The weird weather continues apace in New Orleans. Our fall tease lasted three whole days, followed by a warm-up and a mini-monsoon last Monday, Moday. No wonder John Phillips found that day untrustworthy. Dr. A drove us home from a krewe meeting during the deluge and engaged in some nifty puddle avoidance. It’s not supposed to rain that much or that hard in October. Climate change? What climate change?
This week’s theme song was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1943 for a revival of their 1927 musical, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court. To Keep My Love Alive is best described as a chipper murder ballad. Hart’s lyrics detail the manifold ways in which the protagonist bumped off her 15 husbands in order not to cheat on them. It was the last song Larry Hart wrote before his death later that year at the age of 48.
We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Ella Fitzgerald from the Rodgers and Hart Songbook and the preternaturally perky Blossom Dearie.
My favorite stanza is the final one:
Sir Atherton indulged in fratricide,He killed his dad and that was patricideOne night I stabbed him by my mattress-sideTo keep my love alive.
Here’s another Rodgers and Hart tune before we begin our second act:
There are 17 days until the midterms. Tick tock, motherfuckers.
That’s why we’re beginning this portion of the festivities with an article about the creator of the political world we’re living in, Newton Leroy Gingrich.
Fuck You, Newt: His full name sounds like the villain in a Dickens novel; one who would hang out with Mr. Murdstone or Bill Sykes. Cue image of Robert Newton as the loathsome Londoner:
Imagine pulling a rod on poor orphan Oliver Twist. It’s what Newt Gingrich did to the country in his time as the terror of the House of Representatives. Gingrich eventually overplayed his hand and went down in the flames, but he changed how America does politics and not in a good way.
Another reason for the Dickensian imagery is that McKay Coppins wrote a fabulous piece about Gingrich for the Atlantic. And I’m already on the record that Coppins has one of the most Dickensian names on the planet. I think he’d hang out with jovial characters like Mr. Micawber or Bob Cratchit. You’re okay, McKay.
The Coppins piece is aptly titled How Newt Gingrich Destroyed American Politics. The two Dickens characters met at the Philadelphia Zoo. This quote is Newt in a wingnut shell:
Outside the lion pen, Gingrich treats me to a brief discourse on gender theory: “The male lion procreates, protects the pride, and sleeps. The females hunt, and as soon as they find something, the male knocks them over and takes the best portion. It’s the opposite of every American feminist vision of the world—but it’s a fact!”
My response to that is a visual one:
Newt always claimed that Ronald Reagan was his political hero. He tried to bask in the glow of Reagan’s reflected glory, but Ronnie was only mean-spirited on the campaign trial. He preferred projecting an image of genial niceness. Reagan was also a science fiction fan as you’ll learn in our next segment.
Reagan’s WarGames: There were times when Ronald Reagan conflated reel and real life. It was an occupational hazard for a guy who was in movies for 28 years. The movies had a substantive impact on his presidency as you can see from a piece by Kevin Bankston at Slate.
Ronald Reagan, a former Hollywood star, screened WarGames at Camp David the weekend it was released, and it freaked him out. As Slate’s Fred Kaplan described in his book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, Reagan brought it up a few day later at a White House meeting that included the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and asked, “Could something like this really happen? Could someone break into our most sensitive computers?” The answer came back a week later: “Mr. President, the problem is much worse than you think.” That led not only to a significant revamp of how computer security was handled at the Defense Department, but also passage of an anti-hacking law that would eventually evolve into our current Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Clips of WarGames were shown during the congressional hearings where lawmakers debated the need for hacking legislation.
Rather than an isolated incident, WarGames’ impact on Reagan is just one example of how science fiction influenced his administration and his life. Reagan grew up devouring fantastic sci-fi tales like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars stories. He was also a huge fan of The Day the Earth Stood Still and its anti–nuclear war rhetoric, so much so that he had a habit—which drove Gen. Colin Powell crazy—of talking in public about how the U.S. and the USSR would certainly resolve their differences and unite if only aliens invaded. Reagan even brought this theory up in a private meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, which left his Russian counterpart flummoxed.
I know that was a long quote but it saved wear and tear on my carpals. Hmm, that sounds like car pool or the car pals one rides in a car pool with. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have carpal tunnel vision. End of silly digression.
It turns out there was method in that aspect of Reagan’s madness as the government still consults with sci-fi folks. Please don’t tell Trumpberius. He’ll try to figure out how to squeeze a buck out of it. If he were a Dickens character, he’d be Ebenezer Scrooge before he reformed. Trump would steal Tiny Tim’s crutches and sell them on Ebay.
Let’s change movie genres and take a look at a horror classic.
Halloween At 40: I’ve never had any use for the endless string of sequels but John Carpenter’s original Halloween is movie magic. It was released 40 years ago and we’re linking to two, count ’em two, retrospectives. The failing New York Times and Vulture both have features on that classic creature feature.
Timesman Bruce Fetts sat down with John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, and other cast members including Kyle Richards of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fame who is short, but not particularly sweet. End of trash teevee digression.
My favorite bit was when they discussed Michael Myers’ mask:
The production designer Tommy Lee Wallace went to Bert Wheeler’s magic shop on Hollywood Boulevard to buy a mask for Michael. He came back with two: a clown mask and one of William Shatner as Captain Kirk on “Star Trek.”
CASTLE Tommy came in with the clown mask on, and we went, “Ooh, that’s kind of scary.” Then he put on the Shatner mask, and we stopped dead and said, “It’s perfect.”
CARPENTER Tommy had spray-painted it white and cut the eyeholes bigger. It was chilling. It’s weird to wear a human face. I went up to William Shatner at a convention once and said, “Hi, I’m John Carpenter.” He was on his cellphone and never looked up.
WILLIAM SHATNER I don’t remember that. I would love to meet him. He’s a very talented man.
CARPENTER That is such [expletive]!
SHATNER I thought it would be amusing once if I took my own children out to trick or treat and I wore the mask. If they didn’t give my kids a treat, I took off the mask.
Meanwhile at Vulture, Jason Bailey takes a deep dive into The Story Behind the Original Halloween.
It’s regular feature time after all those irregular quotes. Our favorite stolen feature continues the horrific theme of the Halloween segment. There are no masks involved.
Separated At Birth: It’s time for a real life creepshow. It features dead dictator Saddam Hussein and living anti-Semite and former movie star, Mel Gibson:
Saddam was a much worse man than Mel but the Aussie actor/director is scarier looking. I miss when he had a blue face:
You know, he was still kinda crazy looking in Braveheart. I guess that’s why George Miller cast him as Mad Max.
Let’s restore some sanity to the proceedings with some wit and wisdom from Gore Vidal.
The Weekly GV: Mike Pompeo’s fakakta trip to Saudi Arabia got me thinking about one of our greatest Secretaries Of State, William Henry Seward. The Master wrote extensively about Seward in his magisterial novel, Lincoln. Here are two Seward-centric quotes from that book:
“Seward appreciated the honest and open way that Stanton lied; it was the hallmark of the truly great lawyer, and demonstrated a professional mastery not unlike his own.”
“You know what Mr. Bates called me?” Seward shook his head with wonder. “An unprincipled liar. And here I am one of the most heavily principled men in politics.” Lincoln chuckled. In every way, making allowances for regional differences, Seward’s humor was not unlike his own. “And since you’re a smart man, Governor, you never actually lie. Smart men never have to.”
It’s time to go back to the movies.
Saturday GIF Horse: Bob Fosse’s 1971 version of Cabaret is one of my all-time favorite films. It’s got everything: Nazis, great songs, and MONEY:
Money Makes The World Go Round could be the theme song of the Trump regime. I’ll try to cleanse that image from your minds with the song itself:
Let’s wrap things up with some more music.
Saturday Classic: All That Jazz was Ella Fitzgerald’s final album. It’s a record full of swing era songs with some amazing musicians: Ray Brown, Benny Carter, Harry Sweets Edison, and Clark Terry to name just a few. It won Ella a Grammy award for best jazz vocal, female in 1992.
That’s it for this week. After all that talk about Halloween, the last word goes to John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis 40 years ago on the set of the original chiller diller: