Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Be Cruel

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

I suspect you recognize the featured image. I’ve used it many times during government shutdowns; most notably in my epic America Held Hostage series in 2013. It’s nice to have some Jasper Johns flags about the virtual house to plug-in when the GOP next decides to shut the government down. If only they’d shut their fucking mouths…

Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day coincide this year. I  expect more bunny related hoaxes than resurrection pranks. The pagan spring fertility thing is more palatable than what Easter means to believers. I’m not one but I like holidays to be straightforward. Now that I think of it, I’m surprised that the biblebangers have never banged on about a war on Easter. It’s bound to happen, they’re the whiniest people in the country. It’s probably why they like the Insult Comedian. It can’t be the hair.

This week’s theme song was written by Otis Blackwell in 1956. Don’t Be Cruel was originally the B-Side of Elvis’ Hound Dog 45 before becoming a hit in its own right. We have two versions of the Blackwell song for your listening pleasure. One from Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, the other from Cheap Trick.

It’s time for Nick Lowe’s variation on the cruelty theme with Cruel To Be Kind on Live From Daryl’s House:

Now that we’ve declared our hostility to cruelty, let’s jump, jive, and wail to the break.

We begin our second act with sad news about a New Orleans baseball legend.

Rusty Staub, R.I.P. Daniel Staub was nicknamed Rusty for obvious reasons. He had curly red hair so it was either that or Red. He picked up another nickname during his three-year run as the biggest star on the expansion Montreal Expos, Le Grand Orange.

As for the sobriquet that stayed with him, he wrote in The New York Times, teammates had been calling him the Big Orange even before he arrived in Montreal in a trade with Houston.

“The name wasn’t formalized for the public until one day when we were playing in Los Angeles,” he recalled. “I hit a home run and made a pretty good catch when Willie Crawford hit a pea against the fence. The next day in the newspapers, I was ‘Le Grand Orange.’ And in both English and French papers, it stayed that way.”

Rusty Staub grew up in New Orleans, attended Jesuit High School, and epitomized NOLA nice even though he lived much of his life “away.” Rusty died on Opening Day at the age of 73.

His NYT obit will tell you about Rusty Staub the philanthropist, I’d like to talk about Rusty Staub the ballplayer. Along with fellow Jesuit alum, Will Clark, Rusty was not quite a Hall of Famer but he was one of those players early sabermetricians drooled over. Rusty, quite rightly. knew that a walk is as good as a hit: he had a lifetime .363 on base percentage in 23 years with the Astros, Expos, Mets, Tigers, Expos again, Rangers, and Mets again. Have bat, will travel.

Rusty got on base 4050 times during his career and was a walking advertisement for ball park effects. He spent a big chunk of his career playing in pitcher’s parks: the Astrodome and Shea Stadium, which knocked 10-15 points off his career batting average. He hit 292 homers over his 23 year career but only 6 in his last year with the Houston Astros. He was traded to Montreal and hit 29 dingers in his first season as Le Grande Orange. Mais oui.

Rusty Staub was one of the nicest people associated with baseball, past, present, or future. He will be missed. Le Grand Orange is dead, long live Le Grand Orange.

Let’s go from a star of the National Pastime to an artist with a quirky take on our national symbol.

Jasper’s Flags: There’s a fabulous essay by Jason Farago at the New York Review of Books about Jasper Johns. Here’s how Farago describes Johns’ inspiration for the flag series:

A good mythology needs a Genesis story. For Jasper Johns, the dawn of creation came in the late fall of 1954, and was instigated not by divine revelation but something close to it: a vision in a dream. A year out of the army, asleep in a loft in lower Manhattan, Johns closed his eyes and saw the Stars and Stripes in the dark, not fluttering, not flying over a battlefield, but on an easel—and he was there, too, painting it. It’s hard enough to remember a dream the next morning, let alone decades on, and Johns recounted his vision of himself painting a flag with slight variations in the decades that followed: he may or may not have told Robert Rauschenberg about it over breakfast. But the next day he was at work, and by the spring of 1955, he had completed the painting he had seen in his vision.

Speaking of quirky, let’s move on to a piece about one of America’s best Governors, Jerry Brown.

Jerry, Jerry Quite Contrary: Jerry Brown has never suffered fools gladly, which has made him one of the most cogent critics of the Kaiser of Chaos. Jerry was gruff and blunt as a young Governor and he’s even gruffer and blunter at the age of 79. The MSM was wildly wrong when it dubbed him Governor Moonbeam. Jerry Brown was, and is, a bad ass.

2018 is Jerry Brown’s last hurrah as Governor of California after 4 terms. What better time for a profile spanning his long and colorful political career? Andy Kroll has the details in the Califonia Sunday Magazine.

Kroll manages to get through the profile without mentioning Brown’s fascinating relationship with his frenemy Gore Vidal. Gore ran against Brown in the 1982 Democratic Senate primary but supported his 1992 presidential run and even wrote a few speeches for that eccentric effort. I wasn’t able to find a picture of Vidal and Brown together so this picture of the Governor and Linda Ronstadt on the cover of Newsweek will have to do:

I should apologize for that but I won’t. You already knew I was no good:

There’s A Lost Cause Fest Online Riot Going On: First Draft pun and comma consultant James Karst has written another fine NOLA history piece for the Zombie Picayune. In this case, the headline says it all, Margaret Haughery: Friend of orphans — and of white supremacist militia.

Margaret Haughery was celebrated in her own lifetime as “the orphans’ friend,” a generous philanthropist who during the mid-19th century eschewed luxury and helped feed and house thousands of needy children of all races in New Orleans. After her death in 1882, almost all of the fortune Haughery had amassed through a dairy and a prize-winning bakery went to charity.

Two years later, a statue depicting the beloved Irish immigrant was dedicated at the intersection of Camp and Prytania streets, where it still stands. “She devoted her life to orphaned children and the needy,” reads a placard at what is known as Margaret Place.


But like many prominent New Orleanians of the 19th century, and particularly those memorialized in metal or stone after Reconstruction, Haughery has a complicated legacy.


But for all her magnanimity, Haughery was not apolitical. By one account her post-Civil War philanthropy extended to a white supremacist organization that terrorized black people and for a brief period overthrew the state government in a violent episode considered to have been a turning point in Reconstruction, which ended in 1877.

Haughery ran prominent advertising for her bakery in the Daily Democrat newspaper on a regular basis in the late 1870s and early 1880s. The Democrat was the official journal of both the city and state government, as well as the news media arm of the political party from which it took its name. Its editor was Henry Hearsey, a Confederate veteran who once called for the extermination of black people in America.

Like many people, Margaret Haughery was complicated. Karst’s attempt to depict both sides of this complex figure outraged local Lost Causers and led to an online riot of sorts.  Some of the comments are ignorant even by standards. The banshees of the Lost Cause won’t be trifled with. It’s just a pity that my pal Forever Lee Circle Dude didn’t comment. I guess he was too busy saving the elephants or some such shit.

Ozark: One of Dr. A’s students recommended this fine crime/family drama to her. To a certain extent, it’s a vehicle for Jason Bateman to change his nice guy/comic actor image. If that was the intent, it worked. Bateman is outstanding in a nuanced and subtle performance as master money launderer, Marty Byrde.

Marty and his bro partner are in over their heads. The two Chicago money men have made a deal with a Mexican drug cartel to launder its money. The bro foolishly steals from the cartel. He’s murdered and placed in a barrel of acid as Marty watches. Marty is an expert at talking his way out of trouble and convinces his cartel handler Del (the great Esai Morales) to let him move to the Missouri Ozarks and launder money in obscurity.  Marty moves his wife and two teenage kids to Palookaville where life continues to give them a hard time. It’s more complicated, but that’s a quick and dirty summary.

The acting in Ozark is superb, especially Laura Linney as Marty’s wife/partner in crime and Julia Garner as the smartest member of a family of local criminals, the Langhornes. Garner is best known, to me at least, as Kimmie the CIA kid in The Americans.

Here’s the trailer:

Watching Ozark is enough to convince you that Gordon Gekko was wrong: Greed is not good. Season-1 is currently streaming on Netflix and Season-2 will debut some time in July.

I give Ozark 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B+, and an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Saturday GIF Horse: My legal merry-go-round  post cast my mind to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. Film buffs will recall that the final scene involved a carousel/merry-go-round accident precipitated by the villain of the piece, Bruno Antony. I guess that makes this the GIF equivalent of an earworm. An eyeworm?

This scene takes place at a tennis tournament at which Farley Granger’s character, Guy Haines, is competing. Charming villain Bruno (Robert Walker) keeps his eye off the ball and on his nemesis.

Let’s wrap this up with a vocal jazz classic.

Saturday Classic: If they know her at all, Rosemary Clooney is best known to the kids as George’s aunt and the late Miguel Ferrer’s mother. Music fans know her as a singer who was respected enough to record with the great Duke Ellington.

That’s it for this week. Since an Elvis tune is the theme song, here’s the King in 1974 with then Gret Stet Governor Edwin Edwards. Btw, Edwin supported Jerry Brown’s late starting  1976 presidential campaign. Talk about strange bedfellows.