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.
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.
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:
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.