Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: To Keep My Love Alive

The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey

The weird weather continues apace in New Orleans. Our fall tease lasted three whole days, followed by a warm-up and a mini-monsoon last Monday, Moday. No wonder John Phillips found that day untrustworthy. Dr. A drove us home  from a krewe meeting during the deluge and engaged in some nifty puddle avoidance. It’s not supposed to rain that much or that hard in October. Climate change? What climate change?

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1943 for a revival of their 1927 musical, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s CourtTo Keep My Love Alive is best described as a chipper murder ballad. Hart’s lyrics detail the manifold ways in which the protagonist bumped off her 15 husbands in order not to cheat on them. It was the last song Larry Hart wrote before his death later that year at the age of 48.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Ella Fitzgerald from the Rodgers and Hart Songbook and the preternaturally perky Blossom Dearie.

My favorite stanza is the final one:

Sir Atherton indulged in fratricide,
He killed his dad and that was patricide
One night I stabbed him by my mattress-side
To keep my love alive.
Larry Hart’s love of puns and word play is one reason why I prefer him to Rodgers’ other writing partner.  Hammerstein could never have written those lyrics. I do, however, love his first name: Oscar.
Now that we’ve compared and contrasted Hart and Hammerstein, it’s time to jump to the break. Be careful which mattress-side you land on.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Late In The Evening

Father Mississippi by Walter Inglis Anderson.

It’s finally showing signs of cooling off in New Orleans even if it appears to be a cruel autumnal tease. The cool front helped keep Hurricane Michael away from us. It was a beast of a storm that battered the Florida panhandle and provoked PTSD flashbacks in the New Orleans area. Best wishes to everyone in the affected areas.

In more savory local news, Advocate food writer Ian McNulty wrote a piece about the surfeit of new restaurants in the city. Ian is worried that we’re losing the thread with so many eateries dependent on the tourist trade. New Orleans didn’t become a great food city with tourist traps but with restaurants serving locals. One Oceana Grill is enough. Just ask Gordon Ramsay:

You didn’t have to take that so personally, Chef Ramsay. Piss off out of my post.

This week’s theme song is appropriate because I usually post Saturday Odds & Sods at the stroke of midnight. Some of my regular readers look for it then. One would hope they’d have something better to do.

Paul Simon wrote Late In The Evening in 1980 for his One-Trick Pony album. Simon also wrote and acted in a movie of the same title, which sank without a trace. I always thought horses could swim…

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. The original hit single followed by a scorching hot live version from 1992’s Born At The Right Time tour.

I used a painting by New Orleans/Ocean Springs, MS artist Walter Anderson as the featured image because he famously tied himself to a tree during Hurricane Betsy. We grow them eccentric in these parts. If things had gone wrong, it would have given a whole new meaning to the term tie-dyed.  If that pun doesn’t make you want to jump to the break, nothing will.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Volunteers

Two Flags by Jasper Johns

It’s still stupidly hot in New Orleans; summer hot. And we had the third warmest September in recorded history. There are rumors of a cool front next weekend but the relentless heat is putting a damp damper on the local festival season. It typically starts the first weekend of October because that’s when it cools off. Not this year, apparently. Climate change? What climate change? End of weather related rant.

The Kavanaugh Mess ate my week, so let’s move on to this week’s theme song. Volunteers was written by Marty Balin and Paul Kantner. It was the title track of Jefferson Airplane’s classic 1969 album; you know, the one with the pb&j sammich gatefold. Volunteers has an interesting origin story: Marty was awakened by a truck one morning with Volunteers of America painted on the side. A protest song was born. Marty Balin died last Saturday at the age of 76. There’s an extended tribute to Marty at the end of the post.

We have two versions of Volunteers for your listening pleasure. The original studio track and a live version from Woodstock.

“Look what’s happening out in the streets. Got a revolution.”

Now that we’ve revolted in a revolting way, let’s jump to the break.

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The Kavanaugh Mess: Red Red Whine & Prolific Pukers

The Kavanaugh Mess is hurtling towards a messy and unsatisfying conclusion regardless of which way the vote goes. There are contradictory reports as to how thorough the FBI’s background check reboot will be. There seem to be gaps in the investigation that make rumors of an early wrap-up unnerving. It is also possible that Kavanaugh and CBF will be the last people interviewed, which is how these things usually work. We shall see.

On the positive side, Vanity Fair’s Chris Smith reports that the FBI is determined to conduct a genuine investigation and that Director Chris Wray is just as likely to ask for an extension as to finish things up hastily. The attitude in the Bureau is reflected in the article’s title: The FBI Is Not Going To Be Donald Trump’s Patsy. Let’s hope so.

Charlie Pierce has an excellent piece about Kavanaugh’s background as a Republican ratfucker, Charlie’s conclusion lines up with my own: once a ratfucker, always a ratfucker.

 

That’s RF for Rat Fink but who among us can resist a well-executed cartoon?

I remain fascinated by how Republican men think that shouting = truth-telling. Brett Kavanaugh did a lot of the former and precious little of the latter last Thursday. The best analysis I’ve seen of his mendaciously shouty testimony is by Nathan J. Robinson at Current Affairs. He proves that, try as he might, Kav cannot hide his Lyin’ Eyes:

I know my affection for the Eagles is controversial in some circles but that’s a brilliant song, y’all. I may just raise my voice, Judge Bro style, if you disagree.

Speaking of music, I missed the UB40 money quote in the NYT piece about Kav’s college friend Chad Ludlington:

He said that the altercation happened after a UB40 concert on Sept. 25, when he and a group of people went to Demery’s and were drinking pints. At one point, they were sitting near a man who, they thought, resembled Ali Campbell, the lead singer of UB40.

“We’re trying to figure out if it’s him,” he said.

When the man noticed Mr. Ludington, Mr. Kavanaugh and the others looking at him, he objected and told them to stop it, adding an expletive, Mr. Ludington said.

Mr. Kavanaugh cursed, he said, and then “threw his beer at the guy.”

“The guy swung at Brett,” Mr. Ludington continued. At that point, Mr. Dudley “took his beer and smashed it into the head of the guy, who by now had Brett in an embrace. I then tried to pull Chris back, and a bunch of other guys tried to pull the other guy back. I don’t know what Brett was doing in the melee, but there was blood, there was glass, there was beer and there was some shouting, and the police showed up.”

This has led to much Red Red Whining about the unfairness of Kav’s barroom pugilism being the subject of public debate in 2018. The point is not that Judge Bro was a heavy drinker then, it’s that he’s lied about it under oath now. My hunch is that Kav thinks that if he confirms his boozy, boozy ways, more people will believe CBF’s story. That’s the problem with taking the categorical denial route.

FYI: UB40 has been engaged in an epic fight between the Campbell brothers over the band’s name. They might be willing to stage a re-enactment of this fight with Robin Campbell playing the part of Judge Bro. This song would clearly be involved:

Hmm, I wonder if Kav went after the man he thought was Ali Campbell because rumor has it that he likes beer, not wine?

Along the same lines, here’s a video the people at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert put together:

Back to Kavanaugh’s diminishing credibility. NBC News has reported that Kav knew about the New Yorker’s Debbie Ramirez story before it went public, and tried to organize a text message defense to the story. He told the committee that he didn’t know about the story until it was published. Once a ratfucker, always a ratfucker.

Remember Kav’s equivocation as to whether the character Bart O’Kavanaugh in Mark Judge’s book is based on him? The Failing New York Times has published a story that includes a 1983 letter that Judge Bro wrote and signed Bart. This Bro Epistle contains this memorable passage:

In a neatly written postscript, he added: Whoever arrived first at the condo should “warn the neighbors that we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us. Advise them to go about 30 miles…”

That’s a pistol of an epistle, y’all.

Finally, after several weeks of startling self-control by his standards, the Insult Comedian engaged in a bit of victim mocking last night in Elvis country:

This is disgusting even for this president*. It’s also harming, not helping, Kav’s kause as the undecided Senators have denounced these comments.

As if in a race to the bottom, Trump also implied that Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has a drinking problem. Here’s hoping that Trump’s loose lips sink Kav’s ship.

There will surely be more developments over the course of the day. Stay tuned.

Repeat after me: Once a ratfucker, always a ratfucker.

Schooldays

Glory Days

The blogger (in hat and shades) as a wayward youth with his posse.

What is it that they say about great minds? I’m not sure if I qualify but Athenae surely does. I had already planned to write about my schooldays then A did it and did it well:

I went to a Catholic college-prep high school, after 8 years of Catholic elementary. I did this because my family was Catholic, and religious schooling was important to my not-rich  parents and grandparents. And a hell of a lot of my fellow students did the same because their families were wealthy, and the Catholic schools were predominantly white.

I grew up in a different time and place. My mother’s favorite sister was a principal back home in Wisconsin. Mom believed in public education and the schools in San Mateo County, California were outstanding so I always attended public schools.

Looking back, I’m amazed at how DIVERSE my high school was. We lived in middle class Foster City, but our group of students was diverse in and of itself with a slew of Jewish and Asian kids in the mix. Then, there were the white working class kids from Shoreview just across the Bayshore Freeway from San Mateo High. The neighborhood around the school itself was largely working class African-American and Hispanic. Finally, there were the upper middle class kids from San Mateo Park and the big money kids from Hillsborough. That was where people like the Hearsts and the Crosbys lived. I’ve been away for a long time, but I assume the demographics of many of these areas are different in 2018; except the wealthier ones. The rich are always with us.

Our school’s diversity is one reason so many of the schoolmates I’m still in touch with are howling liberals. It may not have always been pretty, but we learned how to deal with different types of people without thinking of them as the OTHER.

One year there was some racial tension but the problem was largely between rival groups of jocks; one group were white rough boys, the other black football players and their hangers-on. It didn’t last long. The two groups resumed picking on the stoners, which was easier and more profitable. Who could complain to the Vice Principal about their weed getting stolen? Not that I know about such things…

I had a protector among the white jocks or hard guys as they called themselves. Kelly lived around the corner from me, our parents were friends, and we played little league baseball together. He played shortstop and I rode the bench but I had access to free Giants tickets, which made me a popular kid. I was mildly roughed up by some high school jocks once. I told Kelly and it never happened again. Thanks, man.

High school was where I met guys like Brett Kavanaugh. There were some wealthy parents who sent their kids to San Mateo High: many were members of the “greatest generation” and were on the frugal side. Besides, the school was academically excellent and our football, basketball, and track teams were competitive.  Because of that we got many wealthy jocks who might have gone to private schools in another time and place.

As I watched Kavanaugh testify, I thought to myself “I know the type.” He was the sort of kid who kissed up and kicked down. Prep school jock asshole Brett thought he was better than everyone else, especially students with a vagina, not a penis. He was a boozy Eddie Haskell, the phoniest choir boy who ever sucked up to grown ups while simultaneously bullying kids weaker than himself.

Essentially, Brett Kavanaugh is Donald Trump with brains. He’s lied and bullied his way through life and sees no reason to change. We saw the real Brett Kavanaugh last Thursday. His mask repeatedly slipped as he ranted and raved about left-wing conspiracies.  Ken Starr may be proud of him but his lies and extreme partisanship make him unfit for the Supreme Court. He may have gone to the right schools but he seems to have drawn the wrong lessons from them.

Let’s circle back to my schooldays and give the Kinks, Paul Simon, and Steely Dan the last word with some contemporaneous music. I really need to post Kodachrome since I quoted it in the post summary.



Album Cover Art Wednesday: The Heart Of Saturday Night

The first time I paid attention to Tom Waits’ lyrics, I realized that he’s a noir storyteller in the Chandler/Hammett tradition. His early albums are full of songs about wastrels and losers who live on the seedy side of town. Skid Row is not just a crappy band to Tom Waits.

The Heart Of Saturday Night is Waits’ second album and the first one I heard. I bought a copy after seeing him open for Frank Zappa and the Mothers at the Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos, CA, of all places. It was a theatre-in-the-round type venue, which originally featured old school show biz performers like Sammy Davis Jr.

I also recall seeing the Three Stooges there. I think my mother was auditioning for The Good Place by indulging me. As we say in New Orleans, the Circle Star Theatre ain’t dere no more. I guess it’s okay to conflate my two hometowns since Waits starred in one of the best films set in New Orleans: Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law. We are a good egg.

Time for another digression: I was a high school age smoker when I saw the Zappa/Waits show. My friends and I tried to keep up with Frank Zappa who seemed to always have a cigarette going. We’d never heard of Tom Waits or we would have done likewise with him. I gave up trying mid-way through Zappa’s set. It’s a pity that I didn’t quit for good at that point.  I continued to smoke off and on for ten more years with a brief relapse in my first semester at law school. Now I hate smoke almost as much as I hate Trump.

Back to The Heart of Saturday Night. The cover art was done by Napoleon. No, not that one but an artist named Lynn Lascaro who used Napoleon as a psuedonym. He also did the cover for the Zappa/Mothers classic, One Size Fits All.

You’re not seeing double. Here’s the whole damn album on the YouTube:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Got To Get You Into My Life

Landscape Lumber No. 3 by David Hockney

It has been a difficult week. I was so exhausted from writing about the Kavanaugh mess that I briefly considered pulling the plug on this week’s extravaganza. I decided it was best to muddle through and provide a modicum of comic relief to my readers. That choice was made easier by the Flake Gambit, which at the very least kicks the can down the road a week. Besides, I like beer and cannot recall if I’ve ever been black-out drunk. Have you? Holy crap, I sound like Judge Bro.

This week’s theme song is credited to Lennon-McCartney but is Pure-D Macca. Got To Get You Into My Life first appeared on my favorite Beatles album, Revolver. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Beatles and the equally fabulous cover by Earth Wind & Fire.

Now that we’ve had some Macca therapy, let’s meet on the other side of the jump.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: The Chain

At The First Clear Word by Max Ernst.

It still feels like summer in New Orleans. I’ve been so focused on the Kavanaugh mess that I’ve been a local news slacker with one exception: last Monday, our local utility company, Entergy, blamed a cat for a major power outage. Della Street and Paul Drake are in the clear: I’m their alibi. This is proof positive that my town is weirder than your town. Neener, neener, neener.

What is it with the news cycle in the Trump era? Every Friday it blows up after I tuck this post in bed and kiss it good night. I have a few quick thoughts on today’s two big stories. First, the Rod Rosenstein story is a set-up, the Failing New York Times got played by Trumpers. Second, Chuck Grassley’s ultimatum to Christine Blasey Ford is egregious extortionate excrement.

What do these fuckers have in store next? A 21st Century Reichstag fire? This is the face of American fascism.

It’s time to tune out the jackboots and return to our regularly scheduled programming.

This week’s theme song was written by  Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie for an album that you may have heard of: Rumours. The Chain is the only tune on that record credited to all five members of Fleetwood Mac Mach 9. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio track and a recent live version featuring new members, Neil Finn and Mike Campbell.

I’m not sure if jumping to the break constitutes breaking the chain but we’re going to do it anyway. Now that I think of it, it’s closer to yanking your chain. What’s a little chain yanking among friends?

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Your President* Speaks: The Boy In The Bubble

I originally planned to write at length about the Kavanaugh mess but it’s still as fluid as hell. I’m not into trying to nail Jello to the wall, so let’s see what our idiot president* has been up to. (For some obscure reason a high school friend of mine nicknamed a classmate, Jellohead. It had nothing to do with Jello shots, which we had never heard of at that point. To paraphrase Brett Kavanaugh, “what happens at San Mateo High, stays at San Mateo High. That’s been a good thing for all of us.” Party on, Brett,)

That may have been a record-breaking parenthetical digression. I constantly outdo myself in that regard.

Let’s take a look at the low light of an interview the Kaiser of Chaos gave to The Hill, which is not connected with his arch-nemesis Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The first quote *may* be the dumbest thing Trump has said yet and that’s saying a lot:

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

I know there’s a lot of competition for stupidest Trump comment ever, but he’s never claimed pre-election appointment powers before. Does he think Barack Obama would have listened to him? Perhaps he could borrow the Tardis from the Doctor and do some time traveling. Of course, now that the Doctor is a woman, he’d never ask a skirt. Delusional thy name is Donald.

Let’s move on to an inside the White House piece by Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair’s Hive.  Sherman’s sources informed him that the “First Daughter” has urged daddy to “cut bait” and dump Kavanaugh. I had no idea that Ivanka was an angler. Maybe she should go fishing with former Veep Dick Cheney. It would be entertaining if Cheney’s line got tangled in Ivanka’s blond locks.

Here’s what Trumpberius is reported to have said about his lousy Supreme Court nominee:

“‘He’s a Bush guy, why would I put myself out there defending him?’”

A classic bit of Trump loyalty if I’ve ever seen one. He ignored advice from Senate GOPers to pick a nominee with less baggage so this is his screw-up.

The Buckpasser-in-Chief has come up with his story if the GOP loses the midterms bigly:

Even before the Kavanaugh crisis, Trump has been worried about Republicans’ declining fortunes, and he’s been finding ways to shift the blame. Trump told a friend in the Oval Office last week that it would be Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s fault if Republicans lost the House and the Senate, according to a person familiar with the conversation. “This is the election about Ryan and McConnell—it’s about those guys,” Trump said. Trump referred to his 2020 campaign as “the real election.” “It’s pure Trump. He has to come up with a way he’s not responsible if Republicans lose,” a former West Wing staffer said.

I’ve heard of shape-shifters but Trump is a blame-shifter. It’s a new one on me. It’s what happens when you live in a bubble.

I thought there was going to be a red wave. You mean the president* was lying about that? #sarcasm. His more gullible followers apparently believe the Insult Comedian’s red wave shtick and are as low energy as Jeb Bush about the midterms according to an internal RNC poll obtained by Bloomberg News.

Donald Trump is a past master at creating his own reality. To some extent, all presidents live in a bubble but this president* has always lived in one. The last word goes to Paul Simon:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Play It All Night Long

The Automat by Edward Hopper.

It’s been a crazy news week: the Woodward book, Hurricane Florence, exploding houses in  Massachusetts, the Kavanaugh letter, and the Manafort flip. How far Paulie flips remains to be seen but, given his connection to the Former Soviet Union, his plea deal is *potentially* the Kremlingate kill shot. I’ve long thought Manafort was either placed on Team Trump by Russian intelligence or encouraged to sign up by them. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song, Play It All Night Long was written by Warren Zevon for his 1980 album, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. It has one of the greatest opening verses in rock history:

Grandpa pissed his pants again
He don’t give a damn
Brother Billy has both guns drawn
He ain’t been right since Vietnam

As well as a killer chorus:

“Sweet home Alabama”
Play that dead band’s song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. The original studio recording and a live solo version from Learning to Flinch with WZ on piano.

Now that we’ve played “that dead band’s song,” let’s jump to the break in lieu of turning the speakers up full blast.

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Your President* Speaks: A New Low

I’ve been doing fewer Your President* Speaks posts as the Trump administration slogs along. The stupid fucker wants us obsessing over his tweets and I prefer not to give him what he wants. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and this is one of them. I woke up mad, now it’s time to get even.

I briefly considered using Rock Bottom instead of A New Low in the title. Unfortunately, there *is* no rock bottom for the Insult Comedian. He thinks he stoops to conquer when instead he shoots himself in the foot every time he pulls a stunt like this:

It goes without saying that none of this is true. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that this is obscene. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that Trump thinks Hurricanes Maria and Florence are about him. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that he is desecrating the memory of those who died in Puerto Rico and those who might die as a result of Florence. Fuck you, Donald.

The real reason this president* never cared about the deaths of some 3,000 Puerto Ricans is that they were never going to vote for him. It’s a horrible thing to say about anyone but it’s true. Fuck you, Donald.

As someone who lived through Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood, I take this very seriously. When a major storm makes landfall, I feel twinges of PTSD and I was one of the lucky ones. You shouldn’t play politics with hurricanes. This is about human suffering, not about a ridiculous man who sits in the White House live tweeting Fox News. Fuck you, Donald.

Having said that, I disagree with those who think Trump should be thrown off twitter. I want to know what the enemy is up to. I believe in turning over rocks and exposing the evil underneath. Besides, the Insult Comedian keeps saying damaging things on twitter. Let the stupid fucker tweet to his heart’s content.

This tweet in response to Trump’s new low is perfect:

In the immortal words of my late and much missed friend Ashley Morris:

FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCKS.

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Tears Of A Clown

Circus Sideshow by Georges Seurat.

The big local news of the week was a non-event that I alluded to yesterday: Tropical Storm Gordon. I was reasonably confident it wouldn’t pay us a visit. For whatever reason, storms in the Gulf tend to jog to the east as they approach New Orleans. I’m much more concerned when the early bullseye is to our west than on us.

The new Mayor’s team surprised me with a calm reaction to Gordon:

Mitch Landrieu was prone to overdramatize storm threats by dressing in combat-like gear and declaring unnecessary curfews. Team Cantrell played it cool. If they can transfer this mojo to other city issues, I might be less critical. I’m not holding my breath because I don’t feel like turning blue. It’s a bad look for me.

A depressing local story took place across Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville. A synagogue was defaced with anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi graffiti. Anti-Semitism is fashionable on the alt-right and, in some quarters, the hard left. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn has damaged Labour’s reputation as an anti-racist party with remarks such as the ones described by the Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone:

He mentions an impassioned speech made at a meeting in parliament about the history of Palestine that was “dutifully recorded by the thankfully silent Zionists who were in the audience” (audience members he presumably knew nothing about). So far so bad. But it gets worse. He goes on to say that these unnamed Zionists in the audience “clearly have two problems. One is they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either … So I think they needed two lessons, which we can perhaps help them with.”

This is classic anti-Semitism as it treats British Jews as the unassimilated OTHER. It was too much for Jewish Labourite Josh Glancy who stated categorically in the New York Times that he wouldn’t vote Labour again until Corbyn is ousted as leader. He describes Corbyn’s views as follows:

I’d always thought that if Mr. Corbyn was ever nailed down on this issue, he’d be spouting the anti-Semitism of the international left: Shadowy Zionist lobbyists. Omnipotent Rothschilds. Benjamin Netanyahu glorying in the slaughter of innocent children.

Instead we got something much closer to home. This was the anti-Semitism of Virginia Woolf and Agatha Christie. It was T.S. Eliot’s “lustreless” Bleistein puffing on his cigar and Roald Dahl insisting that “there is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity.” The comments were more redolent of the genteel Shropshire manor house where Mr. Corbyn was raised than the anticapitalist resistance movements where he forged his reputation.

Ouch. Labour’s anti-Semitism controversy has derailed efforts to oust the inept and incoherent Tory government of Theresa May. It’s a vivid illustration of how the far left and far right can converge. It’s happened before: the dread Oswald Mosley was a Labour MP before forming the British Union of Fascists.

A final note before moving on. I am staunchly anti-Netanyahu: his government’s moves against Israeli-Arabs are repugnant and amount to imposing an Apartheid regime in Israel. Having said that, anti-Netanyahu-ism shouldn’t morph into anti-Semitism. Many Jews in both the UK and the US are opposed to the current Israeli government. But even those who support it, should not be othered in their own country. Genteel bigotry is just as bad as synagogue desecrating bigotry. Now that I think of it, it’s worse: the genteel bigots should know better.

It’s time for me to dismount my sopabox and move on to this week’s theme song. The Tears Of A Clown is one of my all-time favorite records. It was written by Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Hank Cosby for the Miracles in 1970.  It’s one of the songs that made me into the music geek that I am today. It’s on Smokey with Pagliacci as an unindicted co-conspirator.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. The original Miracles single and Smokey with Daryl Hall on the latter’s teevee show.

Now that we’ve wept the tears of a clown, it’s time to dry off, then jump to the break.

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First Draft Potpourri: Of Violence, Wise Guys & Peckerwoods

I have a dream that some day soon we will have a normal news cycle. Every time I step away from the computer and/or iPhone to focus on personal and/or local news, all hell breaks loose. (It also makes me type and/or twice in one sentence, which is lazy writing.) But that’s life in the Trump era where even a news junkie like me craves a respite of dullness from the dullards running the government.

That was a long-winded of way of introducing a potpourri post. It’s the only way I can keep up with the news of day since, unlike some other bloggers, I decline to do so on the tweeter tube. Truman Capote once said of Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” When I see a 20 part thread, my response is: That’s not writing, that’s tweeting. It’s fine for short bursts but I prefer writing to typing and/or tweeting. Uh oh, another and/or. Next thing I’ll want to fire Bruce Ohr and/or someone else…

Violence: The Insult Comedian loves scaring the shit out of people. He did it the other night during an event with evangelical supporters. Trumpy claimed that violence will ensue if Democrats win the midterms. He’s projecting once again: his supporters are the ones apt to riot. Hell, Rudy’s already promised that as a response to attempts to remove the president* from office. Bullshit: most Trumpers can barely get off the couch to find the remote. Besides they only watch Fox News so why get up at all?

Speaking of Violence,  it’s time for a good old-fashioned punch-up, glam rock style. No guns allowed, just fists.

Unfortunately Trumpberius and company are apt to agree with Ian Hunter’s lyrics:

Violence, violence, it’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense.

Back to the couch and stay there, motherfuckers. It’s time for Michael F’s image from earlier this morning to play a repeat performance:

Life Imitates Billy Bathgate: Very little scares a white-collar criminal more than hearing that their accountant has made a deal with Federal prosecutors. And (but not or) Allen Weisselberg is not just a bookkeeper, he’s the Trump Organization’s CFO. He also happens to be one of the people running the company while the boss is ruining the country.

At first I wondered if Weisselberg would be the token Trump loyalist instead of a snitch and/or rat; there I go again with the and/ors. Then I read this:

Last month, the New York State Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, sued the Trump Foundation. Weisselberg had been deposed and showed a surprising willingness to give answers that put the President in an unflattering light. In January, 2016, during Trump’s Presidential campaign, his foundation made a series of donations to veterans-advocacy organizations in Iowa that were explicitly designed to gain support for his candidacy. Weisselberg filled out the checks. In his deposition, he volunteered that the Trump Foundation had no procedures in place to insure it followed the law and that Trump himself knew of and directed Weisselberg’s participation in the scheme to pay those Iowa veterans groups. Were Weisselberg eager to protect his longtime boss, he could have answered the questions far more narrowly. It was an early hint that Weisselberg, like Cohen, may not jeopardize his own freedom to defend Trump. News that Weisselberg had accepted immunity so that he could share potentially damaging information in the Cohen case provides more support for the view that Weisselberg is ready to share whatever information he has. And he has a lot.

It increasingly appears that Trump’s downfall will be his sleazy business tactics. Holy money laundering, Batman. Allen Weisselberg knows more than the Fixer or the Pecker notwithstanding the latter’s cache of Trump dirt. Why do you think the president* has been melting down even by his own standards?

You’re probably wondering why I titled this segment Life Imitates Billy Bathgate. Here’s why: EL Docotorow’s novel is based on the life and times of Dutch Schultz nee Arthur Flegenheimer. (I’d change my name too if it was Flegenheimer. Who wants a name that sounds like phlegm?) Dutch’s numbers wizard was a guy named Otto Berman who everybody called Abbadabba. Tom Dewey’s “racket busters” considered him the linchpin to unraveling Shultz’s rackets but Lucky Luciano whacked Abbadabba before prosecutors could flip him. End of arcane mob history lesson.

In Billy Bathgate, Abbadabba Berman was the most interesting character. He mentored the title character and protected him from Flegenheimer’s unphlegmatic wrath. The movie version was not as good as the book but the cast was excellent: Dustin Hoffman played Schultz, and Steven Hill played Abbadabba. Ironies abound as Steven Hill also played the Manhattan DA in Law & Order who shares a name with one of Trump’s pursuers, Adam Schiff. I am not making this up. I even posted about the Adams when the Kaiser of Chaos was a mere birther.

In the Trump Organization’s saga, Allen Weisselberg is Abbadabba Berman. And an Abbadabba trumps a Fixer or a Pecker any day.

It was harder than hell to find pictures of either numbers wizard. I skipped the picture of Abbadabba after he was whacked. Abbadabba-doo. You knew that was coming, right?

That concludes the wise guy part of the post, let’s move on to the peckerwoods.

The Senate Building Flap: It hasn’t been a great week for Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. His deal with Chinless Mitch to let his members go home and campaign has been roundly criticized.  But he did put some points on the board when he suggested that the Richard Russell Senate office building be renamed for John McCain.

The name change should have been easy: Russell, one of the most powerful Senators of his time, was an avowed racist and white supremacist. Unlike some of his fellow Southerners, Russell never became reconciled to Civil Rights. He was a Lost Causer til the bitter end.

It appeared that the name change would sail through until some Southern GOPers expressed concerns about it. The Turtle punted it to a “bipartisan gang.” It’s unclear if members of the Russian mafia and/or La Cosa Nostra will have any input. It’s a pity that the Fixer flipped because he’d know how to set it up…

Think about it: Southern Republicans were afraid of removing the name of a Southern Democrat from a building. They’re obviously scared of alienating their white nationalist base and/or the Racist-in-Chief. They’ve lost Pecker, so they can’t afford to lose the peckerwoods.

So much for all those GOPers who have bashed reformed segregationists like Robert Byrd, Russell Long and, yes. even Richard Russell’s protegé, Lyndon Johnson.

LBJ didn’t really “threaten” Russell. He presented him with a fait accompli that obliged him to serve on the Warren Commission.

It’s time for me to stop stirring the potpourri and writing and/ors. The last word goes to Randy Newman. Some Southern Republicans are still rednecks and/or peckerwoods who “don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.”

The Spirit Of ’05

Root Beer Blues. Photograph by Dr. A.

I hate to go Dickensian on your asses but the period after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. My Katrina experience was nothing compared to many people but it has stayed with me in a way that few life experiences have.

Each Katrinaversary gets a bit less painful. Today almost feels like an ordinary Wednesday but I still have the survivor’s guilt I wrote about last year when parts of New Orleans flooded on my birthday:

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.

As bad as that period was for all concerned, there was an esprit de corps that I miss. Everyone was in the same leaky boat so we helped one another out. Spontaneous and random acts of kindness were commonplace. I recall a day when we helped our neighbors duct tape their dead refrigerators and drag them to the curb. It was dirty, stinky work but it felt good to help.

Cajun Tomb. Photograph by Dr. A.

The Spirit of ’05 endured for several years, which looking back is remarkable. It could not last forever but those were heady days. I wish we could recapture the camaraderie but crisis brings out both the best and worst in people. And when the crisis ends, everything changes.  I met many people after the storm, made some enduring friendships and others that were more fleeting. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, it has made me who I am in 2018.

The lasting impact of the storm on my life is that I started blogging. I never expected to still be at it thirteen years after the day that everything changed, but here I am. I landed at First Draft because of Scout Prime who not only wrote about her experiences helping in New Orleans after the storm, but came up with the idea for the Rising Tide conference. My friendships with Scout and Athenae are two that have endured over the years. Thanks for letting me tell jokes here, y’all.

Speaking of enduring friendships, here’s an apt tweet from my dear friend Julie:

In past years, the blog has stayed dark for the entire Katrinaversary thereby allowing this solemn image to dominate:

I decided it was time for a change. I also wanted to mention my empathy for the people of Puerto Rico where  2,975 American citizens died as a result of Hurricane Maria. It’s what happens when you have bad leadership: in our case it was the Bush-Cheney gang, with Maria it’s the Trump-Pence regime; both of whom lost the popular vote, then lost the thread when it came to hurricane relief. It’s what happens when you give power to people who hate government. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

The Spirit of ’05 is a touchstone for all that’s good about human nature. It’s still lurking in a city that has changed radically since the storm and its aftermath. Here’s how I put it in a post five days before the 10th Katrinaversary:

After the water receded, there was a second inundation of people flooding into the city. Some were do-gooders, some were hipsters seeking the next trend, still others were here to make a buck. Very few of them understood the essence of New Orleans and what makes the city and its inhabitants tick. Many of them, especially on social media, have come up with an orthodoxy of what it means to be a New Orleanian. That has come to be known as copping a NOLAier than thou attitude, a swell phrase that was coined by Karen Dalton Beninato.  Some of the NOLAier than thou set seem to have spent way too much time watching Treme. Instead of a Cabaret, life is apparently a second line, old chum.

On the 13th anniversary, we continue to struggle with what happened that August day. There’s still a special feeling among those of who went through it together. If only we could fully recapture the Spirit of ’05.

The last word goes to Peter Gabriel with a song that’s been on my mind and in my head thirteen times over:

Neil Simon, R.I.P.

One bad thing about aging is that your cultural heroes start dropping like flies. It’s happened again: one of my comedic heroes, Neil Simon, has died at the age of 91.  Simon has been making me laugh since I was 10 years old and that’s the straight poop, not hyperbole.

The Odd Couple was the first grown-up movie I remember seeing on the big screen. My mother took me and I laughed til my tummy hurt. I recall asking Mom if it was better to be a Felix or an Oscar. She paused to think before saying something like: “They both have good and bad qualities so it’s better to be a bit like both of them.”

I pondered this for a moment and asked “Is it like ordering Chinese food? You know one from column A and one from column B?”

“Something like that,” she said with a chuckle.

I told her I liked Oscar better and she said, “I know. I’ve seen your room.”

It was our very own Neil Simon scene.

Simon wrote some remarkable plays and movies including The Sunshine Boys, The Heartbreak Kid, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, The Goodbye Girl, and the autobiographical “Eugene Trilogy” of Brighton Beach Memories, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound. But Simon didn’t get the critical respect he deserved until his work took a more serious turn with the Pulitzer prize winning play, Lost In Yonkers. Critics often do not understand how hard it is to be funny.  And nobody was funnier than Neil Simon.

One of my favorite Simon moments came from The Odd Couple in a scene where Oscar let Felix have it:

“You leave me little notes! ‘We are out of corn flakes. F.U.’ It took me 15 minutes to figure out ‘F.U.’ stood for Felix Unger!”

Funny deserves more respect. Repeat after me: nobody was funnier than Neil Simon.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Icy Blue Heart

The Mediterranean Coast by Henri-Edmond Cross.

It’s hot as hell in New Orleans. Anyone surprised? I’m certainly not.

The big local story remains the mess at the Sewerage & Water Board.  The temporary head of the agency tried to give two employees raises but they were all forced out instead. Score one for Mayor Cantrell. She finally put some points on the board amidst an early rebellion by the City Council.

The SWB billing melodrama continues. One of the people caught up in that clusterfuck is my old friend Karen Gadbois who wrote about it in the online publication she co-founded, The Lens. Check it out. You may need to check your blood pressure after reading it.

The SWB saga poses the eternal question: where have you gone Ed Norton?

That concludes this impromptu edition of Album Cover Art Saturday. Time to go down the sewer with Norton:

This week’s theme song was written by John Hiatt for his classic 1988 album Slow Turning. Icy Blue Heart is one of the best “tears in your beer” weepers of all-time. We have John’s original followed by a cover by the sublime Emmylou Harris with Bonnie Raitt on backing vocals. The Bonster is pretty awesome too.

The opening lines of that song get me every time:

She came on to him like a slow moving cold front.

His beer was warmer than the look in her eyes.

Now that we’ve wept bitter tears, it’s time to dry off and jump to the break.

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First Draft Potpourri: Of Quislings & McCarthyites

I haven’t done a potpourri post for quite some time. The events of last weekend were stinky enough to revive this malodorous blogging tradition. The only kind of potpourri I like is the Jeopardy category, which is odorless since William Castle’s Smell-O-Vision process never caught on.

We begin with the artist formerly known as Rudy Noun Verb 9/11 Giuliani whose appearance on Chucklehead Todd’s teevee show created quite a stir.

Truth Isn’t Truth: Rudy Giuliani has turned into a giant gaffe machine. His latest soundbite echoed across the internet yesterday. Josh Marshall was present at the creation and captured the moment in its sublime newspeaky mendacity:

Rudy has tried to clean up his own mess but the original quote has the ring of authenticity. The Trumpers believe that there’s no such thing as objective truth and that they can say or do anything as long as it gets their dear leader out of trouble.

A reminder that the term truthiness was coined by Stephen Colbert during the Bush-Cheney administration. They may have had better manners than the Trumpers but equaled them in mendacity. Remember that the next time a former Bushie compares Trump unfavorably to W.

Let’s close out this segment with a tune posted on Twitter by my main man Monkeyfister:

Deanmania: I’m an unabashed fan of Watergate whistleblower John Dean. I’ve read most of his books and find his comments on current events incisive, insightful and other I-words. Apparently, Michael Cohen’s mouthpiece Lanny Davis is a Dean fan as well:

“I reached out to my old friend John Dean because of what he went through with Watergate, and I saw some parallels to what Michael Cohen is experiencing. I wanted to gain from John’s wisdom,” Davis told POLITICO.

“I certainly don’t want to raise expectations that Mr. Cohen has anything like the level of deep involvement and detailed knowledge that John Dean had in the Nixon White House as a witness to Nixon’s crimes, but I did see some similarities and wanted to learn from what John went through.”

Dean’s role seems to be that of informal adviser/whistleblower whisperer. If anyone can fix the Fixer, it’s Dean who was in a similar fix 45 years ago.

Here’s where McCarthyism fits into our Deanmania narrative, a series of angry tweets from Trumpberius:

Ironies about in the Insult Comedian’s Sunday tirade. First, calling John Dean a rat means the Kaiser of Chaos identifies with Tricky Dick. You know, the guy who resigned the presidency in disgrace 44 years ago. Second, Trump’s self-described mentor was Tailgunner Joe’s right-hand man, Roy Cohn. I’ve already covered that bit of sleazy ground in a 2016 post, Oy, Such A Mentor. The president* is engaging in projection yet again. As I pointed out in a 2018 post, Exhuming McCarthy, Trumpism is the new McCarthyism.

Let’s move on to a segment wherein I don’t link to my old posts but instead urge the revival of  a venerable term for traitor. Here’s a visual cue:

The Quisling Revival: I have watched in awe former CIA Director John Brennan’s attacks on Trump’s role as Putin’s Puppet. Brennan has decided to leave it all on the field in his effort to tell the truth about the First Liar. I have a suggestion for Mr. Brennan of something to call his unworthy adversary: a name that is synonymous with treachery and treason, Quisling who is depicted above side-by-side with his modern counterpart.

Vidkun Quisling was the Norwegian Fascist who sold out his country by facilitating the Nazi invasion in 1940. His reward was to become the Norwegian Fuhrer or so he thought. Instead, this delusional collaboraor became Hitler’s puppet who was expected to follow orders. Sound familiar? Quisling was tried and executed for treason in 1945.

Winston Churchill and the British press used the term Quisling as an epithet during World War II and I think the resistance should do likewise in 2018. Heeeere’s Winston:

A vile race of Quislings? Sounds like your basic Trump apologist to me.

Finally, on a lighter note, Dr. A and I attended a party “celebrating” Sharknado 6: It’s About Time. The party was thrown by our friend Will who has been Sharknado “obsessed” for years. He hosted Sharknado fests at his former business, Pizza Nola, for many years. The last Sharknado waltz took place at the Howlin’ Wolf and featured this cake:

The movie, of course, was dreadful. It was the first time I’d sat through one of these fakakta movies and I only survived by heckling/riffing. I realized that the final Sharknado featured no less than 5 Celebrity Apprentice contestants; proof positive that we’ve died and gone to hell.

The last word goes to (who else?) Tim Finn and Split Enz:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Chain Of Fools

Aube a Monserrat by Andre Masson.

I’m thinking globally, not locally this week so I’m kicking things off on a celebratory note. We all need verification that not everything sucks. Today’s good news is that the Insult Comedian’s damn fool military parade has been cancelled. The Pentagon initially delayed it until next year, then the president* got all pouty and cancelled it outright. It’s those mean old local politicians who thwarted his will. Poor baby. Give him his binky and he’ll be okay. Sad.

We’ve all had Aretha on our mind since her passing. I had to do some restructuring of this post as a result. How could I possibly NOT have another Aretha tune as this week’s theme song? Hence Chain Of Fools. The song was commissioned by Atlantic Records honcho Jerry Wexler for Otis Redding. Once he heard songwriter Don Covay’s demo, Wexler realized it was perfect for Aretha. Yeah you right, Jerry.

We have two versions of Chain Of Fools for your listening pleasure: Aretha’s original and a 2004 cover by the late Joe Cocker:

Grab on to the chain, chain, chain, chain of fools while we jump to the break.

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The Incredible Shrinking Party

I have shitty photoshopping skills so I don’t even try to alter images to match my post titles. My last attempt took way too long so I surrendered to the inevitability of my ineptitude. In short, I’m no Michael F.

I’m continually amazed by how much people still care what hardcore Trumpers think. They’re an irrelevant sub-set of a rapidly shrinking group. Repeat after me: to hell with the Trump base. Surveys on the number of self-declared Republicans put the figure at anywhere from 24 to 28%. Before Trump’s election, the numbers were more like 30-33%. He’s shrinking his party at a rather staggering rate. Rather than concerning themselves with angry white working class Trump voters, Democrats should go after those former GOPers who have abandoned the Party of Trump, hereinafter POT. They, too, want to put a brake on this out-of-control president*.

Politically successful presidents do not shrink their party. I was of age during the Reagan administration and Ronnie grew his party. College campuses were full of young Republicans who thought of Reagan as their political grandfather. This Kinks song was about young Thatcherites but it was equally applicable to young Reaganites:

Repeat after me: there’s a Kinks song for every occasion.

Donald Trump has had the opposite effect on the vast majority of young voters: he has repelled them with his repulsively retro views. Reagan was able to wrap his retro views in warm, nostalgic words and images from the golden age of Hollywood. They didn’t call him the Great Communicator for nothing.

Reagan’s way with young voters is one reason the country is in the fix we’re in right now. Those spineless middle-age Congressional Republicans were once young Reaganites. They seem, however, to have forgotten about his dislike and mistrust of the Russians.

It’s time for Trump’s opponents to gather together in a grand coalition to take the POT down several pegs this fall. I’m open to working with whoever wants Democrats to take control of Congress, state legislatures, and Governor’s mansions. This is no time for grudge holding: the stakes are too high. There’s also no time for hand wringing about Gerrymandering when there’s an obvious solution: get out the vote in massive numbers. It’s time for our people to turn out for EVERY ELECTION, not just presidential years. The fate of the Republic and liberal democracy is in the hands of the voters. Just say no to the Incredible Shrinking Party and throw the bums out.

I guess that qualifies as my version of the “win one for the Gipper” speech. It’s time for the cat in the movie poster to stop toying with the shrunken POT and go for the kill. There will be a treat in it for everyone. Della Street will insist.

The last word goes to former Democrat Ronald Reagan as a dying George Gipp in Knute Rockne: All American.

Beats the hell out of hunting for the Celebrity Apprentice N-word tape. Besides, as I said on the tweeter tube:

Another day, another last word fib. Woe is me, bop.

Aretha Franklin, R.I.P.

I grew up listening to soul music. I even remember preachers complaining about its mix of the sacred and profane aka gospel and blues. The greatest soul singer of them all was a preacher’s daughter from Detroit, Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul died today at the age of 76.

Aretha’s career had more highlights than a mere blogger can recount. The most recent of which was singing at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Equally memorable was THE HAT:

It had folks in New Orleans buzzing. So much so that my friend Carol knocked it off for herself, Dr. A, and her husband Mark. Speaking of preachers, Mark is my personal minister. Talk about losing battles.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Dr. A, Carol, and Mark. Muses Party, 2009

I realize that this is an odd and idiosyncratic Aretha memory to share but I’m an odd and idiosyncratic guy.

In keeping with this odd and idiosyncratic tribute, here’s an odd and idiosyncratic musical selection:

The Queen of Soul is dead, long live the Queen of Soul.