March is the cruelest month in New Orleans for allergy sufferers like me. The weather has been sunny and cool; perfect for outdoor activity. The rub is the oak pollen that can be found everywhere. It coats cars, sidewalks, and any surface it can light on. It makes me feel itchy and my nose run like a broken faucet. The most dramatic symptom involves my eyes, which resemble red gravy in sockets if such a thing is possible.
Enough bitching about my allergies. This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson and was the title track of his 1983 solo album. It was his first record after breaking up personally and professionally with Linda Thompson. It’s one of his finest albums featuring some of his best songs and that’s saying a lot.
We have two versions of Hand Of Kindness for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a live version from Cropredy circa beats the hell outta me.
Now that I’ve extended the hand of kindness, it’s time to jump to the break. Given the RT album cover, we may have to do so at the Chelsea Embankment. Splash.
We begin our second act with an article about a genuine political legend, former British foreign secretary and SDP leader, Lord David Owen.
British Maverick: Recently 11 centrist, pro-EU MPs left the Labour and Tory parties to form the Independent Group. The last time such a split happened was in 1981 when the Gang of Four left Labour to form the Social Democratic Party; one of the four is David Owen who recently gave an extended interview to ace Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland.
The 80-year-old Lord Owen has grown into his status as a political maverick and curmudgeon. His current views are idiosyncratic to say the least: his top priority is saving the National Health Service, he loathes Jeremy Corbyn but also, oddly enough, supports a moderate form of Brexit.
All this is complicated, of course, by Brexit. Of the many surprises the 2016 EU referendum threw up, one was David Owen campaigning for leave (although, he insists, “I never got on that bus”). Here was a man who, along with Jenkins, had quit Harold Wilson’s shadow cabinet in 1972 over Labour’s refusal to back British entry to the EEC. Culturally, the SDP was pro-European to its fingertips. Its people, its image, its style – all of it would now be called ultra-remain. So how did Owen end up alongside Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson backing leave?
It was “painful”, he says, describing his wife as a “reluctant remainer” and their children as outright “federalists”. Part of it was about defence and his belief that the EU ambition to create a European army would undermine Nato which, in his view, has done far more than the EU to secure the peace of postwar Europe. Part of it was the realisation that the Eurozone was “broken”, a conclusion he drew as he saw events unfold in Greece (where the Owens have built a house, once again on the water, “right down at the bottom of the Peloponnese”). He is particularly damning about the EU’s treatment of Greece, where “a whole generation of people have been put out of work quite unnecessarily, through neoliberal austerity policies that were completely unacceptable”.
Those are certainly more valid reasons than those advanced by wingnuts such as Bozza and Farage. A soft spot for my ancestral homeland will get you far in my book. Brexit, however, is a disaster and it’s unfortunate that someone of Owen’s stature supports even a semi-sensible form of it.
Now that I’ve bummed you out, let’s stay in the U.K. and meet a man lucky enough to get paid to eat in restaurants and write about it.
20 Years A Food Critic: The Observer is the Guardian’s sister paper. It’s published on Sunday, it’s customary in the U.K. for the major papers to have separate Sunday editions. End of Fleet Street lecture.
Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner is perhaps the wittiest food writer in the English-speaking world. He’s been at it for 20 years now and wrote about it for last Sunday’s paper.
Rayner occasionally threatens to change beats, much to the amusement of his wife:
As I approached the 10th anniversary in the job, I told my wife I was considering handing in my knife and fork. She rolled her eyes and said I wouldn’t quit. She was right. And I’m not quitting now either. I get my dinner paid for and then get paid to write smartarse things about it. Who wouldn’t want to do that? You’ll have to prise my cold dead fingers from this gig. Now then, where’s my table?
It’s time to return to the Gret Stet of Louisiana for another food piece as opposed to a piece of food. If I drop the latter, PD scarfs it up. For some reason Della disdains human food but her pesky kid brother is omnivorous.
Sammich History: New Orleanians take our food seriously. Debates have been raging for years as to the origin of two sammiches: the muffaletta and the po-boy. The latter debate includes an argument as to what to call it: po or poor boy. I’m in neither camp; in fact, I consider that sammich to be overrated unless the bread to filling ratio is perfect. That passes for heresy in the Crescent City. While I’m at it, I prefer black beans to red beans. There, I said it. I hope the foodie police won’t swoop down and carry me away.
Blog pun consultant James Karst returns to the Zombie-Picayune to examine the origin of another legendary sammich, the peacemaker, which is kin to the po/poor-boy.
Another forerunner to the po-boy name is the peacemaker. On many local menus today, it describes a combo po-boy that usually includes fried oysters. But as a sandwich marketing concept, the peacemaker appeared on the scene as a fried oyster sandwich at least 60 years before the streetcar workers strike of 1929; the name refers to the fact that a man supposedly could erase animus and bring about domestic bliss by bringing such a sandwich home to his wife.
In the immortal words of depression era New Orleans Mayor Robert Maestri: “How about dem ersters, Mr. President.”
The president in question was FDR. It’s unclear if Maestri actually said it but, in this instance, I’m in favor of the Liberty Valance corollary: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Are you ready for our third act? You have no choice, I have some cherce regular features awaiting your perusal.
The Weekly GV: Myron is one of Gore Vidal’s most underrated books. In that surreal comedy, the Master mocked the Burger Court’s attempts to define obscenity.
“I’ve removed the dirty words and replaced them with clean words… I thought and thought for a long time: What are the cleanest words I can find? And I discovered that I could not come up with any cleaner words than the names of the five Supreme Court justices who have taken on the task of cleansing this country of pornography. I inserted the words in place of the dirty words. For example, a cock becomes a Rehnquist.”
Here are the other SCOTUS euphemisms:
Whizzer White: Cunt
Now that I think of it, SCOTUS sounds like scrotum. Acronyms are funny that way.
Dr. A hates the C word. Now that I’ve used it, let’s escape her wrath by moving on to our favorite stolen feature.
Separated At Birth: I’d like to apologize in advance for this one BUT Daniel Craig and Vladimir Putin look alike. I hope my celebrity crush, Rachel Weisz, can forgive me for pairing her husband with Putin:
Craig, of course, only plays a spook whereas Putin is a spy to his core.
All of this talk of ersters and sammiches has made me hungry. It’s time for dessert.
Saturday GIF Horse: There are few things more comedically satisfying than a pie to the face. Here are examples from I Love Lucy and the kings of lowbrow slapstick humor, the Three Stooges. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
It’s hard to be Larry. Moe always hits you in the pie hole with a pie. It makes a mockery of Larry’s last name, Fine. Ain’t nothing fine about being Moe’s whipping boy with or without the whipped cream.
Weekly Vintage Music Video: We’re back in the land of music I like with Go by Asia. The video has a Sci-Fi vibe complete with dudes in star trooper-ish suits.
Let’s get up and go to our last segment.
Saturday Classic: The first day of Spring featured the last super moon of the year. That’s why I selected an album of moon songs by the Velvet Fog to close things out.
That’s it for this week. Since I made a Monty Python reference yesterday, the last word goes to them in newsreader/anchorman mode: