Category Archives: Books

Saturday Odds & Sods: Pictures Of Matchstick Men

Main Press by LS Lowry.

The weather has been horrendous in New Orleans this week. We’ve had high winds, thunderstorms, and torrential rain. One day it looked as if we were having a tropical system out of season. I hate thunderstorms, they’re like heavy metal. I hate heavy metal.

It’s been so bad that we’ve had to work around the weather for fear of street flooding. Dr. A went to work preposterously early yesterday because she was administering an exam. I was so grateful that the garbage men closed the bin lid that I went on the porch and thanked them.

This week’s theme song was written by Francis Rossi for Status Quo’s 1968 album Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo. How’s that for a long ass title? It was to be the band’s only major hit single in the US&A.

The song was inspired by the paintings of Mancunian artist LS Lowry. He pretended to be an unsophisticated artist but had serious chops as a painter. Lowry also excelled at myth creation often telling wildly contradictory stories. His painting Main Press is this week’s featured image.

There’s some dispute as to whether Lowry should be called a Mancunian artist since he lived in nearby Salford. But I like saying Mancunian so I’m sticking with it. FYI, a Mancunian is someone who hails from Manchester, England, mate.  Who the hell wants to be a Salfordian or is that Salfordite?

We have three versions of Pictures Of Matchstick Men for your listening pleasure: the studio original, Status Quo live, and a 1989 cover by Camper Van Beethoven, which was a hit in the US&A.

We’re not finished with matchstick men, here’s a 2018 song written and recorded by Mark Knopfler:

Now that we’ve pondered matchstick men in music and art, let’s strike quickly and jump to the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Knock ‘Em Dead

Note the contrasting femme fatales. On the first cover, she looks smug and seductive. On the second one, she looks scared shitless. So it goes.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: A Hard Day’s Night

My second jab side effects were worse than the first but only lasted for 3 days then vanished. It was weird to walk like a drunk when  stone cold sober, which is why I spent most of my time on the couch.

When did the furniture people start calling a couch a sofa? I can go either way, but sofa potato isn’t as evocative as couch potato. I wonder which one the man who couldn’t spell potatoes, J Danforth Quayle, uses. Ah, the small mysteries of life.

I’m still watching bits and bobs of the Chauvin trial. My dislike for defense lawyer, Eric Nelson grows daily. If I were devising a drinking game for the trial every time he says “right” “correct” “agree” you take a shot. A surefire way to get shit faced drunk, right?

Despite the album cover featured image, it’s Saturday, not Wednesday. I didn’t mean to confuse anyone; that was a lie, I take great joy in sowing confusion across the land instead of either sleeping like a log or working like a dog.

This week’s theme song was written by Lennon and McCartney in 1964 for the movie of the same title. It has always been one of my favorite Beatles tunes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have four versions of A Hard Day’s Night for your listening pleasure: the Fab Four, Perez Prado, the Smithereens, and Miss Peggy Lee.

Peggy Lee? Yes, Norma Engstrom herself. Paul McCartney was a big fan and gave her a song to record after seeing her perform in London in 1974.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Since that’s my favorite Beatley quote, here’s the song it comes from; in German too.

Ja, ja, ja.

Let’s jump to the break. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Man In The Moonlight

As you can see below, Dell Books had cool graphics back in the day.

How about some moonlight music?

Soak The Fat Boys & Spread It Out Thin

Hack Looks Askance At Hick Schtick.

Repeat after me: Soak The Fat Boys & Spread It Out Thin.

Thus spake Willie Stark in Robert Rossen’s brilliant film adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men. The line was adapted from advice Willie’s fixer Jack Burden gave him in the book after Willie delivered a dull speech:

“Just tell ’em you’re gonna soak the fat boys and forget the rest of the tax stuff…Willie, make ’em cry, make ’em laugh, make ’em mad, even mad at you. Stir them up and they’ll love it and come back for more, but, for heaven’s sakes, don’t try to improve their minds.”

I realize that sounds like something that pardoned felon Steve Bannon would have said to the Impeached Insult Comedian, but it’s sound advice for any politician even an honest one like Joe Biden. It certainly fits the time we live in:

Quite literally, the super-rich got richer, and the poor got poorer during the pandemic.

Repeat after me: Soak The Fat Boys & Spread It Out Thin.

One way to do this is to enact the Biden administration’s increase in corporate taxes. Another more satisfying way is to enact the Wealth Tax proposed by Senator Professor Elizabeth Warren. It will make the fat boys squeal like the pigs they are.

But will the Emperor of the Senate Joe Manchin support such a surtax? He’s from one of the poorest states in the Union but raising taxes became heresy for Blue Dogs after Mondale was blown out in the 1984 election and reinforced by the Gingrich wave election in 1994.

in 1984, Fritz Mondale made it a point of honesty in his acceptance speech:

‘Mr. Reagan will raise taxes and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.’

When I searched for the exact quote, it turned up articles warning Democrats not to raise taxes. All were written before the boom, bust, and boom of the pandemic.

Income inequality began its rise in the Reagan era, and exploded last year. Since the right no longer has an appealing salesman like Ronald Reagan, that makes it time to:

Biden’s infrastructure bill *should* be enormously popular. We can all cite crumbling infrastructure in our states and communities. In New Orleans, the greatest infrastructure need involves our water system. The vast majority of the pipes are over 100 years old. They burst with alarming regularity, which leads to frequent boil water orders. The city needs federal money to replace the system. It will take many years, but we need to get going as soon as possible.

I, for one, am relieved that Mitch McConnell has declared his entire caucus against the American Jobs Act. That means there will be no bad faith negotiations with Republicans as Leader Schumer plans to use the filibuster proof reconciliation process again. As with the COVID relief plan, I consider McConnell’s move to be cynical: GOPers will pop up to support projects if the bill passes.

It’s up to Democrats to find middle ground between AOC and the Man of La Manchin. It may sound hard but it’s easier than getting libertarian creeps like Aqua Buddha to agree to a spending proposal that’s guaranteed to attack income equality while improving roads, bridges, and the like across the country. It’s ironic that the original proponent of internal improvements, Henry Clay, hailed from Kentucky given the Turtle and Aqua Buddha’s posturing but he was a Whig, they’re Trumpified Republicans.

The Republican attack on the COVID relief plan was muted because they knew their states would benefit. I expect the same dynamic to play out here. Besides, the faux populism of Trump has seeded the ground for more government spending. Infrastructure week may have been a running joke under Trump, but President Biden hopes to make every week infrastructure week.

Willie Stark was famously based on Huey P. Long who was a blowhard with authoritarian tendencies, but he was big on infrastructure before it was called that. He talked a lot of rubbish, but delivered massive projects throughout the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

Joe Biden seems an unlikely heir to Long but the mere fact that he’s regarded as a moderate helped pass the first huge spending bill and will help pass the next spending bill if the Man of La Manchin allows it. He should follow the example of former West Virginia Senators such as Jennings, Byrd, and Rockefeller and take the money and run.

Make it so, Joe, make it so.

Soak the fat boys by passing a wealth surtax and/or corporate tax hikes, then spread it out thin by passing the American Jobs act.

The last word goes to the Steve Miller Band:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Roll Away The Stone

Notre Dame by Pablo Picasso.

I’ve already blasphemed about Easter in my Son Of Jab Talking post so I’ll resist the urge here. Besides, how can a non-believer blaspheme? A question for the ages.

This week’s theme song was written in 1974 by Ian Hunter for Mott The Hoople’s The Hoople album. They’re one of my favorite bands of that era; all flash and swagger. I like flash and swagger in a rock band.

I saw Mott perform live on that tour on a bill with BTO and a totally unknown band from Boston, Aerosmith. Great show although I’m not sure what Mormon rocker Randy Bachman thought of Ian Hunter and Steven Tyler; not to mention Mott guitarist Ariel Bender. That’s a stage name: his real moniker is nearly as colorful, Luther Grosvenor.

We move from glam rock to roots rock with this week’s co-theme song. It was written by Michael Dempsey and Leon Russell for the latter’s eponymous debut album:

Two more songs with stone in the title:

Let’s crawl to the break then jump if such a thing is feasible.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Hollow Needle

We’ve done a lot of jab talking lately. It’s time to really put the needle in:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Harder They Fall

We go from The Harder They Come to The Harder They Fall. I told you there would be a flow to this week’s regular features.

Budd Schulberg is best remembered for his work with my countryman Elia Kazan on On The Waterfront and A Face In The Crowd, which was based on one of Schulberg’s short stories.

The film version of The Harder They Fall was directed by Mark Robson. It was Humphrey Bogart’s last movie.

Here’s the movie trailer:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Mysterious Half Cat

This is the first time I’ve posted a book aimed at young’uns in this feature. It is not, however, a substitute for catblogging. I fear the wrath of the Calico cat.

Day In, Day Out

Some days I want to make like Paul Douglas’ cop character in Panic In The Streets and shake some sense into people. In reality, I’m more like Richard Widmark’s doctor character, looking on before we nail Zero Mostel and Jack Palance in the last act of the movie. That only makes sense in the context of a post featuring random thoughts and ramblings. Some call it madness, I call it First Draft Potpourri.

I hate the culture wars. I’m sick of the right seizing on every momentary story, blowing it up, and giving it more significance than it deserves. This time, it’s the announcement by the Geisel estate that they’re pulling some of the Dr. Seuss books because of “hurtful stereotypes.” That’s not cancel culture, it’s keeping up with the times. Dr. Seuss would get it. He was a liberal, but he was a man of his time and place. Context is everything. For more on this inane dust-up, check out this interview with Dr. Seuss scholar Philip Nel at Slate.

Senate Republicans are getting dumber by the day. The dimmest bulb in the GOP caucus is Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson. He wants to delay the COVID relief bill by any means possible. He insisted that Senate clerks read the entire bill to slow things down. It took 10 hours and 44 minutes but it’s over.

Johnson is as dumb as Hey Abbott and Tater Tot. It’s scary that he beat Russ Feingold not once but twice. This was the biggest senatorial downgrade since J. Danforth Quayle beat Birch Bayh. Bayh was a distinguished senator and Quayle was the guy who couldn’t spell the plural of potato.

Speaking of potatoes, the right is trying to turn the Mr. Potato Head thing into a culture war issue. Really? Are they that intellectually bankrupt? That was a rhetorical question: the answer is a big YES.

I’m sorry that Don Rickles, who voiced Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies, isn’t around to mock the whole mishigas. Oy just oy.

And now for a musical interlude from the Kinks:

“Boiled, French fried, any old way that you want to decide.” That Ray Davies knows from taters.

I commend your attention to an op-ed piece in the WaPo by the great Norm Ornstein who has forgotten more about Congress that most of us will ever know.  He has some productive thoughts about how to reform the filibuster in a way that will get the Man of La Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema’s votes.

The senior senator from Arizona is an odd case. She’s bisexual and used to be a leftist. She morphed into a Blue Dog Democrat in order to win elections in the land of Goldwater and McCain. I’d call her an opportunist, but we need her vote. Read Norm’s piece to learn how that may be possible. That’s Norm Ornstein, not this guy:

Finally, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a charter member of the Freedom, Man club. In his case, it comes with a dose of corruption. He’s taking care of his donors by making sure that they get vaccinated earlier than the cheapskates who didn’t pony up. That’ll show them who’s boss. For more on this Florida Man moron, check out this piece at TPM by Matt Shuham.

The news cycle is relentless. I had hoped that it would ease up when the Kaiser of Chaos “retired” to Mar-a-Doorn, but it hasn’t. It reminds me of the opening lyrics to the Johnny Mercer song that gives this post its title:

Day in, day out
The same old hoodoo follows me about

The last word goes to the Chairman of the Board:

We’ll hear more from Sinatra and Mercer later today. Cheers.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Moon In The Gutter

Another day, another lunar title this time from the outstanding Philly crime fiction writer, David Goodis. He was really, really Goodis at what he did.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Decoy

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

Saturday Odds & Sods: Stage Fright

Two Comedians by Edward Hopper.

I’m  a slacker publisher. I have not formally welcomed Shapiro and Cassandra to the First Draft family. I’ve known both of them for years and they still speak to me. They’re clearly tolerant types.  Thanks for bringing your life experiences and insights to our humble blog. There’s only one rule:

It’s still cold as hell in Louisiana but our infrastructure has held up better than that of Texas, which is a much wealthier state. It helps to have a competent governor as opposed to one who lies on Fox News. Cue Lou Costello impression:

When I searched for the phrase HEY ABBOTT, I kept seeing images of wingnutty former Aussie Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He’s much scarier than the Mummy Bud and Lou met but not quite as scary as Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Even scarier is the thought of Ted Cruz on the beach in Cancun as his constituents freeze their asses off. Are you in a narcissism contest with Pennywise, dude? Tommy T will have more on Teddy Boy on Monday. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by Robbie Robertson for The Band’s 1970 album of the same name. It was inspired by Robbie’s own issues with stage fright. FYI, a 50th anniversary remixed and reordered version of that album was released last week. It’s a dramatic sonic improvement on the original. It also features an insanely great 1971 live show from the Royal Albert Hall in London. 4 stars all the way, baby.

We have two versions of Stage Fright for your listening pleasure: the studio remix and a live version from The Last Waltz.

I didn’t know until recently that there’s an instrumental of the same title. These dudes composed it.

In addition to stage fright, I’m contemplating mummy’s right now. I guess it’s time to meet the Son Of The Mummy:

None of that Brendan Fraser shit for me, dude. It’s Karloff and Lee all the way.

Now that I’ve exhausted my mummy jokes, let’s wrap our first act up and jump to the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Profiles In Courage

JFK’s Profiles In Courage isn’t the sort of book that comes to mind when you think of pulp fiction. It’s not fictional and the covers do not feature women with three heads or breasts. But it fits the moment in the wake of Trump’s second impeachment trial.

One chapter is about Kansas Senator Edmund Ross’ inner turmoil during the Johnson impeachment. I would have voted the other way, but Ross took what he believed to be a principled stand.

In addition to the longstanding authorship question, the book has other issues. The New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann wrote an article last year entitled JFK’s Profiles In Courage Has A Racism Problem. What Should We Do About It? It’s well worth your attention.

Here are two dogeared covers of the best-selling book ever published by an Oval One:

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Insurrection

Liam O’Flaherty was an Irish writer best known for his novel, The Informer. The movie version was directed by John Ford and won a bunch of Oscars.

Insurrection is a novel about the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule. The title seemed appropriate since the Dipshit Insurrection occurred a mere 29 days ago. Like the Easter Rising, it should never be forgotten.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Case Against Satan

This book is not about the second senate trial of the Kaiser of Chaos.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Hell On Hoofs

Hoofs? Isn’t it hooves? Apparently, both are correct. Who knew?  It behooves me to end this discussion.

 

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Drummer

Drummer by Richard Carlile is the literary equivalent of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs? Who knew?

Guest Post: Gently Rise and Softly Fall

You can’t shake a tree around here without a guest writer falling out. This time it’s a friend of mine from the internet music mailing list scene. It’s a scene that barely exists now because of social media but it was once lively.

In the great tradition of First Draft pen names, she is writing as Cassandra. Here’s hoping that her prophecies are not scorned by our readers.

-Adrastos

Gently Rise and Softly Fall by Cassandra

I woke up this morning in a really crappy mood, which is pretty normal given what is going on right now. When I sat down with my laptop, my first reminder was “write piece about joy”. OK, here goes nothing.

Last March, my husband and I were watching our cat Rey play with her favorite toy:  a spring coated in vinyl. Cats play when all their needs have been met and so they can expend precious energy for fun things. Rey stands up on her back legs when she plays with a spring, passing it from paw to paw, and dancing herself. She goes to the legs of the bar stools and climbs over and around the legs, with the spring turning round. It’s infectiously joyful to watch. I clearly remember saying that we needed to memorize that image because we were going to need to remember what joy looked like as the months went on.

Last January I started reading Wanderers by Chuck Wending, a book about a mysterious pandemic which also included the scenario of an authoritarian US president and a national election. I also stopped reading it in January as things got to be way too close to real life here in the US. (Don’t spoil it for me—I fully intend to pick it back in a week or so.) Even though I couldn’t read the novel, I came across some of his stuff on Twitter and found his blog. A week after I had that conversation with my husband, Wendig wrote this:

Also accept any joy you feel and do so without guilt. Joy is hard-won, and if you manage that victory, there’s no shame in that. Take the victory lap. We will have to hunt joy like an elusive beast across the wasteland.

If you capture it, celebrate.

I thought of both of those things that glorious Saturday when the national election was called for Joe and Kamala (the weirdness of a TV network calling an election is a conversation for another day).  I live in West Virginia, so there was no parade of cars through the streets, honking and beeping for joy. (I made do with yelling “BEEEEEEEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEP” all day around the house (my poor husband)). I don’t know that there was much uncertainty around the final outcome earlier that morning, but the joy was certainly real and comforting—because we could recognize what joy looked like.

I studied US history for a long time, and I have a lot of things to say about politics. I think last week was the worst week in US history, and this week has already said “Hold my beer,” so politics can wait another day. Find some joy today and hold it fast.