Category Archives: Books

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Smuggled Atom Bomb

Now that’s a hot babe on the cover. In fact, she’s a bombshell.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Scrambled Yeggs

I’d never heard of Richard S. Prather or his Shell Scott detective novels. They turned out to be wildly successful. Who knew? Not me.

It looks as if the bushy-browed shamus is trying out for the Krewe of Spank:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Halloween Tree

It’s time for a seasonal book cover. The Halloween Tree is a 1972 fantasy novel that Ray Bradbury later adapted for an animated teevee flick. The cover is by Bradbury’s frequent collaborator Joseph Mugnaini.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Lover Of The Bayou

Photograph by CC Lockwood.

Fall has fallen. We finally had a week of temptingly temperate temperatures. Unfortunately, it’s oak pollen season, which means I’ve been wheezier than Weezer or Isabel Sanford who played Louise (Weezy) Jefferson on the electronic teevee machine back in the day. Where have you gone George Jefferson? Achoo.

It’s the week after the primary election and the Mayoral  run-off campaign is mostly bubbling under the surface. There was some horrible news involving third-place finisher Michael Bagneris. His daughter, Mia, was hit by a drunk driver while exiting her car after attending her father’s election eve soiree. Since New Orleans is the world’s largest small town, we have several friends in common. Her injuries were severe but it appears that she’ll make it. It’s going to be a long recovery. Best wishes to the Bagneris family. Drunk drivers are the worst.

This week’s theme song was written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy. It has an interesting history. I’ll let the Wikpedia entry for the Byrds album (Untitled) fill you in:

For most of 1969, The Byrds’ leader and guitarist, Roger McGuinn, had been developing a country rock stage production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt with former psychologist and Broadway impresario Jacques Levy.[16] The musical was to be titled Gene Tryp, an anagram of the title of Ibsen’s play, and would loosely follow the storyline of Peer Gynt with some modifications to transpose the action from Norway to south-west America during the mid-19th century.[5] The musical was intended as a prelude to even loftier plans of McGuinn’s to produce a science-fiction film, tentatively titled Ecology 70 and starring former Byrd Gram Parsons (no relation to Gene) and ex-member of The Mamas & the PapasMichelle Phillips, as a pair of intergalactic flower children.[12] Ultimately, Gene Tryp was abandoned and a handful of the songs that McGuinn and Levy had written for the project would instead see release on (Untitled) and its follow-up, Byrdmaniax.[4]

I told you it was a long story. We have two versions for your enjoyment, the original live Byrds version and a cover by Mudcrutch, which was Tom Petty’s original band brought back to life in 2008. Holy reanimation, Batman.

That concludes our trip to the bayou or does it? You’ll find out after we jump to the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Dunwich Horror

All Hallows Eve approaches, which means it’s time for an H.P. Lovecraft cover:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Ghostly Hoofbeats

Here’s a two-fer: a Western ghost story. Yup. Boo.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Gambler’s Girl

This cover was designed and executed by the noted illustrator Rudi Nappi. He obviously skipped the Nappi and was wide awake when he did this one. I dig the little men on poker chips hanging out with the chick who looks like Lana Turner.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tenderness On The Block

Surrealism and Painting by Max Ernst.

It’s still too darn hot in New Orleans and the municipal election drones on like annoying background music. I should be more engaged but (with the exception of Frank Scurlock’s malakatude)  it’s duller than tarnished silver. Hopefully, the run-off will be more interesting.

There is an interesting political story happening next door in Jefferson Parish. I wrote about Parish President Mike Yenni’s perv issues in this space last year. Yenni survived a recall attempt and is clinging to office. One sign that he doesn’t expect to be re-elected is that he’s spent over $200K  to redo his office to make it look like George W. Bush’s Oval Office. I am not making this up.

I hope Mike doesn’t get a Yenni to invade Arabi in nearby St. Bernard Parish. There’s enough weird shit happening in Da Parish already y’all.

This week’s theme song is Warren Zevon’s Tenderness On The Block. I have a confession: I like Shawn Colvin’s 1992 cover even more since it features my homeys, the Subdudes:

Speaking of subdued, I’m feeling that way this week because of Oscar’s illness so I’m going to keep this snappy. So snappy, in fact, that I’m skipping the break and jumping in with both feet or something like that.

My Anglophilia is in bloom this week so we begin with a hilarious piece by the Guardian’s Marina Hyde about the recent Labour Party conference in Brighton. I dig the headline; here it is in its exuberant entirety:

Oh Jeremy Corbyn. I Bet You Think This Song Is About You: The reason I love the Guardian so much is the quality of the writing. They let their funny people be funny. Ain’t nobody funnier than  Marina Hyde:

If you are a political archivist, there are two seriously covetable gigs in the world right now. The first is conceptualising the unprecedented annals facility that will one day be the Donald Trump Presidential Library. The second is collating the many different euphemisms for the Labour party having not won the recent general election.

At party conference in Brighton, you gotta catch ’em all. “We didn’t lose,” Emily Thornberry declared. “The real losers were the Tories.” At Momentum’s parallel event, the official literature noted that Labour had “witnessed possibility being snatched from the jaws of disaster”. In the conference hall proper, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey elicited a huge cheer for “the biggest narrowing of the polls in British electoral history”.

My favorite bit was about the folks from Momentum, which is a hard left pressure group made up of British dudebros:

Momentum gets a lot of stick for a certain strain of its needling – branding people “centrist dads” and so on. But it rather reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Bart inquires of a man: “I’m Bart Simpson – who the hell are you?” “I’m Dave Shutton,” comes the stuffy reply, “an investigative reporter who’s on the road a lot, and I must say that in our day we didn’t talk like that to our elders.” “Well, this is my day,” shrugs Bart, “and we do.” And so with many of Momentum’s in-jokes – there is something Bartishly irreverent and invigorating about them, and pants ought not to be wet in response. All the grownuppery was far more off-putting, anyway. Emily Thornberry kept insisting Labour were “the grownups”, while Keir Starmer echoed that the party was “the grownups in the room”.

It’s unclear as to whether Labour’s performance in the late election was a real political shift or a massive anti-Tory protest vote. I lean in the second direction: many of the new, younger Labour voters are passionate “remainers” whereas Corbyn’s inner circle are soft-Brexiteers. It will be interesting to see what happens when UK voters go to the polls believing that it’s possible for Corbyn to be their next Prime Minister. I threw away my crystal ball on 11/9/2016 so I make no predictions. Stay tuned.

We remain in England (not the EU) for our next segment, which is about one of the more sympathetic royals, the Queen’s late kid sister Princess Margaret.

Princess Margaret’s Misadventures In Bohemia: I’ve long had sympathy for Margaret because she’s one of the few people my main man Gore Vidal never said anything catty about. Hell, Gore even mocked people he liked and admired but not Princess Margaret. He felt sorry for her and admired her snooty wit. Gore was always big on snooty wit.

The Guardian has published a fascinating excerpt from a book by Craig Brown about Margaret, Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret. I knew that she hung out with the Rolling Stones when they were at their most hedonistic but I did not know that Pablo Picasso was madly in love with the Princess and hoped to marry her. I am not letting the catty cat out of the bag by telling you this never happened. Picasso may have not been a surrealist artist but he was a surrealist in everyday life.

I’ve had Puerto Rico on mind since Hurricane Maria. I posted a series of pictures of great Puerto Rican baseball players on Twitter, which led to this list, which is strictly for baseball history buffs but what can I say? It’s made up of players who were born on the island.

Adrastos’ Puerto Rico All-Star Team

1B: Orlando Cepeda.

2B: Roberto Alomar.

SS: Jose Valentin.

3B: Mike Lowell.

OF: Roberto Clemente, Carlos Beltran, Bernie Williams.

DH: Carlos Delgado.

C: Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez.

Starting Pitchers:  RH:Javier Vasquez. LH: Juan Pizarro.

Relievers:  RH:Roberto Hernandez.  LH: Willie Hernandez. No relation.

The outfielders, catchers, and first basemen were the toughest position to winnow down. Pitching, however, is not a strength. So it goes.

That concludes this tribute to Puerto Rican baseball. Let’s go back to woody old England.

Saturday Classic: Steeleye Span were one of the bands who helped create British folk rock. Parcel of Rogues was one of the albums that emphasized the rock part of the equation. As always, Maddy Prior’s vocals are sublime.

That’s it for this week. I wrote about Ripper Street last week. This time around I’ll give the last word to the cast in their Victorian finery:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Ant Men

It’s pre-historic monster time here at First Draft.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: House Of Storm

I went a googling and came up with this 1949 book by Mignon Eberhardt. I like that she had a French first name and a German surname. It makes her sound surprisingly fancy for a writer from Nebraska.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy

From Rock Dreams by Guy Peellaert.

We’re in the throes of our annual autumnal tease in New Orleans. Summer isn’t over yet but the lower humidity is a sign that the end is nigh. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to enjoy it since I’ve had a bug that left me woozy and congested all week. So it goes.

I’ve got nothing to complain about since Hurricane Irma is going to Florida. I always feel faintly ghoulish at this time of year. It’s not that I *want* a storm to hit Florida or Texas, I just don’t want one to visit Southeast Louisiana. I have friends in South Florida and my thoughts are with them whether they’re evacuating or hunkering. Be careful out there, y’all.

A quick note about the featured image. It comes from a 1973 coffee table book with art by Guy Peellaert and text by Nik Cohn. I chose it because it’s Hopperish: Edward, not Dennis. Rock Dreams was quite the rage when I was a young rock fan; so much so that somebody stole the book from me not long after I moved out of my parents house. Another Rock Dreams image will turn up later but not the one with the Rolling Stones as SS officers. Oy just oy.

We’re back in almost identical title/different song territory this week. Ray Davies and the Kinks and Paul Rodgers and Bad Company offer their own takes as to what a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy is. I love both songs but if I have to choose, my money is on Ray. Sorry, Paul.

The Kinks got there first so we begin with A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy from 1977’s Misfits album:

Bad Company’s less morose Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy comes from 1979’s Desolation Angels.

If you’re thinking that this week’s focus is music, you get a cookie. I’m not sure what kind but probably one with lots of nuts because Odds & Sods is a nutty feature. We’ll go from nuts to soup after the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Savage Breed

The tagline says it all:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Shabby Street

I don’t know about you but I don’t even want to stroll down Shabby Street let alone live there.

Remember my Kinks song theorem? It applies here. I believe Shabby Street is located in Sleazy Town. Welcome.

 

 

The Fog Of History: There Is No Such Thing As White Culture

I’m never certain as to whether white nationalists live in a fantasy world or a fugue state. They talk about a world that never existed with absolute certainty, which means they’re absolutely wrong. They filter everything through their warped ideology and it ends up sounding like they’ve followed Alice into the rabbit hole; a reference many of them would not get. The only Alice they know is the zany maid on The Brady Bunch. Why? They believe in white culture, and what’s whiter than the bloody, buggery, bollocky Brady Bunch?

American white nationalists like to speak in buzz words and epithets. They have a label for everyone and everything. I’m not sure what they’d call me: liberal internet snarkmeister comes to mind. One label they insist of affixing to everything is white culture. They’re a little vague as to exactly what they mean by this. High European culture? Bach was into fugues, after all. End of feeble attempt to make a fugue state pun. Do they mean American pop culture? I haven’t the foggiest and, in the end, neither do they. They’re as coherent as the President they so admire.

Speaking of cultural M*A*S*H-ups,  I’m reminded of Radar’s attempt to be cultured:

The cleverer white nationalists like to contrast African and Asian cultures unfavorably with that of Europe. They almost sound like EU fetishists when they go on about European music, literature, and history. Of course, their version sounds very little like the agreed upon facts and more like delusions. It’s always fun to see if they know how much of European high culture was the work of Jewish artists such as Gustav Mahler, his conversion notwithstanding.  They probably think Mahler has something to do with the postal service…

The vast majority of white nationalists only have a vague idea of what could be called Eurocentric culture. They call it white culture, which is something that does not exist. There is Polish culture, English culture, French culture, German culture and on and on and on. There is no such thing as a culture based on skin color, which is is a granfalloon on steroids. There are sub-cultures influenced by one’s ethnicity but there is no such thing as white culture.

American white nationalist bigots have been with us a long time. They used to belong to xenophobic groups like the Know-Nothing party and the 1920’s iteration of the KKK who were rabidly anti-Catholic. Today’s white nationalists have dropped the anti-papist rhetoric in favor of ranting about black and brown people and that old standby, the Jews. It’s an easier sell to the Trump base some of whom are Catholics who skipped the cafeteria stage…

One thing I’ve noticed in my time as a political observer is that we no longer hear much about pols seeking the votes of European ethnic groups. It used to be a big deal to go after, say, the Polish vote in Chicago, the Irish vote in Boston, the Italian vote in New York, the pan-Slavic vote in Cleveland, and the German vote in Milwaukee. That’s a radical oversimplification that leaves out many groups but it’s still pertinent to what passes for analysis in this piece.

People don’t seem to identify as much with their ethnic background as they once did. As someone who does, I’ll often ask someone if their last name is, say, Croatian. It used to be that everyone knew the root of their names but that’s increasingly less common. I guess the whole assimilation thing is working. Those European ethnic groups all had their baggage and discrete and insular prejudices but it was healthier for one to identify as, say, Polish than white.  It’s the difference between a karass and a granfalloon in Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional faith Bokononism. It may be the time for a Bokononist revival. Anyone game? At the very least, we should all read Cat’s Cradle the book from whence Bokononism sprang.

The next time someone mentions white culture as being bound up with Confederate monuments, just shake your head and walk away. I, too, am tempted to argue with them but it’s as futile as  arguing with one of the Robert E. Lee statues that are being taken down across the country. It’s a pity that they’ve settled upon harmful lies as opposed to the Bokononist idea of foma, which are:  “…harmless untruths; lies that, if used correctly, can be useful.” That’s another term for a white lie which exist whereas white culture does not.

Repeat after me: white culture does not exist, and white nationalism is the ultimate granfalloon.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: William S. Burroughs

It’s linkage week here at First Draft. Yesterday, I posted an album cover by a band whose name was taken from a novel by William S. Burroughs, The Soft Machine. Today, we have three-count ’em three-pulpilicous covers of Burroughs books concluding with The Soft Machine.

Junkie was published under a rather dull pseudonym, William Lee. It was an extremely daring book for 1953. Its publication was not a howling success despite Allen Ginsberg’s role in publishing and publicizing the book.

Naked Lunch was published in 1959. It was Burroughs’ breakthrough book. The beats were bopping by that time. Naked Lunch famously inspired the name of one of my favorite bands, Steely Dan. It was the name of a dildo.

The Soft Machine was published in 1961 and has a classier cover than his earlier books.

It’s time to jump into my soft machine and eat junkie food for my naked lunch. I should apologize for that groaner but when did I ever issue a pun-pology?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Hangman’s Whip

It’s time for another fine cover from master pulp artist Rudolph Belarski:

Survivor’s Guilt Flashback

We had another weather event last Saturday. Parts of New Orleans got 8+ inches of rain in three hours. The rain was random and much worse in parts of the city leading to some flooding in the affected areas. Adrastos World HQ got 2 inches that day so we were fine.

Some of the post-rain incident discussion has danced on my last nerve. It’s not analogous to Katina/Federal Flood in that it didn’t impact 80% of the city and nobody died. It’s also less clear as of this writing that human error was a major factor as it was in 2005.  The human factor may have caused some problems around the edges but that sort of deluge is going to wreak havoc no matter how well prepared we are. Sometimes shit just happens. This was one of my initial reactions on social media:

There was much lively debate and disagreement on the thread but I remain convinced that we have to learn how to live with water in New Orleans as the Dutch have. We need cleaner catch basins and better infrastructure but severe weather is going to happen, particularly in the age of climate change. This was a random freak event and there will be more to come.

This is not the first non-hurricane/levee break style flood the city has had. It won’t be the last. One of my FB commenters, Carlos Froggy May, posted this list on the thread:

Summarizing between May ’78 and the 2005 Federal Flood, leaving out hurricanes/major tropical storms, New Orleans floods from rain alone include:

May 1978. Well documented.

Feb 1979. “Hundreds of Area Homes Flooded. New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7 February 1979 I”

April 1980. A few references.

April 1983. Major event. National media reporting.

June 1991. National media, though only sparse traces online. “The deluge, which started during the evening rush hour Monday, caught New Orleans by surprise. The downpour abated overnight, then resumed Tuesday morning.” “To have it flood two separate times in 24 hours is just unheard of,” said Rob Spangenberg, who measured 16 inches of water on the ground floor of his house.”

May 1995. Major event, very well documented online.

September 1998. Described.

June 2005. Seems largely forgotten given what happened a few months later. What have I missed?

Any time someone insists that people can triumph over nature, I think of a passage in one of Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn novels. Leaphorn is a detective on the Navajo tribal police in Arizona. I wish I could quote it directly but it involves Leaphorn marveling at white people planting lawns in the desert and being shocked when they die every time they’re planted. Hillerman’s point is that you have to learn to live with your environment. You can sand down the rough edges and minimize damage but nature will win in the end. Some may think this is fatalistic but I think it’s realistic. Can they abolish earthquakes in my native California?

It’s time to address the post title. Every time something like this happens, my post-K/Federal Flood survivor’s guilt kicks in. It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I  cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.

This was a terrible event but all the people acting as if it’s 2005 all over again need to take a deep breath followed by a chill  pill. Nobody died, only pockets of the city flooded, and nobody was forced out of their homes at gun point. I had some advice on twitter for local voters in the upcoming mayoral election:

Perspective not drama is called for. We should fix anything that contributed to the recent flooding but we cannot abolish nature even if there were times we wish that was possible. It is not.

That was exhausting. Any time I dredge up these memories, I feel rotten until the feeling passes a few hours later.

Finally, one of my theories in life is that there’s a Kinks song for every occasion. We’ll give the Davies brothers the last word:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Death At Flood Tide

Great googly moogly, I found this cover on the google.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Graham Greene

Graham Greene blurred the lines between literary and genre fiction. He was fascinated with the criminal element and spies but had an elegant prose style. He was quite simply one of the best writers of the mid-20th Century.

Here’s  a selection of some of Greene’s pulpier book covers:

Greene’s fertile brain also came up with the story and screenplay of The Third Man, which is one of the greatest films ever made.

Quote Of The Day: Stay Up Late

Joshua Green’s new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, is the gift that keeps on giving. This is the third time I’ve quoted from it. I guess that means I should pick up a copy at some point unless someone wants to send me a freebie, that is.

It’s obvious that Bannon was one of Green’s main sources, especially of a story like this one about Paul Manafort and the Insult Comedian:

 After Trump decided to demote his campaign chair Paul Manafort, who drew negative attention to the campaign as reporters scrutinized his previous work for Ukrainian politicians with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump blew up at Manafort over a New York Times report that portrayed the candidate as intractable and inarticulate.

“How can anybody allow an article that says your campaign is all fucked up?” Trump shouted at Manafort, according to Green.

Trump demanded to know whether aides thought they had to make television appearances to communicate with him.

“You think you’ve gotta go on TV to talk to me?” Trump shouted. “You treat me like a baby! Am I like a baby to you? I sit there like a little baby and watch TV and you talk to me? Am I a fucking baby, Paul?”

I’m sure Manafort was tempted to say yes but opted not to. There was still money to be grifted as a result of his ties to the candidate and Manafort is all about the money. Plus, he had his very own Trump toddler tantrum. Lucky him.

There’s another swell quote from Green’s book. I never thought I’d agree with Bannon on anything but this is the exception to that rule:

According to Green, Bannon also waged his assault-by-epithet aloud in Breitbart’s Washington, D.C. headquarters: He described the House speaker as “a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation,” a conservative think tank Bannon said was too close to the “globalist donor class.”

Nice imagery, Steve. We already knew that you and Ryan weren’t close.

Back to Trump’s “do you think I’m a fucking baby” rant. It gave me a benign earworm as well as a post title: