Category Archives: R.I.P.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Born Under A Bad Sign

hartley-tollan

Tollan, Aztec Legend by Marsden Hartley, 1933.

The only predictable thing about the weather in New Orleans to start the new year has been its unpredictability. It’s been warm and muggy, wet and damp, foggy and chilly. You name it, we’ve had it, except, that is, for snow. The last time it snowed here was in 2008. Thousands of pictures were taken of the St. Charles street car in the snow. It melted quickly and hasn’t happened since. So it goes.

It was Twelfth Night yesterday, which means that we can finally eat king cake, and, more importantly, hang our krewe flags on our houses. I’ve been wanting to fly the Spank flag for months but Dr. A wouldn’t hear of it until yesterday. So it goes.

Here’s the flag with Dennie the den of Muses cat:

10363716_10154004809208539_2351516757556077779_n

End of laginappe Carnival catblogging, make that reblogging. If you blog long enough you end up repeating yourself, repeating yourself, repeating yourself…

This week’s theme song, Born Under A Bad Sign, was written for blues great Albert King by Stax Records legends William Bell and Booker T. Jones. It seems to fit the mood of at least half the country as we contemplate the next administration. I’m not sure whether to feel cursed or resigned but I’m certain that the shit brought to the surface in 2016 will continue to stink. Shit’s a funny thing, no matter how you disguise it, it smells just as bad. So it goes.

We begin with a version King recorded in New Orleans in 1978, produced by Allen Toussaint:

We continue with an instrumental version by the man who wrote the music:

Finally, a swell 1993 rendition by the great Paul Rodgers:

Now that we’ve admitted to being down since we began to crawl, we’ll shoot for a rebirth (no, not the brass band or the pale ale) after the break.

Continue reading

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Make It Big

Eighties pop icon George Michael died on Christmas Day at the age of 53. I’ve always had a soft spot for George: partially because he’s Anglo-Greek but mostly because of that big voice. He was one of the best of the “blue-eyed” soul singers.

Michael was not known for his album cover art but I found this little gem whilst running a search. It’s a superhero take by Steve Howard on Wham’s Make It Big album side-by-side with the original:

superhero-album-3

Superhero Cover by Steve Howard.

I’m not much of a Wham fan so I’ll post two of Michael’s best known collaborations instead:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dead Flowers

Chagall The Drunkard

The Drunkard by Marc Chagall.

It’s run-off election day here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I’ll be voting later today in the Colonel Corpone vs. Foghorn Leghorn Senate race. Cornpone has it sown up and I don’t like Foghorn but I said I’d vote for him, so I’ll have to select an appropriate clothespin. I would say I was voting for the lesser of two hicks but Foghorn sounds like he’s been studying the oeuvre of Jeff Foxworthy. My friend Charlotte says he reminds her of Boss Hogg. Hard to argue that point, y’all.

The local news has been dominated by road rage and the law. The one many of you have heard about is the trial of Cardell Hayes for killing former Saints defensive captain Will Smith. I wrote about it in this space not long ago. It’s a very close case with the defense arguing self-defense. The local media have been all over it like turkey buzzards on roadkill. In this Saints obsessed town that was predictable and why the Judge sequestered the jury. The case *may* go to the jury later this evening.

The other road rage incident involved former high school football sensation and NFL player Joe McKnight. He got into it with some creep named Ronald Gasser and McKnight was shot to death. There was a huge stink when Gasser wasn’t charged immediately: he’s white and McKnight was black. Gasser was charged with manslaughter earlier this week. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand held a ranty press conference, spending more time attacking Facebook trolls than discussing the crime. Normand hasn’t gone off like that in quite some time. It might have been calculated anger (more on that later) or he simply lost his shit.

This week’s theme song fits my somber mood. Dead Flowers was written when the Stones were hanging out with country-rock godfather Gram Parsons. It’s one of the best lyrics the Glimmer Twins have ever written. It’s limey country rock at its finest.

We begin with the original version from Sticky Fingers, followed by a live non-Stones version featuring Keith, Willie Nelson, and Ryan Adams to name a few luminaries.

I’m feeling relatively terse this week so I’m skipping the break and diving right in. I mentioned intentional ranting earlier. The master of tactical screaming was the late great rock impresario Bill Graham.

Bill Graham & The Art Of Tactical Screaming: I grew up attending Bill Graham’s shows in the Bay Area. They remain the best organized and operated rock concerts I’ve ever been to. One reason was the hands on nature of the producer. He was always visible both onstage and in the front of the house. You knew who was in charge. There was one time at a Dead show at Winterland that there was a flood in the men’s room. I ran into Bill in the hallway and informed him. He thanked me and went over there personally. I followed out of curiosity and watched him grab a plunger. Now that’s attention to detail.

My old friend Gus Mozart shared a link to an interview filmed in 1977. It’s called The Mechanics of a Show. It’s well worth watching if you’re a rock and roll history buff. It’s also available on the YouTube. Here’s the segment about yelling:

I saw Bill scream at people many times. He was almost always in the right. An aggressive New Yorker like Bill Graham scared the shit out of California hippies, so they tended to comply with his orders. Besides, it was Bill’s world and we were there as paying customers. He was the boss and the best.

The centerpiece of this week’s post are tributes to two men whose deaths were announced on Thursday. Other than fame they had nothing in common. One of them was 95 years old and lived a long and eventful life. The other died at 69 after a lengthy private battle with cancer.

John Glenn R.I.P. Hero is the most overused word in the English language. Very few acts are heroic and there are even fewer heroes. John Glenn was a genuine hero. It was a label that he modestly rejected but one that he earned over-and-over again.  Despite his advanced years, I was still deeply saddened to hear that he’d died at the age of 95.

All of the Mercury astronauts were brave men. They risked death every time they stepped into those tiny capsules. John Glenn made it look easy, but orbiting the earth was fraught with peril. People knew that and it was one reason they went nuts (in a good way) over Glenn.

Here’s what I posted on my Facebook feed:

John Glenn went on to a distinguished career as a four-term Democratic Senator from Ohio. The punditry briefly went nuts over his 1984 Presidential bid because it coincided with the release of Philip Kaufman’s brilliant film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Glenn was played by Ed Harris. It was the role that put Harris on the map. Glenn’s campaign went nowhere. Charlie Pierce pointed out why at his joint:

when John Glenn was preparing to run for president, I sat down in a bar on Beacon Hill in Boston for a chat with one of his chief strategists. This fellow smacked my gob across the room when he said that the campaign was planning to “downplay the hero stuff.” My god, I thought. Without The Hero Stuff, Glenn was just a kind of boring old sod from Ohio. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn’t the first American to orbit the Earth. He wasn’t the guy who spent the last of those orbits in a tiny spacecraft with a problem the gravity of which the folks on the ground could only guess. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn’t…an astronaut.

John Glenn was a modest man. It was how the best men of his generation comported themselves. As a Senator, he was a workhorse, not a showhorse, which is the highest praise I can bestow on a politician. He was also the antitheses of the braggart who won the electoral college and is claiming a landslide. They don’t make them like Senator Glenn any more.

He had a good life and a good death surrounded by his family. Godspeed, John Glenn.

Here’s a piece by Charlie Osgood broadcast on the 49th anniversary of Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 mission:

Let’s move on from the loss of an American icon to the passing of one of the pioneers of British prog-rock.

Greg Lake R.I.P. He was the original lead singer/bassist of King Crimson as well as the L in ELP. Greg Lake died at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer.

I saw ELP several times at their peak. They were loud, bombastic, and pretentious. I loved every second of it. Lake was the steady, solid one while flamboyant keyboard player Keith Emerson and flashy drummer Carl Palmer whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

Emerson preceded Lake in death earlier this year. E and L are gone but P rocks on as the drummer with Asia. Here’s what Carl had to said about Greg’s passing:

The best way to pay tribute to Greg Lake is, of course, to post some of his music. I have used the opening lyrics for Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2 more than once in lieu of an Odds & Sods summary: “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.” Greg Lake’s show has ended but the music never stops, corny but true.

Along with lyricist Pete Sinfield, Lake wrote one of the best rock Christmas songs, I Believe In Father Christmas. Here’s a live version from St. Bride’s Church in London with Ian Anderson and members of his band backing Lake up:

Ready for some live ELP? You have no choice:

I had hoped to post the original studio version of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man but it eluded me. Another Lake-era King Crimson song will have to do.

“Confusion will be my epitaph.” Greg Lake will be missed.

That’s it for this week. May the Schwartz be with you:

yogurt-meme

Sunday Morning Video: Leon Russell Live On Homewood Session

It’s our final tribute to the late, great Leon Russell. It’s Leon and friends on a homey Los Angeles teevee show hosted by the film critic Charles Champlin. R.I.P. Leon.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: God’s Comic

man-ray-glass-tears

Glass Tears by Man Ray, 1932.

Facebook killed me off earlier this week. I even got a death notice from them but neglected to take a screen shot. I was not alone in receiving a premature memorial page notice from the Zuckerdudes. Facebook even whacked blog pun consultant James Karst:

Karst is dead.

I’m pleased to report that, unlike the late Johnny Winter, Karst is still alive and well:

I’ve heard several explanations as to what went wrong but there’s one I like. And I’m sticking to it even if it’s debunked as de bunk. Consider it my Ford factory relocation moment. Here it is: It may have been concocted by trolls who wanted to metaphorically liquidate people whose content they dislike. I wear their scorn as a badge of honor even if I have long believed that “we don’t need no stinking badges.” That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, y’all. Facebook and fake news go together like Lennon and McCartney before Yoko and Linda or Rodgers and Hart before Hammerstein. Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.

This week’s theme song is an obvious choice: God’s Comic by Elvis Costello. It’s written from the perspective of a dead guy. This may make EC the Nostraelvis of rock and roll since it was written for the Spike album in 1989 long before Facebook existed. Or is that Nostradeclan? I cannot for the life or death of me keep that straight. First the song followed by a few  lyrics:

EC is a notoriously wordy songwriter so there are a lot of lyrics.  Here’s the first verse followed by the chorus :

I wish you’d known me when I was alive, I was a funny feller
The crowd would hoot and holler for more
I wore a drunk’s red nose for applause
Oh yes I was a comical priest
“With a joke for the flock and a hand up your fleece”
Drooling the drink and the lipstick and greasepaint
Down the cardboard front of my dirty dog-collar

Now I’m dead, now I’m dead, now I’m dead,
Now I’m dead, now I’m dead
And I’m going on to meet my reward
I was scared, I was scared, I was scared, I was scared
He might of never heard God’s Comic

On that mordantly morbid note, it’s time for the break. We should move expeditiously before Facebook kills me off again and I go on to meet my reward.

Continue reading

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Stranger In A Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land struck a chord when it was first published. It still had legs when I was a tadpole. I was not the only annoying kid who used “grok” instead of “understand.” I hope y’all grok what I’m saying.

30970617996_76d0ac2cf59aeb2f32211ebbe417ce280139a260c9

I have an ulterior motive for posing Stranger In A Strange Land. The great rock pianist Leon Russell borrowed the title for one of his best songs. Leon died the other day at 74. He was a genuine original. He will be missed.

Thursday Night Music: Bury Me In Willow

2016 has been a year of high-profile deaths: Bowie, Prince, Ali, Safer, Frey, Kantner to name a few. I ran an internal search after Shimon Peres passed and found I’d used the R.I.P. category 18 times thus far this year. I knew it was high but I didn’t realize there were that many, and there could have been more. 2016 needs its own acronym,  TFY for This Fucking Year.

That brings me to Bury Me In Willow. It’s an achingly beautiful song about mortality written by Geoff Downes and John Wetton for Asia’s thirtieth anniversary album XXX. I hadn’t heard the album until a few weeks ago but it’s fucking good. The lyrics of Bury Me In Willow  get me every time, especially these two stanzas:

When I’m gone, do this thing for me,
For this is my final day, and you know I would not joke,
So bury me in willow, not in oak.

Give me no standard, no eulogy,
No red, white and blue, no sceptre and no cloak,
Just bury me in willow, not in oak.

Let’s play the song before we all get too morbid:

Shimon Peres, R.I.P.

Peres, Rabin, Arafat.

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS.

There are very few people on today’s world scene that I would call a statesman or stateswoman. Shimon Peres was one of the few. He won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat in 1994. Mr. Peres died yesterday at the age of 93. It was a long life well lived.

Mr. Peres started his political career as a hawk but devoted most of his life to the cause of peace. His former colleague, Tzipi Livni, described him as “the realist dreamer” in a tribute she wrote for the New York Times. Ms. Livni vividly describes a trip she took in 2001 with Mr. Peres:

I had hardly moved my things into my new office when Mr. Peres took me on my first ministerial trip to New York.

The moment we stepped off the plane, he transformed before my eyes from an antediluvian Israeli politician into a sprightly statesman. The image I had of him shattered; I saw a person who wanted to make the impossible possible.

That trip, he was on a mission to persuade American skeptics to bring life to the Dead Sea by building a canal from the Red Sea. He wanted to make the desert bloom and, in his region-conscious way, Israel’s neighbor Jordan, too. After a day full of conversations, speeches and events about this plan, I was exhausted — but he wasn’t done. For Mr. Peres, the night was young, and back out we went.

The affection he found abroad and his unflagging personal convictions gave him strength to face the powerful criticisms and hatred that were leveled at him at home. When fellow Israelis called him a traitor and screamed “Oslo criminal,” it hurt him. We could all see it in his eyes; he wanted to be loved — but he was not willing to give up on his beliefs.

I saw it every time I watched him ignore the cynics, risk being called naïve, and continue doggedly to speak for and pursue peace. This was the lesson that every leader needs to learn: Follow your inner compass no matter what.

It’s hard to top that sentiment. All I have to add is this: Shalom.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Better Days

stuart-davis-arboretum-by-flashbulb-1942

Arboretum By Flashbulb by Stuart Davis.

Researching and writing about the lunatic fringe is exhausting. Any time I write a post with a picture of, say, the froggy Pepe Le Puke, I am followed on Twitter by alt-right types, the more hateful of whom I block. The rest I disappoint by being a liberal Clinton supporter. You’d think they’d notice the “echoes” around my handle and avoid me like the plague. It’s proof positive that some of these folks are dumbasses as is this GIF from the Daily Show:

The damn thing is animated elsewhere but static here; just like the dude in the Trump hat. He seems to have forgotten a Republican President named George W. Bush. If you note the back of his hat, he’s clearly one of Bill-O’s pinheads; either that or he stuffed socks in his cap. Perhaps he’s Beldar Conehead’s redneck brother. Nah, he doesn’t look French.

On a lighter note, the Krewe of Spank had our first meeting of the 2017 Carnival season. Yes, we actually plan in advance. Hard to believe, isn’t it? We have at least one promising theme idea but my lips are sealed with or without a kiss. Hush-hush.

We have a doubleheader for this week’s theme song, featuring two of my all-time favorite artists. We’re in the different songs with the same title zone once more. Let’s begin with Bruce Springsteen’s Better Days, which is the opening track of the Lucky Town album. It features one of Bruce’s best lyrics:

Well I took a piss at fortune’s sweet kiss
It’s like eatin’ caviar and dirt
It’s sad funny ending to find yourself pretending
A rich man in a poor man’s shirt

It’s hard to do much better than those lyrics but Gary Louris gives it a shot in *his* Better Days, which comes from the Jayhawks’ Smile album.

Now that I’ve finished bettering you up, let’s go to the break fast. Mmm, toast…

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Showdown

Picasso Three Musicians

Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso, 1921

It’s been another “hot even for New Orleans” week. It was the second warmest August in recorded history; at least we weren’t number one. We dodged the Hermine bullet but apparently not everyone understands the gravity of even a lesser tropical system:

Florida is also where this charming chap resides:

29310035991_10b810ecf9

Holy Florida Man, Batman.

If you’re ever in Fort Lauderdale, you might want to give him a holla. I think the exclamation point was over the top but that’s just me. He looks like he mixed cigarettes, meth and Vodka. Ouch.

The college football season starts this weekend. My LSU Tigers are playing the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay later today. It should provide some diversion for all the flooded Tiger fans in South Louisiana. There’s even a comedic sub-plot: some LSU players are threatening to do the “Lambeau leap” after scoring. Les Miles has vetoed the idea and warned his players that they’ll be hitchhiking home if they try it. I’m seriously bummed about this. I was hoping Les would take the leap after our first score. Guess he’s channeling his inner Bo Schembechler this season. I prefer Goofy Les to Serious Les.

This week’s theme song selection started off simply but grew like bamboo. One of my earworms this week has been ELO’s hit song, Showdown. Just for the hell of it, I did a search on allmusic.com and learned that there are oodles of tunes with the same title.

I picked two Showdowns of a similar vintage to the ELO smash hit: one by the New York Dolls and the other by the Isley Brothers. Who among us does not love the flying fingers of Ernie Isley as well as his nifty headband?

Like the Isley Brothers’ Showdown, the Saturday post typically has two parts. We’ll part for the break and then resume the festivities such as they are.

Continue reading

Album Cover Art: Pete Fountain

We’re still mourning the man the Advocate called Mr. New Orleans in its front page obit on Sunday. That’s why I’m extending my Pete Fountain tribute to this feature. Some of the covers illustrate Pete’s lively and irreverent sense of humor as well as the bad toupee he used to wear.

a211e2779b4a81c589f1c33e2d1b62c5

Coral_I_Love_Paris_Front

Guest_Star_Broadway_To_Bourbon_Street_Front

I mentioned Pete’s friendship with Al Hirt on Sunday. Here’s the cover of one of the albums they recorded together:

CV12271

Finally, Johnny Carson was a big Pete Fountain fan and had him on the Tonight Show 59 times. Here’s an appearance from 1979:

Sunday Morning Video: Pete Fountain R.I.P.

Pete-Rodrigue

Jazz icon and hometown hero Pete Fountain died Saturday morning at the age of 86. Pete was a beloved figure here in New Orleans and even those of us who never met him feel like we lost an old friend. Pete and his clarinet were a part of the cultural fabric of our city. Every Mardi Gras morning, Pete and his Half-Fast Walking Club would meander from Uptown to the French Quarter barhopping and playing music along the way. It was familiar and comforting to know they’d be on the street with the rest of us. I suspect they’ll roll next year but Pete will be missed. He was irreplaceable.

This week’s Sunday Morning Video is a 1979 set by Pete and his crack band at Wolf Trap:

Pete is gone but his music is eternal; if there’s an afterlife he’s already jamming with his old pal Al Hirt like it was 1979:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Crazy Man Michael

9908CJLaughlinNeverland

Finding Neverland by Clarence John Laughlin.

I’ve spent much of the week contemplating July Madness aka the Trumpvention. It’s one of the strangest spectacles I’ve ever witnessed. In an odd way, it provided comic relief for all the shit that’s going down until Trump’s despicable acceptance diatribe. First Draft alumna Southern Beale hit on something I neglected to mention: acceptance speeches are typically optimistic and forward-looking as opposed to angry and bitter harangues. In 2004, Athenae’s boy friend, John Kerry, was criticized for being too negative, leading to this ad:

That’s called a pivot, which Trump, apparently, has no plans to do. I’m waiting for an ad entitled Mourning in America.

I’m going to keep it relatively short since I’ve written so many epic posts this week. The transformation of the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers into the world’s largest loony bin got me contemplating songs about insanity. Crazy Man Michael by Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick is as good as it gets; even if there are no Michael mentionings in this week’s post. The song first appeared on Fairport Convention’s 1969 album, Liege & Lief and was sung by the sublime Sandy Denny:

Here’s a solo acoustic version by RT:

I like messing with my readers, in that spirit, we’ll skip the customary break. Nothing for y’all to become accustomed to. I just felt like taking a break break…

We begin with an article that set the internets ablaze. A friend of mine ranted about the ghostwriter, but he never thought Trump would be a major party nominee for President. Who the hell did until 2016?  We both think he’s a giant toddler in a septuagenarian’s body.

The Art Of The Sell-Out: Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz has a guilty conscience for making Trump look 100,0000 times better than he actually is in the best-selling book, The Art of Deal.(Actually he was Trump’s co-writer who wrote the whole damn thing. Ghostwriter sounds way cooler.)  He recently sat down with the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. Here are some worthy excerpts:

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

<SNIP>

“Trump didn’t fit any model of human being I’d ever met. He was obsessed with publicity, and he didn’t care what you wrote.” He went on, “Trump only takes two positions. Either you’re a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you’re the greatest.

<SNIP>

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

<SNIP>

When challenged about the facts, Schwartz says, Trump would often double down, repeat himself, and grow belligerent. This quality was recently on display after Trump posted on Twitter a derogatory image of Hillary Clinton that contained a six-pointed star lifted from a white-supremacist Web site. Campaign staffers took the image down, but two days later Trump angrily defended it, insisting that there was no anti-Semitic implication. Whenever “the thin veneer of Trump’s vanity is challenged,” Schwartz says, he overreacts—not an ideal quality in a head of state.

There’s more of the same in Mayer’s article. I *already* thought Trump was unfit to be President but Schwartz fills in many details that confirm the obvious. I don’t think a marginally literate, hyperactive, mendacious Insult Comedian should ever be elected President.

I, for one, am glad Schwartz came forward, which has led to Trump’s lawyers sending him a cease and desist letter demanding that he return 28-year-old royalties. Yeah, right. It’s typical of Trump’s need to dominate, abase, and silence everyone he knows. I wonder if his shysters will devise a non-disclosure agreement for the entire country.

Tony Schwartz is on Twitter. Thursday night’s Tweets are quite interesting. Check them out.

Trump’s Razor: Josh Marshall has been digging deep into Trump’s shallow psyche and has come up with a theorum of sorts, Trump’s Razor

ascertain the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts” and that answer is likely correct.

Trump’s Razor has been slicing its way through the Trumpvention as well as the entire campaign. I’m glad Josh gave it a name. Thanks, man.

Speaking of political clusterfucks, the Labour Leadership battle rages on. The war between the Corbyinite hard left and center left  MPs looks more likely to cause a split with each passing day.

Labour Daze & The Gang Of Four: For people of a certain age, it’s been like deja vu all over again. The hard left of Labour took control of the party after the 1979 skunking by the Tories. The Callaghan government wasn’t insufficiently left-wing. It was weak and tired. Labour’s left flank turned to open warfare against party moderates. Sound familiar? This time it happened after back-to-back defeats.

The mad dash to the hard left led four former cabinet members, led by Roy Jenkins the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and, more importantly the radical reforming Home Secretary of the 1960’s, to leave Labour and form the Social Democratic Party (SDP.) For a brief shining moment it looked as if the SDP might take off, but things didn’t go as hoped for.

The Guardian’s Andy Beckett compares what happened in 1981 to the current Labour imbroglio. It’s something of a cautionary tale: the SDP no longer exists, it merged with the Liberals in 1988. They’re now known as the Liberal Democrats who did quite well until they went into government with the Tories. They got slaughtered in the 2015 election and only have 8 MPs. Yet another cautionary tale. Here’s the SDP Gang of Four:

SDP Gang of Four

The SDP Gang of Four: Bill Rodgers, David Owen, Roy Jenkins, and Shirley Williams.

These center-left rebels are not to be confused with the band Gang of Four who were hardcore lefties. Life abounds with ironies. I might as well play some punk rock at this point:

You know it was a tough week when an R.I.P. segment amounts to lightening things up:

Garry Marshall, R.I.P.: One of the nicest people in show biz, Garry Marshall, died this week at the age of 80. Marshall dominated the small screen in the 1970’s and made stars of Michael McKean, Robin Williams, and Julia Roberts among others. My favorite Marshall endeavor was The Odd Couple with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman who *became* Oscar and Felix.

Marshall was also hilarious as network suit, Stan Lansing, on Murphy Brown:

The best Garry Marshall tribute I’ve read was by comedy writer/blogger Ken Levine:

Garry Marshall was an extraordinary man. In the world of comedy where anger is a primary tool for getting laughs, Garry Marshall built an empire by showing that comedy could be humane, comedy could have heart, and comedy could be funny without being mean-spirited, spiteful, and crass. He was a rebel.

Saturday Standards: I’ve never been quite sure why Bryan Ferry didn’t become the go-to “rock star standards singing guy.” He fits the part much better than Rod Stewart; plus Ferry started recording standards in the 1970’s. Ferry’s fine 1999 album, As Time Goes By, should provide some balm after a blistery week; at least I hope so. I’m particularly fond of his take on The Way You Look Tonight:

That’s it for this post-GOP apocalyptic edition of Saturday Odds & Sods. Since I actually praised Ted Cruz for the first, and likely only, time, I thought he should resume his status as a Republican Super Villain:

Cruz meme

 

No Lives Matter

I went to bed with a half-written post on the Philando Castile shooting, opting not to include the Alton Sterling shooting because Adrastos had already covered it. Within five minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I got update after update from various news sources that multiple police officers had been shot and killed in Dallas during a peaceful protest.

More died during the night. What’s worse, is more and more and more of us will die in the days to come as our country reaches a spasmic crescendo of anger, fear and violence.

We argue these days about who owns the “lives matter” movement. “Black Lives Matter” started after the George Zimmerman acquittal and became a rallying call and social media zeitgeist during 2014, as it seemed we couldn’t go more than a few days without a cop killing and unarmed black man.

Others co-opted the concept with “All Lives Matter,” trying to show equality but actually just perpetuating the tone-deafness that is majority privilege. Police picked it up as “Blue Lives Matter,” in the wake of several murders of police officers.

And on and on it went.

White Lives Matter. Gay Lives Matter. Pet Lives Matter.

Sadly, no. They don’t.

We are going through “lives” like a third-grader with a cold goes through Kleenex.

We don’t have enough time to fixate on one random shooting before another one occurs. Can anybody name the last black guy shot by a cop prior to Alton Sterling?

A few names stick out over time: Eric Gardner. Tamir Rice. Michael Brown.

Other than that it’s “Wait, why does that name sound familiar?”

How I know life has changed in this regard is because I still remember the name Ernest Lacy. When I was growing up in Milwaukee, his name was everywhere after police arrested him while on the lookout for a rape suspect. He died in a police van shortly after that.

Everyone who was in Milwaukee during that era knew that name. It was the symbol of racial inequality and police brutality. Year after year, his name came up, as protests took place and people filed lawsuits.

It’s been 35 years and I still know his name.

But the last black guy a cop killed before Sterling? Nope.

If “All Lives Mattered,” I’d be able to recall the name and age of every single kid killed in Newtown. I’d have a memory of each of their school pictures burned into my head forever.

When I was a night cops guy, I got sent out to cover a lot of death and mayhem.

Dead kids were always the worst. I still remember the name and age of every dead kid I covered. In some cases, I can see my article in the paper as it was laid out in the print edition.

I can recite them and recall them and when I do, I feel the same gut-wrenching feeling I felt all those years ago as a 22-year-old reporter.

I can’t remember the Newtown names. Or the Jonesboro names. Or even those at Northern Arizona, Northern Illinois or Virginia Tech.

The names I remember are those of the shooters. Maybe. About half the time.

Life is such a wonderfully abstract concept. It’s clinical and yet it’s metaphorical all at the same time. You can clinically live a long time and yet have “no life.” You can “live life to the fullest,” even if you die far too young. Life sits in front of “liberty” and “property” and “the pursuit of happiness” in some of our most basic and treasured documents, even though this recent spate of shootings tells us that those words aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

I hate thinking like this, as fatalism isn’t my bailiwick. I’d like to think that whenever I die, I will have mattered at some point to someone or something. I’d like to think that some people somewhere will hold a memory of me in a way that shows what I did had some value and that whatever ended my life, be it old age or something much more severe, will give rise to thoughts of who I was and what I did.

And yet, what I see every day just reinforces the idea that no lives truly matter, but to a few people who know those who are gone and a spate of people who see the loss as emblematic of a larger concern.

Do me and all the rest of us a favor.

Find a way to prove me wrong, each and every day.

Find a life that matters. Then two. Then three.

Maybe if we can interlink those circles of “important” lives, we can “Six Degrees of Separation” this chaos into a better version of all of us.

And maybe then life will matter.

Neutrality Only Ever Aids the Aggressor

Rest in peace, Elie Wiesel.

A.

Sunday Morning Video: The Life & Times Of Ralph Stanley

The great bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley died this week at the age of 89. Mr. Stanley was one of the most soulful singers I’ve ever heard. He will be missed.

Here’s a TNN documentary about him:

Finally, here’s one of Ralph Stanley’s signature songs:

Goodnight, Mr. Hockey

I only saw him play live once in my life. It was 1997 and ESPN was showing a live shot of the Detroit Vipers, a now-defunct minor-league hockey team. Gordie Howe skated out during an overly dramatized set of introductions. He took the ice to play but one shift, so he could claim that he had played professional hockey in six decades.

You couldn’t even call it a moment, as his ice time came to about 47 seconds, but it was something that hockey purists decried as a stunt, a farce and a smudge of tarnish on the legacy of the man. It was a circus act, like having a cab give an obese Babe Ruth to first base, people of this ilk bemoaned. One pundit noted that “Of all the greatness of Gordie, that one passed the line.”

That’s only true if you didn’t understand him.

The man known affectionately as “Mr. Hockey,” died today at the age of 88. That he made it to this ripe old age is a shocker to anyone who saw him play. He was a rough, rugged player who had no compunction about introducing your head to the boards. His nickname during his playing days was “Elbows,” and for good reason.

Dick Schaap noted that during Howe’s era, the great goal scorers were not giant men and they needed protection from the goons of the league.

Except for Gordie. He took care of himself.

Some called him dirty, including famously his own son, who played with him on the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association. Howe would bristle at that, noting instead that he had a sense of fairness and justice on the ice: If you act up, you get something coming your way.

A memorable moment had him, at the age of 46, trying to get an opposing player to leave his son alone. When the man wouldn’t relent, Howe reached down, stuck his fingers in the guy’s nostrils and physically dragged him off the ice.

He played until he was 52 in the NHL, finishing his 26-year career with the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80. There are people who need a Lark 7 mini-scooter to shop at Walmart at that age. He scored 41 points in that season.

As much as Canadians held The Rocket (Maurice Richard) in high regard from that era, making him the Original Six’s standard bearer of Canada’s hockey greatness, Howe became a cultural touchstone long after he played his last game.

Cameron wears a beat-up Howe jersey in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Howe is a “hidden character” in the “Open Ice” 2 on 2 video game.

His biography “And Howe!” was hawked over and over again on QVC.

Much of the marketing appeal and financial gains he made in his life were due to his wife, Colleen, a hard-charging woman with a sharp business acumen. She used to say that Gordie took care of business on the ice while she took care of business off the ice.

To say they were polar opposites would be an understatement. For all of his bone-crushing checks and “Gordie Howe Hat Tricks” (a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game), he was bashful and almost painfully shy. His own father called him awkward and backwards and wondered if his son would ever amount to anything.

In 1957, the players threatened to strike unless the league recognized the players’ right to unionize. When League God Clarence Campbell came into the Red Wings’ locker room and demanded the players give this up, Howe’s teammate Ted Lindsay told everyone in there who wanted to be in the union to stand up.

They all did.

Except for Howe.

He didn’t want to rock the boat. He didn’t want to make waves. He didn’t feel comfortable asking for things like money or improvements or whatever. It wasn’t who he was.

The players lost the opportunity to unionize for almost a decade.

Lindsay was traded as a rabble-rouser.

Howe pressed on.

When the team decided in 1971 that it was time for him to stop scoring goals and move on, they “retired” him and put him into a front-office job. Howe often referred to this as “the mushroom treatment” because: “They keep me in the dark and every so often the open up the door and shovel some manure on me.”

When his sons were drafted by the WHA, Howe came back to play at age 45. The purists howled, as he was already in the NHL hall of fame and thought it was nothing but a cheap stunt. His own sons were worried, with Marty Howe once noting that he came home every day during the first week with every shade of bruise on his body that anyone could imagine.

He was old. He was out of shape. What the hell was he doing out there?

All he did that year was make the team, score at least 100 points and help lead his team to the first of consecutive league championships. In 1974, he also played for Team Canada against a Russian squad that most considered the best in the world.

When he finally did retire (again) in 1980, no one was sure he was done. Friends often said he would keep his equipment in the trunk of the car in case a team he was scouting asked him out on the ice. His career was over, but his love for hockey never truly was.

People will talk at length today about his goal-scoring acumen and his borderline brutal play. Old-timers will recall that it’s a miracle he made it to this age, as he should have died in 1950 when he broke his skull during the NHL finals. Fans will talk about how there will never again be a player like him, even though Wayne Gretzky has nudged past him on so many lists of records.

The thing I will always cherish about Howe was his sense of self. Legendary Detroit media figure Dave Diles once noted that most people in life will think to themselves that maybe they should go do something else or be something else. Gordie, however, never wanted to be anything more than a hockey player.

He wasn’t going to be an agent of social change like another great athlete we lost this year, Muhammad Ali. Nor was he going to be a coach and then a GM and then an owner. He didn’t want to do a different job or sell all sorts of Gordie Howe-endorsed products. (Whatever he did in this regard was at the prodding of Colleen, who often coaxed him out of his shell for his own good.)

Instead, he wanted to be on the ice, with a stick, knocking the shit out of someone before he scored on that guy’s goalie.

Today, we have so many demands for social and financial ladder climbing. We are supposed to take one job and become decent enough at it so we can get a better one and then go somewhere else for more money and do something else better than that. As Springsteen’s line went, “Poor man wanna be rich. Rich man wanna be king. King ain’t satisfied ‘til he rules everything.”

And dammit, you better be happy when you get there.

Instead, Gordie Howe is an inspiration to anyone who just wants to be happy doing something that makes him or her happy.

For years, I climbed and climbed and climbed, like so many of my peers. I also watched my students climb over each other to get better internships and jobs at bigger and better places, all the while they were miserable.

Gordie Howe now reminds me that there is a joy in being good at something and persisting in it until you can’t anymore, whether its on the grandest stage or at the smallest venue.

I hope for his sake the path to Heaven is a frozen river and the Pearly Gates are the height of your average dasher.

Buckle up your chinstraps, boys.

Mr. Hockey is on his way.

Sunday Morning Video: Muhammad Ali, R.I.P.

Ali-Jackie

Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson.

2016 is a tough year to be a cultural icon. There’s no bigger American icon than Muhammad Ali who died late Friday night the age of 74 after a long illness. Ali was a great athlete with a rapier wit and the courage of a lion where it really counted: outside the ring. He was a hero to many of us, not because of his pugilistic prowess, but for his bold stance against racism and the Vietnam War.

In tribute to the Champ, here are a few Ali-related videos. We begin with a feature-length HBO documentary about his heated rivalry with Joe Frazier:

Next up is a 1996 60 Minutes profile by the late, great Ed Bradley:

Speaking of cultural icons, here’s Ali with Johnny Carson:

Ali on his opposition to the Vietnam War:

Finally, Ali’s electrifying surprise appearance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics:

The Greatest has left the building. R.I.P.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rave On

RR NOMAjpg

Melic Meeting (Spread) by Robert Rauschenberg, 1979. Via NOMA.org

It’s been a long, hot week in New Orleans. My head cold lingered but finally faded. The termite swarms have abated but it’s hotter than hell. And the heat leads to short tempers; when the hotheads have guns, it brings a murder wave. I hate it but it happens every Memorial Day weekend. Eventually, things will calm down but despite all the talk, murder remains the hardest crime to deter. It’s often spontaneous and ego-driven. I hate to sound fatalistic but as long as the wider culture resorts to violence to solve its problems this will keep happening. So it goes.

How was that for a cheerful way to start your Saturday morning? Let’s talk about the Robert Rauschenberg artwork that’s this week’s featured image. It’s part of the permanent collection at the New Orleans Museum of Art in gorgeous City Park. I always spend more than a few minutes studying it and pick up on something new every time.  I hope you’re feeling better but in case you’re not, here’s a pre-theme song tune to cheer you up:

Thanks Carlos and Greg Rolie. The world may have stopped tilting on its Abraxas after that rousing song.

Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, it’s time rave about this week’s theme song. Rave On was recorded by rock pioneer Buddy Holly in 1958 and is one of the few hits he didn’t write himself. Bad me. I decided to use it-sans explanation point-because of the second version below.

While we’re on the subject of raving, here’s some Van Morrison:

Now that we’ve raved on about poets and crazy feelings, I’ll have some Words of Love for you after the break.

Continue reading

Sunday Morning Video: Guy Clark Live In Texas

The great Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark died earlier this week at the age of 74. Here’s a set from the 1996 Kerrville Folk Festival: