Monthly Archives: February 2021

Today on Tommy T’s obsession with Random Ruminations – Moving to Big D edition

This is probably going to be the last of the old band stuff, but I’d like to give you guys a quick rundown on my band history.

You already know about Grendel, but I should mention a few others:

Sing Out Waco – the Waco “Up With People” franchise.  This is where I switched from drums (The Flower People) to bass guitar.

Baylor Symphony Orchestra Summer Student Symphony – my percussion instructor Larry Vanlandingham who was a Fellow at Baylor got me into that one. Funny sub-story – I was looking for the Professor, and someone said he might be in Dean Sternberg’s office. I went there and opened the door.  He was there, all right – along with the Dean, and ISAAC FREAKING STERN!!!  Completely starstruck, I muttered an apology, bumped into the doorframe, and left.

El Gran Mestizo – a 10-piece Chicano orchestra (accent on the second syllable), where I learned to play cumbias, cojuntos, and other cool stuff.  I was the only gringo in the banda..

Aftershock (cover band), one of the few bands I ever quit (to join my ex-Grendel bandmate John Bednarz in a project that fell apart, but still got me out of Waco and up to Dallas).

H2O – two versions – a seven-piece with two keyboardists and two female singers (and no, we didn’t do any Heart covers)

Here’s a pic of us at the famed Agora :

This was the time of my stupidly large bass rig, “Stonehenge”.  A roadie for a band that was opening for us took one look at the massive 8′ by 7′ behemoth (two Altec A-7 bass bins, a 2X15″ cab, and a 400-watt Peavey Super Festival Series amp) and muttered : “Stonehenge”.   You notice that there’s no one on my side of the stage?



H2O reformed as a four-piece all-original group, with the keyboardist singing lead and a different guitarist. We got some label interest, went to Austin (their choice) to record a demo for them. Here’s a song from it :

My bud Steve Simels (of Stereo Review fame) posted one of the other tunes on his site here…..

The keyboardist fired me, fired the guitarist, and the drummer quit. They didn’t offer the keyboardist  the contract afterwards, so I guess the power play didn’t work out quite the way he intended.

I’ve left out some cover bands, but you’re not missing much – except maybe the Elvis impersonator Steve West. That one was fun. Only time I’ve ever worn a suit onstage.

Next Sunday – the Good Vibrations Recording Studio saga.  After my tales from the recording world series, some more recent band stuff.





Sunday Morning Video: Count Basie At Carnegie Hall

This is a 1981 love-fest originally broadcast by CBS. It’s a tribute to Count Basie featuring Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, George Benson, and Joe Williams who Basie called “number one son” because Joe was his discovery.

CPAC 2021: Of Golden Statues & Odal Runes

Is there anything more ironic than a golden statute of the Impeached Insult Comedian in front of a sign that says, Look Ahead America?

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is the past, not the future.

He’s a super loser, not a super-hero.

CPAC organizers have an even more pernicious form of nostalgia involving Nazi iconography as you can see from this tweet:

This is nothing new. The American far right has long been fascinated with Nazi symbols. Along with genocide, oppression, warmongering, and lying the Nazis were good at iconography. They tended to steal from past cultures: the Odal Rune is rooted in Nordic-Aryan mythology and was stolen and modified by the SS in 1934. The root of the word Odal is Odin the head Norse God known to Wagner fans as Wotan. We all know who one of Wagner’s biggest fans was.

Let that sink in: The SS used the modified Odal Rune on their uniforms. The SS was declared a criminal organization by the first Nuremberg Tribunal. Now an organ of the “conservative movement” is using one of its symbols.

Another overview of the CPAC stage confirms this notion:

Photo via Guardians of Democracy.

As our longtime readers know, I am leery of seeing Nazis, neo and otherwise, everywhere but this is no coincidence.

CPAC has gone from Reagan worship to Trump idolatry. Their use of Nazi symbolism proves that CPAC and its ilk are radicals, not conservatives. There’s nothing conservative about the SS’s Odal Rune variation.

I’ve seen some people on the Twitter left say that Trump is just like Ronald Reagan. It’s a canard and I say that as someone who disagreed with Reagan and voted against him twice.

Reagan may have fought World War II in Hollywood, but he was a member of Brokaw’s greatest generation. You know, the ones who actually fought and defeated the Nazis. It’s safe to say that he would not approve of the use of Nazi iconography by a group purporting to support him.

Back to the golden statue. It reflects what Ben Sasse, who voted to convict in the late impeachment trial, decried as “the weird worship of one dude.” There’s a difference between idolatry and support. A golden statue of the Kaiser of Chaos is idolatry pure and simple.

I rarely post anything other than Odds & Sods on Saturdays. I put a lot of work into those posts and this week’s entry is a particular favorite of mine. I decided that CPAC’s Nazi stage couldn’t wait until Monday. It’s that disturbing.

I wish I could say that the Odal Rune will be CPAC’s ruination but that’s unlikely. Neo-Nazism has infiltrated mainstream politics. Gret Stet Fuhrer wannabe David Dukkke is celebrating this turn of events. Stay tuned.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Do You Feel Like We Do

Cocktails by Archibald Motley.

The cold weather is gone for now. We haven’t run the heater for a few days. Yay. I shudder to think what our next utility bill will be, but it won’t be like the budget-busters in unregulated Texas; at least I hope not. Freedom, man.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic on the COVID front. But some people are already getting carried away. That’s been the pattern and it’s a lethal one. I’m keeping my guard up even after I get vaccinated, which should be in the next few weeks. Let’s be careful out there.

The featured image is by Archibald Motley who was a Jazz Age modernist active during the Harlem Renaissance. The image is of well-dressed Black ladies having cocktails. I’d call them flappers but that could cause a flap, Jack…

This week’s theme song was written by Peter Frampton for his 1973 semi-solo, semi-band album Frampton’s Camel. It’s the ultimate rock hangover song.

An edited version of a live version from the monster hit album, Frampton Comes Alive later became a hit single. How’s that for a version diversion? I hope it was diverting.

We have two versions (there’s that word again) of Do You Feel Like We Do for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a 2000 live performance.

We’ll have more about Peter Frampton after the break. We might as well go now.

Continue reading

Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)

 In Other Words was written in 1953 by Bart Howard as a ballad. In 1963, Peggy Lee suggested that it be retitled Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) to keep up with the space age times. Who in their right mind wouldn’t listen to Miss Peggy Lee?

Kaye Ballard was best-known as a comic actress with a notably large mouth.  She was the first to record the song under its original title.

Peggy Lee changed the title, not the tempo:

Easily the best-known version came from the Frank Sinatra-Count Basie-Quincy Jones team. Quincy is the one who turned it into an up-tempo song. The album title summed it up best, It Might As Well Be Swing:

Sinatra re-recorded Fly Me To The Moon in 1994 with his Brazilian buddy, Antonio Carlos Jobim:

Bobby Womack souled up Bart Howard’s tune in 1968:

Finally, a 21st Century recording by one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century, Smokey Robinson:

What would a Friday Cocktail Hour be without an instrumental rendition of the week’s song? This time around we have two:  Ray Brown with Benny Carter followed by the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown on bass.

That was bassically a Ray Brown fest.  I should apologize for that base pun, but I won’t. It could have been worse: I nearly made a Count Basie pun as well.

Stock line time: Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson?

That’s it for this week. I hope everyone recognizes both cool cats in the featured image meme thing: Bill Basie and Frank Sinatra. If not, major demerits to you.

I will, however, still let you pour a shot and toast the end of the week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.

He Works Hardly For the Money


Donald Trump has asked to be allowed to live at Mar-A-Lago permanently, claiming he is an employee and therefore eligible for an exemption prohibiting members of the club from living there fulltime. 

Lights up on the Human Resources office of the Mar-A-Lago club in Palm Beach Florida. Seated at her desk is MARLA, the HR Manager. She is reading through a file, then uses the intercom to buzz her secretary.

MARLA: June, is the next candidate for the open position still waiting?

JUNE: (over the intercom) Yes, he’s still here. I think he’s getting a little jumpy.

MARLA: OK tell him to come in, but June (sotto voce) make sure to buzz me in a few minutes, you know the drill.

JUNE: (over the intercom) Got it Ms. Marple.

DONALD TRUMP enters from the waiting room.

MARLA: Welcome, please have a seat.

DONALD: Any seat? Can I sit where I want?

MARLA: Take your pick.

DONALD looks around sees there is only one other chair, considers it, then carefully sits down.

MARLA: (looking at the file) Now Donald, may I call you Don?

DONALD: I prefer the 45th president.

MARLA: OK, Don, my name is Marla Marple and I’m head of HR here at Mar-A-Lago. I understand you are applying for a position with the club, but it doesn’t say exactly which position.

DONALD: I’ll take anything.

MARLA: (smiling wearily) Yes, well, as you may guess, many people want to work here…

DONALD: I’m totally legal. I have a birth certificate to prove I was born in the USA. Just like that Springstern song says.

MARLA: OK, that’s helpful, but I mean most people who want to work here have a specific job they are applying for. Your application just says “anything where I get to live here and you won’t send me back to New York”.

DONALD: Yes, I can’t go back there.

MARLA: And that’s because?

DONALD: Tax reasons.

MARLA: You owe back taxes?

DONALD: Suuuurrrree.

DONALD looks to see what kind of reaction that gets from MARLA. Her face is noncommittal. 

DONALD: I had some problems with my past returns, they were always getting audited, I’d show them to you but you know they are still under audit, but they are perfectly fine, nothing wrong with them, it was a perfect call…

MARLA: What call?

DONALD: Um, what?

MARLA: What call are you talking about?

DONALD: No call, nothing, fake news.

MARLA: All right then. I see here on your application you spent the last four years in Washington D.C., is that correct?

DONALD: I drained the swamp.

MARLA: So you were a plumber?

DONALD sees an in with MARLA

DONALD: I was the best plumber. The bigleyest.

MARLA: I’m sorry, you were what?

DONALD: The bigleyest. You know, better than the best.

MARLA: Oh, okay, bigleyest. Well, sure

DONALD: You know Miss Marple…

MARLA: It’s Ms. Marple.

DONALD: Whatever. Marla Marple. I used to be married to someone with a name very similar to yours.

MARLA: So you’re divorced?

DONALD: No, I’m still married. At least for the moment.

MARLA: To Marla?

DONALD: No, Melania.

MARLA: Marla sounds like Melania?

DONALD: No Melania sounds like, um, Melania. Marla is my former wife.

MARLA: Ah, a first marriage.

DONALD: No a second.

MARLA: Right, Melania is your second marriage.

DONALD: No, Melania is my third marriage.

MARLA: Who was your first marriage?

DONALD: Ivana.

MARLA: So Ivana was on first, Marla was on second, and Melania is on third. Any children?

DONALD: Ivanka.

MARLA: Is that a son or a daughter?

DONALD: A daughter of course. If it was a son it would be Donka.

MARLA: OK, any other children?

DONALD: With Ivana there was also Don Jr. and, um, the slow one. Then with Marla there was Tiffany, we named her after..

MARLA: The singer?

DONALD: No, where she was conceived. And with Melania there’s Barron.

MARLA: Your son is a baron?

DONALD leans in to MARLA

DONALD: And one day he’ll be king.

MARLA: OK, so may I ask, why did you leave your last position?

DONALD: I didn’t leave it, I’m still there, it’s still my job, I’m not a loser.

MARLA: You still have this other job?

DONALD: I won that job in a landslide, everybody knows it. A landslide! Vlad said it would be no problem, just like when I won the first time. But then they had to go and let everyone vote by mail and Vlad said just get someone to screw up the mail system but even that didn’t work so I made a few phone calls, perfect phone calls…

MARLA: Oh the phone call you mentioned earlier?

DONALD: No this was another call, but just as perfect. Except he recorded it…by the way, if I get this job I don’t have to go to Georgia, do I?

MARLA: Georgia? No, we need someone to be the night super, I can’t see us needing to send the night super to Georgia.

DONALD: Good, can’t go there right now.

MARLA: Another tax problem?

DONALD: Suuuurrrreee.

MARLA: OK, well let me explain, the night super job requires you be up late at night, you probably won’t have to do much but you need to be awake and alert throughout the night. Do you think you can handle doing that?

DONALD inhales deeply through his nose.

DONALD: Yes, I don’t think that will be a problem.

The intercom buzzes. 

JANE: (over the intercom) Ms. Marple your two o’clock is here.

MARLA: Well thank you for coming in Don. I’ve got one more applicant to see and we’ll let you know.

DONALD: Another applicant? It’s not Joe is it? I’m not losing another job to Joe.

MARLA: Actually it’s a woman applicant I’ve got next.

DONALD: Hillary!!




Friday Catblogging: Seeing Red

Claire Trevor is a typical cat: she likes cold weather. She loves this red blanket almost as much as the space heater.

The last word goes to Split Enz:

The Curious Case Of The Mean Tweets War

I’ve been on Twitter since its infancy, March 2008. I came to it via an OG NOLA blogger acquaintance who we nicknamed Trotsky because he had Leon Trotsky hair and fancied himself something of an internet revolutionary. I lost touch with Trotsky but as far as I know, he’s never been attacked by a Stalinist with an ice pick.

For many years, I engaged in some pitched online battles with people on political Twitter; some from the far left, others from the far right. Not long after the 2016 election catastrophe, I realized that fighting with strangers on the Tweeter Tube was a waste of time and energy. I stopped arguing with them because it was futile.

Twitter became meaner and uglier after its Trumpification and the battles became nastier. Many continued to fight with trolls and other pains in the ass; Neera Tanden is among those Twitter warriors.

I’ve been following Tanden for many years. Her feed is often amusing and informative. It’s also extremely combative. Neera Tanden is one tough broad and I say that as a compliment. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. I often wondered if she’d given up her ambition to serve in appointed or elective office since she tweeted with a blow torch.

We’ve heard much from the right and center-right about her mean tweets. We’ve heard less from the left: many of Tanden’s fiercest Twitter battles were with some of Bernie Sanders’ less salubrious supporters. Neera and Bernie have buried the hatchet and thus far there seems to be no *meaningful* real world opposition from the left to her nomination as budget director. The Twitter left is a different story but who the hell cares about them?

Unlike the girly men of the right, Bernie Sanders can take a punch and respects the toughness of Tanden. His opinion matters because he’s the chairman of the budget committee. He’s voting to confirm.

The mean tweets war accelerated when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced his opposition based on Tanden’s mean tweets. In the past, Manchin has voted for the likes of Rick Grennel whose tweets made Tanden’s look mild-mannered in contrast. This is quite simply the dumbest reason ever for opposing a nomination. Say it ain’t so, Joe. Sorry, Cassandra, your guy got this one wrong.

There’s a clear double standard at work here. The Biden nominees who are having the most trouble are women and people of color. Imagine that. Additionally, the notion that Republicans object to mean tweets is preposterous. Before his exile, the Impeached Insult Comedian was the meanest tweeter of all as well as the biggest liar. Neera Tanden has a sharp tongue but speaks the truth.

It’s time for a brief musical interlude:

Tough-talking women are viewed with suspicion in our society. I not only embrace the tough broad ethos, I celebrate it. In this case, Neera Tanden is eminently qualified to be OMB honcho. Lapsed Republican/former Bush aide David Frum neatly summed it up:

Slowly but surely Neera Tanden’s tweets are turning into the 2021 edition of Hillary Clinton’s emails. It’s even more ridiculous than that ridiculous episode as the issue is her opinions, not any question of law or propriety however specious. Neera Tanden gets it: she was one of Hillary’s top aides in 2016.

This episode shows how low our body politic has sunk. Tweets, mean or nice, should have no bearing on anyone’s ability to serve in government. Twitter is supposed to be a lark, not all important. Note the motto on my own Twitter profile:

I guess I should amend my motto to: Nothing that happens on Twitter *should* matter.

The last word goes to Crowded House in the fog:

As of now it’s unclear where Neera Tanden’s “blind date with destiny” will take her. I hope she’s confirmed but the White House has made it clear that there’s a place in the administration for her regardless of how The Curious Case Of The Mean Tweets War concludes.

Closing Time

Fry's Electronics Palo Alto

The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day

Fry’s Electronics is dead.

This is quite literately matricide, the industry it suckled and nurtured killed it.

For those of you not in the know, if Silicon Valley was the epicenter of the tech explosion, Fry’s was the epicenter of Silicon Valley. It’s iconic stores, each decked out in an outlandishly silly individual design theme (Wild West, Aztec Temple, 50’s Sci Fi, etc) were the go to place for the equipment the people who created the new world we live in. Beyond being an electronics store, it was a clubhouse for geeks and nerds who wandered it’s aisles filled with components, computer hazari, almost porn men’s magazines, and enough junk food to fuel an all night coding jag.

If you couldn’t find what you needed there you went home and invented it.

My first exposure to the geek underground was in a Fry’s. Told by my brother in law it was the place to go for the add on component I needed for my Apple IIC “portable” computer (it had a handle on the case so you could carry it around — along with the CRT monitor) I ventured into the voluminous Old West themed Palo Alto store, buried deep in an anonymous industrial park on a side street that if you blinked you missed. Once you got past the hitching posts outside the door and the statue of a cowboy being bucked off his horse by the customer service counter you gazed out onto the new west’s version of the endless prairie, aisles upon aisles of electronic components, anything a computer jockey could ever need. In those days it was not uncommon to find a shopper pushing a grocery cart filled with every small or large widget needed to complete your own home brew computer. 

After finding everything you needed and having scanned the magazine aisle for half an hour (they carried not only computer related mags and almost porn, but every magazine then being published) you would stand on a line that stretched for what seemed like blocks to make your purchase. In the final stretch the aisle became crowded with junk food, a concession to the owners’ father who came out of the grocery industry and insisted they sell some food products “as a fall back”. A person stood at the front of the line and would point to one of the 30 cash registers lined up like a bureaucrat’s wet dream and off you would go to hand over your credit card. Incongruously for a store brimming with Old West memorabilia the registers were always manned by Indians. A few Pakistanis mixed in, but mostly Indians.

The first time I heard of this thing called Google was standing in that line and overhearing two Stanford students talking about how much better the campus search engine was than Yahoo. That kind of info gathering was the primary reason for going to Fry’s even though you weren’t there to buy components. There was more tech being spoken in those aisles than anywhere else in the world. Those older well dressed gentlemen wandering the networking equipment aisles weren’t there predatorily searching for young men with a big thing, they were looking for young men with the next big thing. Rumor had it venture capitalists paid big finder’s fees to salespeople who overheard something while replenishing the stacks of 8 bit motherboards.

Amazingly, incredibly, Fry’s was late to the e-tailing world.  Just like Sears with clothing and B. Daltons with books, Fry’s hesitated to get involved with selling over the internet. They could have kept Amazon at e-bay had they not insisted that customers needed to come into the store to buy their desired product. Instead the very companies Fry’s outfitted made them a dinosaur.

And now they are extinct.

As a convenient cover, the owners are blaming COVID, but the reality is the Palo Alto store was closed in December 2019 and in fact from what had once been a chain of 31 stores there were only 5 left when this morning’s notice was posted. Some will say the dot com bust of 2001 that forced the company to start selling appliances, TVs, and other consumer electronics was the end of the “real” Fry’s. In truth yes, in the last 20 years you were more likely to run into the mom who lives next door searching for a kid’s video game than the next Sergey Brin, but there were still some aisles that were just for the tech geeks; interlopers ventured into those spaces at their own risk. Manufacturer reps could still be found regularly prowling the aisles to see what consumers were stopping to gawk at. The magazine aisle was replaced with a magazine rack, but those magazines were the ones the tech crowd really wanted to read. And if you could find one there were still a few salesmen who could walk you through your project specs, suggest what you needed, dismiss what you didn’t, and give you a pretty good idea if you were on to potentially the next big thing. Or they could sigh deeply, point a finger, and say “Aisle 48” when you asked for a DVD cleaning kit.

A while back they pretty much stopped all their advertising but when meeting new people I’d get a true idea of how long they had lived in the Bay Area by quizzing them with “Finish the slogan…Your best buys….”.

If they answered “are always at Fry’s” I knew they were good people. Guaranteed.


Shapiro Out

New Year, Same Old Playbook

After all, it’s worked before, so nothing really unusual about Ron Johnson (R-Stupidville) insisting that it wasn’t really a riot….ok, maybe it was but it was Antifa disguised as Trump supporters, which would be news to “close ally of…Majorie Taylor Green” Anthony Aguero, as well as other participants, while KKKarlson deadpanned how he looked far and wide for evidence of QAnon, but gosh, there’s not even a website, so what’s all the fuss/it’s all in the libruls’ heads, hahaha, blah blah blah, and unless the media dutifully chants “both sides” it’s further proof they’re infested with librul cooties, etc.

Nice there’s a little pushback, though it’d be nicer if the corporate press pushed just a bit harder, considering what happened over the last four (or more) years, culminating in an actual and ugly riot.

A riot by people who willingly went along with the biggest of big lies about non-existent voter fraud and an equally non-existent election theft pushed by the political-party-mutated-into-authoritarian-cult (Qult?) that is the GOP.

And it’s not like the big lie or psychotic rhetoric/behavior is anything new. It wasn’t just fringe lunatics who accused Hillary Clinton of murder.

I remember Senate Majority Leader Moscow Mitch (uh oh, now I’ve upset Joe Manchin), anyway, Moscow Mitch threatened to “shoot the hostage” in 2010-2011 during budget deficit negotiations, the hostage being…the fucking country.

WMD was another big lie, with the added bonus of bipartisan support (I vote Democratic, but never forget that in most cases it’s as lesser of evils). In the 1990s we were told horror stories about super-predators, while the pre-internet Stone Age of the 1980s included endless cable TV coverage of things like the McMartin day care scandal that turned out to be total nonsense, though nonsense that hurt a number of innocent people and brainwashed a fair chunk of the public.

QAnon, in some respects, is just the distilled and/or regurgitated essence of decades of pretty rank crap. And now there’s a whole generation that’s grown on little else.

It’s a deep hole that’s been dug, and I’m not really sure how to get out…



Pulp Fiction Thursday: Decoy

This tome has a tagline to die for: Head Over Heels In Homicide.

Merrick Garland’s Time

We all hoped that Merrick Garland’s time was in 2016 when President Obama appointed him to the Supreme Court. It was not to be. I still hold a grudge over the way the Turtle killed his nomination. He snuck into the judicial nursery and smothered the nomination with a pillow, then claimed it was an act of principle. The hollowness of that claim was confirmed last fall with the Barrett nomination. It’s always about power with Mitch McConnell.

At the time of the nomination, people were fixated on the labels applied to Judge Garland. People on the left fretted because he was dubbed a moderate by the punditocracy. A reminder: Ruth Bader Ginsburg was called a moderate upon her nomination. Labels have a way of peeling off when a nominee becomes a Supreme. That’s neither here nor there in the case of Merrick Garland as we’ll never know if he would have morphed from a moderate to liberal Justice a la Bill Brennan. It’s why I hate labels. They’re almost as invidious as stereotypes.

Merrick Garland’s time is now. The job is different but it’s one for which he’s perfectly suited: Attorney General. Word of Biden’s choice came the day after the Georgia runoff handed control of the senate to Democrats. It was also the date of the Dipshit Insurrection.

After serving as a line prosecutor, Garland became a deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division during the Clinton administration. He found himself supervising two of DOJ’s most important criminal cases ever: the Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber. That’s right, Merrick Garland’s remit was the battle against domestic terrorism. That’s why his time is now.

There’s a must-read piece in the WaPo about the impact the McVeigh-Nichols OKC bombing case had on the next Attorney General:

The truck bomb leveled a section of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring hundreds more in one of the deadliest domestic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. But as Merrick Garland huddled with the lead prosecutor on the case, he urged caution in presenting the massive amount of evidence from the wreckage.

“Do not bury the crime in the clutter,” he said.

Garland, then a top Justice Department official, was encouraging prosecutors to speed the trial along and jettison superfluous findings in their case against Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of carrying out the 1995 attack and executed in 2001, said Joe Hartzler, the team’s lead attorney. Hartzler said he found the advice so compelling that he wrote the words on a sheet of paper and hung it on an office wall as a rallying cry for his team.

More than two decades later, Garland, 68, is preparing to lead the Justice Department as attorney general and facing a domestic terrorism threat that has metastasized, with white supremacists and conspiracy-minded anti-government types emboldened by their acknowledgment from former president Donald Trump.

I commend the entire article to your attention, but I posted the first four paragraphs to not bury the article in clutter.

Judge Garland has pledged to make the fight against domestic terrorism his top priority. He’s a man of his word so I eagerly await the end of decades of ignoring right-wing extremists.

Judge Garland has another important task: rebuilding the morale of the Justice Department after four years of political hackery during the Trump regime. It wasn’t just Bill Barr, it was Jeff Bo Sessions and the acting AGs, which sounds like the name of a jug band.

Judge Garland has promised to be “the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer” and I take him at his word. White House meddling was an endemic epidemic in the bad old Barr days. It ends now.

The Garland confirmation hearing was characterized by much bad faith tut-tutting by Republican senators. Tailgunner Ted and Senator Cornhole were particularly sanctimonious in discussing political influence at DOJ. It’s why I could only watch snippets of it. They’re afraid that Trump will be prosecuted by the incoming administration. That’s the politicization they fear. Charges against the Impeached Insult Comedian are a distinct possibility but that will be up to Merrick Garland, not Joe Biden. The president has quite rightly vowed to stay out of it.

There’s been much hand wringing about how hard it will be to restore the apolitical culture at DOJ. Rachel Maddow devoted an entire show to the issue. I love Rachel but she’s the quintessential liberal worry wort, especially on this issue.

Will it be easy? No, nothing worthwhile ever is.

Is it doable? Absolutely.

Why? It’s been done before in 1975 in the wake of Watergate and two Attorneys General going to the hoosegow.

The best appointments made by Gerald Ford during his brief presidency were these two bow-tied Chicagoans:

You probably recognize the guy on the left: Justice John Paul Stevens. The man on the right is the one who turned DOJ around and urged President Ford to appoint Stevens to SCOTUS. His name was Edward Levi.

Like Edward Levi and John Paul Stevens, Merrick Garland hails from the Chicago area.

Like Merrick Garland, Edward Levi was a modest unassuming man.

Like Merrick Garland, Edward Levi faced a difficult task. He did the job, then returned to the University of Chicago where he had previously served as dean of the law school and president of the university.

Like Merrick Garland, Edward Levi was Jewish. He was the first Jewish AG; Garland will be the third. Garland has always been reticent about his background, but Cory Booker worked his magic on the judge:

Senator Booker also elicited this strong statement on racial injustice from the next AG:

Back to Jerry Ford’s attorney general.

Edward Levi is one of the most underrated figures in American history. He not only had to clean up the DOJ, but he also had to reform the FBI, which J. Edgar Hoover had turned into his private police force. He accomplished both in two years. It can be done again.

1975 was Edward Levi’s time.

2021 is Merrick Garland’s time.

The last word goes to Bill Withers:

Bayou Brief: The 14th Month Of 2020

I took a break from my other home on the internet, Bayou Brief. The hiatus is over: the 13th Ward Rambler is ready to rumble.

In my return column, I ponder Carnivals past and present and take aim at New Orleans tourism honcho, Stephen Perry. It’s called 14th Month Of 2020 because it feels like it. Make it stop.

I’m not sure if I’m on fire but the Neville Brothers certainly were at this 1987 show:

Have I mentioned lately how much I miss Art Neville?

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Oscar Peterson Plays Porgy & Bess

Oscar Peterson recorded a series of songbook albums in the late Fifties and early Sixties. They all had swell covers but this one is my favorite. The artist was David Stone Martin who had over 500 album covers to his credit.

I like this cover scan because it’s old and gritty much like me:

Here’s the whole damn album via Spotify:

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson?


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, R.I.P.

I’m about to do something I’ve only done before on special occasions: repost a previously published piece. This qualifies as a special occasion. The great American poet, bookseller, and rabid San Francisco Giants fan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died at the age of 101.

Larry was not only a literary legend, he was a helluva nice guy. I knew him in another lifetime. Last October, I wrote about it in A Coney Island Of The Mind.

I closed by saying:

“I originally planned to save this story for a tribute to the great man but thanks to Amy Coney Barrett, I’m telling it today. Go figure.”

Let’s begin again with with the featured image:

“I am waiting for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe for anarchy”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems

Ever since the Impeached Insult Comedian nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, I’ve had Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry collection, A Coney Island Of The Mind on my mind. I know it’s strange, but you must be mindful of how my mind works. I’m not only a punster, I free associate like crazy. Just don’t call me crazy, okay? If I were rich, you’d call me eccentric.

Another reason I have Felinghetti on my mind is a thread going around Twitter asking who is the most famous person you’ve ever met and spoken to. My reply was “a toss-up between Frank Sinatra and Willie Mays.”

I also met Lawrence Ferlinghetti in my wayward youth but beat poets aren’t as famous as saloon singers and baseball superstars.

I used to hang out at Vesuvio Cafe, which is a bar in San Francisco across the alley from Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore. I got a kick out of bellying up to the Beatnik Bar, drinking Irish coffee, smoking Camels, and pondering if Jack Kerouac or Neal Cassady had ever sat on the same bar stool. The only beatnik accoutrement I lacked in those days was a proper beret.

One day a bearded gent sat next to me and struck up a conversation. I realized that it was the legendary poet. I knew Ferlinghetti loved baseball, so we talked about the Giants Sixties glory days when immortals such as Mays, McCovey, and Marichal were blown about windy Candlestick Park. I told him that I knew Gaylord Perry from my suburban neighborhood. I scored points by telling him that Perry’s daughter, Allison, deflected the notion her dad threw a spitball by calling it “a hard slider.” It was a wet slider: Gaylord’s memoirs were called Me and The Spitter.

Being a relatively well-brought up young man, I called him Mr. Felinghetti. He shook his head, slapped me on the back and said, “Call me Larry.”

I chatted with Larry several times without getting the sub-text until he joined me and my future first wife at a table at Vesuvio’s; not its name but I always called it that. Dee was more of a poetry buff than me, so they talked about Anne Sexton and Sylivia Plath instead of flashy former Giant infielder Tito Fuentes who was a particular favorite of Larry’s. I realized that she was holding my hand rather tightly. She explained why after Larry left us:

“He was cruising you.”

“Really? I had no idea.”

“It’s okay. He’s obviously a man who can take no for an answer.”

I realized she was right. It was the first time she’d been with me when I spoke with Larry. I was flattered then and even more so as I look back on that evening in North Beach. Nobody’s going to cruise me in my current decrepitude so it’s nice to remember that I was once cruiseable.

I originally considered weaving my thoughts about Amy Coney Barrett into this post but why spoil a pleasant memory?

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is still very much with us at the age of 101. His longevity is impressive but unsurprising. He’s a life force.

I mentioned Larry’s love of baseball. One of his poems is called Baseball Canto and it mentions the aforementioned Tito Fuentes:

And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleachers go mad with Chicanos and blacks
and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
“Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!”
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all,
and flees around the bases
like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he’s beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.

I originally planned to save this story for a tribute to the great man but thanks to Amy Coney Barrett, I’m telling it today. Go figure.

The last word goes to Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading Baseball Canto:

The Perseverance of Science


Marvin The Martian

You Make Me Soooo Angry


NASA has released video of Perseverance landing on Mars.

I have to admit, watching it makes me a little verklempt (it’s Yiddish, look it up).

I am of the the generation that grew up with the Space Race. I remember TVs being wheeled into elementary school classrooms so we could watch the Mercury, then Gemini, then Apollo rockets lift the men with the Right Stuff off into the wild blue yonder. There was a time when I could name all the Astronauts, the names of their ships (capsules), and what their particular missions accomplished in the contest to be first to the moon.

And that does not make me unique. All my friends could do it too. I suspect at the time most Americans  could do it. It was a national obsession that in it’s backstory had a basis in our fear of what our opponents, the Roos-skies, were doing.

But then Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon and overnight we seemed to move on. TV stopped covering launches in real time. Even the grainy black and white images of men scampering on the moon became fodder for the “B” block or even latter in Walter Cronkite’s evening recap of the news.

Then last week NASA landed a jeep on Mars, complete with a helicopter and a dozen Go-Pros (yes, really, all the cameras are off the shelf) and this morning, due to the fact it takes a couple of days to get a signal from Mars back to Earth, they released the video of the actual landing and I found myself tearing up as the megapack hit the surface.

I thought about the stunning scientific achievement I was watching and the joy in the Jet Propulsion Lab of the dozens of scientists and engineers seeing years of commitment and sacrifice finally pay off. They were celebrating more than just the capstone to that commitment and sacrifice. They were celebrating science itself.

Science has had a rough go of it the last few decades. It gets disregarded, shamed, and generally dismissed. Science, unless directly connected to the digital world, has gone from core curriculum in schools to elective class. Commerce overwhelms science as the events in Texas last week showed. Hell, the last bastion of unapologetic comedic shaming is making fun of smart people aka The Big Bang Theory.

Worst of all, conspiracy theories have replaced the scientific method as our means of understanding the world. Teaching science to high school kids isn’t about making them into future scientists. It’s about teaching them to see a problem and explore all the logical explanations that will lead to a solution or, dare I say, truth. That process will carry over into their lives in so many ways that will have nothing to do with science. For instance if they understand the scientific method they are more likely to say 81,000,000 is greater than 74,000,000 and all of your “Big Lie” just doesn’t hold up to critical thought.

Meanwhile I will follow with great interest the adventures of Perseverance of Mars. Deep down I hope it discovers that there was once a thriving civilization on Mars that destroyed itself through it’s disregard for science and truth. Maybe then earthlings will begin to take seriously the danger of disregarding science.

But even then we’ll probably be told it’s all made up by “scientists” to just “save their jobs”. You know, fake news.

Shapiro Out

I Read The Daily News Today, Oh Boy

We move from the elegiac tone of Cassandra’s post to the sarcastic tone of the New York Daily News front page this morning:

The Kaiser of Chaos wrong? Always.

For those who missed President Biden’s moving speech marking this grim milestone, here it is:

Biden is the best mourner-in-chief since Bill Clinton. Nobody does empathy better than Joe Biden. That’s why it’s his time.

The last word goes to The Beatles:

Good-Talking Candles

I thought I wanted to write something about the budget reconciliation process, but I’ve been feeling sad these last few days:  sad because a dear friend lost her mom on Friday, sad because that dear friend and her youngest son and her husband have COVID-19 and it involved a hospital stay, sad that 500,000 people have died from this disease, and sad that we have no organized communal mourning with its permission to just exist in the ever-present grief.

Every year I drag my feet when it comes to taking down our Christmas decorations. I don’t really do a lot of decorating, but I do fill the house with lights. This year I lit some new areas and turned down the regular lighting. The ambient light was both comfortable and cheering, like having “good talking candles” all around a la Richard Brautigan:

I had a good-talking candle last night in my bedroom.

I was very tired but I wanted somebody to be with me,

so I lit a candle

and listened to its comfortable voice of light until I was asleep.

I dreaded having to put everything away so to motivate myself I began to explore options for adding soft light to the rooms and I found a set of origami boxes attached to string lights and they are now haphazardly on the fireplace mantel. They need to be more artistically arranged, but the soft warm light is providing badly-needed comfort.

The Biden/Harris inaugural COVID-19 remembrance at the Lincoln Memorial was a stunning use of soft-talking candles (albeit ersatz). The darkness invited you to be contemplative, the lights provided comfort, and the Reflecting Pool doubled the light and made it move. It was inviting and beautiful, but most of all it was quiet.

The last 4 years have not been quiet. They were not designed for contemplation or healing. They were meant to assault your ears, your eyes, your mind, and your feelings. They targeted your reserves. They were a grinding torture of constant apprehension and anxiety. They were psychological warfare, and noise is an effective tool in that arsenal.

I happened to turn on the TV yesterday afternoon while President Biden was speaking. He spoke softly, but with great emotion. He invited us to remember what our losses, COVID-19-related or not, felt like. He allowed us to stop for a moment and to just be. And then he was silent, too, and the South Portico, previously a center of noise and anger and hate and bombast, was revealed as a place of silence, of reverence, of love, and of grief.

I’m a practicing Episcopalian and we have a wonderful guide for our worship, the Book of Common Prayer. The funeral service includes some of its most beautiful passages. I’ll close with one of them after our night of shared mourning:

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant(s) with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return.  For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

I wish you all light and healing.

Gret Stet Sycophant

There are those in the Gret Stet of Louisiana who somehow think Steve Scalise is capable of changing his stripes. Remember when he was gravely wounded in the Congressional baseball team shooting? Some folks in South Louisiana hoped that he would modify his position on gun control. He, of course, did not.

You’re probably asking yourself why do some people kid themselves about this mook? Here’s a bullet list:

  • He’s “nice” in social situations.
  • He’s friends with Cedric Richmond.
  • Having him in a leadership position is “good for Louisiana.”

The latter point is an editorial page standby. It’s a relic of the days when we had Congresscritters who brought home the boudin/bacon for the Gret Stet. Those days ended in 2014 with Mary Landrieu’s defeat.

All Steve Scalise cares about is ideological purity and keeping on the good side of the Impeached Insult Comedian:

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) on Sunday made clear that he stands by former President Trump as he took great pains to deflect from Trump’s incitement of the mob behind the deadly Capitol insurrection last month.

Scalise claimed on ABC News that he just simply “ended” up at Mar-a-Lago last week to do “some fundraising” in Florida.

“I was in Florida doing some fundraising throughout a number of parts of Florida, ended up at Mar-a-Lago and the president reached out and we visited,” Scalise said. “I hadn’t seen him since he had left the White House and it was actually good to catch up with him. I noticed he was a lot more relaxed than his four years in the White House.”

After saying that his conversation with Trump in Florida was “more about how he’s doing now and what he’s planning on doing and how his family is doing,” Scalise was pressed on comments by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who blamed Trump for inciting the mob behind the deadly Capitol insurrection hours after the attack last month — only to later backtrack on his rebuke of the former president’s actions.

Holding fast to his loyalty to the former president, Scalise said that there was “a lot of blame to go around.”

“At the end of the day, the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, it was a disgrace and they need to be held accountable,” Scalise said.

Scalise asked after Trump’s family during his Mar-a-Doorn visit. See, I told you he was “nice.” And he didn’t blame Nancy Pelosi for the mob violence. How “nice” is that?

He also continued to dodge the notion that Joe Biden won the election:

“Once the electors are counted, yes, he’s the legitimate president,” Scalise said. “But if you’re going to ignore the fact that there were states that did not follow their own state legislatively set laws, that’s the issue at heart, that millions of people still are not happy with and don’t want to see happen again.”

Aww, he cares about people’s feelings. How “nice” is that?

Steve Scalise is smart, not nice.

He’s smart enough to sand off the rougher edges of his repellant ideology in polite company. That’s “nice”?

He’s smart enough not to take a dump on the living room carpet in broad daylight like the Kaiser of Chaos. That’s “nice”?

He’s smart enough to brag about being a more respectable David Duke then deny saying it for years. That’s “nice”?

The good news is that many people in the Gret Stet of Louisiana don’t buy Steve Scalise’s “nice” act. The bad news is that there aren’t enough to vote him out of office. My condolences to the folks in New Orleans who are stuck with him as their Congressman. He ain’t going nowhere. How “nice” is that?

The last word goes to the Steve Scalise butt-plug that made its First Draft debut in July 2015.

The Lady, The Dale, And I

Liz Carmichael

You wanna see what’s under the hood? That’ll cost ya.

There is a nifty little four part documentary series on HBO called The Lady and The Dale. 

It is about Elizabeth Carmichael, founder of 20th Century Motor Car Company, the maker of The Dale, a three wheeled auto that she proclaimed would get 70 miles to the gallon of gas. When the company was founded in 1973 at the height of the Arab Oil Embargo, an assertion that a car could get 70 miles to the gallon had suckers…er…I mean potential buyers lined up outside her San Fernando Valley showroom/offices.

I ought to know. I saw them lined up when I delivered office supplies to 20th Century Motor Car.

My family owned an office supply company, Crest Stationers, “The Biggest Clip Joint In The Valley” as my father liked to proclaim. Summers I would work there making deliveries, riding around Los Angeles with a driver who might have still had one or two teeth left. We’d pull up in front of the customer’s business, I’d jump out, grab the boxes from the back and shoot into the office while he kept the van running so we could take off as soon as I ran out with the signed delivery slip.

I never saw a car or Elizabeth Carmichael, but then again I wouldn’t have paid much attention if I did. It was easy in, easy out, and as far as I was concerned just another boring business office. That was as opposed to the warehouses with the flimsy wall separating the reception area from the specialty movie studio in the back. What can I say, I was a teenager and it was the mid 1970’s in the San Fernando Valley. PT Anderson made a documentary about those days.

Getting back to this documentary, as you might have guessed it was all a scam. There was a prototype car but no others were ever built, this despite the fact that the men she hired to build it were dedicated to the project and wanted it to succeed even when they stopped getting paid. There was immense hype over the car, but none were ever delivered despite Liz having collected $3,000,000 in deposits for cars and dealerships. And one day the entire house of car(d)s came tumbling down.

The money should have gone into an escrow account. Instead it was used to fund the company. Or perhaps it went somewhere else. In either case that’s securities fraud. The Feds take a rather dim view of that. Not to mention that a little investigating into the background of Elizabeth Carmichael turned up a rather interesting tidbit.

Elizabeth Carmichael was a fugitive wanted for counterfeiting. She might have thought she could get away with it since that charge had been under her original name.

Jerry Dean Michael

Elizabeth Carmichael was a transsexual, what we now call transgender, and for a short period of time she was probably the most famous trans woman in the world. That time was not however when she was promoting the car. It was after she got arrested and was on trial.

Now this is where our antagonist, our Inspector Javert, comes into this drama, the investigative reporter who first broke the case. He was a local KABC TV reporter named Dick Carlson. If you lived in LA you might remember him from those days. He was the reporter whose stories always got the breathless plug during Marcus Welby M.D. that ended with the admonition of “Film at 11”.

This story came along at a unique time in local TV news. “If it bleeds it leads” was morphing into “bring on the freak show”. Journalistic standards were loosening in the scrum for ratings that was local news. And in the mid 1970’s there was nothing more freaky than a man who openly lived as a woman. Add in this person was a scam artist and 26 news reports on this story later Dick Carlson was the king of local Los Angeles TV news.

After she was found guilty and while she was awaiting sentencing Liz Carmichael took off. Fled. Went back to her ways as a fugitive. No one knew where she was. Dick Carlson suddenly found his prized story, which had been about to wrap up, reinvigorated. The hunt was on!

His hunt at one point took him to La Jolla California, just down the road from Los Angeles. Actually it wasn’t so much his hunt but the fact his son was playing in a tennis tournament down there and he went to watch. But while he was waiting for his son to play he watched a women’s match and one of the participants looked familiar. So familiar in fact that he went to one of the tournament organizers and said “That woman’s a man”.

Was it Liz Carmichael? No, but it was a trans woman who was minding her own business, just looking to have some fun playing tennis.

And that’s how the world came to know Renee Richards.

Dick Carlson was making a career of outing trans women.

Meanwhile Liz was still on the run. She was caught in Texas eight years later after an episode of Unsolved Mysteries alerted her new neighbors to her status. Arrested and returned to LA she was sentenced to prison (mens) where she spent 30 months before being released.

The story is fascinating, the documentary is well made (I especially liked the collage animations used), but I have a problem with it’s conclusion. The filmmakers make Carmichael out to be a heroine, a proud trans woman who fought the system but was ultimately beaten down by it. No she wasn’t, she was a con artist and rightly deserved to spend time in prison. Her con was not that she was “passing herself off as a woman” it was that she stole money from people by promising something she knew she couldn’t deliver. Man, woman, or trans, that is wrong.

By all means celebrate those transgenders who endured ridicule to raise the profile of their tribe. Celebrate the ones whose courage to be themselves was and continues to be a principled stand in the face of convention and societal norms. Just don’t celebrate a criminal who stole not just money but hope from the people who worked for her, trusted her, and believed in her.

Oh and Dick Carlson? He got in good with the folks who bankrolled a former California governor to run for president. When that guy was elected part of the payback was that Dick Carlson became the head of the Voice of America. Then he was president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Then ambassador to the Seychelles. And his son (not the tennis player) who ironically shares a name with another famous failed auto, ended up following in his dad’s footsteps and doing his part to destroy the integrity of journalism in America.

Shapiro Out