Category Archives: Television

Saturday Odds & Sods: Name Of The Game

Clown at a diner on Thanksgiving in Reno, Nevada by Thomas Hoepker.

The New Orleans weather yo-yo continues as temperatures rise and fall. Making matters worse is that it’s happening in the middle of the night. We’ve had more than a few days where the high or low was at the stroke of midnight. Oy, just oy.

The weird weather has led to some weird dreams. The most puzzling one involved staying with two friends who were married in my dream but don’t know one another IRL. They refused to change bathroom lightbulbs or allow me to do so. I am not a fan of showering in the dark. I did it after Hurricane Ida but didn’t like it. I have no idea what this dream means but it’s sufficiently weird to share.  Oh well, what the hell.

Our Thanksgiving was pleasant and low key. We didn’t get the turkey dinner at the drug store because such a thing is impossible in 2021. We had a quiet dinner at home then visited some friends we hadn’t seen since the lockdown. It was an exercise in Gamalian normalcy. Not bad for a guy who has developed a crowd phobia. It’s a far cry from the rock and roll infused days of my wayward youth.

This week’s theme song was written in 1972 by Pete Ham for Badfinger’s Straight Up album. It marked Ham’s emergence as a songwriting force to be reckoned with. Sadly, Pete Ham killed himself just three years later. It was a great loss.

We have two versions of Name Of The Game for your listening pleasure: the Badfinger original and a recent cover by Susanna Hoffs and Aimee Mann.

It’s time for another trip to disambiguation city. Bryan Ferry wrote The Name Of The Game for his 1987 album Bete Noire.

Now that we’ve pondered names and games, let’s jump to the break,

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Into The Lens

Noir et blanches by Man Ray.

New Orleans weather is as variable during the fall as it is unchanging in the summertime. It’s been cold and dry then warm and muggy, but I have not resorted to air-conditioning. So it goes.

The Orleans Parish runoff election is scheduled for December 11th. I’m supporting an old school NOLA pol in one race and a reformer who’s running against an old school NOLA pol in another. Sometimes I even confuse myself.

I voted to reelect Jay Banks as my district city councilmember. He ran first in the primary despite all the mud thrown at him by his “reformer” opponents. They lost me forever when I saw that they’d rented a billboard together to plug their primary candidacies. Collusion is a bad look.

In the Sheriff’s race, longtime incumbent Marlin Gusman just missed winning in the first round. He’s a terrible sheriff but an excellent politician. I’m voting for his opponent, Susan Hutson, but she looks like a long shot because of all the local political muscle massed against her.

Like many others on the left, Team Hutson seems to underestimate how conservative many older black people are. When I was a neighborhood leader, the most rabid people about crime were elderly black folks. They’re also comfortable with Gusman who is favored to stay in office despite all the outside money being spent on behalf of his opponent.

This week’s theme song was written by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes in 1980. It began life with the title I Am A Camera and was intended for the Buggles second album. Then Horn and Downes joined Yes, and it became Into The Lens, the first track of side two of the Drama LP.

We have the song in both incarnations for your listening pleasure. I prefer the Yes version because of Howe’s guitar and Squire’s bass, but Downes excels on keyboard on both versions.

There’s an oddball link between our theme song and this week’s Friday Cocktail Hour. Cabaret was based on John Van Druten’s 1951 play I Am A Camera, which in turn was adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel Goodbye To Berlin. It doesn’t get much odder than that.

Before we nod off like Lee Miller in the May Ray featured image, let’s jump to the break.

Continue reading

SWV: Omnibus Does Dino

This week’s Sunday Morning Video follows up on yesterday’s review of Dino by Nick Tosches. It’s a BBC documentary about the life and times of the world’s most introverted public extrovert. The Omnibus in the post title is a news show, not public transportation.

Saturday Odds & Sods: How Will I Ever Be Simple Again

Two Comedians by Edward Hopper

April 2020 was Richard Thompson/Edward Hopper month Odds & Sods-wise. I couldn’t resist reviving the combination for this week’s entry. They go together like peas and carrots.

Today is Dr. A’s birthday as well as municipal election day. I haven’t been that electorally engaged this cycle. Perhaps it’s the deluge of flyers we’re gotten in the mail. New Orleans pols save their low blows for direct mail. My policy is to disbelieve everything in them. I call them lying flyers.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson in 1986 for the Daring Adventures album. It was the first RT album to be produced by Mitchell Froom. Does that make it a Froom With A View? Beats the hell outta me.

We have three versions of How Will I Ever Be Simple Again for your listening pleasure: the studio original, Emmylou Harris, and RT and Emmylou live.

The stars have aligned with a second RT/EH combination. I wonder if Emmylou likes the art of Edward Hopper. Another mystery to ponder.

Now that we’ve simplified our lives, let’s complicate them by jumping to the break or is that breaking to the jump? Beats the hell outta me.

Continue reading

The 19th Avenue Solution

19th Avenue San Francisco

There is an avenue in the city of San Francisco that provides a shining example of confrontations old and new, not only in The City That Knows How but for the rest of the country.

It’s called 19th Avenue.

19th Avenue cuts through the west side of the city, what is sometimes called The Outside Lands, from the southern border to Golden Gate Park. Though you stay on the same street, it magically changes names to Park Presidio when you exit the park and until you get to the Golden Gate Bridge on ramp. Thus it is the main connector from San Mateo County (just south of San Francisco) via Highway 280 to Highway 101, the bridge and over to Marin County.

That’s right, there is no freeway between the south end of The City and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s one big surface street. Not that they haven’t tried to build a freeway.

Back in the 1950’s when freeway construction was all the rage in California there were plans to build a connector freeway above 19th Avenue to make it simpler for those in the south to get to and across the bridge or vice versa. Those living in the neighborhood of 19th Avenue we firmly against it. Having seen what happened to the areas where freeways had intruded elsewhere in the city and the attendant lowering of not just home values but quality of life values they wanted no part of a freeway.

This was not a Democrat versus Republican thing or a liberal versus conservative thing or even a Downtown SF versus The Outside Lands thing. This was the people living in the area who were saying “Why is our home less important than moving people from outside the southern end of The City to outside the northern end?” versus the forces of progress saying “The state has a vested interest in moving people and goods as quickly and efficiently as possible”.

So what happened? You already know there is no freeway above 19th Avenue, so did the homeowners of the late 1950’s win? Well, sorta. Actually what they did was something so alien today that I sometimes have to convince kids (and by that I mean anyone under 40) that it was possible.

The two sides compromised.

The freeway wasn’t built. But 19th Avenue got a unique makeover of sorts. Just after the Golden Gate Bridge was built the street was widened to accommodate the greater flow of traffic heading to the bridge so it was ready to deal with the volume of traffic. But the state wanted traffic that didn’t get stopped for traffic lights and there are give or take about 25 cross streets, each with a traffic light, along the route.

The first part of the compromise was that the state had The City change the timing on the traffic lights. If you got onto 19th Avenue and maintained a 35mph pace all the way down it, you never got caught at a red light. Go too fast you have to stop. Go too slow you have to stop. Hit it just right, you zipped along without a stop. A freeway without building a freeway.

The second part of the compromise was that in order to accomplish this, the north and south bound lights had a longer than normal “green” section which of course meant that the lights for all the cross streets had longer than normal “red” sections. For the most part those living there didn’t care because they understood that sitting at a red light a bit longer was better than having a monster freeway drowning out the sun.

Don’t compromise yourself by not finishing what you started. Click below:

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Bluebird

Toucan by Henri Rousseau.

It’s cold enough in New Orleans that I broke down and turned on the central heat. We’ve been making do with space heaters and extra blankets. I hate the burning dust smell when the unit is first switched on. It usually gives me a headache and it happened again. Oh well, what the hell.

Sunday is a Saints home game against the arch-rival Atlanta Falcons. A friend gave us his tickets so I’m going. It’s the first real crowd I’ve been in since the Cursed Carnival of 2020. I’m nervous but vaccines or negative COVID tests are required. The mask mandate has been lifted here but I plan to mask up like Zorro. I’ll leave the saber at home for obvious reasons. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

This week’s featured image is a Toucan by French primitive artist Henri Rousseau. This week’s theme song is about a different bird altogether. Bluebird was written in 1967 by Stephen Stills as a follow-up single to Buffalo Springfield’s monster hit, For What It’s Worth. It was an Odds & Sods theme song last year, FWIW.

There are many swell versions of Bluebird out there. We’re showcasing four: the Buffalo Springfield original, the James Gang with Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, and Los Lobos.

Now that we’ve been mesmerized by the depth of her eyes, let’s join hands and jump to the break.

Continue reading

Sacked On His Own Pretense

Aaron Rodgers

Did I do something wrong??!!

I’m still in a post wedding state of unaccustomed happiness. The snark will probably return next week. In the mean time this story came across my radar a couple of days ago and at least got the deeply buried snark vibe going a bit.

In the past few years my involvement with the National Football League has grown dimmer and dimmer. Can’t tell you exactly when it started, maybe when routine quarterback sacks were turned into occasions for dance recitals. My high school coach always said not to celebrate anything on the field, it makes it look like it’s the first time you did it. At any rate my passion for the game has ebbed to the point of total disinterest.

But this is America, where the NFL owns a day of the week (and is trying to buy another one) so it is hard to totally discount the organization. Like it or not you, as a member of the American public, can not help but be aware of at least some of the league’s goings on. Television networks, either those who currently show the games or those currently trying to get the rights to show the games, will make sure of that.

And so we come to what is now being referred to as the “Aaron Rodgers situation”.

For those who don’t know, Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. You might better know him as an insurance pitchman or a wanna be Jeopardy host. Or you might know him as the guy who dumped Olivia Munn for Shailene Woodley, a move which, in my opinion,  makes his judgement suspect.

Wednesday he tested positive for COVID. And if that wasn’t bad enough, his positive test brought the entire NFL under a viral microscope.

You see Rodgers earlier in the year had been asked by a reporter if he had been vaccinated. His reply was that he was “immunized”. The reporter, and thus the public he was feeding information to, took that to mean Rodgers had gotten the jab. Turns out he hadn’t gotten jabbed. Instead he claimed to have gotten an “alternative treatment”, a treatment he petitioned the league to accept as the same as vaccination. To their credit (and this is likely the only time I’ll use that phrase in the context of the NFL) the league said they would not.

Yet the league allowed Rodgers to act as if he were vaccinated. Vaccinated players don’t have to wear masks on the sidelines, can be within six feet of others, and generally act the way they would have acted pre-COVID. Unvaccinated players must be COVID tested nearly daily and basically follow all procedures that were in place before the vaccines became available. Rodgers has been seen prowling the sidelines sans mask and in close contact with other players and coaches. Again, reporters all did interviews up close and personal with him while admittedly unvaccinated players did their interviews from six feet away or even over Zoom. And why not, he had told them he was “immunized”.

All of this came crashing down after his post Halloween party (where he dressed as John Wick) COVID test showed him positive. Hope Shailene enjoyed her Keanu Reeves fantasy night.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: In The Midnight Hour

Max Schreck as Nosferatu.

It’s been chilly the last few days in New Orleans; not Vermont or Minnesota chilly but it will do. Of course, we were subjected to a helluva storm before things cooled off. Cool air hitting muggy air tends to do that. The light show accompanying the storm would have been spectacular if it wasn’t so scary. I jumped a few time in response, but we didn’t lose power. It had to happen.

This week’s theme song was written by Wilson Pickett and Steve Cropper in 1965. It became a monster hit on both the R&B and pop charts shortly thereafter. It remains a classic as well as perfect for this feature, which goes live every Saturday at midnight.

We have three versions of In The Midnight Hour for your listening pleasure: the Pickett original as well as covers by The Jam and Roxy Music.

Now we’ve that waited til the midnight hour, let’s jump to the break. I suspect more music awaits us on the other side. Go ahead and jump.

Continue reading

The Threat Set

During the Trump regime my cable news habit was out of control. Teevee news has a visceral impact on viewers, and I felt it all too often. The only MSNBC show I watch regularly now is The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell who I recently called the last sane person on cable news. Lawrence is a calm and cerebral host who’s there to feed your brain, not your gut.

I’ve noticed lately how many stories involve threats, mostly of violence. It’s particularly dangerous to be an election official, a school board member, or a federal judge right now. There are so many threats that it’s hard to discern credible ones. This is some serious shit.

One of my specialties as a pundit is handing out nicknames. I’m running the phrase the Threat Set up the flagpole to see who salutes it. Not really. I tend to throw nicknames against the wall and see which ones stick. I think this one will stick because it evokes the Jet Set. The Impeached Insult Comedian, with his private plane and past patronage of Studio 54, qualifies as a member of the Jet Set. Few of his supporters do.

Back to the matter at hand. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said this about the Threat Set when she testified before the Senate Rules Committee this week:

“Two weeks after the election, armed protesters gathered outside my home and chanted, Katie, come out and play. We`re watching you.

I never expected that holding this office would result in far right trolls threatening my children, threatening my husband`s employment at a children`s hospital or calling my office, saying I deserve to die and asking, what is she wearing today? So she`ll be easy to get.

But what concerns me is near constant harassment faced by the private servants who administer our elections. We`re seeing high turnover among election staff and I fear that many more will reach a breaking point and decide that this line of public service is no longer worth it.”

As a woman, Hobbs is subjected to gross forms of harassment. The “Katie come out to play” thing sounds like something out of a Steven King novel. It’s something that this guy might say:

Image by Michael F.

Federal judges handling Dipshit Insurrection cases are feeling the heat as well:

A district judge said on Friday that defendants in Jan. 6 cases who push the conspiracy theory that the election was stolen are inciting threats to judges presiding over insurrection cases.

D.C. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said that he and other judges involved in Jan. 6 trials “are getting all kinds of threats and hostile phone calls” from people who “buy in on this proposition … that somehow the election was fraudulent.”

I’m relieved to hear that Trumpers aren’t gathering outside his house chanting, “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie.”

On a more serious note, this has got to stop. Threats that used to be laughable must be taken seriously because of the current political climate.

MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance had this exchange with Lawrence on The Last Word last night:

VANCE: You know, the distinction between just the very small number of federals judges who were tragically killed in the last century and the attack this century on a judge`s family is that those stemmed primarily from people who were upset about their individual cases or family members` cases.

What`s so troubling about the era that we`re in right now in Judge Walton`s comments is this is about people with a political agenda.

And those are the sort of risks that judges face in countries where cartels have influence or in the Philippines or even in Afghanistan, where two women judges were killed earlier this year.

The risk — and I`m not saying, for instance, that Donald Trump is directly responsible, but it`s the rhetoric and the level of political divide in this country that can fuel troubled people towards attacks that`s so very risky and troubling.

O`DONNELL: Well, I would say that Donald Trump is responsible for any attack on any federal judge who`s handling any of these January 6th cases, as the judge was talking about the threats are pouring in against them.

I agree with Lawrence. The Kaiser of Chaos has fanned the flames of hatred and poured gasoline on the fire like a modern-day Nero.

He may not be legally culpable but he’s morally and politically responsible for the Threat Set acting out his sick and twisted fantasies. Former President* Pennywise is a coward. He incites violence but lacks the courage to participate. He leaves that to the Threat Set.

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a pussy. He should grab himself.

The last word goes to John Prine and Iris DeMent:

Tagged , , , , ,

Squid Game Ain’t Playin’ Around

People lined up in a group wearing green track suits.You may have heard people talk in passing about the South Korean Netflix show “Squid Game.” The first thing you need to know about it is this: The show is very violent.

As in, lots of blood and people being shot in the head. So, based on a few social media reactions I’ve seen, if you don’t like violence, the first “game” is going to be really upsetting to you. There are some people tuning in to see what all the fuss is about and are traumatized.

It’s also a show where the less you know going in, the better. The basics of the show revolve around debt, who is allowed to succeed in a capitalist society (and why), and the deep cruelty inherent in a system that has such visceral winners and losers. The show has some stunning, eye-catching set pieces, often combining childlike silliness with bloody violence, like some more evil incarnate of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The production values, and the acting, are first-rate, especially Lee Jung-jae as the main character, a gambling addict named Gi-Hun.

Some critiques of the show are based around the idea of it wielding familiar concepts about the worst sides of capitalism like a sledgehammer. However, I would argue that I am not sure whether a lot of Americans accept their current political reality, so maybe you do need a sledgehammer to wake them up.

I think the show may have caught on in the United States because South Korea and the U.S. have sort of a parallel running story at the moment. Both of our nations have a personal debt and income inequality crisis. I say “crisis” in the singular form because both debt and income inequality are part of the same problem. This theme appears often in recent South Korean pop culture, from the work of director Bong Joon-Ho (such as “Snowpiercer” and the Oscar-winning film “Parasite”) to the historical/zombie series “Kingdom.” Even the K-Pop group BTS has some biting social commentary underneath a sheen of poppy fluff – “Baepsae” and “Go-Go” are about socioeconomic inequality.

Both of our societies share a lack of a social safety net (one character struggles to afford lifesaving surgery for his mother, a realistic experience to many in both nations). “Squid Game” doesn’t offer solutions, something that it is criticized for, but to be honest, it’s not really up to the show to give those solutions. This is more of a vent of frustration.

You can feel this when a small group of Americans shows up in the latter half of season 1. Like in many Korean films and shows, the Americans are almost cartoonishly evil buffoons. On one hand, it’s a little over the top and nearly derails the show, but on the other, it’s a fascinating view of how we’re seen by some in the rest of the world. There is some real anger in this portrayal of goofy malevolence.

But in the end, “Squid Game” is a damning reflection of the current Korean society, which is in turn reflected by our own American system of winners and losers and how it is defended. I couldn’t help but think what the reaction of our own country would be if such a horrifying game was uncovered. Without giving too much away (again, better to go in with little knowledge of what this is all about), I could very easily see a portion of the U.S. public responding to such horrors with “Well, you know what? Maybe those people shouldn’t have got themselves into that situation!”

Because when it comes to the unfortunate and their suffering, our preferred game is the Blame Game.

The last word goes to the afore-mentioned BTS (hey, not my cup of tea either but remember what their fans did last year).

 

Tagged , , ,

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wild World

Hirondelle Amour by Joan Miro.

We’re gearing up for a municipal election in New Orleans and I’m disinterested at this moment. One reason is that two of the major offices, mayor and one at large city council seat, have pre-determined outcomes. Mayor Teedy will be reelected as will Council President Helena Moreno. I’m resigned to the former and pleased about the latter, but my level of interest is not high right now. Oh well, what the hell.

We received letters this week informing us that we won’t be voting at the Catholic school where we’ve voted since Katrina. I’m old school and still prefer casting my ballot on election day. Sorry, Shapiro. Instead, we’ll be voting at the former HQ of NOPD’s second district. I wonder if we’ll get to see the former holding cells. Beats the former hell outta me.

This week’s theme song was written by Cat Stevens for his 1970 album Tea For The Tillerman. In addition to being his commercial breakthrough, the album title inspired several Tea For The Tillerson posts in the early days of the Trump regime. It’s a pity that Rex hasn’t spilled any tea about the man he called a “fucking moron” when he was secretary of state.

We have three versions of Wild World for your listening pleasure: the Cat Stevens original as well as covers by Jimmy Cliff and Maxi Priest:

Oh baby baby it’s time to jump to the break.

Continue reading

Fool Me Once

Dopesick Cast

There is a terrific new TV series on Hulu right now called DOPESICK. It’s the story of the OxyContin plague that still continues to plague the American public. Told from many viewpoints the audience gets to see the machinations of the manufacturer Purdue Pharmaceutical and it’s owners the Sackler family as they scurry to create “the greatest drug ever”, the effects on one particular woman who becomes addicted, the Justice Department’s two hotshot prosecutors who go after the manufacturer, a DEA agent, the sales reps for Purdue and one coal country doctor who is initially hesitant about the drug then becomes a spokesperson for it before he realizes how devastating and deadly the drug truly is. The doctor is played by Michael Keaton and for the first time in many years I was able to watch a performance by him and not half expect to hear him say “I’m Batman”.

Also Richard Sackler, the head of Purdue Pharma is played by Michael Stuhlberg who is the greatest actor on the planet today and if you don’t know who he is that just proves how great an actor he is. He’s played real life characters before, from Lew Wasserman to Edward G. Robinson to Arnold Rothstein to Richard Clarke. He brings a bit of each one to this performance.

OK, so that’s enough of an ad for Hulu. Let’s talk COVID vaccine hesitancy.

It’s been bandied about in the media that African Americans have been reluctant to vaccinate because of doubts and worries about the vaccine. Many in the community see it as just another example of the government using them as human guinea pigs. They have a justifiable right to that fear, inspired in no short part by the Tuskegee Experiments of the mid to late 20th century where black men were unknowingly inoculated with syphilis to see how the disease progresses in the human body. I understand that fear, especially when it’s then boosted by the anti-vaxxer crowd.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

What I’ve had a hard time understanding is lower class and poor whites who are against the vaccine. Where did that come from? Yeah I know, Faux News and Repugnicant politicians are the easy ones to blame, especially when they sow doubt in the general population as to the vaccine’s efficacy and safety while being first in line to get the jab. But lower class and poor people are the ones least able to afford getting sick in general and specifically in the case of COVID. They should have been at the front of the line demanding access to a FREE ounce of prevention. Instead they were willing to take their chances with non-vaccination and the possibility of getting a preventable deadly disease.

And here’s where we get back to Purdue Pharma, the Sacklers, and OxyContin. Continue reading

A Sisterhood Of Lies: Showtime’s Buried

I grew up in a planned suburban community south of San Francisco. Foster City was the brainchild of real estate developer T Jack Foster. The idea was to build a community from scratch. My family were among the pioneers. Foster wanted to be the William Levitt of the West Coast and he succeeded to some extent.

Like the Talking Heads song, Heaven, Foster City was a “place where nothing happens.” Cue early musical interlude:

That changed in 1969 when an 8-year-old girl named Susan Nason went missing. Her body was eventually discovered near the Crystal Springs Reservoir some 11 odd miles from Foster City. After an initial flurry of activity, the case went cold for 20 years. Enter Eileen Franklin Lipsker who accused her firefighter father George of kidnapping and murdering her childhood bestie.

That’s the story behind the new Showtime true crime docuseries Buried in a nutshell. It hit close to home for me both literally and figuratively. I recall my father joining the search for the missing child and my mother taking food to the Nason home. My mom knew everyone in Foster City at that point: she founded the local Newcomers club and was later a successful realtor.

I was acquainted with George Franklin Jr. He was a shy kid, so I didn’t know him well but occasionally he’d turn up at the park for our pickup baseball games. I don’t think he was very good. Neither was I. I was the klutzy son of an athletic father but made up for it with enthusiasm. George Jr. was quiet and subdued. I know why now.

Looking back, I’m proud of my parents. They didn’t panic or stop me from roaming our community. We were all free-range children back then. Besides, the Nason kidnapping was an anomaly, the town returned to being a sleepy suburban burg shortly thereafter.

The Franklins were a large and wildly dysfunctional family. Buried presents credible allegations of George Sr being a violent drunk who beat his wife and children. There are also allegations of sexual abuse that are tangled up in the lies told by Eileen and Janice Franklin. Both sisters lied so often about so many subjects that it’s hard to know what to believe. Suffice it to say that George Franklin was a bad guy.

We’re not supposed to try defendants just for being bad people. We try them for specific offenses. That’s why the Franklin case eventually collapsed under the weight of what could be called a sisterhood of lies.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Art For Art’s Sake

Ambiguous Figures by Max Ernst.

There are rumors of a cold front later this morning. It’s really a cool front but cold front is the technical term and I’m a stickler for something or other. I’m just looking forward to not running the air-conditioner.

We’ve been talking Carnival in New Orleans. We all want it to happen but it’s unclear when it will be safe to cavort in the streets with strangers. Perhaps we should consult with Laurence Olivier’s character in Marathon Man:

Is It Safe Dustin Hoffman GIF by Top 100 Movie Quotes of All Time - Find & Share on GIPHY

Beats the hell outta me, Larry.

The City is allowing the annual Halloween parade for tourists to roll. It’s called the Krewe of Boo and this year it’s going to serve as an experiment into public gatherings. Contact tracing will be involved. If things go well, the chances of Carnival 2022 happening increase. If not, stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart for 10cc’s 1975 album, How Dare You. That’s what Dustin Hoffman should have said to Olivier.

Here’s Art For Art’s Sake, money for God’s sake:

Graham Gouldman trivia time. He also wrote this wildly successful Hollies hit:

Let’s pick up our umbrellas and jump to the break.

Continue reading

Wanna Bet On It?

Online Sports Betting

If you’ve been watching the baseball playoffs you’ve been inundated with ads for gambling websites. Oh, sorry, I mean gaming websites that allow casual fans to compete for pots of money based on correctly predicting who would win, by how much, how many total points would be scored, and many other aspects of the game.

But according to them that’s not gambling.

I’m not going to name the sites since I prefer they at least spend some of their profits on paying for advertising and they ain’t giving me any of it. And they do pay a lot. Watch an hour of a playoff game and you will likely see three ads for one particular site, plus there will be some banter (no doubt paid for) between the announcers about said site or the bets you the viewer can place. And make no mistake, you can place bets on just about anything that happens in a game; whether the next pitch is a curve ball or the next batter will hit a line drive or the batter after him will hit a fly ball to the right side that is caught by the shortstop who is playing over by second base because of a shift and will the team in the field continue to employ a shift for the next batter.

All from the comfort and ease of your living room through the miracle of cell phone technology.  What hath Steve Jobs wrought?

And if you thought “wait a minute, I thought sports betting was illegal everywhere but Nevada” you haven’t been paying attention to the Supreme Court. Three years ago the court in a pretty near unanimous ruling said the federal government had no place in preventing states from allowing sports betting. If Iowa wants to let their farmers bet on Hawkeye football who are the feds to tell them no? Interstate commerce and all that.

Once that ruling was announced the floodgates opened. All parties wanted their piece of what everyone knew would be a huge pie. The sports leagues, the statistics companies, the cell phone companies, the television networks, and of course the gambling sites. Sports leagues, which for years ran away from anything that even suggested there was gambling going on involving their games, suddenly were partnering with betting sites to make sure they got their cut. ESPN, having already purchased Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website a few years earlier, poised themselves to be the premier statistician for the new age of gambling. And of course all the networks became even more invested in sports programming. After all, having a money interest in the outcome of every play is a powerful incentive for the viewer to continue watching even during the commercials.

But it is the leagues, and through them the players, who have the greatest interest in fans putting a few bucks down on The Bucks. The cut from the gambling sites will more than offset any drop off in attendance or even, heaven forbid, a drop in their rights fees from television or radio. And the players see revenue from gambling as a piece of the pie they have a right to. This coming winter’s negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players over The Basic Agreement (the rules all clubs and players must have in their contracts) might very well come down to how much of a cut the players get from the gambling sites. After all, it’s their actual performances that are being bet on. Which brings up the issue of whether those performances or even the statistics that accrue from those performances are the intellectual property of the individual players or of the teams they play for or of the league as a whole.

So everyone is gonna make money, what’s the downside?

Continue reading

These Dogs Are Not Dogged By Stereotypes

Four native teens hanging out in front of their house

The kids of Reservation Dogs plot their next move in a quest for California.

My Native blood comes from my father’s side of the family. His education about Native ways was supplemented by visits to my grandmother a few times a year. She married a white man who was a terrible, abusive alcoholic, and in many ways, I feel like this was the entire relationship between Natives and non-Natives in America in microcosm. She loved him despite his many faults (although I would argue my grandfather had pretty much no redeeming qualities, unlike America – we have pretty good food, for example).

One of the things I learned from them was how deeply full of shit our country was about Native history, and how terrible portrayals of Natives are in the media. These portrayals have greatly clouded the average American’s perspective of Indigenous people. When I was on a powwow drum for several years, I experienced this first-hand. We’d get asked questions like “why don’t I hear you do the DUM-dum-dum DUM-dum-dum DUM-dum-dum” and we’d have to explain nicely that’s a movie thing, not a real Native drum song. People would sometimes get offended because that’s what the colonialist does when the conquered question the narrative. We understood these were people raised on movies featuring wild Indians woo-woo-wooing and Rock Hudson speaking pidgin English, but it was frustrating.

But recently, we’ve seen an improvement in Native-related media, with non-Native directors taking steps to make things right, and Native voices creating their own media. A great new example of this is the FX/Hulu show “Reservation Dogs.”

Reservation Dogs follows the story of four teenagers, Elora Danan, Bear, Willie Jack, and Cheese, growing up on an Oklahoma reservation and dreaming of a new life in California. This dream leads them to commit crimes to pay for their escape, including a heist of a potato chip truck in the opening episode. The show is historic in that it has an all-Indigenous writers room and directing staff. It is also extremely funny.

The stars Paulina Alexis (Willie Jack), Lane Factor (Cheese), Devery Jacobs (Elora) and D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai (Bear) are relative unknowns, but there are some familiar faces. Veteran actor and American treasure Gary Farmer plays the elderly relative of one of the kids who tries to sell 15-year-old weed in a world where pot is legal and much better. Zahn McClarnon (you may know him from the TV series Fargo and Westworld) is excellent as a tribal police officer, and standup comic Bill Burr is wonderful in a dramatic role playing coach-turned-driving-instructor who helps Elora deal with a recent trauma.

The comedy is classic Native humor and a good introduction to that world. Real-life Native rappers Lil Mike and Funny Bone are a delight as two bicycle-riding guys who sort of serve as a hip-hop Greek chorus, but the real comic weapon is Dallas Goldtooth as the “Unknown Warrior.” The Unknown Warrior is a spirit guide to Bear, who meets him at first whenever he is knocked unconscious. You initially see the spirit guide as a stereotypical warrior astride a war pony, but you soon learn he’s kind of a goof. He died at Little Big Horn, but not in a noble way (a rather ridiculous way, in fact). The next time Bear encounters him, you hear him war-whoop and then you see him urinating next to a dumpster.

Trust me, these are jokes at your expense, White Person, because white stereotypes of Native Americans are a long-time deep source of humor for the Indigenous community. But they’re not mean-spirited, just funny because the odds are good that in the hands of a white showrunner, this character would fit the Noble Savage stereotype. But he certainly doesn’t.

Other aspects of modern Native life, such as reservation health clinics, are covered in the show, and there are also some nods to Native mythology (the episode that included the Deer Woman was sublime and Kaniehtiio Horn was born to play that role).

Overall, the show is excellent, likely to make some top 10 best shows of the year lists, and is currently available on Hulu. And the good news is it has been renewed for a second season. What better day to begin streaming it than today, Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

The last word goes to Native singer-songwriter Anne Humphrey, who packs more Native history in one song than most hear in 12 years of school:

Tagged , , , , ,

Saturday Odds & Sods: People Are Strange

Twin Sisters by Diane Arbus.

Things are slowly returning to normal in post-Ida New Orleans. The trash problem seems to have abated somewhat, but there’s still a lot of tree and construction debris about. It’s time to take the debris out of Debrisville.

I usually only have a Spring allergy problem, but that’s no longer true. I suspect it has something to do with the dust in the air after the storm. Whatever it is, I wish it would relent. Achoo.

I’m getting my Pfizer booster shot at noon today. Unlike Gary Cooper in High Noon, I won’t beg for help. I can take a jab with the best of them.

This week’s theme song was written by Jim Morrison and Robbie Krieger for the Doors’ 1967 album Strange Days. It was originally credited to the whole band. That’s what hippies did; not that Morrison was a hippie. He was one of the original goths.

We have two versions of People Are Strange for your listening pleasure: the Doors original and a cover by Echo & the Bunnymen from the 1987 movie, The Lost Boys.

That was almost as strange as the Diane Arbus featured image. Those twins have always given me the heebie jeebies.

Now that I’ve creeped you out, let’s join arms and jump to the break.

Continue reading

Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces Of Billy Milligan

Netflix’s original programming is a mixed bag. What they do best is true crime. Netflix’s latest true crime docuseries is one of the weirdest and most disturbing yet, Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces Of Billy Milligan. It tells the twisted tale of serial rapist Billy Milligan who initially claimed to have ten alternate personalities. He later upped the ante to 24. Many are skeptical of Milligan’s claims. I am among them.

I vaguely remembered the Billy Milligan saga. It was a sensational news story of a male Sybil. Milligan made Sybil look like a piker: she only had 16 alters. Of course, she was played by Sally Field on teevee, and Billy’s story has yet to become a feature film as we learned in the final installment of this 4-part series. Milligan and his people got greedy and wanted $1.5 million for the film rights. James Cameron and Fox were only willing to pay $250K. So much for Leo DiCaprio playing this mook.

The story began in 1977 when convicted rapist Billy Milligan was arrested for raping 3 Ohio State students. Not long after his arrest, Milligan’s alters started popping up: a snooty Brit named Arthur claimed to run the show.

The alter that set off my bullshit detector was Ragen who was allegedly Yugoslavian. It was later established that Ragen spoke gibberish instead of Serbo-Croatian. Making things weirder was the claim that a female alter named Adalana was the rapist.

The case caused a sensation and Dr. Cornelia Wilbur was summoned to help the Ohio shrinks looking into Milligan’s claims. Dr. Wilbur had treated Sybil, which made her a rock star in the psychiatric firmament. Her expert testimony helped Milligan beat the rap with an insanity plea.

Milligan was in and out of various state mental hospitals for the next 10 years. Sometimes, he was under the care of doctors who bought his story, other times by skeptics. Some of the most interesting talking heads were those who knew him during that period. One of the attendants described the staff as split down the middle on Milligan’s 24 faces. Most of them never met a Milligan alter.

Milligan’s weird celebrity gave him a special status while institutionalized: he cooperated on a book project with Daniel Keyes. Keyes was one of the most gullible true believers who bought every detail that Milligan was selling.

Milligan was suspected of sexually assaulting some patients during his time in the Ohio system. The women later recanted their claims, but it’s unclear if they were capable of consenting. The filmmakers don’t go into that.

Milligan eventually escaped from his commitment and led authorities on a wild goose chase across the country. He was aided by his brother and a deeply gullible friend. Milligan is suspected of having murdered a man he was conning, but there was insufficient evidence to charge him. He was the luckiest unlucky man I’ve ever heard of.

The filmmakers present both sides but lean in the direction of skepticism as does Milligan’s sister, Kathy Preston. She’s the most interesting talking head in the series. She wants to believe her brother’s story but agrees that much of it makes no sense. That doesn’t matter now: Billy Milligan died in 2014.

I agree with Dr. Alan Jacobs who views the diagnosis of what was then called multiple personality disorder as medical trend hopping. MPD was the diagnosis du jour. I think the disorder exists, but it can be faked by a clever con man such as Billy Milligan. He was also a talented artist as you can see from the featured image, which purportedly depicts his alters.

Here’s the trailer:

One of the most disturbing things about the Milligan case is how the psychiatrists minimized his crimes. Rape is still not taken seriously enough, but then many thought of it as a sex crime, not a violent crime. We’re not there yet, but we’ve made progress. A serial rapist should have spent time in jail not become a celebrity.

Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces Of Billy Milligan was produced by French filmmakers who miss some of the nuances of American life. They also never mention the impact the Hinckley verdict had on the insanity defense. Having said that, I give it 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B.

The last word goes to The Who:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Gallery

I’m on the record as a Vincent Price fan. I posted a top ten list of his movies last fall.

One of Price’s greatest attributes as an actor was his beautiful speaking voice. He put that voice to good use on this album that featured his great passion: art.

I couldn’t unearth any clips from this album, so here’s Price introducing Sherlock Holmes on PBS’ Mystery series:

The Many Saints Of Newark

We begin with Sunday dinner at the Sopranos. The baby is Christopher who is a bit afraid of his Uncle Tony. Does he know something that nobody else does? Beats the hell outta me. I’d be more afraid of Livia yelling in my ear if I was Baby Chris.

As our readers know, I’m a hardcore Sopranos fan. I even watched season 1 for the umpteenth time to prepare for the movie. I am not, however, the kind of Sopranos fan that spends their spare time speculating about the series finale: I think it’s brilliant and don’t care if the Anthonys were killed. I do, however, have a soft spot for Carmella and Meadow. You gotta pity a kid with a name so awful that Dr. Melfi thought it was Fielder.

Another fan spec favorite is: who killed Dickie Moltisanti or ordered the hit? An answer to *that* plot line is supplied in The Many Saints Of Newark. More on that anon.

Since internet people are obsessed with spoilers, we’ll let The Rolling Stones play us to the break.

Continue reading