Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Won’t See Me

Masks by James Ensor.

It’s been cool all week in New Orleans. It’s unclear if Fall has fallen or it’s a cruel hoax. My money is on the latter. The heat doesn’t usually break here until sometime in October. The good news is that we’re not under threat of a tropical system. It feels odd not to be checking the spaghetti tracks every few hours but that’s another autumnal augury. End of obligatory weather-related opening passage.

This week’s theme song comes from one of my favorite Beatles albums, Rubber Soul. It was one of the first albums I ever owned. When my father saw the cover he said, “Those are the ugliest women I ever saw.”

To this day I’m uncertain whether or not Lou was joking. The only one who would have made an ugly woman was the drummer. Sorry, Ringo.

You Won’t See Me is a Macca song, but it’s credited to Lennon & McCartney as were all the pair’s songs. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have three versions of You Won’t See Me for your listening pleasure: The Beatles original, and covers by Bryan Ferry and Canadian songbird, Anne Murray.

I never expected to post an Anne Murray song at First Draft, but I might as well go big and post her monster hit from 1970:

Let’s spread our tiny wings and fly away to the break.

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Malaka Of The Week: Van Morrison

It’s been a long time since I wrote a malaka of the week post. The last of approximately 250 was on May 29, 2019. It’s not that there’s less malakatude in the world. If anything, there’s a surfeit of malakatude. Many posts started off as MOTW but then a clever title occurred to me. I’ve decided to resist the temptation to name this post after the album above and stick to my guns. And that is why Van Morrison is malaka of the week.

I’ve been listening to Van Morrison for most of my life. He’s a brilliant singer-songwriter but I’ve always known that he was an asshole, creep, and malaka. I made the mistake of being a “stage door Johnny” after a Morrison show when I was a young whippersnapper because my date wanted to meet him. He was awful. He refused to sign autographs or engage in any way with anyone. His drunken mantra was, “I don’t sign fucking autographs so piss off.” That’s an exact quote. It was seared into my brain as it was directed at my date. She blew smoke in his face in response.

Despite that and seeing erratic concert performances, I still like his music. How can I give up Tupelo Honey just because its creator is a sourpuss?

Somewhere in my archives, I have a Van the Man bootleg called I Don’t Play Those Fucking Songs Any More. It consists of Van cussing out his fans from the stage. Asked to play Brown Eyed Girl Van’s response was, “What is this? Your fucking wedding? Piss off, wanker.”

I need to search for it. It’s somewhere in my home office, which is beyond cluttered. I am not a clean desk guy. Anyone surprised?

That long meandering introduction leads us to the latest example of Morrisonian malakatude:

Van Morrison accuses the U.K. government of “taking our freedom” in three new songs bashing the worldwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In “No More Lockdown,” the most on-the-nose of the three tracks, Morrison plainly lays out his thoughts: “No more lockdown/No more government overreach/No more fascist bullies/Disturbing our peace/No more taking of our freedom/And our God-given rights/Pretending it’s for our safety/When it’s really to enslave.”

In another song, according to the BBC, Morrison references a widely shared Facebook post of a screenshot from the U.K. government’s website, stating that “Covid-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the U.K.” While it is true that Covid-19 currently does not meet the criteria for an HCID in the U.K., it is still highly infectious the world over, with a possibility of a second national lockdown in the U.K. on the horizon, according to the BBC.

The reason that the British government is downplaying the pandemic is because of Trumpy Prime Minister and past malaka of the week, Boris Johnson. Now that the Labour Party has a credible leader, Boris is under immense pressure to take it more seriously. He has a hard time with serious.

The best response to Van the Man’s egregious malakatude comes from Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Robin Swann, who paraphrases one of Morrison’s album titles:

He accuses Morrison of “a smear on all those involved in the public health response to a virus that has taken lives on a massive scale. His words will give great comfort to the conspiracy theorists – the tin foil hat brigade who crusade against masks and vaccines and think this is all a huge global plot to remove freedoms.”

“He’s chosen to attack attempts to protect the old and vulnerable in our society. It’s all bizarre and irresponsible. I only hope no one takes him seriously. He’s no guru, no teacher,” the last line a reference to Morrison’s 1986 album No Guru, No Method, No Teacher.

Van Morrison turned 75 not long before he began attacking “Fascist bullies” who want him to wear a mask. This is, of course, hypocrisy worthy of Lindsey Graham or Mitch McConnell. And that is why Van Morrison is malaka of the week.

The last word goes to (who else?) Van Morrison with an ironically titled song from the No Guru, No Method, No Teacher album:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wasted On The Way

Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso.

New Orleans dodged a wet and windy bullet earlier this week. Hurricane Sally dumped two feet of rain in some areas on the Florida-Alabama border. I don’t guilty for being relieved. If I were Poseidon, I’d send all tropical systems out to sea. I do, however, feel bad for folks in the affected areas. They got slammed by that evil bitch Sally. Blow ill wind, blow.

I had put this feature to bed and tucked it in when I learned of Justice Ginsburg’s death. I wish everyone would dial their predictions back. It’s unclear what impact RBG’s death will have on the election. I also wish that those who admire Justice Ginsburg would show more respect for her passing, especially since it’s Rosh Hashanah. There was, however, a moment of unintentional levity when the crowd outside the Supreme Court started singing Amazing Grace. It’s a Christian hymn, y’all. I’ll have more on Ginsburg’s passing on Monday.

In some ways, this week’s theme song matches the featured image. Three Musicians = Crosby, Stills & Nash. Graham Nash wrote Wasted On The Way for CSN’s  1982 Daylight Again album. Eagle Timothy B. Schmitt added harmony vocals making that Four Musicians. So much for the Picasso analogy. Oh well, it was imperfect to begin with.

We have two versions of Wasted On The Way for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a live version without Timothy B. Schmitt. Go, Team Picasso.

Stills’ intro to the live version is poignant. I rarely do poignant but sometimes the mood strikes me.

Before we jump to the break, a Neil Young song from the Buffalo Springfield days:

Holy Wall Of Sound-style production, Batman.

Time to take the plunge. See you on the other side.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Old Battle Ax

In my extended family battle ax is an affectionate term. My favorite aunt prided herself on being a battle ax and a tough broad. This post is a tribute to all the battle axes out there. Long may you run.

I just gave myself an earworm. This is a song about a car but it works: my Aunt Mary had a radar detector in her car when she was 80.

 

 

Sally Can’t Dance?

It’s time to sally forth on another week. There’s a storm in the Gulf, which will make landfall near me. It’s taken a jog to the East so New Orleans is  no longer in the bull’s eye but we could still lose power. If that happens, I wanted to chime in early as opposed to often.

I set a precedent with Hurricane Laura of using a featured image from the movie Laura. Today, I’m using my favorite fictional Sally. It’s Sally Rodgers as played by the late, great Rose Marie. She’s surrounded by Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie and Carl Reiner as Alan Brady. They’re three zany peas in a wacky pod. If the Van Dyke and Reiner clans were humorless, I’d apologize for using a picture in which Dick and Carl are semi-decapitated. It adds to the surreal nature of this Monday. We still can’t trust that day.

First, our good friend and beloved colleague Tommy T is having some health issues that prevented him from posting this morning. If you’re religious, pray for him but whatever you do, don’t prey on him. Get well soon, buddy.

Best wishes to my West Coast friends who are dealing with a deadly and smokey round of fires. They’re wearing masks for more than one reason today.

We continue with a quote from a Flynn case filing, which means we need a proper subject header:

Retired federal judge, former Gotti prosecutor, and all around badass, John Gleeson filed a brief last Friday blasting Bill Barr’s corrupt DOJ. Here are some snippets provided by TPM’s Josh Kovensky:

The Justice Department’s move to drop charges against Michael Flynn “reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system,” the court-appointed attorney arguing against the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss stated in a Friday filing.

“In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty — twice, before two different judges — and whose guilt is obvious,” wrote John Gleeson, a former federal judge and prosecutor appointed to oppose the Justice Department in the case.

The extraordinarily scathing brief alleges in detail and with precision that the Justice Department broke from decades of procedure to help out a friend of President Trump’s. Dripping with contempt for the government’s position, Gleeson argued that federal prosecutors were too lazy to respond to earlier arguments he had made, including whether the content of Flynn’s lies was material.

He added that the DOJ typically does not “make a practice of attacking its own prior filings in a case, as well as judicial opinions ruling in its favor, all while asserting that the normal rules should be set aside for a defendant who is openly favored by the President.”

“Yet that is exactly what has unfolded here,” Gleeson wrote.

Tell us what you really think, Judge. John Gleeson is not afraid of a mean tweet from the Impeached Insult Comedian. He’s the guy who got Gotti, after all.

In other news, President* Pennywise is still holding super-spreader campaign events despite remonstrations from state and local officials. This 74-year-old man is acting like a rebellious teenager. His followers are even less mature. It’s time for them to go. Make it so, America, make it so.

I’m an avid consumer of local news during Hurricane season. I had this amusing exchange with a local weatherdude:

I am easily amused this morning. I tend to laugh in the face of disaster. So it goes.

There was much talk about Sally songs this weekend. Here’s a selection of them beginning with the song that gave this post its title:

The last word goes to Wilson Pickett. If he were still with us, he’d insist:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Six Months In A Leaky Boat

Blue Painting by Wassily Kandinsky.

It’s September and it’s still hotter than hell in New Orleans. Pandemic fatigue is widespread here just like everywhere else. Unfortunately, America didn’t do the work needed to suppress COVID-19 so we’re still muddling through.

The NFL season opens this week and I find myself utterly indifferent. I’m mildly amused by wingnut fans who say that they’ll boycott the season because the NFL has gone BLM on their asses. These are the same people who claim they want sports and politics on separate plains, make that separate planets. The Saints will be playing on Sunday at an empty Superdome. It’s hard to get excited about any of this. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by Tim Finn in 1982 for Split Enz’s Time and Tide album. It refers to the amount of time that it took British pioneers to sail to New Zealand and is also a metaphor for the songwriter’s nervous breakdown. That’s a lot of substance for a song that still rocks like crazy.

We have three versions of Six Months In A Leaky Boat for your listening pleasure: The Split Enz original; a 2000 live version by Tim Finn, Bic Runga, and Dave Dobbyn and a 2006 performance by a reunited Enz featuring some stellar keyboard work by the great Eddie Rayner.

Kiwi singer-songwriter David Dobbyn has his own nautical classic:

Now that we’re all seasick, it’s time to don a life jacket and jump to the break.

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19th Nervous Breakdown

The slow news day seems to have been abolished. Hence another potpourri post in lieu of a stand-alone piece. I made the featured image after the Yo, Semite incident. It was more of a malaprop than an incident but having Yosemite Sam on my side is somehow comforting. Varmints, beware.

19 Years: It’s the 19th anniversary of a terrorist attack that led a previous lousy president to go off half-cocked and start a two-front war without paying heed to the consequences. We’re still paying for the Bush-Cheney administration’s folly.

I was on jury duty when the planes hit the twin towers. We were dismissed early and were only required to come in once more. The only good thing that came of that day.

For what it’s worth, the 19th is the bronze anniversary. To me it evokes this tune:

It may be a venerable song, but it’s still relevant. Who among us isn’t having our 19th Nervous Breakdown of the pandemic?

Trump-Woodward Followup/Fallout: When I first heard of the big COVID revelation in Rage, I was enraged. I almost wrote a post titled Bob Woodward Can Go Fuck Himself.

The more I thought about it, I focused my rage on Trump instead of Woodward. An earlier revelation would not have changed policy and saved lives. The Kaiser of Chaos was determined to fuck things up as shown by his insipid defense yesterday. Woodward’s defense was much stronger: he wasn’t sure if Trump was telling the truth. Holy credibility gap, Batman.

Joe Biden said it best in these two tweets:

A reminder that George W. Bush was a cheerleader at Yale. Sis-boom-bah. Boola-boola. Where the hell are the Whiffenpoofs when you need them? Perhaps one of them is a Whistleblower. You never can tell.

I missed something important in my D Is For Donald & Dumb post. One of the reasons Trump allowed Woodward to interview him so many times is that Woodward is a celebrity. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump said this during one of their sessions, “Why aren’t you as good-looking as Robert Redford?”

Timesman Peter Baker has written an excellent piece about why Trump agreed to talk to Woodward. It’s summed up by this song title:

It’s surprising that Trump hasn’t assembled his own version of the Palmer Girls. He should hire a lame choreographer and put Melania, Ivanka, Tiffany, Hope, and Kayleigh to work. Imagine a rewrite of another Robert Palmer hit: “Might as well face it, we’re addicted to Trump.”

Sometimes I get carried away. This is one of those times.

One of the stories that got lost in the news blizzard requires its own featured image meme thing:

Bill Barr For The Defense: The news that the Department of Justice would defend the Impeached Insult Comedian in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit against him enraged legal eagles everywhere. The DOJ is not usually in the business of defending accused rapists in civil suits. It’s part and parcel of Barr’s degradation of the DOJ. He seems determined to prove that, unlike Tom Hagen, he *is* a wartime consigliere.

The sick Trump-Barr relationship reminds me of-you guessed it-an ancient Paul Simon song about a con man:

“Everywhere I go
I get slandered, libeled
I hear words I never heard in the Bible
And I’m one step ahead of the shoeshine
Two steps away from the county line
Just trying to keep my customers satisfied”

Just substitute client for customer and Bob’s your uncle or is that Bill’s your Attorney General? I confuse the two. Maybe one of them is actually Artie:

In Memoriam:  A quick shout-out to Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, and Diana Rigg; all of whom died recently. Tom was one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Lou was one of the greatest World Series performers ever. And Diana was my first celebrity crush when she played Emma Peel in The Avengers. They will all be missed.

I could not find a decent animated GIF of St. Louis Cardinal great Lou Brock but Tom Terrific tips his cap to him:

Ny Mets Sport GIF by New York Mets - Find & Share on GIPHY

Diana Rigg as Emma Peel closes the door on this segment:

Finally, there’s a new Springsteen album coming out next month. That allows me to go out on a positive note in a week overloaded with scandal tornadic activity. The last word goes to Bruce and the E Street Band:

That was just what I needed. Thanks, y’all. Don’t forget to hang up the goddamn phone.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Turn It On Again

Tomato Soup Cans by Andy Warhol.

I’ve been rationing my Twitter use lately so I missed out on Trump soup canapalooza. This week’s featured image is my sole contribution now that it’s been beat to death. I’m also tired of talking about the Impeached Insult Comedian. It’s Joey Shark’s secret weapon in the campaign: people would like a break from politics from time-to-time. I’m not the only one suffering from Trump fatigue.

It’s time for a First Draft housekeeping note. The Friday Cocktail Hour was bumped so My Uncle Was A ‘Loser’ wouldn’t have to share the spotlight. I put a great deal of emotion and passion into that post. The reaction has been most gratifying. The Friday Cocktail Hour will return next week with a Duke Ellington song. Nothing but the best for my readers.

This week’s theme song was written by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford for the 1980 Genesis album, Duke. Rutherford’s lyrics are about someone who watches way too much teevee and confuses it with real life. Much like the Kaiser of Chaos. So much for my avowed Trump fatigue.

We have two versions of Turn It On Again for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a live version:

One could even describe the character in this week’s theme song as follows:

Since we’ve reached a turning point in this week’s outing, let’s jump to the break.

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My Uncle Was A ‘Loser’

All the men in the older generation of my extended Greek family volunteered to serve in World War II. The war left a hole in my family. My father’s younger brother, Captain William Peter Athas, was killed in action in Italy on March 3, 1944. He was 26 years old and scheduled to return home in a matter of days.

My father rarely talked about the war. That was commonplace among veterans of his generation: they did their bit then wanted to go home and see their families. Lou served as a translator in the Pacific Theatre. In its infinite wisdom, the Army taught him Japanese. They decided that someone who was fluent in Greek with its Cyrillic alphabet could handle Japanese. They were right. He turned down a promotion at the end of the war because he would have been stationed in Tokyo. It was time to return home to try and fill the hole in his family.

My father was the classic oldest child of his time and place. He was dutiful and respectful to his parents’ wishes. Bill Athas, by all accounts, was something of a scamp who was legendary for his charm and good looks. At my dad’s funeral, there was much reminiscing about the uncle I never knew. One of the older cousins described him as, “A dreamboat who was my first crush.”

I wish I knew more about Uncle Bill, but the subject was too painful for my father and his sisters to discuss at any length. I already knew that he won the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the invasion of Italy. But I learned something new from the archives at Newspapers.com: my grandparents didn’t initially believe that Bill was dead because they’d just received letters from him. I suspect that not was uncommon in those days of slower communication. I can feel their pain 76 years later.

Nobody in my family ever expressed bitterness over my uncle’s death. He did his duty for his country during a just war and made the ultimate sacrifice. Donald Trump would have called him a loser or a sucker since there was nothing in it for Bill except for two medals that my dad kept in a drawer in his dresser. One of the medals was the one that nobody wants to get: the Purple Heart.

Jeffrey Goldbergs’s Atlantic piece, Trump: Americans Who Died In War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’ is the most plausible terrible Trump story ever. The man has said similarly horrible things before in public. The meltdown the Kaiser of Chaos is having in the wake of the story confirms that it’s true as does an AP story that supports Goldberg’s reporting. The military has a Commander-in-Chief who values his own hair above their fallen comrades:

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

Belleau Woods was the battle that turned the tide in the Great War. Their German enemies were so impressed with the Marines’ valor and ferocity that they dubbed them the “Devil Dogs” a nickname that they still wear as a badge of honor. They were heroes, not losers and suckers.

I have a strong feeling of schadenfreude today. During the Bush-Cheney administration, the GOP turned support for our troops into a fetish. The implication was that anyone who opposed the Iraq War was a traitor. What does that make Donald Trump? Just a sucker and a loser or a traitor?

I have never heard anyone say such terrible things about our veterans before; even those who opposed a particular war. It would have never occurred to me or anyone I know to call veterans of the Iraq War losers and suckers. The only one I’ve heard speak in those terms was a fictional character, Sonny Corleone in The Godfather:

In 2020, the only saps are those who insist on believing everything the Gangster-in-Chief says. I no longer care what the shrinking cadre of Trump cultists think. They’re suckers and losers.

Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist who only cares about himself and is incapable of understanding concepts such as “duty, honor, and country.” His motto is a selfish one: “What’s in it for me?” He’s the loser, not the uncle I never knew.

Bayou Brief: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Writing My Katrinaversary Column

I inadvertently took a month long hiatus from writing my bi-weekly column at Bayou Brief, The spell was broken yesterday.

My titles are typically short and punchy. This one is long, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Writing My Katrinaversary Column.

The column takes a look at hurricanes past and present and revisits some highlights of my post-Katrina and Federal Flood life:

I attended many “rebuilding meetings.” I saw then Mayor C Ray Nagin primp in front of a mirror and several City Council members show up drunk. I’ll omit the names to protect the guilty. Those in the know will know who I’m talking about. They’re long out of office so there’s no point to outing them many years later. Besides, who could blame them? Those were stressful times.

Those were crazy days indeed.

The column title was inspired by one of my all-time favorite musicals, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. The last word goes to Zero Mostel from the 1966 film version:

Hurricane Laura & Other Disasters

New Orleanians should have heaved a collective sigh of relief yesterday as Hurricane Laura headed due west of us. Instead, everyone who was here for or evacuated from Katrina was triggered. It’s a mere two days from the Katrinaversary. Plus, the storm is following in the footsteps of another devastating 2005 system, Hurricane Rita. People are unnerved, jittery, and depressed. 2020 continues to be the year from hell.

We’re expecting some rain bands associated with Laura today.  It will be nothing compared to what happened some 240 miles west from here. Lake Charles is the largest Louisiana town in the initial path of the storm; reports are grim but as of this writing there are no reported fatalities and the storm surge wasn’t as high as feared. It’s still a fucking mess that will leave thousands homeless.

In other news, the rolling ethical violation that is the Trumpvention continues. The MSM is shrugging-off the impropriety of holding purely political events at the White House. Fuck those guys. It’s the people’s house, not Donald and Melania’s house. The coverage of her speech was nauseating.  She’s complicit in her husband’s crimes and responsible for the lesser included offense of removing rose bushes planted by past First Ladies in the people’s rose garden. They’re slowly but surely eroding the norms of our civil society; make that uncivil.

The citizenship swearing in ceremony on Tuesday looked like a hostage video. It’s of dubious legality and participants were not informed that they were to be props in a Trumpist farce. The lying never stops.

I could go on and on about the freak show that is the RNC. They’re fond of red baiting so let’s respond in kind. This attempt to rewrite the history of the Trump regime is reminiscent of the Stalinist rewriting of Russian history. They’ve told so many lies this week that it will be impossible for them to keep them straight. Stay tuned.

The Impeached Insult Comedian has challenged Joe Biden to take a drug test as a condition of debating. Team Biden should throw its own gauntlet on the table: produce Trump’s tax returns or the debates are off.

Finally, I’m keeping a wary eye on events in Southwest Louisiana and East Texas. I feel a tinge of survivor’s guilt, but I’m relieved it didn’t hit my city. Nobody deserves to be hit by a devastating tropical system such as Laura. The fact that Acadiana has turned ruby red in recent years is irrelevant. People are suffering. It doesn’t matter how they vote. I’m sending waves of empathy their way. It could have been us.

The last word goes to Lucinda Williams who was born in Lake Charles:

 

Bits & Bobs, Not Odds & Sods

Tropical Storm Marco replicated the 2016 Rubio campaign and fell apart. It’s unclear if it will become Hurricane Laura’s sycophant thereby perfecting the Rubio-Trump analogy.

Since I wrote the bulk of this post on Tuesday and may never have another chance to repeat my Goodbye Rubio Tuesday pun, ladies and gentleman, the Rolling Stones:

 

We did not lose power but I’m still feeling triggered since Laura has blown up into a major storm. It’s not coming here but I haven’t felt this jittery about a tropical system since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Andrew wandered the Gulf like a mendicant seeking alms, so everyone spent days on edge waiting for it to light. My then landlords/upstairs neighbors first evacuated east then west. They landed in Baton Rouge, which was where Andrew ended up after knocking the Miami area on its ass. That concludes this walk down hurricane alley memory lane. At least Carl Hiaasen got a good book out of the Andrew mishigas:

The combination of two tropical systems, memories of 2005, the pandemic, Paul Drake’s death, and the neo-Nuremberg rally held by the GOP have me feeling overwhelmed. I had originally planned to write a Katrinaversary column for the Bayou Brief this week. It will have to wait until next week. I don’t feel like dredging up those memories until Laura has left the stage. I’m *almost* as confused as Dana Andrews in the featured image right now.

My regular features Album Cover Art Wednesday, Pulp Fiction Thursday, Friday Catblogging, and even Saturday Odds & Sods are on hurricane hiatus this week.  I already cooked up something tasty for the Friday Cocktail Hour before feeling so rattled by events.

 

I have some random and discursive thoughts about what’s going on in my world and your world. I suspect they’ll be more scattered than usual, but I think I can muster some jokes.

There are two things I hate as much as endless storm chatter. First, people complaining when a storm is NOT as bad as forecast. Out of an abundance of caution, there were many Monday closures for Marco. Nobody should whine and moan about that, especially if it’s a large institution. They have to pull the trigger 16 to 24 hours in advance. Y’all should be happy that it was a dull Monday, not angry. No wonder I feel triggered.

I also hate the patronizing tone that our leaders adopt during a storm. In New Orleans, we’re hurricane professionals. We know the drill. We don’t need the Mayor or Governor talking down to us. Of course, the word patronizing sums up Mayor Cantrell’s style. Voter’s remorse thy name is Adrastos.

My social media feeds are consumed with storm chatter and the Republican convention. I used to watch both major conventions gavel-to-gavel but who needs to see Gavin Newsome’s ex-wife scream? Additionally, all of Trump’s speeches are variations on the theme of me, me, me. I’m glad the Kaiser of Chaos is speaking each day. Repeat after me: every time he opens his mouth, he loses votes.

The Republican Party has declared intellectual bankruptcy. They have no platform other than: In President* Pennywise We Trust. I’m surprised they didn’t advocate adding his head to Mount Rushmore and replacing General/President Grant on the fifty-dollar bill with the Impeached Insult Comedian. The Lost Causers don’t like Uly, but they adore the Racist-In-Chief.

I’m uncertain what to make of the War of the Conways. While it could be a scam, it’s hard for parents to talk teenagers into anything so it might be genuine. Beats the hell outta me. One thing is certain: they’d never cast Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as George and Kellyanne.

Danny DeVito, however, might work as George.

I realized how little I’d missed Adam Nagourney’s punditry when the Gray Lady published his ludicrous ruminations on how Trump could still win in 2020. Adam’s solution is that the Impeached Insult Comedian should imitate Poppy Bush in 1988. The analogy falls apart for a variety of reasons:

  1.  Michael Dukakis was a cold fish. Joe Biden is Mr. Empathy.
  2.  Bush was the Veep, not the president. People also liked him and his boss.
  3.  The Reagan record did not include 175K and counting deaths caused by their grotesque incompetence.

It’s also distressing that anyone at the Failing New York Times should be in the business of advising Team Trump. I know they’re big on both-siderism, but this is ridiculous. Only The Tubes can wash Nagourney’s nitwittery out of my hair:

 

Now that I’ve bashed the Gray Lady, it’s time to take a whack at the Amazon Post. I don’t understand why everyone’s hair is on fire about the NYT oped page when bootlicking Trumper Hugh Hewitt writes for the WaPo. He makes Brett Stephens look like Tom Wicker. Hewitt is an embarrassment to Hughs past and present: from Grant to Downs. There should be a hugh and cry for his removal…

A brief explanation of the post title. Like Odds & Sods, Bits & Bobs is a Britsim for Bits & Pieces. Sustained thought is beyond me right now.

The last word goes to Boston with today’s earworm:

 

Letter From The Hurricane Zone

Dear Readers:

I’m usually not rattled by news of an approaching storm, especially if they’re Cat-1 or lower. This time is different. We’re having a doubleheader: first Marco, then Laura. The cool kids on the tweeter tube are calling it a doublecane.

It’s unclear how and even if the two systems will interact. If it were out in the ocean, I’d be interested in seeing it play out but since it’s not, I’m not.

This is not an original thought but 2020 is too damn much, y’all. Too many deaths, too much Trump, too much of anything and everything. Now too much damn weather. 2020 can go fuck itself.

What is it with Republican conventions and tropical systems? In 2008, we were in Bossier City after evacuating for Hurricane Gustav. In 2012, Hurricane Isaac led to an epic power fail that caused us to miss seeing Clint Eastwood talk to a chair. Watching it on the YouTube spoiled the element of surprise. I missed making a joke about the Neil Diamond song wherein the singer does the same damn thing:

 

I should apologize for posting a Neil Diamond song during such stressful times. I told you I was rattled.

In other news, Melania Trump has paved over the Rose Garden just in time to give the speech I plan to miss this week. What can you expect from people who have gold terlets?

I’m writing this on Sunday morning because I expect to lose power for some or all of the week. I doubt if I’ll post my regular features (other than the Friday Cocktail Hour) unless the one-two punch of Marco and Laura turns out to be a dud like Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign.

MONDAY UPDATE: Marco has been downgraded to Tropical Storm status, but Laura is strengthening. Hopefully, it will NOT be as big in 2020 as the movie Laura was in 1944. The storm should follow in star Gene Tierney’s footsteps and retire to Texas. As Lyle Lovett would surely say at this point, “Texas wants you anyway.”

Sorry, Texas. Hurricane season brings out the worst in all of us.

I’ll check in and update y’all if I can. I hope I’m wrong about the power loss thing. It won’t be the first or last time.

The last word goes to The Who:

 

I bet you expected a hurricane song. I like to surprise my readers.

Love,

Adrastos

How To Lose 25 Pounds in Quarantine*

First, and this is critical, plan ahead.

Like ideally four years ahead, the point in the past at which your country can elect a neon-colored asshead cheeto bigot.

You’d think that wouldn’t be important later, as you’re intimately versed in how awful political losses are, but this one acts slow. First there’s the shock and fear, then the profound disappointment, then the anger. Skip bargaining and acceptance, they’re bullshit. Sometimes dabble in depression but mostly allow each day — with its particular indignity, executive order, general embarrassment, or outright attempt to murder those you love — to return you to anger.

Let the poison seep into your blood and expect every day to be a disaster.

If you can’t go back that far, or abstract yourself that much, try … a year. Maybe 18 months. You have a job you’re scared to love as much as you do, friends and family who are nothing short of angelic beings masquerading as people walking around on this earth. A healthy child, a loving spouse, a solid roof over your head, if not stupid money then enough to eat meat and buy wine. The rest of the country is on absolute fire but you should be doing pretty good. 

Now develop, for no particular reason, a muscle spasm in your torso.

See a doctor. See a specialist. Treat it conservatively. Rest, ice, heat, topicals, OTC pain meds. When it’s mostly gone, pretend it never existed.

Now make sure your anti-depressant, your best friend, your lifesaver for the past 17 years, stops working inexplicably, and kind of don’t notice for a while. Figure you’re tired because you’re working hard, and you’re nervy because the stakes are high, and the neon-colored asshead cheeto bigot is, after all, trying to kill all your friends. It’s normal to be a little … off.

Until you can’t stop crying whenever someone so much as looks at you. Until the thought of washing your hair makes you want to die.

Spent 20 minutes every morning sitting on the floor of your bathroom doing breathing exercises. Convince yourself this is meditation. Get really, really, really into expensive skincare.

Decide you should get a new therapist and probably switch up your meds.

Talk every night to your long-suffering spouse about how you probably need a therapist but, since not doing stuff you know you need to do in order to sabotage yourself is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT YOUR DEPRESSION’S JAM, don’t make the call. Convince yourself to tough it out.

Start to get nervous about work. Hit the three-year mark at the job and wonder if you should still be doing it. Pick some fights to see how they feel. Kick a bees’ nest or two. Get stung a lot. Realize that just because your brand of FUCK IT WE’LL DO IT LIVE has worked so far, doesn’t mean it’ll work forever. Have trouble sleeping.

Watch the neon asshead cheeto bigot try to deport your friends. Watch him nominate a rapey fascist alcoholic to the Supreme Court. Be just a little more tense at home than you really should with a sensitive, empathetic child who’s developing caregiver tendencies. Yell at your nice spouse a lot.

Plan a work project no one but a seasoned triathlete with NASA-level multi-tasking skills can possibly execute perfectly. Convince yourself, with utterly no basis in reality, that upon the success of this project rides your continued employment.

Then, have the pain return with a vengeance.

See a specialist. Try several ineffective medications. Have the specialist refer you to a surgeon. Have the surgeon tell you he doesn’t want to do surgery, but he doesn’t have any other ideas either. Look at him in disbelief as he suggests you go home and just … live like this. Have the surgeon suggest another surgeon. Be in excruciating pain that again, you might ONLY wish on Stephen Miller, every time you have to be on your feet for more than 20 minutes, which is all day, three days a week at least. Read several internet forums dedicated only to this problem, which convince you it’s unsolvable.

Go mostly vegetarian. Almost vegan. Drink smoothies. Take supplements. Then take different supplements. Then take more. Do breathing exercises on the bus home. Cook dinner, none of it appetizing to you at all.

Try legal marijuana. Become afraid of food. Transfer your work-related panic disorder to one directed at dinner.

Almost black out on the train. Collapse in your office. Grit your teeth, get back up, and nick some anti-anxiety medication from an absolute saint. Drink maybe a bit much for the situation.

When the anti-anxiety medication — and let’s be honest, the whiskey — kicks in, easing some of all of the above, decide the therapist and new surgeon can wait a couple of weeks, until you’re less busy. This should be around mid-March, if you’re on track with your diet plan.

Now.

Have the neon asshead cheeto bigot botch a pandemic response so thoroughly that the entire society shuts down and you can’t see any doctors for anything except dying of COVID for 2 months. Beg for appointments and be told there’s nothing available. Leave messages until your calls stop being returned.

Consider the ER and realize it’s full of COVID patients, or just people with contagions they think are coronavirus, and they won’t give you any real meds anyway.

Read every day about people’s parents, people’s children, dying alone. Sleep next to your child sleeping in her bed to make sure she is still breathing, which you haven’t done since she was a baby. Look at your parents, with whose mortality you thought you’d come to terms long ago, and realize you are in no way ready for them to die.

Teach kindergarten, ineptly. Work from home, ineptly.

Make jokes on the internet. Write about the neon-colored asshead cheeto bigot, indifferently. Tell your friends you are fine when they check in. Mention you’ve been having some stomach trouble to get out of social obligations. Continue to either not eat, or nibble crackers all day. Order various quack remedies from the internet costing hundreds of dollars. Read medical journals.

Fill pain-free days with fear of pain. On pain-filled days be unable to remember what it felt like not to be in pain.

Buy a ping-pong set. Buy a backyard kiddie pool. Let your child watch entirely too much trash TV. Turn on educational animal shows and find yourself explaining sperm and eggs and how babies are made because of the artificial insemination of a cheetah. Watch an operation to alter the genitalia of a puppy. Listen as the vet says “penis” 47 times.

Watch the extremely graphic and sticky birth of a rhino. Switch to baking shows.

Think, every day, that she deserves a healthy mother, a more patient mother, a better mother who can do more than just keep a roof over her head and cook her hot dogs, what kind of useless mother is that, what kind of idiot.

Think about the dark, cold days after your daughter was born into a polar vortex. Think about being inside all the time. Think about the snow. Think about how you were scared to be with her but how being away from her made you want to scream. Think about how sure you were that she would be better off with anyone but you, anyone at all.

Realize that the quarantine is tweaking memories of your maternity leave. Breathe a little, just a little, easier. Start, if not walking outside, at least sitting out there. Get a work project accomplished and feel a little less useless.

Recall that the singular feature of all depression is that it lies.

This is April. Twenty pounds down now.

You should still be in so much pain, like your entire torso is one huge muscle pull, like you have a charley horse inside you at peak tension at all times, that you think of two things and two things only:

How much pain you are in and

how little you are getting done on any front because of said pain and the attendant exhaustion.

Nap like it’s your job. Continue to beg for doctor’s appointments. In early May, have an emergency root canal and decide that this is the day you are just fucking done with your body and all its bullshit.

Ask a friend for a referral to her doctor. See him. Have him recommend tests that are agony. Have the tests anyway. Be absurdly proud of yourself that you spend only two days in bed afterward. Rule out various disorders and cancer. Be disappointed because if it was a tumor you could get rid of it.

Now, suddenly, somehow, it’s June.

Have the new doctor recommend a new surgeon. Have the new surgeon tell you that your previous surgeon was an illiterate moron. Have the new surgeon ask you to try more medications, which almost work, and then tell you you should go ahead with the surgery. Schedule it, have it done, and feel so instantly and completely better, so miraculously healed, that you dash off a letter to your previous surgeon suggesting several alternative professions for him including nudie booth janitor at the local strip joint.

Ask the surgeon who isn’t an illiterate moron if it’s legal to feel this good.

Begin, slowly, to eat food again. Find yourself, on certain days, now actually hungry for something other than animal crackers washed down with scotch.

Weigh yourself again. You now weigh three pounds more than you did when you got married, back when you were so broke you only ate one meal a day.

Congratulations! You’ve reached your goal!

*So that’s what I’ve been up to while everybody was making sourdough.

Thin culture is bullshit, okay, and the above? Not how I would recommend getting down to one’s 19-year-old weight, if that’s even a thing a 44-year-old should want to do.

I would put those 25 pounds back on right now if it would give me back the things I missed out on in the past six months, the work and the time and the money I spent trying to fix my problems, the patience I could have had for my family and friends and loved ones, the help I could have provided those in need had I not been housebound and in agony.

“You look amazing!” “Thanks, it’s a new program I’ve been working called who wants to eat things, eating things is gross and bad, and also my crazy pills stopped working and all my doctors were like GO TO HELL WE’RE CLOSED.”

It’s been a time. I’m on the mend. But if my attention has seemed to be a little … elsewheres, than on the ins and outs of a presidential campaign I just want to be OVER so we can all get back to our lives, it’s because all this was happening.

Sorry if I missed an email. Send it again, okay?

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: We Can Work It Out

New York Movie by Edward Hopper.

We’ve been catless since PD’s passing. It’s the first time in 35 years that I have not been owned by a cat. I miss having the silly buggers around so we’re looking into adopting. I regret not having given Paul Drake a furry sibling after Della’s passing but I was so traumatized by dealing with our former vet that I was slow to pull the trigger. Please don’t try to give us a kitten: we’re looking at older cats. They have a harder time getting adopted. It worked out well with Oscar and PD, after all.

If it’s a boy, Dr. A and I might have to fight over cat names. I want to keep the shamus tradition alive and call him Jim Rockford. She’s in favor of CK Dexter Haven, the name of Cary Grant’s character in The Philadelphia Story. I like both names, so it won’t be much of a tussle. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song barely needs an introduction. It was written by Lennon and McCartney in 1965 and is one of the songs from that period that sounds like both songwriters were involved. It combines Macca positivity and Lennon’s mordant wit.

We have three versions of We Can Work It Out for your listening pleasure: the Beatles original and covers by Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan.

We Can Work It Out was selected as my high school class’ graduation song. It provided a swell send-off not that I remember much about those days. They’re a bit hazy, which makes posting this song mandatory:

Now that we’ve established that we’re experienced, let’s jump to the break.

Continue reading

Friday Cocktail Hour: Smile

Assembling this post made me think of my favorite cousin. We lost her this year. One bond we shared was a love of movies, especially old ones. In fact, she’s the one who introduced me to so many classic films that I’ve lost track. One of them was Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.

Chaplin wrote the melody that became Smile in 1936 for Modern Times. The lyrics were written in 1954 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. They were inspired by lines and themes from Chaplin’s movie. Smile is a bittersweet song that tries to convince you that everything will be okay as long as you smile. Perhaps that’s why Joe and Kamala are so smiley.

As with last week’s tune, Nat King Cole was the first artist to record Smile. He did the Little Tramp proud:

Judy Garland used to feature Smile in her act. The opening verse summed up her woes and her attempts to rise above them:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
For you

Here’s Judy on a Sunday night singing it to a grateful nation:

Smile has been recorded many times over the years. One of my favorites is by the long, tall Texan himself, Lyle Lovett:

Eric Clapton used Smile as the opening number on his 1974 comeback tour. The comeback was from the heroin addiction that nearly cost him his life:

What’s the Friday Cocktail Hour without a instrumental version by a Jazz great? This time around, my favorite pianist, Oscar Peterson.

Finally, some musical lagniappe with another song titled Smile. In this case, it was written by Gary Louris and was the title track of a 2000 album by The Jayhawks:

I usually call Smile The Jayhawks’ Sgt. Pepper because of the Beatlesque songs and lush arrangements. The strings on their Smile slay me every time. “Chin up, chin up.”

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a drink before walking into the sunset with Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard.

Virtual Convention Notes: Allies Of The Light

People don’t think of Joe Biden as a great public speaker. Twitter was full of people surprised that the former Veep gave such a great speech. I was not. I’ve seen at least a half-dozen of his eulogies, which are always outstanding. One reason Biden is so good at eulogizing fallen political comrades is that those speeches are always about them: never about him. Donald Trump’s speeches are always about himself. Joe Biden’s acceptance speech was about US.

Joe Biden has been caricatured over the years. The Onion Biden was a popular guy during the Obama administration, but there was always more to Joe than met the eye. A crueler caricature of Joe Biden has emerged in the last year: an elderly stumble bum who is forever stepping on his tongue. It’s just as wrong as the Onion Biden.

Biden’s acceptance speech was every bit as good as one of his eulogies. In many ways, it was a eulogy for a country damaged by the Current Occupant. Biden spoke of the grief caused by the pandemic: 170K and counting dead. Biden spoke for all of us when he said, “It didn’t have to be this bad.”

Biden feels our pain. Trump inflicts pain.

I was particularly enchanted with Biden’s calling himself an “ally of the light.” A wonderful image that gave me this wonderful earworm:

 

We all must be allies of the light to vanquish the darkness caused by the misrule of the Kaiser of Chaos.

Joe Biden needed to give the speech of a lifetime last night. He succeeded.

Repeat after me: Joe Biden excels at overcoming adversity.

We at First Draft have always had a special place in our hearts for the man we call Joey B. Shark or just plain Joey Shark. 2020 is his time: He’s the opponent Trump fears. Biden is a regular Joe with a nice wife and a normal family. His opponent is a weirdo with a trophy wife and cartoonishly awful children. The contrast couldn’t be starker.

Before seeing Biden’s acceptance speech, I planned to use a Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg song as the post title: Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe. It was written in 1943 for the musical Cabin In The Sky:

It seems like happiness is just a thing called Joe
He’s got a smile that makes the lilacs want to grow
He’s got a way that makes the angels heave a sigh
When they know, little Joe’s passin’ by

Sometimes the cabin’s gloomy and the table’s bare
But then he’ll kiss me and it’s Christmas everywhere
Trouble’s fly away and life is easy go

Life won’t be easy go if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are elected. There are messes aplenty to clean up, but Joe and Kamala are allies of the light. They will do their best to bind our national wounds. They will do the work.

Repeat after me: Joe Biden excels at overcoming adversity.

The last word goes to Ella Fitzgerald:

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Thriller!

I cannot believe I used an exclamation point in the post title. I feel unclean. I perpetrated this heinous act to make it clear that the cover in question is not the 1984 Michael Jackson album but a 1973 album by the Bay Area funk-soul-rock band Cold Blood.

Cold Blood never broke through to a national audience, but I saw them several times and they never disappointed live, especially their charsmatic lead singer Lydia Pense. That’s Pense with an S; no relation to Trump’s sycophantic Veep.

The cover is by George Hunter aka Globe Propaganda. I picked it to make our readers think that Pulp Fiction Thursday came a day early. This is the age of confusion, after all.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Cold Blood on Spotify. Here’s the whole damn album:

Saturday Odds & Sods: A Trick Of The Tail

Illustration From Dante’s Divine Comedy by William Blake.

The weather in New Orleans has been beastly. We’ve alternated between extreme heat and extreme thunderstorms. Not an unusual summer pattern but the intensity has been, well, more intense than usual. Extremely intense or is that intensely extreme?

My birthday came and went last week. Birthdays are best celebrated when you’re a toddler or a dodderer. In my case, it’s just another tick of the clock or some such shit. All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall. Holy crap, I sound like a mason. Lest you think I’m as Thick as a Brick, I should stop rambling and get down to this week’s post. I don’t want this turning into a Trump press conference. Believe me.

Keyboard wizard Tony Banks wrote most of this week’s theme song in 1972, but it didn’t see the light of day until Peter Gabriel left the band. It was the title track of the band’s first post-PG album. The album is one of the best things Genesis ever did and sent the message that they were here to stay. Oddly, the departure of lead guitarist Steve Hackett in 1977 had a bigger impact on the band’s sound than the exit of Gabriel. Go figure.

A Trick Of The Tail was inspired by William Golding’s novel The Inheritors. We have two variations on it for your listening pleasure. First, the audio track followed by the first promo video Genesis ever made.

Phil Collins later described the video as the most cringeworthy thing he’d ever done. This from the man who wrote and recorded Sussudio, In a word: UGH. Other than the Face Value album, I’m not a fan of his solo work. Is UGH a word? If not, it should be.

I’m still feeling tricky so here’s a Who song:

Now that we’ve figured out that we’ve got no horns and no tail, let’s escape the light by jumping to the break.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Blues Cross Country

2020 is the centennial of Peggy Lee’s birth. Plans for an elaborate concert at the Hollywood Bowl were foiled by the pandemic. To paraphrase myself, no songs for the pandemic.

Dr. A and I recently watched a documentary about Peggy Lee’s life and music on PBS. It was a love letter from her granddaughter that was chock-full-o-clips. She was a staple on the variety shows that were plentiful when I was a kid. I remember watching with my mom: she’d get particularly excited when Miss Peggy Lee was slated to appear. It was Scandinavian farmer’s daughter pride at its finest.

Blues Cross Country is a 1962 concept album featuring songs about places in the US&A. The music was arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones and Peggy Lee co-wrote half the songs on the album.

As you can see, the cover is quilty but it has nothing to do with Clare Quilty theNabokov character.

Here’s the whole damn album via Spotify: