Category Archives: Sports

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Denny McLain

I went down a YouTube rabbit hole and watched a pretty good documentary about Denny McLain. McLain was the last pitcher to win 30 games and won 2 Cy Young Awards. He was also a egenerate gambler and wannabe bookie. His pitching career flamed out by the age of 28. He also played a mean organ:

If you’re feeling like a lounge lizard, here’s the whole damn album:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Washable Ink

Salome With The Head Of John The Baptist by Aubrey Beardsley.

My first day of jury duty was uneventful. We waited to be called for voir dire but the call never came and we were out of there by 11 AM. They’re trying fewer cases at Criminal District Court since the DA’s office stopped prosecuting possession of small amounts of weed. An odd but effective move by our old school tough-on-crime DA. Ironies abound.

This week’s theme song was written by a very young John Hiatt for his 1979 album Slug Line. It was so long ago that he had a full head of hair as well as a unibrow.

We have two versions of Washable Ink for your listening pleasure: the Hiatt original and a cover by the Neville Brothers.

Let’s check if this spilled ink is really washable. Color me skeptical: black, red, or blue.

Do they still call newspaper reporters ink-stained wretches? Probably not but it was swell slang.

Time to ink up and jump to the break. I’m not sure what ink up means in this context, but I’m always talking shit. Y’all should know that by now.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: River Of Life

Elegy For Moss Land by Clarence John Laughlin.

It’s been a noisy week at Adrastos World HQ. The utility company is doing some work on our block: they’ve dug holes and marked off spaces for new gas mains and meters. Here’s hoping they finish soon.

I’ve had the Neville Brothers on my mind since Art’s passing. But he did not write River Of Life; one of the most underrated songs in the Neville Brothers canon. It was written by Cyril Neville, Daryl Johnson, and Brian Stoltz for the band’s 1990 album, Brother’s Keeper.

Here are two versions of this week’s theme song. I dare you not to get up and rock:

Now that we’ve flowed with the river of life, let’s swim to the break. No drowning, please.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Moon Rocks

This Image Should Have Been On The Cover Of Life Magazine by Alan Bean.

History was made 50 years ago today when Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. It was controversial among some at the time for being a waste of money and has become the subject of wackadoo conspiracy theories. I watched the moon landing unfold and I thought it was magnificent; even better than Star Trek or 2001. The truth is not only stranger than fiction, it can be much better. I still think the heyday of the space program is way cool or perhaps even wicked awesome.

This week’s featured image is a painting by the late Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean. It’s based on a picture taken by Buzz Aldrin of Neil Armstrong; hence the epic title. I thought it was high time to give it, uh, new Life.

There are a wide variety of moon songs to choose from. For this week’s theme song, I went with one that’s lunar landing specific. Moon Rocks was written by David Bryne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth for Talking Heads monster hit 1983 album, Speaking In Tongues.

Now that we’ve done a bit of space walking, let’s cut the tether and float to the break.

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John Paul Stevens & Jim Bouton, R.I.P.

You’re not hallucinating. That is indeed a signed John Paul Stevens baseball card. It was created by David Mitchner who mailed it to Justice Stevens during the 2016 World Series. You know, the Cubs’ first championship since 1908. Justice Stevens returned the signed card and the rest is history. The photo of Stevens in Cubs gear dates from 2005 when he threw out the first pitch at a Cubs-Reds game in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

You’re probably wondering why I paired Justice Stevens and pitcher/author Jim Bouton in a tribute. They’re both people I admired who died recently, that’s why. Besides, I’m notorious for my oddball combinations. Stevens and Bouton were both genial, kindly men who loved baseball. It’s time to uncouple this Odd Couple; one that’s almost worthy of the late Neil Simon.

Let’s take them in order of demise. We’ll use the time-honored Odds & Sods device of the New York Times link thingamabob as subject headers/dividers.

 

I failed to pay proper tribute to Jim Bouton last week because of the Wednesday flood and the approach of Whatever That Was Barry. He had a mediocre career highlighted by two fine seasons with the New York Yankees in 1963 and 1964. He blew out his arm in 1965 and by 1969 was trying to make a comeback as a knuckleball pitcher with the expansion Seattle Pilots. The Pilots lasted one year before being sold and moved to Milwaukee where they ditched the awful uniforms and became the Brewers.

1969 was the dividing line in Jim Bouton’s life. It was the year that he recorded the diary entries that would become the sensation that was Ball Four. Bouton was pilloried by the stuffy, ultra-conservative baseball establishment for admitting that ballplayers were human beings. Mickey Mantle drank and played hungover? A huge shocker in 1970 but no surprise to anyone who actually knew the Mick.

Along with Catch-22, Burr, and Breakfast of Champions, Ball Four was my favorite book of that era. Heller, Vidal, and Vonnegut were pretty lofty company for a washed-up pitcher to keep. But all four books were irreverent and hilarious; influences I try to put to good use as a writer.

Teen-age me was thrilled to learn that someone who played my favorite sport was an anti-war liberal with a wicked sense of humor. Ballplayers pretended to be apolitical paragons in those days. Bouton was a breath of fresh air.

One of the best tributes I’ve read to Bouton is by my friend Vince Filak. He focuses on Bouton’s unique voice and exceptional story-telling ability. It’s a helluva good read.

I’ll give Jim Bouton the last word of the segment:

“A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

Let’s move on from a former Yankees/Pilots/Astros/Braves pitcher to a zealous Cubs fan.

John Paul Stevens always maintained that he was a conservative and that SCOTUS had moved so far to the right that he looked like a liberal in contrast. I think of Stevens as the sort of liberal Republican that is largely extinct in 2019.

He grew up in Chicago, which was a town dominated by a corrupt Democratic political machine. The natural thing for an independent minded lawyer was to become a liberal Republican in the tradition of fellow Supremes Charles Evans Hughes, Harlan Stone, and Earl Warren. Stevens’ appointment was by far and away the best thing that Jerry Ford did during his brief presidency.

As a Supreme, Stevens was an independent force with a fervent belief in the rule of law. I think Jeffrey Rosen best summed up Stevens’ credo as a judge:

In our conversation, three consistent themes in his jurisprudence emerged: his belief in the duty of the government to be neutral; the duty of judges to be transparent; and the need for judges to interpret the Constitution in light of the entire scope of its history, including the post–Civil War amendments, rather than stopping in the founding era.

Those are themes that all judges should aspire to but are sadly lacking among today’s conservative justices who are eager to gut precedents they dislike. That’s what John Paul Stevens meant when he called himself a conservative. He wanted to conserve what was best in the law and reform the worst.

Circling back to our baseball theme. As a young lawyer, Stevens was involved in Congressional hearings that addressed baseball’s anti-trust exemption. There’s a swell piece in the archives of the Atlantic about how Stevens changed baseball.

That concludes this odd couple tribute to two men I admired. Jim Bouton and John Paul Stevens made the world a better and livelier place. They will be missed.

Summertime Blues

I usually bitch and moan about the heat on Saturdays. There’s an exception to every rule: the heat has been inescapable and oppressive the last few days. It’s been as hot as I can ever recall since I moved to New Orleans in the Eighties. Our air dish keeps the house nice and cool when it’s 90 but struggles in the heat of the day when it’s over 95. We’re forced to huddle in cooler/smaller enclaves such as the study and guest room when it’s this hot. Cower might be a better word than huddle. It’s too damn hot, y’all.

The heat has got me down but so has the news. It’s the summer of child abuse stories. Notorious super-perv Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested by the feds for assorted disgusting malefactions including child trafficking. He supposedly has bipartisan buddies: the feds should follow the facts and disregard who ends up in the bulls-eye. Let the chips fall, y’all.

A worse example of child abuse is the ongoing babies in cages scandal perpetrated by the Trump regime. The reason it’s worse is that cruelty is the point of this despicable exercise. The regime claims that it’s not that bad, that it’s all fake news, but it’s said with a wink by liars.

I’m not much on soccer but the victory of the American women in the World Cup was uplifting as was this chant:

One could call it beautiful noise for the beautiful game.

The last word goes to Eddie Cochran and the Who:

Saturday Odds & Sods: America

Subway Portrait by Walker Evans.

I spent a lot of time this week researching and writing a piece about the New Orleans newspaper war for the Bayou Brief. It will be dropping in the next few days. That’s why I’m keeping this introduction, well, brief.

This week’s theme song continues the patriotic theme of the week. The left should never have let the right hijack patriotism in the Sixties, which was when Paul Simon wrote America. 1968, the year from hell, to be precise. It was one of many stellar tracks on one of Simon & Garfunkel’s best albums, Bookends.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the S&G original and a brilliant 1971 cover by Yes. It features some of Steve Howe’s finest finger picking and that’s saying a lot.

Now that we’ve counted the cars on the New Jersey turnpike, we’ll jump to the break and bypass Saginaw even though Michigan is nice at this time of year.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: The Monkey Speaks His Mind

Woman and Monkeys by Henri Matisse.

The leading lights of New Orleans culture keep leaving us. This time it was Dave Bartholomew who died at the age of 100. He was best known for his collaboration with Fats Domino as his arranger, co-writer, producer, and band leader. Bartholomew was a formidable trumpeter in his own right. He was also one of the contenders for the title of father of rock and roll. If nothing else, he was present at the creation.

In her tribute to Bartholomew the fabulous New Orleans music writer Alison Fensterstock wrote about some of his solo recordings including this week’s theme song:

But the sides he did record for himself in the ’50s were masterful and diverse, from the clattering Caribbean rhythms of “Shrimp and Gumbo” to the goofy novelty “My Ding-A-Ling” (which Chuck Berry unearthed for a 1972 hit) to the singular grinding blues “The Monkey Speaks His Mind,” a strange fable that questions whether humans, with all their sin, are truly superior among the primates, and which showcases his bellowing, stentorian baritone.

This week’s theme song is best understood as a parable of the civil rights movement. Did that make Dave Bartholomew rock’s own George Orwell? Beats the hell outta me.

The Monkey Speaks His Mind was written and recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1957. It’s been recorded by a variety of artists. We have three versions for your listening pleasure:

It’s time to stop monkeying around and brachiate to the break. There will be a banana for everyone willing to take the plunge.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Every Picture Tells A Story

The Sorrows Of The King by Henri Matisse.

It’s a solemn day in New Orleans: Dr. John’s memorial service and second line are later today. There was already an informal, impromptu second line but this is the real deal. Rest in peace, Mac. We’ll miss you.

The news has been relentlessly bleak of late, which is why I’ve turned my attention to the New Orleans Pelicans success in the recent NBA draft. Zion Williamson seems to be a real game changer. While I’m uncertain if he’ll be the next LeBron James, he may be the next Charles Barkley. We needed some good news after the way Anthony Davis pouted his way out of town. New Pels honcho, David Griffin, took the Lakers to the cleaners in trading away AD and seems to have drafted and traded wisely. This pre-draft tweet sums things up quite well:

Here’s hoping the Zion era doesn’t end like the Baron Davis, Chris Paul or Anthony Davis eras. That concludes the inside New Orleans basketball portion of the Saturday post.

I’m “I remember when Rod Stewart was a respected artist and critics darling” years old. This week’s theme song was the title track of Stewart’s 1971 commercial breakthrough album. Every Picture Tells A Story was written by Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. It’s the opening track of one of the best albums of the 1970’s. Unfortunately, Rod the Mod threw it all way artistically when he moved to Los Angeles and released the shitty “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and other horrendous hits. I hope I didn’t give anyone an earworm.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original and a live medley of Too Bad and Every Picture Tells A Story. The Faces are the backing band in both instances and, as always, they rock hard.

Now that you’ve got the picture, let’s hop into one of those prop planes and fly to the break. I’m reluctant to say jump because I don’t want to bail out on y’all.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Right Place, Wrong Time

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

I finished this post before hearing the terrible news about Our Della Street. I usually apply another layer of polish before publishing but I wasn’t feeling it. If it’s disjointed, so be it. Apologies to our late night Odds & Sods readers, I wanted my Della tribute to be at the top until 8-ish. She would have insisted.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

A wee cool front hit New Orleans this week. It’s still hot but not as muggy. It’s nice to step outside without breaking into an insta-sweat. It’s a minor triumph but we’ll take what we can get. It will be gone just in time for the weekend. So it goes.

The big local story comes from St. Tammany Parish. It used to be country but morphed into white flight suburbia in the late 20th Century. It’s the most Republican parish in the Gret Stet and its residents are wont to lecture us depraved city folk about morals and crime. They should knock it off. Former St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain was arrested this week on rape and incest charges. He spent several nights in the jail he ran for 20 years. Schadenfreude thy name is Adrastos.

I still have the late Dr. John on my mind so this week’s theme song is his biggest hit: Right Place, Wrong Time. He wrote it for his 1973 album In The Right Place, which was something of a New Orleans musical summit meeting. It was produced by Allen Toussaint and The Meters were Mac’s backing band on the album.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a 1996 teevee performance with Eric Clapton.

I’m desitively confused by this song. I actually called it Right Time, Wrong Place when discussing Our Mac with my barber the other day. Mac’s penchant for malaprops seems to be contagious even for a man of my edumaction. Let’s jump to the break before I get even more tongue twisted.

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Gangster Love

I’ve had a lot of fun during the Trump era comparing the Insult Comedian and his minions to a variety of gangster movies and teevee shows: from The Sopranos to The Untouchables to The Godfather. I’ve also written about Trump’s ties to the real Mafia in a post wherein I gave him his wise guy nickname, Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto.

It turns out that one of the most treacherous and blood-stained real life gangsters of all, Whitey Bulger, was an ardent Trump supporter. I’m not surprised: Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts dug W’s war on terror, after all.

NBC News got ahold of some prison era correspondence between Bulger and one of the jurors who convicted him. I am not making this up. Here are some Trump related passages:

In several handwritten letters shared with NBC News, Bulger expressed gushing praise for Trump, offering rave reviews of the president’s foreign policy and combative relationship with the media.

“Trump is tough and fights back instead of bowing down to pressure — and caving in to press!” Bulger wrote in August 2018. “U.S. agrees with him press attacking and his reaction increases his popularity — He has my vote so far.”

“History may show Trump was the man of the hour,” Bulger wrote in a different letter earlier that month. “Feel China respects him and hesitant to try to bully him.”

<SNIP>

The legendary gangster, who was beaten to death inside a West Virginia prison cell last fall, was an ardent Trump supporter and fan of conservative media figures such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, according to the letters shared with NBC News.

“I get some strange mail at times — a grandmother from Kansas — hates Trump wants him ‘impeached,'” Bulger wrote in one letter. “She assumes I hate him? Why Because I’m in prison?”

The missive goes on to reference the allegations that Trump paid off two women with whom he had extramarital affairs. The aging gangster wrote that he believed Trump was a changed man and would never, for instance, engage in a romantic encounter with an intern in the Oval Office.

“My bet is he’s happy with present wife and settled down,” Bulger says in the letter. “No way would he wind up in Oval Office with a Monica Lewinsky — That was a scandal! Same media that attacks Trump would cover up for Bill Clinton.”

Bulger also railed against former special counsel Robert Mueller. An assistant U.S. attorney in Boston in the 1980s, Mueller went on to lead the FBI at a time when it was grappling with a sensational scandal involving agents protecting mob leaders like Bulger.

“Sorry to hear Trump is being boxed in by so many,” Bulger wrote last August.

“Trump is experiencing what Mueller and company can orchestrate,” Bulger said in a different letter from September. “[Mueller] should observe biblical saying – ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'”

I’m not sure why anyone should be surprised that Bulger *hated* the FBI with whom he co-operated for years, then pursued him until his capture in 2011. In his lamster days, he spent some time hiding out in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I wondered if he pretended to be a Saints fan?

Like most modern gangsters, Whitey identified with the political right. The days of Democratic hoodlums like Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky are behind us and I’m fine with that. Why wouldn’t Whitey identify with his fellow gangster, Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto? They had a lot in common even if one of them was a Red Sox fan and the other a Yankee rooter.

It’s a pity that Bulger didn’t live to see this year’s Red Sox visiting the White House controversy. It’s obvious he would have been down with the white boys who went and hard on manager Alex Cora and those who stayed away. They didn’t call him Whitey for nothing.

I have a sudden urge to re-watch, The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s fictionalized version of part of the Whitey Bulger story. What dude wouldn’t love having Jack Nicholson play him? I could have called this post Life Imitates The Departed but chose not to because Whitey Bulger’s story is an epic tale of murder, mayhem, and mendacity. Even Black Mass doesn’t quite do him justice. It was one of the last good movies Johnny Depp made. I reviewed it as part of a genuinely epic 2015 Odds & Sods post. End of self-plug.

Like Speaker Pelosi, I would be thrilled if the Current Occupant emulated his devoted follower, Whitey Bulger, and died in prison. It’s a possibility if he isn’t re-elected in 2020. Let’s make it so.

The last word goes to Stephen Stills with the song that inspired this post title:

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Haven’t Done Nothin’

Der Vogelmensch by Max Ernst

It’s been a good news, silly news week in New Orleans. I’m a good news first person: with the help of Governor Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has secured millions in tourism money to help fix our aging infrastructure. Here’s what I mean by aging infrastructure:

In silly local news, the Krewe of Nyx is planning a summer parade. Just what we needed: a sweaty-n-steamy faux Carnival parade. This is why I call them the krewe of mediocre themes and bad ideas. The only good thing is that they won’t be sweat-rolling on the traditional parade route near Adrastos World HQ. It’s a terrible idea: the allure of Carnival is enhanced by its seasonality. This is like eating oysters in a month without an R. Shorter Adrastos: Nix on Nyx.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. Stevie Wonder wrote You Haven’t Done Nothin’ in 1974 in response to the news of the day: Watergate. That’s right, it’s about Nixon. I’ve used it before but never as an Odds & Sods theme song. Since we’re in a slow-motion constitutional crisis, it works. Just think of Trump instead of Tricky Dick.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Stevie’s original and a 2018 cover by Roger Daltrey.

Now that we’ve trashed talked Tricky-n-Trumpy, let’s jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Back In The High Life Again

Mesas In Shadows by Maynard Dixon

I had a stupid kitchen accident this week. The sink was full-ish so I decided to pour boiling water into an airborne/hand-held colander. I missed and mildly scalded my left hand. It hurt like hell for a day or so but barely qualified as a first degree burn. I did, however, feel like a first degree dumbass. It was not unlike being an honorary Trump.

I just finished reading John Farrell’s fine 2017 biography of Richard Nixon. I learned two positive things about Tricky Dick. First, he broke his arm as a young politician after slipping on the ice outside his DC area home. The break occurred because he held onto his daughter instead of bracing for the fall with his hands. Second, Nixon was a good tipper. He tipped 25% in the late Sixties when 10% when standard and 15% was a big tip. Hell has frozen over: I just said something nice about Nixon.

After last week’s sad theme songs, I decided to elevate the tone a bit. Back In The High Life Again was written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings in 1986. It was a big hit; surely aided by James Taylor’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Winwood’s chirpy original and a mournful interpretation by Warren Zevon, another wry and sardonic guy. We’re everywhere, y’all.

Now I want some Miller High Life, which is my favorite cheap beer. It’s even good enough for my beer snob/home brewer friend Greg. On that note, let’s take a swig of Miller, then jump to the break. Try not to spill any. Wasting beer is a sin.

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IOKIYAR: Gret Stet Of Louisiana Edition

There was a ridiculous flap in Gret Stet politics last week. LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron spoke at a fundraiser for incumbent Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Our old pal Senator John Neely Kennedy went batshit crazy. We present his tantrum  in two parts to capture its full lunacy. First, from an interview with the Zombie-Picayune:

“This is both-teeth-striped-down-to-the-marrow stupid,” Kennedy said in an interview with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune Friday afternoon. “He should not be endorsing Democrats, Republicans, socialists, communists, Hindus…”

It’s the Advocate’s turn to give Neely’s tirade a platform:

“I don’t want to watch LSU football and have to wonder if the coach is a Democrat or Republican. I’m so angry at this,” U.S. Sen. John Kennedy said during a five-minute diatribe on Baton Rouge radio Friday morning – a day after Orgeron introduced Edwards during a breakfast fundraising event. “It is a horrible mistake to politicize LSU and LSU football. I’m stunned that the candidate would even entertain, much less accept, the endorsement.”

What, no cornpone wisdom? A sound bite without a single Neelyism? The real reason that Neely and other GOPers were so upset is that neither of their challengers, Congressman Ralph Abraham and Red Stick tycoon Eddie Rispone, has caught on with the voters. It increasingly looks as if 2015’s dark horse candidate will be a shoo-in for re-election as Gret Stet Governor even without David Vitter as a foil.

It’s time to circle back to the post title. Anyone shocked to learn that Gret Stet GOPers are hypocrites on the subject of LSU football and politics? I would hope not.

Former Tigers head coach Les Miles and former Governor Bobby Jindal were as thick as thieves. Miles attended PBJ’s re-election victory celebration in 2011 as well as a reception after a fundraiser. The Mad Hatter even plugged PBJ’s doomed run for president. I survived these events with my LSU football fandom intact even though my hatred for PBJ is pure; the disgraced politician, not the sammich.

I *almost* dignified the GOP’s “substantive” objections by detailing them but, since Coach O cleared his appearance with the university, I will not. Instead, I’ll remind everyone that: It’s Okay If You’re A Republican:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Get Me Started

My Brother Imitating Scherzo by Andre Kertesz

New Orleans is a city of extremes. We do everything in an outlandish fashion and that includes the weather. I’ve been bitching about the pollen and the need for rain for months, but when it finally rained, it was a deluge. There are times when moderation is a virtue but it’s hard to find in this town. Oh well, you know what they say: “April showers bring the flowers that bloom in May.”

Traffic cameras have been one of the main topics of conversation locally.  Mayor Cantrell campaigned against them. She seems to have changed her mind as well as the rules governing them in school zones. The speed limit is 20 MPH but the city used to cut motorists some slack and didn’t issue tickets to folks within 5 MPH of the limit. They changed the rules without informing the public, which resulted in an angry debate on social media once the cat got out of the proverbial bag. Nobody likes paying $75 for going 3 MPH over the limit, after all.  This debate beats the hell outta talking about murders, mayhem, and the price of Jazz Fest tickets. Btw, the band whose latest iteration I call Finnwood Mac is replacing the Stones at Jazz Fest.

This week’s theme song was written by Rodney Crowell for his 2005 album, The Outsider. Don’t Get Me Started is something I find myself saying frequently in the Trump era. Don’t get me started about Herman Cain on the Fed, y’all:

Now that we’ve shared a rockin’ rant, let’s jump to the break or is that break to the jump? I hope break dancing isn’t involved: I’m not flexible enough to spin about on the ground. I leave such gyrations to young Paul Drake and the dude in the Andre Kertesz photograph above.

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Today On Adrastos’ Obsession With Robert Caro

Regular readers of Saturday Odds & Sods are already aware of my Robert Caro obsession. I usually like post to pieces about and by him there. I thought it was time to let my inner fan boy shine on a school day. I don’t have an apple for the teacher but I do have some unsyrupy thoughts about Caro.

I first heard about Robert Caro from a Gore Vidal review of The Power Broker. I read the book and was enthralled by this, unknown to me, story. As a baseball history buff, I was particularly interested to learn that Robert Moses was one of the reasons the Dodgers left Brooklyn. Walter O’Malley had an inner city Brooklyn site in mind for a new ballpark that would be accessible to public transit. Moses wanted a more car-friendly location and insisted that the Dodgers move to the site where Shea Stadium was later built. O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles instead.

One of the reasons I’m so drawn to Caro’s magisterial Years of Lyndon Johnson series is that he’s such a great storyteller. Who else would talk to LBJ’s high school and college friends as a way of illuminating his style as a politician? A typical biographer/reporter would talk only to the “important people.” I was raised to believe that how one treats the “little people” is more revealing of one’s character. Caro gets that as did David Halberstam before him.

Anyway, Robert Caro recently sat for an interview with David Marchese for the New York Times Magazine. I was particularly interested in how he used Georgia Senator Richard Russell to explain the South and Civil Rights:

So there’s this character, Senator Richard Russell. He’s fascinating because he’s so smart, he’s so learned. In foreign affairs he’s like a consul of Rome. He sees the whole world, you know? But he’s this son of a bitch.

And a racist. Yes. Here’s how I boiled that book down: I said that two things come together. It’s the South that raises Johnson to power in the Senate, and it’s the South that says, “You’re never going to pass a civil rights bill.” So to tell that story you have to show the power of the South and the horribleness of the South, and also how Johnson defeated the South. I said, “I can do all that through Richard Russell,” because he’s the Senate leader of the South, and he embodies this absolute, disgusting hatred of black people. I thought that if I could do Russell right, I wouldn’t have to stop the momentum of the book to give a whole lecture on the South and civil rights. What I’m trying to say is that if you can figure out what your book is about and boil it down into a couple of paragraphs, then all of a sudden a mass of other stuff is much simpler to fit into your longer outline.

Caro declined to be drawn into a discussion of the Trump presidency*. I’m glad: I want him to live to publish the final book in the LBJ series. Discussing Trump is bad for one’s health. Believe me.

While running a search on the NYT web site, I learned that late night funnyman Conan O’Brien shares my obsession with Robert Caro. His dream as a chat show host is to have Caro as a guest. I can’t  resist posting the full NYT link because the image is such a hoot:

Here’s one of many money quotes from the Conan piece:

Mr. O’Brien was insistent that Mr. Caro’s team has been nothing but polite in sending its regrets. In fact, a few years ago, Mr. O’Brien received a signed copy of “The Path to Power” with the inscription: “To Conan O’Brien. From A Fan — Robert A. Caro.”

The gift only confused matters.

“It just cracks me up,” Mr. O’Brien said. “It’s like the White Whale writing Ahab a note, saying, ‘Hey, man. We’ve got to get together. I’m a fan!’”

So, Mr. Caro, be well and finish that book. When it’s done, cut Coco some slack and grant him an interview. Then I can write a post titled When Caro Met Coco.

UPDATE: A pox on me for not googling Caro + Conan. I missed a piece in Vulture wherein we learn that Coco’s dream will come true later this month. Thanks to Mr. Cosmic Ray for the correction.

Tweet Of The Day: Opening Day Edition

I may not be as fanatical a baseball fan as I once was, BUT Opening Day is a big enough deal for me to capitalize it. The tweet comes from historian Michael Beschloss and features the patron saint of the modern Democratic party throwing out the first pitch in 1936:

The Washington Senators beat the Yankees 1-0 on Opening Day, which took place on April 14th. Two of the era’s quirkiest pitchers, Bobo Newson of the Senators and Lefty Gomez of the Yankees, both pitched complete games, which are rarer now than a slow news cycle.

The Senators went on to have had a pretty good season finishing 82-71, good enough for third place in the American League. FDR had an even better year: winning re-election with 60.8% of the  popular vote and 523 electoral votes.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Everybody Takes A Tumble

High Spring Tide by Jack Butler Yeats

It’s time for the annual Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade. This year it takes place on the day before the holiday but at least we got a wee break from Mardi Gras. Parading is hard work, y’all.

As always we’re going to our friends Greg and Christy’s open house to eat, drink, and be merry. The parade is exuberantly disorganized but the party is more fun than a snake down your trousers. It’s so much fun that one year a Leprechaun attended and posed for a picture with our hosts:

This week’s insidiously catchy theme song was written by Mike Scott and Anthony Thistlethwaite  for the Waterboys’ 2007 album Book of Lightning.  We have two versions of Everybody Takes A Tumble for your listening pleasure: the studio recording and a live version from Irish teevee:

Now that we’ve filled our tumblers with Tullamore Dew, it’s time to stumble to the break. I’m not sure if I’m capable of jumping.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Rocky Road

Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain

Carnival was alternately exhausting and exhilarating. I love it but I’m always glad when it’s over, especially when the weather is cold and wet. This year was physically difficult for me as I was in pain for the last week of the season. I ended up on the disabled list and stayed home on Mardi Gras day but I don’t regret not resting on Lundi Gras as you can see from this tweet:

Proteus is one of the “old line” krewes and their den is around the corner from Adrastos World Headquarters. They were indeed as drunk as plutocratic skunks. Watching them set up to roll is one of the pleasures of life inside the parade box. Where else can you watch three fake kings-Proteus, Comus, and Rex-toast one another on the street?

This week’s first theme song was written by Nick Lowe and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke for Nick’s 1990 Party Of One album, which reunited him with his musical partner in crime, Dave Edmunds.

It’s disambiguation time: a different tune with the same title. Our other theme song was written by Steve Tilston but I first heard it done by Fairport Convention. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Fairport live followed by the songwriter.

Now that we’ve traveled down several rocky roads, it’s time to jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Fly Like An Eagle

Women and Birds at Sunrise by Joan Miro

Once again, New Orleans showed the world how to turn adversity into a party. I’m talking about the widespread local boycott of the Super Bowl. It was easy for me. I rarely watch unless I have a rooting interest in one of the teams. I wasn’t down for some of the dumber aspects of “no-call gate” such as claims that the Saints wouldn’t have gone to the big dance after a similar bad call, or that the Rams were cheaters BUT we *wuz* robbed. I blame the league and the referees, not the Rams who lost in one of the dullest Super Bowls in years. Yawn. Brady and Belichick won again. Yawn.

New Orleanians quickly moved from the Super Bowl controversy to an argument over the Krewe of Chewbacchus. It’s a geek/sci-fi parade that sprung up a few years back. I like the idea but hate the execution. I like parades to move quickly and not stall for hours as Chewbacchus invariably does. Yawn.

The head of the krewe styles himself, not as a humble Captain, but as “The Overlord.” He floated a trial balloon that they *might* exploit a loophole in city ordinances and allow commercial sponsorship. That’s a big NOLA no-no: the krewes, not corporations, throw a party for the city and its citizens. The “Overlord” quickly crawfished and claimed he was just joking but I know a deflated trial balloon when I see one. Pop goes the geek weasel.

This week’s theme song was written by Steve Miller and was the title track of his1976 hit album. The Fly Like An Eagle single was a monster hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard charts.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the original SMB hit, a live version with guitarist Joe Satriani, and a cover by my homeys, the Neville Brothers:

Now that we’ve soared like eagles, let’s jump to the break, Hopefully, there will be a tailwind so we won’t break our tail feathers or is that bend? Beats the hell outta me.

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