T’was the night before Christmas

And thru the White House
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a louse

An Alt Christmas Carol
The White House, Christmas Eve, 2023. Imagine the painfully lugubrious scene….

“Joe Biden” rattles around in the upstairs “residence” like a BB in a packing crate. Nobody is around besides a few secret service agents, so still at their posts they might as well be statuary. The Big Guy is all alone. His spouse, Dr. Jill, had enough of pretend caretaking quite a while ago, and flew off to Oprah’s place in Santa Barbara for counseling and commiseration. Hunter is Gawd-knows-where doing Gawd-knows-what.

“JB” shuffles out of the residence kitchen, where he just demolished a half gallon of Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream® ice cream, against his doctor’s orders. His gall bladder writhes in revolt, sending a distress signal up the vagus nerve to the shriveled hypothalamus in his brain. A jumbled fugue of emotions — rage, fear, sexual arousal — quickens his step as he navigates by dead reckoning to the executive bedroom where he hurries to bed and falls into leaden slumber — only to be awakened by a cacophony of ringing bells. His eyelids roll open like shades in the windows of a skid row hotel room. Plangent moaning resounds as a mist emerges through the bedroom door and resolves into a mysterious figure garbed in the raiment of the Ku Klux Klan.

“Joe Biden” shrinks under the luxury Boll & Branch signature duvet— acquired when the agriculture minister of Ukraine slipped him an envelope stuffed with 100 hryvnia notes. The spirit wails something that resembles the old Confederate anthem Eatin’ Goober Peas.

“Who are you spirit?” the quaking president asks.

“Why, I am your old pard from the Senate,” the ghost of Robert Byrd declares, removing the pointed hood to reveal his leonine head of hair and scowling face. “Why have you thrown our sacred borders wide open, suh? I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels.”

“Y-y-you don’t uh-uh-understand,” “JB” says, his childhood stutter returning. “They are muh-muh-migrants from oppression and vuh-vuh-very fine people.”

“Fine people, my ass,” the former Senator from West Virginia cries and clears the dust of the sepulcher from his throat. “I will send three spirits to you this night as a review of what has been and what shall become, so beware….” And with that the spirit returns to mist and slips back out through the keyhole…

“Joe Biden” is shocked from slumber again as an attractive blond female ghost floats through the bedroom window.

“Don’t I know you?” he asks.

“Cad! That is the very line you used to pick me up on spring break in Nassau, 1966,” says “JB’s” first wife, Neilia Hunter. “Shall I show you the meretricious spectacle you made of our family after that truck driver on Limestone Road ended my life and your little daughter’s too!”

“No-o-o-o-o,” the president moans, but is magically transported to the Wilmington Hospital room where his banged-up boys, Beau and Hunter, are recovering from their injuries. A TV crew is present as “JB” emotes for the camera, a cruel victim of fate, he blubbers, who will yet conquer his grief and go on to forty years of electoral victories and the sedulous gathering of tribute from “donors” far and wide to soften the blow of his loss. The room dims…

Read on for the other spirit visitations: second being the martyred Saint George of Fentanyl, complete with Neegrow dialect deftly translated from the original ghetto-ese, representing the Ghost Of Christmas Present; Christmas Yet To Come I’ll leave unnamed so as not to spoil the surprise for ya, but take my word for it, t’is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Kunstler uncorks his by no means inconsiderable writerly chops and lets ‘em really soar in this one, and it’s a joy and a wonder to behold.


Christmas moozik

Borepatch tells us that A) Allison Krause is a national treasure, as is the peerless Yo Yo Ma, and B) this song is, and I quote, “magical.” He is perfectly correct, on all counts.

As it happens, I heard this one over the weekend on the classical music station as I was trying to come up with a reason to drag myself out of bed; it stopped me dead in my tracks, I was helpless to do anything but just lie there and take it in. The haunting melody of this rendition of the traditional Irish carol (VERY Irish, t’is; an orchestral version is here, if you’re interested in comparing and contrasting) may seem a bit, um, mournful for Christmas, which usually brings to mind more merry, celebratory, light-hearted music for most of us.

But no matter; this song is simply gorgeous, the performances stellar, and the arrangement is nothing short of spectacular, a piece of near-divine musical inspiration. Well done to all involved, and thanks to Borepatch for the reminder.

Update! Any overgrown kid out there like meself who just can’t get enough of that Christmas-y stuff is hereby advised to check out a fine, fine live365 stream I’ve had running pretty much continually since I came across it over the weekend: ChristmasFM Classical. After three days, there’ve been precious few duds so far—if any, even, a point which I am not entirely prepared to concede.

Ironically enough in light of the subject matter of another of tonight’s posts, it appears from ChristmasFM’s own website that the station just happens to be based guess where.


True Hollywood stories

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll during the making of the Blues Brothers movie. Even more great behind-the-scenes tales than is usual in the movie biz, which is justly famous for them, with this long 2013 article, to wit:

One night at three, while filming on a deserted lot in Harvey, Illinois, Belushi disappears. He does this sometimes. On a hunch, Aykroyd follows a grassy path until he spies a house with a light on.

“Uh, we’re shooting a film over here,” Aykroyd tells the homeowner. “We’re looking for one of our actors.”

“Oh, you mean Belushi?” the man replies. “He came in here an hour ago and raided my fridge. He’s asleep on my couch.”

Only Belushi could pull this off. “America’s Guest,” Aykroyd calls him.

“John,” Aykroyd says, awakening Belushi, “we have to go back to work.”

Belushi nods and rises. They walk back to the set as if nothing happened.

Well, in Belushi World, nothing much had. Another:

Filming finishes in Los Angeles, in and around the Universal lot, where Aykroyd again takes up residence. John and Judy rent a house in Coldwater Canyon. “By the time we got to Los Angeles,” Aykroyd says, “[the shoot] was a well-oiled machine.”

By comparison, anyway. Production goes more or less on schedule, and Los Angeles injects its energy: parties at the Playboy Mansion, nights with De Niro and Nicholson.

Belushi summons periods of sobriety. By now he has met Smokey Wendell, a kind of bodyguard/anti-drug enforcer for Joe Walsh, a guitarist for the Eagles. “If I don’t do something now,” Belushi tells Wendell, “I’m going to be dead in a year or two.”

Belushi is on his best behavior while in the presence of the movie’s other musical stars: Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Cab Calloway. They, too, are in fine form. Even Charles, the crankiest of the bunch, laughs and laughs, usually while retelling the same dirty joke. The Blues Brothers presents a real opportunity for all of them, since all but Charles are in commercial ruts.

Not that this changes any of them. Marini, one of the horn players, spots Franklin taking a cigarette break. He approaches sheepishly, saying, “I just want to tell you how much I enjoy your work.” Franklin turns, glancing at the number on Marini’s football jersey. “Sixty-nine, huh?” she says, and turns away.

One day Aykroyd and Belushi raid the wardrobe department. Tanen happens to be in Wasserman’s office when Wasserman takes a call notifying him that two of Universal’s biggest stars, dressed as Nazi SS officers, have driven off the lot and onto the freeway. Tanen finds this hilarious. Wasserman does not.

Behind the scenes, it’s a different story. Daniel and Weiss are spent. And now they’re confronting the movie’s climactic concert scene. The finale requires Belushi and Aykroyd to do cartwheels, dance steps—the whole deal. It requires hundreds of extras. It requires the Hollywood Palladium.

Daniel gets a call from Weiss. “You better get down here,” Weiss says. When Daniel arrives, Weiss explains. A kid had ridden past Belushi on a skateboard. Belushi asked to ride the board. Belushi fell off the board.

Daniel finds the star clutching his knee and in serious pain. “This was bad,” Daniel recalls. “We had to deal with it in the most effective and emergency-like way. And there was one person who was wired into the Los Angeles medical community better than anyone else.” Wasserman. “I was one of the last people he wanted to hear from,” Daniel says. “The only thing he wanted to hear from me was ‘We’re done.’ ”

Wasserman calls the top orthopedist in town. “It’s Thanksgiving weekend,” the doctor points out. “I’m on my way to Palm Springs.”

“Not yet,” Wasserman replies.

Thirty minutes later, the orthopedist wraps and injects Belushi, who then grits his way through the finale.

End of story.

Or not.

It’s not; still tons more fascinating, entertaining inside dope left here, of which you should read the all.


Credit where due

Ken Layne always runs such great memes, I must say; in fact, I’ve swiped a good many of the tremendous backlog currently clogging my hard drive from his excellent establishment, and am grateful indeed for the opportunity. Just now I glommed a particularly good ‘un I’m gonna to dedicate to responsible adult and placental mammal Diogenes Sarcastica, who I am pleased and privileged to consider a blog-pal, just because I’m confident she’ll get a chuckle out of it when it runs here tomorrow evening.

As I like to tell myself I am, Miz DS is a weirdo in all the very best ways, which is why I figger she’ll pick up on it. No, I ain’t gonna say which meme it is, that would spoil the whole thing for everybody. Y’all will just have to figure that out for yourselves.

The Pissing Tree of Montenegro

I thought this vid was pretty funny, and no way was I going to miss out on using that title, which sprang to my warped mind immediately upon seeing it. “Sprang,” get it? A-HENH!

Piss on, O mighty Pissing Tree! Even the angle at which it leans gently back while the internal pressure is, um, relieved is perfect. The only thing missing is one branch thrown forward, arm-like, as if to brace itself against the bathroom wall above the pot.

Good thing trees don’t wear pants, as the wet spot left thereon by the splashback from such a copious flow would be quite embarrassing—a spot which not even the most extravagantly long untucked shirttail would be adequate to conceal from disdainful public scrutiny after exiting the facilities. The blushful stagger back to the bar is always a Walk Of Shame of sorts, made with one’s head hung down in hopes that no one will see his face and recognize him.

Trees being immobile, our friend PToM is also cruelly robbed of one of the primary pleasures of stand-up urination, namely writing one’s initials in the snow. Every man reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about here. And is probably smiling at the memory of the last time he did it.

Via our esteemed chum KT, whose own title is a real gem of sly, understated wit in its own right: Ah, Nature. Ahhh, indeed.


Tricky treat

Never bothered too much about doing Halloween-specific posts before, but this year I thought it might be cool to gather up some photographic examples of the XTreem Punkin’ Carver’s art and post ‘em up here. It’s just amazing what these über-creative Jack O’ Lanterneers are capable of doing with, basically, a large orange squarsh. Out of all this gin-yoo-wine artistic genius, I gotta admit I like the last one best of all. What can I say, I’m a 60’s kid, and always will be. Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m beautiful, y’all.

HWeen 1

HWeen 2

HWeen 3

HWeen 4

HWeen 6

HWeen 7

It’s sad, the way they’ve all but killed off Halloween altogether over puffed-up “safety” concerns, almost all of them completely mythical, like the hoary old “razor blade in your apple” hoax. For years now, the only Trick or Treaters to be found in CLT have been in the more affluent neighborhoods. Just about anyplace else around town, forget it: no lights on in the windows; no glowing Jack O’ Lanterns on front porches illuminated by a candle within; no gaggles of costumed kids ringing doorbells and shouting with glee as they race across lawns or down sidewalks under the watchful scrutiny of their parental escort. No fun either, of any kind.

Be saaaafe!

In the neighborhood where I grew up, though, Halloween was a Big Honkin’ Deal—for us kids, our oh-so-jaded teenage siblings, and the grownups alike. Everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY, got decked out in this year’s costume—spooky, funny, or completely off-the-wall, store-bought or homemade—made the candy-collection rounds, then gathered at Mayor Black’s house atop the hill midway along Cedar Lane for the annual Halloween Party. It started off small, strictly a neighborhood event, but pretty soon crashers started coming from all over Mount Holly for it, more and more each year as word got around. The last few years, there were more than a hundred of ‘em. Nobody minded provided the newcomers were respectful of the neighborhood and the family-friendly nature of our humble get-together; all were warmly welcomed by the original Cedar Lane Gang.

The Black’s attached garage was re-made into a Haunted House for the shindig, elaborately rigged with scary black lighting, the classic Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House LP piped over outside speakers, a narrow, twisty maze created by old bedsheets hung from the ceiling. After all interested parties had gotten their chance to be traumatized for life by a walk-through of this chamber of horrors, the annual Telling of the Ghost Story commenced.

The huge back patio/deck/whatever (Inline update: NOT a deck, in fact; this was many years before those came into vogue) would be decorated to the nines, an arduous all-day labor for several neighborhood volunteers. After the Garage of Ghastliness was closed down for the night, everyone sat knee-to-knee, Indian-style, on the patio pavement in a large circle. A king-size sheet was draped over our laps for concealment, and various scarifying objects were passed hand-to-hand underneath the sheet as they came into the tale. To wit: a small bowl with two peeled grapes representing the eyeballs torn by some fiend or other from the sockets of one hapless character; a large bowl full of ooey-gooey spaghetti noodles for a human brain eaten by the marauding zombie horde; a skinned section of carrot appropriately sized as a stand-in for a finger ripped by a blood-drunk werewolf from yet another victim’s hand, etc.

Every October 31st, affrighted shrieks, moans of dread, shouts of warning, and peal after peal of raucous laughter pierced the night of our ordinarily tranquil small-town community right on into the wee hours. Everybody you knew would be out and about; you were guaranteed to run into all of your friends sooner or later as the evening progressed, although depending on your confrere‘s level of costume-crafting acumen it could sometimes be almost impossible to ascertain who it was you might be talking to at any given moment. Once, when I was 14, my next-door neighbor Michelle seized me fiercely from behind this enormous hedge on the Black’s front lawn, yanked me in tight against her, and planted a long, passionate soul-kiss on my flabbergasted self without me having the slightest idea of who it was I’d just been so pleasantly molested by.

Then she pulled her crazy fright-wig off her head, rubbed the now-smeared Ghoul Girl makeup off her face with her sleeve, and grinned merrily at me. So naturally, once the identity of my mysterious assailant had been revealed, I avenged my stolen honor in full with some serious smooching-back of my own…among other unmentionable indecencies. Michelle was a year younger than me, and by then we had already been indulging in a great deal of similar sin and wickedness any time we could sneak off for a little private together-time.

These days, though? The local constabulary would have the handcuffs on my wrists and my young ass locked in the back of a black-and-white and whizzing off to the jug before I could so much as wipe her blood-red lipstick off my mouth. Next morning, I’d be hauled before a whey-faced judge to answer charges of

  • 1st Degree Sexual Harrassment of a Pyrrsnzz Of Vagina
  • Knowingly Disrespecting a Strong, Brave Wrymrynzzz With Malicious Intent
  • Multiple counts of Felonious Heterosexual Conduct Absent Proper Consent Documents, duly completed, signed, and registered in septuplicate with the County Magistrate
  • Getting Teenage Kicks Right Thru The Nite without the required license, tax stamp, and accreditation
  • Aggravated Subjugation by Male Gaze
  • Unlawful Mutual Attraction
  • Toxic Masculinity Causing Grievous Bodily Injury, Emotional Distress, and Fainting Dead Away to Authorized Nookie-Code Enforcement Officers

and a whole slew of other Hate Atrocities. Even worse, all our hubba-hubba heavy breathing as we rounded Second Base and slid spikes-up into Third introduced a serious surfeit of deadly CO2 emissions (The Silent Killer!!©) into our extremely fragile planetary atmosphere, irreparably scrambling Nature’s Perfect Harmonious Balance for the first time in Earth’s history and thereby helping to destroy poor Mother Gaia even worse than She otherwise would have been.

Sad? Hell, it’s downright pathetic.

Update! Almost forgot about one consistent H-Ween tradition here at Ye Aulde Colde Furye Blogge: the annual reposting of these Fright Night favorites. Whether you’re trick-or-treating, soaping windows, or rolling houses, these songs should be the soundtrack music.

You might think of Jumpin’ Gene Simmons as just another one-hit wonder, but t’ain’t necessarily so; in the RaB world, he’s well-known for quite a few other excellent selections.

Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s hilarious mugging and facial clowning throughout really brings this one to (undead) life nicely, don’tcha think?

Hey hey hey, it’s Screamin’ Jay—what more can you say? Actually, quite a lot: as with Simmons, there’s much more than meets the eye to this brilliant performer.

Jalacy J. “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins (July 18, 1929 – February 12, 2000) was an American singer-songwriter, musician, actor, film producer, and boxer. Famed chiefly for his powerful, operatic vocal delivery and wildly theatrical performances of songs such as “I Put a Spell on You”, he sometimes used macabre props onstage, making him an early pioneer of shock rock. He received a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his performance in the 1989 indie film Mystery Train.

Hawkins was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. At the age of 18 months, Hawkins was put up for adoption and shortly thereafter was adopted and raised by Blackfoot Confederacy. Hawkins studied classical piano as a child and learned guitar in his 20s. In a 1993 interview, Hawkins recounts telling his music tutor,

…to leave before I make your life miserable […] because with the type of music I want to play. The things I want to do with music and don’t want to do it the old conventional way that everybody knows. I want to come up with my own ideas. I’ve got all the information that I need to get from you to do what I want, now if you stick around, I’m going to make your life miserable.

He attended the Ohio Conservatory of Music, where he studied opera. His initial goal was to become an opera singer (Hawkins cited Paul Robeson as his musical idol in interviews), but when his initial ambitions failed, he began his career as a conventional blues singer and pianist. Other influences included Mario Lanza, Enrico Caruso, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Brown, Amos Milburn, Wynonie Harris, Nellie Lutcher, Roy Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Roy Milton, Elmore James, Lightnin’ Hopkins and H-Bomb Ferguson.

He joined the US Army with a forged birth certificate in 1942 (aged 13), and allegedly served in a combat role, with his fellow soldiers and higher-ups around him ignoring the fact he was substantially underage. During this time, he also entertained the troops as part of his service. In 1944, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces, being honorably discharged in 1952. Hawkins was an avid and formidable boxer during his years in the US Army (and later Air Force) boxing circuit. In 1949, he was the middleweight boxing champion of Alaska.

See what I mean? And even yet, that’s still but a small part of the much-larger story. This next vid backs my contention regarding the man’s creative genius impeccably, I think.

I repeat: see what I mean?

Movietime update! Don’t know how well or even if this will work, but it’s worth a try. A while back, my cousin/BPs drummer Mark gave me a flash drive on which were reformatted copies of some old Super-8 home movies his dad filmed way back when, which Mark had had converted to digital—including this footage from one of those wonderful Halloween parties chez Black. At just shy of 90 megs, the file might not play all that nicely with Ye Aulde CF Blogge, but I hope it does.

Yes, my younger self is sure to be in there somewhere, but I couldn’t begin to tell you exactly where.

Don’t know what year this was, so I don’t know whether to be looking for myself as a wee lad or a teen or tween or what. I was able pick out a few familiar faces though, including one pretty little girl I’m fairly sure was my friend Michelle, so that would tend to indicate that I woulda been just a young ‘un, and that the footage was taken around 66 or 67, maybe.

A LIGHT DAWNS update! Oh holy SHIT, the kid in the coonskin Dan’l Boon cap at 3:36 just about has to be my little brother Jeff; he’s there and gone again so fast it’s impossible to tell for certain. The replica blunderbuss he’s carrying Mark and I both also had, with matching flintlock-style pistols to complete the set, but I don’t recall any other among the neighborhood youths ever wearing a coonskin cap but my brother. And HIM, you could no way no how induce to take the darn thing off, he wore it constantly until it was nothing but a tattered, battered old rag.

So, y’know, there’s that. If it IS Jeff, from the looks of his likely age the movie would’ve been shot around 1970 or ‘71, probably. That would make me 10 or 11 years old at the time; Jeff would be 8 or 9, Michelle 9 or 10. Ah, the good ol’ days.

Further review update! Okay, at 1:22 you can DEFINITELY see Michelle’s baby brother Lee front and center, with what’s probably middle-sister Jackie bouncing up behind. So it can only be my dear little Michelle standing beside him there, as I’d thought. She looks to be chomping on a mouthful of bubblegum, which would have been just like her budding-wild-child self in those days. Then, suddenly, she grew a whole shirtful of fabulous knockers, and before you could say Bob’s your uncle it was off to the races for me and her.

Last time I spoke with Michelle ma belle, she was a semi-bigshot with Capitol Records out in LA and doing very well for her Born Bad self, thank you, after a cpl-three unsuccessful marriages followed by a brief but, ummm, intriguing experiment with lipstick-lesbianism—which she told me all about in knee-weakening, cheek-reddening detail, as had always been her wont. That conversation must’ve been, jeez, 25-30 years ago now. Like her mom Pat before her, she’d always been rebellious, rowdy, ferociously independent, and fond of saying and/or doing outrageous things for the shock value alone. It’s a real mystery why the two of us got along so famously right from the start. Can’t figure that one out. A-HENH!

Wonder what might have become of Mitchy (a nom she adopted after she left her mom’s place to strike out on her own at the tender age of 22) since that last chat we had. Hope she’s still hale and hearty, enjoying herself, drinking deeply of life in all its heady richness. I can’t imagine her doing anything else.


The very best of the very best

Two absolute beauties via our bud KT, she of the Saturday Pet Thread, among other fine and wonderful things. First, Dame Judy Dench demonstrates why she’s considered one of the all-time greatest actresses, with a spellbinding from-memory presentation of a sonnet by the greatest writer of all time.

The entire spectrum of human emotion evoked in one gorgeous stroke of pure artistic genius, right there. The way Shakespeare shifts gears from the darkling pits of despair right to transcendent, unleavened joy at the lines “Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising/Haply I think on thee, and then my state…” is as pluperfect an example of the power and sweep of the English language—as well as both Shakespeare’s and Dame Judy’s command of it—as can possibly be imagined. If this sort of thing touches your heart as deeply as it does mine, you may find the room you’re in to be a lot dustier than you realized by the end of the vid. Graham Norton really says it all with his final word: “WOW!”

Next, Camille Saint-Saëns shows why he’s probably the all-time greatest of what’s known in some quarters as the Progressive Era of orchestral-music composers with his immortal Dans Macabre.

Many, many thanks to KT for posting these uplifting links for us.

The fabulous Flatiron

A Big Apple architectural icon is getting a makeover.

Flatiron Building, Famous New York Landmark, to Be Converted to Condos
The triangular 22-story building, which has been vacant since 2019, may be among the highest profile office-to-residential conversions

New York City’s historic Flatiron Building is officially preparing for its new life as a home to condos. 

Following an auction of the property earlier this year, The Brodsky Organization has most recently bought a stake in the landmarked building — which is owned by GFP Real Estate. The investment confirms that the building, which sits at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, will be converted into condos.

Sources confirmed Brodsky’s stake, as well as the “likely” conversion, to The Messenger. The deal was first reported by The Real Deal.

The triangular 22-story landmark located at 175 Fifth Avenue has a typical floorplan of 10,600 square feet, with a total square footage of 255,000 square feet, according to materials by GFP. At the May auction, GFP Chairman Jeffrey Gural estimated that the building would cost $100 million to renovate, in addition to the $161 million he dropped on the winning bid. 

Sources involved in similar investment sales say that the conversion will be rather pricey. It’s estimated that the developer would have to charge about $1,600 per square foot to break even and closer to $3,000 a square foot to turn a profit. The triangular floor plan may also make for oddly shaped apartments.

After the gorgeous Chrysler building, I have to say the modestly mid-rise skyscraper once derided as Burnham’s Folly stands second on my personal most-beloved list. So much did I dig it, in fact, that on my frequent long afternoon strolls around Lower Manhattan I usually made sure to arrange the route so it would take me by the dear old Flatiron at least once. When I did, I always had to stop for a few minutes and just gaze up at the oddly-shaped old gal from across Fifth Ave, drinking in her unique grace and beauty from the ground floor entrance to the add-on penthouse floor at the tippy-top.

For reasons I don’t pretend to understand, though, I never did go in to check out the interior. Go figger. But just you have yourself a gander at this pic and then tell me she ain’t a bona fide masterpiece of the architect’s art.

Flatiron Building

Funny story about the Flatiron that isn’t all that well-known, related to me years ago by Chris Pfouts, who definitely knew a thing or two about a thing or two concerning the classic structures of two once-great American cities, New Orleans and NYC: it enjoys the singular distinction of being the only skyscraper anywhere that was actually, literally stolen.

See, during the era when the Flatiron was being built, the Mafia had a certain renown for stealing materials, tools, and various fixtures from any construction site their crews were hired to work on (which was all of ‘em) to be resold elsewhere. So brazen and out of control had this New York tradition become that, while the Flatiron site was being prepared, those Cosa Nostra crews started jacking every girder, beam, door, and tiedown bolt they got their hands on, just as soon as the stuff was delivered to the site for later assembly.

Some city official totted up the losses years later and determined that such a ridiculously large quantity of material had disappeared that, in effect, two (2) Flatiron buildings could have been built. Sadly, New York ended up with just the one.

I’m glad she’s coming back, if only as exorbitantly-priced condos. Even after having stood vacant for several years, tearing the Flatiron down to puke up yet another nondescript glass box in her place would be unthinkable. I’m thankful that the new owner has smarts and vision enough to realize that the old girl has life left in her still, and I hope he makes himself a swoon-inducing bundle from the undertaking. New York just wouldn’t be the same without her.


Steve McQueen followup

So since posting “American badass” yesterday, I have fallen DEEEEP down the rabbit hole of all things 70s dirt-bike. After another long, stimulating conversation with my friend Stan this evening on the subject, I’ve been Wiki-searching all the great old names: DeCoster, Jim Pomeroy, Malcom Smith, John Penton, Heikki Mikkola, et al. This serious sidetrackery led me to a couple of real finds.


Preach it, Steve! Next up: truer words were never, EVER spoken.


Heh. Anybody out there who grew up like me, Stan, and his brother Chipps did know exactly what it feels like. In our conversation earlier tonight, Stan brought up Chipps’s old Honda Mini Trail Z50—the bike Chipps taught me to ride on back when I was, oh, 11 or 12, which looked a little something like this:


As I recollect, the one Chipps had sported a slightly different paint/decal scheme on the tank, although it was certainly red as all getout. See the black plastic knobs down at the bottom of the bars, just above where the risers meet the top triple-clamp? Turning those counter-clockwise (lefty loosey!) would loosen each handlebar to fold down alongside the fork leg independently, making it easy-peasy to toss the little Z50 into the trunk of Dad’s car when a nice weekend camping trip up to the mountains was in order.

Can’t see very well in the pic, but the bars are supposed to have a bit of space between them. On Chipps’s Z50, however, they were bent so badly from innumerable falls, collisions, and other what-have-you that they actually touched in the middle, about halfway along the rise to the turnout where the grips, front brake lever, throttle, and kill switch (that red button thingie by the left grip) all live. It was funny to look at, kinda like a bunny with its ears all a-flop rather than sticking up straight.

Three-speed (or was it four?) auto-clutch tranny; chrome steel fenders front and rear; honkin’ big chrome heat shield over the upswept exhaust, which of course would be summarily removed and thrown into a remote corner of the garage for the duration, the oversize muffler drilled/hacksawed/gutted to replace the offensively meek, barely-audible “putt-putt-putt” sound with a more manly, throatier growl; cable-actuated drum brakes front and rear; cute little semi-knobby balloon-tires and mag wheels; in short, all the traditional styling, hardware, and running gear standard on the kid-size Hondas from that era.

That tiny little booger provided my first-ever experience with the indestructible nature of pretty much all Honda engines; like my beloved Ford 289s, they simply can’t be kilt, no matter how severely you abuse ‘em. Which of course we did. It’s long been my theory that you could’ve blown a few .50 caliber holes in that 49cc motor with a Ma Deuce and it still woulda cranked on the first kick and purred like a cat eating guts anyhow.

The seat had a latch on the side, allowing access to a small storage compartment underneath, among other things. On Chipps’s bike, the spring holding the latch closed was broken. This meant that whenever you jumped the thing, momentum would leave the seat flapping in the air—not such a big problem when you’re standing on the pegs and airborne, but a real nut-buster when you landed and went to sit back down again with the seat in the “open” position and stuffed into your crotch.

A more dire hazard than that top frame rail on our old Schwinn boys’ banana-bikes was, believe you me. Whoever wasn’t actually riding at the time and was off fooling around in the woods or catching tadpoles in the nearby crick always knew when the other guy had crested a hill and caught some air by the sudden profane shouts of pain at having been caught again by that $*&^$##@@#!!! loose seat.

Ahh, those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.


“The most perfect comedy of all time”

Blazing Saddles might like to have a word, perhaps, but me, I can’t argue with that assessment.

Here’s a peek into one recent discussion I had on our PJ Media Slack channel with my friend and boss Paula Bolyard, our editor-in-chief:

Chris Queen [9:15 AM]
Hey, I have an idea for a column.

paula [9:22 AM]
A column? What is it?

Chris Queen [9:24 AM]
It’s a collection of words that discusses a certain topic, but that’s not important right now.

Okay, so that didn’t actually happen, but the fact that you laughed at it — at least I hope you did — demonstrates the staying power of what I call the most perfect comedy of all time: 1980’s “Airplane!”

Earlier this month saw the release of a behind-the-scenes book telling the story of how “Airplane!” took flight. I don’t normally do book reviews, but I listened to the audiobook of “Surely You Can’t Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane!” and it was one of the funniest and most fascinating listening experiences I’ve ever had.

As wonderful as I imagine the print edition of the book being, nothing can compare to hearing Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker telling the story of how they developed their love of comedy and filmmaking and how the two dovetailed together so perfectly with “Airplane!” Stories from cast and crew and studio executives, as well as appreciation from comedians and actors, make for a rich behind-the-scenes look at how a true film classic came together.

Could there possibly BE a more perfect opportunity to run a clip or three from the Zuckers’ magnum opus? I think NOT!

A bit heavy on the Rex Kramer, you may have noticed, only because Robert Stack’s Kramer would have to be my favorite character from the movie. I’ve seen Airplane! about a bazillion and one times over the years and can still hardly help but laugh every time he’s on screen, even if only for a few seconds. Back to the book review for our closer:

For years, I had heard some of the stories, such as how devout Christian Peter Graves was skittish about the creepiness of his character Capt. Oveur, but the directors talked him into going with it. “Surely You Can’t Be Serious” is loaded with fascinating and hilarious stories of how Abrahams and the Zuckers cast dramatic actors like Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, and Lloyd Bridges in these roles.

The directors’ advice to their stars to deliver lines as if their characters don’t realize they’re in a comedy is genius, and it’s a huge part of the appeal. The list of actors that studios or producers wanted to cast but who didn’t make it into the movie is fascinating. Barry Manilow? Dom DeLuise? Bruce Jenner? (Abrahams claims that Jenner offered to read for the roles of Ted Striker and Elaine Dickinson, but it’s hard to tell if he’s deadpan or serious in delivering that line.)

The influence of studio executives like Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg and producers like Howard Koch helped the directors bring their comic vision to life on the big screen. It’s inspiring the way men like these went to bat for the team in order to bring “Airplane!” to life.

The way the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team was able to get around plagiarizing “Zero Hour!,” the movie that served as the inspiration for “Airplane!,” was genius, as was the latitude they gave actors Norman Alexander Gibbs and Al White to develop the “jive” dialogue and train Barbara Billingsley in how to “speak jive.”

Music played an important role in making “Airplane!” so great. Composer Elmer Bernstein was responsible for many iconic “serious” movie scores, and he understood what the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team was looking for. His score helps give “Airplane!” the drama and tension that makes it so effective as a comedy and as good storytelling.

More good schtuff yet to the article, of which any fan of Airplane! (and how on earth could anyone NOT be?) will want to read the all.

Update! And stop calling me Shirley.


A fool for Richard Russo

That would be moi. I’ve been a huge Russo fan ever since I swiped a former Significant Other’s copy of Empire Falls and, after finishing it, proceeded to wolf down the rest of her library of Russo’s amazing work in one great gulp of binge-reading. This rave review of his latest release describes what’s in store for the Russo reader.

In an endnote, Russo says that he kept returning to North Bath because he liked the characters—and there is a lot to like. He kept hearing Sully’s voice in his head, and gradually, he acknowledges, that voice became Paul Newman’s, who so unforgettably portrayed Sully in the film of Nobody’s Fool. But another voice also stuck with him, that of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who turned a bit part in the film as the officious but hapless officer Douglas Raymer—whom Sully bests in a comic confrontation—into such a definitive portrayal that Russo made Raymer a major character in subsequent North Bath novels. In Somebody’s Fool, Raymer is now the retired chief of the former North Bath police department, called back into service to deal with a dead body and with corruption in the newly consolidated Schuyler Springs force—whose crooked cops have much do with Thomas’s near-death experience. While it’s not uncommon for authors to disdain or disown film adaptions of their work, Russo has said of the 1994 film, “You could examine it frame by frame and you’d learn just about everything you needed to know about adapting a book for film.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that the film helped bring Russo back to North Bath.

Even as Russo publishes Somebody’s Fool, another of his works has made it to the screen—in this case television—in an AMC miniseries adaption of Straight Man. This 1997 novel is Russo’s “university book,” but unlike those that Vidal disdained, Straight Man is a wickedly funny, harshly critical depiction of life in an English Department where ideology shapes professors’ research and writing, academics use petty politics to advance their careers, and the decline of the humanities has created a constant fear of budget cuts. Though the novel itself is 25 years old, it so accurately depicted where the humanities were headed that it doesn’t take much massaging to turn it into 2023 series with the ironic title of Lucky Hank—a reference to the bored, cranky English Department chair, William Henry Devereaux, Jr., who endlessly torments his deserving colleagues. Though quite different from Nobody’s Fool, Lucky Hank has garnered similar acclaim—in part because both sources benefit from Russo’s gift for creating comic characters with serious significance.

Russo supported himself in college by working the kinds of hard jobs at which many of his characters toil. There, he watched his father and his father’s friends use humor to get themselves through jobs, after which he’d join them at some local bar to help laugh away the day’s aches. It’s that kind of storytelling, in Russo’s hands, that makes his blue-collar novels so engaging and palatable, because oftentimes the circumstances of his characters are difficult at best, near-awful at worst. American fiction is better because Russo stuck with characters who he thought he was escaping when he went off to school. The arc of his career reminds me of the words of the narrator of Philip Roth’s Zuckerman Unbound, writing about himself in the third person, when he observes that all he wanted as a young student was to leave behind “all the shallow provincials” of his hometown “for the deep emancipating world of Art. As it turned out, he had taken them all with him.”

Russo has done the same, in the process taking many of his lucky readers along for the ride, too.

It’s a ride I very much look forward to taking, and highly recommend to everybody else out there too.

(Via John Tierney)

Update! Just for shits and giggles I had a look in on the IMDb page for the Empire Falls miniseries, which I remember greatly enjoying back in the days when I still watched TV now and then. Somehow, I’d forgotten that it was Paul Newman’s last acting performance. It’s one of the vanishingly rare exceptions to the rule that any film or TV project featuring a long list of A-list actors is guaranteed to suck big green donkey dick.


Handing a Leftwit “journalist” his head

I wish he’d head South and run for President. Yes, I know, I know, he wasn’t born in the US and is thus Constitutionally ineligible. On the other hand, that sure didn’t stop Kenya-born Bathhouse Barry, now did it?

Calm, unflappable, laconically munching an apple while he takes this Mark-1 Mod-0 shitlib apart on camera—it’s entirely possible M Poilievre is actually Superman. As the esteemed Andrea Widberg says:

I’m one of those people who hates watching embarrassing things on TV or in movies. If I know the scene will be embarrassing, I take off my glasses and plug my ears. I almost had that urge to do both when watching Poilievre destroy the reporter. What Poilievre did to him was that brutal. Then I thought, “No, this reporter is a leftist hack. I’m not watching something painfully embarrassing. I’m watching something absolutely beautiful.”

Amen to that. Personally, I’d be every bit as happy if he’d just hurled his apple at the “journalist”’s nose à la Sam Gamgee (“waste of a good apple,” quoth Samwise afterwards), picked up a stout tree branch, and beat the dirtbag half to death with it upon said dirtbag’s first insufferably smarmy, smug insinuation disguised as a “question,” but that’s probably just me.


Just the facts

Things you maybe didn’t know about Israel and the Paleosimians, but should.

During the past week, I found that even most well informed Americans know very little about the causes of the war between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Here is a summary of 13 basic facts I think every American should know:

I. Until 1964, the word “Palestinian” rarely described Arabs who once lived in Israel. That was when KGB Agents of Communist Russia created and funded a terrorist group called the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Its leader, Yasser Arafat, was born and raised in Egypt. The PLO was as artificial as other effective and deadly groups communists used during the Cold War to take over Algeria, South Africa, Kenya, Vietnam, and Cuba. During this time, the KGB even gave money, weapons, and training to the IRA in Ireland.

II. “Palestine” was never an Arab nation. Until the Roman Empire crushed a Jewish revolt there in the year 132, the land was known as Israel, Judah, or Judea. The Romans renamed the province Palestine to punish the Jews. The Arabs and the Turks kept that name when they conquered and occupied the province. However, they ruled it from distant Mecca, Medina, Baghdad, or Istanbul.

III. Israel or Palestine was ruined and mostly empty after the Jewish revolt. The Arabs and Turks did little to rebuild its cities or irrigation canals. The goats and camels of Arab nomads or Bedouins stripped the land of trees, vegetation, and topsoil. Once rich farmland became malaria-infested swamp or dry wilderness. Less than 10% of the previous population remained. Many were Jews.

 IV. Starting in the mid-1800s, Jews from Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East began moving back. They bought land from Arab and Turkish absentee owners who had no interest in living there. For the next 90 years, Jews rebuilt cities, roads, and irrigation canals. They drained swamps, watered deserts, and planted trees and crops. As Jews made the land prosperous again, thousands of Arabs from Egypt, Syria, and other nearby countries moved there.

V. After World War One, the British and French carved new nations out of the defeated Ottoman Empire. In 1920, they created Lebanon for persecuted Christians. In 1921, they divided the Turkish province of Palestine. Eastern or “Transjordan” Palestine became an Arab kingdom. Palestine west of the Jordan River was set aside for settlement by Jews. More Jews bought empty land and moved there. Their prosperity encouraged more Arabs to move there. By 1948, there were roughly one million Arabs, 600,000 Jews, and 160,000 Christians and Druze living in that part of Palestine.

In sum, then, the Israelis took chicken shit and made chicken salad, while the so-called “Palestinians” (which don’t actually exist as either a racial/ethnic group or nationality, being mostly Jordanians and Egyptians who decided after the 1948 partition that they’d rather stay on and wage war against the hated ((((JOOJOOJOOJOOOOOOOZ!!!)))) to “reclaim” their “stolen” land when Jordan and Egypt refused to take the primordial swine into their own countries) basically follow the Israelis around like a swarm of locusts, making the chicken salad back into chicken shit. One of many examples:

Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.

American Jewish donors had bought more than 3,000 greenhouses from Israeli settlers in Gaza for $14 million last month and transferred them to the Palestinian Authority. Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who brokered the deal, put up $500,000 of his own cash.

Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.

This story is from 2005, and reveals exactly what value the “Palestinians” bring to any transaction, negotation, or physical territory involving them: none whatsoever. Their claim to any part of the nation known as Judea two or three thousand years before “Palestine” was created out of Roman spite, is spurious and completely unsupported by actual, y’know, historical fact. Their agenda is genocidal, their cause despicable. Their bleeding-heart Western supporters are wilfully-blind fools, whose reflexive support is a ramshackle edifice built entirely on a foundation of distortions, emotional manipulation, Jew-hate, and bald-faced lies.


The Rockwell that never was

Via Ken Lane, AI is some doing some pretty amazing things.

Viral Norman Rockwell AI art reveals debauchery in America like you’ve never seen before
There’s an incredible new viral sensation sweeping the internet, and it’s both powerful and thought-provoking, offering a compelling snapshot of Biden’s America in disarray. So, what’s this intriguing online phenomenon?

Norman Rockwell paints modern America.

It’s a disturbing yet profoundly provocative modern AI tribute to Norman Rockwell, reimagining today’s disgraceful USA in Rockwell’s iconic style. Whoever conceived this idea is truly ingenious. These images are striking because they place the everyday propaganda we’re exposed to within the context of normal life, revealing the extent of how far we’ve fallen.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these powerful images.

Follows, some quite remarkable stuff, my personal favorite of which is the one depicting the deplorable state of shitlib-run cities:


Yep, AI Rockwell nailed that one clean and tight, I must say. Well, except for one niggling detail: during all the time I’ve spent in various big cities from sea to caustic sea, I can’t remember ever once seeing a nicely-dressed, smiling family of Whypeepuh strolling casually along the grimy, shit-strewn sidewalks, all carefree and unmolested by the stewbums, layabouts, criminals, and dope fiends surrounding them. Running for their very lives, more like.

Update! Aesop meme-a-lizes the above image plus two of the others, and it’s meme-a-licious.


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