Monthly Archives: December 2021

Trav’lin’ Light

It’s New Years Day so it’s time for an early Friday Cocktail Hour. Let the day drinking begin.

There’s an apocryphal story that Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to Trav’lin’ Light to bail Billie Holiday out of a jam. The more likely story is that Mercer added lyrics in the studio in his capacity as the co-founder of Capitol Records. That makes a helluva lot more sense but it isn’t as colorful. Oh well, what the hell.

Trav’lin’ Light was composed in 1942 by Trummy Young and Jimmy Mundy. I already discussed Johnny Mercer’s lyrics. It *was* written for Lady Day and became one of her signature numbers.

I thought Trav’lin’ Light was a good choice for New Years Eve because people travel for the holidays. Not me this year: I’m hunkered and hermitting.

We begin with the original version featuring the Paul Whiteman Orchestra with Billie Holiday.

Billie revisited the song in 1956:

Lady Day may have owned Trav’lin’ Light but she rented it to Ella Fitzgerald and Nelson Riddle with splendid results.

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Comedy is Life

The Hierarchy Of Humor

The whole character of Super Dave is a takeoff on people who pontificate. So one thing I never want to do is pontificate why this works, why this is funny. I have no idea what the appeal is. All we are trying to do is make people have a good time and laugh.

–Bob Einstein on his most famous character

Comedy is a very powerful component of life. It has the most to say about the human condition because if you laugh you can get by. You can struggle when things are bad if you have a sense of humor. Laughter is a protest scream against death, against the long goodbye. It’s a defense against unhappiness and depression.

–Mel Brooks in his autobiography

For the holidays this year I have been taking a deep dive into what exactly is funny.

Actually I’ve spent a good amount of my life diving into that pool. From the time I could talk I liked to make people laugh. Being funny was my defense mechanism against bullies, teachers, authority figures, any and all who would try to knock me down both physically and spiritually. I am Jewish, so I come by it naturally.

What prompted this particular dive was being given Mel Brooks’ autobiography All About Me. Brooks has always been a hero of mine. I mean come on, he wrote one of the funniest routines in 2000 years of western civilization and got to perform it with his best friend of 70 years, got to work in a legendary writer’s room on Your Show Of Shows, created a TV series that we still quote lines from 50 years later (“sorry about that chief”), is one of the few writers to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for a comedy, turned that screenplay into a blockbuster Broadway musical, and on top of all that looked like he could be my cousin Shecky from Williamsburg and STILL got to marry a shiksa goddess named Anne Bancroft. I mean who wouldn’t want to be this guy?

OK, Adolph Hitler maybe not, but, hey, you never know.

The other prompt for this E-Ticket ride was a new documentary on HBO called The Super Bob Einstein Movie. For those who don’t know, Bob Einstein is probably most famous for creating the character of Super Dave Osborne, a perennially pompous stuntman in the vein of Evel Knevel whose ridiculous stunts inevitably were wretched failures. While I liked Super Dave, I loved Bob’s character Officer Judy on the Smothers Brothers Show (on which he was also a writer) and more recently the character of Marty Funkhouser on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He was the very epitome of what is referred to as a comedian’s comedian.

The two could not have been more unalike. Mel was born in Brooklyn during the Depression, faced consistent anti-Semitism, worked his way up from bussing tables in the Catskills to headlining there, and had to fight for every chance he ever got. Bob was born in Beverly Hills, the son of a famous though now unfortunately forgotten comedian who went by the name of Parkyakarkus, stumbled into comedy writing through being in advertising, was a TV star almost immediately, and oh yeah, had a brother who decided Albert Einstein wasn’t a good name for a comedian so he changed it to (ironically) Albert Brooks.

On the other hand, they both knew funny. They understood what makes people laugh. More importantly they understood why people needed to laugh. They even understood why some people can’t or won’t laugh. It’s that need to laugh that has been working it’s way through my brain these past days.

And let’s face it, we need to laugh more these days.

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Friday Catblogging: Auld Lang Claire

I’m not sure what Claire Trevor would think of Robert Burns whose poem became Auld Lang Syne. I am sure that she liked posing in front of Dr. A’s jam Advent Calendar.

‘Don’t Look Up’ Deserves a Look

A climate change metaphor hurtles toward Earth.

Making a political satire in 2021 is one difficult task. How do you make a satirical movie about a reality that is so bizarre right now, if it was a movie plot in any other time period, critics would slam it as ridiculous and over-the-top?

That is the tall order director Adam McKay took on with the latest Movie Everyone Is Talking About, “Don’t Look Up.” McKay’s latest film is a continuation of his trend away from broad satires and toward more dark comedy/drama-type movies such as “The Big Short” and “Vice,” which may have led to his well-publicized breakup with his creative partner, Will Ferrell. So, has McKay succeeded in skewering how our society reacts to serious threats like COVID-19 and climate change?

I would say mostly, he has.

“Don’t Look Up” begins with our intrepid heroes, Dr. Randall Mindy, an astronomy professor played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and one of his graduate students, Kate Dibiasky, played by Jennifer Lawrence (smell the Oscar bait already), discovering a new comet, and then calculating its path. As you have probably heard by now, they find out the thing is heading right for us, and it’s really big.

What follows is a trip to the Oval Office, where they are met with apathy by obvious conservative President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep, again, smell the Oscar bait), and her Chief of Staff, who is also her toadie son, Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill). Initial attempts to cover up the killer comet fail, which leads to Dr. Mindy and Dibiasky appearing on a breezy morning show to try to warm people, but the hosts (Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) are hyper-focused on “keeping it light.”

Dibiasky’s frustration boils over, turning her into a social media meme, and Mindy becomes seduced by fame and Blanchett’s Fox News-esque morning show host. Soon an oddball tech mogul, Peter Isherwell, played by Mark Rylance, becomes involved because of course he does.

Make no mistake, this is one angry movie, perhaps the most pissed movie I’ve seen in a while. There are multiple times where the movie itself seems to possess DiCaprio and Lawrence, when they launch into rants about people not taking an existential threat more seriously, often to great comic effect. There are also scenes in it that seemed to be designed to enrage Rachel Maddow, as various conspiracy theories pop up on the Internet about whether there is even a comet.

This is also a movie that probably couldn’t be made five years ago. There are moments in it, such as a presidential sex scandal, that would be considered absurd prior to Trump. Now they get a “sadly enough, I could see that” type reaction. There are very funny moments, some moments that are not clear whether they are intended to be funny, and moments of deep existential angst. The title itself comes from a conservative slogan championed by the Meryl Streep president, “Don’t Look Up,” which is basically telling the movie wingers to ignore the planet-destroying comet, everything will be fine.

But does it all work?

I will say that there are moments where it feels like the movie is ready to careen off the rails and collapse under its own anger. Streep is really not given much to do other than be a series of right-wing memes, and while she was her usual marvelous self, it feels like her character could have been more. There is an infidelity plot in the film that feels attached and is sort of clumsily handled.

However, I’d best describe the movie as an angry gymnast doing a crazy vault full of spins and twists and somersaults, all while rage-screaming. And then sticking the landing. I feel like the third act of “Don’t Look Up,” is a bit unusual in where often a movie falls apart in the third act, this film ends strong (won’t spoil a pretty wonderful ending except to tell you to stick around until midway through the credits). Also, Hill’s chief of staff/spoiled brat son is obviously an amalgamation of Trump’s spawn but still kind of fun, and, Rylance’s tech guru performance was outstanding. McKay was wise in creating Isherwell as his own sort of weirdo, and not as a Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Must clone. He’s still one of those tech moguls who are so strange that you can’t figure out why people take what they say as a form of gospel.

Blanchett and Perry are solid as representations of a rather heinous aspect of our society that I refer to as Toxic Positivity. The two happy-happy morning hosts drive our heroes insane by making jokes and focusing on “positive things” while they are trying to warn people of our Earth’s imminent demise. Toxic Positivity takes many forms, such as those concern trolls who hector civil rights activists for being “divisive” or shout down people warning of imminent dangers as “focusing on the negative,” and the movie works well here mocking those tendencies.

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The Joy Of Saying I Told You So

I try not to be vindictive either at First Draft or in my daily life but it’s hard. I come from a long line of grudge-holders and have been known been to grind the odd axe myself. In short, I try not to say it but sometimes I cannot help but experience the joy of saying I told you so.

Twitter provides ample opportunity to say I told you so, but I only do it from time-to-time. The joy is lessened if you overdo it. Besides, there’s more low-hanging fruit on the Tweeter Tube than in an orchard.

Sometimes the low-hanging fruit is provided by the MSM. Sometimes, it’s provided by otherwise sensible reporters. That brings me to today’s exercise in I told you so-ism. Is that a word? If not, it should be.

I’ve been casually following the Ghislaine Maxwell trial. Much of the coverage has been dumber than drunk Don Lemon in New Orleans on New Years Eve. He’ll be here this year. I’ll be hunkering, hermitting, and skipping the super-spreader streets of the city.

The best coverage of the Maxwell case I’ve seen has come from veteran trial reporter Seth Stevenson at Slate. He’s been around the block enough times to understand that criminal trials exist to try specific people for specific crimes. The Maxwell trial was never going to unravel the mysteries of Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book. The jury’s job was to judge Maxwell on her own guilt or unguilt. I refuse to use the word innocent. It’s for amateur lawyers.

20 days ago, I wrote about Gabriel Sherman’s drive-by coverage of the Maxwell trial and quoted a particularly silly passage. Here’s a point-counterpoint quote from that post:

Sherman’s report has a breathless, clickbaity title: The Prosecution Is Fumbling Its Case Against Ghislaine Maxwell.

Maybe so but one of Sherman’s stated reasons is amateur lawyering at its most amateurish:

“Before the trial opened, I counted myself among the pessimists who expected the case wouldn’t provide a full accounting of Epstein’s alleged crimes or expose the powerful men that allegedly participated in his depraved lifestyle. My view has held throughout the trial. I was dismayed, for instance, that prosecutor Lara Pomerantz’s opening statement ran a short 35 minutes (roughly 10 minutes less than the government’s opening argument in the Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial, for comparison).”

Sherman is confusing quantity for quality. In my experience, less is more when it comes to opening arguments. Jurors get bored when lawyers drone on and on and on. The opening argument is supposed to set the table for the trial to come. Long-winded openings can be self-indulgent and irritating to the jury. Short and punchy is usually better.

Short and punchy worked. Maxwell was convicted. I told you so.

That felt good.

That concludes this episode of I Told You So Theatre.

The last word goes to the late, great Gore Vidal:

Mythbusting: Harder Than You Think

Dana Milbank

[T]he United States is experiencing the worst economy we never had. The economy is going gangbusters — historically so. Yet Americans, particularly Republicans, express a gloom not matched by economic reality — or by their own spending behaviors. Polls and consumer-confidence indices show an economic pessimism as grim as when millions lost jobs in the pandemic shutdown. This is, in large part, because disinformation has prevailed. Partisanship long colored economic views, but now Republicans, in addition to occupying a parallel political reality, are expanding an alternate economic universe.

“America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years notwithstanding the contrary media narrative contributing to dour public opinion,” Matthew Winkler, former editor in chief of Bloomberg News, wrote last week. Among the gains: The economy expanded an estimated 5.5 percent in 2021 (fourth-quarter growth dramatically outpaced Europe and even China). Unemployment plunged to 4.2 percent. Record-setting U.S. stock markets (the S&P 500 is up nearly 30 percent) outperformed the world. Productivity jumped. Corporate profits are the largest since 1950 and corporate debt the lowest in 30. Consumer credit expanded. Confidence among CEOs is the highest in 20 years. The American Rescue Plan cut child poverty in half.

“The force of the American expansion is also inducing overseas companies to invest in the U.S., betting that the growth is still accelerating and will outpace other major economies,” added the Wall Street Journal.
Yet a Gallup poll out last week found that “Americans’ confidence in the economy has dropped to where it was in April 2020, when nationwide shutdowns brought on by the covid-19 pandemic plunged the nation into a recession.”
The reason is clear. As The Post’s Philip Bump explained, Republicans in April 2020 were evenly split on whether the economy was in excellent/good condition or fair/poor. Now, despite dramatic improvements, 91 percent of Republicans say the economy is in fair/poor condition. (The Democratic shift, in the opposite direction, was smaller.)
This happened — surprise! — during Fox News’s hysterical coverage of inflation, gas prices and supply chain problems. It invoked inflation roughly twice as often as CNN and MSNBC. Now, as Bump reported, three-quarters of Republicans say prices are the most important measure of the economy’s health (only one-quarter did a year ago), eclipsing unemployment, personal finances and the stock market.

In post-truth America, the economy is just another target for fakery.

The Post also highlighted a Ted Koppel segment for CBS Sunday Morning about Mt. Airy, North Carolina, hometown of Andy Griffith, and (debatable) inspiration for his eponymous television show. Which is all fine and good…until

[T]he segment’s defining scene, on a tourist trolley: Koppel decides to “wave the political thermometer across the forehead of Mount Airy” and asks how many people there thought the 2020 presidential election was a fair one. Only two out of about a dozen people raise their hands.

“I think there was a lot of voter fraud,” one tourist says. “I think it’s more the mail-in ballots. You don’t know how much of those were duplicated, triplicated, the whole bit.”
“Look how many dead people voted for Biden,” another adds, referring to a false and debunked conspiracy theory.

The discussion continues as one person claims the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a “staged” event with “BLM people.” (“I don’t understand why they’re focusing so much on that one issue, when there are so many cities being burned down every day by protesters.”) Others chime in to call the media the enemy of the people and profess their love for Donald Trump.

OK, and not to snipe too much at either Koppel or Milbank, but has either given a thought to the decades they spent contributing to the mythology via their platforms?

Koppel especially — television is underestimated at our peril, and the “Town Hall,” concept, which I think he claims some credit for creating, is a cartoonish gimmick.

Milbank might not have as much reach, but Mouthpiece Theater gets awarded no points (and may god have mercy on his soul) for sheer banality and co-starring Chris Cillizza.

No, neither will singlehandedly scrub away the generations of toxic buildup that resulted in the Constitutional (but NOT small “d” democratic) election of DJT in 2016 or the equally toxic and profoundly anti-democratic reaction the MAGAts have to Biden’s decisive win in 2020 (that said, and a source of hope, they lack majority support, and are forced to rely on coercive tactics like gerrymandering, voter suppression, the Electoral College, etc.).

But pandering to them for generations sure hasn’t helped.

Oh, most of them are reasonable (minus the Capitol rioters)?

Well, bless their hearts.

There were a lot of equally reasonable people who accepted (if not supported) segregation.

Bless their hearts, too.

By which I mean, fuck ’em.

As for Koppel, Milbank, et al, congratulations.

Thanks to your service, and regardless of what you might add in rebuttal, a large segment of the electorate not only won’t be persuaded by reason, but rejects popular sovereignty without a whole lot of consideration.

Well done.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Champagne For One

Champagne and Rex Stout go together like peas and carrots. There are few better ways to kick off a new year than sharing some bubbles with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

The last word goes to Muddy Waters:

Harry Reid & John Madden, R.I.P.

I searched in vain for a picture of Harry Reid and John Madden together. Since they died on the same December day, I will always associate these two larger than life characters. There’s something else they shared: They were great Americans.

The featured image shows the principals with the two people I associate most closely with them: Barack Obama and Harry Reid then Ken Stabler and John Madden.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved John Madden as a broadcaster. He was a rare breed: a colorful color commentator. But I will always think of Madden as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 1969-1979. My father and I agreed on very little but we shared a passion for the Raiders and their flamboyant coach and QB as you can see from my 2015 tribute to the Snake.

Madden retired from coaching at the age of 42 largely because he didn’t want to coach a Snake Stabler-less Raiders team. The coach and his QB were that close. They were the Sean Payton and Drew Brees of the Seventies.

This isn’t the first time I’ve paired an odd couple in a tribute. In 2019, it was John Paul Stevens and Jim Bouton. What I said about the Stevens-Bouton pairing applies to Madden-Reid:

You’re probably wondering why I paired Justice Stevens and pitcher/author Jim Bouton in a tribute. They’re both people I admired who died recently, that’s why. Besides, I’m notorious for my oddball combinations. It’s time to uncouple this Odd Couple; one that’s almost worthy of the late Neil Simon.

As I did in 2019, we’ll take them in order of demise and use their NYT obits as a framing device.

John Madden loved life and it loved him right back. He went from Super Bowl winning coach to superstar broadcaster and enjoyed every moment of it. To paraphrase the late, great Warren Zevon, he enjoyed every sandwich.

Madden once said that he never worked a day in his life. That’s how much he loved coaching and broadcasting. But Madden was as insightful as he was colorful. The NYT’s Ben Spiegel nailed it in his obituary:

In his irrepressible way, and with his distinctive voice, Madden left an imprint on the sport on par with titans like George Halas, Paul Brown and his coaching idol, Vince Lombardi. Madden’s influence, steeped in Everyman sensibilities and studded with wild gesticulations and paroxysms of onomatopoeia — wham! doink! whoosh! — made the N.F.L. more interesting, more relevant and more fun for over 40 years.

Madden was an uncommon football person. He was warm, gregarious, funny, and quirky. Most Super Bowl winning coaches are buttoned down, humorless, and irascible. John Madden was a character with a capital C. WHAM.

Harry Reid was one of the greatest senators in American history. As a senate leader, he was *almost* as good as Lyndon Johnson who remains the gold standard for legislative leadership.

Reid was a plain-spoken blunt man. He was the rare politician who said what he meant and meant what he said.

His direct approach was rooted in his hardscrabble upbringing:

Even by the standards of the political profession, where against-the-odds biographies are common and modest roots an asset, what Mr. Reid overcame was extraordinary. He was raised in almost Dickensian circumstances in tiny Searchlight, Nev.: His home had no indoor plumbing, his father was an alcoholic miner who eventually died by suicide, and his mother helped the family survive by taking in laundry from local brothels.

Reid entered the senate as a conservative to moderate Democrat. He left the senate as a liberal lion. Why? He listened and evolved with the times. He listened to frustrated Democrats and turned against the filibuster because he wanted to get shit done. Helping people was Harry Reid’s jam.

Former Reid aide Adam Jentleson nailed the essence of his boss in this tweet:

That reminds me of a short post I wrote about Reid in 2016. The title says it all: Zero Fucks Harry Reid Is The Best Harry Reid.

I paired Reid with Barack Obama because Reid encouraged the young senator to run for president and was an early supporter of his candidacy. Harry was just wild about Barry and the feeling was mutual:

When Harry Reid entered politics, Nevada was a ruby red state. Reid’s organizational skills and staunch support of organized labor changed that. Nevada hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election since 2004. The Silver State is currently represented by 2 Democratic senators and has a Democratic governor. Harry Reid did that.

Like John Madden, Harry Reid was a character with a capital C. What’s not to love about a pol who was a boxer as a young man?

Harry Reid never lost that pugilistic edge. John Madden was a lover, not a fighter. But they were both badasses. In John Madden’s case, I know that because I read this swell book:

That concludes this odd couple tribute to two men I admired. John Madden and Harry Reid made the world a better and livelier place. They will be missed.

The last word for this two-headed tribute goes first to Paul Simon for Harry Reid followed by The Kinks for John Madden:

Update: There’s a wonderful piece about Harry Reid at TPM Cafe by Bill Dauster one of his former aides. Who among us wouldn’t like having this said of them?

Harry Reid was a sweet man. Sitting at my desk outside his office, I saw his many kindnesses to people great and small. He would warmly greet me in the morning and wish me good night at the end of every day.

Yielding Sweetness

On Tuesday I learned about a Christmas tradition that I absolutely could not believe was real, despite my source being someone that I trust to tell me the truth.

In Catalonia, families decorate a log—the Tio de Nadal, or the log of Christmas–with a smiley face, a hat, and 2 short front legs. The children “feed” the log all December, and then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the adults place a blanket on the log’s back end and the children sing a song, Caga Tio, while they beat the log with sticks. To wit:

You have no doubt noticed that it appears that the candy and toys that the children are running to gather appeared from the back end of the log, as if the log pooped them out. Well, good eye, because you’re right. These are the lyrics to Caga Tio:

Shit, log,
Shit nougats (turrón),
Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
If you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
Shit, log!

I love this idea so much. I cannot possibly wrap my head completely around it having only learned about it a day ago. It is a metaphor for, well, everything.

Pressure is supposed to be a refining process; after all, diamonds come from all kinds of things:  pressure, heat, subduction zones, meteorites. And 2020 was a year of pressure where we were handed a world full of natural hazards and from it we did our best to create diamonds. The pandemic was raging, vaccines and treatments were still just a future blip, and we tried our best to produce diamonds, as tiny as they were.

2021, on the other hand, is just a shitshow. Vaccines were rolled out, things got a lot better, and then everything changed. The huge number of people who won’t get vaccinated stopped the progress toward a kind of normality, and then omicron showed up. There were booster shots and effective treatments, and now there are antivirals on the horizon and yet Covid cases are reaching all-time highs. And we’re all too tired to make any more fucking diamonds.

I noticed that the Twitter thread that introduced me to the Tio de Nadal had another tweet in it, so I went back to read it. And then it all made sense.

The image of beating the shit out of 2021 is very appealing, isn’t it? And the image of that beating eliciting torrone (I LOVE torrone) is both disarming and delightful, and just like a yield of sweetness should be.

My First Draft colleagues are looking back over 2021, and both Adrastos and JamieO have published their assessments. I wasn’t sure what mine was going to look like, but once I came across the El Tio de Nadal thread I knew want I wanted to say.

Life is often shitty, and this year has really tried its best to be worse than 2021. And while a lot of us were lucky enough to have the emotional reserves to finish out 2020 with some bright spots–and I was one of those lucky people–I hit the wall in 2021.

And so when I started beating the Poop Log, I found in the pile of gifts a deeper relationship with my mom. I’ve always loved her but we are so much alike that we constantly butt heads. For the first time ever I took my deepest pain and frustration and discouragement to her and she gave me the gifts of her empathy, encouragement, and bedrock love. It turned my entire year around.

Now don’t get me wrong—I still want to beat the shit out of 2021 while it’s still here. But I also scooped up the gifts of the Poop Log and know that what Reverend Perry wishes for all of us is both possible and has possibly has already happened for you this year. (He’s also a great follow on Twitter for checking in with your spiritual life.)

Somehow with all of the Anthony Bourdain stuff I have watched and read over the years, I missed this (h/t Benjamin Perry). See you next year. Joy be with you all.


Album Cover Art Wednesday: Victim To Villain

I had never heard of the band New Years Day until I consulted with Mr. Google. Their goth-metal music isn’t my cup of tea but I dig this cover:

If you’re feeling victimized by such a short post, this song is for you:

Things That Make Me Cringe 2.0

After I wrote my first Things That Make Me Cringe post calling Succession The Big Cringe. I heard from my friend Mr. Cosmic Ray:

“Succession” has nothing on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in the cringe department! Still the king of cringe, Mr. David.

It’s hard to argue that point after the season finale in which Alexander Vindman plays himself in an episode that parodies Trump Impeachment 1.0. I am not making this up. Here’s a clip as proof:

Curb Your Enthusiasm is the only show I can think of that could benefit from a 9-year gap between season-8 and season-9 followed by a 3-year gap between 9 and 10. That’s a lot of numbers and many, many gaps.

Speaking of gaps:

Neither Larry David nor JB Smoove came up with that song title, but they could have. They’re forever dropping bombs on people. They’re assholes for our time. Most importantly, they make me cringe.

I made myself cringe by forgetting this cringey post from last fall about a cringey kids book written by a cringey wingnut:

All The Children Cringe

My ability to self-link is the stuff of legend in what my old pal and former work wife Liprap calls the blogpocheh. I let down the side. Oh well, what the hell.

You’re probably wonder where this post is going. In addition to straight to hell, it’s time for more things they make me cringe. The cringiest stuff is presented in cringey bullet points, which make me, uh, cringe:

  • The inability of political Twitter to take a break from politics. They should follow the example of former presidents Reagan and Obama who took the time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day off. The news cycle may churn 24-7, but sometimes one needs a break. Overexposure is one thing that doomed the 2020 Trump campaign.

Pete Townshend got it right:

Bad Company missed the mark:

  • The way the media gives exposure to rude assholes like Jared Schmeck aka the Let’s Go Brandon guy. After being rude to Joey B Shark, this cretin went on the contemptible Mr. Bannon’s podcast. Schmeck is a schmuck. I’ll let Los Lobos dispatch him:

  • The continuing bible banger support for Trumpism even though Trump Junior proclaimed that “the teachings of Jesus have gotten us nothing.” I guess they really think that Pennywise is the second coming or some such stupid shit. Barack Obama was right when he said that some people cling to their guns and religion. They’ve added the Impeached Insult Comedian to the list. The notion of that moron as the messiah makes me sigh-a…

I don’t think Jeff Lynne had false idols in mind when he wrote this song snippet, but I love ELO so here it goes:

  • I wish the cringiest event of the week was that short, but they played the whole damn game. My New Orleans Saints were obliged to play and lose a home game with 21 players on the COVID list. It was a farce, which nearly got rookie 4th string QB Ian Book killed because of the makeshift offensive line “blocking” for him. It was as bad as watching Billy Joes Tolliver and Hobert quarterback the Saints during the dismal Ditka days. I am not making the Billy Joe thing up.

My friend Clancy DuBos mock-volunteered to fill the gap. There’s that word again:

FYI, Clancy is one of the sanest, least cringeworthy people I know.

That concludes this cringe-fest. The last word goes to Nick Lowe and Rockpile with a song dedicated to bruised and battered Saints QB Ian Book:

What America Means To Me

Multicultural America

The New York Times last Sunday ran an article about the city of Enid Oklahoma. It was very illuminating, insightful, and ultimately disturbing.

In summary the story told was ostensibly about an attempt to institute an indoor mask mandate in the midst of the pandemic we are about to “celebrate” the second anniversary of. The mandate was ultimately voted down when a group of Enid citizens, calling themselves the Enid Freedom Fighters, shouted down all attempts at institution at a city council meeting. While this group claimed to have logically and civilly presented their views on the mandate, what they really did was shout, yell, make unfounded claims about the US Constitution and the bible, invoke the names of discredited quack “doctors”, and in general parrot the talking points of the far right. That “victory” emboldened them to become a political force that forced out all those council members who voted for sanity…er…I mean the mandate, take over the city council and the school board and suddenly become a political arm of religious extremists and white supremacists.

The story asks more, though, about what it means to be an American these days. So as we slouch out of this old year (thank you Joan Didion for all you wrote)  I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on what I think it means to be an American.

First of all, being an American is a choice (ooh, that’s a word full of contention these days). There is no ethnicity called American. This country was founded, it didn’t naturally evolve as a confederation of related and or conquered tribes like Anglos, Saxons, Gauls, Gaels, et al created Britain, France, Ireland, et al. The Founders (and that right there shows you a difference) made a conscious choice to disassociate from their former country and re-associate with the folks they were living around, mostly British, but also Dutch, German, French, and yes even Africans. Since then America has been a melting pot. Or a salad. Or a quilt. Or whatever analogy you want to use to signify that we aren’t all the same. And then of course in the last several decades we have all become hyphenated Americans, even the increasing number of citizens who are multi-hyphenated because their Australian-Chinese mother married their Belgian-French father making them so many shades of humanity about the only thing they CAN be called is American. We are the mutts of the world. And proud of it.

And I like that. I’d rather live in a land where who your parents were or where they came from makes no matter. Or at least a country that aspires to be that.

Being an American means you have an opportunity to make yourself into the best self you can be. It makes no matter if your desire in life is to have a house in a small town with 2.3 kids, a spouse, a pet, and just enough to retire comfortably on or if you want to have the mansion up on the hill and own all that you can see. The opportunity is open to all who wish to take advantage of it. Your background shouldn’t matter, your family shouldn’t matter, where you grew up or went to college or even if you went to college shouldn’t matter. As long as you are willing to do the work, and do it honestly, then you should be allowed to climb as high as you want. This is an asperation for our country as we have certainly gotten closer but never reached the nirvana of complete equality. Again, this country isn’t a finished product, it’s still in the rough drafts stage. The important thing is to believe we can get there and to have the strength to help get it there.

And if you do make it there, it is your responsibility to make sure the ladder you climbed up on is still there for the next person to use.

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One Weird Year

This really happened.

While I think nostalgia is a two-edged sword and I am often a nostalgic memory skeptic, I do admit to missing the Good Old Days. And by Good Old Days, I mean before the year itself became a meme/joke about something terrible.

This started in 2016, when we all joked about how the year was so bad, nothing can top it. Then each year after said “hold my beer” and was terrible in its own way. 2021 was no exception.

Along with being kinda lousy, 2021 was also weird. And on occasion, good. I cherry-picked a few examples of the good, the bad, and the weird that stood out to me. Perhaps you can add yours in the comments.

The Good: Joe Biden became president, despite the best efforts of people like 9/11 Hero to Suckers Rudy Guliani, Crazed Lawyer Sidney Powell, and The My Pillow Guy. Biden hasn’t been perfect but he has done some good things. And with two very sad and key exceptions, he mostly seemed to unite Democrats, including having one of his biggest advocates being a member of The Squad, Jamila Jayapal.

The Bad: The Big Lie lives on and is a driving force in the Republican Party, which is now focused on wrecking our democracy, something you can say without hyperbole. Unfortunately, too many people in America either view this development as super awesome coolness, or are clueless enough to think that thinking there is a real threat to democracy is hyperbole.

The Weird: Even as a screwup, the Four Seasons Landscaping fiasco (see the above image) was bizarre and surreal. One of those things that if it were part of a movie, critics would slam it as a ridiculous plot development, and yet it happened in real life.

The Good: We got a vaccine – several of them! The research into mRNA is showing potential for other medical treatments as well. There is no doubt, the vaccine has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

The Bad: The anti-vax movement has become even larger, more heinous, and more dug-in than ever before. Instead of getting a simple two shots, then a booster, way too many Americans (mainly conservatives) decided the best path forward was trying one of a sad number of convoluted Rube Goldberg-like solutions to fighting COVID. Many died while bringing the term “horse paste” into the American lexicon.

The Weird: This year featured a very odd obsession with “owning the libs” over COVID from some pundits, including a lot of mocking of those who are treating a pandemic like a, well, pandemic. On May 4, Emma Green published in The Atlantic a long “lol” at those libs who are “addicted to the pandemic.” Since that date, as per Johns Hopkins University data, 238,532 Americans have died from COVID. On Dec. 13, Matthew Wahler, also in The Atlantic, lectured everyone that the down-home folksy thing to do was not give a flying shit about infecting others. Since that date, 18,824 Americans have died from COVID. Most recently, on December 20, Shadi Hamid posted about “Omnicron Panic and Liberal Hysteria.” Since that date, 9,717 Americans have died from COVID. You get the idea.
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Fatigue Fatigue

Everyone is tired of the pandemic. I know I am. I’m tired of being tired. Instead of mere pandemic fatigue, I have fatigue fatigue.

One of the most worrisome, even irksome, recent developments have been premature declarations of victory. Everyone wants it to end but hoping that it’s over, is a poor substitute for proof that the pandemic is on its way out. That’s the phase we’re in right now. It’s mentally and emotionally more dangerous than the reaction to past waves.

The amateur epidemiologists tell us that Omicron is not that bad: it’s not as long-lasting and kills fewer people. To say that’s a low bar is like saying I’m a cat person or Saints fan. Most early reports are anecdotal and/or journalistic. The data is sparse but encouraging except for one problem: it’s the most contagious wave thus far.

Speaking of the New Orleans Saints, the easiest way to be infected with Omicron is to hang out with my local NFL team. They’re so decimated that they were obliged to sign Jason of The Good Place’s favorite player:

Blake Bortles is the journeyman’s journeyman as well as a running joke on The Good Place. And Jason is a lovable dolt. So it goes.

How decimated are the Saints? So decimated that Sean Payton  tried to lure Drew Brees out of retirement to backup green rookie Ian Book. How green is Ian Book? He played QB for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. That’s green, y’all.

Showing more sense than he did during his playing days, Drew Brees wisely declined. Besides, being around the Saints is a surefire way to catch Omicron. That would get in the way of Drew’s lucrative teevee gig.

I wish that New Orleans Mayor Teedy had the sense of Drew Brees. I think that having Carnival parades is a bad idea based on what we know now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a yellow light is in order, not boosterism.

I’m the guy who usually catches everything, but I’ve stayed COVID-free during the pandemic. I’m unwilling to risk my undefeated record just because Mayor Teedy wants to spike the ball. They can have parades but I’m unlikely to attend or entertain company.

As you can see, my fatigue fatigue is aimed at wishful thinking. It makes me want to make like Paul Douglas in the Panic In The Streets featured image.

Worst-case scenario thinking is in order when it comes to the pandemic. I want it to be over but in the immortal words of Lawrence Peter Berra:

You know times are tough when I quote a New York Yankee legend or praise Drew Brees’ acuity. Oh well, what the hell.

One thing my fatigue fatigue does not extend to is the annual Jon Swift Roundup of satirical blog posts. My Owning The Commies With John Neely Kennedy post joined this year’s festivities. Props to Batocchio of Vagabond Scholar for keeping this tradition alive. While we’re plugging away, a reminder that The Best Of Adrastos 2021 is online.

I also never tire of Dave Barry’s annual year in review piece in the WaPo. I stole “I am not making this up” from Dave. I only steal from the best.

Finally, I write my posts on WordPress then feed them into MS Word for a spell/grammar check. It nearly had a stroke over this post title: DELETE REPEATED WORD.

Since I had a green reverie earlier and the word fatigue is rarely used in song lyrics, the last word goes to Al Green:


Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – “I – Can’t – help – falling out of love with you” edition

Oh, Darnold, Darnold, Darnold.

You unleashed the monster, and now it’s nibbling at your toes.

How does it feel?

(President) Trump says he got Covid vaccine booster shot, tells fans not to boo him for it
CNBC ^ | MON, DEC 20 20211:07 PM EST | Dan Mangan

Posted on 12/20/2021, 5:17:35 PM by entropy12

POINTS Former President Donald Trump says he received a booster vaccine shot for Covid-19 “Oh don’t!” Trump said, waving his hand as some people in an audience in Dallas at a show with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly seemed to react negatively to him saying he got the booster. A relatively large percentage of Republican voters have refused to get even initial doses of the coronavirus vaccines. GOP governors around are resisting vaccine and mask mandates.


Does this mean president Trump will no longer be popular here on FR?
1 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:17:35 PM by entropy12
Good question.
To: entropy12
2 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:18:41 PM by Brimack34 (If Palin was VP Trump would still be in office.)
Boo who?

To: entropy12I

don’t understand him when it comes to this vaccine. He must think they really work.

Well, he did spend some time in the ICU at Walter Reed, so maybe he wishes he had gotten vaccinated.

Two advisers close to Trump who were briefed on his condition told the book’s authors that the former president was “gravely ill” and they feared that he “wouldn’t make it out of Walter Reed.” 

Very disappointing. It makes me wonder if he knows what is actually going on with the global takeover.

4 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:20:25 PM by JudyinCanada (Aim low, avoid disappointment.)

To: entropy12
“Oh don’t!” Trump said, waving his hand as some people in an audience in Dallas at a show with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly seemed to react negatively to him saying he got the booster.

YOU don’t. You’re blowing this one POTUS 45.

10 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:25:06 PM by philman_36 (Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty and supped with infamy. Benjamin Franklin)

Well, you blew him daily here for over four years, so maybe you’re even?
To: entropy12
Trump is either nowhere near the very stable genius many here had thought.
Or he is nowhere near the good and faithful American many here had hoped.
Spin can’t fix this, only repentance.
15 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:26:59 PM by BuddhaBrown (Path to enlightenment: Four right turns, then go straight until you see the Light!)
Aw, c’mon – surely ye hath not forsaken The Darnold?
To: entropy12
Simply put he is wrong here. I won’t harass him about it because quite frankly I’ve never considered him very intelligent to begin with, (snip) I still like what he represents to many people, but he’s getting a bit old at this point and personally I’ve moved on to DeSantis.
18 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:29:39 PM by jimwatx
What’s DeMoron going to do when HE catches COVID at one of HIS campaign events?
To: entropy12
He has nothing to worry about. In addition to his 3 shots,

Maybe it’s the Fauci/Gates microchips making him say that?

he has already had COVID and has no known co-morbidities.

20 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:30:04 PM by Socon-Econ (adi)

Followed by :
To: entropy12
Trump is getting up there in age and is overweight
54 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:59:27 PM by conservative98
Otherwise, ok?
And now – the post of the thread!
To: JudyinCanada
“I don’t understand him when it comes to this vaccine. He must think they really work. Very disappointing. It makes me wonder if he knows what is actually going on with the global takeover.”
Clearly, Trump has been comprised by the Deep State Cabal – why else would he take the vaccine?? In fact, anyone who has taken the vaccine is now under the influence of the Deep State nanobiots, and no longer to be trusted!!
The ship will be lifting of at exactly 2342 hours on December 29th, departure point Bravo. Be there or be left behind to become part of the Global Consciousness!!
Somebody please hold me. I’m so frightened.
36 posted on 12/20/2021, 5:38:56 PM by Bruce Campbells Chin ( )
More below!

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Today in Tommy T’s Random Ruminations – “Powerhouse” edition

I promised last time that I was going to explain how Warner Brothers cartoon scorer Carl Stalling led me to discover composer Raymond Scott.

Stalling loved to lift bits of public domain music  – (“Tea for two”, “The Lady In Red”, “Oh You Beautiful Doll”, “California, Here I Come”, “Oh Suzanna” – all either publc domain, or owned by Warner Brothers music publishing).  He used most notably “Dance of the Comedians” from “The Bartered Bride” as the background music for the Road Runner tearing up the highway.

And then, he lifted a composition by an avant-garde composer Raymond Scott for scenes featuring assembly lines.  It’s the second movement of this piece at 1:25 by the Raymond Scott Quintet. See if this sounds familiar ;

Here’s the version you’re probably more familiar with :

Raymond Scott wasn’t just a pianist and composer. He was an inventor, as well.

He hung out with Bob Moog, and actually invented not the synthesizer, but the first sequencer – he called it the “Electronium”.

Here’s Mark Mothersbaugh giving it a look-see  :


And here’s the man himself in his laboratory :



And all this I discovered from some cartoons and books.








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Sunday Morning Video: Star In The Night

Tis the day after Christmas and I’m posting some holiday fare. It’s a short film made in 1945.  It tells the “no room at the inn” story in then contemporary drag.

It’s good but its pedigree is more interesting than the film. It was the first directorial outing for the great Don Siegel and an early outing for cinematographer Robert Burks who would go on to shoot most of Hitchcock’s films from 1951 to 1964.

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Best Of Adrastos 2021

Merry Christmas from Bad Santa & Thurman Merman.

It’s been a tough year for everyone, but hard times are good for satire: I have posted 583 times thus far in 2021. I am not making this up.

Being that prolific made winnowing down this list difficult. I started with 80 candidates then cut it to a top-50 list. I’ve done that in past years but Dr. A encouraged me to cut it to a top-40 list. When she speaks, I listen.

I’ve done something different this year. Instead of text links, I’ve used the image links below. That means it will not pop up in a separate tab and you’ll have to click back to the main post. It’s not as hard as it sounds.  Plus, you get to experience the featured images that brought the posts to life. The image box things are different shapes and sizes because WordPress. What can I tell ya? I’m a writer, not a tech person.

Without further ado, I give you the sixth annual Best Of Adrastos arranged in chronological order.

It may not be much of a Christmas present, but it will have to do until I can score some coal for your stockings. Maybe I should ask the Man of La Manchin.

I guess that last paragraph qualifies as further ado. Oh well, what the hell.

January 2:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Listening To Old Voices

January 12:

Mike Pence Is Made Of Calmer Stuff

January 20:

Joe Biden’s Time

February 11:

It’s Not A Horse Race, It’s A Crime

February 18:

A Racist Pig Is Dead

February 27:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Do You Feel Like We Do

March 8:

Gentle On Tucker’s Mind

March 15:

Jab Talking

April 14:

Small Town Cops

April 20:

Fritz Mondale, R.I.P.

April 21:

The Chauvin Trial: Evidence Matters, Lawyering Matters

April 23:

Malaka Of The Week: Amanda Chase

April 27:

The Dingbat Right

April 29:

Long Time Gone

May 1:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tell Me Why

May 5:

Malaka Of The Week: Twitter Famous Rob Anderson

May 26:

It’s A Yellow Star, Not A Gold Star

June 10:

The Ghost Of Roy Cohn

June 30:

The Law Is Slow

We’ve reached the midway point in the year. You know what that means: let’s jump to the break.

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The Christmas Song

I’m not big on Christmas music but I love Mel Tormé. The Velvet Fog wrote my favorite Christmas standard. The “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” opening line makes me think of my mother’s chestnut laden stuffing. Growing up in the Bay Area, Jack Frost never nipped at my nose. Can’t imagine why.

The Christmas Song was written in the summer of 1945 by Mel and Robert Wells. It became such a success that Mel often referred to it as his “retirement account.”

We begin with the songwriter:

The first version of The Christmas Song was cut by the Nat King Cole Trio in 1946:

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Malaka Of The Week: Rutledge Deas IV

The last thing I want to read or write about on Christmas Eve is politics. It’s time to send politics to bed without its supper and have some fun. And that is why Rutledge Deas IV is malaka of the week.

This story involves diapers and literal malakatude; a combination I haven’t written about since the heyday of Diaper Dave Vitter. Oops, I slipped in some political crack. Bitter Vitter is a washed-up politician, so he doesn’t count. He was, however, a troll.

I’ll let the good people at WWL-TV provide the facts:

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana State Police arrested a 31-year-old man for offering to pay people to change his diapers.

This isn’t the first time Rutledge Deas IV has tried to get caretakers to change his diaper. In November 2019, he was arrested on human trafficking charges.

Deas posed as a younger man with special needs and hired babysitters who he would pay to change his diaper and treat him like a child.

In December of 2020, Deas plead guilty to those charges and was placed on probation.

Investigators say they started a second investigation on December 20, 2021, after learning of a text message sent by Deas. The message said that he was engaged in ‘alternative therapy’ and offered to pay the victim to change his diapers. He attempted to recruit a person to solicit other babysitters to care for him while he again posed as a younger man with special needs.

Detectives got an arrest warrant through the 24th Judicial District Court and he is being charged with one count of human trafficking and one count of attempted human trafficking.

He was arrested at his home in Metairie and booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center.

I’m in a festive mood so I don’t feel like reading the Gret Stet’s human trafficking statute, but this sounds more like self-trafficking to me. Whatever it is, it’s a gross fetish. Ugh, just ugh.

I assume that Rutledge Deas IV is a rich white guy with a diaper fetish. If that’s the case, why didn’t he hire an escort? This is easy money for a sex worker. It would just entail baby powder and a trip to suburban Metry. That reminds me of this local holiday song:

I wonder why Benny Antin d/b/a Benny Grunch chose to spell Metry correctly. He must be slipping. Oh well, what the hell.

FYI, David Vitter also lived in Metry in his diaper days. Apparently, diaper Deas are here again…

I googled Rutledge Deas IV to see what else I could learn about a man that WWL called a “diaper-changing scammer.” I’m not sure if he’s related to a wealthy Gret Stet oil family with the same surname, but they have some Rutledges. If I were Rutledge Deas III, I’d demand this sick creep take the number off his name pronto. Rutledge III could even belt out this song:

As is my wont, I searched for “songs with diaper in the title” and found this ad:

John Legend has a diaper changing song? Who knew? That’s what I get for not watching the Super Bowl. I only watch Saints games.

The world of politics is grim right now. We all need some comic relief. And that is why Rutledge Deas IV is malaka of the week.

The last word goes to Eartha Kitt: