Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Forecast (Calls For Pain)

Rockwell

The Problem We All Face by Norman Rockwell.

We’re back on the weather roller coaster in New Orleans. One day it’s unseasonably warm, the next it’s colder than average. It’s almost as crazy as the Current Occupant of the White House. Did you see that insane press conference by the least racist and anti-Semitic person ever? In response to the crazy, I tweeted this:

I hope all the Busters and Steiners are happy right now. They insisted that there was no difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They were wrong. She’s sane.

Did y’all see the cartoon that was based on the Norman Rockwell painting that’s this week’s featured image? Here it is on the Tweeter Tube. I refuse to upload it:

That’s right, folks, Cartoonist Glenn (Not The Real) McCoy compared billionaire dilettante Betsy DeVos to NOLA’s own Ruby Bridges That’s preposterous and typical of the whiny titty babies on the Right in 2017.

Btw, BuzzFeed: You got something wrong.

On Sunday, the Belleville News-Democrat published this cartoon by Glenn McCoy. It appears to equate Betsy DeVos, Trump’s controversial pick for secretary of education, with Ruby Bridges, the first black child to attend an all-white school in the South.

Ruby Bridges *was* the first black student to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960. She was not the first overall: that honor belonged to the Little Rock Nine in 1957. The last I heard New Orleans was in the South. Y’all should spend less time cutting and pasting tweets and more time on research.

This week’s theme song fits both my mood and the temper of the times. The Forecast (Calls For Pain) comes from Robert Cray’s brilliant 1990 album Midnight Stroll:

It’s time to take a midnight stroll to the break. The forecast is for more mirth than pain on the other side.

Continue reading

Friday Guest Catblogging: Dennie Meets The Insult Comedian

Dennie the Den of Muses cat found an unusual spot to nap last week before Krewe Du Vieux marched. She spent much of the week lying on the back of a Krewe of Craps built effigy of Donald Trump in the stocks. It was tremendous. Believe me.

Here are a variety of pictures taken by my krewe-mates Wendar, Chris, Jennifer, and, of course, Dr. A. The last picture features my old pal Loki.

Dennie Trump

Dennie Trump

32095870624_004753c51e

Finally, this is the best picture of Dennie. What cat doesn’t like scritches?

Dennie Loki

Power Before Country

Comatose 2017

Krewe of Comatose float. Photograph © by Ride Hamilton.

It’s not original to think that the 21st Century Republican party *always* puts power before country. It’s Athenae’s pet hobby-horse. She wrote quite eloquently about it just yesterday. It’s time for me to climb on back of said rocking horse and join in. I’ll try not to break it. That would be too much like Henry Drummond’s Golden Dancer story in Inherit The Wind for my taste, and I try not to be overly derivative.

What am I on about? Read and learn:

I was seven years old, and a very fine judge of rocking horses. Golden Dancer had a bright red mane, blue eyes, and she was gold all over, with purple spots. When the sun hit her stirrups, she was a dazzling sight to see. But she was a week’s wages for my father. So Golden Dancer and I always had a plate-glass window between us. But—let’s see, it wasn’t Christmas; must’ve been my birthday—I woke up in the morning and there was Golden Dancer at the foot of my bed! Ma had skimped on the groceries, and my father’d worked nights for a month. I jumped into the saddle and started to rock— And it broke! It split in two! The wood was rotten, the whole thing was put together with spit and sealing wax! All shine, and no substance! Whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect-seeming—all gold, with purple spots—look behind the paint! And if it’s a lie—show it up for what it really is!

That’s how Republicans *should* have reacted to the Trump phenomenon from the git-go. The Trump “movement” is all shine and no substance, much like the Insult Comedian’s taste for gaudy, glitzy, goldleafy decor. I shuddered when I heard that the Trumps might redecorate the White House living quarters. It’s the people’s house and the thought of any of it resembling Trump Tower is nauseating. In the immortal words of Garth Algar: “I think I’m gonna hurl.” Holy crap, I’ve gone from Spencer Tracy and Fredric March to Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. And I’m okay with that. 2017 is the 25th anniversary of Wayne’s World, after all. Excellent. Party time.

Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, the rottenness beneath the surface shine of conservative ideology. They’ve made a deal with the devil to get tax cuts for the 1% and to take away people’s health care among other horrors. It’s being done in the name of freedom but it’s really just selfishness. In that way, Donald Trump epitomizes what has happened to the GOP since the Reaganite wave election in 1980. Who’s more selfish than the Insult Comedian? If you know anyone, please keep them away from me.

In the wake of the Out like Flynn moment, there was a fleeting notion that Congressional Republicans might conduct a proper inquiry of the improper Russian connection. That moment has already passed because they realize this fiasco is apt to land at Donald’s doorstep. He was warned weeks ago that Flynn was susceptible to blackmail and nothing happened until Monday night. Why? I believe Trump (aka Putin’s Pawn) knew of, and initiated, Flynn’s contacts with Putin’s people. Flynn is not the only senior administration* official who has been compromised by the Russians: every word spoken, and action taken, by Trump indicates that he is susceptible to KGB-style blackmail. As Josh Marshall put it this morning: Flynn doesn’t matter. This is about Trump.

I’m not sure where this is headed. Events have been Russian by at a break neck pace. Flynn resigned while I was publishing my post about him, which had my head spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. It’s certain that Trump administration* is headed for the rocks, it’s only a question of how extensive the damage is and who will be forced to jump overboard along with Flynn. It’s irrelevant whether he was pushed or jumped. The scariest thing about this week’s events is that Bannon is piloting the ship. The B3 Brownshirts are trying  to turn the White House into the Brown House. They’ve even unleashed Bannon’s creature Stephen Miller on the media. Unlike the rocker, he’s no Joker. Maurice would kick the little bastard in the balls.

There’s been a lot of discussion about prosecuting Flynn and other Trumpers for violations of the Logan Act. I, for one, am leery of that idea. The statute has been on the books since 1799 and it has only been invoked twice with no convictions. It was passed by a Federalist Congress and signed by President John Adams. It was aimed at the Jeffersonian Republicans who sided with the more radical factions of the French Revolution. In short, it was designed as political payback. It was mentioned by pro-Roosevelt forces during the isolationist America First moment but was never used. Wise choice.

Dusting off a 218-year-old statute to go after the Trumpers is a bad idea as far as this lapsed lawyer is concerned. It is a very frail reed and could easily be ruled unconstitutional if tested in the courts. That means anyone convicted under the law would walk and the GOPers would scream political persecution. The potential for backfire outweighs any positives.

The Logan Act is much like Golden Dancer in Henry Drummond’s story. A conviction obtained under it would be like Henry’s rocking horse: “The wood was rotten, the whole thing was put together with spit and sealing wax! All shine, and no substance!”

There’s an understandable temptation to fight fire with fire and sink to the Republicans level. I’m all for the resistance but we lose if we become carbon copies of them. Unlike our enemies, I believe in putting country before power.

I’ll give Spencer Tracy as the Clarence Darrow-like Henry Drummond the last word:

 

Crass Menagerie

Crass Menagerie

Krewe du Vieux rolled on Saturday night. It was a blast to march through the streets of the Marigny, Quarter, and CDB. I did my share of spanking and handing out throws. The Krewe of Spank’s theme was strictly local as you’ll see below but several Krewes did Trumpian themes. Below are two of the better efforts.

First, the Krewe of Mishigas with a sci-fi twist:

Mishigas 2017

That’s right, it’s Jabba the Trump.

Second, the Krewe of KAOS. Their marchers dressed as droogs, which was simultaneously brilliant and simple.

Kaos 2017

The first set of photos were taken by my old friend Brian. He also captured us Spanksters as we milled about whilst stalled. I’m not in the picture but Dr. A is:

Spanksters 2017

Spank has always done local satire. This year’s theme took a poke at JazzFest. We’ll begin with two views of the float taken by my pal, Christy Boom Boom Brackenberg:

Spank Float 2017

Spank 2017

Dig that crazy Spank-o-vision, y’all.

One of our throws was a sensation and still has the twittering classes abuzz. It’s a two-sided post card-sized parody of the JazzFest schedule cubes:

Cubes front

Cubes 2017

The cubes are, of course, loaded with fictional and wildly inappropriate acts.

A few quick notes:

Krewe du Vieux is *always* cold except for 2017. It was in the mid-70’s, which meant it was hotter than hell as we marched in our costumes. It was unnatural. We’re supposed to shiver, not sweat.

There are people in Krewe du Vieux who didn’t get the Glass Menagerie pun. The Glorious Bird weeps.

The crowd was huge and better behaved in the Quarter than in past years. Of course, it helps when you’re wielding one of these:

Paddles

And yes, people want to be spanked on the parade route. I don’t have any pictures of me doing so, all I have for you is this tweet:

Carnival is hard work. And there’s more to come. Let’s close with some seasonal music:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Night Parade

Spank Squad

Krewe of Spank float, 2015.

It’s the most wonderful day of the year, for me at least. Krewe du Vieux rolls at 6:30. That’s why the full-blown madness that is Saturday Odds & Sods has been dialed back this week. I’m too busy Krewe of Spanking, y’all.

I do, however, have a theme song: Night Parade from Robbie Robertson’s Storyville album. We march not far from where the red light district was located. It’s long gone. Time for some music. Hit it, Robbie:

I may not have a Saturday post extravaganza this week but I do have an Insult Comedian meme courtesy of my Spank krewe mate David M:

Trump Spank

That’s it for now. I’ll be back next week with a post that has more meat on the bone.

Riddler Meme

Dear CMU Republicans, Hitler was never fucking funny.

Oh for fuck’s sake:

A Central Michigan University registered student organization apologized via social media late Wednesday night after an anti-Semitic Valentine’s Day card apparently handed out by a member of the group sparked anger among students and community members.
The Valentine features a photo of Adolph Hitler on the front and the words, “My love 4 u burns like 6,000 Jews,” and is signed “XOXO, Courtney.”

I’m waiting for Sean Duffy to find the “good things” that came out of this whole Holocaust deal, now that it’s clear we can always find a silver lining in whatever stupid shit people on your team do.

A rally against hate came out after this hit the fan at CMU, and it’s good that people get loud enough to let assholes know that this kind of behavior isn’t acceptable. That said, who the fuck thought this was a good idea in the first place? Someone actively went about building this stupid valentine and made sure to place multiple copies into the bags of students who were getting them. And of course, I’m sure, they thought it was hysterical because, hey, nobody THEY know ever got shoved in an oven or gassed in a shower. I mean, can’t we all get past this?

When I was in fifth grade, we had a Holocaust speaker and I will never forget some of the stories he told us about death and hopelessness. I can still see his gnarled, age-spotted hands in my mind’s eye as he pointed to the ceiling during a story of how he watched a man hang himself from the rafters with a belt and did nothing to stop him. It was survival, he explained, and we didn’t have the luxury of worrying about people we knew but for whom we had no direct responsibility.

He came back and spoke to us one more time a few years later. During that time, there were many people who still could speak but chose not to. People who hid their tattoos and spoke about such things only in hushed tones or drunken despair. As the years went by, however, there were fewer and fewer people who could speak from a first-person perspective on what had happened.

When I wrote for the local paper, I met a woman who escaped from Germany before the Holocaust. She married a man later who survived Bergen-Belsen and she told me the horrors he experienced. Until the day he died, he slept motionless, with his arms crossed, because that’s how he was forced to sleep in the camps.

At each institution I taught, whenever a speaker on this topic visited, I actively encouraged my students to attend. I explained that it would be horrifying and painful, but that it was something that they MUST experience in life if they are to understand basic human decency and dignity. To understand how those places existed and took so much from so many for such a stupid fucking reason was to understand the dark side of humankind.

I have to admit, I’m sure I said and did a lot of shit stupid things when I was that age. I’m sure I didn’t sidestep every gay joke or correct every negative stereotype associated with race or gender. I’m positive that I am fortunate as hell that social media didn’t exist back then, or else, God alone knows what might have come rolling out today about me. However, stupid though I was, I knew there were very clearly some things that were way the fuck out of bounds.

Hitler is NOT a meme or the ace in the hole you drop when you want to win an argument. He was the central gear in a movement that showed us how deep the rabbit hole really is and how dark night can be. He is not a colloquialism.

Neither is rape, as in “That math test totally raped me.”

Neither is gay,  as in “He’s so gay over his new truck.”

Neither are a dozen other terms that take life-altering events and turns them into euphemisms for casual conversation.

The thing that makes it easier for us to course-correct some of these fuckups is to have actual, live examples of those things that show up in everyone’s faces and say, “Really? The math test slipped something in your drink, took you to an apartment and told you to relax as it ripped off your clothes and forced itself into you repeatedly as you were too incapacitated to move, scream or fight, leaving you with a lifetime of physical, mental and emotional scars? It did all that?”

Unfortunately, we keep losing those people who can explain what life was like living six inches from death for years at a time because of the whims of a madman. And because time erodes direct contact and immediate understanding, we get the Hitler Valentine and someone who thinks it’s fucking funny.

Confessions Of A Super Bowl Troll

I’m a bad American sports fan. I don’t *have* to watch the entire Super Bowl unless there’s a team I like playing. Last night, we watched an old John Ford movie, then tuned in for Lady Gaga’s half time show and the rest of the game. A lot of people missed her subtle political subtext but my friend Roberta did not:

Sometimes the subtle can be radical. I found her opening with snippets of “God Bless America,” “This Land is Your Land” and the pledge to be audacious and absolutely brilliant. She let the righties know that they have no monopoly on love for the USA, and she reminded lefties that there are bigger reasons to fight for what’s right than whatever our own, personal identity may be. And then came the Big, Gay Anthem. It was a million times more brilliant than an overt FU to Trump. Had she done something blatant, it would have fulfilled the negative expectations of the haters and allowed them to dismiss her as just another rude, obnoxious liberal. By making the song selections she did, she made it impossible for them to do that. It’s really quite genius.

Thanks for boiling that down so I don’t have to, R. It’s good to have clever friends who understood that Gaga was working with a scalpel and not a meat dress cleaver last night. And, yes. I like Lady Gaga. Sue me.

Everything is political in the winter of our discontent including this Super Bowl. (I refuse to use the Roman numeral: it’s pompous beyond belief.) Much of the country was rooting for the underdog Atlanta Falcons and against the plutocratic Patriots with their overt ties to Trump via owner Robert Kraft, Coach Grumpy, and Brady the ball inflator. I was too despite the fact that many in New Orleans consider rooting against the Falcons to be a Nolier than thou litmus test. The Falcons are, of course, the Saints arch-rivals but that’s mere sports hate. Real world concerns trumped sports hate for me yesterday.

One reason I pulled for the losing team is some of the people who were rooting for the winning team. The president* was one but so were some more blatant bigots. Here’s a sampler from my old “friend” the erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer and that punchable Nazi, Richard Spencer:

Rumor has it that Trump wants to gay marry Tom Brady but is afraid of Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire’s reaction. I suspect the white-haired prevaricator from Hoosierland could find a way to rationalize it. It’s his specialty as Trump’s Veep.

Let’s do some virtual Nazi punching:

Can’t have a majority black city’s team win the big game. Of course, it’s already happened with the Saints. (I’m too lazy to research other possibilities. Again, sue me.) Also, one of the white receivers is Jewish. Chew on that, you fourth-rate Streicher.

Spencer also called Brady an Aryan avatar. I am not making this up. Does Spencer’s fulsome praise make Brady a white nationalist or neo-Nazi? Of course not, but his silence about his less savory fans makes him look like a worm, weasel, or toady. The Patriots represent one of the bluest regions in the country so I hope that someone in the Commonwealth calls him on this shit. It would give Brady the chance to spout *new* clichés. The old ones are getting a bit shopworn.

Another thing that makes me a bad American is that I didn’t pay much attention to the ads. I’ll let others talk about them elsewhere. I was too busy trolling lefty Saints fans who allowed their sports hate to overrule everything else. I don’t get extreme sports hate. I dislike some sports teams but I *hate* racism and bigotry and those who go along with it infinitely more. There’s a perfect example here at First Draft of putting real world concerns above sports hate. Athenae and Mr. A are ardent Packers fans who hail from Wisconsin yet they live in Chicago, which is home to the Packers arch-rival, Da Bears. I guess they should move in order to satisfy the purity trolls. It’s just sports, it’s supposed to be fun and unimportant. Football isn’t life, it’s just a game.

I, for one, am glad that this particular Super Bowl is over. Its peculiar mix of sports hate stupidity and politics will not be missed. One good thing that happened was that Roger Goodell got booed last night in Houston. Sometimes you get the sweet with the bitter.

I think Mick and Keith got it right by analogy with this song so I’ll give them the last word:

 

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Trouble In Mind

Woodruff Underground RR

The Underground Railroad by Hale Woodruff, 1942.

Another week, another mural as the featured image. Hale Woodruff is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice. If you don’t recognize Trump’s Frederick Douglass quote, I have failed as a blogger.

It has been a Krewe of Spank-centric week at Adrastos World HQ. We’ve been helping with the float, buying costume bits, and even went to a pizza-n-shirt-iron-on party. Bet you’ve never done that. We also drank beer. Bet you’ve done that.

This week’s theme song was selected with our politically chaotic moment in mind. I am mindful of the fact that Trouble In Mind was written in 1924 by jazz pianist Richard Jones. It has been recorded oodles of time by oodles of artists. I have selected worthy versions by Big Bill Broonzy, Nina Simone, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the post only without the dirt or the band. That’s right, this post will be unbroken…

Emmett Till: Every social movement requires a spark. For the Civil Rights movement, the spark was provided by the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. In fact, Jesse Jackson describes a conversation with Rosa Parks that confirms the importance of Emmett Till:

“I asked Miss Rosa Parks [in 1988] why didn’t she go to the back of the bus, given the threat that she could be hurt, pushed off the bus, and run over, because three other ladies did get up. She said she thought about going to the back of the bus. But then she thought about Emmett Till and she couldn’t do it.”

There’s a new book about the murder of Emmett Till wherein author Timothy Tyson got the woman who was allegedly the target of unwanted attention by Till to admit that nothing much really happened. Vanity Fair’s Sheila Weller has the details.

It’s abundantly clear that the Current Occupant has no knowledge of the Civil Rights movement or how important it is to many of us. It didn’t involve him directly so it’s off his radar screen. I suspect Trump and his dreadful, racist daddy regarded the movement as a nuisance. It made it harder for them to discriminate against black folks in their apartment buildings in the outer boroughs, after all. So it goes.

We go from the crime that inspired the Civil Rights movement to a look at how Hollywood is taking on the  Insult Comedian.

The New Culture War: We tend to think of Pats Buchanan and Robertson when we think about the culture war. Buchanan’s 1992 GOP convention speech scared the living shit out of middle-American and was a factor in Poppy Bush’s defeat. Thanks, Pat.

The culture war used to be a right-wing thing. It no longer is. The Guardian’s Stuart Jeffries takes a look at how Hollywood and others on the left are standing up to the Insult Comedian. My favorite bit involves the divine Julia Louis-Dreyfus:

At last Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild awards in Hollywood, barely anyone who got to the stage failed to denounce Donald Trump’s immigrant ban. Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for instance, accepting her award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series with her portrayal of a (with all due respect) venal and useless president, said: “I am the daughter of an immigrant. My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France, and I am an American patriot … I love this country. I am horrified by its blemishes. This immigrant ban is a blemish, and it is un-American.”

Her speech came from the heart and was clearly not written by Selina Meyer’s staff. They would have found a way to fuck it up and elect Hugh Laurie President…

There’s already a backlash over comments like Julia’s and Meryl Streep’s but, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. The rank hypocrisy on the right about celebrities in politics is breathtaking. The GOP elected an actor President, sent Gopher from The Love Boat and Sonny Bono to Congress, and now they complain about free speech from Julia and Meryl. As the Cowardly Lion would surely say, DA NOIVE.  I fed Siri that sentence and she had a nervous breakdown. It was most amusing.

Speaking of the culture wars, our next segment takes a look at cursing. Hmm, I wonder if we still have a fuck quota at First Draft.

Fucking Around: There’s a motherfucking good review at the New York Review of Books by Joan Acocella of two bloody buggery bollocky books about swearing. You should read the fucker. Fuckin’ A.

Speaking of people who got fucked over, here’s a look back at Grateful Dead’s 1970 arrest in New Orleans. They did not return to the Crescent City until 1988.

Busted Down On Bourbon Street: The Grateful Dead were “set up like a bowling pin” in New Orleans on January 31, 1970. The city fathers were terrified that hippies would overrun the city and interfere with their drinking. They simply could not have that.

There’s a fun look back at Live For Live Music.com. I can say fun because nothing much came of the bust except for semi-lurid headlines and this mug shot of a certain lead guitar player:

man_file_1055638_jerry-mugshot-1970

Notice that Jerry had the good sense to smile, not glower in his mugshot. Never let the bastards see you sweat.

I obviously have to post a version of Truckin’ at this juncture. This is a good ‘un complete with tight musicianship and sloppy vocals, both trademarks of the good old Grateful Dead:

Let’s move on to a sporadic Odds & Sods feature:

Separated At Birth? I added a question mark because I’m not 100% sure this works but it cracked me up when I saw it on the Tweeter Tube.

Instead of being leery of the idea, Leary responded without so much as a leer:

Just imagine it: Denis Leary in The Bowling Green Massacre. He really needs to wear Kellyanne Liar’s inauguration day outfit:

conway-meme

Let’s move from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Saturday Classic: I posted the Queen of Soul earlier, it’s time to listen to the King of Soul, Otis Redding. Note that the album begins with Ole Man Trouble. It has nothing to do with the Insult Comedian but we do have more than our share of trouble right now.

That’s it for this week. We’ll be back with more hijinks and shenanigans next week. Who better to have the last word than three Jokers? Heath, Jack, and Cesar beat the hell out of the joker in the White House. Figuratively, not literally.

jokers-memejpg

“Keep it”

I was 12 years old when my great-grandfather died and my experiences with him were limited to Christmas events, birthday parties and the occasional times we watched a parade from his porch. Most of what I know comes from family legends and stories others told. Two things sat at the core of each tale:

  • He worked hard all his life.
  • He was an immigrant.

I thought about him this week with the immigrant ban, the Muslim ban or whatever the hell “anti-terrorist” spin the alt-White House is putting on this. His life spanned exactly 100 years and there was a lot of life in those years.

He came from a country that no longer exists: the “Kingdom of Bohemia” which later became squished into Czechoslovakia. Bias was pretty clear in that area of the woods as the Czechs and Slovaks didn’t have a lot of love for one another. The Bohemians were kind of the Stu Sutcliff of that area, but after World War I, they got stuffed into this new set of boundaries and that was that.

Great-grandpa was long gone by then, setting off for America on ship of some kind. How he got the ticket or how much money he had on him never made it into the family story, but he came from a family of farmers in the Old Country, so the answers were probably “No clue” and “Not much.” What did make it into the mix was that he met my great-grandmother when he got here, another Bohemian refugee. They were in the early 20s when they got married, or “spinsters” in the language of the time. Nobody thought it would last or that any future generations would spring forth.

They stayed married 72 years, until great-grandma died at 96, and produced four children (“Joe, Doc, Pa and Aggie,” my father would say.) So much for conventional wisdom.

They landed in a small Wisconsin town abutting Milwaukee, where my grandfather found work at the local factory, like most immigrants. He was a carpenter by trade, however, so each summer he would quit the factory job and build houses in the area to earn a better living. When his own family had reached a critical mass, he built one for them, finishing it up right around the time my grandfather was born. He lived there, raised four kids in that tiny building, outlived all of them and died in his own bed a month after he turned 100.

The backyard was the size of a two-car garage, but it sported a plum tree that produced enough fruit to eat, can and squeeze into a liquor-based form. When he sensed the plum tree was coming to the end of its useful life, he’d plant a half dozen seeded saplings and wait for one to assert dominance. He’d then destroy the others and chop down the old tree. The plum wood served to heat the house and cure meat.

He had a postage-stamp sized garden that was crammed to the hilt. Every time he picked something, he planted a new item to squeeze more food out of his patch of land. He also went to church every morning with a small paper bag, a useful item to collect the mushrooms he found along the way. By noon, great-grandma turned his find into a soup. That would be lunch.

Of all the stories I remember, this one always stuck with me:

Somewhere around between the World Wars, he got an official letter from a government agency in the old country. It explained that his father had died and that as the oldest son, he had inherited the family farm. It was a reasonably decent enterprise and during that era (the Great Depression), the farm would provide him a nice financial boost. The letter said he had to go back to fill out some papers and it was his. He could even sell it right then and there if he wanted.

My great-grandmother, who never really bothered to learn much English, wanted to go back. She missed her homeland and she also wanted to show off how well the family was doing. My great-grandfather, a practical man who knew how tenuous life could be in unstable times, scrawled a word in Bohemian on the letter and sent it back.

The mystery of that letter and the farm and the family remained part of frequent discussions around the family. We never really knew what happened or why until somewhere around his 90th or 95th birthday, where my father and his siblings managed to get great-grandpa to sit down at the kitchen table and tell stories. He eventually got around to the story about the farm and revealed what he had  written:

“Keep it.”

My great-grandfather saw himself as living the American dream. He came here with very little, found love, started a family and set down roots from which future generations could grow. He knew that if he went elsewhere, he might not get back or might not get let out. The whims of others would dictate his situation if he decided to reconfigure his life. So, he stayed put, built a life and never stopped working to improve things around him. (Another legendary family story was when my father stopped by to wish him a happy 97th birthday, only to find him on a rotten wood ladder climbing onto the roof. “Grandpa, what are you doing?” my dad shouted. “I cleaning rain gutters,” he said in his broken English. “But Johnny (a 30something cousin of mine) just cleaned those last week!” Great-grandpa shook his head. “You kids… You never do good enough job.”)

For generations, people who ARE here have always come up with reasons that THEY are OK being here, but THOSE GUYS shouldn’t be. It’s a continual series of, “Go back where you came from!” We can make weak arguments about potential terrorism, but that’s all they are: weak arguments by irrational people hoping to keep others from taking something they believe is essentially theirs. It’s less of a “Give me your tired” crowd and more of a “Go back where you came from!” contingency that makes the noise.

Great-grandpa never mentioned outright bias or hatred. He wore it on his face: A grim, tight-lipped determinism seemed to be his resting pulse. Dad heard stories second and third hand about how if it weren’t for a particular supervisor who liked great-grandpa, he’d have been out on his ass several times, simply because he wasn’t “one of us.”

What Trump and his supporters tend to forget is that every point in time, all of us used to be “one of them.”

Three or, A List of Things, In No Particular Order, My Daughter Says Now

“Up. Up. Up. UP. UP. UUUUUUUUUUP.” This is her morning greeting and my daily alarm clock. With the exception of an 18-month sleep regression that almost killed us all, Kick has always been a championship sleeper. She has never once, however, climbed out of her crib. She stays in there, yelling in increasing volume, until she’s fetched from it, and as much as sometimes I would love for her to just get up and get dressed and make her own damn breakfast for once, most days I get out of bed smiling at the steady increase in volume and exasperation.

“That doesn’t sound right.” This is an all-purpose phrase for declining anything she doesn’t want to do, from putting her toys away to eating her dinner to getting out of the bath. It has the effect of making me laugh, whereas her previous go-to, a loud NO followed by screaming, got her a time-out and a discussion about what exactly deserves to be made a federal case in this house. While I’m laughing at the airy detachment with which she interrogates even the most mundane request, she gets to keep playing, so it’s an effective temporary tactic if not a permanent one.

“Come on, guys.” This is always either directed at her plastic animals and dinosaurs when they are being recalcitrant, or at the football players on the TV to whom Dad has just said something very rude.

“I’m going to work.” She gets up sometimes, from playing, and puts on her sunglasses and picks up a Hello Kitty bucket in which she shoves some random collection of plastic toys, and bids me adieu as she saunters down the hall. Working mom guilt is bullshit, but it is real bullshit, and that she sees it as normal for her tiny little female self to have a job assuages some of it.

Some.

“I want to be alone right now.” I suggested she say this as a polite alternative after she told me to “go away” while she played with her toys. Kick has always needed her space. Even as a newborn, she would get overstimulated and only calm down when put down in her bassinet by the window, where she could watch the birds and catch her breath. She hugs and cuddles on her terms, for a few moments, and then is off again, completely at home in her skin.

“Whose streets? Our streets!” She picked that one up at the Women’s March last weekend in Chicago. Kick’s an easygoing child, and generally willing to be dragged along on whatever trip Mom and Dad were taking anyway. She’s spent a lot of time in the car driving to various relatives’ and friends’, she loves street festivals and anything outdoors and loud, so seeing the weather was balmy we determined to all go protest as a family.

Someone asked us at a party once what our “parenting philosophy” was, and I said something like, “we are hoping to keep her from electrocuting herself until we can send her to college.” An only slightly expanded version is this: We will do stuff on the assumption that she can handle it, and preserve an escape route in case she can’t. An acquaintance, seeing her picture as she reveled in the experience, wondered if she “really” understood what the march was about or what was happening.

Of course she didn’t.

A good friend, while I was publicly fretting about one of Kick’s feral, stabby phases, described parenting preschoolers as “creating norms” and I’ve been relaxed ever since she said it, like the job is not to control their behavior but to show them what normal behavior is. At this age, you are building muscle memory. They are saying please and thank you because it gets them what they want and makes you happy, not because they understand the network of underlying social conventions that make up humanity. They refrain from hitting or biting not out of profound empathy but because the last time they did that you subjected them to a severe talking-to and took away a stuffy.

And normal behavior when confronted with injustice has to be to confront it right back. Nothing weakens you like thinking you are powerless, and she will never be powerless. She can be whatever she wants, except that.

The older she gets, the more aware I am of the ways in which the world is designed to hurt her. When she was tiny and fragile, it was cold and sickness I feared. As she grew, it was sidewalks and slides and jungle gyms and anything else that would bruise or scrape her. Now, now that she walks with confidence and runs with joyous abandon and plays with curiosity and focus, I turn my attention to all the discouraging things people say.

The things people say when you’re a girl: “Get your shotgun, Dad.” All the things people say when you’re young.”The teenage years are going to be tough!”All the worries and the drags and the “oh, she’s not doing this yet?” I turn my attention to those things because the other day at dinner Mr. A and I were discussing something to do with her preschool and she turned to us and said, “Are you talking about me?”

We used to be able to have whole conversations, even arguments, about her without her ever catching on. Now she notices and she knows, and she says it right back.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: End Of The Line

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Man at the Crossroads by Diego Rivera.

The image you see above began life as a joke at a rich man’s expense. Nelson Rockefeller commissioned the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera to do a fresco at Rockefeller Center. Big mistake: Rivera was not only a lefty, he was a Communist. If you take a closer look at the image you can see Lenin, Trotsky, and Karl Marx among the figures. The future Governor of New York was not amused and had the mural destroyed. Mercifully for art lovers, Rivera had a friend take pictures of the Rocky mocking work. He later did a second version in Mexico City. Take that, Rocky. There’s a lesson in this story for our times even if Rocky’s politics weren’t as odious as those of the Insult Comedian.

This January is a time for sad songs. End Of The Line is a rock torch song. It was written by Bryan Ferry for Roxy Music’s brilliant 1975 album Siren. I listened to Siren obsessively during the bleakest time of my life and it helped me get through it. Thanks, Roxy.

We begin with the studio version; sung by Ferry as if his heart was ripped out of his chest. It’s followed by a swell but less overtly emotional 1993 cover by Concrete Blonde:

I’ve also been known to sing End Of The Line under my breath when taking the bus or streetcar downtown to Canal Street, which is the you know what. I don’t think I’ve been caught in the act but ya never know. I suppose this is as good time as any to insert the break thingamabob. See you on the other side.

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Friday Catblogging: I Looked Away

Help, I’m running out of clever catblogging titles. The best I could do this week was to use an Eric Clapton song title. So it goes:

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And yes, Oscar’s bald spot is back. Otherwise he’s as fit as a fiddle and ready to play some Dominos.

 

Welcome Back To Dizneylandrieu

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It’s the time of year when I turn my attention to the zany, madcap antics of the satirical parade Krewe du Vieux. KdV is an umbrella organization made up of sub-krewes who design and execute our own floats and costumes. You may recall that I belong to the Krewe of Spank. In 2014, Spank’s theme was Welcome to Dizneylandrieu. It was our masterpiece wherein we mocked our pompous Mayor for encouraging the gentrification sweeping New Orleans post-Katrina. We called him Mitchey Mayor and marched as Mitchketeers. It’s a small fucking world, after all. Long before our take on the Gentrified Kingdom, locals bridled at attempts to transform the French Quarter-indeed the city itself-into Disneyland on the Bayou. Here we go again.

This time the theme is “security” in response to sporadic violent crimes in the tourist belt. Mayor Landrieu has announced a sweeping plan that could transform parts of the city into a 21st surveillance state:

An unprecedented number of electronic eyes will soon be deployed throughout New Orleans, watching over 20 different neighborhoods, tracking vehicles to assist police as they search for suspects and scanning French Quarter revelers to look for hidden weapons.

The massive security deployment, part of a $40 million crime-prevention plan unveiled Monday, includes pumping public and private video feeds into a centralized New Orleans Police Department command center that will be monitored around the clock.

“Here’s the first thing I want everyone to know: When you go on Bourbon Street now, everything you do will be seen,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

The proposal, drafted in the wake of a shooting on Bourbon Street on Thanksgiving weekend that left one person dead and nine wounded, also calls for efforts to tamp down on the atmosphere of street partying and entertainment that often overtakes areas of the Quarter into the early morning hours.

While no closing times will be imposed, bars across the city will be required to keep their doors closed after 3 a.m. to discourage patrons from spilling outside, and an early morning spraying of Bourbon Street will further discourage revelry there.

Here we go again. This scheme is an overreaction to bad press every time some jerk with a gun and no impulse control loses their shit after getting shitfaced drunk. That’s almost always the nature of crime in the Quarter.  It’s the hardest type of crime to predict, deter, or prevent. In lieu of any meaningful attempts to deal with gun violence, there will be 24-hour surveillance of people getting hammered and doing stupid shit on Bourbon Street.

There’s so much drunken malakatude on Bourbon Street that separating the dangerous assholes from garden variety assholes is a job best performed by foot patrols. The city is already full of “crime cameras” that do not work, why are we to believe that this will be any different? It’s called throwing money at a problem to counter bad publicity. $40 million is a lot of scratch, y’all.

The Mayor attempted to defuse criticism of this misbegotten scheme by extending the surveillance net to other “hot spots” around the city. That’s unlikely to work. Plans like this come down the pike every so often, and city government is all talk and no enforcement. It’s another in a long series of publicity stunts aimed at making white people feel safe in a majority African-American city. Short-term solutions rarely solve long-term problems, but what really matters is that tourists feel safer. #Sarcasm. In short, it’s an expensive PR stunt as opposed to a serious crime prevention proposal.

For many locals, the most controversial part of the plan is the bit about bars having to shut their doors at 3 AM. There are several bars within a 2 block radius of Adrastos World HQ, they keep their doors open all night, and we hear nary a peep. 24-hour bars may sound odd to some of you, but it’s part of the city’s culture. The only reason they should have to shut their doors is if they’re bothering the neighbors. Besides, there’s no longer smoking in bars (something I support) so smokers are going to spill on to the sidewalk in any event. Is the city planning to send inspectors out in the wee hours to enforce this scheme? I am dubious.

Here’s the deal: I’m not much of a bar person nowadays. I have poor hearing so I have difficulty following conversation in a loud barroom. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the vibrant bar culture of New Orleans. The Mayor apparently does not. He’s beginning to remind me of H.L. Mencken’s line about puritanism: “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

You cannot save a city by denying its very essence and turning it into a sanitized version of itself. Welcome back to Mitchey Mayor’s Gentrified Kingdom:

Gentrified Kingdom

 

Sean Spicer Can Lie & Chew Gum At The Same Time

In a word, GROSS:

Everybody knows that breakfast is the most important meal, a time to stock up on nutrient-rich foods that give us the energy we need to tackle the day. Or, if you’re White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, it’s a time to chew and swallow 35 sticks of Orbit cinnamon gum.

In an August 2016 profile in the Washington Post, Spicer cops to a gum habit the likes of which we haven’t seen since May of 2016:

This is the face of today’s Republican Party: The nose is pinched, the hair is sandy blond, the eyes are intense. But all you really need to know can be seen in the mouth. This is where Spicer’s talent and nervous energy meet. Watch it open wide enough to inhale his phone as he yells at an editor. Behold its versatility, as he at once chastises Trump for calling Mexicans rapists and murderers while also lauding him for calling attention to the issue of illegal immigration. Even when he is not speaking, it works on overdrive, churning through pieces of Orbit cinnamon gum, which he chews and swallows whole. Notwithstanding his line of work, the man just can’t stand a gross-feeling mouth.

“Two and a half packs by noon,” said Spicer. “I talked to my doctor about it, he said it’s no problem.”

I hate gum and sometimes use gun chewer as a slur, especially when someone is gumming up the works. Gum chewers are gross: they stick it on tables, chairs, and throw it on the ground when its rendered tasteless. Invariably, I’m the guy who gets it stuck on his shoe. This gives me an entirely new reason to dislike Sean Spicer although his rampant mendacity is a better one.

Before becoming the alternative facts guy, Spicer was best known for his stupid feud with Dippin’ Dots ice cream. One could call this dispute: the Dipshit versus Dippin’ Dots.

Speaking of gum chewing morons, Rick Perry was caught blowing bubbles during the Insult Comedian’s inauguration. I’m not sure if he swallows but here’s proof positive that he blows:

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It’s almost as strange as the time Perry was caught playing with a bottle of maple syrup whilst campaigning in New Hampshire in 2011:

It’s going to be a long four years, y’all. I have my doubts that either Spicer or Perry will last the duration. I also doubt that Perry can walk and chew gum at the same time. I do, however, have a suggestion for a theme song for that bubble headed booby from Texas:

 

Mock Jazz Funeral For Lady Liberty

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We do things differently in New Orleans. We know how to put a joyful spin on the direst situation. That’s what happened last Friday as the Insult Comedian took the oath of office and gave his B3 alt-right “American carnage” speech. A crowd gathered at Armstrong Park in Treme and threw a political jazz funeral full of music, mirth, mockery, and, of course, costumes.

I did not costume as I decided to attend the day before. I went instead for a Krewe du Vieux gentile rabbinical look:

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Photograph by Julie Graybill.

That’s me with two of my favorite people in New Orleans: Andy and Bob. Self-described lefty carpenter Andy built the coffin for Lady Liberty. It was an overcast day in the Crescent City, which explains my pallor. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s hard being a gentile rabbi in the city.

There were some amazing costumes as you can see below. One might call this Pussygrabber and the Walking Vaginas. Sounds like a swell band name to me.

Pussygrabber and the Walking Vaginas.

Photograph by Dakinikat.

Please give them a tiny hand of applause for their creativity.

My official blog photographer had to work and I didn’t take any decent pictures because I was preoccupied with a feline health scare. Oscar refused to eat and hid from us that morning. I think it may have been the general vibe of Inauguration Day: he’s a very empathetic cat who takes a dim view of the man whose hair resembles a nutria pelt. In any event, he was back to normal by that evening. Let’s just call it an anti-Trump hunger strike.

The march was great fun and lifted our spirits considerably. As we walked down Canal Street, some tourists gathered to watch. I loudly encouraged them to join in and some did. There was also a couple in a hotel room who waved and took pictures of the march. The only reason it’s noteworthy is that they were wrapped in towels or sheets. Probably honeymooners.

One highlight of the day was running into an old acquaintance, Campbell Robertson. He’s the Gray Lady’s man in New Orleans. I had the pleasure of introducing him to event spokesperson Annie Spell as “Campbell Robertson of the failing New York Times.” I introduced him as such to several friends including my two-woman Krewe of Spank posse of Jennifer and Lyndsey. They deserve special mention because they were my cocktail techs and brought me a Pimm’s Cup when we reached the riverfront Moonwalk. Thanks, y’all.

The one discordant note of the day occurred on the riverfront. The Moonwalk is named for the current mayor’s father, former Mayor Moon Landrieu. It’s a swell place to sit on a bench and watch life on the Big Muddy. It’s also a popular spot for some of the more aggressive homeless men to congregate; one of whom was NOT amused by the marchers. I believe he called us Moonwalk moonbats or some such shit.

That’s right, a really scuzzy homeless guy with a confederate flag patch on his tattered jeans upbraided us for not giving Trump a chance. I did not engage with him but some of our number did. He informed us that he wasn’t homeless, he was a bum and damn proud of it. Why that’s better is beyond me. It’s a pity that he didn’t have a sign proclaiming: Riverfront Bums For Trump. He delivered something that could be called either a stinky soliloquy or a rancid rant, here’s the gist of it:

What the fuck is wrong with you fucking people? The man has been President for 30 minutes. Give him a chance. Why don’t you damn moonbats go somewhere else and stop ruining my view.

He then pulled out his pet rat and began juggling it. I am not making this up, y’all. That was when marchers stopped engaging with him. Who wants to engage with a rat juggling Trumper, after all. I bet you don’t have those in your town. I almost suggested that he show up at Trump Tower and declare his fealty to the Insult Comedian. I bit my tongue because this is one of the so-called forgotten people who I would prefer to forget.

I had to peel off from the protest at the mid-way point to go home and check on the aforementioned ailing feline. My brain wanted to march the next day but my legs weren’t crazy about the idea. Besides, we had a Krewe du Vieux commitment. The New Orleans Women’s March was a rousing success with an estimated crowd of 10K. It was one of the biggest non-Carnival marches in the city’s long history. I’m very proud of my people. Of course, we’re a blue island in a sea of red so it didn’t surprise me.

If you’re interested in a journalistic account of the Mock Jazz Funeral, Dave Lohr covered it for the Huffington Post as did Doug MacCash of the Zombie-Picayune and Chevel Johnson of the AP.

Here are a few more pictures courtesy of my dear friend Julie Graybill who wore widow’s weeds that day as did the woman in the first picture:

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Finally, here’s one for our resident GOT fanatic, Athenae:

NOLA winter has come.

Contemplating the rat-juggling waterfront bum for Trump has given me a benign earworm, so I’ll give the good old Grateful Dead the last word:

Saturday Odds & Sods: 21st Century Schizoid Man

Hell by William Blake

Dante’s Hell by William Blake.

The weather is New Orleans has been as schizoid as our national politics. If only the latter was ephemeral as the weather. It’s been foggy, damp, and unseasonably warm. I know that may sound good to the ice people out there but I could use some consistency. I loathe running the AC in January but had to break down and do so because the house was so damn damp. So it goes.

As much I hate to do this, I’m going to keep this post as brief as the Insult Comedian’s attention span. Here’s why: I usually write the Saturday post on Friday and I decided to attend one of the New Orleans marches against the incoming maladministration. I hope that everyone who marches this weekend will engage in practical politics during the Insult Comedian’s misrule. I’m reminded of Barney Frank’s aphorism: liberals protest, conservatives vote. The time has come for us to do both. I’ll write about the local festivities on Monday.

The good news for Odds & Sods irregulars is that I *have* selected a theme song and it’s a doozy. The lyrics of 21st Century Schizoid Man were written by Pete Sinfield and the music by the members of King Crimson Mach One: Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, and Michael Giles. It’s a dark and gloomy prog-rock anthem that’s just as relevant today as when it was first recorded in 1969. The lyrics certainly are:

Cat’s foot iron claw
Neuro-surgeons scream for more
At paranoia’s poison door
Twenty first century schizoid man

Blood rack barbed wire
Politicians’ funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man

Death seed blind man’s greed
Poets’ starving children bleed
Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man

We begin with the original version from In The Court Of The Crimson King. Its classic screaming man cover was featured in an early edition of Album Cover Art Wednesday:

Let’s move on to a live version from King Crimson Mach 3. It’s my favorite KC band: John Wetton bass and vocals, David Cross on violin, Bill Bruford on percussion alongside founding member/band leader Robert Fripp on lead guitar.

Greg Lake sang lead on the original studio recording and trotted it out from time-to-time onstage with ELP:

I had one recurring segment prepared and since it features one of the other founders of prog, I thought it was best to leave in it. I don’t want Roger Waters going off on me, after all.

Saturday Classic: Pink Floyd did a one-off reunion of its classic line-up in 2005. David Gilmour and Roger Waters briefly buried the hatchet before resuming their feud.

That’s it for this week. Now that the lunatic is on the White House grass, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon. Below is a reminder of better times. I already miss Uncle Joe.

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The Gong Show Presidency

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I’ve long been a consumer of trash teevee. I’m not proud of it but, as one of the real housewives would surely say, I own it. I’m not sure where the hell I bought it though…

One of my past guilty pleasures was The Gong Song, which was a untalent/game show mashup. They brought shitty performers on-some ironic, some clueless-and when the judges had enough they would beat the hell out of a gong like a demented, untalented Carl Palmer or this burly bloke:

One of the ironic gongsters, the Unknown Comic, inspired my nickname for the Darnold: the Insult Comedian. That, in turn led to this May 2016 post and meme:

.Unknown Insult Comic Meme

It’s time to circle back to the post title at long last. It’s a modest proposal for future Trump pressers. He’s notoriously thin-skinned as we saw last week when he refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta. Then there was the infamous “you’re the puppet” exchange with HRC when she called Putin’s Pawn a puppet. Here’s my helpful suggestion: the Trumpers should roll a gong out for future press conferences, which will allow the Insult Comedian to bang the gong when he gets a vexatious question. It would be a ratings smash. Literally.

If only we could end the Trump misadventure by beating the shit out of a gong. We cannot but it sounds like a swell way to vent, doesn’t it?

All this talk about gongs has given me a benign earworm, so I’ll give the late, great glam rocker Marc Bolan the last word:

One more thing. This post was inspired by a tweet by my online friend Megan Romer about the inauguration of his illegitimacy:

Guess I lied about the whole last word thing again. We are living in the post-truth world, after all.  So it goes.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Dream It’s Over

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Everything Is Topsy Turvy by Goya.

It’s been a gloomy week in New Orleans and across America. The reality of who and what the next President is has started sinking in. It’s no longer an abstract concept: a man who is as erratic as New Orleans winter weather is about to be in charge of the IRS, military, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies. The intelligence community is in open-not covert-revolt, which is astonishing given that a Republican administration is coming to power. Spooks usually love GOPers. We are well and truly through the looking glass.

Goya was right: everything *is* topsy turvy. I find myself in agreement about the Insult Comedian with dissident neo-cons such as Max Boot. I have even praised a piece Boot wrote for the NYT wondering if Trump was a modern Manchurian Candidate. I’d rather give Max the Boot, but in a crisis you take your allies where you find them. They keep popping up in the oddest places.

As you can tell, I’m not in the mood for a full-blown Odds & Sods extravaganza. I’ve been battling a cold all week while still writing some pretty good stuff. I plan to keep this post terser than a Hemingway sentence. I may even grown a beard, but please don’t call me Papa or hold me to the short sentence thing.

This week’s theme song comes from the great Neil Finn and Crowded House. Don’t Dream It’s Over has a world-weary, anthemic quality that suits my mood as does the opening stanza:

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me

We begin with the original Crowdies video that helped the song become a world wide smash as opposed to Letterman’s production company, World Wide Pants:

Crowded House is one of the bands that had a “farewell” concert before the inevitable regrouping a mere 10 years later. The setting was dramatic: the Sydney Opera House. It was also the late Paul Hester’s last waltz with the band. I still miss his zany and madcap antics as well as his stellar drumming.

Don’t Dream It’s Over has been covered quite a few times; even on the teevee show, Glee. That was a nice pay-day for Neil but I prefer Diana Krall’s take on the song. Cue string section:

That’s it for this week. If you’re like me, you feel a bit lost as the news of Russian spying rushes by. That feeling, plus Athenae’s great Hemingway post, has me pondering the Lost Generation of the 1920’s That’s why I’m giving Hemingway and his frenemy Scott Fitzgerald the last word.

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The Son-In-Law Also Rises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vive les Maquis.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Born Under A Bad Sign

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Tollan, Aztec Legend by Marsden Hartley, 1933.

The only predictable thing about the weather in New Orleans to start the new year has been its unpredictability. It’s been warm and muggy, wet and damp, foggy and chilly. You name it, we’ve had it, except, that is, for snow. The last time it snowed here was in 2008. Thousands of pictures were taken of the St. Charles street car in the snow. It melted quickly and hasn’t happened since. So it goes.

It was Twelfth Night yesterday, which means that we can finally eat king cake, and, more importantly, hang our krewe flags on our houses. I’ve been wanting to fly the Spank flag for months but Dr. A wouldn’t hear of it until yesterday. So it goes.

Here’s the flag with Dennie the den of Muses cat:

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End of laginappe Carnival catblogging, make that reblogging. If you blog long enough you end up repeating yourself, repeating yourself, repeating yourself…

This week’s theme song, Born Under A Bad Sign, was written for blues great Albert King by Stax Records legends William Bell and Booker T. Jones. It seems to fit the mood of at least half the country as we contemplate the next administration. I’m not sure whether to feel cursed or resigned but I’m certain that the shit brought to the surface in 2016 will continue to stink. Shit’s a funny thing, no matter how you disguise it, it smells just as bad. So it goes.

We begin with a version King recorded in New Orleans in 1978, produced by Allen Toussaint:

We continue with an instrumental version by the man who wrote the music:

Finally, a swell 1993 rendition by the great Paul Rodgers:

Now that we’ve admitted to being down since we began to crawl, we’ll shoot for a rebirth (no, not the brass band or the pale ale) after the break.

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