Category Archives: Books

The Fog Of MLK Day History

I was among those NOT surprised when a tweet from some bozo in Biloxi “revealed” that today is Great Americans Day in the Magnolia State. White Southern conservatives have long resisted the holiday, massively. At least MLK *was* an American hero even if the Confederates his memory has been erroneously linked to were not.

The social media discussion of the Insult Comedian’s idiotic attack on John Lewis has been deeply shallow. Anyone surprised? I thought not. On the right, Lewis has been called a minor figure in the Civil Rights movement. On the left, I saw multiple tweets referring to him as a King lieutenant. Neither are true: he was a major figure as one of the leaders of SNCC and was often an irritant to MLK’s SCLC. Lewis was an ally, not a lieutenant.

I wish people would consult with Mr. Google so their social media sophistry would have a scintilla of substance. Better yet, read David Halberstam’s The Children to learn more about John Lewis. Shorter Adrastos, put down the smart  phone and read a book.

Happy MLK Day, y’all.

The Fog Of History: Mark Twain On The First Gilded Age

jb_gilded_subj_e

In 1873 Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published a novel called The Gilded Age: A Tale Of Today. It was one of the few times Sam Clemens worked in a band and not as a solo artist. End of tortured musical analogy. The book was not merely a “tale of today,” like much of Twain’s best satire it remains applicable to *our* today.

The Gilded Age was not specifically about the political culture of the era, but the term has come to be associated with the excesses of the one-party pro-plutocratic Republican rule of the postbellum age. I believe that the-ugh-Trump Era will be a New Gilded Age with the Darnold as robber baron-in-chief. We’ve had other Gilded Ages, but I expect the next four years will be among the most corrupt in our history. The fish rots from head, after all, and nobody is rottener than the Insult Comedian. Imagine the stench when the nutria pelt atop his head begins to melt. It’s bound to smell like cotton candy piss.

Pondering the man I insist on calling Sam Clemens (we’re old literary friends and brothers in satire) resulted in a Google search for quotes that are applicable to both his time and our own. History *always* repeats, y’all.

Below are a few Twain nuggets that I have excavated from the recesses of the internet mine. I’m all about tortured analogies today and they’re mine all mine. I am, however, neither a miner nor a 49er and don’t have a daughter named Clementine…

If you think income inequality is a recent phenomenon, Sam begs to differ:

“The external glitter conceals a corrupt political core that reflects the growing gap between the very few rich and the very many poor.”

Twain was the greatest satirist of his time. He was as fond of food analogies as I am:

“The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.”

We’re inclined to think Trump is sui generis to our day and age.  But Sam knew the type only too well:

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. ”

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

The Insult Comedian is not only insulting, he’s an habitual, almost obsessive liar:

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Trump, alas, doesn’t even try to keep his lies straight. He counts on the short-term memory of his followers. It’s what fake populist strong men do.

The next Twain bon mot illuminates the difficult position those of us in the resistance find ourselves in:

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

Nobody likes to admit to getting conned. The country is littered with people who fell for Trumpian flim-flammery. Many are still sleepwalking. It’s going to be ugly when they wake up and realize they’ve been had. Bigly.

Finally, I believe that the best way to undermine this illegitimate mountebank is with ridicule. Who can forget how he attacked SNL after Alec Baldwin nailed his cotton candy piss hair to the wall. Sam is in accord:

“Only laughter can blow [a colossal humbug] to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

Ain’t no bigger humbug that the Insult Comedian. Believe me, he’s a tremendous gasbag.

Welcome to the New Gilded Age.

Vive les Maquis.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Fleming, Ian Fleming

My From Russia With Love post got me thinking about Bond, James Bond and the man who created him. Below are three UK paperback first editions of Fleming’s work via the Book Bond.

Fleming

 

The Son-In-Law Also Rises

md6904011141

Hemingway week here at First Draft continues. If you haven’t read A’s great piece refuting Trump’s ridiculous claim to be the “Hemingway of Twitter” make sure you do so. On with the show, this is it:

As a Greek-American, I know a great deal about nepotism and cronyism. Both have long, uh, greased the wheels of commerce both in the old country and here in ‘Merica. Nepotism is one reason the wheels (there’s that image again) came off the Greek economy a few years ago. It’s not always a bad thing (the Karamanlis, Papandreou, and Venizelos dynasties produced some good leaders) but that’s only if the nepotee is competent and knowledgeable. That’s an open question when it comes to Trump-in-law Jared Kushner.

We know that Kushner did a decent job as the Insult Comedian’s campaign manager/enforcer. That doesn’t mean he’s qualified for a job at the White House since, like most Trumpers, he has no governmental or policy experience. Then there’s the pesky matter of the federal anti-nepotism law passed in response to JFK appointing his kid brother Attorney General. In that instance, Bobby *was* qualified: the bigger problem was having an AG who was a campaign manager. There’s no sign that Kushner has RFK’s moxie and intelligence. He does, however, seem to have the requisite ruthlessness and sharp elbows of RFK.

That brings me to the point of this post. There’s a must read article at NYMAG.com by Andrew Rice about Kushner and his background, power, and influence. His plan is to be one of the last people Trump speaks to when a decision is nigh:

Trump doesn’t really appear to listen to anyone, but he likes to hear a lot of advice. “We have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump said at a December boardroom audience with Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg, and other tech-industry leaders. Yet everyone knew who had played the biggest role in arranging the meeting: Kushner, who sat with his back to the cameras, directly facing the president-elect

Team Trump has come up with a novel argument to ward off the anti-nepotism law:

Trump is relying on an interpretation of the law itself, backed by a court opinion from 1993, as well as a separate provision of federal law from 1978 that allows the president to appoint White House staff “without regard to any other provision of law” dealing with employment.

But several law professors and ethicists interviewed Monday by The Associated Press were not so certain.

A “murky legal landscape” was the description given by Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama’s government ethics lawyer.

If that strategy fails, Kushner’s plan is to defy the law with support from his doting father-in-law. The question arises: why does Kushner need a title and a West Wing office? History is replete with examples of outside advisers with outsize influence on past Oval Ones. Wilson had Col. House. FDR had Felix Frankfurter and a small army of other outside advisers. JFK, of course, had his father until the latter’s stroke. LBJ had Abe Fortas even after he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Fortas had an office in the West Wing that nominally belonged to someone else but he was the big macher in the Johnson White House. More recently, Bill Clinton had Vernon Jordan and Barack Obama didn’t stop listening to David Axelrod after he left his job at the White House. There’s ample precedent for this and no need to stir things up. Of course, that’s the Trumpers specialty: shit stirring.

Kushner’s lust for power isn’t the only thing that makes the incoming regime resemble an old school South American dictatorship. The Insult Comedian has appointed four Generals to senior roles, which is rather reminiscent of the right-wing populist dictator Trump most resembles: Juan Peron. We may all be singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina before this is all over.

Trump is setting the stage for the most openly corrupt administration in American history. His holdings will not be placed in a blind trust, he will not release his tax forms, and his adult male spawn will run his empire. Past administrations at least had the good sense to hide their grifting. Instead the Trumpers will be transparently corrupt and damn proud of it. So much for the much ballyhooed populist uprising. Welcome to the new gilded age.

There are some people in Rice’s article who express hope that Kushner will be a moderating influence on his father-in-law. Given his close relationship with Steve Bannon that sounds like whistling past the graveyard. The only thing that will stop Trump is resistance and relentless ridicule. The Donald does not like being needled. That’s why resisting his legitimacy is so important. Our goal should be to turn him into the Jake Barnes of Presidents: a eunuch tweeting impotently to a world that no longer pays attention.

Vive les Maquis.

 

The Word Of The Day Is Salacious

Unless you live under a rock in an isolated part of Siberia, you’ve heard about the raw intelligence file posted by BuzzFeed. Many reputable news organizations, including Mother Jones, refused to publish it because it’s unverifiable. Slate’s Will Oremus describes how it finally came out after months of teasing:

The dossier was not new. Buzz Feed and multiple other news organizations had obtained it well before Tuesday and had been investigating its various claims. Mother Jones wrote about it prior to the election, on Oct. 31, and published a handful of quotes from it. Key figures in Congress had also seen it and even publicly alluded to it, and the Guardian reported on Tuesday that Sen. John McCain had passed it to FBI Director James Comey last month. But no one had published its entire, stunning contents before Tuesday—partly because, as my colleague Joshua Keating put it, “nothing in the memos has been confirmed, and even their provenance is murky.”

<SNIP>

Smith didn’t address why BuzzFeed waited until now to publish the document, and he declined to comment further for this article. But the move came almost immediately after CNN reported Tuesday that top U.S. intelligence officials had shown Trump and President Obama a two-page synopsis of the dossier. The synopsis was presented as an unofficial appendage to the classified security briefings they gave Obama and Trump about Russian interference in the presidential election, CNN reported. Sources also told CNN that the “Gang of Eight” Congressional leaders had been provided a synopsis of the dossier as well.

In short, the timing was driven by media momentum. It turns out that our old friend FBI Director James Comey has been sitting on the information. He apparently only publicizes unverifiable information about Hillary Clinton.

Twitter was agog last night over the ickiest part of the dossier: Trump’s use of golden showers as a soggy revenge mechanism.  While amusing that was NOT the most important passage of the dossier:

In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years [see more below]. This was confirmed by Source a close associate of TRUMP who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow, and who reported, also in Tune 2016, that this Russian intelligence had been “very helpful”. The Kremlln’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business  deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament, However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ [compromising material] on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and OBAMA {whom he hated] had stayed on one other official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSE control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

I don’t do terlet humor: it’s low-hanging fruit for low-brows. The jokes missed the ominous point of the memo: that the KGB’s successor agency, the FSE, has allegedly been blackmailing Trump because he was stupid and arrogant enough to have hookers pee on a bed the Obamas slept in. Both claims are plausible if disgusting. Trump *is* stupid and arrogant and blackmail has long been used by Russian intelligence as a means of gaining leverage over people. Anyone who has read John LeCarre or watched The Americans knows that. Of course, Trump doesn’t read books and is incapable of sitting still long enough to marvel over Philip’s wigs on the FX show.

I never thought I’d be writing about a President-elect, and peeing Russian hookers. This is the level to which Trump has dragged our national dialogue. I am, however, worried that the publication of the dossier will backfire and make people feel sorry for Trump. He deserves only scorn, not sympathy.

Last night I tweeted this out:

The NYT called the dossier salacious hence the post title. As of this writing, Trump’s first full-blown post-election press conference is still on. I’m skipping it. I’d rather read about it than watch it on the electric teevee machine. Why? After reading the raw intelligence file, I feel like I need delousing. I don’t want to go through that more than once.

‘in the end the age was handed/the sort of shit that it demanded’

The first wounded American from the Italian front arrived yesterday by the steamship Giuseppe Verdi of the Transatlantica Line with probably more scars than any other man in or out of uniform, who defied the shrapnel of the Central Powers.

His wounds might have been much less if he had not been constructed by nature on generous proportions, being more than six feet tall and of ample beam.

He is Ernest M. Hemingway, before the war a reporter for the Kansas City Star, and hailing from Oak Park, Ill.  The surgical chart of his battered person shows 227 marks indicating where bits of a peculiar kind of Austrian shrapnel, about as thick as a .22 caliber bullet and an inch long, like small cuts from a length of wire, smote him.  Some of these bits have been extracted after a dozen or more operations and young Hemingway hopes finally to get them all out, but he still retains a hundred or more.

— The New York Sun, January 22, 1919

What you have to understand about Ernest Hemingway is that the work is the point. The drinking and the shooting and the girls, the big-game hunter persona, the Cult of Hemingway that insists being a loud braggy mess is a creative process, all that gets in the way. Strip it out. Take the myth apart. Stop confusing the person with the fan club. Stop confusing the writer with the person.

Go back to the work.

While the bombardment was knocking the trench to pieces at Fossalta, he lay very flat and sweated and prayed oh jesus christ get me out of here. Dear jesus please get me out. Christ please please please christ. If you’ll only keep me from getting killed I’ll do anything you say. I believe in you and I’ll tell every one in the world that you are the only one that matters. Please please dear jesus. The shelling moved further up the line. We went to work on the trench and in the morning the sun came up and the day was hot and muggy and cheerful and quiet. The next night back at Mestre he did not tell the girl he went upstairs with at the Villa Rossa about Jesus. And he never told anybody.

Ernest Hemingway would be the first person to punch all these losers who think they’re Ernest Hemingway because they got in a fistfight or treat women badly. He got up every single morning and he worked. He wrote every day. He wrote for hours. When his back hurt too badly for him to sit down at a desk, he put his typewriter on top of the dresser so he could write standing up. Most of the poser neckbeards who compare themselves to Hemingway shit themselves when their local bar runs out of craft moonshine.

There’s a part of A Moveable Feast where Hemingway is working in a Paris café. A fanboy comes in, sits down, starts talking to Hemingway about how hard it is being a writer, about how he has this terrible writer’s block and he believes in himself as a writer but he can’t actually, you know, write anything.

And after about 15 minutes of listening to this guy whinge about the great book we all know he’s not going to write, Hemingway finally tells him to go to hell. “You shouldn’t write if you can’t write. What do you have to cry about it for? Go home. Get a job. Hang yourself. Only don’t talk about it. You could never write.”

He hated bullshit. He hated his own bullshit the most.

I get so enraged about this because this is something I know a little bit about. I was taught to hate Hemingway the way most of us are, by having The Old Man and the Sea forced on me in high school. And I learned to love Hemingway by finding a cheap copy of The Sun Also Rises in a used-book store in college and reading about rootlessness and recklessness at a time when such things seemed very real. I devoured everything he wrote. The brilliant early journalism, the short stories, the brutal bad novels of his later years when, hobbled by the electric shock treatment intended to treat his depression, he could no longer trust his memory.

He went to war as a teenager. He volunteered for it. The U.S. wasn’t even in World War I when Hemingway left his home and friends and family and everything he’d ever known and offered to drive canteen trucks and deliver mail and chocolate to the front.

He already wanted to be a writer. He wrote terrible poetry and very good journalism for his high school paper and later for the Kansas City Star. He wanted to travel. There are these photographs of him, before the war, when he looks like any other kid his age, desperate to get out into the world and take a big bite out of it.

There are these photographs of him after the war. After the world bit back. After 227 pieces of shrapnel tore through his body. He carried that metal until he died. He spent the rest of his life in physical pain.

You’d never know it from the story he created about himself, the swashbuckling, the show-off adventuring, would you? You’d never know it if you only know his story and not his stories.

So for a man like Donald Trump to act like Ernest Hemingway would have done anything but punch him in the face, would have done anything but told him to fuck off and shut up and never write anything again, for a man like Donald Trump to compare himself to Ernest Hemingway or say that anyone would have done so, let’s just say it’s profoundly unlikely.

One of Hemingway’s poems, however, does seem uniquely suited to our present political situation:

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.
The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.
The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.
And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.

A.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Man In The High Castle

31986403001_980315cf92

I’ve never read Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novel but I’ve always heard good things about it. The Man In The High Castle seems eerily prescient given that the best case scenario for the next President is for him to be the American Silvio Berlusconi. As to the worst case, I don’t want to go there right now.

I discovered the photo montage below via 8 Clicks From Nowhere. Thanks y’all. Hmm, I wonder if that makes me the Nowhere Man John Lennon went on about. Probably not. I definitely have a point of view. End of bullshit barrage, on with the montage:

31237286354_d6f5d1fa5f_z

Dr. A and I have been binge watching the Amazon series. I highly recommend it. I’ll even grade it: B+, 3 1/2 stars, and an Ebertian thumbs up.

31930199432_3038405b77

Before the release of season-one, Amazon pulled a promotional stunt that blew up in their corporate face.  It made the public go “Heil, no.” Here’s the pictorial evidence.

32039698446_de22b459c9

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Best Of Adrastos 2016

Nighthawks

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

It’s time to take a look back at 2016. It may be an exercise in egotism but it’s mine, all mine. Last year’s best of Adrastos was a top thirty list, this year we have a plus-one. Sounds like a dinner party, doesn’t it? It’s time to belly-up to the buffet…

2016 was a good year for satire, but a terrible year for the country. And I was a better pundit than prognosticator. So it goes.

Here’s this year’s crop of posts in chronological order:

January 7, 2016: The Fog Of History: The Wallace Factor.

January 16, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: Black Tie White Noise.

February 27, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: All The Things You Are.

March 28, 2016: The Fog Of Historical Pictures: Grace Coolidge’s Pet Raccoon.

March 28, 2016: Charles Foster Kane Meets Donald Trump.

March 31, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: John Milkovich (Not Malkovich)

April, 18, 2016: Oy, Such A Mentor

April 21, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: Jeff Weaver.

May 7, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: They All Laughed.

May 18, 2016: Speaking In Dudebromides.

June 3, 2016: Trump Violates The First Rule Of Litigation.

June 13, 2016: Still Comfortably Numb Revisited.

June 29, 2016: A Fatal Lack Of Cunning & Guile.

July 11, 2016: Jill Stein: Crunchy Granola Machiavelli.

July 29, 2016 DNC Wrap Up Finale: She Won’t Stay Throwed.

August 18, 2016: Heckuva Job, Advocate.

August 18, 2016: The Insult Comedian’s Not For Turning.

August 22, 2016: Every Flim-Flam Man Needs A Sucker.

September 8, 2016: Is Trump Really Running For Grand Nagus?

September 17, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: Birdland.

October 4, 2016: Instant Analysis: The Debate As Altman Film.

October 6, 2016: Absence Of Malice.

October 10, 2016: Breitbart-Bannon-Bossie Man.  Bloggers Note: This post was included by Batocchio in the Jon Swift Roundup 2016. 

October 17, 2016: Moe’s Wife Blames Larry.

November 2, 2016: Out Of Control FBI Playing By The Clinton Rules.

November 10, 2016: Sitting Political Shiva.

November 11, 2016: Confessions Of A Keyboard Maquis.

November 16, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: New Orleans Baby Cakes.

November 17, 2016: The Most Dangerous Game. 

December 1, 2016: Louisiana Politics: A Terrible Candidate For Terrible Times.

December 12, 2016: Hayes/Smith: Only Victims.

That’s it for 2016. It’s been a tough year but we’re still alive and kicking. I’ll give the last word to two guys we’re really going to miss:

obama-kerry-meme

 

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: High Priest Of California

A lechery cult in California? I thought the Trumpers wanted to ignore those votes. They might have to reconsider their hostility to California since a lechery cult is bound to appeal to the Insult Comedian.

high-priest-of-california-a

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Office Party

My friend Kevin sent me pulpy holiday greetings. I’m sharing them with y’all:

f7363c40f404e59dcc2c6c6b4350bd59

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Lady, That’s My Skull

This week’s entry has a clunky title but who among us can resist a head in a box?

955d52c787a38f7f5056d8471b30f883

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Drums Of Destiny

I’m not sure what the tagline “lusty nights in old Haiti” has to do with drums but it sounds like an enticing destiny.

pop_237

 

 

 

 

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Billy Liar

I’ve had mendacity on my mind this week. That brings me to Keith Waterhouse’s Billy Liar. Billy is a British “post-war babe” fantasist. He’s Walter Mitty for his time and place. Like Mitty, he’s more benign than the Trump Tower liar.

Billy Liar was a huge success when it came out in 1959 and remains in print to this very day. Below are two paperback editions:

b9febfb3e9ebdc5fc66bfd986b5636ed9780241973646

Quite naturally, the book was adapted for the stage. The original West End production starred the great Albert Finney as Billy.

712554

The 1963 film version of Billy Liar was helmed by John Schlesinger who later won an Oscar for Midnight Cowboy. Finney was otherwise engaged so Tom Courtenay played Billy. It’s a must-see movie classic.

30512778913_356aabc7c8

The property had legs as it was made into a Teevee series and the West End musical, Billy.

Here’s the trailer:

Finally, Billy Liar has provided the inspiration for some pretty darn good rock bands.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Thursday Turkey Day Murders

As urban commie pinkos, we here at First Draft believe in recycling. This post is a rerun from last Thanksgiving with some musical lagniappe at the end:

If your crazy right-wing Uncle who watches too much Fox News goes off on you today, please do not re-enact this book.

How about some cheesecake for dessert?

Thursday Thanksgiving Murders

When I promise lagniappe, I mean it. So does Elvis Costello:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Stranger In A Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land struck a chord when it was first published. It still had legs when I was a tadpole. I was not the only annoying kid who used “grok” instead of “understand.” I hope y’all grok what I’m saying.

30970617996_76d0ac2cf59aeb2f32211ebbe417ce280139a260c9

I have an ulterior motive for posing Stranger In A Strange Land. The great rock pianist Leon Russell borrowed the title for one of his best songs. Leon died the other day at 74. He was a genuine original. He will be missed.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Just One Victory

FDR-LEHMAN

1932 New York  poster in support of Democrats Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Lehman.

We begin this week’s misadventure with a New Orleans weather report: we just experienced the warmest October in recorded history. And it’s still too bloody, buggery, bollocky hot. It’s making me hot under the blue-collar or white-collar for that matter. Rumor has it that a cool front is on the way. Let’s hope so: I am ready to turn the AC off.

Election Day looms and Clinton supporters are as nervous as that proverbial long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I’m uncertain of the origin of that countrified terms but I’ve always liked it. I thought we needed some rural contrast to the urban 1932 campaign poster that’s this week’s featured image. FYI: Lehman was running to succeed FDR as Governor.

A quick reminder: if our people vote we will spare the country the awful prospect of a Trump Presidency. Let’s not go from hope to grope, y’all. Just as important is electing a Democratic Senate. The GOP is vowing unprecedented obstruction and the first woman President needs a Senate that has her back even if the FBI is trying to stab her in it. Comey PAC will have to be dealt with later. End of yet another pep talk.

This week’s theme song is one of Todd Rundgren’s most anthemic tunes, Just One Victory. It first appeared on Todd’s modestly titled 1973 LP A Wizard, A True Star. It has long been a staple of his live shows, frequently as a set closer or encore. I’m posting it this week to inspire the First Draft base or some such shit. We begin with the original version complete with onscreen lyrics:

The next number is a bit of a cheat. It comes from a 1981 Utopia show wherein the boys in the band all wore camouflage before it was trendy. Todd always gets there before the rest of us. Holy avant-garde, Batman.

The aforementioned cheat is that it’s a medley of the theme song with one of Todd’s loveliest mid-tempo ballads, Love Is The Answer. What better antidote to Trumpism than love lovely love? You’ll have to click on the YouTube icon and watch it there for copyright reasons. It’s no big whoop.

I’m keeping things relatively brief this week. I know: famous last words but I mean it. We’re going to dispense with the break and dive right in. I’m not sure if we’ll be in the deep or shallow end. I’ll let you decide.

Our first segment is one of the best things I’ve read about the Trump phenomenon from a literary and cultural perspective. Yeah, I know: the Insult Comedian doesn’t read books but Slate’s Rebecca Onion does.

Bad Boys: In an article entitled No Girls Allowed Ms. Onion posits, as explained by the sub-header, that “America’s persistent preference for brash boys over “sivilizing” women fuelled the candidacy of Donald Trump.” That’s a mouthful but Onion delivers on her promise. In short, it’s a properly caramelized onion, not a raw one. Tic-Tacs are not necessary.

The Insult Comedian may not recognize the names Natty Bumppo or Huck Finn but he’s the latest in a long line of bad, bad boys that for good or ill have influenced our culture. Here are some excerpts from Onion’s eye wateringly brilliant piece:

Donald Trump is a baby; a child. Like a child, he whines, seeks attention, and throws tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. It’s appropriate that the Access Hollywood tape takes place on a bus, since it captures Trump and Billy Bush acting like pubescent boys making their way to the seventh grade. Addressing her husband’s comments on that tape in a recent interview, Melania Trump dismissed the Trump-Bush conversation as “boy talk.” She joked that she sometimes feels like she has two children at home: Barron, age 10, and her husband, age 70.

<SNIP>

The belief in the incompatibility of violent, honest, and vigorous manhood, which is at its purist form in boyhood, with mannerly, educated, well-governed civilization is threaded through our cultural history. James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, published between 1823 and 1841, were among the first popular American novels. The Tales star Natty Bumppo, a man raised by Delaware Indians who chooses to live forever outside of civilized society—a boy for life. Bumppo straddles the boundary between white (civilized, in Cooper’s cosmology) and Native (free and vital, but “savage” and doomed). Despite his rough edges, Bumppo is well-educated and intelligent, but he can never marry, settle down, and have a family; he must continually flee west, looking for a place where progress has not yet reached.

<SNIP>

Trump represents himself as one of the only people in American politics who has been able to retain this uncommitted, honest [boyish] quality. Think of him on Howard Stern’s radio show, casually judging women’s bodies, or his inability—his unwillingness—to stay on message, routinely defying even the rules his own advisers try to impose to keep his campaign on course; he is not prisoner to his consciousness, or anyone’s. The candidate’s outspokenness is precious to his supporters, who see it as trustworthiness; as one, interviewed by CBS in September, explained, Trump “says the things that need to be said … about the truth that nobody else says.”

Talk about style over substance. What the Insult Comedian does is lie while sounding blunt and candid. Repeat after me: he’s a flim-flam man.

Onion’s tour de force looks at Emerson, Twain, Kerouac, Playboy Magazine, and movies such as Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One. In that famous biker flick, a townie asks Marlon Brando’s character, “What are you rebelling against?” His response:

Brando Wild One

Heaven help us if the baddest bad boy of them all becomes President in 2017. Even fellow bad boy Howard Stern takes a dim view of that prospect. He’s supporting Hillz.

Before moving on to the next segment, a brief musical interlude:

Pop-Culture Conspiracy Theories: New York Magazine has been on a roll this year as has its pop-culture site, Vulture. There’s a fabulous piece there by Adam Raymond:  The 70 Greatest Conspiracy Theories in Pop-Culture History. It’s a multi-generational mega-list that’s well worth your time. I was familiar with many of them (Macca is dead, woo) and unfamiliar with others. This is perhaps the most far-fetched of all:

John Lennon, killed by Stephen King

Or maybe Chapman was a “paid patsy,” hired to take the fall for Lennon’s real murderer — Stephen King. That’s the argument made on LennonMurderTruth.com by a man who says Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and King conspired to kill the peace-loving rock legend. The evidence is in “government codes” printed in newspapers and magazines. The famous photo showing Lennon signing an album with Chapman lurking on the edge of the frame actually shows King. But why would King do it? Steve Lightfoot, the mastermind of this theory doesn’t seem to have an answer for that. But as his van says, “It’s true, or he’d sue.”

I did not know that. I do know that people can convince themselves of almost anything. The need to explain the inexplicable is part of the human genome. That’s a fancy way of saying that paranoia has always been with us. It has even inspired a few hit songs FWIW:

Let’s move from the convoluted to the earthy. Literally, not figuratively, as Joey the Shark would surely say at this point.

Dig This Story: I’m on the record as a fan of CBS Sunday Morning. I really dig it, especially this story by Mark Strassman about Everard Hall of Milbridge, Maine who has been digging graves for 49 years.

I really dig Mainers. And no Stephen King did NOT kill John Lennon. Everybody knows that Holden Caulfield did it…

It’s time to move on and dig a different kind of Graves.

Nick Nolte As Graves: I’ve always been a big fan of Nick Nolte. He’s a tremendous actor who kicked around the bush leagues for many years before making it big. In fact, my favorite cousin, Tina, acted with him in little theatre productions in Phoenix, Arizona long before it became a swing state. She liked him. Of course, she likes everyone, even me.

Anyway, America’s favorite gravel voiced leathery-skinned actor is back in a new comedy series on EPIX, Graves. I didn’t even know I had this cable channel but I’m glad I do. I really dig Graves.

Nolte plays former President Richard Graves, a conservative icon. A pundit dubbed him the “worst President ever,” so he reassesses his legacy and moves left. Hilarity ensues.

Nolte is fabulous as is Sela Ward as the former FLOTUS and family voice of reason.

Dig this trailer:

If you get a chance to see Graves, please do so. You’ll laugh your ass off.  Figuratively, not literally. It’s even inspired me to revive my Nick Nolte impression. I will do it at the drop of a hat. Dr. A urges you to keep your hat on your head…

Let’s move from the ridiculous to the sublime. It’s time to play in Traffic.

Saturday Classic: The first side of the original Traffic LP, John Barleycorn Must Die, is one of the best sides ever recorded. All three songs-Glad, Freedom Rider, and Empty Pages-have become staples of Steve Winwood’s live shows. I’m Glad they are.

That’s it for this week.  I expect we’ll be celebrating next Tuesday like we did in Philly this summer. It will be hard to top the balloon drop.

Balloon drop meme

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Case Of The Dancing Sandwiches

It’s national sandwich day hence this book cover:

1fdfdd5b8bdaa9444fea9e157b50919f

As a New Orleanian, this day makes me ponder the eternal question: what can a Poor Boy do?

Quote Of The Day: Ron Rosenbaum Edition

Ron Rosenbaum is one of my favorite long-form journalists of all time. His 1998 book Explaining Hitler is a brilliant look at those who have tried to explain the Nazi phenomenon from Allen Bullock to Hugh Trevor-Roper to Lucy Dawidowicz to Claude Lanzmann, and even the dread David Irving.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in political, cultural, and intellectual history. I re-read sections of it after seeing Denial.

The quote comes from a sidebar to Frank Rich’s brilliant New York Magazine cover story, Trump’s Appeasers. Rosenbaum was asked about the Hitler-Trump comparisons:

What do we learn from the effort to understand Trump as Hitler?

People ask me if there is a comparison to Trump, and of course the main difference is murder. Hitler was genuinely genocidal, and I see Trump more as a clownish fool, the WWE entertainment guy, rather than someone who has the power of hatred inside of him. On the other hand, how can you know? The journalist Julia Ioffe became a target of Trump’s supporters on social media, and what they did seemed to be crossing a Rubicon. The hideousness of the anti-Semitic cartoons—pictures of Jews being shot, of Ioffe being loaded into an oven—brought out a murderousness that I had not imagined was there.

So, the really big question is, was Trump summoning up these visions or, once he found they were there, did he decide to ride that row? Were we learning something new about him? Was he learning something new about himself? It’s similar to the comments by him about David Duke. It would have been so easy to go, “Oh, I can’t—these guys who support me, I have nothing to do with them.” But he wouldn’t. And his daughter is Jewish! I don’t think he knowingly said, “Okay, part of my campaign strategy is to get these vicious, murderous racists to mobilize my campaign.” But the fact that he was willing to take advantage of it is very telling.

Trump’s been a magnet for Hitler ­analogies. Are those comparisons clarifying at all, or always distractions?

I want to say both. Distracting because the disproportion is so great between what Trump has done and what Hitler did. And people are always using Hitler to prove their mandate, to say this or that validates their vision of politics. But on some level Trump does show a charismatic talent—you see it at some of the rallies. Part of the question up in the air is a paradox that traces back to Socrates: No man is capable of causing great evil without thinking he’s doing the right thing.

An interesting take from a man who knows his stuff, which is refreshing in this era of instant experts. Make sure you read Rich’s entire piece wherein he compares Trump and Charles Lindbergh. America First, yo.

Saturday Odds & Sods: My Back Pages

Monument Valley

John Ford View Of Monument Valley by Louis Dallara.

I have been fixated on the Presidential election and the World Series so I haven’t got any local tidbits to share this week. Shame on me.

When this post hits the internet, I will be at Tipitina’s with my sweetie seeing the Jayhawks. I cannot report on the show because I’m writing this beforehand. It makes me feel like a time traveler, which, given my obsession with the Wayback Machine, seems appropriate. I may have to bone up on the Back to the Future movies now that time travel is my thing. It’s a pity that my wife is a sane scientist, not a mad one, but one can’t have everything..

This week’s theme song was written by Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan. I never thought I’d write that phrase but I just did. The whole farce between Dylan and the Nobel committee is one of the funniest things since A Day At The Races: Get-a your tootsie frootsie ice-a cream. Dylan is likely to reject the award: it’s a pity he can’t send George C Scott or Marlon Brando to accept it on his behalf. Now *that* would be funny: bring on the award rejecters to accept the Nobel fucking prize. I do wish Dylan would accept the prize money and donate it to a worthy cause like, say, my cats…

Back to the theme song. I like Dylan as a songwriter but I’m not a fan of his singing, which is probably why I chose these versions of My Back Pages. The first one is from Bobfest in 1993. Dylan sings a verse but so do Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison.

The best known version of My Back Pages is by the Byrds from their 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday. Ain’t nothing quite like the sound of McGuinn’s twangy 12-string guitar and Byrdsy harmonies:

“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” are words to live by at least until the break. After that all bets are off.

Continue reading

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Hombre

Pulp Fiction Thursday goes to the Old West today, inspired by the Insult Comedian’s “bad hombres” line at the final debate. Time for an early musical interlude:

Elmore Leonard is best known as one of the greatest crime fiction writers of all-time. He got his start writing Westerns: Hombre is one of the best of the bunch, m’am.

30523109446_3030c29171_o

Hombre was made into a 1967 movie starring Paul Newman. It’s pretty darn good. It’s showing on TCM on November,5th. It’s worth a look as are these images:

mpw-55677

hombre_ver2

It’s trailer time: