Saturday Odds & Sods: Life During Wartime

The Outbreak by Kathe Kollwitz.

A named storm is lurking in the Gulf of Mexico. It looks as if Cristobal is headed for the Gret Stet of Louisiana. As of this writing, it will make landfall in Morgan City home of the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. I am not making this up. Wherever it hits, it’s going to be a wet weekend.

There was momentary upset when New Orleans was mentioned as a possible site for the GOP convention. I let it roll off my back: it’s a non-starter. I suspect some malicious mischief from NOLA tourism officials who are vexed with Mayor Cantrell for her strong stand on “reopening.” They should shut it.

It’s the 76th Anniversary of D-Day. On that solemn and bloody day, they helped to secure the freedoms that the current regime is determined to erode. It’s time to re-quote General Mattis:

“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.”’ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.”

This week’s theme song was written by Talking Heads for their 1979 album Fear Of Music. The lyrics are by David Byrne, but the music came from a jam session. I’m not sure if it was strawberry or blueberry jam. That pun was so bad that I should apologize for it, but I won’t. Suffice it to say it was not a peach of a pun…

We have three versions of Life During Wartime for your listening pleasure: the studio original; a live version from the concert film Stop Making Sense and a 1985 cover by the Staple Singers.

Now that we’ve firmly established that “this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around,” let’s jump to the break.

I made a peach pun before the break, which makes posting a song from Eat A Peach mandatory.

That’s such a peachy keen tune. We need some blue skies to light the way forward during these dark days for our country. I guess you know where this is heading:

We begin our second act in earnest with a scholarly piece that attempts to dispel the fog of history and provide some clarity to our troubled times. Damn, that was pompous. I almost sounded like a scholar-squirrel. They don’t make peach puns, so I guess I’m safe.

The Collaborators: Anne Applebaum has written a brilliant piece for the Atlantic Weekly about the history of collaborationism and how it can be illuminate what’s going on in Trump’s America.

I was particularly fascinated by the section about Cold War era East Germany. Vichy Republican Lindsey Graham is a piker compared to Markus Wolf.

The only song about collaborationism that instantly came to mind is set in Poland during World War II:

I still miss Johnny Clegg.

Our next segment is an article from 64 Parishes written by jazz historian, Adrastos crony, and First Draft pun adviser, James Karst.

The Word Of The Day Is Pellagra: If you’re scratching your heads over that segment headline, allow me to explain. Pellagra is a disease caused by nutritional deficiencies, which used to be depressingly common among poor folks in the Deep South. Dementia is the most extreme symptom of the disease.

Back to Karst. He believes that Pellagra may have caused the dementia that ruined jazz great Buddy Bolden’s life. I think he’s on to something. Click here for the details.

The last word of the segment goes to Jelly Roll Morton followed by Dr. John with Danny Barker:

Story Time: I haven’t shared a tale from my checkered past for quite some time. This one was inspired by a recent re-watching of The Dirty Dozen of all things.

I noted, not for the first time, that the two Greek American actors, Maybe Cousin Telly Savalas and John Cassavetes played the dirtiest of the dozen. I once asked Telly how he dealt with playing that psychotic racist character. His response: “That’s why it’s called acting, kid.”

That’s not the story. It involves my late father Lou’s stubbornness, John Cassavetes, and Peter Falk.

Lou considered himself an expert on all things Greek and he did not like being contradicted. This is my reconstruction of a conversation we had about Cassavetes and Falk.

Using his stock phrase about successful Greek Americans Lou said: “I love Peter Falk as Columbo. He’s Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.”

Me: “He’s not Greek. Falk is Jewish. His close friend and artistic collaborator  John Cassavetes *is* Greek. You may have seen him in The Dirty Dozen or Rosemary’s Baby.” I knew there was no way he’d seen one of Cassavetes’ art films.

Lou: “Never heard of that other guy. Falk is Greek.”

Me: “You’re just confused. Nothing wrong with that, those guys are tight.”

Lou: “You’re the one who’s confused, son. Peter Falk is Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.”

Lou was sometimes wrong but never in doubt when it came to someone’s Greekness. I’m almost as stubborn so the next time we saw Maybe Cousin Telly together, I tried again. Telly agreed with me. Even though Telly knew Peter and John personally, he could not convince Lou either. It was time to admit defeat and say this:

Longtime readers will note that this story is similar to our Kazan conversation, which I posted as The Dumbest Argument I Ever Had.

This was the second dumbest.

The last word of our second act goes to Drive-By Truckers:

We begin our third act with our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth: I stumbled into this one on the Tweeter Tube.

David O’Shea is an Irish classical musician. I’m more familiar with Felix the Cat or Felix Unger but I’m down with Mendelssohn as well. Who among us doesn’t like his Wedding March? I feel a song coming on from his doppelganger:

Thanks, Willie. Dig your chocolate, man.

The Movie List: This week, we take a look at the career of one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

My Top Ten Favorite Claudette Colbert Movies:

  1.   Midnight
  2.   It Happened One Night
  3.   The Palm Beach Story
  4.   Arise, My Love
  5.   Three Came Home
  6.   Since You Went Away
  7.   Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife
  8.   The Smiling Lieutenant
  9.    Drums Along The Mohawk
  10.   Cleopatra

I know my number one pick will be controversial in some quarters. But Midnight holds up better than It Happened One Night. Besides, it has a script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett as does Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife.

Saturday GIF Horse: Since I have Wilders on my mind, here’s a GIF featuring Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little:

Weekly Vintage Video: In addition to being a great singer and songwriter, Dolly Parton is a helluva comedic actress. All her talents converged in the 1980 movie 9 To 5 in which Dolly held her own with Jane Fonda, Lilly Tomlin and professional asshole, Dabney Coleman.

Let’s shut down this virtual honky tonk with some more music.

Saturday Classic: Here’s another live show from the KSAN archives featuring the great McKinley Morganfield aka Muddy Waters.

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to Claudette Colbert as a certain Egyptian Queen. Dig that crazy headdress:

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