Category Archives: Art

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Irv Docktor

I liked Irv Docktor’s cover art for Art Tatum’s Discoveries so much that I checked out his book covers. Docktor was particularly known for his work with Robert Heinlein so we begin with a pair of those covers followed by two more pairings.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Is That All There Is?

Self Portrait After The Spanish Flu by Edvard Munch.

My sleep pattern remains wacked out. This lifelong night person has become a morning writer. I’ve even awakened before Dr. A a few times and fed the cat. Both she and PD were disoriented. Such is life during the pandemic.

I decided to use one of Edvard Munch’s lesser known works as this week’s featured image. It’s a reminder than one can survive even the worst pandemic. It also explains why he was such a Gloomy Gus. Of course, he was Norwegian; it goes with the territory.

This week’s theme song was written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller in 1968. They shopped it around before finding the perfect singer: Peggy Lee. I’ll have more about Miss Peggy Lee and our theme song after the jump.

We have two versions of Is That All There Is? for your listening pleasure: the Peggy Lee original and a swell cover by the woman whose name I cannot stop saying, Chaka Khan. It’s a mantra in my family and it should be in yours. Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan.

Our next musical pairing involves a title that’s similar to Miss Peggy Lee’s last hit. To add to the needless complexity of this post, they’re different tunes.

You say this, I say that. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Now that we’ve questioned everything, let’s take a dubious leap of faith and jump to the break

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Gethsemane

Night Windows by Edward Hopper.

Richard Thompson-Edward Hopper month continues. We begin with with a weather bulletin of sorts. Y’all are used to my weather obsession by now.

We had a cold front in New Orleans this week. Nighttime lows hovered around 50 several nights in a row. That may not sound like much to people from the frozen north but by our standards that’s cold for mid-April. Some locals whined about the cold, but I like it. Some folks just like to bitch. You know who you are; piss off out of my virtual kitchen.

Every time I search for Hopper paintings online, I’m told he was an “American realist” painter. That’s what he called himself, but his work is deeply weird. The painting above reminds me of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. I’ve never thought of Hitch as a realistic filmmaker even if regular guy Jimmy Stewart starred in that flick. His character was a laid-up photographer turned peeping tom. That’s weird, not realistic.

Sunday is Greek Easter, so I decided to pick a Richard Thompson tune with religious undertones. According to Mark and other bible dudes, Gethsemane was the garden at which Jesus prayed before his betrayal and arrest. It still exists and is a tourist attraction with an elaborate web site.

Gethsemane is also the title of this week’s theme song. It was written by Richard Thompson in 2003 for The Old Kit Bag. It’s an ominous sounding song that opens with this ominous verse.

“Among the headstones you played as boys
Crypts and tombs like a roomful of toys
Just up the river from the smoke and the noise
Gethsemane.”

We have two versions of Gethsemane for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a recent solo acoustic interpretation by the songwriter.

There’s also a song from Jesus Christ Superstar called Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say.) Here’s the original cast recording with Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan in the title role.

I suspect playing Jesus Christ Superstar was nothing like working with Ritchie Blackmore. They did, however, produce some swell music:

Christ on a cracker, that rocked.

All this talk of Jesus and betrayal reminds me of this Asia tune:

Let’s flee the garden and jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Walking On A Wire

Gas Station by Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper is associated with scenes of urban isolation and alienation. As you can see, the same thing applies to his rural scenes. That gas station isn’t hopping, which is par for the course for Hopper.

The Gret Stet of Louisiana is making progress with the pandemic. The curve is flattening slightly BUT there’s a big problem with racial disparity among the afflicted. Twice as many black folks have died of COVID-19 related illnesses as white folks. Terrible is an accurate but still inadequate word to capture the horror of this discrepancy. If I believed in using emojis here, I’d insert a sad face BUT:

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson in 1981 for the final Richard and Linda Thompson duo effort, Shoot Out The Lights.

Walking On A Wire is one of the ultimate breakup songs. It’s some serious shit, y’all. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a recent solo acoustic version by the songwriter.

I’m still feeling wiry. Time for some Leonard Cohen as channeled by Aaron Neville.

I’m a bit wired from all that walking on a wire. Keep your balance as we jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: For Shame Of Doing Wrong

New York Movie by Edward Hopper.

I’m trying something different this month. I’m pairing the artwork of Edward Hopper with the music of Richard Thompson. Each Saturday in April will feature a different EH image and RT tune. I think they work well together.

My oak pollen allergy has been bonkers this year. We’ve hit a prolonged dry patch: no rain since some time in February. We tend towards extremes in New Orleans. It either rains too much or not at all. The happy medium is unknown in our forecasting annals.

The worst thing about this allergy season during the pandemic is that it’s hard for me to go outside at all. The last time I took a walk, I had a pollen related sneezing jag, which led some fellow strollers to glare at me as if I were Typhoid Mary. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for the Pour Down Like Silver album. I have a soft spot for that album: it was the first RT album I ever purchased but not until 10 years after its release. I was a late RT bloomer.

We have three versions of For Shame Of Doing Wrong for your listening pleasure: the Richard and Linda studio original, a poppy version produced by Gerry Rafferty, and a cover by RT’s former Fairport band mate, Sandy Denny.

Is it shameful that I like the poppy version from Rafferty’s Folly? Hell, I like the song below too. It was inescapable in 1978:

As I hang my head for shame of doing wrong, let’s jump to the break in a shameless manner.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Happy

Painting by Piet Mondrian.

My stomach bug was a persistent bugger. It slowly got better but I lived without coffee for four days; an experiment I’m not eager to repeat. It’s hard to be alert when you’re under-caffeinated, Coke Zero and tea don’t quite do it. The result was a groggy unprolific blogger. So it goes.

A quick note about the featured art and its influence on the Krewe of Spank. Our theme this year was NOLAOPOLY and our float was designed to be a rolling version of the game board. I suggested that the sides should look like a Mondrian painting. Our float captain, Greg, went for it with gusto.

I may not be able to paint or draw but I have a good eye. Besides, Di Stijl is always in style.

I decided to try and put some pep in my step with this week’s theme song. It was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler in 1930 for a Ruth Etting movie, The Nine-Fifteen Revue. Etting was later played by Doris Day in the 1956 movie Love Me or Leave Me with Jimmy Cagney as her gangster husband.

We have two versions of Get Happy for your listening pleasure. The artists need no introduction but get one anyway: Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald.

Since we’re trying to get happy, it’s time for Keith Richards’ signature song:

Let’s join hands and happily jump to the break.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Early Warhol

Before Andy Warhol became a pop art superstar in the Sixties, he worked as a freelance commercial artist. Among his most interesting work in the Fifties were some jazz album covers. Here’s a sampler:

 

It Wasn’t ‘Technology’

God, I hate this framing and it’s everywhere: 

Technology changed everything, of course. Magazines disappeared; editorial contracts shrunk; streaming meant that writing for film or television was no longer likely to make you rich. Writing books was just going to make you poor. Fashion, once the purview of art, became the property of Instagram. All of these profound reversals crashed up against the hard metrics of the city’s soaring housing market.

I can’t speak to Instagram fashion or streaming markets but here’s what happened in the world of words: everybody assumed the good times would last forever, despite the example of ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY saying that there would be lean years, lean decades, in which maybe we should save our profits instead of blowing it all on bitches and blow. Media companies loaded themselves up with debt and made stupid, short-sighted decisions because that’s what they could afford to do, while they had a license to print money.

When the gravy train turned over, most of them tried to cut their way to prosperity and blamed their customers for seeing through the genius strategy of giving people half and charging them double. The bosses kept paying themselves, of course, and their spouses and their buds for “consulting services” or “event planning” or whatever we’re shoving sexual harassment payoffs under these days.

Now, 20 years into this “technological revolution” that no one saw coming except for all the people who did, we’re just now going to talk about the financial reckoning? And we’re going to do it by talking about how Harvard Law grads can’t get rich writing books anymore?

Look, I’m a writer. I would never say it doesn’t suck to see the life you thought you were gonna live — and I’ve had three separate ones blow up in my face by now and it doesn’t get any easier — disappear into the pockets of some Silicon Valley assclowns. I remember when blogging lead to book deals you could actually live on. That changed. It blows.

And the things cited in this article about fallout from industry shifts aren’t all down to industry shifts.

The stressors now so palpably afflicting the creative class — how to pay for a child’s college education, or clarinet lessons, or a party without plastic cups — were nowhere in evidence. In the last decades of the 20th century, you were more likely to encounter a meerkat on West Broadway than a cash bar at a party for a hot first novel. It was easy to assume that real adulthood would take care of itself.

[snip]

In her new book, “Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis,’’ the writer Ada Calhoun delves into the professional and financial anxieties of women in their 40s and 50s, beginning with an account of her own challenges. Faced with the high cost of her family’s third-tier health care plan, the untenable nature of freelance life and mounting credit-card debt, she goes out looking for a “job-job,’’ only to find a teaching position for a six-week class that pays $600.

Systemic disinvestment in higher education is squarely on the shoulders of Republicans who think book-learnin’ makes you liberal and have assfucked public universities in the states they run into the ground. The housing market has more to do with public policy run by NIMBYs and greedy speculators than it does technology, and you can come here sometime soon for my rant about building inspectors and zoning requirements doing what we think cops and courts do to make this country livable.

Refusal to tax the rich at the level they deserve to be taxed has destroyed every facet of middle class life in America but sure, we can put it down to technology. DAMN YOU INTERNET.

The fact of the matter is that the crash is always coming and what looked to us like stability was carefully engineered by human beings to be that way. Our grandparents looked like they’d lived in suburban bungalows with a good American-built car and a union job or two forever, but in their lifetimes they’d seen the world at war twice and the country’s economy implode to a degree we never have reckoned with. Why do you think they saved every scrap of tinfoil in case they could re-use it?

The children they passed these things onto put them into the hands of greedy little hucksters like Ronald Reagan and the Georges Bush. I’m not saying Republicans killed Conde Nast but they sure didn’t help any other industry out any, including, in the long run, the duct-tape-patchwork-ball-pit that is our healthcare.

It only looked like adulthood on autopilot because it wasn’t our adulthood. We were looking at their prosperity and assuming they wouldn’t piss it all away before we got to benefit. Now that we know they have and will continue to do so, and yeah, that’s scary as shit. Almost as scary as this: People built the system and destroyed it in living memory and it needs to be built again. It can be done but it’s going to require outlasting a lot of bastards who’ve been here a long time. It’s no wonder we can’t sleep.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Something’s Gotta Give

Piazza d’Italia by Giorgio di Chirico.

It’s election day in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. As I stated in my last Bayou Brief column, I plan to affix a clothespin and vote for Governor John Bel Edwards. Here’s hoping that we don’t have a run-off with more visits from the Trumps and Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire. They’ve held events in small-ish venues but there have still been empty seats. A good slogan for Pence’s next event would be: Empty Seats For An Empty Suit.

We’re having our first cool front of the year. Fall hasn’t exactly fallen but we’ll take what we can get. The only seasons you can depend on in New Orleans are summer and carnival. I forgot football season: LSU and Florida are squaring off tonight in Red Stick. Here’s hoping the Tigers feast on Gator.

I have a new motto: Surreal times call for Surrealist art. This week’s featured image is by the Italian Surrealist, Giorgio di Chirico who was originally a Futurist. That gives me an excuse to quote Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto: “Oh, maternal ditch.”

If you expect me to explain that quote, you’re out of luck. I’m feeling cryptic like a proper Surrealist if there is such a thing. There were more than a few improper Surrealists if you catch my drift.

The title of this week’s theme song aptly describes our current national situation: Something’s Gotta Give. It was written by Johnny Mercer in 1955 for the Fred Astaire movie, Daddy Long Legs.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Fred Astaire from the movie, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Lets make like Daddy Long Legs and crawl to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Long Black Veil

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

This is the first time since the infancy of this feature that I’ve used the same featured image two weeks in a row. It captures my mood.

We’re attending a memorial service this morning for Gligamesh Homan who died in a horrible accident last week. He was the son of some old friends and was in his freshman year at LSU. I’ll have more about Gil in our second act. Suffice it to say that there’s an open  wound in my circle of friends right now.

I’m not feeling very expansive today so I’m going to keep this week’s outing relatively brief.

This week’s theme song was written in 1959 by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin for Lefty Frizzell. It’s become a staple of the country music repertoire and has been recorded countless times.

We have three versions of Long Black Veil for your listening pleasure: Lefty Frizzell, Gillian Welch, and the Chieftains with Mick Jagger on lead vocals.

Try not to trip over your long black veil as we jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

I went on about Max Ernst at the Bayou Brief  so I decided to post another Ernst image here at First Draft. It’s surrealism at its finest. I don’t see a literal bird but that’s one of the things that makes it surreal. It’s weird, man.

I originally planned to put the bite on y’all for our annual fundraiser but I don’t have to. We met our goal so the tin cup rattling stops here and now. Thanks to everyone who donated. Our readers not only rock, they rule.

This week’s theme song was written by Neil Young in 1969 and was the title track of his second solo album. It’s old but still fresh; sort of like me.

We have three versions of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere for your listening pleasure: Neil’s original followed by covers from Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, and Dar Williams.

While we’re in Nowhereville, here’s a song that you may have heard. If not, climb out from under that rock:

Now that we’ve submerged, let’s splash to the break. Do submarines splash? Beats the hell outta me.  I’m claustrophobic so I’ll never be a submariner like our old pal Jude who was the Prince Namor of First Draft.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Town Without Pity

Cover art for Paul Eluard’s Reflections by Max Ernst.

Extreme heat is the price we’ve paid for missing out on Hurricane Dorian. As cranky as I am, I’m glad this heat-bringing high is warding off any tropical activity. I won’t miss it when it’s gone but I’m glad it’s here as Dorian creeps up the east coast. That storm is a relentless motherfucker. The fucker should return to the attic from whence it came.

Drew Brees ate my Friday morning. I hope he buttons his lip and keeps his foot out of his mouth until after Monday’s game.

The featured image is a collage done by the great Max Ernst for a book by his fellow surrealist, Paul Eluard. You may have noticed that I love surrealist art. I use it a lot in this space and have even threatened to post nothing but Ernst and Magritte featured images for Odds & Sods. I’ve also used an Ernst image for my new Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler.

This week’s theme song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1961 Kirk Douglas film, Town Without Pity.  I’d never seen the movie until last weekend. It’s a cross between film noir, Italian neo-realism, German expressionism, and a Cassavetes flick. I liked it a lot and give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

We have three versions of Town Without Pity for your listening pleasure: the Gene Pitney original, Stray Cats, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My boy Brian knows a hidden treasure when he hears one.

Let’s escape the bleak mean streets of a German town without pity by remorselessly jumping to the break.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Pedro Bell, R.I.P.

Pedro Bell’s cover artwork for George Clinton and his family of funk bands helped create their mythology. Bell called his art “scartoons,” I think of it as funk surrealism.

Pedro Bell died recently at the age of 69. The best tribute to an artist is to feature their work. Here are three of Bell’s album covers:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Salome

There ain’t no femme more fatale than Salome. I posted Aubrey Beardsley’s take last Saturday. Let’s get operatic with a trio of covers for recordings of the Richard Strauss opera, Salome, whose libretto is a German translation of Oscar Wilde’s play. The aformentioned Beardsley illustration was done for the book of the play but not for the opera. The mind reels.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Maynard Dixon/Dane Coolidge

To go along with the Happy Trails post, I searched for “western paperback covers” and stumbled into some early 20th Century dust jackets. Dane Coolidge was a California writer of genre fiction; mostly Westerns. His first two books featured covers by the great painter Maynard Dixon who got first billing in the post title because I’m very familiar with his work. The only Coolidge whose work I’m familiar with is Calvin and I’m not a fan.

Hidden Water was published in 1910 and The Texican in 1911. Sometimes it’s fun to fall down an internet rabbit hole.

 

Barr Letter Reading List

It’s peak pollen season in New Orleans. There was also a 5-alarm fire a few miles away. The result is horrible air quality, a death grip sinus headache and red, red eyes. I’ve already medicated, which is why I’m keeping this short.

I have a new Fog of Scandal meme, a Magritte-like image, The Man and the Sea by Giuseppe Maiorana, I love the image of umbrellas dropping in the fog. Substitute shoes for umbrellas, you can catch my drift if you can see it amid the fog of scandal.

I may not have words of wisdom for you but these folks do:

David Corn reminds us that even if there was no finding of criminal conspiracy there were many strands of co-operation between Team Trump and Russian intelligence.

Franklin Foer points out the accomplishments of  the Mueller probe.

Mark Joseph Stern says I told you so about Bill Barr.

Jed Shugerman wonders why the Barr letter quoted nary a complete sentence from the Mueller Report.

The man who wrote the DOJ special counsel guidelines, Neal Katyal, calls for the immediate release of the full report.

Former Obama White House counsel, Robert Bauer, is concerned that this result will make Trump even more brazen. Me too.

Bob Bauer gets the last word with this passage from his NYT piece:

But the Mueller report marked a low point for more substantive norms of presidential conduct. It shows that a demagogic president like Donald Trump can devalue or even depart radically from key norms, just short of committing chargeable crimes, so long as he operates mostly and brazenly in full public view. For a demagogue, shamelessness is its own reward.

Such a president can have openly, actively encouraged and welcomed foreign government support for his political campaigns, and his campaign can reinforce the point in direct communications with that government’s representatives.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Red Sails In The Sunset

Red Sails In The Sunset was Midnight Oil’s commercial breakthrough in Australia. It was also the first time they charted in the US. The Oils got their foot in the door with this 1984 release but they kicked it in with their next album, Diesel and Dust, which is when they set proverbial beds afire.

Red Sails In The Sunset was recorded in Tokyo and features a cover by noted Japanese  artist Tsunehisa Kimura. Later releases of the album included the title and band name at the top of the cover.

Here are the original Australian LP cover and back cover:

Are you ready to rock? Here’s the CD re-release of this fine album:

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Lou Marchetti

Every once and awhile I like to honor the illustrators of vintage pulp paperbacks. This week, we’re featuring two covers by Lou Marchetti whose daughter Louise has assembled a terrific website in honor of her late father.

The tagline for The Mugger has given me an earworm so Genesis gets the last word:

Not Everything Sucks

This photo archive exists and is being circulated around again: 

For the Documerica Project (1971-1977), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired freelance photographers to capture images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s.

John H. White was one of nearly one hundred photographers hired for DOCUMERICA. His photographs captured the spirit and struggle of the African-American community in Chicago, Illinois in the early 70’s.

John White is a national treasure and these images of a Chicago past make it seem so alive and vital.

A.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Sidney Bechet

New Orleans born and bred woodwind genius Sidney Bechet lived a large portion of his life in exile in Paris. And I’m not talking Paris, Texas, which was as segregated as New Orleans. Bechet left the Other Paris to Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder.

We have two early album covers this week. They’re not vinyl LPs, but 10″ shellac albums. The first one dates from 1948 and features a cover by  Jim Flora:

The second ten-incher dates from 1952 and features art by Burt Goldblatt:

Since the albums aren’t online in their entirety, here are two contemporaneous tracks: