Category Archives: Film

Malaka Of The Week: Lost Causer Karl Oliver

As I said in the last Saturday post, I’m burnt out on Lost Cause Fest. I’m ready to move on but as Michael Corleone said in Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” In Michael’s case it was La Cosa Nostra, in my case it’s the Lost Causers. And that is why Mississippi State Representative Karl Oliver is malaka of the week.

Malaka Oliver fits into the category of “honorees” I’ve never heard of before and hope to never hear from again. His sole current claim to fame is a Facebook post that surfaced via Mississippi Today:

I’m glad that so many posted screen shots of this unhinged rant because it may disappear much like the Lost Cause itself; other Mississippi GOPers have condemned the remarks because he used the L word: LYNCHED. It’s a word that should never be used but seems to be making a comeback in the age of pro-Trump alt-right shitbirds.

Lost Causers like Malaka Oliver aren’t big on facts. It was not the “leadership of Louisiana” that removed (not destroyed) the white supremacy monuments, it was the City of New Orleans. I remember when conservatives favored local self-government but that seems be a cause as lost as the Civil War and Jim Crow. As Mayor Mitch Landrieu put it while the Lee statue was coming down: 

“The Civil War is over; the Confederacy lost and we are better for it.”

That would appear to be evident but apparently denial is a river that runs through Karl Oliver’s district. It’s a Lost Cause because y’all lost the war. Unfortunately, they won the peace both on the ground and in the history books. That’s life in what Gore Vidal (who had deep Southern roots) called “The United States of Amnesia.”

This is an issue of local self-government. If other municipalities choose not to remove their monuments, ain’t nobody’s business but their own. I don’t believe in telling other people what to think or believe. It’s up to them. Malaka Oliver would be wise to mind his beeswax and butt out. And that is why Lost Causer Karl Oliver is malaka of the week.

INSTANT UPDATE: Malaka Oliver apologized under pressure for using the L word.  I guess this peckerwood shit stain won’t show up with a rope in New Orleans any time soon then.

I have some Lost Cause Fest lagniappe. First, a letter to the editor published by the Advocate, which is, in a word, unhinged. It’s amusing to see my yuppie, gentrifying Mayor referred to as having “a program of Social Marxism.”

Second, a NYT opinion article by Brent Staples about the motives of Richard Spencer and the tiki torch protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. It has a pretty darn catchy title, How the Swastika Became a Confederate Flag.

Finally, my own Krewe of Spank posted this reminder of  2016’s Arthur Hard-On Mardi Gras Guide on the book of faces. The post wouldn’t embed, but here’s the picture:

Spanks for the memories.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)

Struggle For Existence by Clifford Odets.

The unseasonably cool weather continued through the middle of this week in New Orleans. Summer’s cauldron is finally upon us, but this May has a chance to be one of the coolest on record. The coolish weather has thus far kept the Formosan termite swarms in check in my neighborhood. I have another theory: that the new and very bright street lights on Napoleon Avenue are attracting the swarms and keeping them away from Adrastos World HQ. It’s  just a theory but if I’m right it will be a less swarmy and pestiferous year.

Here’s last year’s termite theory in Tweet form:

Actually, I should give credit where it’s really due:

Let’s get back to where we once belonged, 2017.

I’m burnt out on Lost Cause Fest. I’m glad that the Lee statue came down in broad daylight yesterday. At 16 feet tall, it was too big to be removed at night. I’m just glad it’s over. I haven’t gone to spectate at any of the removal spectacles; mostly because it’s slow, arduous, and somewhat boring. Lost Cause Fest involves statues but it doesn’t rock. This front page headline does:

Photo by Milo’s human.

This week’s featured image is a 1947 painting by Clifford Odets. Until I saw last Monday’s  Antiques Roadshow, I had no idea that the playwright/screenwriter was a gifted painter. I guess that’s why they call PBS educational television.

This week’s theme song was written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer for a 1943 Fred Astaire movie, The Sky’s The Limit.  One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) is the torch song’s torch song or is that the saloon song’s saloon song? I am easily confused but you already knew that. If I were pretentious, I’d tell you that I curated three versions of the song but I’m neither a curate nor a cure-all…

We begin with Fred Astaire singing to an indifferent bartender named Joe followed by fabulous versions by Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. Frank called it a saloon song whereas Billie torched it up, y’all. There will be more about torches anon.

Now that Joe has set ’em up, let’s go to the break. It’s not a spoiler break as with The Americans recaps, it’s more of a length break. I do tend to go on.

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Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto Rivisitato

L to R: Big Paul Castellano, Fat Tony Salerno, Roy Cohn, & Don Donaldo. 

In addition to Nixon comparisons, there have been mob movie analogies used to describe both the Comey firing and a witness intimidation tweet before Sally Yates testified. Let’s revisit them before going on and on and on:

The Insult Comedian uses air quotes like a teenybopper: often and badly.

Back to the mob movie analogies. They’ve been flying thick and fast on cable news. The most obvious one keeps getting thrown out there: The Godfather. It’s a flawed analogy because Trump is  too crude to be either Vito or Michael Corleone or the elegant Don Barzini who was played by one of my favorite film noir actors, Richard Conte. Trump reminds me more of one of the crude Jersey or Brooklyn hoods in The Sopranos. He’s more like a badly dressed Johnny Sack than anyone in The Godfather. His childhood story, however, is reminiscent of noted dumbass and wise guy spawn Jackie Aprile Jr. It’s also a bit like AJ Soprano: a conspiracy theory loving slacker with a brilliant sister. Trump’s sister is a highly regarded retired federal judge whereas he’s an active moron.

I doubt that a mob movie analogy is required at all. Trump has extensive ties to the real, as opposed to reel, mob. I wrote about it last June in a post entitled Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto, which was, in turn, inspired by a Politico Magazine piece by David Cay Johnston. I also recycled the featured image from that post, showing the gangsters and mouthpieces the young real estate developer associated with. And Fred Trump had his own ties to the Five Families. Somehow people disregarded this and Trump won the electoral college with an assist from Russian intelligence and voter suppression laws. And he wonders why people question his legitimacy. He’s as legitimate as an earlier Oval One, Rutherford B. Hayes aka Rutherfraud or His Fraudulency.

I skipped earlier mob movies because both Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney played smart gangsters. But the Trump administration* as a whole is beginning to resemble Cagney’s “doomed gangster” classic, The Roaring Twenties. I only hope it doesn’t end like White Heat:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: One Hit (To The Body)

Baluster and Skull by Georges Braque.

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone, I mean New Orleans. Where the hell did that come from? I’m not tall enough to be Garrison Keillor and I hate cold weather. I would not, however, mind being Guy Noir if a gig as Marlowe or Spade isn’t available. It actually has NOT been a quiet week in New Orleans but I’m taking a monuments moratorium. If a Lost Causer waves a Confederate battle flag at me, I’ll shove it up their ass. Garrison would never do such a thing…

This was the week that the Insult Comedian flipped his weave. Again. The MSM may have finally realized how stupid the president* is. They’re slow learners. They’ve yet to learn that he neither plans anything nor ever tells the truth. In short, the electoral college winner is a moron. The dumbest Oval One ever. God save the Republic from this dipshit.

This week’s theme song is the underrated Rolling Stones tune One Hit (To The Body.) It placed number 61 on a Vulture mega-listicle rating all 374 songs the Stones have recorded. I’ll take a closer look at the list later, but it’s time to rock:

The song uses a physical fight as a metaphor for a break-up. I’m not sure if they had a romantic relationship in mind. One Hit comes from Dirty Work, which was released right before the Stones took a four-year hiatus and nearly called it quits. Keith was so pissed at Mick that he recorded what amounted to his version of How Do You Sleep:

Now that I’ve landed some blows, let’s go to the break before somebody gets hurt.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Charles Aznavour

Vive la France week continues with two Charles Aznavour album covers. Aznavour is still very much alive. He’ll turn 93 on May, 22. Aznavour is the child of Armenian immigrants, and has been a French national treasure for decades. Here’s how allmusic.com describes him:

Charles Aznavour is perhaps the best-known French music hall entertainer in the world — renowned the world over for the bittersweet love songs he has written and sung, which seem to embody the essence of French popular song, and also for his appearances on screen in such wildly divergent fare as Shoot the Piano Player, Candy, and The Tin Drum.

I’ve picked covers from early in Aznavour’s remarkable career. The first one comes from 1956. The Carnegie Hall LP came out in 1963 and its cover is tres meta:

Aznavour starred as a Bogie obsessed pianist in one of my favorite Truffaut films, so here’s some cinematic lagniappe:

Finally, a best of compilation:

Le Sigh

I know that Pepe Le Pew is in bad odor in many quarters, but he still cracks me up. He’s a cartoon skunk who sounds like Charles Boyer, y’all. He’s not real. One of Monsieur Le Pew’s catchphrases was, Le Sigh. And that’s what I did when I checked on the French presidential election yesterday. In this case, it was le sigh of relief that Emmanuel Macron defeated the malodorous Marine Le Pen. How do you like that? I’ve gone from Le Pew to Le Pen. They’re both stinkers, but only one is dangerous and it ain’t the toon.

Watching CNN cover the results gave me a mild headache. Instead of talking heads who knew something about either French politics or foreign policy in general they had political consultants and even a former aide to that legendary Francophile Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Yeah, I was being sarcastic there. CNN’s coverage inspired this tweet:

I make no bones about being an expert. I know something about French political history but my French is at the Pepe Le Pew level: rudimentary at best, stinky at worst. I do, however, know that every country has its own distinctive politics and the equation used by many before the election was nuts: Brexit + Trump = Le Pen for le populist wave win. Merde.

That formulation conveniently skipped the poor performance by Gert Wilders’ far right party in the late Dutch election. Populist nationalism is not a contagious disease. Each country has its own strain; in France, the Le Pens are associated in the public mind with xenophobes, collaborators, Holocaust deniers, and Vichy Fascists. Besides, Le Pen blew it in the final teevee debate. Bigly:

In the end Ms. Le Pen failed to “undemonize,” spectacularly. She failed during the course of the campaign, when her angry rallies drew the Front inexorably back into the swamp from which it had emerged. And then she failed decisively in one of the campaign’s critical moments, last week’s debate with Mr. Macron, when she effectively “redemonized” herself and the party, as many French commentators noted.

It was an hourslong tirade against Mr. Macron, laced with name-calling and epithets, and woefully deficient in substance. She appeared lost on subject after subject, fumbling on one of her signature issues — withdrawing from the euro — that is opposed by a majority of French. Something essential about Ms. Le Pen, and the National Front, had been revealed to France.

Mr. Macron, on the other hand, demonstrated a quality that French voters, unlike many Anglo-Saxon ones, have long found essential in their successful candidates: cool mastery of the critical issues confronting the country. Where Ms. Le Pen repeatedly lost herself in the weeds, Mr. Macron sailed right through them. Whether he will now be able to translate that knowledge into action is another question.

Word. There will be two rounds of parliamentary elections in June and Macron’s new party needs to elect some deputies or else he will be le screwed and Vichy Fascism will make a comeback in 2022. Le Pen did receive 34% of the vote in this rout, which is nearly double her father’s performance against Jacques Chirac in the 2002 run-off. The Le Pens aren’t going anywhere. They’re playing the long game.

The biggest difference between our late election and Sunday in France is that the establishment right did NOT support Le Pen. They supported the Republic and democracy against the Vichy Fascist threat. In contrast,  the American establishment right made a pact with the orange devil. I almost said “sold their souls” but they’re souless stinkers. Has anyone ever seen Mitch McConnell’s reflection in a mirror? I thought not.

I must admit to saying “I told you so” yesterday on social media. Every election is not about America. France is not America, and America is not France. Vive la difference. Vive la France.

That concludes this inexpert post about the French election. Hey, at least I resisted the temptation to call it Pepe Le Pew meets Marine Le Pen.

All this talk of Le Pen and Le Pew has given me le earworm:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Into The Great Wide Open

The Millinery Shop by Edgar Degas.

It’s the first weekend of Jazz Fest. Absent free tickets, we’re not attending this year. We will, however, be going to our top secret location just outside the Fairgrounds to hear Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’d be heartbroken if we didn’t do that. I hope that the weather will co-operate. There’s a chance of severe thunderstorms tomorrow. So it goes.

Hats are popular at Jazz Fest. That’s one reason I posted the Degas painting as the featured image. Another is that Degas spent time in the Crescent City visiting his Creole family; some of whom identified as black and others as white, much like the Herriman-Chasse clan I recently discussed in this space. It’s why gumbo is used so often as a metaphor to describe the natives. I’m equally inclined to compare New Orleans to a crazy quilt. The creator of Krazy Kat was born here, after all.

In other local news, the Saints have signed 32-year-old running back Adrian Peterson. His age is not my problem with the signing: it’s his status as a child beater. I wrote about it 3 years ago: Adrian Peterson Did Not Spank His Son, He Beat Him. So much for all of Sean Payton’s blather about bringing in players with “character.” This one has or had a “whooping room” in his Houston area house full of belts, switches, and the like.

This week’s theme song comes from the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album of the same name. Into The Great Wide Open is best known for its swell video and “rebel without a clue” chorus. The latter surely applies to the current occupant of the White House. The deplorables among his supporters are a rabble without a clue.

While we’re on the subject of Tom Petty, here’s a sleeper track from that very album:

I’m fond of that song because it reminds me of one of the main drags of my native Peninsula: El Camino Real. That’s the king’s highway in Spanish.  It spans several Bay Area counties and was where teenage me used to cruise. We didn’t have the internet to occupy us so we drove about aimlessly. One of my cronies always called it the Elk. That’s a bit too gamey or clubby for my taste. It must be time for the break.

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Vichy On The Potomac

Above is the Free French flag from World War II. It’s the classic tri-color with the Cross of Lorraine smack dab in the middle. America sided with Gen. DeGaulle’s Free French as opposed to the collaborationist Fascist Vichy government of Gen. Petain and Pierre Laval. Deny it as they might, the Le Pens National Front party are the inheritors of the legacy of the nationalist far-right; the ones who turned French and immigrant Jews over to the Nazis during the war. Despite Marine Le Pen’s cosmetic attempts to scrub the stench of anti-Semitism off her party by expelling her openly racist father, the National Front walks in the shoes of the Vichy government.

These are weird times. The current German government led by a conservative who was born in communist East Germany is waving the banner of liberal democracy and anti-Fascism. In France, Marine Le Pen wants to drag her country back to the dark ages with her extremist anti-immigrant platform. The good news is that pollsters nailed yesterday’s first round of voting in the French Presidential election:

On 21 April, the last-day predictions were published, an average of the election’s nine rolling polls put Macron on 24%, Le Pen on 22%, scandal-hit rightwing candidate François Fillon on 20% and hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 19%.

The final results, declared early on Monday morning by the French interior ministry, showed respective vote shares of 23.75%, 21.53%, 19.91% and 19.64%. For each of the top four candidates, the polls had been out by less than one percentage point.

As I’ve said many time before: nothing is written but I think we can abandon the current CW that the biggest asshole in any race will always win. It looks like Le Pen will lose handily in the run-off  BUT she’s on course to double her father’s total in the 2002 run-off against Jacques Chirac. Jean-Marie Le Pen got 18% of the vote whereas his daughter is on course to get between 36 and 40%. That’s way too much for comfort. Bigoted nationalism remains on the march. Pun on Emmanuel Macron’s party name intended.

That brings me to my rather dramatic post title. Unlike past US Presidents of both parties, Donald Trump has no problem with Marine Le Pen’s Vichy Fascist National Front party. He implicitly endorsed them before the first round:

In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump said that while he is not explicitly endorsing Le Pen, the attack played to her strengths.

“She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” Trump said in the Oval Office interview. “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”

U.S. presidents typically avoid weighing in on specific candidates running in overseas election. But Trump suggested his opinion was no different from an average observer, saying, “Everybody is making predictions on who is going to win. I’m no different than you.”

This is hardly the worst thing that the Insult Comedian has done since winning the electoral vote. It’s not an overt endorsement BUT it’s still sickening. It’s a slap in the face to Americans who fought against Nazism and Fascism. The current occupant has sided with Le Pen’s Vichy Fascism as opposed to the small-d democrats of both center-left and right. It’s a sad day for America as well as a sign that Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts still have influence in the administration*.

Writing a post with a Vichy inspired title turned my mind to last scene of Casablanca. Generations of Americans cheered when Claude Rains threw a bottle of Vichy Water in the garbage:

It may have been heavy-handed symbolism but I cheer every time I see it. With his de facto support of Marine Le Pen, Trump has taken the bottle out of the trash and put it on his desk for all the world to see. Rubbish is still rubbish.

The president* is utterly without shame but I have to say it anyway: shame on you, Donald for betraying all those who died fighting Nazism. You’re supporting a candidate whose party is honeycombed with Holocaust deniers and Vichy apologists. America should always stand with the Free French, not with the Vichy Fascists.

Vive les Maquis.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Fate’s Right Hand

Reply To Red by Yves Tanguy.

Spring is prime time for crawfish boils or as the natives say, berls. We’ve been to two in the last three weeks. The first one involved some of the usual suspects and nothing unusual happened other than a five-year-old girl pointing at the sacks of live crawfish and asking, “When will they be dead?” That’s a sassy Louisiana child, y’all. It’s one reason why her mama nicknamed her the Benevolent Dictator. I’m not so sure about the first bit though…

Something quite eventful happened last weekend at the second shebang. The berl was thrown (not by Milton Berle or Burl Ives) by one of Dr. A’s first year medical students. He’s an older student who was a helicopter pilot in the Army and is still a reservist. That’s one reason he lives at Jackson Barracks near Arabi, Louisiana. That’s right, it was an Arabi spring crawfish berl…

When I first heard our host’s name, I remarked that it was the same name as the man who sold us our house after renovating it in 2000. It’s a fairly common name so we agreed it was unlikely that her student was a Junior. Guess what? It’s a small fucking world after all. Our host’s father had indeed renovated Adrastos World HQ and Dr. A’s student had worked on the project. The latter was somewhat freaked out by the string of coincidences but I told him not to sweat it because it made him de facto teacher’s pet. Besides, the man knows how to boil crawfish. It’s an indispensable skill as far as I’m concerned.

This week’s theme song is the title track of Rodney Crowell’s 2003 album, Fate’s Right Hand. It seems that one of his daughters didn’t care for the song at the time. Somewhere in my archives I have a circa 2004 Crowell concert at which he introduced Fate’s Right Hand  more or less as follows:

“My daughter hates this song. She told me it’s undignified for me to talk about poontang and the narrator of the song having a pole in his pants. I told her that I’m a country singer and her mother and grandfather are both country singers. We’re not dignified people.  She reminded me that Grandpa Johnny was the most dignified person she knew. I couldn’t argue that point so I changed the subject.”

Fate’s Right Hand is a list song. The most famous list song I can think of is Irving Berlin’s You’re The Top. Another list song classic is REM’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine.) I don’t feel like listing list songs so here’s Fate’s Right Hand:

Rodney is fond of list songs. He wrote one about greedy yuppies for his 2005 album, The Outsider complete with the refrain: give it to me, give it to me. I will comply:

Give it to me, give it to me. You may not be as demanding as the coked-out greed head in the song but let’s take a break anyway. Give it to me, give it to me.

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Quote Of The Day: Lost Armada Edition

Every time I think Team Trump cannot be more inept, they top themselves. The Insult Comedian seems to think making national security policy is like playing Battleship or Risk. His approach is certainly risky business. Uh oh, if he sees that he might call on Tom Cruise for help. He does play action heroes nowadays. Does Trump prefer Jack Reacher or Ethan Hunt? I know he’s over the artist formerly known as the Governator.

It’s quote time. It comes from a Guardian column by Richard Wolffe:

Less than 100 days into this presidency, it is blissfully clear what kind of leader Trump is. He has made the awesome transition from a neophyte candidate into a neophyte president; from a man who bluffed and blustered his way in TV debates to a man who bluffs and blusters his way through international crises.

Here is a small-time businessman who knew nothing about foreign affairs, who has grown into a nuclear-armed president who knows nothing about foreign affairs. He used to fire B-list celebrities on TV; now he just fires off tweets and Tomahawks after watching TV.

To put it mildly, it is troubling for any White House – at a time of high tensions with a rogue nuclear state – to act as dumb or duplicitous as Donald Trump. Machiavelli argued that it is better to be feared than loved. It’s also better to look like something other than a fool.

Hey, he used a fancy word with historical connotations: Armada. Of course, it evokes the disaster of the Spanish Armada, which is not the happiest analogy to make.

Since Trump is an avid teevee watcher, he really should watch the video below about the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It uses stop-animation of various foods to depict the event so it’s not too complicated for him to understand:

Day-O. That video gives a whole new meaning to the Banana Boat Song. Day-O.

I hope the president* learns something from this video. My only worry is that it might inspire him to bomb a banana plantation. We must avoid war with Chiquita at all costs.

MOAB DICK

Call me Ishmael. Call me anything; just don’t call me late when supper’s ready.

Last week’s astonishing series of Trump administration* foreign policy u-turns and flip flops convinced some in the MSM that the long-awaited PIVOT had come. The Insult Comedian actually got some positive press as the media drooled over the “beautiful” missiles that struck Syria. Lyin’ Brian actually out malaproped Gum Spice on that one. Instead of gushing over Trumpian manliness, the MSM should be worried about the erratic course this incompetent and incoherent administration* is steering. 

While many in the MSM became tumescent over Donald’s dick waving, those of us who do satire searched (groped?) for the right analogy. As you can see above, Dr. Strangelove references are popular with the madcap zanies at Wonkette. They got there first so that’s Slim Pickens for me. That’s when a military acronym exploded in my head: MOAB.

MOAB is, of course, military speak for the mother of all bombs. They’ve been around for a while but neither Bush nor Obama wanted to drop the very big one. The Donald is made of stupider stuff: how could he resist dropping the biggest non-nuclear bomb in history? It’s like being Dirk Diggler for a day. y’all. It *almost* made us forget his teeny, tiny hands. Almost.

MOAB was tailor-made for Trump. He’s just another boomer chicken hawk whose manhood is linked in his own mind with weaponry. Bombs are glimmering phalluses hence MOAB Dick. I have the feeling that the Insult Comedian never finished Moby Dick, so he might want to pick up one of these nifty comix. Cliff’s Notes are so un-presidential.

It’s from 1942, so it’s older and rarer than Trump-hab. His white whale was the White House, which has become such an Albatross that he spends every weekend at Mar-A-Lugee. We’re also treated to endless stories of the struggle between Bannon and young Jared as they vie to be Ishmael to Trump’s Ahab. The Melville character was the sole survivor of the Pequod and narrated Moby Dick. My money is on Jared. He married the boss’ daughter and gave the president* grandchirren. All Bannon gave him was the White House. Jared is blood. Blood trumps everything in Trump World: “Call me Jared. I survived.” He *is* a two-legged cockroach, after all.

Back to the dangerous situation caused by Trump’s face off with pipsqueak North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. They’re actually peas in a very crazy pod. Both will do *anything* for attention, which is why the Obama administration’s policy of’ “strategic patience” was a wise one. When a toddler pitches a tantrum at the dinner table, one can either ignore them or go the time-out route. Never give them what they want: attention and approval. That’s what the world needs to do with both of these baby men: put them in time-out.

Our Asian allies are noticeably unenthusiastic about toddler tantrum as policy:

Those in the US&A who would like a manly “preemptive strike” on North Korea forget the fact that it’s the Republic of Korea that will suffer the consequences. It’s a friendly nation, and has become a democracy during my lifetime. South Korea is going through a painful political scandal and has no appetite for Trumper dick waving. I wonder if he even knows about the impeachment and indictment of former President Park Guen-hye

The Darnold is a profoundly, indeed militantly, ignorant man. He was convinced until recently that China could order North Korea to knock it off.  Wrong.The Kim family dynasty have long been China’s crazy communist cousin. The PRC has influence but Kim Jong-un and his generals run the show in Pyongyang. I’m waiting for another overgrown toddler, Dennis Rodman, to revive wormplomacy and offer to serve as an intermediary.  The Insult Comedian might take him up on it: Rodman appeared on Celebrity Apprentice twice. I hear the ratings were better than on Arnold’s watch. Believe me.

Another thing strikes me about Trump’s new role as MOAB Dick to the world. He’s facing off with two family dynasties in Syria and North Korea. Perhaps that’s why he thinks he can solve these problems: he learned about dynastic power at Fred Trump’s dinner table. The Assads and the Kims, however, put the nasty in dynasty. They’re not going anywhere even though we all wish they would. It’s much harder than dealing with other developers, gangsters, Ed Koch, and Gary Busey. Believe me.

Team Trump’s effort in wagging the dog and distracting attention from their scandals has been surprisingly effective. It’s the only thing they’ve gotten right thus far, but the act isn’t going over very well in Seoul and Tokyo. It’s time for them to put the MOAB Dick back in their pants and zip it about North Korea. Twitplomacy won’t work any better than wormplomacy despite Rodman’s tremendous tattoos. Believe me.

I didn’t plan to write such a long post. I guess the Melville geist has taken hold. It’s time to meet Bartleby the Scrivener for coffee. I hope he doesn’t consider me the Melvillain of the piece…

Saturday Odds & Sods: (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding

Banjo and Glasses by Juan Gris.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I’m not religious but I was raised Greek Orthodox. This year Greek Easter is the same day as what my most pious relative calls “American Easter.” My memories of Easter revolve around food: leg of lamb was always the main course at our house. I may not celebrate the holiday but I wish those of you who do well.

In Easter related news, it looks as if Team Trump is screwing up the annual White House Easter egg roll. It’s typically an East Wing thing but Melania lives in Manhattan and nobody else seems to be in charge. Holy symbolic ineptitude, Batman. I hear Harvey and Bugs Bunny are organizing a protest…

This week’s theme song is Nick Lowe’s best known and loved song, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding. Nick himself is not madly in love with his most famous song:

“Everyone seems to know it. But it’s never been a hit, a hit song so to speak, on the charts,” says Lowe, reflecting on the song’s legacy. “It is really strange — and I don’t want to sound too, kinda, ‘wet’ — ‘cause when I hear it, it doesn’t really sort of sound like my song any more. I don’t feel hugely possessive about it.”

<SNIP>

“The song had a rather humorous birth,” he says. “It was written, initially, from the point of view of an old hippie who was still sticking to his guns and seeing his kind of followers all suddenly wearing pointy-toed shoes and drinking cocktails. … It’s like they had come to their senses, rediscovered alcohol and cocaine. … They were rather embarrassed that they’d ever been hippies … and thought the hippie thing rather funny.

“And he’s saying to them: ‘Well, you all think I’m an idiot. You’re sniggering now. But all I’m saying — and you can’t argue with this — is what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?’”

I’m presenting three versions for your amusement. First, the 1974 original recorded with the pub-rock band, Brinsley Schwarz. Then the Elvis Costello rendition that put the tune on the map; it was produced by Nick. Finally, the way I like it best: a solo acoustic version by the songwriter himself.

One thing that *is* funny about Nick Lowe is that his hair is still awesome. I should hate him for that but I’m trying to be a bigger man. I am, however, fuming over the injustice of it all right now. It’s best to insert a break at this point while I take a deep breath.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Eunuch Of Stamboul

This post was inspired by the Pulp Librarian’s Twitter feed. I’d never heard of The Eunuch Of Stamboul before. It turns out to have been a wildly successful thriller that has been reprinted many times hence all the swell covers below.

That was a hardback edition. Let’s move on to the paperbacks but first it’s time to don a fez:

The book was made into a movie in 1936. They changed the title and made it less eunuch:

I’ve never seen the movie but I’m interested because I love James Mason and Valerie Hobson. I couldn’t find a trailer but one cover has given me a benign earworm. Here it is:

 

Gret Stet Grifter

Photograph via Louisiana Radio Network.

This began life as a malaka of the week post but I came up with a catchy title. It’s still about malakatude on the part of Louisiana Republican Lt. Gov Billy Nungesser. Since Nungesser is on the portly side, it’s tempting to call him our Chris Christie. The difference is that Christie is a smart asshole whereas Nungesser is an entitled dumbass. I’m not sure which is worse but, as former LSU basketball dad Bruce Hornsby would surely say, that’s just the way it is.

Our non-Louisiana readers might recall Nungesser in his capacity as Plaquemines Parish President during the BP Oil Spill. He spent a lot of time rubbishing President Obama and posturing for the press. Billy is a classic fake tough guy: he acts as if he’s self made when he was born on third base. His father was the longtime Gret Stet GOP chairman and helped grow that party from a cult to the dominant force in Louisiana politics. He also got his son out of more than a few tight scrapes. It’s the Louisiana way, y’all.

Nungesser was elected Lt. Gov in 2015. It was his second try at the largely ceremonial position. His primary responsibilities are tourism and the state museum system. That’s one reason he inserted himself into the white supremacist monuments controversy on the “let them be” side. In an effort to suck up to Gret Stet Trumpers, the fat fuck has even asked the Insult Comedian to intervene. Bite me, Billy. It’s a local issue, not a state or federal one. I thought y’all believed in states rights. Of course, Billy only believes in Billy.

In addition to showing off for the media, there’s always been a whiff of corruption surrounding Nungesser: from collusion with the Corps of Engineers and BP while publicly bashing them to rumors of cocaine use. I know one person who insists Billy was born with a silver coke spoon in his mouth so to speak. Additionally, many believe that he’s the real diaper fetishist, not David Vitter. That’s one reason why some call him Bordello Billy. Is any of that true? Beats the hell outta me but there’s often fire where there’s smoke. Besides, I like gossip. It’s the Adrastos way, y’all.

That brings me to a front page story by Jeff Adelson in yesterday’s New Orleans Advocate. One of Nungesser’s few duties is the care and feeding of the state museum system. As a professional spoiled brat, it’s impossible for Billy to not abuse his authority:

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser has been using a Lower Pontalba Building apartment and space in other state museum buildings in the French Quarter for his personal benefit and has engaged in a pattern of political interference with the agency’s operations, the Louisiana State Museum’s interim director said Monday while resigning in protest.

Nungesser’s interference includes attempting to override museum officials and board members who objected to plans to loan U.S. Sen. John Kennedy artworks for his office in Washington, D.C., and threatening to sell museum works of art on eBay to raise funds, said Tim Chester, a museum consultant who took the interim position in October.

“I have never encountered anything like this in the 40 years I’ve worked in the field, ever,” Chester said. “I’ve seen some pretty strange crap come down in museums, but this one takes the cake.”

It’s a classic pattern of malakatude involving the state owned Lower Pontalba and city owned Upper Pontalba buildings. They’re historic buildings located at Jackson Square and have often been involved in Gret Stet grifting. My former shop was in the Upper Pontalba and dealing with the French Market Corporation was no walk in the park. Believe me.

In classic grifter fashion, Billy blasted Mr. Chester and denied everything. It’s as if he said, “Hey, wait a minute Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man.” That would, of course, be a lie.

I hope Nungesser’s latest kerfuffle will inspire a serious investigation. There’s a lot of weird crap involving Billy and his minions:

Chester also alleged Nungesser has been interfering with the lengthy waiting list used to select new tenants for the much sought-after Pontalba apartments.

Chester said his resignation was driven by those issues as well as others, including demands from Nungesser’s staff for keys to the museum buildings so they could use them at their discretion, something that Chester said violated the museum’s security policies.

Another major issue was a request by Kennedy to take 14 pieces of art to Washington, D.C., that had been in his office in Baton Rouge while he was state treasurer, Chester said. Nungesser requested the loan of that artwork be approved, though Kennedy withdrew the request last week, Chester said.

Nungesser said the loan would have been a way to show off artwork that would otherwise be in warehouses. He said Chester’s reluctance to send the artwork to Washington stemmed from Kennedy’s senatorial campaign last year, which included attacks on the state’s public arts program.

John Neely Kennedy is, of course, a legendary phony and hypocrite. It’s probably why he and Billy get on so well: malakas of a feather flock together. The freshman Senator, however, is a smart asshole and will wiggle his way out of this mess like the worm he is.

As to Malaka Billy, avoiding responsibility is what he does best. He reminds me of Tim Holt’s entitled jerk character, George Minifer, in the great Orson Welles film The Magnificent Ambersons. George finally got his comeuppance. I hope Billy does too.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Let The Four Winds Blow

The Man In The Blue Hat by Fernand Léger.

The French Quarter Festival is this weekend. It used to be a favorite of mine but has gotten more crowded and touristy as the years have gone by. Bigger is not always better but that’s the mentality that drives events in New Orleans in 2017. So it goes.

Allergy season continues apace, exacerbated by the wind. There’s flying pollen in the air. The good news is that I haven’t seen any Buckmoth Caterpillars blowing in the wind. They’re nasty little buggers that will sting the hell out of you given half a chance. In fact, a friend of mine was cutting her grass and learned that even if you cut a Buckmoth, they can still sting you. It’s another reason to avoid yard work. Nature is dirty and stingy.

This week’s windy theme song was written by Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. It was first recorded in 1957 by R&B legend Roy Brown who had his sole cross over hit with Let The Four Winds Blow. The Fat Man cut his version in 1961. We’ll go in chronological order.

Windiness is nothing new for this feature. Neither is a pounding piano or honking sax.

It’s baseball season, which means hope springs eternal for last year’s also-rans. My Giants lost on opening day but star pitcher Madison Bumgarner hit two homers. Pitchers rarely do that in the NL and never in the AL because of the accursed DH rule.

The Insult Comedian dodged throwing out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener. I guess he was afraid the boos would drown out any cheers. All Presidents receive both at sporting events. Still, it would have been amusing to see Trump in action. He once claimed to be the best high school ballplayer in New York. It’s another whopper: Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Rod Carew played high school ball at the same time. Sorry, Donald.

Speaking of putting on a show:

Baseball & Vaudeville: There’s a swell article at the Atlantic about how sports and show business intermingled in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Playing baseball was not a lucrative profession back then so some players took to the stage. One of them was New York Giants outfielder Turkey Mike Donlin who brought his manager, John McGraw along for the ride:

I also learned that there’s a vaudeville archive at the University of Arizona. I wonder if they have any gag props?

Elizabeth Yuko has the details in her appropriately entitled article, When Baseball Players Were Vaudeville Stars.

Let’s move on to a more serious segment. April 6th marked the 100th Anniversary of United States entry into the Great War.

The Forgotten War: The Korean conflict is often called that but-thanks to M*A*S*H in particular-it’s still more remembered in America than World War I. The Great War was an important event in world history but, in show business terms, World War II had better villains and bigger explosions. There are so many books and films about that conflict that it won’t be forgotten.

There are two articles about America and the Great War that I’d like to bring to your attention:

The short answer is that Americans have short memories when it comes to our own history. It’s one reason the Insult Comedian is watching teevee at the White House instead of Trump Tower.

Hopefully, a new American Experience documentary will revive interest in the forgotten war. It premiers on April 1oth.

Also forgotten are some Hollywood movies produced at the end of the Hoover administration. In the face of a passive laissez-faire Presidency, some Americans wanted a strong man and the movies reflected that desire.

The Dictator Craze: As part of an outstanding series about Fascism, Slate published an excerpt from a book by Thomas Doherty. The piece deals with Hollywood’s brief fascination with authoritarian jerks, When Fascist Heroes Took Over The Movies. The best of these movies was:

The Power and the Glory (1933) embodied the hankering for a superman in title, sentiment, and central character. Directed by William K. Howard from a screenplay by Preston Sturges, the film is often considered a precursor to Citizen Kane (1941) because of its pioneering use of voice-over narration. The Power and the Glory resurrects the deceased and unmourned railroad tycoon Tom Garner (Spencer Tracy) for a meditation of the price of greatness. Personally flawed but professionally flawless, Garner rises Horatio Alger–fashion from pauper to plutocrat.

Hollywood’s Fascist flirtation faded with the election of Franklin Roosevelt and the revival of what his cousin TR called a more “muscular government.” The reason FDR is atop my President’s list is that he saved the country from dictatorship. He would be appalled by Donald Trump but also confident that we can move past this disaster.

Speaking of Fascism and the movies, there’s an interesting piece about a Nazi era movie star in the Guardian:

The Nazi Marilyn Monroe: Hitler and Goebbels wanted Marlene Dietrich to be the Nazi’s pin-up. Marlene wanted nothing to with their murderous regime and remained in splendid exile in Hollywood. They had to make do with Kristina Söderbaum who was more of a blond bombshell than a blond venus like Dietrich.

Here’s how Karen Liebreich describes her encounter with Söderbaum:

We drove to Horw, near Lucerne, to interview Söderbaum, star of many films, most of them directed by her husband, Veit Harlan. These included Jud Süß, widely regarded as the most antisemitic film ever, and the ridiculous epic Kolberg, about the Napoleonic siege of the Prussian city. Söderbaum was so often drowned in her films that she became known as the Reichswasserleiche, the official State Water Corpse.

<SNIP>

Söderbaum claimed Joseph Goebbels, head of Nazi propaganda, didn’t much like her. His taste – apart from his wife, Magda – ran to dark-haired actresses. “He told me I was not sexy but erotic,” said Söderbaum. Still, she added, “terribly many people fell in love with me. But whether that made me a sex symbol or not, I don’t know.” For her part, she found that: “Goebbels had very nice eyes but,” she added with a laugh, “he was a devil!” She said Adolf Hitler, on the other hand, was always very pleasant to her – and Harlan would often remark on his amazing eyes. She was not unimpressed by Hitler’s eyes herself.

Söderbaum could be described as the archetypical feminists’ nightmare. A beautiful woman, a very convincing actress, totally obedient and devoted to her forceful husband, she told me she had lived “in a gilded cage” and “went everywhere in a limo”. But I saw no signs of curiosity about life beyond the bars. In her autobiography, she seemed surprised by the postwar hostility towards Harlan, astonished that their children were taunted as Nazis at school in Sweden.

In a word: clueless. If she were around today, she might have been one of the Insult Comedian’s wives.

Documentary Of The Week: Söderbaum’s director/husband Veit Harlan is the subject of a 2008 documentary, Harlan-In The Shadow Of Jew Suss. He, too, was baffled by the controversy his work stirred up and maintained that Goebbels made him do Jew Suss. There’s nothing to support his story.

The film features extensive interviews with members of Harlan’s family; most of whom take a dim view of his movies. An interesting filmic footnote: Harlan’s niece Christiane was married to Stanley Kubrick for 41 years until his death in 1999.

It’s trailer time:

Harlan-In The Shadow Of Jew Suss is currently streaming at Amazon Prime. I give it 3 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B, and an Ebertian thumbs-up.

This has been a somewhat sombre edition of Odds & Sods so it’s time to lighten things up before we go.

Tweet Of The Week: This tweet proves that even ladies in fur coats dislike the Trumps:

I wonder if she cranked up this Stones song whilst sipping her vino:

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to silent film superstar Buster Keaton in an image from his 1927 comedy College:

 

The Americans Thread: Lotus Positioning

Lotus 1-2-3 was an intense and emotionally fraught episode of The Americans. Philip starts the episode in bad shape and ends up in a exceptionally dark place after a revelation that we’ll deal with later.

There was, however, one humorous bit. Philip ends up playing Topeka-boo with the logistics expert chick. She uses computer talk as a sort of geeky foreplay by recommending the Lotus 1-2-3 program to Philip. After they do the deed, she offers to show him her print-out. Hence the post title. Hubba, hubba.

Philip and Elizabeth declined Stan and Renee’s invitation to see Romancing The Stone, which was a monster hit in 1984. In a futile effort to avoid spoilers, we’ll close this section with an Eddy Grant song that was written for the movie but ended up on the cutting room floor.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Anatomy Of A Murder

No, it’s not Pulp Fiction Thursday. It just sounds like it is. This week’s album cover was designed by Saul Bass who is best known for his distinctive movie credit work. Anatomy Of A Murder was a very daring film for 1959. It starred Jimmy Stewart as a jazz piano playing defense lawyer. The real pianist was Duke Ellington who also wrote the score. The cover is pure Saul Bass:

Here’s Duke’s cameo in the movie:

Finally, Saul Bass’ opening credits:

 

GMIOTM: Inaugural Post

As with most things that get posted by me on this site, this feature came out of a conversation Jude and I had while we were avoiding other work. I present to you the very first installment of GREAT MOMENTS IN OTHERWISE TERRIBLE MOVIES:

This movie is so devoid of attention to detail that the dialogue is nearly drowned out by the armor clickety-clacking, like your SOUND MIXING is what is fucking up the experience. Some of that is the age of the thing but also muffle the goddamn joints. Yet … that line is a keeper.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Roll With It

Composition VIII by Vasily Kandinsky.

It’s April Fool’s Day. I’m not planning to prank y’all but if I were I wouldn’t tell you. I like to keep my readers off-balance with this offbeat and off-kilter feature. I hope the previous sentence wasn’t off-putting.

We’re going to a kid’s birthday party/crawfish berl today. That’s boil to you auslanders. It’s young Harper’s second birthday and she’s already out of fucks to give. She actually reminds me of Della the cat. That’s how she is. Of course, the toddler will stop being a cat whereas Della Street is defiantly feline for life. It’s a good thing that she’ll never learn how to speak: she’d never shut up.

We’re back in same title, different song country with this week’s theme songs. I hope y’all can Roll With It, baby. We begin with Steve Winwood’s tribute to Stax-Volt soul music followed by Oasis and *their* song Roll With It.

I’m keeping it relatively light this time around. It’s going to be heavy on the magic and light on the Nazis and such. Of course, *that* could be the April Fool’s joke. You’ll find out after the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Kiss Me, Deadly

There was an unexpectedly poignant moment in the last episode of Feud: Bette and Joan. Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) asked Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) if he could be a great director. Warner’s response was NO. In fact, Aldrich was an outstanding genre film director who wanted to follow in the footsteps of Robert Wise and Anthony Mann and direct “prestige” pictures. The irony is that neither Wise nor Mann’s films were as good or distinctive when they left the world of genre films.

Genre films were not respected in 1962 when Feud: Joan and Bette is set. Aldrich continued to make thrillers, action movies, and westerns, which were more entertaining than many bloated big budget prestige pictures of his time.

The best movie Aldrich ever made was based on Mickey Spillane’s Kiss Me, Deadly. Spillane was a legendarily lowbrow writer but he was a good storyteller: Kiss Me, Deadly is his masterpiece. Aldrich’s  film adaptation of it is now regarded as one of the best films of the 1950’s. What’s not to love about Mike Fucking Hammer?

It’s time for a pictorial look, PFT-style, at Kiss Me, Deadly. We begin with two paperback editions of the book:

Robert Aldrich elevated Spillane’s gritty tale but it was a low-budget film without movie stars. Aldrich once mused that it would have been better with William Holden as Mike Hammer. My reply: most movies in that era would have been better with Bill Holden in the lead. He was *that* good. Ralph Meeker, however, gave the performance of a lifetime in Kiss Me, Deadly.

Kiss Me, Deadly may have come from a lowbrow crime fiction writer but Aldrich elevated the material enough for it to be released as a part of the Criterion Collection. It doesn’t get snootier or film buffier than that:

The movie has been remade but stick to the 1955 original. Here’s the trailer: