Category Archives: R.I.P.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Papa Was A Rolling Stone

Hesitation Waltz by Rene Magritte.

It’s been a frustrating week at Adrastos World HQ. Every time I think my pernicious and persistent cold is getting better, I backslide. I would have preferred to be really sick for a few days and then better. Make up your mind, cold.

In local news, the lame duck New Orleans City Council has been up to all sorts of mischief: voting to approve a new power plant for Entergy that won’t solve our blackout  problems and allowing taller buildings to be constructed alongside the Mother of Rivers.  I suspect that the presence of Mayor-elect Cantrell on the Council is one reason they feel free to take such votes. It does not bode well for those who hoped the incoming Mayor would be more neighborhood/citizen friendly. Score another win for real estate developers who are the worst people in the world. Exhibit A for this argument currently lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This week’s theme song is a tribute to Temptations singer Dennis Edwards who died earlier this month at the age of 74. Papa Was A Rolling Stone was written by Norman Whitfield and Barret Strong and was a monster hit in 1972. Here are two versions for your enjoyment: the Temps and David Lindley.

Now that I’ve dissed real estate developers and my stupid cold, it’s time to roll over to the break. I’m too enfeebled to jump.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Fever

The Grand Jatte Hibernators by Max Ernst.

We’ve put Carnival in the books and my repentance comes in the form of a cold. Mercifully, it’s not the flu, but I’m still going to keep it extra snappy since I might get the vapors at any moment.

There was sad news for New Orleanians Thursday night. Arthur Robinson, better known as Mr. Okra died at the age of 75. I’ll let Advocate food writer Ian McNulty tell you a bit about him:

For decades, Arthur “Mr. Okra” Robinson provided one of the distinctive sounds of a city famous for its music, but he didn’t play the trumpet or the piano.

He was a roving produce vendor, traveling the neighborhood streets in a heavily-customized pickup truck and using a loudspeaker to sing the praises of his oranges and bananas, his avocados and, of course, his okra.

<SNIP>

The young and old alike knew Robinson as Mr. Okra, and he was a frequent sight across many different neighborhoods. In his trade, he was a link back to a different era in New Orleans when everything from ice to charcoal was sold door to door. For Robinson, the job was actually part of a family tradition, one he picked up from his father, the late Nathan Robinson.

It was a pleasure to hear Mr. Okra’s voice echo through my neighborhood. I couldn’t always catch up to him, but when I did I enjoyed chatting with him and squeezing the odd piece of fruit. He will be missed.

Since I have one, I selected Fever as this week’s theme song. We have two versions for your entertainment: Peggy Lee and the Neville Brothers.

I have very little gas in the tank right now, so that’s it for this week. I’ll be back with a full-blown Odds & Sods next Saturday. Let’s finish up with one of my favorite bat memes from 2017: the Spitting Images Genesis puppets.

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Night and Day

The Night Cafe by Vincent Van Gogh.

Carnival kicks into full swing this weekend. We’re about to have parades and company up the wazoo. I remain uncertain as to what the wazoo is but I think it’s first cousin to the ying-yang or the place where the moon don’t shine.

One downside of Carnival are the creeps who try to appropriate the public green as their own private space. We call them the Krewe of Chad or Chads for short. For the first time in years, the city decided to enforce the existing ordinances against ladders, couches and such being left on the sidewalks and neutral grounds. The Chads were outraged. They’re always either outraged or entitled hence the 2016 Krewe of Spank theme, Clash of the Entitled.

You may recall the mishigas over the Forever Lee Circle beads.  In a fit of hashtag activism, someone decided to do something about it:

Since we have both night and day parades, I picked a classic for this week’s theme song, Night and Day. It doesn’t get more classic than Cole Porter, y’all. We have two versions for your listening pleasure, Ella Fitzgerald  followed by a swell 1995 version by the Temptations.

Now that we’ve heard the boom, boom of the tom-toms, let’s jump to the break. See you on the other side.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: The Best Of Adrastos 2017

2017 was a terrible year for the country but a great year for satire. It made it hard to winnow down this list. It kept growing like topsy. I’m not sure who or what topsy is but it grows like, well, topsy. I suspect topsy is somehow related to turvy, but where the New Orleans jazz singer Topsy Chapman fits into the scheme of things is unclear; much like this sentence…

I *had* hoped to get the list down to a top forty like the AM rock stations of my youth. It wasn’t happening so I got it down to a top fifty. Yeah, I know: who the hell has ever heard of a top fifty? You have now. Besides, I posted a grand total of 483 times in 2017 so a top fifty is only slightly OTT. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here it is in chronological order:

1/12/2017: The Fog Of History: Mark Twain On The First Gilded Age.

1/16/ 2017: The Gong Show Presidency.

1/23/2017:  Mock Jazz Funeral For Lady Liberty.

1/25/2017: Sean Spicer Can Lie & Chew Gum At The Same Time.

2/8/2017: The Fog Of History: Explaining Trump.

2/15/2017: Power Before Country.

2/22/2017: The Worst Person Ever To Live In The White House.

3/13/2017: King Of The Bigots.

3/18/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Disturbance At The Heron House.

3/22/2017: Tea About The Tillerson.

3/29/2017: The Americans Thread: The World According To Gorp.

4/12/2017: Gret Stet Grifter.

4/17/2017: MOAB DICK.

4/19/2017: The March Of Autocracy.

5/2/2017: Lost Cause Fest: The May Day Melee.

5/8/2017: Le Sigh.

5/17/2017: The World Of President* McBragg.

5/18/2017: The Spirit Of ’73: The Unraveling.

5/24/2017: Book Review: The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith.

5/31/2017: Glengarry Glen Ross On The Potomac.

6/14/2017: Tweet Of The Day: Larry Tribe Edition.

6/17/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Back.

6/29/2017: Mr. Bad Example.

7/3/2017: Back To The Nineties.

7/12/2017: The Beguileds.

7/19/2017: The Finger Of Blame.

7/26/2017: Follow Me Boys To The Trumper’s Jamboree.

7/29/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: I Should’ve Known.

8/3/2017: The Fog Of Cosmopolitan History.

8/14/2017: Lost Causers Fester In Charlottesville.

8/21/2017: The Fog Of History: There Is No Such Thing As White Culture.

8/23/2017: The Primal Scream President’s* Ego Rallies.

9/13/2017: Walter Trump: Teevee Western Con Man.

9/20/2017: Your President* Speaks: Apocalypse UN.

9/21/2017:  Malaka Of The Week: Bill Cassidy.

9/25/2017: Malaka Of The Week: Frank Scurlock.

10/2/2017:  Oscar R.I.P.

10/19/2017: Quote Of The Day: Movie Monsters Edition.

10/23/2017: Bottom Of The Barrel.

10/25/2017: Flaking Out.

11/8/2017: Fuck Yeah, Virginia.

11/9/2017: Putting The Dope In Papadopoulos.

11/13/2017: Judge Pervert’s Ten Commandments Of Love.

11/15/2017: Malaka Of The Week: Rob Maness aka Col. Mayonnaise.

11/21/2017:  Now Be Thankful.

11/29/2017: The Ugliest American.

12/9/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Cold Rain and Snow.

12/13/2017: Fuck Yeah, Alabama: A Perfect Political Storm.

12/14/2017: Only A Memory: Pat DiNizio, R.I.P.

12/18/2017: Seven Dirty Words, 2017.

12/21/2017: Welcome To The New Gilded Age: The Great Tax Heist of 2017.

12/27/2017: Headline Of The Day: The Power Of The Butt.

Some of our more anal retentive readers may have noticed that the final tally was 52. I *had* to include the butt post since the headline was written by First Draft pun consultant James Karst. It was one of the dear boy’s career highlights so what the hell else could I do?

That’s it for this year. The scariest thing about this long and winding list is that it could have been even longer: 483 posts, y’all. The final closing bat meme of 2017 is a tribute to the late Rose Marie who died this week at the age of 94. It was a long life, well lived. Sally Rogers lives on.

 

Only A Memory: Pat DiNizio, R.I.P.

The Smithereens: Pat DiNizio, Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros, Dennis Diken.

I typically take celebrity deaths in stride. This one is different and not just because Pat DiNizio disliked being called a celebrity. As far as Pat was concerned, he was a regular guy who was lucky enough to have lived his dream singing his songs and playing with his best friends, The Smithereens. Pat’s luck finally ran out at the age of 62. He was never too old to rock and roll but he was too young to die.

I first heard the Smithereens on MTV back when they played videos and were where the cool kids hung out. I never gave a shit about being cool but I enjoyed the music and Behind The Wall Of Sleep blew me away. It’s a perfect rock song with some of Pat’s best lyrics:

“Well, she held a bass guitar and she was playing in a band. And she stood just like Bill Wyman. Now I am her biggest fan.”

Rock and roll genius pure and simple.

The Smithereens were one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. It was why I kept going back for more. Their live sets were as fun as their lyrics were thoughtful. At the center of it all was Pat and his supple and marvelously expressive voice.

Pat and his bandmates prided themselves on being regular guys who enjoyed engaging with their fans. The first time I saw the Reens, I talked to them after the show. They were so warm and friendly that I asked if they were really from Jersey. Pat’s reply: “Fuckin’ A, we’re from fuckin’ Jersey.” It’s hard not to like a guy like that.

Pat had a place in New Orleans at one point during a fallow period for the Reens. He and I frequented the same bakery/coffee shop in the Quarter, La Marquise. It was catty-corner from Jackson Square. (La Marquise ain’t dere no more, alas.) We spoke a few times but I have the New Orleanian’s reticence about bothering well-known people when they want to be ordinary. I wish I’d tried a bit harder. Oh well, it’s Only A Memory:

One of the most interesting of Pat’s many side projects were the house concerts. That’s right, you could hire him to come and play a solo acoustic show in your living room. The late Ashley Morris and I kept talking about doing one either in his backyard or my living room. We never got around to it before Ashley died. This is one of the tunes we wanted Pat to play:

Pat’s voice and his songs always had a dash of sadness amidst the exuberant and flashy playing by the Smithereens. That’s why their music has resonated with me for all these years. Additionally, one can say without a trace of irony that they were a band of brothers as you can see from this statement from Dennis the drummer:

One reason that I’m gutted by this news is that the Reens were my peers. We grew up on opposite ends of the country listening to the same British rock music: the Beatles, Stones, Who, and the Kinks. The Beatle influence is obvious but the way the Smithereens carried themselves was more like the Kinks: regular guy rockers with a chip on their shoulders. Here’s a clip wherein Pat tells a funny story about the first time he heard a Beatles classic:

The thing I admired most about Pat and his bandmates is how they stayed together and stuck it out in good times and bad. A  2004 piece in the Failing New York Times tells the story of a rough gig as an opening act:

Their first major gig was opening for ZZ Top at William and Mary College in Virginia on July 4, 1986. As Mr. DiNizio tells it, the audience was 25,000 strong and drunk with anticipation. Problem was, they were anticipating Ted Nugent, who had canceled. Upon taking the stage, the Smithereens were pelted with insults, shoes, batteries, underwear and gallons of cheap beer for the better part of an hour.

“I was completely soaked from head to toe,” Mr. DiNizio said. “But we had the will and experience not to leave that stage. That was the strength of the band. That’s been the credo of the band. You never give up. You never give up.”

Pat never gave up. He just ran out of time. Something Reens lead guitarist Jimmy Babjak said in that same article rings true on this sad week:

“We have the same mentality as the old blues singers. You do what you do, until you die with a guitar in your hands.”

And nobody did it better than Pat DiNizio. I’ll give him the last word with an appropriately titled song from the band’s last studio album:

Long live rock, be it dead or alive.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Cold Rain and Snow

It snowed yesterday in the surrounding parishes but not in New Orleans. We just had sleet and gloomy skies. Baton Rouge and rural Tangiapahoa Parish had sustained snowfall. Here’s a message from Mike the Tiger:

The New Orleans media had a snow boner all day long. It was all they talked about. All the teevee people got gussied up in their anoraks and boots. They looked like models in the LL Bean catalog. My favorite snow boner moment came on the WWL morning news:

Repeat after me: snow boner.

The featured image is a venerable postcard showing the 700 block of Canal Street after snowfall in 1895. The last time it snowed in the city was 2008, everyone took pictures of the streetcar in the snow as you can see from this tweet from my friend Katy:

She’s from Minnesota. Say no more.

Repeat after me: snow boner.

This week’s theme song is a “tribute” to the weather. I hate the snow, especially when it falls in a place without any snow removal equipment. I am not an ice person. I do not have a snow boner either.

Cold Rain and Snow is a traditional folk song best known as a staple of the Grateful Dead’s live shows. We have two versions for your amusement. First, the Dead at the 1980 Halloween show emceed by Al Franken and Tom Davis. Sigh. Second, a bluegrass rendition by Del McCoury using an alternate title. I like it with Cold better since I am, in fact, cold right now. I still do not have a snow boner.

Boy howdy. Yeah, boy as the bluegrass types are wont to say.

It’s time to jump to the break. If you have one, be careful not to trip over your snow boner. I should apologize for, uh, beating that joke to death but I won’t. Go ahead and jump.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Come Rain Or Come Shine

Amerind Landscape by Roy Lichtenstein.

I started this zany, madcap weekly feature in the spring of 2015. I have a lot of fun putting it together and riffing on the segments every week. It’s become a cult favorite among our readers. If you enjoy Saturday Odds & Sods, please donate to First Draft to help keep the doors to this virtual gin joint open. If you don’t like gin, pick your poison as long as it’s not vodka…

That concludes this brief commercial announcement. It’s time to return to our regularly scheduled programming.

It’s full-tilt fall in New Orleans after summer lingered far too long for my taste. We’ve had highs in the low to mid 70s for most of the last week. That means that many New Orleanians are OB’d: Over-bundled. People are so desperate to wear last year’s Christmas sweater that they’re overdressing for these mild days. So it goes.

The big news hyper-locally is that pesky, annoying twerp Seth Bloom has finally conceded in the District B city council race. The satirist in me will miss mocking him, but the citizen in me is relieved that his steady, experienced opponent, Jay Banks will represent me on the council. I will miss having Seth to kick around so I might as well re-post this:

Arrividerci, Sethy. You can go back to annoying people in your daily life. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass as you exit the local political stage. If you re-enter the arena, the feud will resume. Who among us doesn’t like a feud fight?

A brief return to the weather. It was the driest November in recorded history in New Orleans. How’s that for a lead-in to the theme song? Come Rain or Come Shine is the third Arlen-Mercer song I’ve used as the Odds & Sods theme song. I guess I like Harold and Johnny: the nice Jewish boy from Buffalo and the Southern scamp from Savannah. The song was written for the movie musical St. Louis Woman and first published in 1946.

We have three versions for your enjoyment. First, a swinging version arranged by Billy May for Ella Fitzgerald’s Harold Arlen Songbook, which is a seriously underrated entry in the songbook series. Next up, Lady Day with a mid-tempo version from her Music For Torching album. Finally, a 21st Century version from Eric Clapton and BB King.

Now that we’ve risen and shined or something like that, let’s jump to the break.

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My Tears Fell Like Rain: Antoine Fats Domino, R.I.P.

One of the founders of rock and roll breathed his last yesterday: Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. better known as Fats died at the age of 89. Fats was an unlikely rock star in many ways. He was shy and retiring; preferring to stay at home in New Orleans instead of hitting the oldies circuit like his peers. But as a singer, songwriter, and pianist Fats was peerless.

The news hit hard and fast in Fats’ home town. A crowd gathered outside his former home on Caffin Avenue in the Lower 9th Ward to celebrate the man and his music.

Natural disasters do not respect music legends so Chez Domino flooded in 2005. Fats was missing for a few days and the world feared that he’d drowned in the storm. He survived and resurfaced as a guest at then LSU QB JaMarcus Russell’s place in Baton Rouge. I’m not sure why that detail has stuck with me all these years but it has. So it goes.

Since Fats Domino was the personification of  New Orleans music, there has been a lot of excellent local coverage of the great man’s passing. Here’s a sample:

Tom Piazza in the Paris Review.

Keith Spera in the Advocate.

Jarvis DeBerry in the Picayune.

Amanda Mester at Offbeat.com.

Dominic Massa at WWL-TV.com.

One of the more unusual tributes was posted on social media by New Orleans writer Michael Tisserand:

So much for the good old days.

Antoine Fats Domino lived a long and productive life. It was always comforting knowing that he was still with us. He will be missed.

Tom Petty, R.I.P.

Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, and Tom Petty at Jazz Fest 2017.

I rarely take celebrity deaths very hard and almost never personally. Tom Petty’s passing at the age of 66 is an exception to the rule. In part, because of the lengthy confusion as to whether he was alive or dead and, more obviously, because we’d made the difficult decision to put Oscar to sleep that morning. And because TP’s music has been a part of the fabric of my life for longer than I care to admit. Did I really say “fabric of my life?” Somebody call the cliché police.

The first time I heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was when American Girl came on my car radio. I was convinced it was a new Roger McGuinn song, which given my Byrds fixation is high praise indeed. It was a blast of fresh air in the disco era, especially since I was not much on punk rock either. It was something new and old wrapped together.

I avidly followed the twists and turns of TP’s recording career. Despite playing with the same musicians, each album sounded different from its predecessors. Petty’s knack for melody and deceptively complex lyrics kept his sound fresh over the years. I have most of his albums and there’s not a stinker in the bunch; even lesser Petty is better than the rest.

I also admired Petty’s willingness to stand up for himself and other musicians against the record labels. The people who ran the music industry were mostly a pack of thieves and TP refused to let them push him around or rip-off his fans. He lived the lyrics of I Won’t Back Down: “You can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down.”

As a band leader, TP brought out the best in the Heartbreakers. They went from being a band who played their songs note-for-note from the records to skilled improvisers. It helps when you work with the likes of Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench for 40 years.

Condolences to all the Heartbreakers and the Petty family. TP was a grandfather, y’all. Put that in your hookah and smoke it. Then don’t come around here no more…

The terrible coincidence of Tom Petty and Oscar dying on the same day is something for me to hold on to:

We could all do worse than that. Not bad company for a big-eyed cat from New Orleans.

After seeing TP and the Heartbreakers last April, I burned a CD of my favorites.  It’s structured like a short live set. Here’s The Portable Tom Petty as a YouTubular playlist:

Album Cover Art Wednesday will return next week.

Oscar, R.I.P.

It’s a terrible morning everywhere because of the horrendous mass shooting in Las Vegas and the ongoing tragedy in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Closer to home it’s an extra sad day: we had to put Oscar to sleep after a prolonged illness. His legs simply stopped functioning yesterday although he tried putting a brave face on it for his humans.

We’ve been going to the same vet for 30 years and we’ve been through this with four cats. We trust his judgment and when he told us that the best Oscar could hope for was a few good days, we knew it was time to say goodbye. It would have been selfish for us to keep him around. A long goodbye was not in the cards. When elderly cats go, they go fast.

I kept my social media friends apprised of Oscar’s situation and those who had never met him IRL said the same thing: “I felt like I knew him.” He was a sweet, lovable, and gregarious kitty who brought a lot of joy into everyone’s lives. Della Street is confused that we came home without her big brother. Oscar left a giant hole in the hearts of his family, Dr. A, Della and me.

I posted my favorite picture of the Big O at the top of the post. This week’s catblogging will be an extended tribute to Oscar and his giant cartoon-like eyes.

I’m not superstitious but it began pouring as we drove home from the vet so I quoted an old blues song to Dr. A. I’ll give it and Eric Clapton the last word:

First Draft Potpourri: Belabored Labor Day Edition

It’s been a long, hot holiday weekend in New Orleans but not as hot as in my native Bay Area where San Francisco had the hottest day in recorded history, topping out at 106 fucking degrees. It’s not supposed to be hotter in San Francisco than New Orleans in September. Climate change? What climate change?

The heat is one reason I changed my mind about joining Dr. A and our fellow Spanksters in the Decadence parade. My only regret is not seeing the expressions on the faces of the BYU fans who were in town to lose to my LSU Tigers. Decadence is a gay, not a Mormon, thing.

My main reason for bagging the parade is that I’m feeling rundown from a month of dealing with Oscar’s issues.  I don’t need to add heatstroke to the list of *my* issues. It seems almost silly to be this wrapped up in caring for an ailing pet but it’s how I’m wired. I come by it honestly: the only reason my mother didn’t have a massive menagerie is that Lou put strict limits on the number of pets in the house. One could even call it a critter quota. Okay, it’s time for me to stop all of my sobbing and move on.

The national media’s insistence on being upbeat about progress in Houston drives me nuts. The people who were flooded are about to face the reality of what they’ve lost. They’re throwing things out and eventually gutting their flooded houses. It’s going to be a long, slow road back, especially for those without the resources to rebuild quickly. The poor always take in the neck, alas.

The Jolly Insult Comedian: Donald Trump justifiably took a lot of heat for his inability to show empathy on his first Harvey related trip. He went to Houston and Lake Charles, LA and tried to show empathy but he cannot even fake it. You can tell he’s faced very little genuine adversity in life because he just doesn’t get it. He tried but wound up making small talk as tiny as his hands. By way of illustration, here are two tweets from Mark Knoller of CBS News:

I guess jolly platitudes are better than talking about your margin in Texas but only marginally. At least he and Melania didn’t wear those damn caps again. I thought that her FLOTUS hat was even tackier than his. I hope it wasn’t the millinery equivalent of a name tag. She’s not the only one who has a hard time believing she’s FLOTUS.

I did not, however,  join in the twitter mockery over Melania’s stilettos earlier in the week. It was classic tweeter tube dispshittery: focusing on the trivial, going for the cheapest laugh possible.

Speaking of shoes, I got a kick out of this picture from the Gret Stet leg of the trip:

The sign is swell BUT the t-shirt worn by the teenybopper is downright weird. It features the slogan of the Civil Rights movement and an image of Trump. Trump shall overcome what? His disastrous first 226 days in office? The country will have to overcome the way he’s hollowed out the EPA and State Department. Heckuva job, Donald. (Instant Update: Take a look at the comment by Alger below. The shirt says We Shall Overcomb. My eyesight sucks. But the paragraph is too good to cut.)

Joy Reid posed an interesting question on her teevee show on Sunday morning. Why does the media keep expecting Trump to act like a normal president? In a word: history. One of the founding myths of the republic is that presidents grow in office. It doesn’t matter that many have shrunk in office, it’s the myth. Trump is who and what he is. There will be neither growth nor a pivot. Believe me.

Let’s pivot to a loss suffered by rock music fans everywhere.

Walter Becker, RIP: Some sad news came our way on Sunday morning. Steely Dan co-founder  Walter Becker died at the age of 67. Becker was the quiet one of the songwriting team of Becker and Fagen. He let his music speak for itself.

Social media was abuzz about Becker’s passing. Here’s a wee sampler. First, from his old friend and partner in crime, Donald Fagen.

I shared a few thoughts of my own about Becker’s role in Steely Dan:

Finally, a cartoon in the style of Charles Schulz:

I recently assembled a Portable Steely Dan CD, which includes hits as well as lesser known album tracks. My tribute to Becker is to reproduce it here via the magic of the YouTube playlist format. There will be the odd commercial but what can I tell ya? Becker and Fagen are odd guys.

I was one of the lucky people who saw Steely Dan before they got off the road to focus on recording. That was how artists made money in the Seventies. That’s certainly changed. Steely Dan opened for Yes who were touring in support of Fragile. It was a Bill Graham bill made in music geek heaven. I saw Steely Dan several times after they reunited, most memorably at Jazz Fest in 2007.

One of the best loved lines in any Steely Dan songs is an odd one. Anyone surprised? I thought not. It comes from Kid Charlemagne: “Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the car.” It looks like that mythic car finally ran out of gas for Walter Becker. He will be missed.

I just realized I wrote a Labor Day post without reference to the holiday itself. It’s supposed to be about working men and women, not grilled meat. It’s also about New Deal style Democratic politics as you can see from this sample of 2016’s Labor Day post showing Jack Kennedy speaking at a 1960 rally organized by the UAW in Detroit:

Happy Labor Day whether you’re laboring or not.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Touch Of Gray

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère  by Edouard Manet, 1882.

It’s my birthday today. We’re planning a relatively quiet day with dinner at one of the great restaurants in New Orleans, Brigtsen’s. It’s located in an Uptown cottage, not far from the river. The service is great and the food is even better.

A note on the featured image. I’m such a Manet fan that I named a black female cat Manet. She was long-lived and lovable. We had a game that we played together wherein we compared artists. I’d ask “who do you like better, Picasso or Manet?” The answer was always the same: “Manet.” She lived to be twenty, dying in 2005 not long before Katrina. I’m glad she missed the upheaval and disruption of our nomadic evacuation. It’s hard to be a grande dame when you’re on the move.

It’s sad how few pictures we have of our pre-digital camera era cats. This is a good shot of Manet in her Dowager Empress period:

Holy lagniappe catblogging, Batman.

August 1st was the 75th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s birth. I miss Jerry, which is why the Garcia-Hunter tune, Touch of Gray, is this week’s theme song. It was the Dead’s only genuine hit single, which is remarkable given their longevity and popularity.

We have two touches of gray for your listening pleasure: the  VH1 pop up video of their skeletony promo video and a live version from 7/4/1989 in Buffalo. Notice Jerry and keyboard player Brent Mydland touching their own gray hair before launching into the song. Oh well, a touch of gray, kind of suits you anyway. Literal but still swell. Brent died in 199o. I’ve often said that being the keyboard player in the Dead was much like being the drummer in Spinal Tap. I don’t believe in jinxes but this one has a kernel of truth.

Oh yeah, both videos were posted by someone who spelled gray with an E. So it goes.

Now that I’ve made y’all feel old and decrepit, let’s limp to the break.

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First Draft Potpourri For $500, Alex

The mind reels over how much is going on in the world. The breaking news is flying so thick and fast that it’s hard to keep up without going mad. Hence this experiment with some quick segments, one-liners, and tweets.

Blighty Blighted? We begin with the British election in which the Tories screwed up and Labour did better than expected. The former are not dead yet and Labour should stop acting like they won. The current leadership has proven they’re good campaigners, now they need to prove they’re an effective parliamentary opposition and government-in-waiting.

My favorite image about the late UK campaign came from a tweet from a German cartoonist. I saw it in the Guardian, which is where all good things come from:

There were a whole lotta froms in that segment. Of course, Fromm *is* a German surname…

Tweet Of The Day: Our old “pal” Roger Stone is hawking tee-shirts to fund his next Nixon tattoo:

Takes one to know one, Rog.

Speaking of Twitter oddities. Twitter offered to translate my Comeypalooza post tweet from the original Lithuanian. Hell, I don’t even speak Latvian let alone Lithuanian…

Poor Ivanka: The First Daughter was on Fox & Fucking Friends this morning and got all whiny. She claimed to be gobsmacked by the “viciousness” of Washington. This from a woman whose horrid father was birther-in-chief and whose criminal father-in-law hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and mailed the tape to his sister. Now that’s vicious, as is this Lou Reed song:

Qatar Reminder: My NOLA blogger buddy and Spank krewe mate, Noladishu tweeted a reminder of Qatari post-K support for New Orleans.

He would indeed. I don’t want the Ashley-geist vexed with me so I thought I should share this Noladishu dish. It also allows me to make the following Qatari puns:

My Qatar Wants To Kill Your Mama.

Perfectly Good Qatar.

On behalf of the pun community, I’d like to thank Noladishu for the straight line. It’s what friends are for; my friends at least. My late friend Perfesser Morris would have approved too, he liked puns as much as he hated ennui:

Watergate Junkie Fix Time: The great Ron Rosenbaum shared a NYT article wondering how Tricky’s takedown would be covered in 2017:

When will they ask the eternal question: what did the Insult Comedian know and when did he lie about it? What is everything and constantly, Alex. Believe me.

The Obituary Cafe: You’ve all heard of the passing of Adam West at the age of 88. His campy but deadpan “Bright Knight” take on Batman was an important part of my childhood. I realize that people take comic book movies seriously now but they involve grown-ups in tights fighting cackling villains. What’s campier than that?

George Segal as Pops in The Goldbergs is on Team Bright Knight:

Finally, did anyone know that the guy who first put pineapple on pizza was Greek-Canadian? I did not until the other day. The Greek in question, Sam Panopoulos died recently at 83. I’ve always been opposed to pineapple on pizza and I don’t recall my father’s position on it. But he was always proud of Greeks who made it and an obituary in the Guardian is making it.

As far as I’m concerned pineapple on pizza is only a misdemeanor and Sam sounded like a great guy otherwise. But I’m not claiming cousinage even if Lou might have. I’m almost as prickly about pineapple on pizza as the Icelandic President.

That concludes this edition of First Draft Potpourri. Pass the pizza, skip the pineapple.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Eight Miles High

A New Frontier by Alan Bean.

It’s been a wet week in New Orleans. The rain, however, hasn’t stopped the Lost Causers from sitting hillbilly shiva. They’re down to the dead enders as I pointed out in this tweet last week:

One of the banners was a Trump for President flag. Now that’s one I’d consider burning…

Speaking of the Insult Comedian, he made news on Thursday. As usual, it was the bad kind. Bowing out of the Paris Climate Accord will be reversible when we have a sane and asterisk free president again. His “reasoning” was the bigger problem with this move. First, Trump wanted a “win,” he promised his supporters constant winning. Instead there’s been constant losing. He’s abandoned most of  his other promises, so he kept this one. The Russia scandal makes keeping the MAGA maggots happy paramount. Second, his baby man feelings were hurt by the mean old Europeans. They didn’t kiss his ass. The Darnold doesn’t like that. He was pouting over Merkel’s speech and Macron’s handshake victory so he lashed out and did something stupid and short-sighted.  This president* has made petulance the centerpiece of what passes for his foreign policy. Trump’s Razor remains in effect.

This week’s theme song was inspired by the featured painting by Apollo astronaut, Alan Bean. Eight Miles High was written by Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, and David Crosby for the Byrds 5th Dimension album. I have three very different versions for your enjoyment. First, the Byrds original followed by spirited covers from Roxy Music and Husker Du.

Now that we’ve flown Eight Miles High, we’ll touch down after the break.

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Sunday Morning Video: Gregg Allman, R.I.P.

Gregg Allman died yesterday at the age of 69.  There’s no better way to pay tribute to one of the pioneers of Southern rock than posting the Allman Brothers Band’s 40th Anniversary show.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Be That Way

Mon Oiseau (My Bird) by Orville Bullman.

The bastards did it. Bastards is too polite a word: the fuckers did it. I’m referring to the vote to strip healthcare away from 24+ million Americans. It’s going to complicate things for people with employer based plans as well. And the House passed it without proper vetting, public hearings, or even reading a bill that’s a procedural and substantive atrocity. In the past, the Senate has been where bad and/or controversial legislation goes to die BUT it won’t happen without public pressure. Pick up the phone and call your Senator to either support a no vote or excoriate them for a potential yes vote.

We return to our regularly scheduled Odds & Sods programming with this week’s theme song. Don’t Be That Way was composed by Benny Goodman and Edgar Sampson as an instrumental for Benny’s big band. Mitchell Parrish’s lyrics were written later. The first version is by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra. The second is by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I somehow missed marking the centennial of Ella’s birth on April, 25th. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

It’s hard to top Ella and Louis, so we’ll go to the break and regroup.

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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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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.”

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“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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Remember the 32

I was working the newsroom this week, when my wife sent me a photo with the caption, “Who are these people?” It turned out to be a “Save the Date” card from two of my former students who found love while finishing off their degrees here.

The editor in chief of the paper poked her head over my shoulder and asked what was up.

“I just got a Save the Date card from Ashley and Isaac,” I explained.

She had a blank stare on her face.

“You were here when Isaac was the managing editor, weren’t you?”

Again, a total blank stare. It was at that point it dawned on me that although the kid I was speaking with was 22 and ready to graduate, even she wasn’t old enough to remember a kid who was practically running the newsroom two years earlier.

I often joke that I have “grad-nesia,” an illness that blurs the lines among generations of students to the point where I swear someone just graduated last year while they’ve actually been out of school for half a decade. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated, in that the institutional memory of college institutions is tiny at best. “Back in the day,” for most of my staff was about 18 months ago. “A long time ago,” was two years.

Something that happened 10 years ago? It has the same social relevance of the Tea Pot Dome Scandal or the Bull Moose Party. Even if that event shook the entire nation to its core.

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. Student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty on campus while wounding another 17 over a three-hour time period before ending his own life. Even in that time of nascent social media, the pure insanity of the event exploded through digital channels and traditional media in a way that kept everyone in the country linked into the devastation.

I had a personal interest in that shooting, as I was pretty close with the general manager of the student newspaper out there. I also knew the editorial adviser. Our student media listserv was flying with questions and concerns for those folks. Both of them were named “Kelly” (one guy, one gal) which led to some “which one?” questions as we all tried to reach them. I finally got a hold of female Kelly and she told me she was safe, things were crazy and her staff was working, so she was probably going to be off the grid for quite some time. At that point, I was able to breathe again.

As my staff watched from safety 1,000 miles away, none of us knew what to do. Our EIC suggested we send pizza, so we did. It was a typical college-kid move, but we weren’t the only ones to think, “Hey, maybe they’re hungry.” Professional and collegiate news staffs from all over the country did similar things to the point where the staff of the Collegian had to ask, “Hey, guys, we appreciate this, but could you stop now?”

The student paper did some incredible work over that amount of time, including obituaries for each of the 32 victims of the shootings. I remember watching male Kelly give a speech on this less than a year later at a journalism convention. He explained that most of his staff was comprised of cub reporters and non-journalism folk. The university didn’t have a journalism feeder program, so this was truly an extra-curricular endeavor for most of them. If the newsroom he had was anything like some of the ones I’ve worked with, you had a handful of kids who had a passion for journalism, a group of folks who were told at one point they were good writers so they showed up to write and a bunch of students who came for the access to sporting events and concerts and to write columns about what they thought was important.

None of them was ready for this. Nor should they have been.

The thing that I remember most about Kelly’s speech was that he talked about gathering his staff and explaining how the newspaper was going to handle the situation on obituaries. The first question a kid raised is the most obvious one: “Nobody is going to want to talk to us. How are we supposed to do this?”

Kelly’s answer is one I use to this day: You might be right. People might not want to talk to you, but you don’t have the right to take that choice away from them. You approach them respectfully and you offer them the chance to speak. If they decline, you express gratitude and you leave. But don’t take away their chance because you’re afraid.

In the end, those obituaries were stocked with sources and stories that captured the essence of 32 people who never made it past April 16, 2007 and propelled the paper to a Pacemaker Award and national prominence.

I have to admit that 10 years have put this story to the back of my mind as well. The year after the Virginia Tech shooting, the Northern Illinois Shooting happened and that one struck a little closer to home. I had interviewed there for a job at one point and many years before, my grandfather had been in the police department in DeKalb, the city surrounding the university. After that, we seemed to be stockpiling shootings and disasters to the point that “Virginia Tech” became less of a euphemism than it once had been.

I also have to admit, it’s easy for things on a university campus to wash away quickly. My first year in Indiana, we had a student get shot and killed by a cop. The name of Michael McKinney was everywhere for more than a year. We covered that story from the shooting through the civil suit and there wasn’t a student alive on that campus who didn’t know that story.

Fast forward to the fifth-year anniversary of the shooting and I told my editor we needed to do the anniversary story on the McKinney shooting.

I got the same blank look my EIC gave me just this week: “Who?”

As far as most schools are concerned, the short-attention-span theater is a blessing in disguise. When horrific things happen in some cities and towns, family members still live there and those moments of pain become imbued in the fabric of the society. Events of agony live on from generation to generation. In the case of colleges, four years can wash away pretty much everyone in the student base who knew what happened. The memories fade to rumor and history.

In the case of the Virginia Tech Shooting, the students there are refusing to let the memory of those 32 people go unnoticed this year. Several cadets are asking that the new residence hall be named for Matthew LaPorte, a sophomore ROTC member who gave is own life to save countless others when the shooter broke through LaPorte’s classroom barricade. The staff of the newspaper published a special edition titled “We Remember 32,” which is complete with a set of 32 stories of the 32 people who died that day. An online version is available here as well.

It’s hard to remember and easy to forget.

But some things need, even if painful, need to be commemorated.

Sunday Morning Video: A Tribute To Don Rickles

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard that comedy legend Don Rickles died at the age of 90. Rickles was a genuine insult comedian with a rapid fire Borscht Belt delivery. I saw Mr. Warmth live once in Vegas, baby. He even called me a hockey puck. It was an honor.

Here are a few clips in tribute to a man with a face made for radio. We begin with an appearance on Dick Cavett’s ABC Show:

Rickles was at his best with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show:

In this clip Rickles drops in on Frank and Johnny:

Rickles always made me laugh even when he was the voice of Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story. He will be missed.