Just what happens during Lent? For 40 days, you deny yourself a particular pleasure. Ideally, it’s a pleasure that’s holding back your spirituality or quality of life. For instance, if I eat too much junk food and I think that hurts my health, I might give up junk food for 40 days.
I’ve heard a few people in SWLA, including some who aren’t Catholics, joke that what a lot of people around here do during Lent is simply swap their over-indulgence in red meat for the practice of eating piles of deep-fried seafood and mounds of French fries.
A recent Times-Picayune story titled “40 seafood dishes: One for every day of the Lenten season” gave us a guide for how to undertake your journey of self-denial in the restaurants of New Orleans.
Let’s find out what self-denial is all about. The following are the dishes on the list that are likely to leave the diner feeling most deprived.
— The Superdome at Heard Dat Kitchen on Felicity Street. This austere dish has a blackened fish fillet, lobster whipped mashed potatoes and lobster bechamel cream sauce. Because all that stuff isn’t quite enough to make up a meal, the dish is topped with fried onion rings.
— Middendorf’s Thin-cut Catfish in Manchac. This seafood platter includes stuffed crab, fried shrimp, oysters, thin fried catfish and French fries.
— Blackened Catfish Orleans at Chef D’z Cafe. Experience martrydom while you chow down on blackened catfish Orleans topped with shrimp, oysters and crabmeat.
— Blake’s on Poydras’ Crab Benedict. Become dangerously skinny by eating a Benedict with a crab cake topped with a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.
And then there’s my favorite: Emeril’s Andouille-crusted Redfish on Tchoupitoulas Street. Because we couldn’t really possibly give up red meat for a full 40 days (come on!), there’s a redfish encrusted with sausage. Yes, the Times-Picayune actually recommended this dish for Lent. Why not go ahead and eat it? It’ll give you something to talk about in confession.
Since the Louisiana way of “denying oneself” excessive eating for 40 days probably isn’t going to help the state’s obesity problem any, maybe people who want to experience some real self-denial can look outside the realm of food. To get to the point where you’re really denying yourself something, try giving up one of these for 40 days:
— All television.
— The use of cell phones for anything other than making and getting calls. (And, yes, that “anything” includes texting.)
OK. Now we’re talking about self-denial. Good luck.
The Washington Wit
One of the recent media events is that new Louisiana U.S. Senator John Kennedy has become the “wit” of the Senate. This was explained in a Feb. 14 CNN story by Ashley Killough titled “‘Tough as a boiled owl’: Louisiana senator charms Washington with wit.”
Killough started off by calling Kennedy “the U.S. Senator [who’s] always ready with a one-liner.”
Hold on a second, Cool Whip. Slow down. Slow down. Let’s unpack this thing just a little bit.
We’ll start by taking a look at the first five examples of Kennedy’s “wit” that Killough offers. Here they are:
“Let everyone stand up and be counted before God and country.” Forget finding the “wit” in that; I can’t even find the humor. It seems like typical politicianese to me.
“It’s time to put up or shut up.” If that’s witty, then everybody’s witty. Everybody says “put up or shut up.” It’s in no way remarkable or funny. But it is a one-liner.
The remaining three examples are a bit different in kind. Here they are:
“Now’s the time: It’s saddle up and ride.”
[Sen. John McCain] is “tough as a boiled owl.”
[Mitch McConnell was backing a bill] “like a cat on a fat rat.”
Killough may consider those statements witticisms. I consider them perfect examples of the old country cornpone sayings I heard all the time from the people I grew up with in Southeast Tennessee.
Let me write out a few of these sayings and see whether CNN writes a story calling me the wittiest journalist in the USA. Here I go:
“He’s got more money than Quaker’s got oats.”
“She could talk the paint off a post.”
“He’s lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.”
“That smells bad enough to gag a dog off a gut truck.”
And then there’s my all-time favorite: “faster than a yellow hound dog a trottin’” — a catch-all phrase that can be applied to absolutely anything. (“That hot dog filled me up like a yellow hound dog a trottin.’”)
Now, when the people around me (and sometimes I myself) used these statements, there was never any question of the statements being witty. I don’t know whether the people who used the phrases even knew what the word “witty” meant. I supposed that these statements had once been considered humorous because they played with language (and especially alliteration) or created a bizarre comparison. They were funny the first few times you heard them. After that, they were just statements one used to make small talk.
So, then, what is wit?
Well, we can actually get a good example of wit from Kennedy. As Killough reported, when he was talking about the memo by Rep. Devin Nunes, Kennedy said, “If you’re completely confused, you understand it perfectly.”
Now, that’s wit. It’s entirely unexpected, paradoxical, and, quite possibly, unique. We’re captivated by the paradox that a person who’s confused about something understands it. We may not have heard the notion before and may not hear it again. Wit makes the mind work — in an amusing way.
Does Kennedy usually come up with that sort of thing — as opposed to the “Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty!” sort of thing? If he does, the media isn’t reporting it.
One senator agreed that Kennedy is now the wit of the U.S. Senate. But he went on to say that the Senate sets the bar for wit pretty low. I think that’s your story right there.
Just What Did She Say?
Does anyone in Louisiana know exactly what Laura Ingraham said about Me Too when she gave the keynote speech at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s annual convention a couple of weeks ago?
All I could find in Louisiana media were statements to the effect that Ingraham had mocked, ridiculed or made fun of Me Too. But nothing I tried could get me access to her actual comments. Days later, there was still no story on the Internet that reported word-for-word what she said.
Louisiana coverage of Ingraham’s assorted comments was extensive, though. Among the other things Ingraham poked fun at were Sen. John McCain (in spite of his deadly cancer) and former President George W. Bush. She really made fun of W? I realize he was called a “neo-conservative.” Still, I’d think that anyone who said he isn’t really conservative is working some kind of hustle.
Journalists across the spectrum asserted that LABI had every reason to expect this sort of result when it hired Ingraham as keynote speaker. Trendsreader wrote, “What remains a mystery is whether organizers for the LABI thought things would go any other way.” And The Advocate’s Stephanie Grace opined, “Ingraham decided years ago who she wanted to be, and LABI knew who that was when it hired her.”
LABI was forced to do some super-fast back-peddling. This was the most eloquent statement the group could come up with: “Ingraham … expressed her views on several national social and political issues, some of which are not reflective of the opinions held by the diverse membership of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. LABI has a long history of listening to all perspectives and working in a bipartisan manner to develop solutions to Louisiana’s challenges.”
Grace suggested that “the only suitable response” to all that is, “oh, please.” She went on to write: “The question here is, is that really what LABI wants to be?”
My guess is part of the problem is that is exactly what LABI wants to be; that Ingraham’s remarks are perfectly “reflective” of the opinions of LABI leadership. She and they are on the same page. What bothers LABI is that Ingraham was so blunt and crude in expressing these opinions. Since that has been her M.O. from day one, I’m not sure why LABI thought she would change her style for this one speech. (And maybe it didn’t.)
Old Gravel Face
It’s been some years now since the Up Fronter held the highly successful Worst Song Ever contest. I’m sure some readers are wishing they had another chance to participate in the column.
I thought of something great. Below you see photographs of Iggy Pop and Keith Richards. Your fun job is to decide which of these two has the most beat-up, haggard, grotesquely wrinkled face. Cast your vote at firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will be announced next issue.
(On a side note, Iggy Pop has now outlived his former PICs — partners in crime — David Bowie [by two years] and Lou Reed [by one year]. The three musicians were considered the leaders of the Glitter Rock movement of the 1970s.)
Please Come Back
The Up Fronter has mentioned before that he finds it hard to locate Louisiana news because half of his Twitter Louisiana news feed is about sports — even at 6 am on a Wednesday morning. To give just one example, on Feb. 16, The Advocate Tweeted me that because LSU is starting its new baseball season, the newspaper is providing a six-page preview. Just six pages? What else have they got in that newspaper that’s so all-fired important?
And on the same day, Allison DeJong, the co-chair of New Orleans’ Democratic Socialist committee, Tweeted “FINALLY some LSU gym merch.” Well, I’m all for getting priorities straight. And now that she has her priorities straight, I think I can take her out of my news feed.
I came to miss the Louisiana sports stories to which I am so indifferent pretty quickly when GIFs of people ice skating started showing up on my Twitter feed. That’s right. People ice skating. In screwy-looking, sparkling costumes.
It was the Olympics — my favorite time of year. I learned the name of somebody called Nippon (I think). I learned what curling (kurling?) is. I learned what boredom is. Something bad happened to somebody named Chan (Chen?). I didn’t care.
Please come back 15 different stories on where Drew Brees gets his favorite jersey dry cleaned.