Olive Garden ads, prison cheesecake, and the surprising merits of the thick human skull

I’m adding something new this week. In my ongoing effort to evolve this newsletter into a podcast organically and deliberately, I’ve been thinking about how I might turn it in to a sort of multi-segment variety show where I interview the person closest to the banana. I have no idea if or how it would work, but to move one step closer, I’m offering questions at the end of each banana - the questions I’d want to ask after I had the person summarize the thing in question for you.

And this week, one banana grew far longer and riper than the others, so I’m going to place that last and offer you two smaller (though not necessarily lighter) ones up top.

Did they always play opera on Olive Garden ads? My friend @margarita did some painful legwork to trace the nature and character of ads for Olive Garden from the 1980’s to the mid-2000’s. This was the kind of thing I always hoped YouTube would facilitate when it first started to grow. Finally, we have a free, public, usable archive of the arcana or minutiae of the very building blocks of the psyches of most of us of a certain age - local, regional, and national tv programming and ads that we couldn’t skip. It was so ephemeral for so long, and now we can settle all kinds of bets and look back on what formed our glowing companion and social currency as kids.

Margarita helpfully summarized the look and content of the Olive Garden ads through the decades so you don’t have to watch any more than you’d like to, to get that macro view. In it, you can kind of see an arc from modernism to high modernism (think cubism), or is that high modernism to post-modernism - and then back to something more practical and direct.

Questions for Margarita: How did the argument about whether Opera is always in Olive Garden ads come up? What was at stake?

Update: I heard the following back from Margarita:

For your nightmare fuel:

Also a fun Twitter account to follow.

First, you take about 17 cookies and scrape out the filling. Keri Blakinger at the Marshall project shared a recipe for how to make cheesecake on death row in Texas, conveyed to her by a death row inmate who learned it from a friend on death row who was recently executed.

You should read this whole thread. I find it both deeply inspiring and deeply heartbreaking the way people can find ways to derive joy, even in the most dire of circumstances. I haven’t researched what these two folks are in for, it’s not necessary to know in order to make this observation. They’re people deprived of literally everything (an in fact, cell neighbors in solitary confinement) that manage to exercise their full humanity in the darkest moments.

Questions for Keri: How did this come up, in what context? What did you think and think about as you heard it explained? How did the quality of his voice sound as he took you through it?

Update: Keri read and replied as follows:

What you need to do, when you need to do it. That phrase sparked a memory as I read the sobering article from Paul Tullis at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists titled “The brain-computer interface is coming and we are so not ready for it.”

That phrase sparked the memory of a phrase that was once the ubiquitous garbage phrase for some reason associated with what used to be called “domain squatter” pages: “What you need, when you need it.” Back in 2007, they used to look like this:

These were the detritus of the web, empty garbage pages that domain name squatters would throw up in the hopes that some dummy would mistake it for something useful or a gateway to nudes or something, and they’d use the search box or click and the squatter would make some affiliate dollars or lead the user to some kind of scam. I think it was also a search engine play, to get the earlier, more primitive search engines to think there’s something there.

At the time, my boss Ken and I pondered why that phrase was chosen. That phrase (you can see it just below Gongle.com) conveyed the promise of the web, and of start pages of the time, I guess. “Look, here, we’ve very carefully compiled exactly what’s most urgent to you at this very moment, and given it to you now, at the peak of its utility!”

So it was kind of amusing to come across a very similar phrase coming from the former head of Biological Technologies at DARPA, as a summation of the promise of a terrifying, world-changing technology that’s just about here: “Think of a universal neural interface you could put on and seamlessly interact with anything in your home environment, and it would just know what you need to do when you need to do it.”

We’ve come a long way with technology since 2007. As one example from the article, these interfaces can now see “the neural activity in the brain of a mouse that corresponds with its flicking its whisker.” And yet, it’s still a giant misdirection, no different from the domain squat page. Of course DARPA doesn’t want the ability to control things (including prosthetic limbs or your own broken limbs that have lost their utility) from/to a sensor connected your brain because it’s going to know and deliver things to your lazy ass as your desires arise. This technology is game changing for people who have lost use of their limbs, absolutely, and that’s how these grants got started. But the article mentions that out of the 1,650 Iraq and Afghanistan vets who lost limbs, only 8 have gotten new prosthetic systems out of it. The war-making capabilities are far more mind-blowing from a military-industrial standpoint and that’s why this stuff is being funded and evolved. Eventually in the article, one of the program leads explicitly states that.

If you’ve listened to the podcast or watched the show Homecoming recently, then there’s a wrinkle that might have popped in to your head. It’s not necessarily the idea of making a supersoldier who can control an exoskeleton, although that’s certainly part of this. It’s important to also think about how technologies can be inflicted on the marginalized, and signing your life away as a soldier is a hell of a marginalization as new technologies are developed, any number of comic book origin stories will tell you that. The topical idea that may have occurred to you is that this technology might allow the military to force wounded soldiers to keep fighting. Imagine an infantryman who is shellshocked and demoralized from sustaining severe shrapnel damage to his legs, but thanks to the interface in his brain, he’s able to keep moving those legs for as long as his brain or an external controller is functioning. The relentless Terminator of the near future might not be a robot; in fact it might be an unwitting soldier who signed away their consent to be used as a disembodied weapon when they enlisted.

If there’s one passage in the story that made me stop and marvel, it was one that came up when the author was discussing the three main barriers that research is focusing on right now. One of them is our big thick skulls. It turns out they work so well that you have to be able to get something past them to be able to read the neural lightning storm going on underneath. You can’t just put something on on top:

“But the human brain is reluctant to give up its secrets: People have these really thick skulls, which scatter light and electrical signals. The scattering properties make it difficult to aim either light or electricity at a specified area of the brain, or to pick up either of those signals from outside the skull.”

There’s something really interesting about that physiology forming a barrier to manipulation of our bodies through our brains. It probably won’t hold things off for much longer, but what does it mean about us and about this frontier, that this design that has allowed humans to thrive for a while now also keeps our grubby hands out of what we think we want to do next?

This is a page turner of a science article, and I had many more notes to share but I don’t want to go past these 7 or so grafs. I highly recommend you put some time aside to lose yourself in to it.

Questions for Paul: In what ways did researching this story affect your mood? Some of these revelations almost seem like tropes to a cynical reader at this point, only because we’ve seen this kind of pattern so many times before in history. What was most surprising to you?

Bonus banana: There’s no video, but there’s this fantastic story going around about a guy who successfully jumped a drawbridge in his car to escape the law. That last part didn’t work out, but…he did it! This is a huge leap forward for humanity. Here’s the best part of the write-up: “Drawbridge operator Andre Locke, who watched the wild scene unfold, recalled that "I looked, I said, 'no, he ain't.'" His disbelief quickly giving way to the realization that the man was, indeed, trying to jump the bridge, the worker hit an emergency stop button, but it was too late. "Over he went, blew out all four of his tires," Locke said, "and then he crashed into the other gate." While successfully completing such a jump may be cause for celebration in the movies, in this instance it led to the man being arrested since, with his car badly damaged, he was unable to flee the scene.”

Those are all the bananas I found for you this week. You can hit reply and it’ll go only to me. If you have feedback about the format tweaks or the slow, deliberate trudge towards podcasthood, I’m all ears. Thank you.

Joyful song, future grief, and chicken care

Phone book or the bible, it doesn’t matter. If you’re not familiar with the late, great Toots Hibbert, and you don’t have access to just about any recording of Toots and the Maytals’ performing their song Pressure Drop, this is, uncannily, about as good of an introduction as any. (You may have to click in to the tweet to be able to play the YouTube video.)

Consider the chickens. The brief essay of that name by Zito Madu zooms in on a story that would become synonymous with the drive, early-emerging greatness, and gentle nature of the late John Lewis. It’s the story of Lewis preaching to chickens in his backyard as a young boy, a story Lewis seems to have remembered fondly and told to others many times in his life. As I recall, it’s also illustrated beautifully in the first volume of March.

Zito Madu is interested in breaking this vignette out from its inevitable function as a myth-making story that represents the seeds of who Lewis would grow up to be and the ways he would engage with the world. He presents it in isolation, as its own self-contained moment that would be rich with meaning even if it didn’t connect up to what we know came after. I love where he goes with it. Here’s an excerpt:

“…What delights me about the story, why it’s remained a joy to think about after his death and during a time of so much suffering, is that I picture him as a boy, without a sense that he would become a great man one day, taking his duty with the chickens so seriously, believing that those small creatures – inconsequential in the grand scheme of things except to be food for his family – deserved to have their souls saved. He saw that they were worth caring for, body and spirit.

Never mind whether it was possible to truly save the animals’ souls; his caretaking was endearing because of the responsibility that he felt towards them. I give the story the same isolated gravity that the young Lewis gave to his task. It is important on its own. It must have been one of the most important duties to him at that time.

It also makes me happy to think of the older Lewis being so proud of his stewardship of those chickens that he continued to tell the story to people around him and in public speeches even in old age…”

Bees as essential workers:

“Future grief.” Following some of the foremost futurists has already bore some fruit for me. I recently came across a quick back and forth between Jamais Cascio and Joseph Voros about the need for a term that would describe the feeling of a newly foreclosed future outcome. Cascio says he’s looking for a phrase that means something like “Wisftul recollection of lost futures.” Voros chimes in with a link to a notion he had written about back before the new year and the Covid-19 pandemic:

Joseph Voros @TheVoroscope
These days I’m thinking a lot about “future grief” - the feeling that many futurists get when we think about all the potential futures being foreclosed by short-sighted decisions in the present. This is related to, but not the same as, “abyss gaze”:

Michelle Goldberg @michelleinbklyn

I've read about climate grief, the despair felt by climate scientists watching helplessly as something precious and irreplaceable is destroyed. Lately I think I'm experiencing democracy grief. https://t.co/LCcFxIwvZP

Future grief. Just saying those two words together makes my chest sink a little. I also think of the clever visual device Back To The Future employed where the people in a photograph dim as it becomes less likely that the events of that photograph will ever be able to take place.

Thankfully when I need my chest lifted back up, I can scroll back up one banana to the essay on John Lewis’ preaching to chickens, and it swells right on up again.

Bonus bananas:

Those are the bananas I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” and it’ll go only to me. Thank you.

Melodies, habits, and a watermelon

“It’s the oldest song we know.” A recording from 1931 that captures a woman singing a short folk song becomes a thread that connects the Gullah Geechee people of Georgia and South Carolina to tribes in Sierra Leone, West Africa. This thread from the Gullah Museum of South Carolina traces the highlights of an incredible bit of sleuthing and legwork memorialized in the documentary “The Language You Cry In.”

The Museum tweeted: “The five line song sung by Amelia Dawley’s family is the longest African language text ever found in the U.S. And Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner went on to creat a new field of study by his work and an appreciation for a unique element of African-American culture.”

(Hat tip to John Darnielle for the RT that landed on my timeline).

Newer technologies are not necessarily superior ones. During what he calls Covidtide, essayist Alan Jacobs reclaimed and rediscovered manual hedge clippers. After a light fix-up job on some clippers that had lay dormant, Jacobs rediscovers all of the benefits of mechanical, manual hand tools over their electric counterparts. I like this essay for its balance and self-awareness. As if out of the corner of his eye, Jacobs catches the shape and character of his opening narrative as a trope and potentially a hackneyed one, and flags it - “This is of course a familiar story: the WEIRD person—Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic—rediscovering his body.”

But having made that self-effacing observation, he gets to a notion I want to mark and remember: that this radical break from what came before has carried with it an energy that can force you to see the patterns of your life in some different ways, and perhaps reclaim some of the deliberateness that you might have lost over the years: “…by forcibly breaking some of our technological habits it creatively destabilizes others. To have any one thoughtless pattern of life disrupted is to be put into a frame of mind that allows you to contemplate the deliberate disruption of a different thoughtless pattern. Thus all the people who, after three months of baking bread, are now saying that they’ll never go back to buying their bread from the supermarket. They probably will buy bread from the supermarket; but they’ll know what they are doing, and why. And this is useful knowledge.”

In a very intense way, for a couple of weeks we had a ceasing a while back. And after that, to varying degrees, a very real break in our habits and routines and cracks in our assumptions about so many systems fundamental to how we live. I think the learning, unlearning, and re-establishing of patterns is still very much around and percolating, which is encouraging to me. And I hope it sticks around as a welcome catalyst for introspection and change delivered by a very harsh, harmful, and unwelcome time.

In a previous banana, we heard how Laurie Anderson has taken to lots of leaf-raking. There has been lots of bread baking. At our house, we rediscovered the joys of our front porch and watching birds at a feeder, and I picked up a new workout routine involving a 20-lb rubber hammer. I’d love to hear about what new things you have embraced, whether they stick around or not.

The Playtronica-watermelon keyboard. This thing has already tired itself out as the punchline for countless reactions and hot takes, but just take a look and a listen.

Perhaps a missed opportunity here in that he didn’t choose to play Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man.

Bonus Bananas:

Those are what I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” and it’ll go only to me. Thank you.

Muppet promos, cellphone trees and UFO's

Imagine if your job was more like being in a contest or loyalty club. Imagine if the rules of the way you received each task in your work, and got paid for each task you completed, were like the rules of a Frequent Flyer Club. You have to do certain things in certain very specific ways in order to unlock paying work, and those bits of work only “count” for credit based on a set of fairly complex rules that can be changed regularly. And the rules are all clearly set up to limit how much money you can make at one time and how much work you can get, and to maximize what the frequent flyer program gets out of you and everyone in the program.

It’s only natural that a program with such manipulated guard rails and incentives would yield participants that do everything they can to get the most out of it. After all, that’s the same thing the program does to them, except it holds all of the cards. In the history of labor, this is an ever-present thing. There has always been reason for workers to find ways to work around the rules employers use to control them. But it’s all the more apparent now, in an economy when so many workers have contract jobs laden with these types of labyrinthine control mechanisms often driven by technology and software.

So today we end up with hacks like this - contract drivers hanging cellphones in trees to create the most favorable conditions for getting assignments.

Photo from the Bloomberg story with original caption: Contract delivery drivers hang mobile devices from a tree outside of a Whole Foods store in Evanston, Illinois, on Aug. 29. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg

From an article in Bloomberg about Amazon’s vast fleet of contract-based drivers (just one contract-based line of work among many) that’s worth reading to get a sense of what’s going on out there:

A strange phenomenon has emerged near Amazon.com Inc. delivery stations and Whole Foods stores in the Chicago suburbs: smartphones dangling from trees. Contract delivery drivers are putting them there to get a jump on rivals seeking orders, according to people familiar with the matter.

Someone places several devices in a tree located close to the station where deliveries originate. Drivers in on the plot then sync their own phones with the ones in the tree and wait nearby for an order pickup. The reason for the odd placement, according to experts and people with direct knowledge of Amazon’s operations, is to take advantage of the handsets’ proximity to the station, combined with software that constantly monitors Amazon’s dispatch network, to get a split-second jump on competing drivers.

That drivers resort to such extreme methods is emblematic of the ferocious competition for work in a pandemic-ravaged U.S. economy suffering from double-digit unemployment. Much the way milliseconds can mean millions to hedge funds using robotraders, a smartphone perched in a tree can be the key to getting a $15 delivery route before someone else.

As I said to my dad the other day in a conversation about why the Stock Market is doing so well right now in the midst of all of this, Amazon the company is doing great. Amazon the workforce is very much not.

A super cool old hotel in Coney Island:

The phenomena that lie beyond our central area of inquiry. My friend Tom shared a fantastic essay with me about the barriers we put up in our own minds to keep strange and hard-to-square ideas out. That larger point forms the backdrop for a discussion of what we have done historically with evidence of UFO’s and the now growing pile of evidence from this past year declassified by the US government about past credible and unexplained reports and, potentially, artifacts.

It’s an exceedingly well written and well argued essay. Somewhere in the conclusion is this passage, that evokes some previous bananas you might have enjoyed here:

“There are ways of knowing about the world, and dimensions of the universe, that were simply not essential for us to perceive on our evolutionary journey. It doesn’t really matter what the bright lights in the sky are when you’re focused primarily on eating and not being eaten. We have seen some version of ‘worlds’ beyond our perception in examples of discovery from x-rays and sonar to cell biology. Is it so impossible to imagine further limitations in perception? New worlds we can’t see, or can’t imagine? There are things we know we don’t know — controlled fusion, human aging, the nature of intelligence. But any extra-dimensional aspect of our reality could by its nature sit forever in the realm of things we don’t even know we don’t know.” 

It also evokes the way the historical Buddha, Siddharta Gautama, handled questions from people around him about anything outside of the area covered by his original inquiry - how to rid oneself of the burden of being saddled with the perception of self, and of the existence and perception of suffering that comes with it.

The Buddha frequently begged out of questions about the specific nature of the universe or the “why” of it all, and you can imagine him doing the same if someone asked about phenomena like UFO’s and aliens. He’d simply say “I have nothing to offer on that,” or remain silent. He’d say that his time studying our existence as humans from the inside out, and of ways to escape the relentless burdens and ties of life, really only focused on that and he doesn’t have much to offer towards any questions that don’t have to do with getting to that result. He viewed them as sidetracks. In the parable of the arrow, the punchline is that when you have been shot with a poison-tipped arrow, it doesn’t really matter what color it is, what markings it has, who shot it, with what bow…the main thing you need at that moment after having been shot with it is to remove the arrow from your body so that it is no longer harming you.

I say that as sort of an affirmation by reversal of the point made in the essay. Science and technology can be silent on things in the same way. If there are phenomena that are beyond the kinds of inquiry it is best suited to dissect, it can only remain silent and those phenomena remain outside of its world, neither denied nor confirmed. Some of these limitations go away over time perhaps as the tool sets improve, but some of them will always lie entirely outside and could need a different mode of inquiry.

That essay: Fire In The Sky.

An ancient receipt:

Good good-natured ribbing is transcendant. There’s a Muppet History twitter handle doing really strong work in highlighting all of the little things that made The Muppet Show so great. That account recently brought to light that the promos for the original The Muppet Show were almost always improvised, and were more often than not, Frank Oz trying to get a rise out of Jim Henson. I vaguely remembered seeing them as a kid, but seeing them now sort of for the first time again, they are pure joy. Here’s a tweet that includes a Youtube clip of a whole bunch of them (you may have to click in to YouTube to play it):

and a good straggler from Gonzo:

Bonus bananas:

  • If you have cassette tapes that are dear to you, digitize them as soon as you can! They are coming to the end of their useful life as storage devices and are starting to deteriorate faster now.

  • In looking for the obituary for one Johnny Warren, a beloved plumber in our neighborhood, I came across an interesting obituary for another one. Imagine working at a phone company all the way through the transition from manual human switchboard to analog electronics, and then analog electronics to digital.

Those are all the bananas fit to share this week. You can hit “reply” and it will go only to me. Thank you.

Nurdles, shrink-wrap, and mysteries

Zooming in, pulling back, and pulling way back

The world is always changing: the origins of shrink-wrapping records. I saw a tweet about nurdles a bit ago.

Nurdles aren’t a form of sea life. They are these tiny non-biodegradable plastic refuse balls that are showing up in waterways all over the world in alarming numbers. They come from the things we buy and use. That got me thinking about plastics more generally as a facet of our lives, and then about how product packaging got more and more industrialized and polished and perfectionistic as mass production grew and evolved. At a certain point, it became the normal and expected thing to see only fully airtight products on the shelves of markets and stores. And many of the outer wraps end up made of plastic of some kind, whether as a wrap or clamshell package, or encasement. Nowadays the only time you see an item that’s not sealed up is when it’s in the closeouts, manager’s special, or scratch-and-dent sale area. But it wasn’t always that way.

I don’t quite remember why, but from there I started to wonder about when and why shrink-wrapping became the norm with vinyl record albums. I think it was because records were a thing I knew have been mass produced for a pretty long time, and probably even before plastics became a thing and so ubiquitous. And, because I knew that Jazz was a breakthrough popular medium before Rock, and I wondered what it would have been like to go out and buy a brand new Jazz record in 1948 or something.

[Portrait of Herbie Hill, Lou Blum, and Jack Crystal, Commodore Record Shop, New York, N.Y., ca. Aug. 1947, from the Library of Congress collection]

I found a fun message board thread (which is the focus of this banana) populated by people purporting to be old enough to remember when record manufacturers started the practice of sealing the cardboard record sleeves for sale in that thin layer of plastic.

There are a few good nuggets in there. First, when and why did record makers start to seal records up in plastic?

Chuck Nessa explains, “In the US they started wrapping records in the mid/late '50s to accommodate "rackjobbers" who placed lps in grocery and drug store racks.”

So records weren’t always sold sealed up. But what’s a rackjobber?

More from Chuck: “Rackjobbers were a "class" of distributor that put racks of records in non-music stores. Generally they owned the inventory and billed the stores for records sold. Since these establishments didn't have clerks tending the inventory, the wrap protected the merchandise.”

Aha. Once you had self-service shopping type stores that also sold all kinds of other stuff, there was the risk that people would get their grubby fingers all over them, thus messing them up.

GA Russell added, “I remember when I bought Meet the Beatles in February of '64 that it was hermetically sealed in a thick plastic wrap which was not shrink wrap. Subsequent albums were shrink wrapped, so if I had to say when specifcally, I would say 1964.”

Swanky record store listening booth circa 1955. This and lots more in this great gallery on Mashable.

Finally, Bill Fenohr came through with even more color from his own experiences selling records back in the day. From Bill we learn that in his shop (a) covers were out on the floor and the records were kept behind the counter, (b) with the advent of listening booths came the advent of tons of cannabis remnants in the listening booths, and (c) when the industry widely adopted shrink-wrap around records, this particular shop 86’ed the listening booths and thus with it, a primo place to get high while listening to music went away:

“When i started working in the retail record business in the late 50's we had two listening booths in our store in East Lansing. We had a system where we kept all of the lp's filed behind the counter and the covers were out in the bins. If you wanted to hear an lp you brought the cover up and we played the lp on turntables that were wired to the speakers in the booths. Once we got into the 60's those booths became a never ending source for grass roach's at the end of the day.

Not all labels used shrink wrap at first as i remember. The rackjobbers were only interested in the big hits, so many of the indie jazz labels like Blue Note did not shrink wrap their stuff until later in the 60's.

Once everyone started using wrap, we did away with the listening booths.”

Bonus banana: This week in fox news. Following up on last week’s library fox scoop, this week we’ve got the antics of five foxes that live in Peter Bunzl’s neighbor’s garden:

The difference between a problem and a mystery. I found a thought I wanted to keep and share with you in an essay by Stephen Batchelor in the most recent Tricycle Magazine called “Embracing Extinction,” on Buddhism and how an individual might think about climate change, and the fact that humans will eventually go poof. Throughout the essay, Batchelor offers various frameworks from philosophers and writers we might apply to all this. He does this in part to draw us outside of the frame we seem to always see things through, of technological and scientific objectification of the Earth. One of those I found particularly engaging even beyond the questions raised in the essay:

“For another 20th-century philosopher, the French writer Gabriel Marcel, our existential condition of having been born and being subject to death is not a problem to be eradicated but a mystery to be embraced. A problem, for Marcel, always stands apart from the one confronting it, whereas a mystery is inseparable from the one who embraces it. As the person who falls sick, ages, and is destined to die, I cannot stand outside these processes in order to treat them as problems to be solved. Instead, I can open myself to the mystery of being here and embrace it in wordless astonishment. Unlike a problem, which vanishes as soon as it is solved, the more deeply we penetrate a mystery the more mysterious it becomes.

In coming to view life through the lens of technology, we risk losing a sense of our unfathomable poignancy and strangeness. In order to manipulate technically the physical and mental elements of our world, they need to appear to us as discrete, definable, readily graspable objects. Only then can we confidently embark on bending them to our will. “A world where techniques are paramount,” remarked Marcel, “is a world given over to desire and fear; because every technique is there to serve some desire or fear.” 

This is not an anti-science position, or even much of a science-critical position. It’s the recognition that the element the scientific method works so very hard to account for - individual experience and subjectivity - itself has a domain that’s unique and every bit as critical to pay attention to in a different way. I really like this concrete notion of a mystery. It seems like a useful way to classify some deeply affecting things we go through, experience, or witness, but don’t have much language to get at in a secular context.

I shared this essay mainly just for that potentially handy notion, but that’s a small piece of a very thoughtfully constructed essay with lots to offer on how to look at yourself as a puny mortal and simultaneously find a point of entry into negative realities and massive ecological challenges far bigger than what any of us can address on our own.

Highly recommended, and free without login as far as I know.

They call me Jack Soul. They call me pain in the ass, too. 91 year old jazz cornet player Jack Fine got a new home recently, along with a loving friend and caretaker, some cleanup, a helping hand with the little things, and a beautiful profile on Nola.com.


That’s not a makeshift mute, that’s a bottle of Ensure.

Fellow New Orleans trumpet player James Williams, left in the photo, rescued Fine from a bad situation in a retirement community and has given him a place to stay in the small house at the back of his yard. Times-Picayune staff writer Keith Spera does an absolutely phenomenal job profiling both men and how they crossed paths, including Fine’s picturesque life in music from Greenwich Village to Paris to Frenchmen Street.

There’s something about this little writer’s paraphrase-to-quote from Fine that said a whole hell of a lot with just a few words: “Fine still aspires to play “music for the soul. I don’t want to just play entertainment. They called me Jack Soul. They call me pain in the ass, too.” First, I love the self-effacing rascal turn of that last bit. But second, I know exactly what he means about music for the soul, and I think that’s what I’m after as well.

Read the full piece on Nola.com.

Those are the three bananas I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” and it’ll go only to me. Thank you.

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