Category Archives: R.I.P.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tangled Up In Blue

The Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

The weather has been wild and wacky in New Orleans. It was 80 degrees last weekend, then it plummeted to a day time high of 50 a mere two days later. It’s like being an extra in The Pit and The Pendulum. I have no idea what that means but it sounds good.

We had some car trouble this week. We convinced ourselves we might have major electrical issues. It turned out the car needed a new battery. Whew. Dr. A has named the new used car Hildy, after Rosalind Russell’s character in His Girl Friday. Neither Cary Grant nor Ralph Bellamy were consulted.

Am I allowed to brag? I promise not to go all Insult Comedian on your asses. The response to my Neelyisms: Translating Louisiana’s Junior Senator piece has been very favorable indeed. Thanks, y’all. I hope it will further one of my quirkier causes: getting people to stop calling him by his real name instead of my nickname for him. Repeat after me:  In politics, there’s only one John Kennedy, and his middle initial was F, not N. Just call him Neely.

This week’s theme song was written by Bob Dylan for his great 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up In Blue is one of my favorite Dylan tunes. It’s an almost foolproof song, which is why it has been covered so many times.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Dylan’s original, a 2017 cover by Joan Osborne, and a live version by the Jerry Garcia Band.

Now that we’re all tangled up, let’s jump to the break. I hope I can find my blue ripcord.

Continue reading

On Ceremonies

I hadn’t planned to watch any of Poppypalooza. I tuned into see how Trump interacted with his predecessors. Protocol saved the former presidents from having to sit next to the Current Occupant. They appear to have taken his phone away from him for the duration so the crazy anti-Mueller tweets will just have to wait.

Back to the state funeral. I sat down and was hooked. I’m a sucker for pomp and ceremony and since I’m neither a Poppy Bush hater nor idolator,  I enjoyed the speeches, especially the funny bits. It’s gotten a bit noxious to hear the political media go on about Bush but these were his friends and family. They’re entitled to gush. It’s human nature.

I’m honestly surprised that Poppy outlived his wife of 70 years by 8 months. My parents were married for almost 60 years and my mom lasted for only 5 months after Lou’s passing.

I mention my father not because he was a Poppy Bush fan (he was) but because we once had an interesting conversation about ceremonies when Jimmy Carter was president.

Lou: Why has your man Carter dropped so many public ceremonies?

Me: He ran as a man of the people.

Lou: <snort> The people *love* ceremonies. Hell, even you love ceremonies.

Me: You’re right. He should bring some of them back.

Lou: <laughs> I’m right? Maybe we should call your mother at work and tell her you said that.

Me: Well, there’s a first time for everything.

We rarely agreed on much of anything, which brings me to my next point. I saw some lefty twitteratti hating on Joe Biden for saying nice things about Poppy Bush as a person. People who say shit like that have probably never worked in politics. Like everywhere else in life, personal relationships matter in politics. It’s okay if Joe liked Poppy as a person. He still opposed his policies and planned to run against him in 1988 until fate, in the person of a Neil Kinnock speech, intervened.

The weirdest Poppypalooza tweet of the day came from a former W flack who is *not* a nice person:

Uh, Ari, he was there. The star of the show, in fact. Ari has never been able to get his facts straight. Long before Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Ari was a liar for hire.

I didn’t say you had to like everyone in politics.

UPDATE: Fleischer is an Ari head. My man Walter Mondale was not there and Poppy was. It was his funeral, dude.

Poppy Bush

The MSM tends to the hagiographic when a former president dies. They were even relatively charitable when Tricky Dick went straight to hell without passing go. In the case of Poppy Bush, the people who covered him liked him as person, which makes it easier to gloss over his political flaws and vices. This was my initial reaction upon hearing that he’d died:

In its rush to paint Bush as a “kinder gentler” president, the MSM has focused on his thank you notes instead of his record.  As president, Poppy Bush was determined to disprove this Newsweek cover:

That was when Newsweek was owned by the Grahams and what it said mattered. Bush was a genuine war hero who should have been secure in his masculinity, but instead was overly fond of military solutions to political and diplomatic problems. His former boss, Ronald Reagan, spent Word War II in uniform in Hollywood, but he was more secure than his Veep so there was tougher rhetoric but fewer military deployments when he was what Gore Vidal called “the Old Television President.”

My head started spinning when I heard CBS’ Bob Schieffer claim that the “Wimp Factor” flap was caused by Poppy’s niceness and good manners. Wrong. It was caused by his obsequiousness as Reagan’s Veep. Bush was a moderate Republican who abandoned most of his previously held positions in a full embrace of Reaganism. It was Bush who dubbed Reagan’s tax cut plan “Voodoo Economics.” Bush arguably moved to Reagan’s right because the hardcore wingnuts never trusted him, so he was obliged to appease them. Appeasement is never appealing.

While we’re on the subject of Newsweek covers, Gary Trudeau did the mud bath cover that is this post’s featured image. He also did a hilarious strip wherein Poppy Bush “put his political manhood in a blind trust” for the duration of the Reagan-Bush administration:

Repeat after me: the Wimp Factor was about George HW Bush, subservient Veep. It was particularly noteworthy as he followed in office the first modern Vice President, Fritz Mondale. Mondale saw his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, humiliated by LBJ and insisted on becoming the first Veep to have any power and influence. Poppy Bush was a throwback Vice President as was his own Veep, J Danforth Quayle.  Ironically, W followed the Carter-Clinton model and gave Dick Cheney too much power. So it goes.

I gotta give Poppy Bush credit for being able to laugh at himself. He befriended Dana Carvey who was best known for his Bush impression on SNL. Carvey portrayed Bush as an amiable somewhat dim aristocrat. Carvey famously said his Bush combined Mister Rogers and John Wayne. It’s a good day in the neighborhood, Pilgrim.

Poppy even invited Carvey to do his impression at the White House:

There’s been a lot of babble on the MSM about Poppy’s decency. It’s been exaggerated BUT I’ve enjoyed it when it serves as a rebuke to the Insult Comedian. Trump has not been barred from the DC memorial service so, he’ll be there. I hope he’s not allowed to speak: eulogies are supposed to be about the dead guy, not the speaker. I don’t think Trump is capable of that. Besides, he might confuse Poppy with Jeb and say 41 is too low energy,

I still have mixed feelings about Poppy Bush’s presidency. He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law and presided over the demise of the Soviet Union with skill and tact. His weaknesses on the domestic front emboldened the Pat Buchanans and Newt Gingrichs of the world, which gives Poppy some responsibility for the GOP becoming the Party of Me. I never voted for him and would give him a gentleman’s C as president. The worst thing about his Presidency is that it made the Bush-Cheney administration possible. I give them a lout’s F.

I wish hagiography weren’t the American way, but it’s as old as the Republic itself. See Weems, Parson. George HW Bush was neither all bad nor all good. I didn’t like his policies but, unlike the Current Occupant, he was not a raging gaping asshole whose hand I would have refused to shake. That’s about the nicest thing I can say about a Republican in 2018 except this: Poppy Bush was the best of a bad lot.

Willie McCovey, R.I.P.

Willie McCovey was one of my childhood heroes. His death at the age of 80 makes me feel old, old, old. I was too young to be gutted by the savage line drive he hit for the final out of the 1962 World Series but I’m crushed in retrospect. Charlie Brown was crushed at the time:

Willie McCovey was a tall and graceful man whose nickname was Stretch. Previous players had been called that, but it fit Willie Mac like a glove; a baseball glove.

I was a baseball nerd in my youth. I loved going to the ballpark early to watch batting practice. The main attraction was Willie McCovey. His swing was savage yet still elegant. One could almost feel the breeze stirred up by his mighty swing. Of course, that was at Candlestick Park where the wind was so ferocious that I once saw a small pitcher blown off the mound.

I was lucky enough to meet Stretch several times when he was still an active player. He was always gracious and friendly. It’s one of many reasons he belonged to San Francisco Giants fans in a way that his teammate Willie Mays never did. Mays remains the greatest all-around player I’ve ever seen but interacting with fans, especially kids, was not his forte. Willie Mac always had a smile on his face as well as the firmest handshake I’ve ever encountered. Crunch.

Stretch was one of those players who played in difficult circumstances. He played in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s era but still hit 521 career homers, led the league in homers 3 times, and was National League MVP in 1969. If he’d played in the 1990’s, he might have hit over 700 homers and made vast sums of money, but it never bothered him. Willie McCovey’s picture was in the dictionary next to Gentle Giant.

I learned patience and fortitude growing up a Giants fan. We were always in contention but always fell a bit short. I’ll never forget then Giants owner Horace Stoneham’s 1972-1974 fire sale when he traded Mays and McCovey. He was trying to keep the lights on and the liquor flowing. His liquor: Stoneham was rumored to have traded Gaylord Perry to Cleveland for Sudden Sam McDowell to have a drinking buddy. Perry went on to win 2 Cy Young Awards and 180 more games. McDowell  won 19 more games and drank his way out of baseball by 1975.

I attended Willie McCovey’s return to Candlestick as a San Diego Padre. He got a standing ovation and we all commented how terrible he looked in the Padres shit brown uniform of that era. Mercifully, Stretch returned to the Giants for the last four years of his career. Back where he belonged.

I also attended Stretch’s final home game. Willie’s knees were giving out and word got out that he planned to retire mid-season. It was Thursday July 7, 1980. They played the Cincinnati Reds.  I hopped on the bus and saw his last home game alone. I wasn’t really alone: I had 26,133 friends with whom to cheer Willie’s every move. It was a  big crowd for a Thursday afternoon game for a mediocre Giants team destined for fifth place. The Giants won 4-3 and Stretch knocked in a run. Everything he did merited a standing ovation. I was hoarse from hollering for my favorite player. Our favorite player.

There have been ballplayers with gaudier stats but Willie McCovey was one-of-a-kind. He was a genuinely modest superstar who lived a long life and was loved by the Giants fan base. The man even has a statue and a cove named for him at the Giants’ current ballpark. He will be missed but McCovey Cove is eternal as are my memories.

The last word (image?) goes to Willie McCovey’s hall of fame plaque:

Kristallnacht In Broad Daylight

Writing for First Draft is one of my passions. It’s often my therapy. This has been one of those times. The MAGA Bomber’s failed attempt at mass assassination shook me to the core. Then, the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh left many of us questioning what it means to be an American in the Trump era.

I am proud to be an American, but I am ashamed of our current leadership’s inability to respond with an ounce of human decency or a scintilla of empathy. As far as the president* is concerned, it’s an inconvenient interruption of rally mania. As far as I’m concerned, Trump and his allies have blood on their hands, if not literally, then symbolically.

I’m not the only one questioning what it means to be an American in 2018. Veteran political journalist Howard Fineman grew up in Pittsburgh as a member of the Tree of Life community. His op-ed in Sunday’s New York Time was deeply moving:

I was taught in Squirrel Hill that we were in the one country that was an exception to the history of the human race in general and the Jews in particular. Founded on Enlightenment principles of individuality, freedom, tolerance and justice, the United States was the only place besides Israel where Jews could live at one with their nation, unburdened by fear or confusion about identity.

Now I must wonder: If Pittsburgh isn’t safe for Jews, if Squirrel Hill isn’t safe, if the Tree of Life isn’t safe, what place is? Without diminishing anyone else’s suffering and death, it’s a sad fact that the Jews often are the canaries in the coal mine of social and political collapse. So, what does the bloodshed in the Tree of Life mean?

It is a sign that hatred of The Other is poisoning our public life. It’s always been a vivid strain in America, stimulated by the stress of immigrant waves, but one we have overcome time and again. Although we often honor it in the breach, our founding idea remains: that each person here is precious and born with unalienable rights. Now, political enemies in America deny each other’s humanity.

It is a sign that communications can foster something less than understanding. Social media allows us to be connected but also caricatured as propaganda in campaigns of dehumanizing division.

It is a sign that President Trump’s remorselessly cynical, jungle-style vision of how to conduct business and politics is ripping apart a society already under the stress of generational, demographic, technological, economic and social change.

Once again, Donald Trump read a prepared statement in a flat, emotionless voice to signal the more mindless members of his personality cult that he didn’t really mean it. Then it was back to throwing raw meat at crowds of ravenous MAGA Maggots. He had the chutzpah to lecture the grief-stricken people at the Tree of Life Synagogue that armed guards could have prevented the slaughter. Wrong: Three police officers were wounded by the anti-Semitic gun man whose name I refuse to say. This recitation of the NRA line in the wake of a massacre sickened me.

I felt even sicker when the list of victims was published on Sunday morning:

  • Daniel Stein, 71
  • Joyce Fienberg, 75
  • Richard Gottfried, 65
  • Rose Mallinger, 97
  • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
  • Cecil Rosenthal, 59
  • David Rosenthal, 54
  • Bernice Simon, 84
  • Sylvan Simon, 86
  • Melvin Wax, 88
  • Irving Younger, 69

Who kills octogenarians and a 97 year-old woman? Only a monster. A monster whose worst impulses were exacerbated by a national dialogue in which George Soros is the stand-in for Jewish demons conjured up in the fever dreams of the far-right. Donald Trump uses their vile rhetoric laced with anti-Semitic code words and names: Soros, globalists. Rinse, repeat, and wash.

Defenses that Trump cannot be anti-Semitic are out there already. His son-in-law is a Jew, his daughter a convert, and his grandchildren are Jewish. All true but there’s a difference between personal and political bigotry. His kinfolks are the good ones, a credit to their faith. Soros is a bad hombre who is flooding the country with brown Central Americans. Ergo Trump cannot be anti-Semitic according to his defenders. This is, of course, nonsense. Demagogues do not need to believe in their rhetoric to inflict damage. Is it better that Hitler believed in his rhetoric as opposed to Trump’s cynical exploitation of ancient hatreds? I think not.

What happened Saturday morning at Squirrel Hill was an American Kristallnacht in broad daylight. It inspired the students at a nearby high school-Howard Fineman’s alma mater-to hold a candlelight vigil at which the chant was for not for vengeance, but for people to vote.

These are terrible times for our country but it’s time to fight back in the way that Americans traditionally have: by voting the rascals out. There has never been a midterm election as important as this one. Vote like your life depends on it. The future of the Republic certainly does: 8 days until the midterms. Tick tock, motherfuckers.

The events of last week have not only broken the social contract, they have smashed it to smithereens. I never, ever thought I’d compare something that happened in the United States of America to Kristallnacht but it’s inescapable in 2018. Godwin’s law is dead, long live Godwin’s law.

These ugly times call for some beauty. That’s why the last word goes to Paul Simon. The final stanza of American Tune gets me every time:

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

Saturday Odds & Sods: Volunteers

Two Flags by Jasper Johns

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Landscape Lumber No. 3 by David Hockney

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Chain

At The First Clear Word by Max Ernst.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Play It All Night Long

The Automat by Edward Hopper.

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

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

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

As well as a killer chorus:

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

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

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

Continue reading

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – class action edition

Morning, good people.

A lot has been said about John McCain since his death, but first impressions are always the truest.  (composite thread)

John McCain, Veteran, Senator, GOP Maverick, Dies at 81
NBC Chicago ^ | 8/25/18

Posted on 8/25/2018, 7:26:50 PM by markomalley

1 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:26:50 PM by markomalley
First response?
To: markomalley

 

Drink

2 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:27:48 PM by BykrBayb (Lung cancer free since 11/9/07. Colon cancer free since 7/7/15. Obama free since 1/20/17. PTL ~ Þ)

To: markomalley

 

Hope he repented before the Grim Reaper reaped his harvest of McCain’s soul.

4 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:28:39 PM by Sontagged (TY Lord Jesus for being the Way, the Truth & the Life. Have mercy on those trapped in the Snake Pit!)

Comment #9 Removed by Moderator
Apparently, the quickly-yanked post was from someone called “bigbob”….
To: bigbob

 

Respectfully, you have zero class for posting this. I’m no fan of McCain, but these posts are classless.

25 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:32:26 PM by bort

Yeah! Let’s get to those classy posts, shall we?
To: markomalley

 

I did a big fart at the same time t was announced,

Poetic.

10 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:29:17 PM by WashingtonFire (President Trump – it’s like having your dad as President)

Poetic AND classy!
To: markomalley

 

You should always say good things about the dead.
John McCain is dead. Good!

19 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:31:23 PM by Artemis Webb (Maxine Waters for House Minority Leader!!)

That one was GOOD and classy.
To: markomalley
Oh happy day! 🍻🤣😂🤣😂
21 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:31:44 PM by proust (“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.”)
To: markomalley

 

GOODBYE AND HOORAY!

32 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:33:55 PM by chris37 (“I am everybody.” -Mark Robinson)

I’m sensing a trend here….
To: Kaslin

 

I want to see the dead body before I believe it. And have it DNA tested by multiple unrelated, independent third parties.

Not letting this one escape the long arm of justice based on the say-so of his confidants. Let’s see the corpse.

34 posted on 8/25/2018, 8:50:10 PM by thoughtomator (Number of arrested coup conspirators to date: 1)

Necrophiliacs unite!
To: All

 

Finally admitted it huh?

I guess the corpse was stinking up the place too much to continue to play “Weekend at Bernies”.

34 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:34:19 PM by LegendHasIt

SO much classy!
.
And the classy champagne corks fly!
To: markomalley

 

Popping the champagne, just terrible to feel this way but I do!!! Couldn’t be happier BYE, BYE, ASSHAT!!!!

76 posted on 8/25/2018, 7:41:36 PM by Trump Girl Kit Cat (Yosemite Sam raising hell)

Unbelievably classy!
.
Much more Freeper humanity to come, so click on the classy link.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Waiting For Mount Trumpberius To Erupt

Trumpberius meets Tiberius.

I don’t know about you but I expect the Insult Comedian to spew bile about the passing of John McCain any time now. You know he wants to. Thus far, he’s been quietly vindictive but given his lack of impulse control it cannot last.

I’m not sure if Mount Trumpberius will erupt soon OR when McCain’s funeral week hits Washington. If that’s the case, Trump have to bite his tongue until it bleeds.  We all know he wants to fire off nasty tweets and, unless, they take his phone away from him, it will happen. Believe me.

Politics is *always* about conflict. There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s the nature of the beast.

Political mourning is a different matter altogether. It’s when a asterisk-free president should put aside partisan differences and show magnanimity. But Trump is a small and petty man who holds grudges over small and petty things. He’s been known to publicly mock McCain’s thumbs down vote on ACA repeal. Who is he now? Siskel and Ebert? Well, they’re dead too, Donald.

The person who really should get a thumbs down is Trumpberius himself:

Speaking of volcanoes, The Band gets the last word. I have a whole lava love for this song:

Neil Simon, R.I.P.

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

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

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

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

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

It was our very own Neil Simon scene.

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

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

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

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

John McCain, R.I.P.

I rarely agreed with John McCain but I couldn’t help liking him as a human being. Despite viewing politics as a contact sport, he rarely hit below the belt and when he did he regretted it. He was a proud, profane, funny, and kind man. We need more kindness in the world, which is one reason he will be missed. We also need more politicians who can laugh at the absurdity of what they do and say.

Senator McCain died today at 81; nine years to the date that we lost his fellow lion of the Senate Ted Kennedy. Both men died of brain cancer. It’s an eerie coincidence but an appropriate one. McCain had many friends on the Democratic side of the aisle in addition to Ted Kennedy. McCain and John Kerry worked together to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War in the 1990’s.  McCain and Joe Biden had a strong bond based on love of family and country.

I criticized John McCain many times over the years and I won’t take any of it back. But, dammit, I liked the man despite his right wing views on most issues.

Three things to remember about John McCain:

  1. He was the victim of one of the worst smears in American political history when Team Bush played the race card against him in 2000. Not only did they play the race card but they dealt it from the bottom of the deck as it involved his family. By all accounts, McCain forgave but never forgot this. I have done neither.
  2. He consistently opposed torture even when a president of his own party backed it.
  3. He voted against repealing the ACA and stood up for proper Senate procedures when his own party turned the “world’s greatest deliberative body” into a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell and a president of his own party.

Whatever his flaws, John McCain was never dull. He made his share of mistakes and owned up to many of them, usually with a quip and a smile. Most importantly,  he was not a hater.

I saw a three tweet thread by an Obama speechwriter that beautifully captured the spirit of Senator McCain:

I might have been able to make Senator McCain laugh by suggesting this as his epitaph:

John McCain was NOT AN ASSHOLE.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Chain Of Fools

Aube a Monserrat by Andre Masson.

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

Aretha Franklin, R.I.P.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Odds & Sods: Saturday Sun

Cafetiere et Carafe by Jean Dubuffet.

It feels like August outside as I write this with the ceiling fan whirring up above my head. It’s time to dispense with the weather report lest I sound whinier than I am. And I’m pretty damn whiny even though, unlike Della and Paul, I don’t have a fur coat to contend with. Paul Drake deals with his by shedding copiously. Della Street rages against the elements in her own way. She is one mouthy cat, y’all.

I may have cats on my mind but the rest of the city is obsessed with rats in a French Quarter eatery. There’s a viral video and everything. Oh wait, there’s always a viral video in 2018. As someone who worked in the Quarter for many years, the thought of rats near the Big Muddy is not shocking. I’m not planning to go to that restaurant but even good places with clean kitchens have the odd rat. Repeat after me: to live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough. She-doo-be.

The new Mayor is “being intentional” by launching a PR campaign dubbing New Orleans the City of Yes. In the immortal words of movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, include me out, unless it involves the veteran prog rock band. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell “being intentional” means. So it goes.

When I started this regular feature in 2015, I used songs about Saturday as theme songs for the first few weeks. Saturday Sun is one I somehow missed but I’ve had Neil Finn on my mind and in my ear of late. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the promo video and a live performance on the BBC.

Now that we’ve basked in the Saturday Sun, it’s time to put on some sun screen and jump to the break.

Continue reading

Anthony Bourdain & Tee Eva Perry, R.I.P.

Depression is a horrible thing. From the outside, Anthony Bourdain was on the top of the world with a job he loved and more adventures on the horizon. The hoary aphorism “never judge a book by its cover” rings true today: Anthony Bourdain committed suicide at the age of 61 in France.

His body was discovered by his friend, the world-class chef, Eric Ripert who Tony called the Ripper. I call him Tony not because I ever met him in person but because of his style. It was intimate and confidential thereby living up to the title of his first book, Kitchen Confidential.  Most of his viewers feel as if they’ve lost a friend. A friend of mine who’s in the restaurant business described him as her Pope. The loss is shocking and deep. It was a helluva thing to wake up to this morning. Imagine being in the Ripper’s shoes. Mon dieu.

Bourdain took us many places in the world to which we’re unlikely to travel. Despite his renegade/bad boy image, Bourdain treated other cultures with the sensitivity and respect that they deserve. He always looked like he was having a great time but looks can be deceptive His demons finally caught up with him. He will be missed.

I never ran into Anthony Bourdain, but Tee Eva Perry was a New Orleans legend who I met on many occasions. She was an amazing character: baker, back-up singer to brother-in-law Ernie K-Doe, and a baby doll on Mardi Gras day. She died this week at the age of 83.

Everyone called her Tee for auntie so when she opened up her first place on Magazine Street she called it Tee-Eva’s. It was an eclectic hole-in-the-wall located around the corner from Adrastos World HQ:

I’m not a snow ball guy but I loved her pies and pralines. After Katrina, she relocated to a bigger location on Magazine but I’ll always have a special feeling for the original space. It was as charming and eccentric as Tee Eva herself.

I hate to use a term out of the dictionary of journalistic clichés, but Tee Eva Perry was a New Orleans original. She will be missed.

UPDATE: it turns out that Bourdain ate Tee Eva’s jambalya on an episode of his first teev show A Cook’s Tour. I haven’t seen that series but it’s on Amazon so I will soon.

Saturday Odds & Sods: One Week

Asheville by Willem de Kooning

I’ve mentioned the celestial switch that heralds summer heat in New Orleans. It switched on this week. Yowza. We’ve had record heat almost every day, followed by torrential rain yesterday.  Yowza. We’ve even had the odd afternoon brown-out as the utility company struggles to keep up with demand or so they say. Entergy doesn’t have a lot of credibility after they astroturfed a meeting at which the city council voted on a new power plant for the company. In short, they padded the room with paid actors. They blamed a sub-contractor but nobody’s buying it.

In other local news, two of my friends, Will Samuels, and blog pun consultant, James Karst, had parts on the season finale of NCIS: New Orleans. In honor of their appearance on this fakakta show, we have pictures.

Will is the gent in the shades. He usually wears Hawaiian shirts so I almost didn’t recognize him.

They actually let Karst hold a prop gun. I gotta say he looks like a proper Feeb, skinny tie and all. He’s even in a scene with series regular CCH Pounder best known to me as Claudette on The Shield.

This week’s theme song, One Week, was a monster hit for Barenaked Ladies  in 1998. We have two versions for your consideration. The original video followed by a clip wherein the band reunited with former co-lead singer, Steven Page earlier this year. BNL performed a medley of One Week and If I Had A Million Dollars.

It’s time to count this week’s receipts while we jump to the break. They’re considerably less than a million dollars.

Continue reading

Tom Wolfe, R.I.P.

Tom Wolfe died Monday. It was his 88th birthday. The reason Wolfe was such a great reporter and novelist was that he was an acute observer of people. He was not interested in people who were just like him. His interests lay in telling the stories of quirky people in wildly different walks of life in his uniquely zippy prose style. For example, he had little in common with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters but he preserved their spirit for the ages. This quote captures his spirit of literary adventure:

“To me, the great joy of writing is discovering. Most writers are told to write about what they know, but I still love the adventure of going out and reporting on things I don’t know about.”

Reading all the tributes reminded me of how Wolfe’s vivid and lively prose influenced me as a writer. There’s a major exception. I hate exclamation points and Wolfe oversalted his writing with them:

“People complain about my exclamation points, but I honestly think that’s the way people think. I don’t think people think in essays; it’s one exclamation point to another.”

Since his stuff had the right stuff, it was easy for me to forgive the wild punctuation. Wolfe not only delivered the goods, he always made me laugh. His book titles were as amusingly flamboyant as his punctuation: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid TestRadical Chic & Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers, From Bauhaus To Our House, and his fictional masterpiece, The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Wolfe’s politics listed to the center right but he was a satirist and iconoclast, not an ideologue. He was a natural-born contrarian, if there was a conventional wisdom on a subject, he mocked it. Even his clothing reflected his worldview:

But as an unabashed contrarian, he was almost as well known for his attire as his satire. He was instantly recognizable as he strolled down Madison Avenue — a tall, slender, blue-eyed, still boyish-looking man in his spotless three-piece vanilla bespoke suit, pinstriped silk shirt with a starched white high collar, bright handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket, watch on a fob, faux spats and white shoes. Once asked to describe his get-up, Mr. Wolfe replied brightly, “Neo-pretentious.”

Wolfe got his start as a magazine writer, primarily for New York Magazine. I first read The Right Stuff when it was serialized in Rolling Stone Magazine. I recall eagerly awaiting the arrival of each issue to get the straight poop on the Mercury astronauts. It made me feel like a throwback to the days of Trollope, Dickens, and Zola who published their major works in the same way. Speaking of Zola, here’s what Wolfe had to say about the fierce French realist:

My idol is Emile Zola. He was a man of the left, so people expected of him a kind of ‘Les Miserables,’ in which the underdogs are always noble people. But he went out, and found a lot of ambitious, drunk, slothful and mean people out there. Zola simply could not – and was not interested in – telling a lie.

It’s odd to have had so much fun researching a tribute to a recently dead writer but I had a blast visiting quote web sites and reading some of Wolfe’s tastiest bon mots. It’s made easier by the fact that the man lived such a long, eventful, and witty life. As a close friend of mine observed after attending his elderly grandmother’s funeral, “That was the period at the end of the sentence. You only use an exclamation point when it’s someone who was too young to die.”

I’m not certain that Tom Wolfe would agree with that sentiment but I’m writing this piece, not him. He does, however, get the last word. Make that last words.

We begin this section with some pithy quotes, followed by short excerpts from some of Wolfe’s major works:

“If a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.”

“I have never knowingly, I swear to God, written satire. The word connotes exaggeration of the foibles of mankind. To me, mankind just has foibles. You don’t have to push it!”

“The problem with fiction, it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.”

“A cult is a religion with no political power.”

“We are all of us doomed to spend our lives watching a movie of our lives – we are always acting on what has just finished happening.”
― The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

“Sir Gerald Moore: I was at dinner last evening, and halfway through the pudding, this four-year-old child came alone, dragging a little toy cart. And on the cart was a fresh turd. Her own, I suppose. The parents just shook their heads and smiled. I’ve made a big investment in you, Peter. Time and money, and it’s not working. Now, I could just shake my head and smile. But in my house, when a turd appears, we throw it out. We dispose of it. We flush it away. We don’t put it on the table and call it caviar.”
― The Bonfire of the Vanities

“Le Corbusier was the sort of relentlessly rational intellectual that only France loves wholeheartedly, the logician who flies higher and higher in ever-decreasing concentric circles until, with one last, utterly inevitable induction, he disappears up his own fundamental aperture and emerges in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird.”
― From Bauhaus to Our House

“A persistent case of the bingos was enough to wash a man out of night carrier landings. That did not mean you were finished as a Navy pilot. It merely meant that you were finished so far as carrier ops were concerned, which meant that you were finished so far as combat was concerned, which meant you were no longer in the competition, no longer ascending the pyramid, no longer qualified for the company of those with the right stuff.”
― The Right Stuff

That concludes a tribute with more exclamation points than a year’s worth of Adrastos posts. It was a sacrifice well worth making. In his quirky, contrarian, white-suited way, Tom Wolfe had the right stuff. He will be missed.

Saturday Odds & Sods: In The Still Of The Night

Contrasting Sounds by Wasilly Kandinsky.

It’s been an eventful week in New Orleans. The city celebrated its 300th anniversary and inaugurated our first woman mayor. I expressed my reservations about Mayor LaToya Cantrell on ye olde tweeter tube:

The slogans included “We are woke” and “We will be intentional.” I’m uncertain if that’s intentional grounding or an intentional walk. I dislike the latter baseball tactic as much as exclamation points. I still wish the new mayor well. Her propensity to mangle the language is good for the satire business, and there’s no business like giving a politician the business. I believe in taking care of business, every day, every way.

This week’s theme song, In The Still Of The Night, was written by Cole Porter in 1937 for the MGM movie musical, Rosalie. It was first sung by Nelson Eddy who was in a shit ton of hokey costume movie operettas with Jeanette MacDonald. I am not a fan of the duo but I am a die-hard Cole Porter fan as evinced by the frequent appearance of his work as Odds & Sods theme songs. I considered counting them but I’m feeling as lazy as the president* today. Where did all my executive time go?

We have two versions of the Porter classic for your entertainment. First, the elegant jazz-pop baritone Billy Eckstine aka the Voice of God.

Second, the Neville Brothers featuring some gorgeous sax playing by Charles Neville. He was an acquaintance of mine. Charles died recently at the age of 79. He was a lovely man with a kind word for everyone he met.

It’s time for a journey to Disambiguation City. Fred Parris wrote *his* In The Still Of The Night for his doo-wop group The Five Satins in 1956.

Yeah, I know, Boyz II Men also had a hit with the Parrisian song but I’m not going there. Instead, let’s jump to the break. Now where the hell did I put my parachute?

Continue reading