Category Archives: Diary

North By Northwest, Trump Style

I originally hadn’t planned to write about President* Pennywise’s latest White Grievance speech. He’s said it all before and I’ve written about it recently in American Carnage 2020. Then, I re-watched the Hitchcock masterpiece North By Northwest and knew what I had to do. This is it.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I’m not comparing Trump to Cary Grant. The only thing they have in common is a love of tanning. Grant’s tan always looked natural whereas Trump’s tan last Friday was artificial even by his standards. Orange is not a natural skin tone: he looked as if he’d fallen asleep in the White House tanning bed (there is such a thing) then slathered on bronzer. Why he thinks this looks good is beyond me. Of course, his hair resembles a dead nutria pelt so what the hell does he know.

One thing the Impeached Insult Comedian has in common with Grant’s North By Northwest character Roger Thornhill is wanderlust. The movie is an extended road trip as Thornhill flees bad guys James Mason and Martin Landau. In Trump’s case, he’s traveling the country whipping up fear and spreading COVID-19 wherever he goes. He *is* the bad guy. FYI, Thornhill’s initials were ROT, which aptly describes the moral rot brought to our politics by the Current Occupant.

As to the content of the speech, it was bizarre. The Kaiser of Chaos needs to expand, not contract his base if he wants to be re-elected. Instead, he seems to be running to be the second president of the confederacy. If he wants to run on monuments to slave owners and traitors, more power to him.

Team Trump might as well turn this image into a banner and drag it along on the campaign trail:

The speech was Steven Miller channeling George Wallace; only the racism was explicit, not implicit. Why they think this is a winning strategy  is beyond me. In 1968, Wallace polled as high as 30% before sinking to 14% by election day. It’s another example of Team Trump’s lunatic notion that a sitting president* can run as an insurgent and outsider. It worked for them, just barely, in 2016. Repeat after me: reelection campaigns are always about the incumbent and their record.

Back to the post title. It was the setting for Trump’s speech that inspired thoughts of North By Northwest. Mount Rushmore has long been polarizing. The four-headed presidential tribute rightly enrages the Lakota Sioux as it sits on one of their holiest sites. The only time I ever saw it was as a small child. I loudly declared that it was weird. My father shushed me but my mother laughed because she knew 6-year-old me was right. It *is* weird, y’all.

I’ve long thought it was a pity that Hitchcock didn’t go through with this idea:

“In North by Northwest during the scene on Mount Rushmore I wanted Cary Grant to hide in Lincoln’s nostril and then have a fit of sneezing. The Parks Commission [sic] of the Department of Interior was rather upset at this thought. I argued until one of their number asked me how I would like it if they had Lincoln play the scene in Cary Grant’s nose. I saw their point at once.”

The working title of the screenplay was The Man In Lincoln’s Nose. That title was just as weird as Mount Rushmore itself. It’s *almost* as weird as the fact that the 45th president* is an openly racist Impeached Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop his head. Strike the word almost: nothing is weirder than that.

The last word goes to The Beatles, not Bernard Herrmann:

Strike the not Bernard Herrmann thing:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hey Baby, It’s The Fourth Of July

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

This is the second time the Fourth of July has coincided with Saturday Odds & Sods. The first time, in 2015 I did a full-blown post. Five years later, I’m a low energy individual so all I’ve got for you is some rock and roll.

I give you my 11th annual Independence Day post without any fireworks but with lots of music. Put your hands together for Dave Alvin, Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, and Aimee Mann.

Happy Birthday ‘Merica.

The last word goes to Jasper Johns in the studio:

Everything Is A Hoax

It’s hot even for New Orleans this week. So hot that we’ve had cold suppers two nights in a row. The streak ends tonight because I have a package of chicken thighs whose sell-by date is tomorrow. But I’m still not turning the oven on because it’s:

Now that we’ve settled that, a few quick thoughts before slicing this potpourri post into segments like an overripe orange.

In my John Bolton Can Go Fuck Himself post, I expressed a desire for a bootleg/samizdat copy of that tendentious tome. Tommy T granted my wish. It’s tough going. Bolton writes in a lawyerly manner and sprinkles neo-con foreign policy pixie dust over everything. I’ve read about 100 pages. Not sure I’m tough enough to finish the Mustache of War’s tell-all tome.

Before moving on, another musical interlude:

I’m also not tough enough to continue watching HBO’s Perry Mason. The second episode was a slight improvement but it’s still pretty, pretty bad. It reminds me of this segment on the original Siskel & Ebert show, Sneak Previews:

Bountygate Nouveau Redux: President* Pennywise gave this post its title when he declared his latest impeachable offense a “fake news hoax.” Everything he doesn’t like is a hoax. This scandal is not. It’s as real as the pandemic, which he continues to think he can wish away. There’s a special place in hell for the Donald and his whole tribe.

Some people scoffed when I wrote last fall about how Trump had alienated the military. Since then, we’ve have the firing of Captain Crozier, the Lafayette Square disaster, and now the $100K bounty paid to kill Americans. All of Trump’s excuses are equally feeble as attested to by Rep. Elissa Slotkin who briefed two of his predecessors. You’re busted, asswipe.

That’s Why I Call Him The Impeached Insult Comedian: A piece by Carl Bernstein about Trump’s phone antics with foreign leaders confirmed our worst fears. He sucks up to dictators, especially Erdogan and Putin, and shits all over the Three Ms: Merkel, May, and Macron. Does he talk hairdos with Boris Johnson? You never can tell.

Team Trump’s response has been to attack the leakers. That’s confirmation that the story is true. Hopefully, it will help turn the country:

Soylent Green had been sitting on the DVR since it last aired on TCM. We watched it last night. I hadn’t seen it in “I decline to say how long” many years and Dr. A had never seen it before.

Since that giant slab of ham, Chuck Heston, is the star, I riffed like my hero Crow T. Robot. Fortunately, the great Edward G. Robinson is Chuck’s wingman, and his performance rescued the movie. It’s hard to believe that Heston is the one who won an acting Oscar when Emanuel Goldberg was so much better. So it goes.

Soylent Green is a dystopian movie, set in 2022 in a New York that has been ravaged by the Greenhouse Effect, not the Kaiser of Chaos. There are no flying cars, just people, people everywhere.

One way you can tell that the world has gone to hell is that veteran character actor Whit Bissell played the Governor of New York. I love Whit Bissell: his name and his 321 credits. He looked pretty good in a gubernatorial leisure suit too on the tube teevee they used in 2022, Soylent Green-style:

The sets and costumes are what people in 1973 thought the future would be like. Everyone wears tan and Mid-Century Modern decor is everywhere. I spotted a lamp that my friend Steve’s folks had in their Mid-Century Modern Eichler House.

I’ve gone from riffing on the Three Ms to Mid-Century Modern. Beats the hell out of contemplating Heston’s outfit and deeply hammy performance.

Believe it or not, I like Soylent Green and give it 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B-. It lost a grade-step because wooden TV star and failed Dodgers 1B Chuck Connors is in it as a hit man for the Soylent Corporation. So it goes.

The last word goes to Heston as Thorn:

Carl Reiner, R.I.P.

I grew up watching reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show with my mother. My favorite character was the pudgy punster, Buddy Sorrell played by Morey Amsterdam. My second favorite was the hilariously tyrannical boss, Alan Brady played by Carl Reiner. The world just became a little less funny after his death yesterday at the age of 98.

I learned early on that Carl Reiner was the creative force behind that classic show. My mother encouraged my Sheckiness by buying me this album for Christmas one year:

Oy, such a Christmas present. I wore it out.

Carl Reiner, of course, was nothing like Alan Brady. He was famous for being as nice as he was funny. Condolences to the Reiner family and his nonagenarian cronies Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks, and Norman Lear. Keep the laughter alive, y’all, keep the laughter alive.

The best tribute to Carl Reiner is to post some of his work as well as an unforgettable CBS Sunday Morning piece from when he was a mere lad of 93:

The last word goes to Carl Reiner as Alan Brady in one of the funniest sitcom episodes in teevee history, Coast To Coast Big Mouth.

Bury Me In Willow

I’ve tried  not to be too morbid in this feature, but the worst case scenario of the pandemic is death. It’s a slow, painful, and undignified death. I saw a nurse on Maddow the other night and she said: “COVID-19 is a monster, not a disease.” I concur.

Here are some shocking numbers: the United States has 5% of the world’s population and 1/3 of all novel coronavirus cases. As of this writing, 123,000 and counting Americans have died. Difficult numbers, hard truths. Don’t be in that number: please wear a mask and be careful out there.

Now for the music. These songs are all ones that I’ve told Dr. A that I’d like played at my memorial service. Despite the first song, I’m not into the whole body in the box thing. I want to be cremated and have my ashes on the mantle alongside our deceased cats. Now, that was morbid.

When John Wetton wrote the first song in 2012, he was bouncing back from a bout with the cancer that eventually took his life in 2017:

Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook wrote the next song about the passing of the friend who introduced them. We owe her a debt of musical gratitude:

I always associate this Warren Zevon song with the sudden and shocking death of my friend Ashley Morris in 2008:

This beautiful Neil Finn song breaks me up at least every other time I hear it:

Robbie Robertson wrote Fallen Angel as a tribute to his fallen comrade Richard Manuel. He had a little help singing the song from fellow rock god, Peter Gabriel.

Finally, a song that I posted in my tribute to the late, great Johnny Clegg after his death last year. It was written after the passing of his close friend and bandmate Dudu Zulu:

These songs of mortality were merely the ones that popped into my head. There’s more where they came from. How’s that for morbid?

Nuance Is Dead

There have been many articles over the years proclaiming the death of irony. It turned out not to be so: what’s more ironic, in a sick way, than one of the world’s richest countries having 1/3 of the COVID-19 cases? I am, however, concerned about the plight of nuance. It appears to be knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.

Nuance and I are old friends. While many see life in stark terms of black and white, I revel in the gray and ambiguous. While I’m still burning a candle for it, I’m afraid nuance is dead in our public life.

I usually detest bothsiderism but both the right and the left share the blame for nuance’s demise. Nuance was finally banished from the Republican party upon the nomination of the Impeached Insult Comedian. House GOPers such as Louie Gohmert Piles, Matt Gaetz, and Gym Jordan have trampled nuance to death with their antics. It’s unclear if they’re three of the horsemen of the apocalypse or the Three Stooges. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

Nuance suffered major blows in the last week with the toppling of a statue honoring General/President Ulysses Grant as well as the Lady Forward statue in Madison, Wisconsin. The latter became a symbol of pride during the anti-Walker demonstrations in what seems like another lifetime. Its downfall certainly vexed Our Scout Prime:

I feel your pain, Scout.

An appreciation for, and an understanding of, nuance would have prevented the toppling of a statue honoring the man who did more to defeat the Confederacy than anyone else, General/President Grant. His father-in-law was a slave owner (as was Lincoln’s) who gave Ulysses and Julia a slave. Grant found the whole thing embarrassing and freed the poor bastard within a year. Many have credited that incident with beginning the process of Grant’s enlightenment on racial matters.

As president, Grant joined forces with the advocates of radical reconstruction and equal rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was perhaps his greatest accomplishment as president. It was struck down by the Supremes in 1883, but it set the template for Civil Rights legislation in the next century. That’s right, Grant was the LBJ of the 19th Century; another historical figure nuance is needed to understand.

If you don’t believe me, here’s what the great Frederick Douglass had to say about Ulysses Grant:

“A man too broad for prejudice, too humane to despise the humblest, too great to be small at any point. In him the Negro found a protector, the Indian a friend, a vanquished foe a brother, an imperiled nation a savior…”

Grant’s historical reputation was the first casualty of the cult of the Lost Cause. In recent years, his star has been on the rise because of his record on Civil Rights while Woodrow Wilson’s has declined because he was a segregationist. Nuance requires that I point out that Wilson was instrumental in passing significant progressive legislation as president.

I dislike criticizing those I agree with and rarely do so. I’m down with removing monuments to Lee, Davis, Calhoun, and others. I’ve even stopped making nuanced arguments about Jackson Square in New Orleans. While I understand the thrill of toppling statues, I prefer a legal process, which has the benefit of being safer. The bronze statue of General/President Jackson is heavy and could hurt someone if hastily removed. I’ll have more about that and the renaming frenzy next week at the Bayou Brief.

Perhaps the post title is melodramatic. Nuance will live as long as people take the time to understand the complexities of our history. History is made by human beings and we’re flawed and, well, human.

A final thought: while we know who is buried in Grant’s Tomb, why is there a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square? That’s too nuanced even for me.

The last word goes to Oscar Brand with an 1868 campaign song:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Kid Charlemagne

Charlemagne Crossing The Alps by Paul Delaroche.

It’s rally day in Tulsa for the Impeached Insult Comedian and his delusional supporters. After months of believing in the pandemic, he’s changed his mind, but his lawyers are still making attendees sign a disease waiver. That’s a wise idea because they’re cramming people in that arena like MAGA sardines. What could possibly go wrong?The term clusterfuck was created for moments like this. O is for Oklahoma and Oy, just oy.

This week’s theme song was written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen for Steely Dan’s 1976 album Royal Scam. The studio original features a brilliant guitar solo by jazz man Larry Carlton.

We have two versions of Kid Charlemagne for your listening pleasure: the Royal Scam original and a live version by the Dukes of September a combo that Fagen formed with Boz Scaggs and ex-Danman Michael McDonald.

Now that we’ve gotten (gone?) along with Kid Charlemagne, let’s move along to the break.

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Not Taking Sides Is Taking Sides

It’s a crazy news day even for the Trump era. It’s Juneteenth, which the Impeached Insult Comedian claims to have discovered or some such shit. It’s much like Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 and “discovering” lands populated by indigenous peoples.

Trump’s comment is so moronic that it should be preserved for posterity or stuck up his posterior. It’s a coin toss as to which:

“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous. It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”

In the same Wall Street Journal interview, President* Pennywise also said that some people wear masks not for safety reasons but to signal disapproval of him. Seriously? Everything is about him

Trump was for preventive measures before he was against them. Oy just oy.

In other mask news, the story that gave this post its title popped up on the Tweeter Tube:

Too late, dude, You stuck your foot in a massive pile of dog shit and now it’s stuck in your mouth. Yuck.

I wasn’t planning to attend the movies until there’s a vaccine anyway, but it won’t be to an AMC theatre. We have three locally owned and operated cinemas so I’m sticking to them.

AMC does, however, have comfy reclining chairs:

Repeat after me: Not Taking Sides Is Taking Sides.

There was some good news yesterday. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar removed her name from Joe Biden’s Veep list. She urged the former Veep to pick a woman of color as his Veep. This should boost Senator Kamala Harris’ chances, but like Klobuchar she’ll have to deal with questions about her prosecutorial past. I’d use the reformed sinner/it takes a thief argument; meaning that only those who understand the criminal justice system can fix it. Stay tuned.

Finally, New Orleans writer Megan Braden-Perry has compiled a swell Juneteenth listicle for those of you who have heard of the holiday that the Kaiser of Chaos made “very famous.” Enough with the verys, dude. We’re very sick of them. Yea, verily.

Speaking of masks, the last word goes to Graham Parker:

Repeat after me: Not Taking Sides Is Taking Sides.

Seminole Bingo

I had my first major masked foray outside Adrastos World HQ yesterday. I believe in masking during the pandemic but have a hard time finding one that fits me. I have a huge head, y’all. My noggin is purt near melon-sized as our rural brethren might say.

I’m in desperate need of new glasses so I masked up and went to Costco Optical. Our former local optical outlet was sold to a big corporation, so I decided to go to a big box operator I’m familiar with. It went okay other than my glasses repeatedly fogging up due to the mask. Holy heavy breathing, Batman. I took a cataract test that reminded me of Space Invaders. Yes. I’m that old.

Not all our potpourri segments involve Florida, but they all involve risky, opportunistic behavior. Hence this weekday theme song:

Carl Hiaasen co-wrote that song. It doesn’t get more Florida than that, y’all.

Classified Pizza? Remember when House GOPers stormed the SCIF during the House impeachment hearings? The ringleader was pinhead Florida Congressman, Matt Gaetz. Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, who was there describes their fratty-n-bratty revelry in a new book, which was excerpted at Vanity Fair:

At one point after coming back out from a meeting with Schiff, I returned to the smell of pizza, lots of pizza. The Republicans had brought dozens of boxes of pizza into the SCIF to feed themselves. I hadn’t eaten all day because I’d been dealing with the Republicans’ nonsense. I walked over to one of the boxes, reached across Jim Jordan, and grabbed a slice. I was not going to be physically confrontational. Maybe ten years before I would have been a little more in-your-face and tried to throw those guys out myself, just a goalkeeper clearing out the penalty box. But what would that have accomplished? I would like to think I’ve matured. But I certainly was going to eat their pizza.

There’s one flaw in Swallwell’s account. What kind of pizza? Specialty? Pepperoni? Cheese? Enquiring minds wanna know.

We stay in Florida with our next segment.

Saw It Off? Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is Trumpier than thou. He’s played wingnut ostrich during the pandemic allowing the state to remain as open as an open sore. His administration even fired its COVID-19 numbers person so they could cook the books.

Florida’s loosey-goosey approach to the pandemic has bitten them in the ass. One night in one Florida bar infected 16 patrons and 7 employees. And these are the sort of people flocking to New Orleans right now.

I think Bugs Bunny had the right idea:

I am, of course, joking. It would, however, have the salutary effect of sending Mar-a-Lago out to sea. Hey Bugs. could you please do it when the Kaiser of Chaos is in residence?

Before leaving Florida, an Elvis song:

Let’s move our twisted bingo game North, not to Alaska, but to Columbus, Ohio home of THE Ohio State University

Jugglers, Not Juggalos: There was mass confusion recently in Columbus.  The local constabulary were flummoxed when this bus arrived in town:

Instead of the unicorns of the left, the Antifa, the bus was populated by hippies who are into juggling and other circus-type tricks. The “weapons” were knives for cooking and axes to chop wood for a stove. It’s a good thing Ronald Reagan and Abe Lincoln aren’t around. They were both into using axes as well:

Make sure you read TPM’s Kate Riga’s hilarious account of this incident. Oh yeah, the jugglers got their bus and tools back and beat it out of town.

I wonder if they used to follow the Dead around in that bus. The local cops were often perturbed by Deadhead encampments. Speaking of the Dead and beating it:

Back to the punny segment title: Jugglers, Not Juggalos. I seem to have to confused Insane Clown Posse fans with the Boogaloo Boys who are the wingnuts who wear Hawaiian shirts to protests. As you can see from this tweet, an apology is in order:

Another word that sounds like Juggalo is Gigolo. That’s why the last word goes to my homey Louis Prima:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Take Me To The River

Cane River Baptism by Clementine Hunter.

The weather in New Orleans has been weird even by our standards this week. Last Sunday and Monday, Tropical Storm Cristobal was a non-event in the city, but it was followed on Tuesday by torrential rain that caused flooding. On Wednesday, it was gorgeous: warm but with low humidity. In a word: weird.

This week’s theme song was written in 1974 by Al Green and Mabon Teenie Hodges. We have three versions of Take Me To The River for your listening pleasure: Al Green, Talking Heads, and Syl Johnson.

Now that we’ve been to the river, let’s take the plunge and jump to the break. I hear it’s dry on the other side; at least I hope so.

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Bad Company

I thought my war with insomnia was over. It returned with a vengeance last night. It seems to have me by the throat once again. Beats the hell outta having Paul Douglas tugging at your lapels as in the featured image from Panic In The Streets. You can tell Douglas was pissed-off by not being cast to repeat his stage performance in Born Yesterday. Damn you, Broderick Crawford. It had to be said.

I woke up feeling overwhelmed by the flood of newsworthy events. So much so that I nearly called this post Pity The Pundit. I decided against that because it’s too Trumpy. I’ll take your scorn over your pity any day.

Since I’m bad company, I’m taking a scattershot approach to this post. I have no idea how it will turn out but sometimes writing is about the journey and I’m not talking about the band either. They are, however, one of my guilty pleasures:

The cool kids will scorn me after that but so what? I’ve made my position on scorn versus pity clear. That’s what happens when you’re bad company. I’ll get to the band of that name later.

My irritability level rose when people began insisting that the Impeached Insult Comedian was personally aware of Juneteenth and the Tulsa riot when his next rally was planned. Someone on his staff knows some history or used the Google but everyone should know by now that President* Pennywise doesn’t plan a damn thing. He outsources his thinking to Steven Miller and William Hermann Goering Barr.

Repeat after me: Trump is a fucking moron.

Thus spake the tea for the Tillerson man, Rex. Everybody knows. That reminds me of a song. I know, everything reminds me of a song. Everybody knows that too:

Since I’ve been wearing my lawyer hat of late, I planned (something I do and Trump does not) to write at length about John Gleeson’s scorching attack on the Justice Department in the Flynn case. Everybody knows that everything about the Flynn case is “irregular” and based on this unprincipled principle:

“The facts surrounding the filing of the Government’s motion constitute clear evidence of gross prosecutorial abuse. They reveal an unconvincing effort to disguise as legitimate a decision to dismiss that is based solely on the fact that Flynn is a political ally of President Trump.”

I might have substituted the word crony for ally, but cronies are usually allies whereas allies are not always cronies. Does that make any sense? If not, I don’t care. I’m bad company.

Yesterday, something weird and unprecedented occurred. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff apologized for being photographed with the Kaiser of Chaos. It was the right thing to do in this context but still weird. Even generals typically like being photographed with the sitting president.

The Milley apology is clear and convincing evidence that Trump is a pariah. After the reaction to the bible photo-op, nobody should think the military will do anything to keep this mook in power. I doubt that the serving brass likes President* Pennywise any more than the retired brass. If you don’t believe me, read this piece by Slate’s Fred Kaplan wherein he gets down to brass tacks. I like the word brass. It’s brassy.

I really went on, didn’t I? Perhaps this post should be called Pity The Reader. I know what Mr. T would call it:

In the immortal words of Nick Lowe and Rockpile: “I’ve been a fool too long. I had you figured out all wrong.” Now that I think of it, Seconds of Pleasure came out around the same time The A-Team ruled the airwaves.

That was surely a pitiable passage but what can you expect from a guy who’s bad company?

The last word goes to Bad Company and Rickie Lee Jones:

Flopping With President* Pennywise

Image by Michael F.

I wish I could say that the Impeached Insult Comedian’s attack on Buffalo activist Martin Gugino showed that he’d hit rock bottom but there is no bottom with this fucker. It’s merely the latest new low.

Yesterday, Trump applied his unique brand of Twitter crazy to what happened in Buffalo:

 

I’m surprised he didn’t call it a flop, which is what an exaggerated fall to draw a foul is called in the NBA:

 

Flopping used to work but eventually the refs caught on; much like the voters with President* Pennywise. Everything he does, says, or tweets strikes the wrong note. His aides are said to be despondent over the how the flopping tweet flopped. Good. They *should* be despondent about what the Trump regime is doing to the country.

The reason I’m bringing up yesterday’s example of cluelessness, insensitivity, and cruelty is the nature of what happened. I’ve spent a lot of time around elderly people in the last 15 years. The thing they, quite rightly, fear most is falling. A broken hip can transform a spry old man into a broken one. Hopefully, Mr. Gugino will bounce back but he’s unlikely to ever be quite the same after being pushed around by the police.

I just came upon this tweet from a friend of Martin Gugino:

 

President* Pennywise is spiraling as his failures mount. In the past, he was able to recover from his missteps because the crises were largely self-inflicted. This time, events are in the saddle, riding him. It’s about fucking time.

The sharks sense blood in the water. Suddenly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is willing to stand up to the Kaiser of Chaos. When the kneeling shit hit the fan in 2017, the NFL was paralyzed with fear. Goodell is not mouthing Black Lives Matter rhetoric out of conviction; he’s blowing with the wind. The prevailing breeze is NOT coming from Trumpistan. Hell, even Drew Brees is suddenly a repentant sinner.

The White House somehow thinks that an oval office address on race and policing is the cure for what ails it. Such a speech has never helped Trump before and this one is being written by neo-Fascist Steven Miller. It’s unclear who will translate the text from the original German. Maybe William Hermann Goering Barr can lend a hand. He should change his name to Wilhelm.

Finally, it’s time to pitch a new theme song to President* Pennywise. It’s a tune that fits the moment even if it’s 53-years-old. That’s still younger than Martin Gugino. The last word goes to The Hollies and CSNY:

 

 

Still Can’t Trust That Day

Tropical Storm Cristobal was something of a non-event in New Orleans. Other parts of the broader Metro Area and Gulf South weren’t so lucky. We’re still experiencing the odd severe rain band but if this is our tropical system for the year, we’re lucky. Knock on wood.

An odd phenomenon of the social media era is people complaining about preparing for a storm then bitching about it not being severe. It’s what we want, y’all.  Is it my fault if you bought too much water and food you’ll only eat when the power is out? Talk about first world problems. Eat your Vienna Sausages and STFU.

A friend of mine made a more salient point on Facebook. Why can’t our brains process more than once thing at a time? Locally, we’ve gone from focusing on the pandemic to the protests and, briefly, to hurricane season. The MSM has this problem in spades: one major story at a time is all they can handle. The pandemic didn’t go anywhere. Our inability to multi-task is likely to lead to a second wave.

The Trump regime has largely abandoned the subject of the pandemic since it was a loser for them. They’re now fixated on LAW & ORDER. The big question for me is this: SVU; Criminal Intent; or the original Law & Order?

William Hermann Goering Barr faced the nation yesterday. It was a pitiful performance as he tried to argue that pepper spray and tear gas are not chemicals. It reminded me of a kid who discovers for the first time that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. Barr is not a kid and ketchup is neither a vegetable nor a fruit.

There’s been much mockery of Willard Mittbot Romney for marching in the BLM protest yesterday. It doesn’t make him a hero, but I believe in coalition building so I’ll take allies wherever I find them. Besides, he earned some cred with me by voting to remove the Impeached Insult Comedian from office.

The Gray Lady seems to have recovered from losing its Cotton Pickin’ Mind after publishing a fascist op-ed from Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. The opinion editor quit in the face of widespread unrest on the paper’s staff. Maybe the opinion page will abandon its recent obsession with trying to “challenge” the paper’s liberal readers. They should leave “owning the libs” to Fox News.

Finally, a few unfashionable thoughts about the latest craze: “Defund the Police.” In this instance, the details are, on the whole, good not devilish. Reducing the police’s involvement in things they’re bad at handling such as mental illness and domestic violence is a good idea. The label sucks. It implies that utopia will be the result of the George Floyd protests.

Violent crimes still need investigating; what is needed is to demilitarize the police and address racist violence by law enforcement. The overall idea behind “defund the police” is not a bad one but the presentation is terrible. It implies that “burning down” the system is a good idea. I had hoped that Trump’s “burning down” US foreign policy among other things would have disabused people of the notion that disruption and destruction are good ideas. Like Cory Booker, I prefer reform and rebuilding.

Repeat after me: Words Matter.

The last word goes to Stephen Stills with a song written in 1971 that’s still relevant today:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Life During Wartime

The Outbreak by Kathe Kollwitz.

A named storm is lurking in the Gulf of Mexico. It looks as if Cristobal is headed for the Gret Stet of Louisiana. As of this writing, it will make landfall in Morgan City home of the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. I am not making this up. Wherever it hits, it’s going to be a wet weekend.

There was momentary upset when New Orleans was mentioned as a possible site for the GOP convention. I let it roll off my back: it’s a non-starter. I suspect some malicious mischief from NOLA tourism officials who are vexed with Mayor Cantrell for her strong stand on “reopening.” They should shut it.

It’s the 76th Anniversary of D-Day. On that solemn and bloody day, they helped to secure the freedoms that the current regime is determined to erode. It’s time to re-quote General Mattis:

“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.”’ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.”

This week’s theme song was written by Talking Heads for their 1979 album Fear Of Music. The lyrics are by David Byrne, but the music came from a jam session. I’m not sure if it was strawberry or blueberry jam. That pun was so bad that I should apologize for it, but I won’t. Suffice it to say it was not a peach of a pun…

We have three versions of Life During Wartime for your listening pleasure: the studio original; a live version from the concert film Stop Making Sense and a 1985 cover by the Staple Singers.

Now that we’ve firmly established that “this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around,” let’s jump to the break.

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Wake Me Up On Judgment Day

I wrote this post yesterday morning. Since it’s about the big picture, I’ve let it be. The details will remain in dispute for quite some time. Besides, I can’t top A’s Sunday eloquence:

I appropriated the phrase The Fog of History in 2014 during the Ferguson police riot. That’s why it fits our current situation so well even if the image from The Lady From Shanghai isn’t precisely on point; it’s still cool. There *are* echoes of 1967 and 1968 but the context is not the same. A lot of pent-up anger and frustration has been vented on the streets of many of our cities; both short-term and long-term.

The short-term frustrations involve the pandemic and economic calamity brought on us by the Trump regime’s grotesque incompetence. People have been cooped-up for two months, so part of the unrest is down to stir craziness as well as the Kaiser of Chaos’ need to constantly stir the pot. Chaos is all he knows. He has neither the foggiest notion of how to unite the country nor the slightest inclination to do so. He just stirs the pot: consequences be damned. Fuck you. Donald.

The long-term frustrations involve the original reason for the protests, police brutality and racist violence against people of color. The encounter between George Floyd and MPD Officer Derek Chauvin was brief and brutish. It cost Floyd his life and Chauvin his job, which is not a fair trade off for such a cold-blooded act.

Charges have been filed against Chauvin. Allow me to put my lawyer hat on for a minute. The reason he’s been charged with 3rd degree homicide and manslaughter is a pragmatic one. Prosecutors will not have to prove INTENT, which is one reason police prosecutions often fall short. Defense lawyers invariably use a combination of self-defense and resisting arrest arguments to defeat murder charges. Removing intent from the equation strikes me as wise. I think there *was* intent, but convicting Chauvin is the most important thing. The recent case of Philando Castile is a bitter reminder that juries almost always defer to the cop’s judgment.

I nearly leapt into the murky waters of this story on Friday. But I wanted to have a better idea of who was responsible for the arson and looting and why it happened. The fog has lifted somewhat, and it appears that the worst of the non-police violence was instigated by far right and far left extremists. Shorter Adrastos: I see white people.

For all we know, it’s an unholy combination of the extremes. The right-wing extremists want to provoke a race war and the left-wing extremists want to provoke “the revolution” whatever the hell that means in the American context. Thus far, they’re making the streets of some cities look like Berlin in 1930.

The far right and far left have often converged in our history. I’ve closely studied the post-World War II Red Scare and it’s replete with stories of committed communists becoming McCarthyite witch hunters. Whitaker Chambers is the best example. He went from being a Soviet spy to an editor at Time Magazine, which was a festering pit of anti-communist fervor back then. That concludes this brief history lesson.

Back to the current unrest. I’m relieved that much of the violence is down to white extremist agent provocateurs as I think looting and arson are stupid. As Minnesota native Bob Dylan put it in a 1966 song, Absolutely Sweet Marie: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.”

I expect the Kaiser of Chaos and his supporters will overplay their hand and the pot stirring will blow up in their faces. People want their president to lead, not tweet and incite violence from the White House bunker. Any other president would have urged calm and asked both sides to stand down. President* Pennywise is incapable of such leadership. As our Scout Prime said the other day on Twitter, “I wish we had a president.”

I’m not making any other political or legal predictions about recent events. I’m keeping my head down and rationing my news and social media intake. Shit was already hard enough before this shit went down. Repeat after me: I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I realize Wake Me Up On Judgment Day is an odd title for an agnostic to use. It’s the title of a song on an album that’s been my “happy place” this weekend, Steve Winwood’s Back In The High Life Again. That’s why Winwood gets the last word with a song that reflects my unrealistic desire to hibernate until the shit is scraped off the proverbial fan.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Is That All There Is?

Self Portrait After The Spanish Flu by Edvard Munch.

My sleep pattern remains wacked out. This lifelong night person has become a morning writer. I’ve even awakened before Dr. A a few times and fed the cat. Both she and PD were disoriented. Such is life during the pandemic.

I decided to use one of Edvard Munch’s lesser known works as this week’s featured image. It’s a reminder than one can survive even the worst pandemic. It also explains why he was such a Gloomy Gus. Of course, he was Norwegian; it goes with the territory.

This week’s theme song was written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller in 1968. They shopped it around before finding the perfect singer: Peggy Lee. I’ll have more about Miss Peggy Lee and our theme song after the jump.

We have two versions of Is That All There Is? for your listening pleasure: the Peggy Lee original and a swell cover by the woman whose name I cannot stop saying, Chaka Khan. It’s a mantra in my family and it should be in yours. Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan.

Our next musical pairing involves a title that’s similar to Miss Peggy Lee’s last hit. To add to the needless complexity of this post, they’re different tunes.

You say this, I say that. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Now that we’ve questioned everything, let’s take a dubious leap of faith and jump to the break

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Memorial Day: Who I Remember

Memorial Day should be a solemn and somber holiday as we’re honoring those who served in the military during wartime, especially those who paid the ultimate price. The nature of this holiday is often honored in breach by those who crowd the beaches and parks. In ordinary times, that’s merely annoying. These are not ordinary times; in 2020, it’s infuriating.

Memorial Day 2020 is beyond somber, it’s downright grim. We’re approaching a macabre milestone: the 100,000 death from the novel coronavirus, which was memorably noted in Sunday’s New York Times. Two stories captured my attention this morning as I scanned the digital edition of the Gray Lady. The first is about how our monstrously mendacious president* went golfing this weekend as the country suffers from his misrule. He has yet to express sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic; not even on his beloved Twitter. Mourner-in-Chief has long been part of the job description but he’s incapable of even paying lip service to the dead. In a word: monstrous. That’s why I call him President* Pennywise.

The second story is about the pandemic’s toll on Holyoke Home for Soldiers in Massachusetts.

Of the 210 veterans who were living in the facility in late March, 89 are now dead, 74 having tested positive for the virus. Almost three-quarters of the veterans inside were infected. It is one of the highest death tolls of any end-of-life facility in the country.

This is a gut punch of a story, reminding us of how hollow the nation’s commitment to our veterans often is. Meanwhile President* Pennywise golfs and tweets; oblivious to the grim milestone noted by the NYT. He is incapable of even feigning empathy with the survivors of those who have died due to his grotesque incompetence. It didn’t have to be this bad and the buck stops in the Oval Office. In a word: infuriating.

We return to our regularly scheduled annual programming, but I would have been remiss in not mentioning our current national tragedy on this most solemn of holidays:

There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post is making its eleventh annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.

I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape. 

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago [2005] and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman, so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone and confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Shapes Of Things

Abstraction by Rolph Scarlett.

I don’t have a helluva lot to add to what I said as the 13th Ward Rambler earlier this week. I’m still keeping my head down during the lockdown. We’ve had a few front porch visitors, which breaks the monotony and allows Paul Drake to make goo-goo eyes at company and get his nose prints all over the lower glass panes of our front door.

This week’s theme song was written by Paul Samwell-Smith, Keith Relf, and Jim McCarty in 1966 and represented a  sonic breakthrough for The Yardbirds. The tune’s Wikipedia entry is absurdly detailed and argues that Jeff Beck should have received a songwriting credit as well. It’s okay: Beck assumed de facto ownership of the song after recording it with The Jeff Beck Group on 1968’s Truth album.

We have three versions of Shapes Of Things for your listening pleasure: the Yardbirds original, the Jeff Beck Group, and David Bowie from Pin-Ups. They’re all shapely and thingy:

Now that we’ve shaped things and contemplated Jeff Beck’s guitar virtuosity, let’s jump to the break.

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

In this edition of Songs For The Pandemic, we focus on the home front. One home in particular, mine. It’s Dr A and my anniversary today. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be home bound with.  As Maybe Cousin Telly would surely say at this point:

That brings me to today’s music. Songs about home: being there, going there, losing your way, and finding your way home.

Our first selection comes from our friends in Fairport Convention. I say friends because Dr A and I met them on our grand English music tour in 2007 and they’re all nicer than nice:

While we’re on the subject of hearts and home, a tune from a former Fairporter or is that ex-Conventioneer?

Can you handle another Winwood song? Just lose yourself in the music:

After wandering about, it’s time to head home.

When you finally return home, it’s time to proclaim: This Must Be The Place:

Bayou Brief: The Age Of Uncertainty

My latest column for the Bayou Brief went live at 11 AM yesterday. I’m trying to make the time and day, Wednesday, a bi-weekly thing. Regularity in regular features floats my boat. Oops, that sounded like a laxative commercial or some such shit. I should flush that paragraph, but I won’t. I don’t want to bring on another toilet paper apocalypse…

I had a lot of fun writing The Age Of Uncertainty. There’s even a vaguely amusing story about the writing process. I had a notion that I wanted to write about masks, reopening, and pandemic politics BUT I didn’t have a theme to tie everything together in a wordy bundle. The idea of stealing a Galbraith title came to me in a moment of wakefulness at 3 AM on Sunday morning. Sometimes insomnia can come in handy.

I spend some time in the column pondering the masking of America:

An important part of making phase-1 work is a willingness to wear a mask in public. I understand why people dislike masking. I have a size 8 head, which makes it difficult to find a mask that fits. Additionally, I’m almost as blind as a bloody bat and I’ve had a problem with my glasses fogging up while masked. It’s a pain but it’s imperative to protect others from your germs. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to keep my germs to myself and for you to do likewise. It’s one reason I’m staying in my Bat Cave for the time being.

It’s all part of being a grown-up. You gotta do what you need to do, not what you wanna do. What I wanna do is post a Graham Parker song with mask in the title: