a long recovery. Best wishes to the Bagneris family. Drunk drivers are the worst.
This week’s theme song was written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy. It has an interesting history. I’ll let the Wikpedia entry for the Byrds album (Untitled) fill you in:
For most of 1969, The Byrds’ leader and guitarist, Roger McGuinn, had been developing a country rock stage production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt with former psychologist and Broadway impresario Jacques Levy. The musical was to be titled Gene Tryp, an anagram of the title of Ibsen’s play, and would loosely follow the storyline of Peer Gynt with some modifications to transpose the action from Norway to south-west America during the mid-19th century. The musical was intended as a prelude to even loftier plans of McGuinn’s to produce a science-fiction film, tentatively titled Ecology 70 and starring former Byrd Gram Parsons (no relation to Gene) and ex-member of The Mamas & the Papas, Michelle Phillips, as a pair of intergalactic flower children. Ultimately, Gene Tryp was abandoned and a handful of the songs that McGuinn and Levy had written for the project would instead see release on (Untitled) and its follow-up, Byrdmaniax.
I told you it was a long story. We have two versions for your enjoyment, the original live Byrds version and a cover by Mudcrutch, which was Tom Petty’s original band brought back to life in 2008. Holy reanimation, Batman.
That concludes our trip to the bayou or does it? You’ll find out after we jump to the break.
I have one more bayou related tune to share but it’s not the most obvious one:
Before my homeys get on my case and remind me that the Meters recorded Fire on the Bayou first (with Art and Cyril Neville in the band) I hereby declare it this week’s second theme song. I have not done that before and it was done out of cowardice. I fear the wrath of New Orleans music buffs. They can be ruthless fuckers:
Now that we’ve burned down the bayou, let’s travel northwest to Shreveport, Louisiana and a tale of power, racism, and malakatude.
The Caddo Parish Cad: Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator is a piece of something: either shit or work, you decide. This GOPer puts the honk in honky. Prator indulged in an epic pissing contest over a proposed dog park with the city’s first African-American Mayor, Cedric Glover. I know what you’re thinking: a dog park controversy? It’s a complex story of bigotry, racist costumes, and bad artwork by the Sheriff or his wife. Yes, I said bad artwork. This is Prator’s “portrait” of Mayor Glover:
I told you it was bad; both in intent and execution. That’s why I called Prator the Caddo Parish Cad. He’s also the member of something called Cops for Christ. That “portrait” was clearly the work of a good Christian. #sarcasm. Jesus is either just alright or weeps; probably the latter.
My friend Lamar White Jr. spent hours on the phone tracking down this tawdry tale. He has the details at the Bayou Brief. Good job, man.
While we’re on the subject of race, let’s take a look at a racially based controversy in the wide world of sports teevee.
Bill Simmons On ESPN & Jemele Hill: Bill Simmons was famously suspended in 2014 and fired by ESPN in 2015. I wrote about the suspension in a piece wherein I called him Simbro. I believe in calling a bro a bro, bruh.
Simmons recently wrote a semi-objective piece at the Ringer about ESPN’s suspending Jemele Hill for stating the obvious and calling Donald Trump a white supremacist on his favorite medium, the Tweeter Tube. Jeez, that was a long fucking sentence. Please do not diagram it.
Since Simbro’s favorite subject is himself, he spends much of the piece comparing his situation to that of Hill. In this instance, it works since ESPN has handled her situation as clumsily as his. Simbro blames Disney CEO, Bob Iger for dropping the ball in both cases. In short, he calls the head mouse a louse.
Fascist Culture Vultures: The New York Review of Books remains one of the most interesting publications in the country. They have a long tradition of allowing their reviewers free rein to write full-blown essays when reviewing the latest books. Gore Vidal and Garry Wills are just two of the great writers to take advantage of this. The latest example is a review by Robert O. Paxton of a book by Benjamin G. Martin, The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture.
“When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my revolver.” This philistine wisecrack is often attributed to Air Marshal Hermann Goering, or some other Nazi notable. Benjamin Martin sets us straight on its source: the 1933 play Schlageter by the Nazi Party member Hanns Johst, in which a character says: “When I hear the word ‘culture’ I release the catch on my Browning.”
Martin’s illuminating book The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture shows how badly astray this famous quip leads us: cultural concerns were in fact vital to the imperial projects of Hitler and Mussolini. We do not normally associate their violent and aggressive regimes with “soft power.” But the two dictators were would-be intellectuals—Adolf Hitler a failed painter inebriated with the music of Wagner, and Mussolini a onetime schoolteacher and novelist. Unlike American philistines, they thought literature and the arts were important, and wanted to weaponize them as adjuncts to military conquest. Martin’s book adds a significant dimension to our understanding of how the Nazi and Fascist empires were constructed.
American phillistines? Who might Paxton have in mind? Is it Satan or merely the Insult Comedian? Quick side bar: I have a friend who calls the president* Cheetolini. It’s a fine food based insult, y’all.
An interesting point made by Paxton is that Mussolini and Goebbels were initially sympathetic to modernist trends in Italian and German art, film, and literature. The Italian futurists were briefly in thrall to Fascism before realizing that modern dictatorship was bad for the arts. Goebbels even attempted to co-opt German expressionism and recruit Fritz Lang to be the leading force in Nazi cinema. Lang fled the country for Hollywood, and except for Emile Nolde, the expressionist painters recoiled or fled. Failed artist Adolph Hitler despised modernism and prevailed in his preference for agit-prop and crappy neo-classicism. Goebbels, ever the sycophantic courtier, surrendered. Fat Fuck Goering was too busy looting and shooting up morphine to get involved in the discussion.
It’s time to put the fascist culture vultures in the rear view mirror and turn our attention to one of my favorite subjects, satire.
The Saturday GIF Horse: One reason that Americans didn’t initially take Hitler seriously was his resemblance to Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin was an ardent left-winger but refused to change his look arguing, “I had it first.”
In 1940, Chaplin put this resemblance to work in his first talkie, The Great Dictator. One of the most memorable moments in this brilliant satire was Tomanian dictator Adenoid Hynkel’s dance with a globe.
While we’re on the subject of The Great Dictator, Jack Oakie was hilarious as the buffoonish Napaloni, the dictator of Bacteria. In this scene, the dictators had a food fight:
Benign Earworm Of The Week: Speaking of bad Christians, Donald Trump spoke to the so-called Value Voters meeting last week. They should call themselves what they really are: hypocrites who support the pussy-grabber-in-chief. Holy rationalization, Batman.
The coverage of the meeting gave me an earworm. It’s a 1991 Genesis tune wherein biblethumpers are mocked. A highlight of the video is cool, cerebral keyboard player Tony Banks dressed as a televangelist. Believe me.
Saturday Classic: It’s time to circle back to the Gret Stet of Louisiana. It’s a summit meeting between two of the greatest musicians of all-time: New Orleans’ own Louis Armstrong and the Canadian piano genius, Oscar Peterson. It’s one of the best albums made by either artist and that’s saying a lot. Enjoy.
That’s it for this week. Since I went on about Roger McGuinn and Mudcrutch, here’s a picture from a show at which Roger joined them onstage. So, the last bat word goes to Mike Campbell, Tom Petty, and Roger McGuinn.