Wednesday, December 30, 2015

America's Sexiest State

Interstate comparisons are a perennial sport for competitive Americans. What are the smartest/dumbest states (often tied to blue state/red state comparisons? What is the most scenic state? Which state has the best athletes? Which one has the most beautiful women?

A possibly absurd question is: What is America's sexiest state? An article in Buzz Feed addressed this momentous question. While Buzz Feed is willing to broach on this daring topic, they distinguish two dimensions of sexiness: superficial sexiness and practical sexiness.

The measures of superficial sexiness include lower obesity rate, educational level, average household income, unemployment rate, and media-defined superlatives (Miss America, Sexiest Man Alive, etc.) The practical measures of sexiness include penis size, birth rate, and STD rate. Is some mad biometrician that I never heard of going around with a tape measure?

These, according to these measures given equal weight and combining superficial and practical sex, are (1) Hawaii, (2) New York, (3) Virginia, (4) California, and (5) Illinois.

The least sexy states were (46) Montana, (47) Iowa, (48) Maine,  (49) Kentucky*, and (50) West Virginia.

If this has truth to it, why would this be the case? Well, California and New York have a large fan and social media presence. Hollywood and New York are big outlets for news about people. After all, no newspaper in Minnesota is likely to have an article about the World's Sexiest Man!

Some Southern states were high in practical sex, but not in superficial sex: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. So much for the allure of the Southern accent. Hell, we can be as superficial as we want to in the Pelican State!

*Despite Timothy Oliphant's efforts as the nation's sexiest man.

Not likely to be found in Kentucky or West Virginia.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Revolt of the Bubbas

I "borrowed" this title from José Ortega y Gasset's book Revolt of the Masses. It seems to me that there is an often-overlooked factor that is becoming increasingly evident in American politics: the mounting disaffection for the usual type of politician favored by the major political parties. Presently, Donald  Trump is leading in polls for the Republican nomination; and Hillary Clinton is challenged by Bernie Sanders for the Democratic one. I don't know what will transpire when the primaries come on, but Jeb Bush is losing ground and other possible establishment candidates were less than inspirational.

As for Hillary, a common sentiment is, "In order for me to vote Democratic, must I vote for her?"

It seems to me that there has always been a strong Populist sentiment in our collective American DNA. While this is less evident at some times, on other occasions it might rear its scary head, at least as perceived by the Eastern elitists. Andrew Jackson rode into the White House on a strong populist platform; and this movement returned in the 1890's and early 1900's. While the Populists did not elect a President, they managed to influence laws reining in trusts, having pure food and drugs, ending the more severe abuses in child labor, controlling sexual exploitation, and eventually the forty-hour week. 

Populism in those earlier manifestations stood for the little guy, for local government by consent rather than from above, and for resisting pressure from outside powerful others. Nowadays these outside sources of pressure are reified in the form of big business, the Eastern Establishment, the liberal academic elite, the mainstream media, and the preening popinjays of Hollywood. Not to mention Main Street!

I'll have to admit that they annoy me sometimes too.

But the people that are most disaffected are the working stiffs, particularly the ones who are just getting by. These are the same ones that feel threatened or put upon by this cabal of busybodies. They see the major parties as the tools of these elites and special interest groups when many of them see themselves as unrepresented. Because of this, they are open to the allure of the outsider with simplistic solutions.

Despite what political parties say, both are open to seeking blocs of votes that they can reliably count on. In some ways, this makes their job of pleasing the electorate easier: please a part of them. Make them a special interest group that they service! On the other hand, these groups have to be given some reasons for their continued support. In that way, both parties must cater to the groups they already have in the fold.

The Bubbas are often scorned by people considering themselves to be elite. Despite the Trumpees, they're not necessarily reactionary or racist; but they seemed to feel shut out of the American Dream and into the American Just Getting By. The fact is, their job security is very thin.

In short, there are a lot of people out there that felt that their concerns and problems were not taken into account, and some of them are scared. Rightly so. They might be prone to accept nostrums or pat solutions.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Cajun Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas an’ all t’ru de house,
Dey don’t a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo’,
An’ Mama pass de pepper t’ru de crack on de do’.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas’ up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an’ make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun’ like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do’,
Trip over de dorg an’ fall on de flo’.
As I look out de do’in de light o’ de moon,
I t’ink, “Mahn, you crazy or got ol’ too soon.”

Cux dere on de by-you w’en I stretch ma’neck stiff,
Dere’s eight alligator a pullin’ de skiff.
An’ a little fat drover wit’ a long pole-ing stick,
I know r’at away got to be ole St.Nick.

Mo’ fas’er an’ fas’er de’ gator dey came
He whistle an’ holler an’ call dem by name:
“Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an’ Alcee’!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an’Renee’!

To de top o’ de porch to de top o’ de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an’ be sho’ you don’ fall.”
Like Tante Flo’s cat t’ru de treetop he fly,
W’en de big ole houn’ dorg come a run hisse’s by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole ‘gator clim!
Wit’ de skiff full o’ toy an’ St. Nicklus behin’.
Den on top de porch roof it soun’ like de hail,
W’en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit’ a bam,
An’ St.Nicklus fall an’ sit on de yam.
“Sacre!” he axclaim, “Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma’se’f on dem red hot coal.”

He got on his foots an’ jump like de cat
Out to de flo’ where he lan’ wit’ a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An’ his clothes is all dirty wit’ ashes an’ soot.

A sack full o’ playt’ing he t’row on his back,
He look like a burglar an’ dass fo’ a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon’ t’ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit’ snow-white chin whisker an’ quiverin’ belly,
He shook w’en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an’ a shook o’ his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don’t got to be scared.
He don’ do no talkin’ gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt’ing in sock an’ den turn wit’ a jerk.

He put bot’ his han’ dere on top o’ his head,
Cas’ an eye on de chimney an’ den he done said:
“Wit’ all o’ dat fire an’ dem burnin’ hot flame,
Me I ain’ goin’ back by de way dat I came.”

So he run out de do’ an, he clim’ to de roof,
He ain’ no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an’ crack his big whip,
De’ gator move down, An don’ make one slip.

An’ I hear him shout loud as a splashin’ he go,
“Merry Christmas to all ’til I saw you some mo’!”

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Less Noted Statues of New Orleans

Recently some efforts by some people, including the douchy Mayor, to remove some Confederate-themed statues has made some wire services. I will express openly my wish to provide continuing General P. G. T. Beauredard in place, since he was one of us (I still think of myself as an Orleanian, having experienced Katrina and more of my life having lived there.)

I also point out that iconoclasm can be a trend that can go into some other territory. Consider this Brit- and Indian-killer from the old days:

Will Old Hickory get banished to the museum or city dump? You can bet that doing that would displease a lot of folks.

But, anyway, here's a collection of some other, probably noncontroversial statues in New Orleans:

Louis Armstrong, Old Satchmo himself, in Louis Armstrong Park! Everybody loved him.

Fats Domino, Al Hirt, and Pete Fountain. We can take a closer walk with them:

There's one of Chris Owens, a former burlesque entertainer from the French Quarter:

It would not be New Orleans without some suitable monument honoring the New Orleans Saints, Superbowl Champions in 2010 (Hooray!):

This charming statue graces a garden:

Saint Jeanne d'Arc is resplendent in gold:

And Winston Churchill is giving a peace sign:

Civic benefactor Margaret Haughery, who spent her time ceaselessly helping the poor, certainly deserves a statue as well as a celestial crown:

John McDonough gave his fortune to benefit New Orleans schools, has been honored with a statue and several public schools named after him:

Why not have a statue of Ignatius J. Reilly, fictional character in John Kenneth Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces?  Dunces enough rate statues in most cities.

Semper Fi! Molly Marine, the only statue honoring the Women's Marines from World War II:


Bienville founded New Orleans in 1718. Surely he rates a statue:

And so does Bernardo de Galvez, Spanish military figure who conquered Pensacola during the American Revolution.

Simon Bolivar, South American liberator, rated a statue:

And there's even a statue honoring New Orleans's immigrants:

Artful funerary statues from some old New Orleans cemeteries that have a timeless grace and pathos:

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Flaunting of Navels

Something I never reckoned with before: apparently the flaunting of feminine navels is a recent trend that was once considered controversial. Having lived most of my life in the Britney Spears Epoch, I was not aware of this historical omphalophobia (fear of belly buttons).  But it apparently was once the case; actresses in old movies when wearing two-piece outfits were careful to cover their offending navels with high-riding bottoms or navel jewels. Yes, Kim Novak and Joan Collins demurely covered theirs with navel jewels; and some cast members of Gilligan's Island did likewise. Even the old beach movies like Gidget and Beach Blanket Bingo featured nary a belly button. Yes, even Walt Disney movies went to the tune, "Yes, We Have No Navels"; not until The Little Mermaid were they different.

Advice columnist Ann Landers came out against navel exposure as bad taste.

Even in these more open times, Taylor Swift generated some further curiosity and controversy by deliberately avoiding exposing her navel.  Apparently, if nowadays, people notice that they never saw it, they begin to wonder why. I think the astute Ms. Swift managed another publicity coup by doing a subtle mini-Garboesque move. (Taylor Swift has abundantly demonstrated that she is smarter than the average bear!) In short, she was messing with people.

A little factoid about navels (umbilicuses): about 90% have "innies," about 10% have "outies." Having an "outie" or an "innie" apparently is not an overwhelming handicap to an acting or modeling career; however, some women have opted for umbilicoplasty (navel surgery) for esthetic reasons. Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that a vertically ovoid umbilicus in a 54-46 ratio was the most pleasing.

So who was the first major navel flaunter? Apparently, it was Brigitte Bardot. Was that the less-cited reason why And God Created Woman achieved such notoriety, or was it from The Girl in the Bikini?

Now this omphalophobia seems to be restricted to feminine navels. Guys can display theirs without blame. Could the open display of feminine belly buttons nowadays be a by-product of the feminist movement? This is something to contemplate before the 2016 swimsuit season.

Who knows, maybe 2016 may be the last hurrah of the openly-displayed umbilicus. God knows what the new political landscape will allow.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Miller's Tale

For many high school students, they must wade through Geoffrey Chaucer's Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, in Middle English form:

"When that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licuor
Of which vertu engendred is the flour"

That is too painful to continue!

And, mercifully, the tale we studied was one about talking chickens (The Nun's Priest's Tale.)

But we found out about the second tale, told by a ruffian miller, that was more entertaining. As a matter of fact, the library copy's pages of The Miller's Tale was well-turned, smudged, and obviously more read than the others.

The whole framework of the Canterbury Tales was that it was a set of stories allegedly told by religious tourists. (Not quite the lounge acts or the stage show on a cruise ship.)

Anyway, the Miller's Tale is about a carpenter John, his young bride, Alison, and two clerks that had the hots for Alison. One of them, Nicholas, managed to become a roomer when the carpenter rented a room out. He soon seduced Alison, or she may have encouraged him. Anyway, Nicholas wanted more.

He concocted a preposterous tale from a dream in which there would be a great flood, and managed to convince the carpenter that they should sleep in kneading tubs hanging from the ceiling. The carpenter, highly credulous, went along with the idea. And Nicholas had more time for sex with Alison.

In the meantime, another clerk named Absalon went to court Alison and begged her for a kiss. Alison, in a light moment, stuck her butt out of the window and "with his mouth her naked arse kissed."

Well, Absalon figured it out, and was angry. He went off and came back with a red-hot poker, thus becoming the first of the two noted poker wavers.

He again requested a kiss. But this time Nicholas got in the act, and hung his butt out of the window. In the words of Geoffrey Chaucer:

Then Nicholas at once let fly a fart,
As great as if it were a thunder-clap,
The clerk was nearly blinded with the blast;
Yet he was ready with his iron hot,
And Nicholas right in the arse he smote.

The carpenter fell out of his kneading tub with this one!

And everybody laughed at all this strife.
And thus was had the carpenter’s wife,
For all his jealousy and keeping by;
And Absalon has kissed his nether-eye,
And Nicholas is scalded on the bum.
God save us all, and now this tale is done!

In all, a funny, risqué tale!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Getting Healed By a Faith Healer

Jim-Bob, Scooter, and Festus, upon leaving the bar, wandered into a Healing Service that was part of a revival. 

They sat nervously a good while when the Faith Healer suddenly said, "Just open your heart to the Lord, and you will be healed."

They wondered what was going on. Just above them a ray of light shined down directly on them. It spooked them and they started to get nervous. All of a sudden, they heard a voice from the Faith Healer. They all looked at one another and began saying, "What in the Hell is going on?"

The Faith Healer said, "Don't get nervous. I'm not here to scold you, I only want to grant each of you one healing wish."

They all calmed down and Jim-Bob said, "I've been having this crick in the back of my neck for the past ten years and if you were to grant me a healing, that would be it."

The Healer touched Jim-Bob's neck and ole Jim-Bob started moving his neck freely. "I'm good now; praise the Lord! Thank you, thank you," and he sat down.

Scooter stood up next. "You know, that bum leg I've been having for the past five years after falling off the henhouse, you know how bad I limp. If you were to grant me one wish, that would be it."

The Faith Healer waved his hand and Scooter immediately felt the limp leave his leg. "Oh thank you Lord, oh thank you, thank you." Before Scooter could sit down, Festus got up to go.

Both Jim-Bob and Scooter looked behind themselves and saw Festus taking off.

Scooter shouted, "Festus, where you going? The Lord is not here to pass judgment on you, the Faith Healer is just fixin' to heal you. You know that bad back of yours, he can heal it for you right here and now." Festus hollered back, not missing a stride, "No, no, I don't want no healing, I'll lose my disability check."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Chainsaw Sculpture Art

In the fringe areas around the Smoky Mountains, there's a number of artisans turning out local crafts.  One form that it may take is effecting a sculpture primarily using a chainsaw. The products of this craft vary in quality; some ascending into the artistic; some remaining firmly on the kitsch. Same as in other expressive media.

A common example of such a carving is that of some woodland creature:

Dogs, of course, are a common motif:

Naturalistic abstractions are occasionally seen:

A mythical creature is always a conversation piece:

Trolls come en masse; without benefit of bridge to hide under, so they have to hide in trees.

And, surprisingly, considering it's rustic art, some nudes. They ones I've seen tend to be quite lewd. Not appropriate for a suburban backyard. You're on your own to see some examples.

For some, these can be souvenirs of a wonderful vacation in the Smokies; for others, there's the sense afterward of 'What were we thinking?'

I'll be on a break for a while. Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate you all, gentle readers. Let the good times roll.