Crescent City is Calling My Name

Posted: April 19th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 2 Comments »

Am I obsessed?

Well, guess.

Thus, truth is I really didn’t need the first t-shirt. At least not “now” which is when I wanted it and got it about the time of the Cubes reveal.

Nor the second one the initial one begat, thanks to digital marketing. At the very least I could have waited until my annual visit down to New Orleans, now less than a week away. Then I could have checked out Dirty Coast, the store selling them, unencumbered by these previous purchases. Which, frankly, won’t be weighing on my mind if there’s some other Crescent City-centric tchotchke or item of apparel that grabs my attention.

The first shirt is a mash up of New Orleans street names, done up like one of those charts at the ophthalmologist’s office that you’re ordered to view with one eye closed and read the smallest letters you can.

If you’ve ever spent any time around and about in the town, you couldn’t have missed that the street names aren’t just a step or three beyond Market, Main and Shady Lane, but venture into a whole different dimension.

If you’ve ever smiled as a first time visitor tries to pronounce Tchoupitoulas when asking directions from the hotel concierge, you know what I mean.

(It’s chop-ah-too-luss. Remember, this is a town where many thoroughfares are named for Greek muses, but you’d never suspect, even if forced to study Greek somewhere along the way that Calliope Street would be pronounced kal-eee-ope.) Read the rest of this entry »


“The Death of Stalin”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: April 2nd, 2018 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

When it comes to scathing, incisive and truly hilarious political satire, Armando Iannucci sits at the top of the heap, the master of masters.

2009’s “In the Loop,” a film about British and American pols and military folks trying to figure out whether to go to war or not and how to manage it, was my first exposure. It was so obsessively funny, I kept thinking who thought this stuff up?

Armando Iannucci, that’s whom.

If you’ve ever chortled over HBO’s “Veep,” know that he’s one of those most responsible for that spot on take on D.C. political machinations. (Incidentally, he wrote a fabulous op ed piece recently in the Washington Post, explaining why the current administration is bad for the political satire biz, because what’s actually going on is beyond believability, too absurd, would be dismissed if fiction as bad comedy.)

Well, he’s back and biting and entertaining as ever. The premise this time — take your seats — is the wackiness that might have ensued inside the Kremlin when dictator Josef Stalin died.

Really? Really.

Come on now, Steve Buscemi, Brooklyn accent and all, as Khrushchev. Is your appetite whetted? Well, it should be.

One line zingers are ever present. There is physical slapstick.

The ensemble cast is marvelous, portraying all your faves from that poli sci class in Soviet history. Beria. Molotov. Malenkov, Field Marshall Zhukov.

“The Death of Stalin” is wise. It is insightful. And it’s a hoot.

For more, listen up:

Audio MP3

“The Deuce”: David Simon Returns with Another Winner

Posted: September 12th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Ruminations, TV | 1 Comment »

Back in the day, a musician pal played a couple of gigs with an ersatz rock & roll band up I-65 from Louisville, in the less than Biblical Nimrod Room of an otherwise closed hotel in Seymour, Indiana.

“Come on up,” he implored, “there’s lots of local ladies.”

While flirting with one, the city of Columbus somehow popped up in the conversation.

“I’ve been to Columbus,” she bragged.

After chiming in that I’d been to several Ohio State football games that fall, it turned out she was talking about Columbus, Indiana, a few miles up the road from Seymour.

Perspective. With that one revelation, I understood the difference in our life experiences, the relatively limited expanse of her world.

In the details, there is to be learned much of a person’s personality and world view.

It is just such subtle, telling instances that make David Simon’s TV work so fulfilling. Usually always for the better, but sometime not, Simon immerses the viewer in the culture he’s talking about, giving the plotline context. The characters, personalities, foibles, humanity are constantly being revealed; they are given dimension. Read the rest of this entry »


Jeremy Renner shines in “Wind River”: A Film Review

Posted: August 20th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Ruminations | No Comments »

Having a trusted confidant to help ease pain of tragedy isn’t always available.

Jake Gittes, the private dick who wasn’t on top of matters as much as he thought, had his colleague Walsh alongside when things went bad in the outer reaches of the place they patrolled.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), while hunting animal predators, his job at Wind River, comes across a battered, barefooted teenager, dead face down in the snow on a barren plain far from habitation. His overwhelming dejection, the level of his immediate grief, indicate the discovery struck something deeply personal.

There are no words of solace from Ben (Graham Greene). He’s the overwhelmed police chief on the res, where downcast is the tenor of daily life. He has long since resigned himself to the desolation of existence for many Native Americans in the mountains of Wyoming.

Nor is there comfort coming from buddy Martin (Gil Birmingham), naturally, for he’s the stoic father of the deceased. He has also lost his son who is immersed in the prevalent drug culture.

Renner, one of the finest actors of the day, turns in his best performance yet, as he serves as guide and fellow investigator when aiding an out of her league FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) sent in unprepared to solve the murder mystery on federal land. Read the rest of this entry »


“Landline”: A Written Review of a Flick You Probably Don’t Know

Posted: August 6th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Ruminations | No Comments »

There are certainly stressful life situation as painful and taxing as those arising from the nuclear family dynamic, but . . .

. . . there are a whole lot of folks who would argue those are the worst.

The blood connection that’s supposed to mean bonding and acceptance. The closeness of living proximity that magnifies every quirk and irritation. How the most insignificant of moments, a perceived slight, a habit that irritates, can fester into tension and discord.

Ah, who didn’t suffer those family dinners, where nary a word was uttered, not even praise for mom’s fried chicken and chocolate cake?

So, such scenarios have long been a staple of small films, indies that deal with the personal instead of flaming cars parachuting out of jets, or Vegas jaunts gone wacky.

A lot of times, these cinematic attempts simply gnaw. Most trek to to the cineplex to be “entertained,” not to have their lives and family imbroglios pass before them on the silver screen. A refillable bucket of popcorn is not therapy replacement.

But, if the plot is legit, and incidents of family disarray are portrayed in a manner that rings true, in a way that resonates but also provides perspective, where the humor of those situations can peek through, well, those films work. Sometimes.vacuous

At least they do for me.

Which “Landline” did. Read the rest of this entry »


QWERTY morphs QWERKY; Old School meets New Fangled

Posted: July 31st, 2017 | Filed under: History Warp, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

This exposition on what’s new today, anecdotal history lesson and nostalgic look back is being composed on my new toy, a Qwerkywriter.

That’s a photo of the device there to the left.

It’s not a 1940s typewriter, though it’s meant to look like one. With it’s round metal capped keys with their clickety click, and a return bar that moves your text to the next line. No, it’s a full function bluetooth keypad that synched instantly to my iMac.

How and why I went for this sumptuous and funky I-got-one-and-you-don’t computer accouterment is the very raison d’etre of this rumination.

Stick around for the ride.

Which journey starts back in the 50s with the best advice my brother Michael ever gave me.

“Take Typing class.”

So there I was soon enough, one of the few male of the species, in Mr. Cline’s 9th grade Beginner’s Typing at Highland Junior High, laboring to learn the home row keys.

At some point, despite chubby digits and a gimpy catcher’s thumb I’d suffered since Little League, I was able to knock out the lessons of pangrams at a reasonably healthy clip.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Jaded zombies acted quaintly but kept driving their oxen forward.

Plus other such punchy sentences of little meaning, much bemusement, and containing every single one of the 26 letters of the ABCs.   Read the rest of this entry »


Can A Movie Alter My Daily Routine? Apparently So.

Posted: July 3rd, 2017 | Filed under: Ruminations | 1 Comment »

My father’s son, I am a mammalian of habit.

For the better part of his adult life, Art Kaplan ate the same meal for lunch every day.

A carton of cottage cheese. Saltines.

Odd as it was, at some juncture, my mother stopped nagging/ teasing him about it and let it be.

For the last score of years, I’ve savored the same breakfast daily.

Peanut butter on apple.

More specifically, Smuckers All Natural Crunchy slathered on sliced Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, or, in a pinch during certain seasons of the year, Pacific Rose or Pink Lady.

With coffee. Thee dollops of cream. Two packs of yellow sweetener. (How we have come to identifying artificial sweeteners by the color of packaging is a fascinating curiosity but another consideration for another time.)

Since at some point about a decade or so ago, my local daily newspaper turned into a thin compendium of typos (since, pity the real journalists still left on staff, there are apparently no copy editors). So, frustrated, I replaced the morning ritual of my lifetime. I’d read the paper edition of the paper first thing in the morning since the 5th grade.

Since I no longer subscribe to that fallen publication, I now read through several sports, news and general info sites on my laptop in a fairly rigid order.

One of which is the New York Times, to which I have an online subscription. Read the rest of this entry »


The Monday After The First Saturday In May

Posted: May 8th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Ruminations, Today's Lesson Learned | 1 Comment »

Some days are traditionally and annually more difficult than others.

Perspective: I used to get really depressed at halftime of the Orange Bowl, when it was always played on New Year’s night. For decades I’d always had the last week of the year off, and it would hit me hard that the next morning’s wake up meant: Back To Real Life.

So has become the Monday after the First Saturday in May.

Even on a sunny, crisp day like today, when I’m blessed with few responsibilities.

There’s the fact that Derby is over. I don’t go to the track. Or the parade. Or the boat race. Or even to hear Drive By Truckers, though I was well intentioned to do so. But I love the energy around town, and know it is the most glorious time of the year for many in our burg.

We even had the sun shine through late Derby afternoon. Thanks to the spirit specters of Matt Winn and Irvin S. Cobb. Which beauteous weather lasted through Sunday for the brunchers and party hearty crowd that was still full tilt one more day.

And, for others like me, this Monday marks the end of my year’s gravtitational pull, the New Orleans JazzFest. I only went first weekend, ceding to the inevitable Old Folks Boogie, from which I naturally suffer thanks to the ever accelerating “maturation process.” Even though I wasn’t present in New Orleans this weekend as I was last, I still kept watching the clock, finally finding some relief at 8:00 Sunday, when I knew the last notes had been played, that the bon temps roulez had expired.

Thus, we come to today, in the Printemps of some disconsolation.

It really matters not that it’s glorious outside, that honeysuckle aromisizes the air, that the warmth and recreation of summer is just ahead. Today there is the let down that comes about when too much anticipation is focused on a singular event, and it passes.

Fortunately it is fleeting, not terminal.

(I am reminded of 1976. That was the year of my first JazzFest. I went down for a weekend. Then called work and advised I was slipping off to the beach for a week. Then called again and advised I’d be staying for the second weekend of JazzFest. Then returned for Derby week. All of which was fueled — in copious quantities — by the inebriants of the day. Even attended a big bash on the Sunday after Derby. Dealing with that Monday let down turned out not to be a problem. I went to sleep Sunday evening. Didn’t wake up until Tuesday morning.) Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17, Day II: Enchanting Peripherals

Posted: April 30th, 2017 | Filed under: Ruminations | 1 Comment »

There are times when the music plays a lesser — but still significant — role in the fest’s charms du jour.

Saturday was one of those interesting days, full of interactive interludes.

Not that there wasn’t, mind you, some righteous tuneage, which I’ll get to soon enough. But yesterday for me was more about the gathering of the tribes, cementing expanding friendships and glorying in the spirit forces the event fosters.

I hooked up with M and S and their krewe, who were camped at Congo Square, in anticipation of Usher with the Roots Band who’d close out the day at that stage. (Full names omitted to protect the arguably innocent.)

The Film Babe — who by the by couldn’t make the trip this year, but is confirmed already for next — and I met M & S four years ago as we were all strolling down Royal on the way to the Louisiana Music Factory. Kindred spirits from Connecticut and Kentucky, we connected and we’ve kept in touch.

(The couple missed last year’s fest, while visiting Barcelona, where their kid was studying. Even though in another of the world’s great and unique cities, M advised, “We made it through missing JazzFest, knowing we’d be back this year.”)

At one point during yesterday’s charming interlude of connection, Ms. S stopped dancing, turned to us and declared, “I need a Cochon du Lait Po Boy RIGHT NOW!” And was immediately off for sustenance.

While chatting them up yesterday, just as I was learning that M isn’t a lawyer — my misconception — a small group walked up that they’d met the evening before at a North Mississippi All Stars gig.

Turns out these folks were fellow Hebrews and of Iraqi descent. The fellow is a lawyer, of some note obviously since he just testified in front of Al Franken’s Senate committee on the environment. (And wouldn’t the guy who created Stuart Smiley be great to run into down here?)

Anyway, for some reason I simply can’t recall, the woman started regaling me with the history of how the Jews were the ones who carried on the folk musical traditions of Iraq. But were pushed out of the country in the 40s in the wake of the establishment of the state of Israel.

But when the royals realized that music was important and nobody was around to carry the tradition, they brought back numbers of Jewish folks to teach the songs at the Palace.

I mean really, who knew?

And what are the chances of getting into this conversation anywhere but JF, while while doing the rock & roll shuffle to Corey Henry’s Treme Funket? Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17: Let’s Get the Real Party Started

Posted: April 28th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | No Comments »

One last check in from the periphery. When I finish this I’m off to Day I.

But first I need to forgive.

Some folks, even if wearing garb proving their attendance at previous fests, don’t know what they don’t know.

I was on my way back to the hotel which is at the foot of Iberville from a hook up at the Louisiana Music Factory during the Jazz Vipers set.

LMF’s on Frenchmen Street at the other end of the Quarter. So I stopped at this little courtyard in the French Market by the Gazebo Café to rest my yelping dogs. (To bore you with woes about how my new walking shoes aren’t all they are cracked up to be would be over self indulgent even for a narcissist like myself.)

Anyway, the earnest but not really not very good band of old farts regaling the turistas with New Orleans standards broke into “Southern Nights.” One of my favorite tunes.

The guy sitting next to me on the bench turned to his wife/ GF/ inamorata for the weekend and pontificated too impress, “Wow, they’re playing that old Glen Campbell classic.” Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review Podcast: “LEGO Batman”

Posted: February 16th, 2017 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

LEGOs weren’t around when I was a kid. Heck plastic this and plastic that wasn’t around at all.

I led an Erector Set/ Lincoln Logs/ Lionel Train kind of adolescence.

But, at some point, LEGOs took over the world of youth toydom.

And, recently, these ubiquitous plastic thingies, some of which always end up between the pillows of the couch, have made inroads into Big Cinema.

First, “The Lego Movie.” Or, whatever it was called.

Now, “The LEGO Batman Movie.”

Talk about your branding coup. Wow.

Anyhow, here’s my review. Such as it is.

Audio MP3

A Short Tribute to James Bickers

Posted: September 30th, 2016 | Filed under: Personalities, Ruminations | Tags: | 7 Comments »

bickMy long time radio host and on air adversary James Bickers has passed away.

He was a friend.

He was a good guy.

He was a loving husband.

He was a loving father.

He was beloved by his adoring listening audience.

A short remembrance and tribute:

Audio MP3